The Matchmaker's Match

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Authors: Jessica Nelson
would that change if they discovered her less than ladylike activities?
    The memory of her direct gaze and delightfully straightforward talk brought a smile to his lips but heaviness to his heart. It might be that engaging her services could cast a gloom about her reputation. After all, those same ladies who offered her their approval tended to frown at him.
    It was far too close to how they’d looked at his mother. But she’d flouted society’s conventions in numerous ways, bringing shame to his father and pain to Spencer. Their disapproval of her was of a far different nature than their disapproval of him. After all, he did manage to coax a grudging twinkle in their eyes when he put his mind to it.
    He stood, keeping his gaze on the maddening Lady Amelia. He was beginning to understand Eversham’s frustration with his sister. He stepped into the ballroom and headed toward the entrance. He’d done what he’d hoped for, proffered an exchange of information, at the least.
    As he rounded the room, he noticed the gentleman standing near Lady Amelia. Something about the way he stood... It was familiar, and it was too close. Spencer frowned and immediately reversed direction. As he neared, he realized that the man next to Lady Amelia was none other than Lord Dudley. His distant cousin bothered Lady Amelia, though Spencer noticed she took great pains not to show her unease.
    Perhaps it was the stiffness of her shoulders that gave her away. Or the tight press of her lips. Either way, his gut told him to move quickly. Jaw tight, he pushed past a group of giggling misses. He dodged a dowager who was giving him the evil eye, no doubt wondering how he’d snagged an invitation to Almack’s.
    A marquis title came in handy every so often.
    Finally he reached Lady Amelia in time to hear her curtly say, “No, Lord Dudley, I am overheated at the moment. Really, a dance would be too much.”
    “But my lady, I saw you dance last week, and you are adept at it.” His facetious cousin bestowed a sickeningly sweet smile on Lady Amelia. “I long to share such an experience with you.”
    Her fan came out, nearly smacking Spencer’s face. “Really, my lord, you flatter me. But I must insist you find another partner.” She hadn’t noticed Spencer yet; she was too busy fanning her face, which looked remarkably red beneath the elaborate glass lights.
    “Shall we retreat to a cooler spot in which to rest?” The hopeful look on Lord Dudley’s face, and Lady Amelia’s barely controlled grimace, spurred Spencer to action.
    “May I borrow Lady Amelia for a moment?”
    Dudley had not recognized him. Spencer gave a terse nod. He ignored Dudley’s surprise and reached for Lady Amelia’s arm, lightly turning her toward him. “There is a family matter I wished to discuss with her.”
    Though Lord Dudley’s cheeks drooped, he gave a grudging nod. “Farewell, my bonny lady. Perhaps later this evening we might share a waltz?”
    Spencer didn’t give her time to respond. He propelled her toward the balcony, where a light breeze fluttered the simple curtains. They passed the orchestra and moved into the cool evening air. Her arm felt small and fragile beneath his grip. She moved away as soon as they passed through the doors.
    “That was unnecessary,” she said, looking up at him.
    He wanted to take the spectacles from her face and get a good look at her eyes. They were very dark, fathomless, and he could not tell her mood.
    Unsettled by his forward thoughts, he looked down. “You seemed as though you needed an escape from my cousin.”
    A short, humorless laugh rushed out of her. “Perhaps I did, and perhaps I should thank fortune you provided it.”
    “They say God works in mysterious ways.”
    “Yes... God.” Her eyes met his, and he saw no anger on her features, only blatant curiosity. “You speak of Him in a way I’m unused to. Sometimes at the prison, I overhear the women discussing the Bible. They share verses they’ve studied

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