Home > In the Eyes of the Earl

In the Eyes of the Earl
Author: Kristin Vayden




The coward calls the brave man rash; the rash man calls him a coward.

—Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics



“You do realize you’ve been holding that glass of champagne for over an hour. It’s likely gone flat.” Rowles Haywind, the Duke of Westmore, used his empty flute to gesture to Collin’s still-full one. “And if you keep looking at it with such concentration, the mamas of the ton will see it as a sign of your deep loneliness and send their daughters over en masse to ease your heartache.”

The last statement startled Collin out of his apathy, and he gave his best friend a glare.

“Ah, welcome back to the party, Collin.” Rowles smirked. “Pleasure to have your attention at last.”

Collin fought to keep a frustrated expression on his face but lost the battle. It was too much effort. Collin Morgan, Earl of Penderdale, was quite certain that the only emotions he had left were boredom and anger. Odd how the two feelings could coexist. After all, one would think anger would lead to action, but all he had left was apathy—which led to the boredom.

His attention was directed to his champagne as a gentleman misjudged the distance between himself and the wall. Collin lifted the glass slightly, avoiding direct contact with the other man’s shoulder as he righted himself. Huffing faintly, the man gave a curt nod before he disappeared into the sea of silk and black evening kits of the ton.

“Nearly wore that stale champagne,” Rowles commented as he gave a warning expression in the direction of the retreating man’s back. “Already deep in his cups and it’s not even midnight.”

“Perhaps he’s the lonely one. However, I don’t see the matchmaking mamas sending their hordes in his direction,” Collin noted dryly.

“He’s not worth their time. You, however, are.” Rowles frowned. “What are you now, three and thirty? Practically an old man.”

Collin shifted his attention from the sea of humanity to his friend. “I’m the same age as you, or do you not recall such information as a result of our age?”

“Just making sure I still have your attention.”

“Why is my attention so deuced important?” Collin asked with irritation.

Rowles considered him. “Because if I don’t continually pester you, you’ll retreat into that fortress in your mind that you’ve constructed, and if that happens, I might as well carry on a conversation with this wall.” He nodded to the white plaster beside him.

“I’m not that bad,” Collin replied, defending himself.

“Tell that to your sister, if you want to try to convince someone. See how that works out for you.” Rowles gave a low chuckle.

Collin bit back an ungentlemanly word. It wasn’t like him to curse, but he hadn’t felt like himself in any way as of late. And he was quite certain his sister, who happened to be married to Rowles, was aware of that as well and had made more than a passing mention to her husband.

Who now was pestering Collin with it.


“Speaking of my sister, where is she and shouldn’t you go and find her?” Collin gave a dismissive wave of his hand.

“First, Joan doesn’t need me to look after her, and second, I doubt she’d appreciate me trying to.” Rowles raised a brow. “Woman is more dangerous than any man I know, present company included.” Rowles lifted his glass in a salute and brought it to his lips before remembering that it was empty.

Collin narrowed his eyes in a disappointed expression as Rowles lowered his glass but didn’t remark on his friend’s words. They were far too accurate for amusement. Rowles was one of the few who knew about Collin and his sister’s work for the War Office. But as Collin thought of his profession, the gray cloud of apathy and anger once again blurred his thoughts.

As if sensing this relapse, Rowles asked in a voice barely above a whisper, “Have they uncovered anything further?”

The words were innocent enough. Anyone overhearing them wouldn’t be certain of their context, but they were loaded words for Collin.

“I was given a possible location, nothing more,” he said tonelessly.

“And?” Rowles asked, waiting.

Collin sighed, his bones aching with the weight of indecision. “And that’s all.”

“All?” Rowles asked, his tone incredulous.

Collin turned to him. “Are you going to repeat everything I say? If so, I should say something worth hearing again.” He paused. “The Earl of Penderdale is a gift to humanity.”

“The Earl of Penderdale has lost his courage if he’s not pursuing every course of action.” Rowles took a deep breath and looked around the Penninghams’ ballroom as if remembering the eyes and ears around him. “This is not the time or place but soon it will be, and you’ll have more than me to contend with.” He gave Collin a meaningful stare.

Joan. Collin nearly groaned out loud at the implication of all his sister would have to say on the matter. Still, as soon as the emotion rose within him, it dissipated like fog in the sunshine, leaving nothing.


Collin lifted his glass and took a sip.

Flat, just as Rowles had predicted, and it was warm as well. His lips twitched in disgust as he glared at the offending liquid in the glass.

“I warned you.”

“I never said you didn’t,” Collin replied.

“Just making sure to keep my name clear,” Rowles added, a little of his merriment returning.

“A fine evening!” Collin quelled a startled jump as a booming voice rang out next to his left ear.

“Fine indeed, Lord Woolworth.” Rowles offered a smile as the older viscount nodded with respect.

“Fine,” Collin echoed, hoping the quite deaf gentleman would moderate his volume for any further conversation.

The viscount turned to Collin. “Wanted to pay my respects but didn’t make it earlier.” He patted Collin’s back once. His tone softened. “He was a good man, a good man. Gone far too soon, while the old stubborn ones like me live on. I’ll never understand it all. There’s not a day I don’t miss him.”

Collin froze; all that remained moving was his heart, which seemed to pick up an accelerated beat as his mind caught up with all that the Viscount Woolworth was implying.

How could he have forgotten?

How could he have let it slip by?

And why the hell didn’t Joan drag his ass to the grave site? There was no way she’d forgotten as well.

Just him.

The shock thawed enough for his scrutiny to flicker to Rowles, whose expression said more than any words could have conveyed.

He knew too.

The son-in-law of a man he’d never met had remembered…while the man’s own son forgot.

“Never a day goes by… I remember when Eloise passed, your father said, ‘Life is colorless until you find love.’ He was right. Hell, he usually was.” The viscount chuckled. “Regardless, wanted to pay my respects to you and, of course, your lovely wife as well, Your Grace.”

“Thank you,” Rowles replied.

As the viscount left, Collin turned on his heel as well. He could feel Rowles’s stare at his back, watching his hasty retreat, but it wasn’t enough to make him hesitate. It was only a quarter-hour ride to the Penderdale house from the party, and the moment Collin darkened his own doorstep, he tugged his cravat loose and tossed it on a table lining the hall. As he took the next step toward his study, he ran his fingers through his hair, tugging, feeling the minor pain, needing to feel something other than the intense shame coursing through him.

Hot Books
» House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)
» A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire
» From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1)
» A Million Kisses in Your Lifetime
» Deviant King (Royal Elite #1)
» Den of Vipers
» House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2)
» The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #
» Sweet Temptation
» The Sweetest Oblivion (Made #1)
» Chasing Cassandra (The Ravenels #6)
» Wreck & Ruin
» Steel Princess (Royal Elite #2)
» Twisted Hate (Twisted #3)
» The Play (Briar U Book 3)