She waved impatiently but kept at her slow pace. “Come Damen, I insist upon personally inspecting each of the rooms before our guests arrive.”
Of all the ridiculous notions. “Shall we visit all 365 rooms before tea?”
She lifted her chin. “I hear your sarcasm. It would do you well to mind your tongue.”
“But then you wouldn’t like me half as much.” He paused. When she did not respond, he added, “perhaps if we run? We could see the first one hundred today?”
The old countess sighed and Damen couldn’t help but grin. He cared for her, a sort of familial loyalty he couldn’t shake. There were certainly other houses not as large, or employers not so demanding, but he couldn’t find it in him to leave her. And she paid better than anyone he knew. And of course, there were the other reasons he stayed.
She called over her shoulder, “How’s Wellington? Are you supporting him properly?”
This time he sighed.
“Tut! You sound like an old woman with your sighing.”
“Perhaps we would get further in our inspection if Wellington did not need to accompany?” He could hope.
The pug dog draped across his arms, drool wetting his forearm sleeve. He would have to change his jacket as soon as he returned from their walk. A low growl rumbled in Wellington’s chest.
The Countess ran a gloved hand along the arm of one of the statues.“He is lovely, is he not?” The man in question stood tall, remembered in white marble.
He shook his head. They often came here, on their walks, to admire the men who had been immortalized in varying degrees of undress. She had a fine eye for a good sculpture, the dimension, the expression, she talked much of motion and capturing a sense of restlessness. But he just saw a room full of shirtless men, or worse.
They continued through the hall to the armory door. Here was a room he could appreciate, but as if she were trying to torture him she merely waved her hand as they walked by. “No one will want to go in there.”
He would not argue. The more rooms they skipped the better.
This houseparty–another one of the countess’s eccentric efforts at meddling.
She invited select members of the ton, and she prided herself in the vast number of couples who had become affianced in her home. In the past, he had weathered through it, had endured the many incessant, simpering demands of the titled and wealthy and received little in return.
But not this year. This year, he too would benefit.