Damien Coulter wondered whether she knew that the diamonds on her gown, that infinitely sparkly glitter and glitz, weren’t fooling anyone. Oh, they might prove distracting for the women, but the pink haze of scarce-concealed nipples was far more noticeable to the men. There was naught to her garment but sheer and shimmer, clinging like static to the movement of her legs and hips.
If I were to touch her, would it stir a spark?
Musings. He could have sworn he’d removed a similar gown from Sylvie Averil’s form less than a week past. Their designer would catch hell from the ladies, no doubt, at having made two gowns so much alike.
The glittering Countess was in motion now, surrounded and hidden from his view. He was actually glad when she vanished, because he found himself thinking about her far too much. A man of his standing didn’t dwell on social strumpets, with obvious targets. The Countess, Regina Trelayne by name, was after Winslow—had been since that first luncheon at Frasers’.
It was unfortunate for the Countess that Winslow numbered amongst the select few Lord Damien Coulter counted as friend. Coulter had decided three balls, two tea parties, and one musical parody ago, that he would discover more about this questionable contessa, with her false foreign flair.
The problem being, Winslow didn’t mind being the lady’s target, but he would mind Coulter’s deflection of her not-so-subtle sentiments. Marriage might be a duty and an obligation, but Winslow knew he could do far worse, and had told Damien as much.
He might even be right. Winnie’s natural inclinations would never lead him to the Countess, but a commitment would end the constant harassment from marriage-minded matrons. It would be convenient for Winslow, and a damned fine match for a fortune hunter.
Damien frowned, and vowed to act on his friend’s behalf. This was a tragedy waiting to happen. Winnie, with his weak-willed good-nature, would be no match for her. The Countess would make his life hell. Especially since, Society glaze aside, Damien had the impression she actively disliked her Intended, which meant what she really wanted was a wealthy puppet she could manipulate into an early grave.
It was time to counter her assault with some clever moves of his own. Damien pushed through the crowd surrounding her, ignored the filled dance card on her wrist, and swirled her away into a waltz.
“Lord Carlton.” Reggie gave him a brilliant smile, as false as his own.
Damien misstepped, and they nearly collided with another couple.
"Difficult step,” she offered kindly.
“Yes.” He picked up speed, swirling her swiftly, out of time with the music.
It was her turn to blush. He was making fools of them both.
“M’name is not ‘Carlton,’” he assured her.
She widened her eyes and attempted to appear genuinely dismayed. “Forgive me, my Lord!” She was panting now, from their speedy execution. “I mistook you! So many people, so similarly garbed...!”