Our room at the inn was devoid of luxuries. Naught but a simple washstand, privacy screen in the corner for the chamberpot, and a tiny bed that would barely fit me. I opened my mouth to complain but as I turned to look at him, Holcroft send me a look that withered all protest before I could even begin.
"There are no other rooms to be had, my dear," he said with a strange look in eye.
I couldn't quite interpret what it meant, but it looked strangely like he was gloating. What he had to gloat about at this very moment was beyond me. He bade me to wash the travel dust off and meet him in the common room for a late supper before retiring. I cast another skeptical glance at the bed and wished fervently for a much larger one. His Grace was not the smallest of men even though age had diminished what must have been bulk years ago, and I feared I would be all but on top of him if we tried to cram onto that small platform together.
The common room in the inn had started to fill and as I descended the stairs, I had to stop halfway down in order to locate Holcroft from a higher vantage point. Spotting him at a center table I made my way to his table and noticed that he had a supper of stew and bread ready for me. As I set to my meal, he told me he had invited a couple of men to join us. I nodded and finished my meal, though I was still quite hungry, I waited in silence for our company to join us.
Soon two men sat down at our table. Both were tall enough to make Lord Holcroft look like a small man, and well-dressed. Introductions were made and I took the time to study both of them while they talked with my husband.
The marquess of Ashbury was a beautiful man with golden hair that curled around his face and the bluest eyes I had ever seen. His shoulders were broad and his stomach flat, and he looked like he belonged in a museum carved out of marble with perfect, chiseled features. Before my staring could be noted, I turned my attention to his companion: the earl of Greystone.
This man would be at home on the throne of the underworld, I decided as I watched him from under my lashes. He was tall and lean, and gave off an air of coiled readiness, much like a deadly snake. I smiled into my mug of ale at my fanciful thoughts, and when I returned to my perusal of the snake-like lord, I saw that he watched me as well. His eyes were dark, almost black, and I couldn't make out their exact colour. His hair was as black as a raven's feathers, and had a slight curl about the ends.
A hand curled around my neck and I started at the unexpected contact. I turned my attention to my husband, but he gave no notice of either my surprise or my gaze and his hand caressed the side of neck as if to make his possession clear. And it did. I saw both men take note of the gesture and the earl's attention turned back their conversation. I returned my gaze to my mug and prayed that my cheeks hadn't reddened.
I tried to follow their discussion but in truth I was too weary to care what they talked about. Without the distraction of studying lords in these surroundings, I found my mind wandered and I wondered if we would see more of these two in London. I could barely remember any of the names or faces I had met during my brief season, but surely these two would have stood out.
Soon enough, Holcroft begged their pardons and escorted me upstairs to our room. I raised my eyes heavenward and silently asked the good lord for a peaceful night's sleep. I hoped that that Holcroft would forgo his new habit of heir-begetting, since we were in such a place.
He was in no mood to be put off however and as he grunted and moaned his way to completion, I could only pray that nobody could hear his enthusiastic noises through the walls. As I could hear people moving about in the rooms next to ours, I held little of that hope.
The morning made my humiliation complete, for as we exited our room, I saw the devilish-looking Lord Greystone leaving his, the room on the other side of the wall our bed was placed against. His dark eyes met mine as he closed his door and I felt my face grow hot. I dropped my eyes and hurried down the stairs, but not before noting he look of gloating that once more graced Holcroft's face.