It would accomplish two tasks at once. And Bridget was nothing if not efficient. Yes, she agreed to help the viscount. But not for his sake.
Her benefits would far outweigh the drawbacks of spending time in the company of his acute arrogance. Her aunt and uncle would no longer find need to scrutinize her every move at a social event. More importantly, the viscount had vowed to keep his advances to himself. Bridget was assured she had nothing to fear from constant assaults on her resolve to keep her virtue intact. And God help her, it was disintegrating in leaps and bounds every time he touched her.
After the dance with Sir Wilde, Bridget made her way back to where her aunt sat in predatory anticipation of her next quarry. The woman’s gaze scoured the gentlemen, seeking out the weakest of the herd. It made Bridget’s stomach turn. And she was at a loss at how her aunt’s blatant disregard for propriety could go so unnoticed amongst the ton. And then there was poor Uncle Ernest, who was a kind but preoccupied man, completely oblivious to his wife’s indiscretions.
As she grew closer, Aunt Latissia regarded her with suspicion. “You’re very cozy with Viscount Maddox this evening.” Her rapacious glance back at Lord Maddox was hardly veiled. “Are you certain you wish to have your name linked with such as he?”
“Are you displeased, my lady? I was under the impression you believed him a worthy companion,” Bridget said with a hint of irony. Aunt Latissia’s sharp look told her the point was not lost on her, but in that moment Uncle Ernest approached, cutting off the vicious scolding sure to come.
“Bridget. My lady,” he addressed them, kissing his wife’s proffered hand. “How do you find the dancing this evening?”
“It’s lovely, Uncle,” Bridget answered.
“I do believe our young charge has finally found someone worthy of her attention, my lord,” Latissia said with concealed bitterness.
“That’s wonderful, my dear! Who is our lucky young gentleman?” Uncle Ernest was fairly bursting with pleasure at the news.
Bridget knew that neither of her guardians were so concerned with her happiness as they were regaining their freedom from the responsibility bestowed on them on her behalf.
“Lord Maddox,” her aunt answered. “But I don’t know if that is a match I can approve of—”
“Nonsense!” the earl interrupted. “It is an excellent match, and we shall do our part to encourage this courtship, my dear! You know his reputation and influence. We could do no better short of the royal family!”
“Of course, my lord. I thought only of our sweet niece’s delicate sensitivities when it comes to living under the scrutiny of the ton. And the viscount has a way of drawing attention as you know…”
Bridget knew her aunt’s objections had more to do with her futile hopes to seduce the viscount for herself, and far less to do with any sense of what Bridget’s desires may be.
Her uncle shook his head resolutely. “This is an excellent match. And we will encourage it.” With that, he kissed his wife’s hand once again, bowed briefly to Bridget, and made his way to the gentleman’s lounge.
As he left them, Lady Latissia concealed her wrath under a thin veil of pleasantries. Through clenched teeth, she said, “Very well. Lord Maddox it is. Be sure to smile, my dear. Your usual glower will do nothing to entice his lordship to seek your hand.”
“Aunt, I don’t think—” Bridget began.
“You heard your uncle. We will encourage it. It is your job to secure a husband, my dear. Do not let your grandmother down.”