Chapter 2 (cont.)
She must have made a sound, because Lady Dunlee raised her brows, giving her an alarmingly arch look. “You are very lucky, Lady Anne. Countless society maidens will take to their beds in a fit of the dismals when they hear Mr. Stephen Parker-Roth is no longer available.”
Her stomach sank to the bottom of her slippers. This must be a nightmare. She would wake up in a moment safely tucked into her bed at Crane Castle.
“Oh yes, society will be abuzz with the news of your betrothal.” Lady Dunlee gave what looked suspiciously like a skip as she cleared the threshold.
“But you promised not to say a word,” Anne called after her.
The woman just smiled over her shoulder and waved her hand. Instead of turning to mount the stairs to her house, she headed off across the square. A large, gray cat darted out from under a bush to rub itself against her ankles.
“At least Miss Whiskers is safe,” Mr. Parker-Roth said, closing the door.
Anne glared at him. “I don’t care about that stupid cat--where is Lady Dunlee going?”
“To Melinda Fallwell’s. She lives at number forty-nine.”
“Who’s Melinda Fallwell?” Anne pointed to the door. “And aren’t you leaving, too?”
Mr. Parker-Roth took her arm. “Melinda Fallwell is London’s second greatest gossip--second to Lady Dunlee, of course--and, no, I am not leaving. We need to discuss our betrothal. Where can we be private?” He started back down the corridor, opening doors and peering in. “Ah, this will do nicely.”
He pulled her into what Hobbes had called “the, ahem, Oriental room” when he’d given Anne a quick tour of the house the day before. She called it the harem room. It was furnished with low couches and oversized pillows. Gauzy striped curtains festooned the ceiling and hung down the walls giving one the feeling of being inside a large tent.
Mr. Parker-Roth picked a brass statue off the mantel. His eyes widened and he chuckled. “Interesting decorations you have, Lady Anne.”