Scandal in Spring Page 10

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“W-would Mr. Swift really agree to take a bride not of his own choosing?” Evie pushed back a gleaming red curl that had slipped over her forehead. “If what he said was true—that his financial situation is already s-secure—there is no reason for him to marry Daisy.”

“There is more to it than money,” Lillian replied, squirming in her chair to find a more comfortable position. Her hands rested on the ample curve of her belly. “Father has made Swift into a substitute son, since none of our brothers turned out the way he wanted.”

“The way he wanted?” Annabelle asked in puzzlement. She flopped over to kiss the baby’s tiny wiggling toes, eliciting a gurgling chuckle from the infant.

“Devoted to the company,” Lillian clarified. “Efficient and callous and unscrupulous. A man who will put business interests ahead of everything else in his life. It’s a language they speak together, Father and Mr. Swift. Our brother Ransom has tried to make a place for himself in the company, but Father always pits him against Mr. Swift.”

“And Mr. Swift always wins,” Daisy said. “Poor Ransom.”

“Our other two brothers don’t even bother trying,” Lillian said.

“But wh-what of Mr. Swift’s own father?” Evie asked. “Does he have no objection to his son becoming someone else’s de facto son?”

“Well, that’s always been the odd part,” Daisy replied. “Mr. Swift comes from a well-known New England family. They settled in Plymouth and some of them ended up in Boston by the early seventeen hundreds. Swifts are known for their distinguished ancestry, but only a few of them have managed to retain their money. As Father always says, it takes one generation to make it, the second to spend it, and the third is left with only the name. Of course, when it’s Old Boston one is talking about, the process takes ten generations instead of three—they’re so much slower about everything—”

“You’re drifting, dear,” Lillian interrupted. “Back to the point.”

“Sorry.” Daisy grinned briefly before resuming. “Well, we suspect there was some kind of falling-out between Mr. Swift and his relations because he hardly ever speaks of them. And he rarely travels to Massachusetts to visit. So even if Mr. Swift’s father does object to his son inserting himself into someone else’s family, we would never know about it.”

The four women were quiet for a moment as they considered the situation.

“We’ll find someone for Daisy,” Evie said. “Now that we are able to look beyond the peerage, it will be much easier. There are many acceptable gentlemen of good blood who do not h-happen to possess titles.”

“Mr. Hunt has many unmarried acquaintances,” Annabelle said. “He could make any number of introductions.”

“I appreciate that,” Daisy said, “but I don’t like the idea of marrying a professional man. I could never be happy with a soulless industrialist.” Pausing, she said apologetically, “No offense to Mr. Hunt, of course.”

Annabelle laughed. “I wouldn’t characterize all professional men as soulless industrialists. Mr. Hunt can be quite sensitive and emotional at times.”

The others regarded her dubiously, none of them able to picture Annabelle’s big, bold-featured husband as being sensitive in any way. Mr. Hunt was clever and charming, but he seemed as impervious to emotion as an elephant would be to the buzzing of a gnat.

“We’ll take your word for that,” Lillian said. “Back to the matter at hand—Evie, will you ask Lord St. Vincent if he knows of any suitable gentlemen for Daisy? Now that we’ve expanded our definition of ‘suitable,’ he ought to be able to find a decent specimen. Heaven knows he possesses information about every man in England who has two shillings to rub together.”

“I will ask him,” Evie said decisively. “I am certain we can come up with some presentable candidates.”

As the owner of Jenner’s, the exclusive gaming club that Evie’s father had established long ago, Lord St. Vincent was rapidly bringing the business to a height of success it had never reached before. St. Vincent ran the club in an exacting manner, keeping meticulous files on the personal lives and financial balances of every one of its members.

“Thank you,” Daisy replied sincerely. Her mind lingered on thoughts of the club. “I wonder…do you think Lord St. Vincent could find out more about Mr. Rohan’s mysterious past? Perhaps he’s a long-lost Irish lord or something of the sort.”

A brief silence sifted through the room like a flurry of tiny snowflakes. Daisy was aware of significant glances being exchanged between her sister and friends. She was abruptly annoyed with them, and even more with herself for mentioning the man who helped manage the gaming club.

Rohan was a young half-gypsy with dark hair and bright hazel eyes. They had only met once, when Rohan had stolen a kiss from her. Three kisses, if one wished to be factual, and it had been by far the most erotic experience of her entire life. Also the only erotic experience of her entire life.

Rohan had kissed her as if she were a grown woman instead of someone’s younger sister, with a coaxing sensuality that had hinted of all the forbidden things kisses led to. Daisy should have slapped his face. Instead she had dreamed about those kisses at least a hundred thousand times.

“I don’t think so, dear,” Evie said very gently, and Daisy smiled too brightly, as if she had made a joke.

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