A Lady's Guide to Ruin

A Lady's Guide to Ruin by Kathleen Kimmel

Book: A Lady's Guide to Ruin by Kathleen Kimmel Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kathleen Kimmel
and a scabbed-over wound of some kind followed the sharp contour of her hip.
    Elinor touched his arm, drawing him away. “Daphne, your clothes are not quite dry but they are at least warm. Martin and I will wait while you dress.”
    Martin flushed. Nodded tightly. He had forgotten himself. Again. He followed his sister to the other room, which was steeped in a darkness complete enough, he hoped, tohide his expression, which hovered somewhere between rage and mortification. “She is hurt,” he said, voice low enough not to carry to Daphne’s ears.
    â€œI saw,” Elinor said. “Likely from her . . . misfortune.”
    â€œShe said nothing of being injured.”
    â€œI doubt she would want to tell you. Or speak of the ordeal at all.”
    A sound escaped him, something alarmingly akin to a growl. His hand tightened into a fist. He was reconsidering his decision not to go after the men who had robbed her. If they’d hurt her—God, they wouldn’t have . . . ?
    â€œCuts and bruises only, I think,” Elinor said. “If it was more than that, she would be . . . different. The incident is behind her, Martin, and we should leave it there. I will make sure any injuries have been properly tended to.” She shivered and wrapped the blanket tighter around herself.
    He cursed himself for a fool. “And you? We must get you near to the fire.”
    â€œIt’s not chill, only excitement,” she said. “J—Daphne has thoroughly looked after me. We are more capable than you presume.”
    â€œI know you are capable. I also know that you are not well.” He gentled his voice. His anger was not for her, or for Daphne; it was for the storm, for the bullet that took Matthew, for the illness that had stolen so many years from her. He might as well stand outside and throw all the tempest’s rage back at it, for all the good that anger would do. What he wouldn’t give for a problem that could be solved by
hitting
something.
    â€œI’m quite decent,” Daphne called cheerily. Martin quelled a traitorous note of disappointment, and he and Elinor rejoined their cousin in the main room. She wassettled near the fire—reluctant, he supposed, to allow her wet clothing time to cool again. The damp had sent her hair into a tizzy of curls. It stood around her head like a wreath, and make her look not young but
youthful
—which startled him into the realization that he had stopped thinking of himself as such sometime in the last few years.
    â€œIt looks as if we’re trapped here awhile,” Daphne said. “I’m afraid it will be quite cold when the fire dies. You should hang your coat to dry while we have it.”
    Martin grunted assent, looking over at Elinor. She seemed well enough for now, but if the storm did not break by nightfall it might grow bitter; while the day had been warm before the storm, the wind did short work of snatching the heat from it. “There may be some wood around back,” he said. He shrugged out of his coat and laid it before the fire. Daphne pulled her feet out of the way. She’d kicked off her shoes, and her toes curled under. “I won’t get any wetter with or without it,” he said absently and straightened.
    â€œBe quick,” Daphne said. “Or we shall think you’ve been blown away.”
    â€œI pledge it,” he said solemnly, laying a hand over his breast. He meant to earn another smile from her, and he did. A warm one, now, less sly. But it vanished quickly, and she cast her eyes to a far corner with a slight frown. Had he made some misstep?
    â€œMartin,” Elinor said. So many ways she had to speak his name. This one he could not quite interpret, though it had some of the gentle chiding of before. Though he wasn’t certain why she should feel the need to chide him. He frowned at her, and she made an exaggerated mirror of his

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