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.And that left Trevor feeling quite the outsider.The events after dinner only added to his distress.In most English homes, it was customary for men to remain in the dining room to take their port or brandy.Later, they would join the women in the drawing room.He quickly learned that in the Elliot household, such was not the case.While the elders headed for the parlor with Admiral Douglas in tow, the younger group, male and female, made for the study.“So you seized Caroline from under Dalton’s nose?” Eyes twinkling, the youngest Douglas rocked on her heels.“Hells bells, but that is one I will never let him live down.”“Sabrina, you mustn’t say such things.” The older Douglas frowned.“I am sorry Caroline, Lord Lockwood.”“No need for apologies or formalities.” Amused, he bowed before the two sisters.“You must call me Trevor.”Extending an arm, as would a gentleman, Sabrina appeared pleased when he took her hand in a firm grasp, instead of bestowing the usual chaste kiss to her gloved knuckles.“And you can call me Brie, like the cheese, you know.”The men in their group laughed, as though this were a common occurrence.Likewise, the young ladies shook their heads in reproach.“Are you truly blood relatives?” Trevor asked.“Or should I offer you my other leg?”“Actually, I would say we are bound by blood.” Damian neared.“But you will have to get Caroline to share the story.”“Oh, no,” his bride-to-be protested.“You tell it so much better than I.”“She is right, old man,” Lance piped in.“Give it a go.”“All right.” Damian unbuttoned his coat and perched on the edge of Blake’s large desk.The others gathered round, settling in to hear the tale to which it seemed they were all privy.Unsure what to expect, Trevor leaned against the high-back chair Caroline occupied.“If you are to understand the depth of our bond, I should start at the beginning.” Damian sipped his brandy.“Our five families have been allied since the fourteenth century, and that allegiance is a tradition of sorts.Where most would have gone their separate ways, over time, our ties have become stronger.Our parents raised us to respect family and friendship.” Damian stared into his glass, his brow a mass of furrows.“My father had an old captain’s log, the first entry was in the year of our lord, 1309,” the duke continued.“There is an ancient seafarer’s oath written inside.On a moonlit night, at the twelfth hour, we came together in the gardens and pledged the same, as brothers and sisters all.To solidify our pact, we mingled our blood with a tiny nick to the finger.” Damian shrugged.“To the casual acquaintance, ours may seem a childhood fancy, but I warn you, do not take us lightly.I am her brother as Caroline is my sister.Do not think you can supplant us.”A palpable tension hung in the air.The mood in the room had taken a definite turn, and he had the distinct impression he had just been put on notice.He was the solitary figure on one side, Caroline and her family his opposition.The lines were drawn.Trevor had never felt so alone in his life.CHAPTER NINEAll is fair in love and war, or so Virgil wrote.Caroline smiled as the familiar literary passage echoed in her ears, because tonight she would launch her campaign for independence against a certain arrogant earl.She had taken great pains to put her best foot forward for the evening, dressing in an ivory silk creation, which she wore as armor and Blake had teasingly said made her look like a Roman deity.Perhaps Diana--goddess of the hunt?The ballroom at Richmond House was filled to capacity, and the ton was in full attendance.She clutched Blake’s arm as he escorted her and their mother through the crush.Bursts of light flashed before her eyes, and Caroline realized she had forgotten to breathe in the last several seconds.Exhaling before she swooned, she craned her neck and searched for her quarry.Desperate circumstances called for desperate measures, and she was going on the offensive [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]