Simon threw up his arms in amazement, the single-sheet newspaper flying across the room. “How does she know this?” he demanded. “We've told no one of our decision to name him David.”

Daphne tried not to smile as she watched her husband sputter and storm about the room. “It's just a lucky guess, I'm sure,” she said, turning her attention back to the newborn in her arms. It was far too early to know if his eyes would remain blue or turn brown like his older sisters', but already he looked so like his father; Daphne couldn't imagine that his eyes would spoil the effect by darkening.

“She must have a spy in our household,” he said, planting his hands on his hips. “She must.”

“I'm sure she doesn't have a spy in our household,” Daphne said without looking up at him. She was too interested in the way David's tiny hand was gripping her finger.

“But—”

Daphne finally lifted her head. “Simon, you're being ridiculous. It's just a gossip column.”

“Whistledown—ha!” he grumbled. “I've never heard of any Whistledowns. I'd like to know who this blasted woman is.”

“You and the rest of London,” Daphne said under her breath.

“Someone should put her out of business once and for all.”

“If you wish to put her out of business,” Daphne could not resist pointing out, “you shouldn't support her by buying her newspaper.”

“I—”

“And don't even try to say that you buy Whistledown for me.”

“You read it,” Simon muttered.

“And so do you.” Daphne dropped a kiss on the top of David's head. “Usually well before I can get my hands on it. Besides, I'm rather fond of Lady Whistledown these days.”

Simon looked suspicious. “Why?”

“Did you read what she wrote about us? She called us London's most besotted couple.” Daphne smiled wickedly. “I rather like that.”

Simon groaned. “That's only because Philipa Featherington—”

“She's Philipa Berbrooke now,” Daphne reminded him.

“Well, whatever her name, she has the bloodiest big mouth in London, and ever since she heard me calling you ‘Dear Heart’ at the theater last month, I have not been able to show my face at my clubs.”

“Is it so very unfashionable to love one's wife, then?” Daphne teased.

Simon pulled a face, looking rather like a disgruntled young boy.

“Never mind,” Daphne said. “I don't want to hear your answer.”

Simon's smile was an endearing cross between sheepish and sly.

“Here,” she said, holding David up. “Do you want to hold him?”

“Of course.” Simon crossed the room and took the baby into his arms. He cuddled him for several moments, then glanced over at Daphne and grinned. “I think he looks like me.”

“I know he does.”

Simon kissed him on the nose, and whispered, “Don't you worry, my little man. I shall love you always. I'll teach you your letters and your numbers, and how to sit on a horse. And I shall protect you from all the awful people in this world, especially that Whistledown woman…”

And in a small, elegantly furnished chamber, not so very far from Hastings House, a young woman sat at her desk with a quill and a pot of ink and pulled out a piece of paper.

With a smile on her face, she set her quill to paper and wrote:

Lady Whistledown's Society Papers

19 December 1817

Ah Gentle Reader, This Author is pleased to report…



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