The Scandalous Lady Mercy(10)

By: Maggi Andersen


“He’s upset by this appalling tragedy as we all are, and getting old, like me. Not wearing quite as well perhaps. Should have remarried after your mother died, but won’t listen to my advice.”

Grant nodded. His grandfather hadn’t remarried either. Men in his family mated for life.

He frowned as he walked to the library planning to spend the hours before dinner with the newspapers. His father seemed to have shrunk into himself, and lost that vitality that had made him a force to be reckoned with before his mother died. And it was clear that Nat’s death had affected him badly. Grant cursed under his breath as anger, raw and palpable, twisted his gut.

On the following day, a misty dawn striped apricot and gray, rose above the trees as Grant rode north. He would return in time for the funeral held at York Minster. He hoped to have gleaned some information to help understand why such a senseless act had been perpetrated on an earl while riding on his own land.

*

Lord Northcliffe had not attended the musicale. It was just as well, Mercy thought, for Lady Agnes had not quite captured the Irish airs as well as they might have been sung. Nor did he appear at the card party the following Wednesday, and he was not present at Almack’s tonight. It hardly mattered. She’d danced every dance, even though her two gallants had failed her. Lord Bellamy had not come, and Lord Gunn danced three times with a tall auburn-haired lady, which had caused quite a ripple of gossip.

Sir Ewan Snowden, a gentleman of some thirty-five plus years, with unusual white-blond hair, had partnered her in a country dance. He’d spoken with some affection of his home in Durham and begged for a waltz later in the evening. Her father approved of the widower. A life peer, Snowden was well respected for his business acumen. Mercy had yet to form an opinion. The gentleman’s manner was pleasing, she had to admit, but his eyes were as dark and unfathomable as a Swedish Fjord.

When the musicians struck up for the last waltz, he bowed before her, the candlelight embellishing his pale hair. His unusual eyes seemed to see right through her as they danced. “Tell me more about yourself, Lady Mercy,” he asked, as he steered her around the floor. “Apart from dancing divinely, what do you like to do?”

Surprised by the question, Mercy told him about her skin products and the book she was writing.

“Admirable,” he said with a nod. “I might be interested in financing such an endeavor.”

“You would?” She stared up into those inscrutable eyes. She had not thought of seeking his opinion, because she did not consider a man of his age a suitable husband for her. But she couldn’t help warming to him. To gain support for her enterprise was the subject of her dreams.

“Indeed.” He smiled. “I am a businessman, Lady Mercy. If I discover a lucrative idea, I act upon it.”

Breathless, Mercy forced herself to be realistic. Her lotions weren’t yet ready, and the book not finished. “Perhaps, at a later stage, I might seek your assistance?”

He raised his pale brows. “I shall certainly follow your progress with great interest.”

That meant he wished to see more of her. Her initial eagerness for his support diminished slightly. Might his offer come with something attached? Glad Father was not here tonight, she warned herself to be careful and not give him any hope in this direction. Business was business, but for her, marriage, well that was all about love. And she could never fall in love with a man old enough to be her father.

He gazed down at her as if he sensed she’d withdrawn from him. “A penny for them?”

“I was thinking of my new lotion for dry skin.” It was a necessary falsehood, but she was pleased with the lotion she’d created based on egg yolks, rosewater, and a secret ingredient.

“You are your best advertisement, Lady Mercy,” Sir Ewan said softly, breaking into her thoughts. He lowered his voice forcing Mercy to lean closer to hear him. “Your lustrous pale skin must be very soft to touch.”

Disconcerted by the change in him, she chewed her lip. “I don’t use it myself, but my mother finds it effective.”

His gaze fixed on her mouth. “And your lips…the color of coral.”

“You’re too kind, sir.” He was too flirtatious. Mercy sighed with relief when the dance ended.

Mercy hurried to the ladies withdrawing room. As she tidied her hair and checked the hem of her delicate muslin for any marks or tears, a slim, dark-haired young woman came to stand beside her at the mirror.

Her eyes were a light brown, darkly fringed. She was a very pretty girl of a similar age to Mercy, dressed in a charming dress with primrose-trimmed flounces. “It’s a terrible crush tonight, isn’t it? Is Almack’s always so?”