One Night With A Prince(9)

By: Sabrina Jeffries

And Mr. Byrne probably didn’t evenmean his flirting! It was merely his nature, which meant he must have some other motive for agreeing to her plan. He was just that sort of devious scoundrel. Nothing she’d seen this evening had changed her initial opinion of him one whit. He was the Prince of Darkness himself—polished, more handsome than she remembered, and possessed of an Irishman’s glib tongue. She didn’t trust him. She didn’t approve of him.

She found him utterly fascinating.

Of course. She always found the wrong sort of men fascinating. That’s why she’d ended up here in the first place.

“Do try some of the galantine, Lady Haversham,” Lady Draker said from her post at the end of the dinner table. “Our cook is famous for it.”

Christabel blinked at the fair-haired viscountess. Which of the dishes before her was a galantine? That’s why she hated coming into society. She always floundered in the morass of rules and French words. Not to mention the expectation that she—a mere general’s daughter—knew how to behave as a proper marchioness.

“If I may,” Mr. Byrne said, and offered her a dish.

Oh, the aspic-covered thing. “It does look delicious,” she lied as she took some. She ventured a bite, relieved to find it edible. She only prayed that Lord Stokely didn’t have a French cook, or she’d never make it through his meals.

Perhaps Mr. Byrne could help with that, too. For a notorious owner of a gaming club, he seemed perfectly adept at navigating the treacherous social waters, perfectly at ease in this august company. Then again, Mr. Byrne was rumored to be the prince’s natural son, like Lord Draker, which would make them half brothers. That might explain it. It might also explain His Highness’s willingness to ask the two men to help her.

His Highness—oh dear. He wouldnot be happy when he heard the outcome of the meeting. He’d wanted Mr. Byrne to act as a go-between only—not dangerously involved in the entire scheme. But what else could she do? Lord Stokely was threatening to have her family’s letters published if the prince didn’t meet his outrageous demands. And the prince had made it painfully clear what could happen to Papa if she didn’t get them back.

“Would you like some of these, Lady Haversham?” Mr. Byrne asked from beside her, startling her. Forcing her attention to the heavy platter he balanced easily in one hand, she sighed with relief when she recognized it. “Oh, yes, Ilove oysters.”

The sudden gleam in Mr. Byrne’s eye gave her pause. “Do you?” He scooped three out of their shells and onto her plate with the silver serving spoon. “Do I dare hope you’re also inordinately fond of pomegranate and Spanish fly?”

“What’s Spanish fly?” she asked when the two ladies turned beet red, and their husbands scowled.

“Stop teasing the poor woman, Byrne,” Lord Draker said sternly. “Can’t you see she has no idea what you’re talking about?”

Christabel bristled. Perhaps she didn’t understand exactly what had brought that sensual huskiness into Mr. Byrne’s voice, but she wasn’t a complete fool. “I know it’s probably wicked.” She shot Mr. Byrne a side glance. “He seems to think women find wickedness attractive in a man.”

Mr. Byrne grinned. “Some women do.”

“Only the shameless femalesyou consort with.” Hearing a choked sound from across the table, she glanced at their hostess, and hastily added, “Present company excepted, of course.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” Lady Iversley said with a laugh, “we’re entirely in agreement with you about Byrne’s shameless females.”

“You see, Draker?” Mr. Byrne said. “You needn’t try to protect Lady Haversham from me. The woman can hold her own very well.”

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