Today's Reading

"So who is your mysterious guest, Joth?" she inquired, shaking out her napkin and laying it across her lap.

"He's a member of the House of Lords..." He broke off as a waiter set a teapot, milk jug, a saucer of sliced lemons and a sugar bowl on the table, followed by a tray of smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches, and a cloth- covered basket of warm scones. A dish of clotted cream and a cut glass jar of raspberry jam followed them.

Petra waited until tea was poured. She reached for the sugar tongs and dropped a lump into her bone china teacup blazoned with the arms of Westminster. "I'm intrigued, Joth." She stirred the sugar into her tea, regarding her brother with an inquiring smile.

Her brother frowned, glanced anxiously around. "Couldn't you put the scarf in your handbag?"

Petra's gaze followed his. "No one seems interested in us, let alone bothered."

"You know full well everyone will have remarked it. Please take it off, Petra." His hazel eyes, mirror images of his sister's, pleaded. "This afternoon is important to me."

Petra shrugged and untied the scarf, folding it carefully before sliding it into her handbag.

"Oh, don't take it off on my account." Petra hadn't heard that voice in almost ten years.

She turned her head to the side, feeling the old dislike rising from a deeply mortifying past.

"Lord Ashton," she said distantly, staring at the man who had been her nemesis since the days when she was just trying her wings in the adult world. He looked older, which was only to be expected, at least ten years older, and there was a hint of silver at his temples. His black hair was as thick as ever, though, and carefully styled, brushed off his broad forehead. His eyebrows, black as pitch, arched above dark brown eyes that if Petra didn't know better could be described as soulful and empathetic. But she did know better. The aquiline nose and well-shaped mouth would to most eyes qualify Guy Granville, Lord Ashton, as a handsome man. But Petra's eyes in this instance were not most people's.

"Lord Ashton, I'm so happy you could join us," Jonathan said, half rising from his chair as he indicated the seat next to his sister. "I think you may have met my sister, Petra."

"I have indeed. Although I must say you've grown some, Miss Rutherford, since last we met." His smile, showing even white teeth, was both warm and almost complicit, as if he was sharing an old and happy memory.

Petra met the smile with stony indifference. "It would be strange if I had not, Lord Ashton. Ten years is a long time."

He inclined his head in acknowledgment. "Particularly the ten between fourteen and twenty-four. So, tell me what the grown-up Miss Rutherford is doing with her time these days, apart, of course, from making noise with the suffragists."

Petra swallowed hard. Her mind was working furiously. She had never expected to meet this man again in the usual course of everyday life, oh, maybe a fleeting glimpse across a drawing room at a route party or some such, but Guy Granville moved in a very different social set from her own. He was ten years older for one thing. But that distance had not prevented her from knowing a great deal about the man. His fierce opposition to women's suffrage was well known, he had written articles against it in the Times, and his name frequently appeared in the gossip columns as an unrepentant philanderer. She took a sip of tea and reached for a scone.

"Cat got your tongue, Miss Rutherford?" His tone was gently mocking, his amused gaze watching as she deliberately split the scone and spread clotted cream and raspberry jam on both halves.

Oh, how that tone made her toes curl, that gleam of mockery in his eyes turned her stomach. But she was no longer the naïve, unsophisticated girl who had inadvertently given him so much sport ten years ago. Jonathan wanted her to charm Guy Granville, Baron Ashton. She could do that, and she would relish every minute until the moment came to put in the knife....

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