“It is worse than I feared. And who in heaven’s name is Hugh?”
“One of the guards. As I said.”
“You refer to him as his given name?”
“It is the only name I was told,” she answered weakly.
Mirabel in dudgeon was fierce. Not even the swell of her burgeoning belly beneath her gown or the maternal glow she was exhibiting could detract from her intensity.
“Why have you been going there?” was her sister’s next question.
“I wish to begin a journal of my own,” Octavia said. “A journal dedicated to scandals and rumors. Something witty and clever.”
Rather in the fashion of the mocking broadsides she collected. Only with words instead of art.
“I fail to see what that has to do with your sudden interest in The Sinner’s Palace.” Mirabel frowned at her. “Have you been compromised?”
She thought then of Jasper Sutton’s knowing kisses. Of his hand on her breast. His thumb toying with her nipple. A small rush of sensation mingled with longing, passing over her.
Yes I have been. In the most delicious way possible.
“Of course not,” she added, even as a guilty flush crept over her.
“You are lying,” her sister accused.
“I am a dedicated spinster.” Octavia winced after issuing her rebuttal.
Was that the best she could do?
“Who has been spending time with a…a…Hugh!” Mirabel retorted. “If Mama and Papa were to discover my malfeasance where you are concerned, they would demand you leave my home. It was difficult enough persuading them to allow you to remain after my marriage to Damian. You know that, Octavia. This business you are pursuing, this aspiration of yours, while admirable, is not destined to be.”
Why was everyone so determined to see her fail before she could even begin?
“Et tu, sister?” she quipped in an effort to hide her disappointment. “Why should you be convinced my scandal journal is not meant to be? Have you never seen the manner in which people flock to the print shops for their next dose of humor? It is an elixir to save them from their daily drudgery. Imagine if there were a journal that provided reports of all manner of society gossip. I know it would be successful.”
“That may be true.” Mirabel patted her arm. “However, the manner in which you are attempting to secure this journal of yours is altogether wrong. Moreover, I do not understand what slipping into the East End and spending time with vagabonds has to do with your journal.”
“Sutton is not a vagabond. Is that what you think of your own husband?”
The denial fled her lips before she could think better of it.
Too late to recall. And it was wrong of her, she knew. Damian Winter was a wonderful man, a true gentleman in the definition of the word, and an excellent father to his and Mirabel’s growing brood. She felt devious for making the suggestion, despite the need to defend Jasper Sutton from Mirabel’s aspersions. It was unfair and wrong of her.
Her sister’s brows rose. “Of course not. My husband is a good man. Which Sutton are you assuming I have called a vagabond?”
She lowered her gaze to the carpets, wishing she knew the given names of Jasper Sutton’s brothers. But she could not remember one. Only his.
“Octavia,” Mirabel prodded, her voice sharp. “Tell me.”
“Jasper Sutton,” she admitted, forcing her eyes back up to her sister’s. “He is the man I have been meeting, not Hugh. Hugh is one of the guards Sutton trusts implicitly.”
“Jasper Sutton,” Mirabel repeated, her tone as shocked as her expression.