Allie Pleiter, here, with the next installment of our Valentine serial!
She turned to see a tall man with chestnut brown hair standing with his hands planted on the parapet wall. Finely dressed, he looked over the grounds and the Chiltern Hills as if he were the estate’s owner, not one of the many guests. She found the smile he offered a bit too full of…of what? Charm? Arrogance? Mischief?
Elizabeth pulled her cloak more tightly around her, wishing she had kept her kerchief on. “Forgive me, Milord. I did not mean to intrude.”
“Tis your privacy that has been ruined. I am only a guest at this fine estate. And a fine home it is.” He motioned for them to continue walking along the parapet rather than return inside, as if they could simply stroll along together. Had he forgotten it would hardly suit for her to be seen walking in the company of such a man without a proper chaperone? He’d thwarted her walk even while inviting her to continue—did he do so purposely? His smile looked as if he was quite capable of such trickery, even if his clothing and bearing told of his good stock.
“I’ve taken all the air I need,” she said, hoping to hide the disappointment in her voice. This man—who had still not yet recalled his manners enough to introduce himself despite the invitation for a walk—was quickly becoming an annoyance. She set her feet reluctantly toward the door.
His laugh was low and musical. “Oh I highly doubt that, milady.”
She turned back. “And why is that?”
“The scowl you were shedding when you first walked out here had returned. ’Tis a shame to see a scowl on such a fine face. If the air has the same qualities for you that it does for me, I would not venture indoors until I felt my spirits restored completely.” Again, he motioned away from the stone walls and towards the grounds. She found them lovely, even in winter.
“I do not even know your name, Milord. I would hardly give you leave to comment on my temperament.”
He bowed low. “It seems I have forgotten my manners.”
His tone implied that he had not forgotten them at all—more likely “misplaced” them for his own amusement. Elizabeth decided she did not like this man, whatever his name.
“I am Baron Drake Godrich, milady.”
This was Baron Drake Godrich? The man over which Patricia had fawned such praise? He may be pleasing to the eye, but Elizabeth found his character lacking. Given the choice, she might pair Patricia with this man more for spite than out of favor. The Baron said his name as though he were gracing the world with his presence.
She dropped in a curtsey. “I am most honored to meet you, Milord. I am…”
He looked up and cut her off. “You are Lady Elizabeth D’Alibini, niece to Her Grace, Duchess Jane of Oxfordshire, our hostess.”
Yes, she found his character quite lacking indeed.