DAY 16

In Love in the Time of Scandal, Penelope Weston gets caught in a compromising position with the man she heartily despises (yet finds alarmingly attractive). For his part, Benedict also finds Penelope very attractive, but he's determined not to marry someone as spirited as she is; a calm, sensible wife, he thinks. I wrote this scene to take place right after the compromising position, with Benedict going back to the ball and being accused of the thing he's trying very hard not to consider: making a play for Penelope.

Deleted scene from Love in the Time of Scandal

“Where were you?”

He started at Lieutenant Evan Cabot’s question. “Taking a walk.”

Cabot snorted with laughter. “Did you catch her?”

Benedict lifted a glass of wine from a nearby footman’s tray. “Who?”

“The blonde you couldn’t keep your eyes away from.”

“I don’t know who you’re talking about.” Benedict took a long drink of wine. The brooch felt like a hot coal in his pocket.

“Who was the girl Atherton was staring at?” Cabot appealed to another mate from the regiment.

“Weston,” Hollander replied. “The cit’s daughter.”

“I wasn’t staring at her,” Benedict said evenly. “And I didn’t chase after her.”

Hollander eyed him closely, a teasing grin lurking about his mouth. “No, never. Half the men in this room were staring at her, wondering if her dowry is as plump as rumor holds. But she took one look at you and turned her back. As soon as she left you found some pretext to leave, too, and went right after her.”

“And you were gone quite a while,” put in Cabot.

Benedict glanced sideways at him. “You’re drunk, Cabot, or else a raving lunatic. What do you think I did?”

Cabot shrugged. “Charmed her into letting you kiss her a time or two. You have such luck with the ladies, and this year you act like a man hell-bent on finding a wife. If you’re determined to get yourself leg-shackled, it makes sense to have a go at the heiresses, doesn’t it?”

“I’m not determined to get married.” Not to the wrong girl, at any rate. He finished his wine and waved one hand at the footman to bring another glass.

Cabot rested his elbow on Benedict’s shoulder, probably for balance as much as to lean closer. There was wine on his breath, and he swayed a bit on his feet. “I don’t blame you. She’s quite fetching. I hear she’s got a tongue like a dagger, but the rest of her is quite fine.”

Against his will, his mind conjured up the image of her breasts, pale and tempting beyond the ripped lace of her dress.His palm tingled at the sensation of sliding up her silk-clad leg. Penelope Weston was very fine, indeed.

“She’s pretty enough,” he said.

Cabot snorted. “Pretty enough! I’d like to have my way with her, especially her tongue. The spirited ones are always the most invigorating to bed.”

“You’d better keep your wits about you if you mean to try.” The laggardly footman finally put a full glass of wine into his hand, which he promptly raised to his mouth, trying to drown the mental image of taking Penelope to bed. Or to the nearest carpet, where he could easily imagine her sprawled in sensual abandon, all tumbled hair and silk-clad legs.

“For twenty thousand pounds I certainly could,” said Cabot with a laugh.

“For twenty thousand pounds you could buy some wit to keep about you,” added Hollander.

“Who are you setting your sights on, Cabot? The Weston girl?” Bannistre joined the conversation. “I’d advise against it.”

“I never asked for your sodding advice,” said Cabot petulantly. He hiccuped in the middle, though, slurring his words, and no one paid him much mind.

“It’s Atherton eying her.” Hollander gave Benedict a sly look.

“Oh! He might have a chance; the rest of you lot…” Bannistre grimaced. “Her father’s ambitious and wants an earl at least.”

“The devil you say!” Cabot blinked, steadying himself on Benedict’s shoulder again. “An earl! On what grounds?”

“Forty thousand pounds, that’s what ground.” Bannistre nodded at Hollander’s quiet whistle of astonishment. “Had it from Lady Harrow herself.”

“What’s her interest?”

“Well.” He smiled slightly. “It was told to me in confidence. I might have admitted a wealthy wife would enable me to maintain certain… pleasures that would otherwise strain my purse.”

Hollander chuckled. “”Bannistre, you scoundrel. Asking your mistress to help you find a wife so you can keep supporting her? What brass, man.”

Bannistre ignored him. “But you’ve set your cap at her, Atherton? I don’t like to trespass on a fellow Guardsman’s interest…”

Benedict silently said a very colorful curse. He’d already denied it, but he didn’t want to think of Bannistre pursuing her, either. “As a gentleman, I refuse to discuss a lady in such vulgar terms. I had the pleasure of making her acquaintance last summer, and I assure you all, Miss Weston despises nothing as much as she despises insincerity.”

“Oh, I intend to be sincere,” murmured Bannistre, his eyes roving the room like a hunter’s. “My father’s a marquess, after all, even if I’m not the heir. Is she here?”

Benedict scowled. “No.”

“She was until Atherton chased her off.”

Some really needed to draw Cabot’s cork. The man chattered worse than a little girl when he was drunk. “I didn’t chase her,” said Benedict testily. “And this entire conversation has grown rather tedious. Good evening.” Ignoring the chuckles and teasing, he walked away.

The Scandalous Series

<Love and Other Scandals> It Takes a Scandal All's Fair in Love and Scandal' Love in the Time of Scandal A Study in Scandal Six Degrees of Scandal

The Secret of My Seduction