Simon looked from sibling to sibling. “I don't know which one of you I pity more.”

“What the devil is going on?” Anthony demanded, and then added as an aside, “And as for your remark, pity me. I am a far more amiable brother than she is a sister.”

“Not true!”

Simon ignored the squabble and focused his attention on Anthony. “You want to know what the devil is going on? It's like this…”

Chapter 7

Men are sheep. Where one goes, the rest will soon follow.

LADY WHISTLEDOWN'S SOCIETY PAPERS, 30 APRIL 1813

All in all, Daphne thought, Anthony was taking this rather well. By the time Simon had finished explaining their little plan (with, she had to admit, frequent interruptions on her part), Anthony had raised his voice only seven times.

That was about seven fewer than Daphne would have predicted.

Finally, after Daphne begged him to hold his tongue until she and Simon were done with their story, Anthony gave a curt nod, crossed his arms, and clamped his mouth shut for the duration of the explanation. His frown was enough to shake the plaster off the walls, but true to his word, he remained utterly silent.

Until Simon finished with, “And that's that.”

There was silence. Dead silence. For a full ten seconds, nothing but silence, although Daphne would have sworn she could hear her eyes moving in their sockets as they darted back from Anthony to Simon.

And then finally, from Anthony: “Are you mad?”

“I thought this might be his reaction,” Daphne murmured.

“Are you both completely, irrevocably, abominably insane?” Anthony's voice rose to a roar. “I don't know which of you is more clearly the idiot.”

“Will you hush!” Daphne hissed. “Mother will hear you.”

“Mother would perish of heart failure if she knew what you were about,” Anthony retorted, but he did use a softer tone.

“But Mother is not going to hear of it, is she?” Daphne shot back.

“No, she's not,” Anthony replied, his chin jutting forward, “because your little scheme is finished as of this very moment.”

Daphne crossed her arms. “You can't do anything to stop me.”

Anthony jerked his head toward Simon. “I can kill him.”

“Don't be ridiculous.”

“Duels have been fought for less.”

“By idiots!”

“I'm not disputing the title as regards to him.”

“If I might interrupt,” Simon said quietly.

“He's your best friend!” Daphne protested.

“Not,” Anthony said, the single syllable brimming with barely contained violence, “anymore.”

Daphne turned to Simon with a huff. “Aren't you going to say anything?”

His lips quirked into an amused half-smile. “And when would I have had the chance?”

Anthony turned to Simon. “I want you out of this house.”

“Before I may defend myself?”

“It's my house, too,” Daphne said hotly, “and I want him to stay.”

Anthony glared at his sister, exasperation evident in every inch of his posture. “Very well,” he said, “I'll give you two minutes to state your case. No more.”

Daphne glanced hesitantly at Simon, wondering if he'd want to use the two minutes himself. But all he did was shrug, and say, “Go right ahead. He's your brother.”

She took a fortifying breath, planted her hands on her hips without even realizing it, and said, “First of all, I must point out that I have far more to gain from this alliance than his grace. He says he wishes to use me to keep the other women—”

“And their mothers,” Simon interrupted.

“—and their mothers at bay. But frankly”—Daphne glanced at Simon as she said this—“I think he's wrong. The women aren't going to stop pursuing him just because they think he might have formed an attachment with another young lady—especially when that young lady is me.”

“And what is wrong with you?” Anthony demanded.

Daphne started to explain, but then she caught a strange glance pass between the two men. “What was that all about?”

“Nothing,” Anthony muttered, looking a trifle sheepish.

“I explained to your brother your theory on why you have not had more suitors,” Simon said gently.

“I see.” Daphne pursed her lips as she tried to decide whether that was something she ought to be irritated about. “Hmmph. Well, he should have figured that out on his own.”

Simon made an odd snorting sound that might have been a laugh.

Daphne leveled a sharp look at both men. “I do hope my two minutes do not include all of these interruptions.”

Simon shrugged. “He's the timekeeper.”

Anthony clutched at the edge of the desk, probably, Daphne thought, to keep himself from going for Simon's throat. “And he,” he said menacingly, “is going to find himself headfirst through the goddamned window if he doesn't shut up.”

“Did you know I have always suspected that men were idiots,” Daphne ground out, “but I was never positive until today.”

Simon grinned.

“Allowing for interruptions,” Anthony bit off, shooting yet another deadly glare in Simon's direction even as he spoke to Daphne, “you have a minute and a half left.”

“Fine,” she snapped. “Then I'll reduce this conversation to one single fact. Today I had six callers. Six! Can you recall the last time I had six callers?”

Anthony just stared at her blankly.

“I can't,” Daphne continued, in fine form now. “Because it has never happened. Six men marched up our steps, knocked on our door, and gave Humboldt their cards. Six men brought me flowers, engaged me in conversation, and one even recited poetry.”



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