As an author, I like to hear from various Windham siblings no matter whose love story I’m telling. Too much of that though, and the book can lose focus—there being eight siblings to hear from. What mattered in this scene was to convey to the reader that Louisa’s siblings knew Sir Joseph was falling for her, that Lionel was in need of coin, and that Lionel was in a position to know some of Joseph’s personal circumstances. All of those plot points could be worked into the story without indulging in a scene in Eve’s point of view. I consoled myself with the knowledge that Eve’s book would come out next…
“Sir Joseph, you have been hiding your light as they say.”
Eve Windham offered this observation to her dancing partner more to distract him from the view over her shoulder than anything else.
He glanced down at her, his expression without a hint of levity. “In what regard, my lady?”
“You dance very well.”
“Do you imply I had best display my limp more prominently, Lady Eve?”
“What limp?” She sent him her Most Guaranteed To Bedazzle smile, but all it earned her was a quirk of his lips. “Sir Joseph, if you do not stop watching Louisa so obviously, people will talk.”
Now he frowned, which meant even the small smile was no longer in evidence.
“They talk about her any way, as if no one else in all of Mayfair ever criticized the Regent’s extravagance or his corpulence.”
“You’ve heard the gossip?”
“Some of it.” His expression became alarmingly ferocious for a holiday gathering. “I don’t care for it, and I don’t care for the way Lord Lionel is currying your sister’s favor.”
A gentleman did not make such remarks in a lady’s hearing, but Eve had the sense Sir Joseph wasn’t being jealous of a rival so much as he was being protective of a woman who could be more stubborn than sensible.
“Louisa is not a fool, Sir Joseph. She sees Lord Lace for what he is and for what he is not.”
As he moved her around the dance floor with surprising competence, Sir Joseph studied Eve.
“Just say whatever it is you’re trying to put into polite terms, Sir Joseph. You may speak honestly with me for I believe we both have Louisa’s best interests at heart.”
He turned her through a particularly graceful corner then caught her a trifle closer than waltz position required. “Lionel is not solvent.”
This was nearly whispered in Eve’s ear. “You know this, how?”
“He’s a relation of sorts. My late wife’s second cousin. We’re… cordial.”
Eve had been raised with five brothers in the home of her ducal parents. She knew men had a way of being cordial that rang with the sound of clashing swords. “Louisa will be well dowered, Sir Joseph.”
“I would not presume to argue with you, Lady Eve, but Louisa deserves to be well loved. I fear Lionel Honiton is powerless to love any save his own image in the mirror.”
This was again, not jealousy talking. Eve was not interested in holy matrimony herself, and her dispassion in this regard allowed her a frank appraisal of the other actors and actresses on the social stage.
Sir Joseph Carrington was a handsome man, if allowances could be made for his dark coloring. His features were strikingly masculine and his military bearing attractive in itself.
But he did not have handsome ways. His gait was not smooth, his mannerisms were the farthest thing from flirtatious, his address was completely lacking.
He was fierce, direct and besotted with Louisa, though Eve doubted the man himself was aware of it.
“Lady Jenny and I are in agreement with you, Sir Joseph. We believe our siblings fare best when they marry for love.”
He peered at her as the violins lilted along in close harmony over laughter rising from the direction of the Christmas punch bowl. “And if it’s Honiton she loves?”
“Ah, so as Louisa’s friends, we face a dilemma. If Louisa loves your handsome relation, but Lionel is not worthy of her regard, then what intervention does honor allow us to make?”
Sir Joseph’s gaze strayed over Eve’s shoulder again as the waltz drew to a close.
“None at all.” He bowed very correctly and lead her off the floor, though to Eve, his limp seemed a little more pronounced for all he’d danced beautifully.