A tiny bit from The Toymaker.
“I don’t understand. Did he give a reason for sending his regrets?” Helen sat with her embroidery hoop in her lap, a frown setting deep lines across her forehead.
Near the window, Charles folded a letter, holding it in one hand and tapping the missive against his other palm. “I read you the letter, Helen.” His voice was laced with irritation. “A matter has arisen that requires his personal attention, so Greenbriar shall not be joining us for tea after all.”
Greenbriar! Just the name on her father’s tongue made Ivy’s teeth hurt.
“Here’s Ivy,” murmured Helen, looking up. “Ivy, dear, might you have run afoul of the Duke of Greenbriar during your traveling about?”
“How exactly might I have run afoul of him, Mother? I’d have to encounter him at some point to do that, wouldn’t I?” As much as she wanted to snatch the letter from her father’s fingers, Ivy forced herself to a sedate walk across the carpet. Smiling, she parked herself on the green couch. “Why? Is something amiss?”
With one hand, Helen clutched at her lacy collar as though to loosen it. “Well it’s only he’s cancelled tea rather suddenly today, you see. Since you’d planned to be about, it would have been a wonderful time for him to have met you.” She leaned forward, pinning Ivy with a stare. “You’re quite certain you’ve not said or done anything?”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Helen.” Jasper tucked the letter into the pocket inside his waistcoat. “Greenbriar has an estate to attend to. I imagine unexpected matters arise for him from time to time the same as they do for the rest of us.” He stalked to the doorway. “If you ask me, his inability to attend will only spare our carpet a repeat of his last visit.”
Ivy’s gaze strayed to the nearly invisible pale gold mark on the red and white carpet near her feet. She’d arrived home after the duke’s last visit to find two of the upstairs maids frantically scrubbing at pieces of apple tart that had been smashed into the plush floor covering. The thought of His Graceless stumbling about, dropping bits of food onto the floor only strengthened the notion that she wanted nothing to do with the man.