The Paid Companion

The Paid Companion by Amanda Quick

Book: The Paid Companion by Amanda Quick Read Free Book Online
Authors: Amanda Quick
Tags: Fiction, Historical
for a man of my years and experience of the world to make conversation with a young chit of seventeen. All the little creatures want to talk about is Byron’s latest nonsense or the newest fashions from Paris.”
    “You must look at the situation from the young ladies’ perspective, sir. I assure you, it can be mind-numbingly difficult to make conversation with a man who is old enough to be your father when you would much rather dance with a handsome young poet.”
    Hathersage looked briefly disconcerted. Then he frowned. “I beg your pardon?”
    “A man, furthermore, who is only interested in your looks, your reputation and your inheritance.” She made a tut-tutting sound. “When that exceedingly dull gentleman displays no knowledge whatsoever of the subjects that are of interest to a young lady, it is a wonder she is able to make any sort of conversation at all, is it not? One certainly cannot imagine her rushing home to write any romantic reminiscences in her journal about such a dance partner, can one?”
    There was a startled pause while Hathersage digested that observation.
    A reluctant spark of genuine interest gleamed in his eyes. “Where the devil did St. Merryn find you, Miss Lodge?”
    She flashed him her most polished smile. “As you are acquainted with my fiancé, you are no doubt aware that he possesses an extremely logical mind. He naturally applied his talents for analysis and sound reasoning to the task of finding a suitable bride.”
    “Logic and reason, eh?” Hathersage was fascinated now. “And where did those skills direct him to go in search of such a paragon?”
    “Why, to an agency that specializes in supplying paid companions to the most exclusive sort, of course.”
    Hathersage chuckled, evidently having decided to go along with the jest. “Ah, yes, he did indeed vow to do just that.”
    “It is a sensible approach. When one comes right down to the nub of the matter, husbands and wives are, in essence, companions, are they not?”
    “Hadn’t considered the institution of marriage in that light before this moment, but I will concede that you have a point.”
    “Only consider the brilliance of St. Merryn’s tactics, sir. At the agency he was provided with an extensive selection of well educated ladies who all possessed the most excellent references and reputations above reproach. Rather than being obliged to dance with all of them and endure a series of potentially dull conversations, he was, instead, able to conduct detailed interviews.”
    “Interviews.” Hathersage grinned. “How very clever.”
    “The beauty of the process is that it works both ways. The candidates for the position he offered were, in turn, able to question him as well. They were thus saved the necessity of having to amuse and entertain any number of elderly gentlemen who know nothing of Byron’s latest works and who are only looking for an attractive heiress who will provide them with an heir.”
    Hathersage brought her to a halt in the middle of the dance floor. For a terrible moment Elenora thought she had miscalculated badly and had initiated a complete disaster.
    Then Hathersage threw back his head and laughed uproariously.
    Every head in the room turned. Every eye was riveted.
    By the time Hathersage returned Elenora to Bennett and Margaret, the line of gentlemen waiting to request a dance extended from the potted palms all the way to the entrance to the card room.
    “Consider the favor repaid in full,” Bennett told Hathersage.
    “On the contrary,” Hathersage said, still chuckling. “This has been the most entertaining evening I have had in a long time.”
    12
    Arthur braced both hands on the balcony railing and searched the crowded ballroom for Elenora. It was after midnight, and he was not in a good mood. He had just concluded another night of inquiries that had yielded few results. Granted, he had discovered more information concerning one of the mysterious snuffboxes that he sought, but so

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