“Eloise talks too much,” Anthony grumbled.

Edwina nodded happily. “She always knows everything. Everything! Even more than Lady Whistledown.”

Anthony turned to Kate with an expression that was one part beleaguered and one part pure irony. “Remind me to buy a muzzle for my sister,” he said drolly. “And one for your sister as well.”

Edwina let out a musical laugh. “I never dreamed a brother would be as much fun to tease as a sister. I’m so glad you decided to marry him, Kate.”

“I didn’t have much choice in the matter,” Kate said with a dry smile, “but I’m rather pleased with the way things turned out myself.”

Edwina stood, waking up Newton, who had fallen into blissful sleep next to her on the sofa. He let out an affronted whine and toddled to the floor, where he promptly curled up under a table.

Edwina watched the dog and chuckled before saying, “I should be going. No, don’t see me out,” she added when both Kate and Anthony stood to escort her to the front door. “I can make my own way.”

“Nonsense,” Kate said, linking her arm in Edwina’s. “Anthony, I shall be right back.”

“I shall be counting the seconds,” he murmured, and then, as he took another sip of his drink, the two ladies left the room, followed by Newton, who was now barking enthusiastically, presumably guessing that someone was going to take him for a walk.

Once the two sisters were gone, he settled into the comfortable chair so recently vacated by Kate. It was still warm from her body, and he rather fancied that he could smell her scent in the fabric. More soap than lilies this time, he thought with a careful sniff. Perhaps the lilies were a perfume, something she added at night.

He wasn’t entirely sure why he’d returned home this afternoon; he certainly hadn’t intended to. Contrary to what he’d been telling Kate, his many meetings and responsibilities did not require him to be away from the house all the day long; quite a few of his appointments could easily have been scheduled at home. And while he was indeed a busy man—he’d never subscribed to the indolent lifestyle of so many of the ton—he’d spent many a recent afternoon at White’s, reading the paper and playing cards with his friends.

He’d thought it best. It was important to keep a certain distance from one’s wife. Life—or at least his life—was meant to be compartmentalized, and a wife fit rather neatly in the sections he’d mentally labeled “society affairs” and “bed.”

But when he’d reached White’s that afternoon, there was no one there with whom he felt a particular urge to converse. He’d skimmed through the paper, but there was very little of interest in the most recent edition. And as he sat by the window, trying to enjoy his own company (but finding it pathetically lacking), he’d been struck by the most ridiculous urge to return home and see what Kate was up to.

One afternoon couldn’t hurt. He wasn’t likely to fall in love with his wife for having spent one afternoon in her presence. Not that he thought there was a danger of his falling in love with her at all, he reminded himself sternly. He’d been married nearly a month now and he’d managed to keep his life blessedly free of such entanglements. There was no reason to think that he could not maintain the status quo indefinitely.

Feeling rather satisfied with himself, he took another sip of his brandy, looking up when he heard Kate reenter the room.

“I do think Edwina might be in love,” she said, her entire face lit up with a radiant smile.

Anthony felt his body tighten in response. It was rather ridiculous, actually, how he reacted to her smiles. Happened all the time, and it was a damned nuisance.

Well, most of the time it was a nuisance. He didn’t mind it much when he was able to follow it with a nudge and a trip to the bedroom.

But Kate’s mind was obviously not lodged as firmly in the gutter as his, since she chose to sit in the chair opposite him, even though there was plenty of room in his chair, provided they didn’t mind squeezing next to each other. Even the chair kitty-corner to his would have been better; at least then he could have yanked her up and hauled her onto his lap. If he tried that maneuver where she was seated across the table, he’d have to drag her through the middle of the tea service.

Anthony narrowed his eyes as he assessed the situation, trying to guess exactly how much tea would spill on the rug, and then how much it would cost to replace the rug, and then whether he really cared about such a piddling amount of money, anyway…

“Anthony? Are you listening to me?”

He looked up. Kate was resting her arms on her knees as she leaned forward to talk with him. She looked very intent and just a little bit irritated.

“Were you?” she persisted.

He blinked.

“Listening to me?” she ground out.

“Oh.” He grinned. “No.”

She rolled her eyes but didn’t bother to scold him any further than that. “I was saying that we should have Edwina and her young man over for dinner one night. To see if we think they suit. I have never before seen her so interested in a gentleman, and I do so want her to be happy.”

Anthony reached for a biscuit. He was hungry, and he’d pretty much given up on the prospect of getting his wife into his lap. On the other hand, if he managed to clear off the cups and saucers, yanking her across the table might not have such messy consequences…

He surreptitiously pushed the tray bearing the tea service to the side. “Hmmm?” he grunted, chewing on the biscuit. “Oh, yes, of course. Edwina should be happy.”


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