The one thing neither of them counted on is love . . .
estimation, Claire is the perfect woman to prove his mastery of the ton. But the one thing neither of them counted on is love . . .
Lord and Lady Chesham’s ballroom
It was a truth universally acknowledged that Maximilian Frederick DeVere, Lord Fox, was God’s gift to the ladies of London. He was taller and brawnier than his peers and in possession of the sort of chiseled good looks—above and below the neck—that were more often found in works of classical art. By all accounts he was charming and universally liked by men and women alike, though for different reasons, of course. He won at two things, always: women and sport.
Fox strolled through the ballroom as if he owned the place. He nodded at friends and acquaintances—Carlyle, with whom he occasionally fenced, Fitzwalter, who he had soundly thrashed at boxing last week, and Willoughby, who was always game for a curricle race.
Fox flashed his famous grin as he heard the ladies’ usual comments when he strolled past.
“I think he just smiled at me.”
“I think I’m going to swoon.”
“God, Arabella Vaughn is one lucky woman.”
“Was,” someone corrected. “Didn’t you see the report in The London Weekly this morning?”
Fox’s grin faltered.
That was when Mr. Rupert Wright and Lord Mowbray found him. Their friendship stretched all the way back to their early days at Eton.
“We heard the news, Fox,” Rupert said grimly, clapping a hand on his shoulder.
“I daresay everyone has heard the news,” Fox replied dryly.
It didn’t escape his notice that the guests nearby had fallen silent. It was the first time he’d appeared in public since the news broke in the paper this morning, though Arabella had so kindly left him a note the day prior. Everyone was watching him to see how he would react, what he would say, if he would cry.
“Who would have thought we’d see this day?” Mowbray mused. “Miss Arabella Vaughn, darling of the haute ton, running off with an actor.”
“That alone would be scandalous,” Rupert said, adding, “Never mind that she has ditched Fox. Who is, apparently, considered a catch. What with his lofty title, wealth, and not hideous face.”
Fox’s Male Pride bristled. It’d been bristling and seething and enraged ever since the news broke that his beautiful, popular betrothed had left him to elope with some plebian actor.
Not just any actor, either, but Lucien Kemble. Yes, he was the current sensation among the haute ton, lighting up the stage each night in his role as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. Covent Garden theater was sold out for the rest of the season. The gossip columns loved him, given his flair for dramatics both onstage and off—everything from tantrums to torrid love affairs to fits over his artistry. Women adored him; they may have sighed and swooned over Lucien Kemble as much as Fox.
To lose a woman to any other man was insupportable—and, until recently, not something that ever happened to him—but to lose her to someone who made his living prancing around onstage in tights? It was intolerable.