Aunt Latissia had played her hand well. By the time Bridget and her sponsors arrived at the ball, the gossip buzzing in everyone’s ears was Anthony’s interest in footmen.
Bridget scanned the room for the viscount, eventually locating him in her customary hiding place behind the potted plants.
“There you are, my lord,” she said as she joined him. “Hiding?”
“Not at all. I am simply enjoying the beauty of our host’s lovely greenery. It’s not often I have time for such activities.”
“I see. Yes, they are lovely.” She glanced about him on the right and left, then asked with a smirk, “Where is your footman this evening? Home with the children?”
His vengeful glower brought a smile to her lips. And then a playful glint danced in Anthony’s eyes.
“No. In fact, I believe he’s nigh at hand. No doubt sharpening his rapier in case it is needed to defend my honor from anyone who would wish to steal away my virtue.”
“Surely he has nothing to fear in me, my lord. I assure you, my intentions are as pure as the driven snow.”
“Now that is a pity,” Anthony answered, sidling closer.
Bridget could feel her heart leap within her and set off at a hot pace, causing her breath to catch in her chest.
“Would you care to dance, Lady Bridget?” he asked, his gaze boring into her very soul.
“I don’t know if that’s quite the thing, Lord Maddox. After all, you are rather the scandal this evening. And a girl cannot be too careful in situations such as this.”
“I suppose that is true enough, however, somehow I believe your attention can only help us both.”
“Both of us? Correct me if I’m wrong, my lord, but it is not my reputation being mucked about amongst the pigs this night.”
Anthony looked past her with a mischievous grin. “Perhaps you are right, sweeting. It is just as well.”
She regarded him with humorous suspicion. “Oh? And why is that, oh great Adonis?” The nickname seemed to take him off guard for a moment and his gaze returned to meet hers, then dropping the short distance to her mouth. Her lips seemed to warm in anticipation at his mere look.
“You’re not wearing breeches,” he said with a roguish wink. “Ask anyone here. Unless you’re in breeches, you are of no interest to me whatsoever.”
“Is that so? In that case I’m certain Lady Latissia will be only too happy to give up her skirts for you.”
“Of that there is no doubt. But the very thought is enough to put me off completely.” A shiver seemed to run through him. “Which brings us back to the beginning. Since I am no longer chasing footmen, I find myself in dire need of a fair maiden with whom to dance in order to expunge my soiled reputation.”
“And you wish for me to rescue you?”
He took her hand and hooked it around his arm, gazing into her eyes as he did so. “I am desperate for it,” he whispered and led her onto the dance floor.
~ Beguiling Bridget: Waltzing With the Wallflower Book 2