"Ah! Now that is much better." Bridget leaned over to pat her arm in approval, Her gaze shifted to focus on something above Penny's head, her smile widening even more. "Phillip my dear boy! How wonderful to see you again."
Penny stiffened and felt a blush creep up her cheeks at the mention of his name. She hadn't still quite fully recovered from their clandestine encounter and she surely wished he would just stay away till she had regained some modicum of self control. She heard the crunch of his boots as he came up behind her, she could feel the heat from his body so close to hers. She looked down and pretended studied interest in the perfectly trimmed grass.
Phillip came around to stand before the countess, taking her outstretched hand and pressing a kiss upon it. "Felicitations Lady Hensley, may I say you look entirely resplendent today."
The countess laughed, the sound airy and feminine. "Oh you unrepentant flatterer. Where have you been by the way? I heard you had arrived earlier."
He chuckled, looking down at Penny who was still earnestly studying the ground as though her life depended upon acquiring some sort of knowledge. "I was diverted by a guest, my apologies."
Lord Henry guffawed, but quickly turned the sound into a cough when Phillip shot him a withering glare. Penny groaned and shut her eyes, hoping that by some miracle, she would magically reappear in the sanctuary of her bedroom, the night turning out to be nothing but a bad dream.
Mercifully, the countess, Jane and Edward remained oblivious to the undercurrents floating beneath the surface. The countess turning her attention back to Lucy and began to quiz her on her interests while Penny remained silent, steadfastly studying the ground. She could feel Phillip's gaze boring down on her head, but she dared not meet his eyes. Jane moved close to him and lightly touched his arm to gain attention.
"We wondered where you had gone off to," Jane said softly, "We were on the verge of sending out a search party."
Phillip looked at her, his lips twisting in disdain. "Is that so?"
She looked down at her hands, a guilty flush suffusing her fair complexion. "Yes." she mumbled so softly he could barely hear her response. He paid her no heed and shifted his gaze to Edward,
“Mr Inglewood..I trust you found the maze quite...entertaining?” he drawled coldly, his eyes piercing and frosty.
Penny's head shot up in alarm, looking quickly to Edward in time to see his face register shock, then guilt.. He thrust his hands into the pocket of his dinner jacket and shot a quick glance at Jane, before coming back to rest on the duke, now filled with defiance.
"Depends on what you refer to as entertaining..your grace." he replied his cold voice matching the duke's.
Jane gasped and looked at Edward pleading silently. Phillip raised a brow in mild surprise at the lad's haughty tone, and he smiled even as his eyes turned ice blue in fury.
"I had no idea you needed any further education, but I will happily oblige you with a quick lesson if that is what you prefer."
Realizing the real challenge behind the duke's words, Penny rose and hastily slipped an arm through Edward's. He turned to her, and she silently pleaded with him to refrain from offering a scathing rejoinder. It would not do to arouse interest, certainly not in front of the countess, who would certainly disapprove of any match between her son and Lucy if the truth were discovered. Thankfully, he seemed to understand, squeezing her hand reassuringly.
"No your grace," he replied quietly, "I consider myself suitably educated now."
"Good. Let us hope you keep it that way. Let us hope you keep it that way." Phillip replied and turned away abruptly. The three watched him lean down and murmur something to the countess, who promptly protested.
"Leave? But we have hardly begun the festivities." Bridget stared at him in surprise, "Come now, I shall be highly offended if you leave."
"There are matters that need my urgent attention, my lady," the duke replied, "I apologize if my departure does not please you."
The countess pursed her lips, assuming a stubborn countenance that Henry knew so well. "I won't have it Newbridge, I insist you stay for dinner at least.” she held up a hand when he made to disagree once more, “It is intolerably ill mannered of you to leave when I have so nicely asked you to stay.”
|Josh Duhamel||as Phillip Farnsworth|
|Rachel Weisz||as Penny Inglewood|
|Chace Crawford||as Edward|
|Gemma Ward||as Lucy|