Return to Satterthwaite Court: Sneak Peek III
“That dog was no cur.” Kate’s words held an impish twinkle. “He was a rare Spanish import.”
“So I heard,” Christine replied without humor. “Do you truly think that gentleman rescued him?”
“I know he did,” Kate said. “It was quite the most heroic display I’ve witnessed since arriving in London.”
“What’s this about a heroic display?” The door swung open and Christine’s cousin Gilbert Trumble sauntered into the drawing room.
Gilbert was a thin, fair-haired gentleman with a loping gait and an easy manner. He expended most of his time hunting, shooting, and riding to hounds. What leisure hours he had left were spent at his club in St. James’s Street—a veritable hotbed of society gossip. It kept Gilbert remarkably well informed. He could always be relied upon for the latest tittle-tattle.
“Gilbert!” Christine crossed the room to greet him. “What are you doing here? I thought you were leaving for Surrey this morning?”
“That dashed bay hunter of mine has sprained his hock.” Gilbert took Christine’s outstretched hands. “I’ve been in the stable physicking him since dawn.” He kissed her cheek. “And missed the fun, it seems.” He glanced at Kate. “What’s this about heroic deeds?”
“Heroic might be overstating the matter.” Christine released her cousin’s hands. “Kate claims a gentleman stranger rescued a dog in Bond Street.”
Gilbert came to greet Kate, first with a bow and then—a little sheepishly—with the same cousinly kiss on the cheek with which he’d greeted Christine.
Kate may as well be his cousin. She’d known Gilbert Trumble all of her life. He was an amiable fellow and sufficiently capable on horseback. Granted, he was at times a trifle awkward with her—particularly in recent years as she’d grown into a young lady—but he’d never once stepped a toe out of line. Kate trusted him almost as much as she trusted her brothers.
“He did rescue it,” she said. “And then he disappeared into the crowd.”
“We have no notion who he was,” Christine said.
“Save for his initials,” Kate added. “C.H.”
“C.H.?” Gilbert cocked his head with interest. “What did he look like?”
Christine answered: “Tall. Black hair. Quite impolite, really.”
“C.H.,” Gilbert repeated. “I say…I wonder if it was Charles Heywood? He’s recently back in England.”
“Charles Heywood?” Kate’s curiosity was instantly piqued. “Who is he?”
“Grandson of the Earl of Gordon,” Gilbert said. “I was at Eton with him.”
“You and he were friends?” Christine asked.
“Only nodding acquaintances,” Gilbert said. “He was a more serious sort than I ever was. We ran in vastly different circles. But I knew of him well enough. Heywood had a fondness for dogs. For most animals, come to think of it. Once, as I recall, he even managed to nurse an injured crow back to full health. God knows how—or why.”
Kate looked at Gilbert expectantly. No longer merely curious, she was downright intrigued. “Is that all you remember about him?”
“Not much else to remember. Excepting that he was the finest marksman I’ve ever encountered. Could shoot a half penny off of a fence post, with either hand, at fifty paces. Ambidexterity, they call it. It’s a rare skill. A lethal one, too. Remarkable to behold. I gather that’s why he joined up in the end, to put his talents to good use.”
Kate stilled. “He’s a soldier?”
But she already knew the answer.
It had been evident in the way he carried himself and in the gruff bark of command that had edged his voice when he’d ordered her not to touch the dog.
“A sailor,” Gilbert said. “He had a place at Cambridge, same as me, but he gave it up at the last minute to attend the Royal Naval College at Portsmouth. After that, he went to sea. He’s back in London, I’ve heard. Likely stopping off on his way to Somersetshire. His father has an estate down there.”
“Somersetshire!” Kate marveled at the coincidence. “I wonder that I’ve never met him before.”
“Can’t say you’re missing much,” Gilbert said. “When I knew him, he was a man of few words. No sense of humor, Heywood. Quite rude on occasion, if I’m honest.”
“So,” Christine murmured, “it was him.”
Kate exchanged a speaking glance with her friend. She couldn’t dispute Mr. Heywood’s rudeness, but she suspected that he did have a sense of humor. Why else would he have told them the stray dog was a rare Spanish breed? However serious he was on the surface, underneath, the man must have a keen appreciation of the ridiculous.
There was only one way to find out.
Somehow, during her holiday in Somersetshire, she’d have to arrange to cross paths with Mr. Heywood again. It wouldn’t be easy. On the contrary, it would be a distinct challenge.
The prospect boosted Kate’s spirits. Not because Mr. Heywood had stolen her heart (the very thought!), but because he’d captured her imagination.
And because she was bored.
She’d be returning to the country tomorrow. The long winter months stretched ahead of her, secluded inside the house against the sleet and the snow, celebrating Christmas with her family. She’d need a bit of diversion.
Who knew but that Mr. Heywood might prove just the person to provide it?