It Takes Two to Tangle (Matchmaker Trilogy) Online - Theresa Romain Page 0,1

introduce you to your future wife. What do you think?” She beamed at him, as though she expected him to jump up and start applauding. Which was, of course, impossible.

Henry gripped the edge of the fussy little table tightly. It was difficult to imagine feeling comfortable amidst the ton again—as difficult as it had seemed to leave it three years ago.

But he was just as determined on the former as he’d once been on the latter. Choosing the right wife could be exactly the key he needed to unlock London.

Emily passed a hand in front of his face. “You didn’t answer me, Hal.”

Henry blinked; stalled. “Don’t call me Hal, please.”

She raised her eyes to heaven. “You know perfectly well that I shall never be able to stop calling you Hal in my lifetime, just as you cannot stop calling your brother Jem. We are all far too set in our ways. But that’s not the answer I wanted. What do you think of my idea about finding you a wife? Actually, it was Jemmy’s suggestion, but if you like it, I shall claim it for my own.”

Fortunately, Henry’s elder brother Jeremy, the Earl of Tallant, poked his dark head into the doorway at that moment, saving Henry from a reply. “Em? Aren’t you ready yet? I’ve already had the carriage brought around.”

In his sleek black tailcoat, mathematical-tied linens, and waistcoat of bronze silk, Jem looked every inch the earl. Every inch, that is, except the one between his forehead and nose. His eyes—a bright lapis-blue, the only feature the brothers had in common—held an ignoble amount of doubt just now. “Hal? Are you sure you’re ready for this?”

Henry decided on deliberate obtuseness. “For Lady Applewood’s ball? No, I still have to change my clothing.”

“I’ll send my man up to help you,” Jem replied too quickly.

Emily crossed her arms and regarded her husband slowly, up and down. “You look very elegant, Jemmy. But why are you ready? We aren’t leaving for an hour.”

Jem’s expression turned puzzled. “An hour? But I thought—”

“We must make a grand entrance,” Emily said in a hurried hush. “I told you we shan’t leave until nine.”

Jem shrugged, squeezed by his wife, and came to stand next to Henry. “It’s too dim in here,” he decided as he regarded the painting. “I can’t tell what you’ve painted.”

Henry swept his arm to indicate the baroque table. “This table, for a start. And your carpet. And my breeches a bit.” He regarded his garments ruefully.

Jem nodded. “Rather ambitious for your first effort.”

“Yes. It’s served me well to be ambitious, hasn’t it?”

Jem managed a smile as his eyes found Henry’s. “I suppose it has. Well, best get ready. Em’s told you about our grand plan, hasn’t she?”

“If you mean the plan to marry me off, then yes. I can’t say I’m shocked. I’m only surprised it took her two weeks to broach the subject.”

“She’s been plotting it for weeks.” Jem sighed. “Quite proud of the scheme.”

“I’m still right here,” Emily said from the doorway. “And I am proud of it. It’s just…”

When she trailed off, both brothers turned to her. Emily’s merry face looked sober all of a sudden. “We think you’d be happier, Hal. If you were married.”

Henry pasted a smile across his face. “Don’t worry about me. I’m quite as happy as can be expected.”

Emily studied him for a long moment, then nodded. “One hour, Hal. Jemmy, do come with me. You may help me decide which dress to wear.”

The earl followed his wife. “It doesn’t matter, Em. You always look marvelous. Besides which, you never wear what I choose.”

“That’s because you’d send me out with no bodice. Honestly, Jem!”

Their voices quieted as they moved down the corridor, and Henry allowed the smile to drop from his face. He could guess what they’d begun talking about: just how happy was he?

He’d given them a truthful answer on the surface of it. He was as happy as could be expected. But a man in his situation had little enough reason for happiness.

Still, he had determination. Surely that was even more important. With enough determination, happiness might one day follow.

He dragged his easel to the edge of the morning room and gave his painting one last look.

Just as horrible as he’d thought. But in time, it would get better.

With a rueful shake of the head, he left behind his first foray back into painting and went upstairs to prepare for his first foray back into London society.

***

Frances Whittier was too much