A Dash of Scandal(4)

“Splendid. The ton simply thrives on anything about those three bachelors. There are many others, of course, but none more popular with Society. So unusual, too. All three of the gentlemen lost their fathers and became earls at a young age. Perhaps that is why they are such delicious rogues and easy targets for gossip.” Her lids drooped. “I do hope Emery hurries. My medicine is making me sleepy, and I must introduce you.”

“Would you like me to fluff your pillows?” Millicent started to reach for the pillows, but Hamlet’s head shot up in warning and she stopped.

“No, dearie. I find that no movement is best. Oh, and remember, anything you hear about the Mad Ton Thief is noteworthy. The ton and all of London are simply in a passion wanting news and information about that criminal. The thief robbed Lord Dunraven’s house two nights ago.” She made an attempt at a smile. “I’m sure that put his lordship in a dither. You must try to find out something about that so we can mention it again in the column. I do hope Emery returns soon with—Oh, here they are.”

Hamlet stood on his short, feathered legs and barked as Millicent watched the viscount and viscountess enter the room.

“Don’t make such a fuss, Hamlet,” her aunt cooed to the little dog. “Be polite. You’re acting like you’ve never seen the viscount and his lady before.” Hamlet trotted up to Beatrice’s uninjured side. She patted his head affectionately and he curled down beside her.

Lord and Lady Heathecoute walked directly to the foot of Lady Beatrice’s bed, but no closer, and greeted her warmly. Obviously, they knew of Hamlet’s protectiveness of his mistress.

The viscount was tall and lanky, but superbly dressed. His graying tufts of hair were thin and cut fashionably short. He held his chin at such an elevated level and his neckcloth was tied so high, Millicent was certain his back must be in a continuous strain.

She was surprised to find his wife was as tall as the viscount. Few women could boast such a height or such a girth. The viscountess was more than a little plump. Her rounded face was flat but pretty and attractively framed by a row of tight dark curls. She wore a green high-waisted gown that hid most of her bulk and was becoming on her large frame.

“May I present Viscount Heathecoute.”

Millicent curtsied when the viscount turned to her. “It’s my pleasure, Lord Heathecoute.”

“Delighted to meet you,” he said as stiffly as he carried himself.

“And Lady Heathecoute, who has been a dear friend these past few months,” Beatrice said.

Millicent curtsied again. “How do you do, ma’am?”

“Splendid, my dear. Very splendid.” Her voice was loud and throaty. Her widespread brown eyes looked Millicent over carefully. “I think the gown you have chosen for this evening is good for you, the touch of embroidery around the hem sends just the right touch of elegance. Not too elaborate to gain attention, but certainly adequate so that you won’t be out of place among the ton.” She looked back to Lady Beatrice. “She will be perfect for you.”

“I’m glad you approve, and I’m indebted to you for watching after her for me.”

Lady Heathecoute looked over at her husband and said, “We will take very good care of her, won’t we, my lord?”

“Indeed, we shall.” The viscount lowered his narrow light green eyes to look at Beatrice when he spoke to her, but his head remained erect. He seemed to have a pinched look to his face even when he was smiling. “The only thing you need to do is rest and get well.”

“I know you will get on together. Millicent has such a pleasing disposition that she won’t tire you.” Beatrice cut her weary eyes around to Millicent. “They will make all the right introductions for you. Have no fear, and they will be there to assist you all evening.”

“Thank you, Aunt. I shall be fine.” Millicent was glad her voice sounded strong and confident, even though it was the exact opposite of how she felt.

“Excellent. And remember, dearie, young ladies like to talk in the retiring room when they think no one is around, and at the supper table. You must not encourage a gentleman to become enamored of you. I hope you are clear on all this?”

“Yes, Aunt Beatrice.”

“Good. Now go on to the parties while I sleep, and I will help you write the column when you return.”

She followed the Heathecoutes out the door and down the staircase with unexpected excitement growing inside her. She tried to tamp it down, but it was impossible. She had always wanted to attend a ton party in London. She just never dreamed she’d be going as a gossip writer.

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