Today's Reading

Several ladies descended on the table, to examine the journal and congratulate the duchess of her now public role. He eased away, toward Miss MacCallum. She spoke with Amanda now. He joined a conversation that Stratton held nearby.

His position gave him more time to assess her appearance. A handsome woman of about twenty-five, or a year or so younger if he wanted to be generous, she lacked the requisite fineness to be thought pretty. Her bold features made her expressions aminated, however, and she appeared quick to smile. He found her attractive but knew many men would not. But then many men were idiots on most things, especially women.

Her dress did not flatter her fair coloring. Yellow often did not sit well on blond women, and she was blond in the extreme, her hair the hue of morning sunlight, so pale as to appear white at times when she moved her head. It was a pity that she had so little of it. He suspected that once the rolls and curls were unfurled her hair would barely hit her shoulders.

Such cropping normally meant a serious illness. Perhaps her expertise in medicine came from being a patient.

Amanda began taking her leave. Brentworth took the opportunity to move over. Miss MacCallum appeared startled to see him right in front of her.

"I will count on your joining us on Tuesday," Amanda said before aiming across the chamber toward her husband.

"I will try to attend."

"Did I interrupt plans for an outing?" he asked.

"It is a meeting regarding the journal, not an outing. Nor did you interrupt, Your Grace."

He gazed around the drawing room, at the ladies in attendance. "I did not realize the Duchess of Langford is also a contributor. Is everyone here involved in Parnasus?"

"Most of the women are. Amanda keeps the accounts."

So she was on familiar terms with the duchesses. How interesting. A flippant response almost made it out of his mouth before he remembered that Miss MacCallum would not know how very ironic is was that Amanda Waverly had a duty with the journal's finances.

"It is why I am here, obviously," she added. "I normally do not frequent such elevated circles. But then you knew that within five seconds of seeing me."

"What circles do you frequent? Medical and scientific ones?"

"Now you mock me. We both know those circles are even harder for me to join than this one."

"Then perhaps you frequent drawing rooms with other adventurers like yourself, who travel the world."

Pink blotches began forming on her cheeks, but retreated quickly. "I frequent none, actually. I am only recently arrived in London and my usual duties prohibit me from social events most days."

"What duties are those?"

She raised her chin. Her blue eyes glinted with humor. "I am a governess.

Shocking, I know. Do not blame the Duchess of Stratton for lacking suitable discrimination. It is not her fault that the writer she patronizes keeps body and soul together by being in service."

"I am not shocked, but I would never have guessed it. Governesses learn through prudence to be more docile than might be natural to them, and that word does not seem to fit you."

"Fortunately, the family whom I serve would never want docility. Is not a trait they admire."

"Ah, rebellious sorts, are they? Then I assume they usually live in Scotland, like you."

Her smile did not disappear so much as it paused. "Not everyone surmises that about me. My lineage is announced in my surname, but most think my home is in England. You are most observant."

"It is in your voice, subtly. I have met other Scots who suppressed the accent upon coming to London, but none as successfully as you."

"I did not suppress it. This is my natural voice. I was not raised in Scotland. My earliest years were indeed spent in England, in Northumberland."

"But not your later ones?"

"Not my later ones. Your ear is most attuned. Do you visit Scotland often?"

"Not recently." Not in years. His memories of Scotland were not good ones. Even this small reference tried to release them from the dark spot where he imprisoned them.

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