―Pay attention to nothing he says," Olivia said with a shake of her head. She turned back to the young ladies and began to chatter on about something or another, and Sebastian was left with the most unfamiliar sense of irritation. He could not begin to count the number of times Olivia had made a comment like Pay attention to nothing he says .

This was, however, the first time that it bothered him.

―Are you enjoying your time in London, Miss Winslow?" Olivia asked.

Sebastian turned to Miss Winslow and regarded her with a bland smile. He was most interested in her answer.

―Er, yes," Miss Winslow stammered. ―It is most diverting."

―Diverting," Sebastian murmured. ―What an interesting word."

She looked up at him in alarm. He merely smiled.

―Will you remain in town for the rest of the season, Lady Olivia?" Lady Louisa asked.

―I think so. It depends upon whether my husband is able to concentrate with so many distractions."

―Whatis Sir Harry working on?" Sebastian asked, since Olivia had never got around to telling him which novel Harry was translating. ―I tried to pester him this morning, but he waved me off." He looked over at Miss Winslow and Lady Louisa and said, ―One would think he didn‘t like me."

Lady Louisa giggled. Miss Winslow maintained her stony expression.

―My husband is a translator," Olivia told the ladies, dismissing Sebastian with a roll of her eyes.

―Right now he is translating a novel into Russian."

―Really?" Miss Winslow asked, and Sebastian had to admit, she sounded sincerely interested.

―Which novel?"

―Miss Truesdale and the Silent Gentleman. The author is Sarah Gorely. Have you read it?"

Miss Winslow shook her head, but Lady Louisa practically jumped forward, exclaiming, ―No!"

Olivia blinked. ―Er…yes?"

―No, I meant to say I haven‘t read it yet," Lady Louisa explained. ―I have read all of her others, of course. How could I have missed it?"

―You are a fan, then?" Sebastian asked. He loved when this happened.

―Oh yes," she said. ―I thought I had read them all. I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to know there is one more."

―I must confess, I‘m having a difficult time getting through it," Olivia said.

―Really?" Sebastian asked.

Olivia‘s lips curved into an indulgent smile. ―Sebastian is also a huge fan," she said to the other young ladies.

―Of Mrs. Gorely?" Louisa asked. ―She has the most fascinating plots."

―If you don‘t mind the occasionally implausible," Olivia put in.

―But that‘s what makes them so much fun," Louisa said.

―Why are you having difficulty with Miss Truesdale ?" Sebastian asked Olivia. He knew he shouldn‘t press, but he couldn‘t stop himself. He‘d been trying to get her to like his books ever since she‘d said that he‘d used the word purview incorrectly.

Not that she knew that it was he.

And furthermore, purview was a ridiculous word. He was planning to ban it from his vocabulary.

Olivia gave one of her uncommonly pretty shrugs. ―It‘s very slow," she said. ―There seems to be an uncommon degree of description."

Sebastian nodded thoughtfully. ―I don‘t think it‘s Mrs. Gorely‘s best myself." He‘d never been fully satisfied with the final version, although he certainly didn‘t think it merited Olivia‘s criticism.

Difficult to get through. Bah.

Olivia wouldn‘t know a good book if it hit her on the head.

Chapter Eight

It took less than one second for Annabel to realize that Louisa had not been joking about Lady Olivia Valentine and the stunning beauty thereof. When she turned and smiled, Annabel actually had to blink at the brilliance of it. The young matron was breathtakingly gorgeous, all blond and milk-skinned, with high cheekbones and amazingly blue eyes.

It was all Annabel could do not to hate her on principle.

And then, as if the meeting could not get worse (and really, just the simple fact that she and Mr.

Grey were meeting was bad enough), he had to go and kiss her hand.


Annabel had been utterly flustered, stammering something that might have passed for a greeting in a preverbal society. She did lift her eyes for a moment, because even she knew that one couldn‘t spend an entire introduction staring at the ground. But it was a mistake. A huge mistake.

Mr. Grey, who had been quite good-looking in the moonlight, was even more heartstoppingly handsome by the light of day.

Good heavens, he ought not to be allowed to promenade with Lady Olivia. The two of them were likely to blind the good people of London with their combined beauty.

Either that or send the rest of humanity sobbing to their beds, because really, who could compete with that?

Annabel tried to follow the conversation, but she was far too distracted by her own panic. And by Mr. Grey‘s right hand, which was resting lightly against his leg. And by the sly curve of his mouth, which she was trying very hard not to look at, but somehow there it was, right in her peripheral vision. Not to mention the sound of his voice, when he said something about…well…something.

Books. They were talking about books.

Annabel held silent. She had not read the books in question, and besides, she thought it best to insert herself in the conversation as little as possible. Mr. Grey was still stealing the occasional glance in her direction and it seemed foolish to give him a reason to do so openly.

Of course that was when he turned right at her with those devilish gray eyes and asked, ―And what of you, Miss Winslow? Have you read any of the Gorely books?"