Olivia scowled. ―I thought you weren‘t listening."

―I‘m not," he replied. ―I am merely sitting here while my ears are assaulted."

―How do you put up with him?" Sebastian murmured.

Olivia grit her teeth. ―There are benefits," she ground out.

Although Sebastian rather thought Harry might not be getting any benefits that evening.

―So there it is," Sebastian said to Olivia. ―I forgive her. She should have said something, but I understand why she did not, and I rather suspect that any one of us would have done the same."

There was a pause, and then Olivia said, ―That is very generous of you."

He shrugged. ―It‘s not good for the constitution to carry a grudge. Just look at Newbury. He‘d not be nearly so fat and florid if he didn‘t hate me so much." He turned back to his breakfast, wondering what Olivia might make of that little leap of logic.

She waited approximately ten seconds before continuing on. ―I am relieved to hear that you do not harbor her any ill will. As I said, she is in need of your help. After your little scene at White‘s—"

―What?" Sebastian snapped, barely resisting the urge to slam his hand on the table. ―Hold this minute. It was not my scene at all. If you wish to take someone to task, go find my uncle."

―Very well, I‘m sorry," Olivia said, with enough discomfort that he believed her. ―It was entirely your uncle‘s doing, I realize that, but the end result is the same. Miss Winslow is in a terrible spot, and you are the only person who can save her."

Sebastian took another bite of his food, then carefully wiped his mouth. There were at least ten things about Olivia‘s statement that he could have taken exception to, were he the sort of gentleman to take exception to statements made by females in a huff. The first being: One: Miss Winslow‘s spot was not so terrible because Two : she was apparently very close to becoming the Countess of Newbury, which Three : came with all sorts of fortune and prestige, despite also coming with the Earl of Newbury, whom no one could possibly judge as a prize.

To say nothing of Four : Sebastian was the one sporting a black eye and Five : he was also the one who‘d had a drink thrown in his face, all because Six : she had not seen fit to tell him that she was being courted by his uncle despite the fact that Seven : she knew damn well of the connection, because Eight : she had nearly passed out from shock when he‘d told her his name that night on the heath.

But perhaps he really ought to focus more on the second part of Olivia‘s statement, the bit about his being the only person who could save Miss Winslow. Because Nine : he saw no reason why this might be the case, and Ten : he also didn‘t see why he should care.

―Well?" Olivia demanded. ―Do you have any thoughts on the matter?"

―Quite a few, actually," he said equably. He went back to his food. After a few moments he looked back up. Olivia was gripping the table so hard her knuckles were turning white, and the look on her face…

―Careful there," he murmured. ―You‘re going to curdle the milk."

―Harry!" she fairly yelled.

Harry lowered the newspaper. ―While I do appreciate your soliciting my opinion, I am quite certain I have nothing to offer this conversation. I doubt I‘d even recognize Miss Winslow if I stumbled across her in the street."

―You spent an entire evening in the opera box with her," Olivia said in disbelief.

Harry considered this. ―I suppose I might recognize the back of her head, were that the view she offered to me."

Sebastian chuckled, then very quickly straightened his expression. Olivia was not amused. ―Oh very well," he said, holding his hands toward her in supplication. ―Tell me how this is all my fault and what I may do to fix it."

Olivia stared at him for one last endless second before saying quite primly, ―I am glad you asked."

Harry choked on something down the table. Probably his laughter. Sebastian hoped it was his tongue.

―Do you have any idea what people are saying about Miss Winslow?" Olivia asked.

As Sebastian had spent the last two days holed up in his rooms, working on getting the fictional Miss Spencer out from under her fictional Scotsman‘s fictional bed, he did not, in fact, know what people were saying about Miss Winslow.

―Well?" Olivia demanded.

―I do not," he admitted.

―They are saying"—she leaned forward here, and her expression was such that Sebastian just barely resisted the urge to lean back—―that it is only a matter of time before you seduce her."

―She would not be the first lady about whom that has been said," Seb pointed out.

―It‘s different," Olivia said between her teeth, ―and you know that it is. Miss Winslow is not one of your merry widows."

―I do love a good merry widow," he murmured, just because he knew it would vex her.

―People are saying," she ground out, ―that you will ruin her just to thwart your uncle."

―I am quite certain that is not my plan," Sebastian said, ―and I expect the rest of society will figure that out once they realize I have not even called upon her."

And he did not intend to. Yes, he quite liked Miss Winslow, and yes, he‘d spent far too much of his waking hours pondering the various ways he‘d like to tie her to a bed, but he had absolutely no intention of following through on that particular fantasy. He might have forgiven her, but he had no plans for any further contact. As far as he was concerned, if Newbury wanted her, Newbury could have her.

Which was what he said to Olivia, although with perhaps a bit more delicacy. This, however, only earned him a furious glare, followed by, ―Newbury doesn‘t want her any longer. That is the problem."