“Of course. Didn’t you save mine?”

He blinked. “Uh . . .”

She gasped. “You didn’t save them?”

Phillip had never understood women and half the time was quite willing to put aside all current medical thought and declare them a separate species altogether. He fully accepted that he rarely knew what one was supposed to say to them, but this time even he knew he had blundered badly. “I’m sure I have some of them,” he tried.

Her jaw clamped into a straight angry line.

“Most of them, I’m sure,” he added hastily.

She looked mutinous. Eloise Bridgerton, he was coming to realize, had a formidable will.

“It’s not that I would have disposed of them,” he said, trying to dig his way out of his bottomless pit. “It is just that I’m not certain precisely where I put them.”

He watched with interest as she gained control of her anger, then let out a short breath. Her eyes, however, remained a stormy gray. “Very well,” she said. “It hardly signifies, anyway.”

Exactly his opinion, Phillip thought, but even he was smart enough not to say so.

Besides, her tone made it quite clear that in her opinion, it did signify. A great deal.


Another scream rent the air, followed by a resounding crash. Phillip winced. It sounded like furniture.

Eloise glanced toward the ceiling, as if expecting plaster to start spinning down at any moment. “Shouldn’t you go to them?” she asked.

He should, but by all that was holy, he didn’t want to. When the twins were out of control, no one could manage them, which, Phillip supposed, was the definition of “out of control.” It was his opinion that it was generally easier to let them run wild until they dropped from exhaustion (which usually didn’t take too long) and deal with them then. It probably wasn’t the most beneficial course of action, and certainly nothing that any other parent would have recommended, but a man only had so much energy to deal with two eight-year-olds, and he feared he’d run out of his a good six months ago.

“Sir Phillip?” Eloise prodded.

He let out a breath. “You’re right, of course.” It certainly wouldn’t do to appear a disinterested parent in front of Miss Bridgerton, whom he was trying to woo, however clumsily, into the position of mother to the two hellions presently attempting the complete destruction of his home. “If you will excuse me,” he said, giving her a nod as he stepped into the hall.

“Oliver!” he bellowed. “Amanda!”

He wasn’t sure, but he thought he heard Miss Bridgerton stifle a horrified laugh.

A wave of irritation washed over him, and he glared at her, even though he knew he shouldn’t. He supposed she thought she could do a better job with those two hellions.

He strode to the stairs and yelled the twins’ names again. On the other hand, maybe he shouldn’t be so uncharitable. He rather hoped—no, fervently prayed—that Eloise Bridgerton could do a better job with the twins than he could.

Good God, if she could teach them to mind, he would bloody well kiss the ground she walked upon on a thrice-daily schedule.

Oliver and Amanda rounded the corner in the staircase and descended the rest of the way down to the hall, looking not a bit sheepish.

“What,” Phillip demanded, “was that all about?”

“What was what all about?” Oliver replied cheekily.

“The screaming,” Phillip ground out.

“That was Amanda,” Oliver said.

“It certainly was,” she agreed.

Phillip waited for further elucidation, and when it appeared that none was forthcoming, he added, “And why was Amanda screaming?”

“It was a frog,” she explained.

“A frog.”

She nodded. “Indeed. In my bed.”

“I see,” Phillip said. “Do you have any idea how it got there?”

“I put it there,” she replied.

He swung his gaze off of Oliver, to whom he’d addressed his question, and back to Amanda. “You put a frog in your own bed?”

She nodded.

Why why why? He cleared his throat. “Why?”

She shrugged. “I wanted to.”

Phillip felt his chin thrust forward in disbelief. “You wanted to?”


“Put a frog in your bed?”

“I was trying to grow tadpoles,” she explained.

“In your bed?”

“It seemed warm and cozy.”

“I helped,” Oliver put in.

“Of that I had no doubt,” Phillip said in a tight voice. “But why did you scream?”

“I didn’t scream,” Oliver said indignantly. “Amanda did.”

“I was asking Amanda!” Phillip said, just barely resisting the urge to throw his arms up in defeat and retire to his greenhouse.

“You were looking at me, sir,” Oliver said. And then, as if his father were too dim to understand what he meant, he added, “When you asked the question.”

Phillip took a deep breath before schooling his features into what he hoped was a patient expression and turned back to Amanda. “Why, Amanda, did you scream?”

She shrugged. “I forgot I put the frog there.”

“I thought she was going to die!” Oliver put in, most dramatically.

Phillip decided not to pursue that statement. “I thought,” he said, crossing his arms and leveling his sternest gaze at his children, “that we had said no frogs in the house.”

“No,” Oliver said (with vehement nodding from Amanda), “you said no toads.”

Most Popular