By that evening, it had become apparent that Edwina had not come through her (albeit brief) ordeal unscathed. Her nose turned red, her eyes began to water, and it was apparent to anyone who glimpsed her puffy face for even a second that, while not seriously ill, she’d caught a bad cold.
But even while Edwina was tucked into bed with a hot water bottle between her feet and a therapeutic potion brewed up by the cook in a mug on her bedside table, Kate was determined to have a conversation with her.
“What did he say to you on the ride home?” Kate demanded, perching on the edge of her sister’s bed.
“Who?” Edwina replied, sniffing fearfully at the remedy. “Look at this,” she said, holding it forward. “It’s giving off fumes.”
“The viscount,” Kate ground out. “Who else would have spoken to you on the ride home? And don’t be a ninny. It’s not giving off fumes. That’s just steam.”
“Oh.” Edwina took another sniff and pulled a face. “It doesn’t smell like steam.”
“It’s steam,” Kate ground out, gripping the mattress until her knuckles hurt. “What did he say?”
“Lord Bridgerton?” Edwina asked blithely. “Oh, just the usual sort of things. You know what I mean. Polite conversation and all that.”
“He made polite conversation while you were dripping wet?” Kate asked doubtfully.
Edwina took a hesitant sip, then nearly gagged. “What is in this?”
Kate leaned over and sniffed at the contents. “It smells a bit like licorice. And I think I see a raisin at the bottom.” But as she sniffed, she thought she heard rain pattering against the glass of the window, and so she sat back up. “Is it raining?”
“I don’t know,” Edwina said. “It might be. It was rather cloudy when the sun set earlier.” She gave the glass one more dubious look, then set it back on the table. “If I drink that, I know it will make me sicker,” she stated.
“But what else did he say?” Kate persisted, getting up to check out the window. She pushed the curtain aside and peered out. It was raining, but only lightly, and it was too early to tell whether the precipitation would be accompanied by any thunder or lightning.
“Who, the viscount?”
Kate thought herself a saint for not shaking her sister senseless. “Yes, the viscount.”
Edwina shrugged, clearly not as interested in the conversation as Kate. “Not much. He asked for my welfare, of course. Which was only reasonable, considering that I had just been dunked in The Serpentine. Which, I might add, was perfectly wretched. Aside from being cold, the water was most certainly not clean.”
Kate cleared her throat and sat back down, preparing to ask a most scandalous question, but one which, in her opinion, simply had to be asked. Trying to keep her voice devoid of the complete and total fascination that was coursing through her veins, she asked, “Did he make any untoward advances?”
Edwina lurched back, her eyes growing round with shock. “Of course not!” she exclaimed. “He was a perfect gentleman. Really, I don’t see what has you so excited. It wasn’t a very interesting conversation. I can’t even remember half of what was said.”
Kate just stared at her sister, unable to fathom that she could have been trapped in conversation with that odious rake for a good ten minutes and it didn’t make an indelible impression on her. Much to her own everlasting dismay, every single awful word he’d said to her was etched permanently on her brain.
“By the way,” Edwina added, “how was your time with Mr. Berbrooke? It took you nearly an hour to return.”
Kate shuddered visibly.
“I’m sure he will make some woman a good husband,” Kate said. “Just not one with a brain.”
Edwina let out a little giggle. “Oh, Kate, you are awful.”
Kate sighed. “I know. I know. That was terribly cruel of me. The poor man hasn’t an unkind bone in his body. It’s just that—”
“He hasn’t an intelligent bone, either,” Edwina finished.
Kate raised her brows. It was most unlike Edwina to make such a judgmental comment.
“I know,” Edwina said with a sheepish smile. “Now I am the unkind one. I really shouldn’t have said a word, but truly, I thought I would perish on our curricle ride.”
Kate straightened with concern. “Was he a dangerous driver?”
“Not at all. It was his conversation.”
Edwina nodded, her blue eyes slightly bewildered. “He was so hard to follow it was almost fascinating to try to figure out how his mind works.” She let out a stream of coughs, then added, “But it made my brain hurt.”
“So he’s not to be your perfect scholar-husband?” Kate said with an indulgent smile.
Edwina coughed some more. “I’m afraid not.”
“Maybe you should try a bit more of that brew,” Kate suggested, motioning to the lonely mug sitting on Edwina’s bedside table. “Cook swears by it.”
Edwina shook her head violently. “It tastes like death.”
Kate waited a few moments, then had to ask, “Did the viscount say anything about me?”
“No, some other me,” Kate practically snapped. “Of course me. How many other people may I correctly refer to as ‘me’?”
“No need to get upset about it.”
“I’m not upset—”
“But actually, no, he didn’t mention you.”
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