2 July 1897
Devonshire House, London
I raised the long, curved bow and with two fingers pulled back its string, all the while resisting the urge to remove one of the silver-shafted arrows nestled in the quiver slung over my shoulder.
“It would be so easy,” I said, a sigh escaping my lips as I gazed across the ballroom.
“Too easy.” My husband, his dark eyes sparkling, lowered my weapon with a single finger. “It would be beneath you, Emily.”
“It is not often one is permitted to arm oneself at a ball,” I said. “Fancy dress is a marvelous thing, and as such, my taking full advantage of the situation is nothing short of strict necessity. Without seeing an arrow, my prey may not realize she has been made a target.”
“My dear girl, were you actually planning to shoot the dreadful woman, I would hand the arrows to you myself. As things stand, however, she is far too thick to understand that, by raising your bow, you are putting her on notice.” Colin Hargreaves had no patience for gossips, and I had set my sights on one of society’s worst, the lady whose lack of discretion had caused all of society to learn that Colin had refused the queen’s offer of a dukedom some six months ago. The awkwardness of the incident had been compounded by the fact that my mother had encouraged Her Majesty to dangle the prize before him, and now both she and the queen were embarrassed, put out, and displeased. Not with my husband, however. So far as the two of them were concerned, he was incapable of any wrongdoing. They were convinced that I must have motivated his inexplicable refusal, and forgave him for indulging his wife, although the queen did make some quiet comments to him about how even she had, on occasion, bowed to the will of her dear Albert. My mother was less forgiving. She refused to see me for three months. I bore the loss with what I hope appeared more like reasonable equanimity than obvious relief.
“I am not certain one ought to take military advice from Beau Brummell,” I said. I could not deny that Regency fashion, with its snug trousers, well-cut coats, and tall, gleaming boots, suited my husband’s athletic form well. Nonetheless, Colin and I had argued about his choice of costume. “You should have dressed as an Homeric hero—”
“Hector, I assume?”
“You were perfectly free to go as Achilles if that better suited you,” I said. “All I did was remind you that such a choice would necessitate your sleeping at your club instead of at home. I understand some husbands prefer that sort of arrangement.”
He put his arm around my waist and pulled me close. “I shall never be one of those husbands. I am, however, stung that you could suggest I choose Achilles over Hector. You know me too well to make such a monumental error. Did we not cover this ground thoroughly before we were married?”
“Of course we did,” I said. “I should never have considered your proposal if your views on the subject were not first utterly clear to me. Tonight, though, our hostess instructed us to dress in costumes allegorical or historical—”
“Dating before 1815,” Colin interrupted. “Yes, I am we
With wisps of darkness, shadows of a ghost story and embers of heightened Freudian themes, Dangerous to Know is the perfect novel to curl up with and chase away the world.