Sunday Mélanie and i spent the afternoon at Viansa, a lovely winery in the Sonoma Valley that always makes me think of Tuscany. Great inspiration for the new novel! I’m really delving into it, as the novella is in revisions.
Here’s a sneak peek at the novella, the first scene between David and Simon that catches us up on where they are after London Gambit.
I posted another scene (the reveals the identity of Lady Frances’s mysterious lover from the Valentine’s letters) on the Google+ Group. Do head over and take a look at it, and join the group if you haven’t already done so.
Speaking of the Google Group, Betty is planning a group read of the Rannoch books starting in September if there’s enough interest. If you’d be interested in participating (even without reading all the books again, you could still chime in) do post, here or in the group.
David Mallinson, Viscount Worsley, looked across the library at the man with whom he had shared his life for the past decade. “I wasn’t sure you’d come here today.”
“I wasn’t sure I’d be welcome here today.” Simon Tanner leaned against the window ledge, hands braced on the sill, the light behind him, tension writ in the lines of his shoulders. “Malcolm and Suzanne have left Britain.”
Shock drained the blood from David’s head. “How long have you known?”
“Since last night.” Simon stayed still, his face hard-cut in the shadows, his voice even.
“You went to see them.” The reverberation of the door closing when Simon had left the house the previous night seemed to echo through the room. He hadn’t slammed the door, but the click had echoed with finality.
“I wanted to say goodbye.”
David swallowed. His mouth was dry with the ashes of the two most important relationships in his thirty years. “You knew they’d leave.”
Simon met his gaze without flinching. “I guessed.”
“That I’d drive them away.”
“That the truth being out would.”
Malcolm Rannoch’s face, in the sitting room at Brooks’s where David had confronted him yesterday—God, was it less than twenty-four hours?—hung in David’s memory. Close on that came a memory of Malcolm huddled beside him at Harrow beneath a blanket, giving him a cup of hot chocolate, both their noses bloody thanks to a trio of older boys devastating with fists and words. “I never wanted—”
“No. I didn’t think you did.”
This time it was Suzanne’s image that shot into David’s mind. Laughing up at Malcolm as they waltzed. Holding her children. Bending over the pallets of the wounded who filled her house during the battle of Waterloo. The woman his friend loved, against all expectation. The friend David had come to love as well. Who he now knew had been an agent for the Bonapartist French. Had married Malcolm to spy on him and his country. David’s country. Who had been giving information to the French even as she nursed the British wounded from Waterloo beside David. “Where have they gone?”
“I don’t know,” Simon said. “I didn’t want to know.”
David nodded. He was so used to seeing his friends nearly every day that he could still scarcely comprehend it. “I wouldn’t have—”
“For what it’s worth,” Simon said, “once he knew your father knew the truth about Suzanne, Malcolm was bound to leave the country, whatever your reaction.”
“I don’t think even Father would—”
“You know as well as I do there’s no telling what your father might do.”
David nodded. His father, Lord Carfax, was the unofficial head of British intelligence. Even David could still be surprised by his ruthlessness.
“David—” Simon drew a breath as though weighing words he wasn’t yet sure he should speak.
“Father told me about Suzanne to drive a wedge between us?”
Simon stared at him. Dust motes danced in a shaft of sunlight between them. “You worked that out.”
“Once the initial shock wore off.” During the long night, when he’d paced the floor, first of the library, then of his cold and empty bedchamber. “I may not be an agent like Malcolm, but I know something of the way my father’s mind works.” And Lord Carfax, above all, wanted David to marry and father an heir to the earldom.
“I expected he wanted Malcolm away from you as well,” Simon said. “Malcolm’s always had a way of encouraging you to move in the opposite direction from what your father wants.”
“Perhaps. One way or another, if it wasn’t for me, Malcolm and Suzanne wouldn’t have had to leave.”
“David.” Simon look a half step forwards, then checked himself. “Malcolm and Suzanne left because your father knows the truth about Suzanne, not because you do. Your father has known for some time.”
“And they’ve managed to go on comfortably in Britain despite it. I’m the cause of the crisis.”
“I expect Malcolm’s glad to know Carfax knows.” Simon watched David for a moment. Of all the things David had thought to see in his lover’s gaze today, compassion wasn’t one of them. “For what it’s worth, I think they’d have left whatever your reaction had been.”
David drew a breath, the angry words he had hurled at Malcolm in a sitting room at Brooks’s yesterday echoing in his head. There were too many things he wasn’t yet prepared to discuss with Simon. “Are you coming up to see the children?”
“Am I welcome to?” Simon asked.
“Do you really have to ask that?” It was only three months since David had moved into this house to raise his sister’s four orphaned children, but in that time they had come to seem like Simon’s as much as his own. “And whatever I said, would you let it stop you?”
A smile curved Simon’s mouth, the first David had seen on his face since their quarrel. “You know me too well.”
David moved to the door. “In some things.”