―I am an excellent judge of the female form, even from afar." Sebastian glanced about the room, looking for something nonalcoholic to drink. Tea. Tea might help. His grandmother had always said it was the next best thing to vodka.
―Well," Edward said, watching as Sebastian heaved himself off the sofa and crossed the room to ring for the butler, ―if she accepts him, you‘ve all but lost the earldom."
Seb flopped back on the sofa. ―It was never mine to begin with."
―But it could be," Edward said, leaning forward. ―It could be yours. Me, I‘m probably thirty-ninth in line for anything of note, but you…you could be Newbury."
Sebastian pushed back the sour taste rising in his throat. Newbury was his uncle, huge and loud, with bad breath and a worse temper. It was difficult to imagine ever answering to the name.
―Honestly, Edward," he said, giving his cousin as frank a stare as he could muster, ―I really don‘t care one way or the other."
―You can‘t mean that."
―And yet I do," Seb murmured.
Edward stared at him as if he‘d gone mad. Sebastian decided to respond to that by resuming his lengthwise position on the sofa. He closed his eyes, determined to keep them that way until the tea arrived. ―I‘m not saying I wouldn‘t appreciate the accompanying conveniences," he said, ―but I‘ve lived thirty years without it, and twenty-nine without even the prospect of it."
―Conveniences," Edward repeated, apparently latching onto the word. ―Conveniences?"
Seb shrugged. ―I would find the money extremely convenient."
―Convenient," Edward said with amazement. ―Only you would call it convenient."
Sebastian shrugged again and attempted to nap. He seemed to find most of his sleep this way, in little fits and bits, stolen on sofas, in chairs, anywhere, really, except for his own bed. But his mind proved stubborn, refusing to let go of this most recent gossip about his uncle.
He really didn‘t care if he inherited the earldom.
People tended to have difficulty believing this, but it was true. If his uncle married the Vickers girl and got a son off her…well, bully for him. So he wouldn‘t get the title. Sebastian couldn‘t be bothered to upset himself over the loss of something he‘d never really had in the first place.
―Most people," Sebastian said aloud, since it was only Edward in the room and he could sound like a bloviating buffoon with no consequences, ―know if they are going to inherit an earldom.
One is the heir apparent. Apparently, the heir. Unless someone manages to kill you first, you inherit."
―I beg your pardon?"
―One could really rename the whole thing heir obvious ," Seb muttered.
―Do you always give vocabulary lessons when you‘ve had too much to drink?"
―Whelp." It was Seb‘s favorite name for Edward, and as long as he kept it within the family, Edward didn‘t seem to mind.
―Monologue, interrupted," Sebastian said, then continued: ―With the heir presumptive, all is merely presumed."
―Are you telling me something I don‘t know?" Edward asked, not sarcastically. It was more of a query as to whether or not he needed to pay attention.
Sebastian ignored him. ―One is presumed to be the heir, unless and of course, et cetera, et cetera, in my case, Newbury manages to foist himself on some poor young lady with fertile hips and large breasts."
Edward sighed again.
―Shut up ," Seb said.
―If you saw them, you‘d know what I mean."
His tone was so full of lust that Sebastian had to open his eyes and look at him. ―You need a woman."
Edward shrugged. ―Send one my way. I don‘t mind your leavings."
He deserved better than that, but Sebastian didn‘t really feel like getting into it, not without sustenance. ―I really need that tea."
―I suspect you need something more than that."
Seb quirked a brow.
―You seem rather annoyed with the tenuousness of your position," Edward explained.
Sebastian considered that. ―No, not annoyed. But I will go so far as mildly aggravated."
Edward picked up the newspaper, and they fell into a companionable silence. Sebastian stared across the room and out the window. His eyesight had always been excellent, and he could see the pretty ladies promenading on the other side of the street. He watched for a while, happily thinking about nothing of import. Azure blue seemed to be the fashionable color this season. A good choice; it looked well on most people. He wasn‘t so sure about the skirts; they seemed a bit stiffer and more conical. Attractive, yes, but much more difficult for the man with an eye toward raising them.
―Tea," Edward called out, breaking into Sebastian‘s thoughts. A maid deposited the tray on the table between them, and for a moment they just stared at it, two big men with big hands, staring at the dainty teapot.
―Where is our dear Olivia when we need her?" Sebastian said.
Edward grinned. ―I shall be sure to tell her that you value her for her pouring skills."
―It is quite possibly the most logical reason to get oneself a wife." Sebastian leaned forward and examined the tray, looking for the small jug of milk. ―Do you want some?"
Edward shook his head.
Sebastian splashed some milk into his cup and then decided he needed the tea far too much to wait for it to steep properly. He poured, inhaling the aroma as it steamed through the air. It was remarkable how far it went toward settling his stomach.
Maybe he should go to India. Land of promise. Land of tea.
He took a sip, the heat rolling down his throat to his belly. It was perfect, just perfect. ―Have you ever thought about going to India?" he asked Edward.