The Lure of the Moonflower

The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig

Book: The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lauren Willig
politely, correctly, and saw in the Comte’s dancing hazel eyes that he knew just how much it had cost her.
    Why? Why here? Why now?
    But there was nothing to be gained in breaking her role now. Jane held to her composure as Moreau looked from one to the other, like a puppy who had found a new friend. “You know each other?”
    Jack Reid was also watching. His eyes were guarded and wary, his hat pulled down low as a shield. He slumped down on a bit of sacking outside the tent and began, idly, to polish a pair of Jane’s boots.
    “We move in similar circles,” said the Comte de Brillac. He handed his gloves and hat to his servant without ever taking his eyes from Jane’s. Jane didn’t recognize the servant. He must, she thought, be new.
    That meant one fewer person in the camp to know Jane. She could be grateful for that, at least.
    Small blessings, she mocked herself. Her former chaperone, Miss Gwen, didn’t believe in small blessings. Miss Gwen didn’t believe in small anything. She could practically hear Miss Gwen’s voice saying with a sniff,
Small blessing or large mishap? Dress it up any way you like; it’s still no good
.
    Miss Gwen, thought Jane wryly, would undoubtedly have taken her parasol to the side of the Comte’s head, kicked Moreau in the shins, and even now be riding
ventre à terre
—most likely straight into a gorge.
    Jane looked levelly at the Comte. “You have traveled very far from Paris . . . Monsieur le Comte.”
    The Comte’s hazel eyes danced with mischief. “Even Paris occasionally grows dull—when one’s friends are absent.”
    Jack Reid was watching too closely for comfort. Desperately trying to stem the tide, Jane said, “I have heard that one who is sick of Paris is sick of life.”
    “And perhaps I am.” The Comte struck a pose, his hand on his heart. “Not sick, but heartsick.”
    “Are you quite sure?” inquired Jane repressively. “It might be no more than an attack of indigestion.”
    Captain Moreau ignored her. “Are you fleeing an affair of the heart?” he inquired eagerly.
    Moreau’s travel bag included
La Nouvelle Héloïse, Julie
, and a stack of other novels of the multiple-hanky variety. Jane knew because she had searched it.
    The Comte de Brillac smiled brilliantly at the captain. “Isn’t one always? Such inconvenient organs, hearts, so terribly susceptible to Cupid’s dart.”
    In this case, Jane wasn’t entirely sure that Cupid was the relevant culprit. An affair it might have been, but not of the heart.
    “. . . agony!” Captain Moreau was saying earnestly. “I carried her glove in my pocket for months. At least, I think it was her glove. It might have been her friend’s. But it was the thought that counted, don’t you agree?”
    “Yes, yes,
mon ami
.” The Comte de Brillac patted his shoulder, as one might a puppy. “You must tell me at length. Later.” Turning to Jane, he said casually, “I trust, Lieutenant de Balcourt, we shall find the opportunity to . . . renew our acquaintance?”
    So he didn’t mean to unmask her. At least, not yet.
    “We certainly have much to discuss,” Jane said warily, and Nicolas grinned at her, that open, mischievous grin that had once had the power to disarm her, to fool her into believing that there might be something more between them than policy.
    “I shall look forward to it,” he said, and moved on, chatting easily with Captain Moreau, as if their discovery of each other here, in this out-of-the-way place, didn’t signal impending disaster for one or both.
    But it had been like that, from the beginning. Nicolas had always refused to behave as an enemy ought. That had been part of his charm: his ability to appreciate the absurd, his refusal to acknowledge the barriers that ought to separate them.
    But one could live on a diet of meringues and champagne for only so long.
    Jack Reid unfolded himself slowly from the ground outside the tent. Unlike the Comte, his breeches were liberally

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