Chapter Fifty-six

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Beau swore he was looking at some apparition as he glanced out of the window of White's Gentleman's Club. "Could it be?"

Curious, Lord Alvanley took a peek. "Is that McAlister? He's been gone for nearly a year. And who is that he is bringing with him?"

"We shall soon see. He comes this way," Brummell replied.

Benjamin knew better than to appear cheerful, even though his heart was currently overflowing with joy, but to the men here at White's Benjamin's defining characteristic was being a curmudgeon. He took a deep breath and entered.

Clara watched in utter fascination how Benjamin's entire countenance changed the moment he stepped through that door. With that one breath, he became Mr. McAlister, spy to the crown, the Queen's man, and devoted guard of the King. 

She too took a breath as she stepped through the threshold into White's. It was quite a different experience from the last time she snuck into this gentleman's club, for she had quite a distinctive reason for being here. She must convince Benjamin's friends she is not who she really is, fool them, and an entire world of adventure awaits.

"Wait?" In a panic, Clara grabs hold of Benjamin's arm. "Who am to say that I am?"

It was hard for Benjamin to keep the grin from his lips, knowing she should have thought to settle this far sooner than now, but quickly put her at ease when he said, "You are to say nothing, I will make introductions."

Clara nodded but wondered. She grabbed his arm again, and he sighed in frustration. "When you say, say nothing, do you mean you wish me not to speak to anyone, because it would seem rather unlikely, you'd be traveling with a mute."

Again, Benjamin was about to speak, but this time Mr. Beau Brummell interrupted him.

"Mr. McAlister. He returns to us. How was the trip to India?"

Once again, Clara watched Benjamin slip the mask into place before he turned to greet his friend, "Uneventful, I'm afraid."

"And this is?" Lord Alvanley demanded to know. "A new pledge perhaps?"

"A visiting cousin. Lord Alvanley, Mr. Brummell, I would like to introduce Mr. Benjamin Claremont, my guest for this evening."

Clara nearly curtseyed but corrected her near mistake before anyone would notice and bowed to the gentlemen. Her heart was trying to beat its way out of her chest. So, she is to become Claremont once more. The persona was such a part of her, donning it seemed like welcoming back an old friend.

"When did you return? You've been in town long enough to gain a cousin. It's cruel that you did not send word," Mr. Brummell complained.

Clara noted several things happening at once. Both men obviously, thought little of her as far as someone to converse with as she was of neither rank nor title. However, this meant she could remain invisible this evening if she played her cards right.

Second Mr. Brummell was a good friend and obviously hurt by Benjamin's neglect of him, something she hoped her husband mends before the evening is through.

And third, Lord Alvanley did not look pleased by Benjamin's return. She took him for the jealous sort. Having Brummell to himself must have brought him great pleasure.

"I've only just arrived. My cousin was already staying at my flat in London. Not being here, I missed the correspondence that he was coming. Come now, Beau. You know my priority upon arrival would be to meet with you, old friend?"

"Well, shall we discuss events over dinner?" Mr. Brummell asked, before turning to Lord Alvanley.

"Lord Alvanley, would you be so kind as to give young Claremont here the tour of White's, while I inform Mr. McAllister what he has missed while he has been away?"

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