More than a Mistress/No Man's Mistress

Free More than a Mistress/No Man's Mistress by Mary Balogh

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Authors: Mary Balogh
fellows,” Conan Brougham said, more perceptive than the others, “that the notorious duke is not amused.”
    Which was a mistake on his part, Jocelyn thought a moment later as the door opened and Jane came back into the room, carrying two decanters on a tray. A footman came behind her with the glasses. She was, of course, the instant focus of everyone’s curious attention, a fact that should have amused him as it would surely disconcert her. But he felt only annoyance that any of his friends would for one moment think him capable of the execrable taste of dallying with his own servant.
    She might have tried to escape with the footman, but she did not do so. She retired to her corner with lowered eyes. Her cap was pulled lower than ever over her brow.
    Viscount Kimble whistled softly. “A beauty in hiding, Tresh?” he murmured, too low for her to overhear.
    Trust Kimble’s eyes to penetrate her disguise. Kimble,with his blond god’s good looks, was very much a ladies’ man, of course. A connoisseur to equal Jocelyn himself.
    “But a servant,” Jocelyn replied, “under the protection of my own roof, Kimble.”
    His friend understood him. He grinned and winked. But he would not make any improper advances to Jane Ingleby. Jocelyn did wonder fleetingly why he cared.
    The conversation quickly moved off into other topics since they could hardly discuss Jane in her presence. But no one seemed to consider it improper to discuss in her hearing Lady Oliver’s apparent enjoyment of her notoriety as she had played court to a host of admirers at the theater last evening; the presence of three of her brothers with her and Oliver in their box; the avowed determination of the brothers to call the Duke of Tresham to account for debauching their sister as soon as he was on his feet again; the ridiculous lengths to which Hailsham was going to prove that his eldest son, now nine years old and reputed to be mentally deficient, was a bastard so that he could promote the claims of his second and favorite son; the latest sensational details of the Cornish scandal.
    “It is being said now that Jardine is dead,” Brougham said on that last topic. “That he never did recover consciousness after the attack.”
    “It must have been one devil of a bash on the head,” Kimble added. “The more sensational accounts insist that his brains were fully visible through hair and blood. London drawing rooms are filled with swooning females these days. Which makes life interesting for those of us who can be close enough to some of them when it happens. Too bad you are incapacitated, Tresh.” He chuckled.
    “As I remember it,” Pottier said, “Jardine did not
have
a great deal of hair. Not too many brains either.”
    “He never regained consciousness.” Jocelyn, attempting to shift his position to rid himself of a few cramps, inadvertently knocked the cushion to the floor. “Come and replace this, Miss Ingleby, will you? He never regained consciousness and yet—according to some accounts—he was able to give a perfectly lucid account of the attack and his own spirited and heroic defense. He was able to identify his attacker and explain her motive for breaking his skull. A strange sort of unconsciousness.”
    Jane bent over him and placed the cushion in just the right spot, lifted his leg onto it as gently as she always did, and adjusted the top of the bandage, which had curled under. But she was, he noticed when he glanced at her, white to the very lips.
    He was almost sorry then that he had insisted upon her remaining in the room. Clearly she was uncomfortable in the company of all men. And no doubt with their talk. As stoic as she had been over his injury, perhaps the talk of hair and blood and brains had been too much for her.
    “News of his death may be just as exaggerated,” Garrick said cynically, getting to his feet and helping himself to another drink. “It could well be that he is simply ashamed to show his face after admitting

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