A Lady's Guide to Ruin

A Lady's Guide to Ruin by Kathleen Kimmel Page A

Book: A Lady's Guide to Ruin by Kathleen Kimmel Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kathleen Kimmel
expression until he was forced into a grimace to stifle a grin. He turned before she could score another victory,and strode out into the rain to the sound of a strange little sigh—from which of the two women, he could not say.
    *   *   *
    Joan bit her lip as Martin waded back out into the downpour. Elinor looked at her crossly. “What?” Joan asked. “Do you want me to be cruel to him? Shrewish? I am only being friendly, not seducing him.”
    â€œPlay your part a bit better, is all. Martin has little patience for girls who . . . flit. Daphne flits. You do something else entirely.”
    â€œI’m afraid I don’t enjoy being Daphne,” Joan said with a frown. Besides, she was only playing the same role she had been since arriving at Birch Hall. If she reversed course now, she would raise suspicion. “Even Daphne isn’t a proper match for him,” she said. “Shouldn’t he marry a woman of wealth, of title? Daphne has neither, for all that she’s your relation.”
    â€œWhich would all matter a great deal more if Martin’s thoughts had dominion over his feelings. But while he has both in strong measure, they rarely communicate. Logic will occasionally call on passion, but even when both are present at once they cannot come to agreement. Martin thinks and overthinks, and then acts according to his heart. Which is the organ we are seeking to guard from your influence, if you recall.”
    Joan listened with no small amount of wonder. There was no doubt that Elinor knew her brother, knew the ins and outs of him. Joan knew Moses, certainly. Could predict him. But she could not lay out in such ornate detail the why of him, nor would doing so bring her voice to such a warm cadence of affection. She had made a study of herbrother for survival’s sake, to learn his moods and guide him to wiser action than he could manage on his own; Elinor had undertaken it for love alone, it seemed. Joan wished, traitorously, fervently, that she could make such a study of Martin Hargrove. That she could know by his gaze when his mind was working through a puzzle, or when his heart was thundering a command.
    One thing only Elinor was wrong about: she posed no threat to that heart. She had seen the look on his face when the light caught her body. The distaste, bordering on revulsion. The way he avoided looking at her, the bland care of every touch. It was duty to family that spurred him to his kindness, and to his hints at friendly banter. Nothing more.
    She would not long for more. Imagine it, yes. Imagine him taking her in his arms, both still wet from the storm.
    Imagine him as he entered now, his hair dripping into his eyes, the well-formed muscles of his arms showing beneath a shirt so slicked with water she could see every line of his chest, his shoulders. Imagine those eyes going not to the grate, with a calculating air, but to hers.
    Instead, he set down the wood and moved nearer Elinor. Joan forced her eyes from Martin and turned, warming a new section of her back.
Elinor was not old enough to be a proper chaperone but she was an effective one,
Joan thought crossly, then berated herself for the thought. Whatever her impressions, she had sworn to tamp down any budding affection between Martin and herself. These were Elinor’s terms, and it was Elinor’s protection she was afforded. The least she could do after such an extraordinary agreement was to abide by it.
    More like Daphne
, she thought resignedly. She drew ina stuttering breath and thought of sick puppies and other sad things. “I hate the rain,” she said mournfully.
    Elinor choked back a laugh, turning it into a cough at the last moment. Well. At least someone found this amusing. But the other woman gave her a little nod and a grateful look.
    Steeling herself, Joan let loose a fat teardrop and hunched over with her arms wrapped around her knees, doing her best to look like a

Similar Books

James, Stephanie

Fabulous Beast

Dangerous Liaisons

Tarah Scott, Evan Trevane

Dragonfly Creek

T.L. Haddix

In Like a Lion

Karin Shah

Havoc: A MC Romance

Olivia Jones