Ravish Me with Rubies – Jane Feather

It was a warm, late May afternoon when Petra Rutherford crossed Parliament Square and approached St. Stephen’s Porch at the Palace of Westminster. The police officer on duty in front of the great oak door regarded her with a suspicious frown. “Can I help you, madam?” Petra’s smile was bland. She was well aware that it was her purple, green and white silk scarf that drew the man’s frown. “I have an appointment to take tea on the Terrace with the Right Honorable Mr. Rutherford.” She handed the officer her engraved card. He took it and silently opened the door for her. The Sergeant at Arms stepped forward instantly to take the card handed to him by the policeman. “If you would care to follow me, madam.” Petra knew the way well enough but she also understood the rigid, frequently arcane rules and rituals that informed all activities in the Houses of Parliament. She followed the man through St. Stephen’s Hall and into the ornate Central Lobby situated halfway between the House of Commons and the House of Lords. “If you’ll take a seat, Miss Rutherford, I will send a card messenger to inform the Honorable Member of your arrival.

” He gestured to the padded benches around the hall. “Thank you.” Petra glanced around the crowded lobby, looking for anyone she might know. It wouldn’t be unusual for a friend or acquaintance to be visiting a member of Parliament at teatime. “Petra . ” She turned at her brother’s voice. Jonathan hurried across the marble floor toward her. “I was waiting for you on the terrace.” His smile became a frown as he reached her. “Did you have to wear the scarf, Petra? It’s a red rag to a bull in here.

” “I did have to wear it, Joth, for that very reason. I’m sorry if it sullies the sanctity of these hallowed halls, but you support the cause so you should be proud to acknowledge your sister’s participation.” He shook his head. “I don’t not support women’s suffrage, but I dislike drawing attention and making a fuss, and there’s someone I most particularly want you to meet and be nice to this afternoon.” “Oh?” She looked at him curiously. “Someone I don’t know?” “Well, I believe you did know him slightly, but a long time ago,” her brother said with a vaguely dismissive wave of his hand. “I want to persuade him to support a bill that I’m presenting to Parliament and I need reinforcements. Just offer your sweetest smile and be as charming as you possibly can.” “You mean use my feminine wiles on him, flutter my eyelashes and blind him with flattery?” she asked, half laughing. “I know better than to expect that from my sister, however helpful it would be.

Just be pleasant and charming, I know you can do that much for all your radical inclinations,” Jonathan stated. “Let’s go for tea. I don’t want him to be waiting for us.” He offered his arm and Petra allowed him to escort her out of the hall and onto the long terrace overlooking the river. “Your table is over here, Mr. Rutherford. Good afternoon, madam. How nice to see you again.” The rotund figure of the head waiter barreled up to them as soon as they stepped onto the terrace. His eyes flicked to Petra’s scarf and then turned aside, his smile of greeting fixed upon his round countenance.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Jackson.” Petra greeted him with a warm smile of her own as if she had not noticed that discreetly averted glance. She had known what she was doing, wearing the colors of the Women’s Social and Political Union so blatantly in this bastion of male power and privilege, but as she was not about to make a scene, her protest was silent and polite. It would still ruffle feathers, though. She followed the waiter and her brother through the tables where conversation was low-voiced and whose occupants concentrated on the matter in hand, showing no interest in those around them. The table was set for three, she noticed, as she took her seat facing the Thames. Jonathan took the seat opposite leaving the one next to her free. “So who is your mysterious guest, Joth?” she inquired, shaking out her napkin and laying it across her lap. “He’s a member of the House of Lords .

” He broke off as a waiter set a teapot, milk jug, a saucer of sliced lemons and a sugar bowl on the table, followed by a tray of smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches, and a cloth-covered basket of warm scones. A dish of clotted cream and a cut glass jar of raspberry jam followed them. Petra waited until tea was poured. She reached for the sugar tongs and dropped a lump into her bone china teacup blazoned with the arms of Westminster. “I’m intrigued, Joth.” She stirred the sugar into her tea, regarding her brother with an inquiring smile. Her brother frowned, glanced anxiously around. “Couldn’t you put the scarf in your handbag?” Petra’s gaze followed his. “No one seems interested in us, let alone bothered.” “You know full well everyone will have remarked it.

Please take it off, Petra.” His hazel eyes, mirror images of his sister’s, pleaded. “This afternoon is important to me.” Petra shrugged and untied the scarf, folding it carefully before sliding it into her handbag. “Oh, don’t take it off on my account.” Petra hadn’t heard that voice in almost ten years. She turned her head to the side, feeling the old dislike rising from a deeply mortifying past. “Lord Ashton,” she said distantly, staring at the man who had been her nemesis since the days when she was just trying her wings in the adult world. He looked older, which was only to be expected, at least ten years older, and there was a hint of silver at his temples. His black hair was as thick as ever, though, and carefully styled, brushed off his broad forehead.

His eyebrows, black as pitch, arched above dark brown eyes that if Petra didn’t know better could be described as soulful and empathetic. But she did know better. The aquiline nose and well-shaped mouth would to most eyes qualify Guy Granville, Lord Ashton, as a handsome man. But Petra’s eyes in this instance were not most people’s. “Lord Ashton, I’m so happy you could join us,” Jonathan said, half rising from his chair as he indicated the seat next to his sister. “I think you may have met my sister, Petra.” “I have indeed. Although I must say you’ve grown some, Miss Rutherford, since last we met.” His smile, showing even white teeth, was both warm and almost complicit, as if he was sharing an old and happy memory. Petra met the smile with stony indifference.

“It would be strange if I had not, Lord Ashton. Ten years is a long time.” He inclined his head in acknowledgment. “Particularly the ten between fourteen and twenty-four. So, tell me what the grown-up Miss Rutherford is doing with her time these days, apart, of course, from making noise with the suffragists.” Petra swallowed hard. Her mind was working furiously. She had never expected to meet this man again in the usual course of everyday life, oh, maybe a fleeting glimpse across a drawing room at a route party or some such, but Guy Granville moved in a very different social set from her own. He was ten years older for one thing. But that distance had not prevented her from knowing a great deal about the man.

His fierce opposition to women’s suffrage was well known, he had written articles against it in the Times, and his name frequently appeared in the gossip columns as an unrepentant philanderer. She took a sip of tea and reached for a scone. “Cat got your tongue, Miss Rutherford?” His tone was gently mocking, his amused gaze watching as she deliberately split the scone and spread clotted cream and raspberry jam on both halves. Oh, how that tone made her toes curl, that gleam of mockery in his eyes turned her stomach. But she was no longer the naïve, unsophisticated girl who had inadvertently given him so much sport ten years ago. Jonathan wanted her to charm Guy Granville, Baron Ashton. She could do that, and she would relish every minute until the moment came to put in the knife. Petra took a bite of her scone, slowly licking a speck of cream from her lips as she met the baron’s gaze. “How wonderful that our paths have crossed again, Lord Ashton. Perhaps we can dispense with such formality, though.

After all, we were once so very well acquainted.” She picked up the platter of sandwiches, the smile of an attentive hostess on her lips. “Do you care for one, Guy? The smoked salmon are particularly good.” She caught the flicker of surprise in his eyes, the instant of quick calculation as he took in her smile and tone, then he reached out an elegant white hand to take a sandwich and she remembered with a jolt those long slender fingers, the beautifully manicured nails. “Thank you, Petra,” he said, his smile neutral although his eyes were sharply assessing as she held his gaze, a faint smile on her own lips and her head tilted at an angle that was distinctly challenging. Little Petra Rutherford had most definitely grown up, Guy thought. Meeting that challenge from those clear hazel eyes could be very interesting. He inclined his head as if confirming something and turned to her brother. “So, Rutherford, you have something you wish to discuss with me?” He sipped his tea. “Yes, yes, I do.

Thank you so much for coming, Lord Ashton,” Joth began, then stopped as the baron raised an arresting hand. “Let’s dispense with the formalities, Rutherford. Just Granville will do.” Jonathan nodded and caught his sister’s eye. She gave him a reassuring smile. “I’m guessing that my brother has parliamentary business that concerns his Somersetshire constituents. You do, after all, represent the county in the Lords.” “That’s certainly true, to a certain extent. But I’m not dependent on the voters of Somerset for my seat in the House of Lords.” “Of course you’re not,” Petra returned sharply.

“But you have an ethical and moral obligation to work on their behalf.” Jonathan was beginning to wish he’d left his sister out of this meeting. She was supposed to be flattering Lord Ashton, not putting his back up. “To get back to the point,” he said firmly, a little louder than he’d intended. “Yes, please do.” His lordship waved an inviting hand. Jonathan took a breath. “I want to present a bill to the Commons that will set up a unified authority to develop a pumping system for draining all the Somerset Levels. There are so many different areas of the moors, all with different systems, most of which have failed miserably and the soil in most cases is no longer fit for arable use. It can’t be planted for cattle to graze because it’s too soft and waterlogged, a cow would sink .

” “Some farmers have planted clover though and sheep have managed to graze, they’re too light to sink,” Petra put in, helping herself to a cucumber sandwich. “True, but that doesn’t deal with the problem of winter flooding. It’s so bad sometimes that people have to evacuate their houses and farms and head for the hills,” her brother stated. “It’s not safe to live in some of the areas along the rivers, King’s Sedgemoor is particularly vulnerable. An efficient, unified drainage system across the whole area would have tremendous benefits. And I was hoping, Granville, that I could count on your support in the House of Lords.” Guy leaned back in his chair, casually crossing his legs, letting the afternoon sun fall on his upturned face. “Somerset folk don’t respond too well to government authorities,” he observed. “I can hear the objections now to the idea of some amorphous single authority with the power to mess with their lands, even if it is for their own benefit.” Jonathan flushed.

“I have traveled around the county seeking the opinion of eligible voters. There’s some resistance, I agree, but when it’s explained carefully exactly what will be the result of decent drainage most of them seem willing to accept the idea.” Guy sat up straight. “In that case, dear boy, I suggest you go ahead and see how your parliamentary colleagues react. I won’t say anything against your bill in the Lords.” He stood up. “Thank you for the tea.” He turned slightly toward Petra. “Miss Rutherford, Petra, it was delightful to renew our acquaintance. I trust I may call upon you in Brook Street sometime.

” He lifted a questioning brow but the accompanying smile showed that he was in no doubt as to her answer. “How delightful,” she returned with a responding smile, extending her hand in farewell. Guy lifted it to his lips without actually touching her skin, offering a gallant bow before striding toward the doors leading back to the Central Lobby, pausing now and again to exchange a word of greeting with various tea takers on the terrace

.

PDF | Download

Thank you!

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Chapter1.us © 2018 | Descargar Libros Gratis | Kitap İndir |
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x