The Handbook to Handling His Lordship

By: Suzanne Enoch


“Oh, you made that very clear.”

“Laurie, there are lives I took, and others I destroyed. And those people still have families and friends. If they ever learned that I had anything to do with it, that I was anything other than a fool seeking to preserve antique tomes in the middle of a war, I—”

“I know, I know.” His brother’s shoulders sagged. “I’ve never said anything, and I never will.”

“Good.”

For a moment they walked down the hallway toward his office in silence. “Nate?”

“What is it?”

“Could I perhaps help you find whatever it is you’re hunting for?”

A shudder ran through Nate before he could suppress it. The idea of setting his brother toward that life … “No. Discretion is required, and it’s my hobby, as you call it.”

The expression he glimpsed on Laurence’s face wasn’t the annoyed, thwarted one he’d expected, however. For that bare moment his brother had looked hurt. Truly disappointed. Nate took a slow breath. “Why do you want to help? I’ve heard you several times say I shouldn’t be stooping to fetch and carry for my fellows.”

“I don’t know. I just thought…” Laurie trailed off. “Never mind. Where are the damned ledgers?”

Nate stopped. “You just thought what, Laurie?”

“I just thought nothing. That’s what I do, isn’t it?”

Whether he’d spent much time around his brother lately or not, Nathaniel did recognize a plea for sympathy when he heard one. “If you want me to trust you with anything,” he said, shoving open his office door and gesturing for his brother to precede him into the room, “it’s not going to be out of pity. You tied your own noose and stuck your own head into it. People always do.”

And that would be how he’d find Rachel Newbury, as well. Everyone made errors. He merely happened to be very good at spotting them.

“Well, you’re people,” Laurie countered, sitting behind the desk when Nate pulled out the chair for him. “At least I think you are. What noose have you stuck your head into?”

“If you think for a moment that I mean to lay out all my mistakes for you to use against me later, you’re even more daft than I thought previously. Top drawer, bottom ledger.”

“Then it would seem that the trick is to keep your mistakes private.”

“That would be a beginning, I suppose. Open it up, Laurie. For God’s sake.”

His brother, though, wasn’t looking at the ledger on the desk. His attention was on something else in the desk’s top drawer. Swiftly Nathaniel ran through what he’d left in there: pen nubs, paper, a ruler, pencils, a knife for sharpen—

“What the devil is this?” Laurence exclaimed, pulling out a card. “‘As a member in good standing of The Tantalus Club, you are cordially invited to our annual wine-tasting event on…” His brother looked up. “You belong to the bloody Tantalus Club?”

Damnation. “Yes. It’s a—”

“I want to go.”

“No.”

“Marty Gayle’s uncle took him there last semester, and he still hasn’t stopped talking about it. I’m a year older than Gayle. Is it true none of the ladies wear anything?”

“What? No. It’s not a bawdy house, Laurie. It’s a gentlemen’s club.”

“Run by the prettiest chits in London! And Marty says they choose men they like and invite them upstairs. Have you been upstairs?”

Nate cleared his throat. Upstairs. Sex meant intimacy and secrets, neither of which he felt comfortable sharing. The last woman he’d slept with—God, had it been two years ago, now?—he’d handed over to the army for attempting to sell the pillow-talk confidences she coaxed over to Bonaparte. “Stop yammering, will you?” he said, when he realized Laurie was staring at him. “You sound like a donkey. You’re being punished, and you’re learning how to do household accounts. Open the ledger.”

Laurence planted his elbows on said account book to lean forward over the desk. “You have been upstairs, then! Was it glorious? Bedouin draperies and pillows? Who was she? They say that every female there is scandalous and highborn and beautiful.”

“No, I have not been upstairs at the Tantalus, for God’s sake. I’ve visited twice. And they aren’t all highborn. They are all well educated and attractive. And you’re still not going.”

With a scowl Laurie sat back in the chair again and flung open the ledger. “Well, I wish that men had a club where they could go work, so I wouldn’t have to put up with being bullied by you.”

“They do. It’s called the army.”

Nate sat in the deep windowsill. Hm. The Tantalus Club did have a reputation for accepting well-educated women who’d been forced for one reason or another to leave more acceptable circumstances. He doubted Rachel Newbury would settle in a place so public after committing a robbery and a murder, but it provided more of a starting place than he’d had five minutes ago—and he’d certainly had no luck tracking her in Shropshire. Someone might know something, anyway.