Today's Reading

Guy lifted it to his lips without actually touching her skin, offering a gallant bow before striding toward the doors leading back to the Central Lobby, pausing now and again to exchange a word of greeting with various tea takers on the terrace.

"Odious man," Petra declared in a fierce undertone. "Oh, how I detest him."

"Why?" Her brother looked at her in astonishment. "You barely know him." A smile tugged at his lips. "I know he does have something of a reputation with the ladies." His tone was faintly admiring.

"You think playing fast and loose with some poor woman's feelings is to be smiled at?" Petra demanded. "How could you, Joth?"

He looked somewhat abashed but said defensively, "Well, as far as I hear, the women flock to him."

"More fool them," his sister said. She glanced at her watch. "Joth, I have to go. I have a dress fitting at five o'clock, and then I'm going to dinner at the Criterion."

"Who with? Can I come?"

"Diana and Fenella, and their other halves. Of course you can come, Joth. I would have said earlier but I thought you'd probably be engaged with friends, or at your club."

He shook his head. "I wasn't sure how the meeting with Granville would go, so I didn't make any arrangements in case he suggested...oh, well, I thought maybe he might wish to talk more about the bill."

"I don't get the impression he takes such matters seriously," Petra said, getting to her feet. "Never mind. He did say he wouldn't stand in your way, at least." She bent to kiss his brow. "His loss is my gain. I'm delighted to have your escort. We should leave by seven thirty."

"I'll be ready." He raised a hand in farewell as his sister threaded her way through the tables.

Petra was more than happy to have her brother's company that evening. Although she was as close as ever to her two dearest friends, they'd known each other since they were schoolgirls, these days she sometimes felt a bit like an outsider when Fenella and Diana were with their husbands. It wasn't that she didn't like Rupert or Edward, quite the opposite, in fact, and they were clearly just right for Diana and Fenella, but once in a while she wondered if perhaps they felt she was a bit de trop. Not that any of them ever gave her that impression.

But still it would be good to have a partner of her own at dinner, even if it was her brother. She stepped out onto St. Stephen's Porch and hailed a cab coming around Parliament Square.


"Are you ready, Joth?" Petra entered the drawing room of the Rutherford town house on Brook Street just after seven o'clock that evening.

"Ready to go whenever you are. Sherry, first?" Her brother lifted the cut glass decanter in invitation.

"Oh, yes, please. We have plenty of time." She took the glass and said with a smile, "You look very elegant, brother. Evening dress suits you."

"Why, thank you." Her brother swept her a flourishing bow. "And may I return the compliment. That green silk...what do they call it? Apple?...well, whatever they call it, it's a wonderful color for you."

Petra laughed and curtsied. "Flattery has never been your forte, Joth, so I'll accept the compliment with gratitude." She sipped her sherry, wandering to the windows looking over the street below. "It's a lovely evening. D'you think it's too far to walk?"

Jonathan ran a speculative glance over her. "Definitely in those shoes."

She lifted a foot clad in cream satin embroidered with glass beads. "I have to have the heel, otherwise I'm so short people don't even know I'm here."

Jonathan laughed. "My dear girl, no one could ever miss you. You may be small but you're completely unignorable. You always wear something distinctive. That tangerine shawl, for instance. I don't know why it goes with that apple green but it does. And it draws the eye. People can't help noticing you."

"I think you will make some lucky woman a very satisfactory husband," Petra declared with a chuckle. "You always know exactly what to say."

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