Kate suddenly felt upset.

“He had a lot to say about Newton, though.”

Kate’s lips parted with dismay. It was never flattering to be passed over for a dog.

“I assured him that Newton is truly the perfect pet, and that I was not at all angry with him, but he was rather charmingly upset on my behalf.”

“How charming,” Kate muttered.

Edwina grabbed a handkerchief and blew her nose. “I say, Kate, you’re rather interested in the viscount.”

“I did spend practically the entire afternoon trapped in conversation with him,” Kate replied, as if that ought to explain everything.

“Good. Then you’ve had a chance to see how polite and charming he can be. He’s very wealthy, too.” Edwina let out a loud sniffle, then fumbled around for a fresh handkerchief. “And while I don’t think that one can choose a husband based entirely on finances, given our lack of funds, I would be remiss not to consider it, don’t you think?”

“Well…” Kate hedged, knowing that Edwina was absolutely correct but not wanting to say anything that might be construed as approval of Lord Bridgerton.

Edwina brought the handkerchief to her face and gave her nose a rather unfeminine blow. “I think we should add him to our list,” she said, snuffling over the words.

“Our list,” Kate echoed, her voice strangled.

“Yes, of possible matches. I think he and I would suit very well.”

“But I thought you wanted a scholar!”

“I did. I do. But you yourself pointed out the unlikelihood of my finding a true scholar. Lord Bridgerton seems intelligent enough. I’ll just have to devise a way to discover if he likes to read.”

“I’d be surprised if that boor can read,” Kate muttered.

“Kate Sheffield!” Edwina exclaimed with a laugh. “Did you just say what I think you said?”

“No,” Kate said baldly, because of course the viscount could read. But he was just so awful in every other way.

“You did,” Edwina accused. “You are the worst, Kate.” She smiled. “But you do make me laugh.”

A low rumble of distant thunder echoed in the night, and Kate forced a smile on her face, trying not to flinch. She was usually all right when the thunder and lightning were far away. It was only when they came one on top of each other, and both seemingly on top of her, that she felt as if she were about to burst from her skin.

“Edwina,” Kate said, needing to have this discussion with her sister but also needing to say something that would take her mind off the approaching storm, “you must put the viscount from your mind. He is absolutely not the sort of husband who would make you happy. Aside from the fact that he is the worst sort of rake and would probably flaunt a dozen mistresses in your face—”

At Edwina’s frown, Kate cut off the rest of her sentence and decided to expand upon this point. “He would!” she said with great drama. “Haven’t you been reading Whistledown? Or listening to anything any of the other young ladies’ mamas have to say? The ones who have been on the social circuit for several years and know what’s what. They all say he is a terrible rake. That his only saving grace is how nicely he treats his family.”

“Well, that would be a mark in his favor,” Edwina pointed out. “Since a wife would be family, yes?”

Kate nearly groaned. “A wife isn’t the same as a blood relative. Men who would never dream of uttering a cross word in front of their mothers trample all over their wives’ feelings every day.”

“And how would you know this?” Edwina demanded.

Kate’s mouth fell open. She couldn’t remember the last time Edwina had questioned her judgment on an important matter, and unfortunately, the only answer she could think of on such short notice was, “I just do.”

Which, even she had to admit, really didn’t pass muster.

“Edwina,” she said in a placating voice, deciding to steer the topic in a different direction, “aside from all that, I don’t think you would even like the viscount if you got to know him.”

“He seemed pleasant enough while driving me home.”

“But he was on his best behavior!” Kate persisted. “Of course he’d seem nice. He wants you to fall in love with him.”

Edwina blinked. “So you think it was all an act.”

“Exactly!” Kate exclaimed, pouncing on the concept. “Edwina, between last night and this afternoon, I spent several hours in his company, and I can assure you, he was not on his best behavior with me.”

Edwina gasped with horror and maybe a little titillation. “Did he kiss you?” she breathed.

“No!” Kate howled. “Of course not! Where on earth would you get that idea?”

“You said he wasn’t on his best behavior.”

“What I meant,” Kate ground out, “was that he wasn’t polite. Nor was he very nice. In fact, he was insufferably arrogant and dreadfully rude and insulting.”

“That’s interesting,” Edwina murmured.

“It wasn’t the least bit interesting. It was horrible!”

“No, that’s not what I meant,” Edwina said, thoughtfully scratching her chin. “It’s very odd that he would have behaved rudely to you. He must have heard that I shall be looking to your judgment when I choose a husband. One would think he’d go out of his way to be nice to you. Why,” she mused, “would he behave the churl?”

Kate’s face colored a dull red—thankfully not so noticeable in the candlelight—as she muttered, “He said he couldn’t help himself.”


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