The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy(6)By: Julia Quinn
Iris hated hot weather, and she wasn’t particularly fond of spicy food, but as she sat in her cousins’ ballroom, trying to pretend that fifty people weren’t watching her make a fool of herself, she couldn’t help but think that India sounded rather pleasant.
She had no opinion one way or the other on the elephants.
Maybe she could find herself a husband this year. Truth be told, she hadn’t really put in much of an effort the two years she’d been out. But it was so hard to make an effort when she was—and there was no denying it—so unnoticeable.
Except—she looked up, then immediately looked down—by that strange man in the fifth row. Why was he watching her?
It made no sense. And Iris hated—even more than she hated making a fool of herself—things that made no sense.
IT WAS CLEAR to Richard that Iris Smythe-Smith planned to flee the concert the moment she was able. She wasn’t obvious about it, but he’d been watching her for what seemed like an hour; by this point, he was practically an expert on the expressions and mannerisms of the reluctant cellist.
He was going to have to act quickly.
“Introduce us,” Richard said to Winston, discreetly motioning toward her with his head.
Richard gave a curt nod.
Winston shrugged, obviously surprised by his friend’s interest in the colorless Miss Iris Smythe-Smith. But if he was curious, he did not show it past his initial query. Instead he maneuvered through the crowd in his usual smooth manner. The woman in question might have been standing awkwardly by the door, but her eyes were sharp, taking in the room, its inhabitants, and the interactions thereof.
She was timing her escape. Richard was sure of it.
But she was to be thwarted. Winston came to a halt in front of her before she could make her move. “Miss Smythe-Smith,” he said, everything good cheer and amiability. “What a delight to see you again.”
She bobbed a suspicious curtsy. Clearly she did not have the sort of acquaintance with Winston as to warrant such a warm greeting. “Mr. Bevelstoke,” she murmured.
“May I introduce my good friend, Sir Richard Kenworthy?”
Richard bowed. “It is a pleasure to meet you,” he said.
Her eyes were just as light as he’d imagined, although with only the candlelight to illuminate her face, he could not discern their precise color. Gray, perhaps, or blue, framed by eyelashes so fair they might have been invisible if not for their astonishing length.
“My sister sends her regrets,” Winston said.
“Yes, she usually attends, doesn’t she?” Miss Smythe-Smith murmured with the merest hint of a smile. “She’s very kind.”
“Oh, I don’t know that kindness has anything to do with it,” Winston said genially.
Miss Smythe-Smith raised a pale brow and fixed a stare on Winston. “I rather think kindness has everything to do with it.”
Richard was inclined to agree. He could not imagine why else Winston’s sister would subject herself to such a performance more than once. And he rather admired Miss Smythe-Smith’s acuity on the matter.
“She sent me in her stead,” Winston went on. “She said it would not do for our family to be unrepresented this year.” He glanced over at Richard. “She was most firm about it.”
“Please do offer her my gratitude,” Miss Smythe-Smith said. “If you’ll excuse me, though, I must—”
“May I ask you a question?” Richard interrupted.
She froze, having already begun to twist toward the door. She looked at him with some surprise. So did Winston.
“Of course you may,” she murmured, her eyes not nearly as placid as her tone. She was a gently bred young lady and he a baronet. She could offer no other response, and they both knew it.