The Countess Confessions

The Countess Confessions by Jillian Hunter

Book: The Countess Confessions by Jillian Hunter Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jillian Hunter
was undeniably sweet.
    She had brought most of this situation on herself with her scandalous behavior.
    Hadn’t she insisted he leave?
    Didn’t he have a few uprisings to prevent, a viscount’s life to save?
    He should never have asked for that last kiss.
    And she should never have kissed him back.
    •   •   •
    The front doors flew open with a force that sent Iris scurrying for cover in the dressing closet. “Lock the door, miss. He must have been drinking again at the party. Or on the drive home.”
    “Or Lucy and Diana were forced to reveal all. I can’t hide from him forever.”
    “You could try until he’s sober. What if he’s brought one of those men with him?”
    Emily backed out of the room. “What if my father
is
one of those men?”
    “He couldn’t be.”
    “He’s been talking all month about taking a chair on the council.”
    “The
parish
council.”
    Or had he been referring to a position that had nothing to do with alleviating the suffering of the poor? “Of course he isn’t involved in treason. What am I thinking? He couldn’t control himself long enough to be of help to any conspiracy unless it was staged at a tavern.”
    “Excessive spirits rot a man’s brains,” Iris said with conviction. “Stay in here until he’s sober.”
    “Don’t be absurd, Iris. He might know nothing except that I sneaked out of the house tonight, which is enough to infuriate him. If I hide it will only make it appear I’ve done more than disobey him.”
    She pulled the door open, whispering, “At least he didn’t see me in that costume. He would have flown right into the boughs if he knew I was telling fortunes just an hour ago.”
    “Miss, the wig—it’s only half unpinned.”
    Emily glanced at herself in the pier glass. At least she had washed the tint from her skin and changed into an unadorned ivory gown.
    She would have to remove her hairpiece before he noticed it. If he noticed it. The horrid thing refused to be freed from the pins Iris had jammed into her scalp.
    She hastened down the hall and made it to the last three steps before her father saw her. He strode toward the staircase, brandishing a bundle of wrinkled red satin in his hand. He stank of drink. His silver hair stood from his head.
    “Good evening, Father.”
    “Was it?” he asked in a caustic voice. “Did you enjoy making a mockery of every decent principle in existence?”
    Emily gripped the balustrade. She had never seen him this drunk or out of control. Had he found out what she had done tonight from a perceptive guest who had seen through Emily’s disguise in the tent?
    How much does he know? What
is
he clutching in his hand like a shroud— Oh. Oh.
He advanced to the bottom of the stairs.
    “I can’t blame this defiance, this shameful behavior, on Michael, because he has only recently returned home. I can’t fault Lucy, though I wonder why Lord Fletcher tolerates your friendship with the girl when it is obvious you have an indecent influence on her.”
    She dropped, barefooted, one step at a time to answer him. She saw a shadow slip through the door into the darkened hall. Her throat closed. Michael and her father in this mood created a deadly combustion.
    “What is it?” Michael asked in accordance with the plan that Iris and Emily had agreed on in the case that they were caught. “I was in the stables, looking at the foal, sir. She—”
    The baron did not turn around. “Be quiet, you young bastard. You have helped her to disgrace my name.”
    “Disgrace?” Emily could only echo his words, afraid that her father and Michael would come to blows.
    She had to intervene. She deserved her father’s wrath. “I can explain,” she said, inching down another step and motioning Michael back into the hall. She knew she was breaking her promise to her brother that she would not confess, but she couldn’t allow him to take any blame for her reckless judgment. “It was an innocent folly, Papa. I went to the ball

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