After a moment or two of awkwardness, Estelle broke the stillness.
“No, I did not think you were.”
“I…I am sorry, but I had no reason to even suspect—”
“There is no need to patronise me, my Lord! My foolishness is quite apparent without mockery.”
The Viscount’s smug leer widened. “Mm, I don’t know about that.”
“Are you also aware that you did exactly that, chick?”
Vaughn smiled. “What would you have me call you then, sweetheart, since you are so opposed to my charm?”
“Perhaps my name would not go amiss? Although I suppose you do not know it… And your— your charm leaves a lot to be desired, I assure you.”
“I do not have time to list all its faults, my Lord, as I would surely be talking until dawn if I did so.”
The Viscount’s smile returned.
She caught her breath at his shadowed expression.
The governess swallowed at his close proximity, at his words…at the memories he stirred inside her.
“I-I have no idea what you’re talking about—”
“I am not blushing!” Raising her hands to her cheeks, she attempted to cover the evidence, “It is just…very warm in here.”
The Viscount took her hands from her cheeks, putting them to his chest. Estelle was mildly surprised to find that his heartbeat matched the increased pace of her own.
“How about this one, Allen? I hear nothing going on inside…”
Aside from experiencing a horrible bolt of déjà vu, Estelle felt as if the whole atmosphere had just been doused by a bucket of iced lemonade.
A familiar baritone sounded.
“Just open the bloody door before I break it down. Meet me in there after I…”
Estelle whispered hurriedly as the Viscount turned back to her.
“She cannot see me this way! She simply cannot—”
“Hide over there,” gesturing roughly towards the curtains, he walked to the door, “and stay quiet until I leave with her.”
“Leave with her—?”
“Is there something I can help you with, Miss Harrington?” Vaughn asked coolly.
—and almost had a heart attack.
“I…no my Lord, I was merely…” Marielle stammered, probably for the first time in her life. “I was, uh… I was looking for my chaperone actually… h-have you seen her?”
Behind the curtain, Estelle’s heart was thumping so hard she felt dizzy.
“I’m afraid I have not seen Miss Murphy this evening,” Vaughn continued smoothly, “But I am certain she is searching for you as we speak.”
He held out his arm, which Marielle stared at as if it were made completely out of diamond. She looked up at him, unable to conceal her eagerness for him to do so.
Their voices faded down the hall as the door closed. Slowly, Estelle peered around the corner of the curtains.
Well, in all honesty, it was clear that nobody would take any notice, even if they had seen her; nobody ever took any notice. She doubted even Liddy would bother to ask where she’d been.
But it was at this point, entering the dance hall, that she began to ask herself…
…anybody that wasn’t him?