Home > The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy (Smythe-Smith Quartet #4)(15)

The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy (Smythe-Smith Quartet #4)(15)
Author: Julia Quinn

He liked her. And he knew enough of marriage to know that this was more than most men had when they went to the altar.

He just wished he had more time. She was too sensible to accept him so soon after their first meeting. And honestly, he didn’t want to be married to the type of female who would act so rashly. He was going to have to force the issue, which was unfortunate.

But, he reminded himself, there was nothing to be done that evening. His only task was to be polite and charming so that when the time came, no one would put up much of a fuss.

He’d already had enough fuss to last a lifetime.

Chapter Five

The following day

“NOT DAISY,” IRIS pleaded. “Please, anyone but Daisy.”

“You cannot walk about London with Sir Richard without a chaperone,” her mother said, adjusting her hairpins as she examined her reflection in her vanity mirror. “You know that.”

Iris had rushed to her mother’s bedchamber the moment she’d learned that Daisy had been asked to accompany her for the day’s outing with Sir Richard. Surely her mother would realize the foolishness of such a plan. But no, Mrs. Smythe-Smith seemed perfectly content with the idea and was acting as if it was all settled.

Iris scooted around to her mother’s other side, positioning herself too close to the mirror to be ignored. “Then I’ll take my maid. But not Daisy. She won’t hang back. You know she won’t.”

Mrs. Smythe-Smith considered this.

“She will insert herself into every conversation,” Iris pressed. Her mother still looked unconvinced, though, and Iris realized she would need to approach this from a different angle. The your-daughter-is-quite-on-the-shelf-and-this-might-be-her-last-chance angle.

“Mama,” Iris said, “please, you must reconsider. If Sir Richard wishes to know me better, he will certainly meet with no success if Daisy is with us all afternoon.”

Her mother let out a little sigh.

“You know it’s true,” Iris said quietly.

“You do have a point,” Mrs. Smythe-Smith said with a frown. “Although I don’t want Daisy to feel left out.”

“She’s four years younger than I am,” Iris protested. “Surely there is time enough for her to find a gentleman of her own.” And then, in a very small voice, she said, “It’s my turn.”

She liked Sir Richard, even if she did not quite trust him. There was something so odd, so unexpected about his attentions toward her. He had quite clearly sought an introduction at the musicale; Iris could not recall the last time that had happened. And then to call upon her the very next day, and to spend so much time at her side at the Mottram ball . . . It was unprecedented.

She did not believe his intentions were less than honorable; she liked to think herself a good judge of character, and whatever his aims, her ruination was not one of them. But nor could she believe that he had been struck by a grand passion. If she were the sort of female who inspired men to fall in love at first sight, surely someone else would have done so by now.

But there could be no harm in seeing him again. He had asked her mother for permission to call upon her, and he had treated her with every courtesy. It was all very proper, and very flattering, and if she’d gone to sleep that night with a picture of him in her mind, surely there was nothing uncommon in that. He was a handsome man.

“Are you certain he does not plan to bring Mr. Bevelstoke with him?” her mother asked.

“Quite. And I shall be honest, I do not think Mr. Bevelstoke has any interest in Daisy.”

“No, I suppose not. She’s far too young for him. Very well, you may take Nettie. She did the same for your sisters on several occasions so she’ll know what to do.”

“Oh, thank you, Mama! Thank you so much!” Surprising even herself, Iris threw her arms around her mother and hugged her. It lasted but a second before they both stiffened and stepped back; theirs had never been a demonstrative relationship.

“I’m sure this will all amount to nothing,” Iris said, because it would not do to get her hopes up anywhere but in her own mind. “But it will certainly go nowhere with Daisy in attendance.”

“I do wish we knew a little more about him,” her mother said with a frown. “He hasn’t been to town for several years now.”

“Were you acquainted with him when Marigold was out?” Iris asked. “Or Rose or Lavender?”

“I believe he was in town when Rose made her debut,” her mother said, referring to Iris’s eldest sister, “but we did not move in the same circles.”

Iris wasn’t sure what to make of that.

“He was young,” her mother said with a flip of her hand. “Matrimony was not on his mind.”

In other words, Iris thought wryly, he’d been a bit wild.

“I did speak to your aunt about him, though,” her mother continued, not bothering to clarify which aunt. Iris supposed it didn’t really matter; they all tended to be equally good sources of gossip. “She said that he came into the baronetcy some years ago.”

Iris nodded. She knew as much.

“His father lived beyond his means.” Mrs. Smythe-Smith’s mouth pinched disapprovingly.

Which likely made Sir Richard a fortune hunter.

“But,” Iris’s mother mused, “that does not seem to be the case with the son.”

A well-principled fortune hunter, then. He had not accrued his own debts; he’d merely had the misfortune of inheriting them.

“He is clearly looking for a wife,” Mrs. Smythe-Smith continued. “There is no other reason a gentleman of his age would return to town after an absence of several years.”

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