The Devil's Breath

The Devil's Breath by Tessa Harris

Book: The Devil's Breath by Tessa Harris Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tessa Harris
knowing such words would irritate Thomas. She flashed a smile. “Indeed, Sir Theodisius.”
    “Then we shall not hold you up,” he said graciously, waving the chicken leg in the air.
    Just as she turned, however, Lydia saw another familiar face. “Sir Henry,” she greeted, holding out her hand. An elderly gentleman with a kindly face came shuffling up to her, took her hand and kissed it.
    “My dear Lady Lydia. But you are looking as delightful as ever. By Jove, yes!” he told her.
    Thomas saw great affection in Lydia’s eyes. “And you are well?” she inquired.
    He made a fist with his hand and thumped his chest lightly. “Bit short of breath now and again, but I can’t complain,” he replied.
    “I am sorry to hear that,” said Lydia.
    Sir Henry Thorndike studied Thomas with rheumy eyes. “And you are the physician from the Colonies, I believe, sir.” This time the faux pas was allowed to pass unremarked.
    “Forgive me, yes. This is Dr. Thomas Silkstone from Philadelphia,” said Lydia.
    Thomas bowed. In the few seconds he had been given to study the elderly man he had made a preliminary diagnosis. His body had been buffeted and bowed by advancing years and his gait was slightly stooped, but it was his lips that gave away his condition. They were a strange bluish purple, a classic sign of poor circulation, or even possibly heart disease, he thought to himself.
    “And you are staying at Boughton for a few days?” Sir Henry inquired.
    “I have that pleasure,” replied Thomas.
    Their pleasantries were beginning to wear a little thin when they were joined by a most striking woman. Thomas noticed a distinct change in Lydia’s expression. “Lady Thorndike,” she greeted her as all eyes turned to the flame-haired beauty who drew beside them. Dressed à la mode in a robe of yellow silk, she was tall and elegant. Yet she fluttered her fan in agitation as much as to cool herself, while on her face she wore a look of disdain as plain as any beauty patch.
    “Ah, Julia dear, here you are,” said Sir Henry congenially, but his wife shot him a poisonous look before she noticed the handsome young doctor. Then, just as surely, she rearranged her features into a smile and let out a girlish laugh.
    “My husband’s great age is no excuse for his absence of manners,” she remarked, clapping her eyes on Thomas. Without moving her gaze she told Lydia: “Well, well, my dear, I await a formal introduction.” Acting as if she had just spied a dish of sweetmeats, she held out a gloved hand to the doctor.
    Thomas introduced himself. “Silkstone. Dr. Thomas Silkstone, your ladyship.” She was strikingly handsome, probably around the same age as Lydia, with a flawless complexion, high cheekbones, and a dimple at the center of her chin. From her forceful manner, however, he also sensed she was trouble. Lydia’s look of pure loathing reinforced this notion.
    “I am sure Lady Lydia has told you that she and I are neighbors. Our estate borders Boughton,” Lady Thorndike told Thomas, fixing him with a playful smile. “You really must dine with us,” she said, waving her fan coquettishly in front of her face.
    Lydia was quick to butt in with a firmness that surprised Thomas. “You are most kind,” she replied, forcing a smile, “but I am afraid Dr. Silkstone is only here for a few days and we already have several engagements.”
    Lady Thorndike’s expression was quick to sour, but her words to Thomas remained sweet. “A great pity, but I am sure we will meet again, Dr. Silkstone.”
    Thomas bowed and Lydia tugged surreptitiously at his sleeve, guiding him away.
    “Did I detect a certain friction between you two ladies?” teased Thomas when they were out of earshot.
    “That woman is as venomous a creature as one could ever meet,” hissed Lydia through clenched teeth. “She is nothing but a harlot,” she muttered. He had seldom heard her speak with such approbation.
    “Her treatment of her husband was rather

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