A Duke Will Never Do (The Spitfire Society #3) by Darcy Burke

The maid glanced toward the viscount and flinched. “No, but I will.” She turned to go.

“And Cook’s headache tonic,” Jane called after her.

“Yes, Miss Pemberton.”

Jane turned back to the bed and saw that the viscount’s eyes were closed once more, and he appeared to be asleep again. Dipping a cloth into the warm water, she applied it to the cut on his cheek, wiping away the blood. When it was clean, she set about cleaning the rest of the blood from his face. But he was so swollen and his flesh so reddened, she didn’t feel as if she was helping all that much.

Leaning toward him slightly, she studied his features for the man she knew. Anthony, Viscount Colton, was a very handsome gentleman, buried somewhere beneath the injuries he’d suffered. He was also the brother of a good friend, Sarah, the Countess of Ware, who was currently in the country preparing to give birth to her first child any day.

What on earth had happened to him? And why was he on Jane’s doorstep, of all places?

“Miss Pemberton?”

Jane turned her head to see Culpepper stepping into the bedchamber. “Should we send for a doctor? I think his injuries may go beyond his face.”

“Do you know a discreet physician?” he asked.

No, she did not. And discretion would be vital. Jane might have shunned society’s rules when she’d declared herself a spinster and moved away from her parents’ house, but she didn’t wish to add fuel to her smoldering reputation.

“Let us just take care of him for now,” Jane said. “We’ll see how he is later.”

“Should you notify Bow Street to perhaps find out who he is?”

“Oh, I know who he is.” Jane glanced down at his almost-unrecognizable face. “He’s Lord Colton.”

Culpepper’s eyes flickered with surprise. “I see. My apologies, Miss Pemberton, but I came to tell you Lady Gresham and Miss Whitford have arrived.”

“Thank you, Culpepper. Will you have Meg come up and tend to Lord Colton?”

“Right away.”

Jane sent one last lingering look toward the unconscious man on the bed and hastened from the room. She rushed downstairs to the garden room, situated at the back of the house. A bright, cheerful chamber, Phoebe had refurbished it to feel as if it were part of the garden that lay just outside the doors that led outside.

Phoebe was, in fact, also there, along with Lady Gresham and Miss Whitford. Seated in what had been her favorite chair when she’d lived there, Phoebe smiled at Jane in greeting. She looked incredibly happy, her green eyes sparkling.

Jane took the empty chair near Phoebe’s, which was opposite a settee where the sisters, Lady Gresham and Miss Whitford, were seated. “Welcome, ladies. I’m so glad you could come to our first official meeting of the Spitfire Society.”

“We’re delighted to be invited,” Lady Gresham said. Tall and slender with a delicate bone structure and glossy, honey-brown hair, she was the epitome of elegance—at least to Jane.

“What is the purpose of this meeting?” Miss Whitford asked without preamble.

Lady Gresham looked toward her younger sister, and it seemed she was going to speak, but Phoebe got there first.

“Before we get into the meeting, Lady Gresham and Miss Whitford found a gentleman’s hat on your doorstep.” Phoebe stood and went to a table near the door where she picked up a black hat and brought it back to where they were seated. “Do you know to whom it belongs?”

Jane’s mind scrambled as she took it from her. If it was just Phoebe here, Jane would tell the truth of it, but she didn’t know Lady Gresham and Miss Whitford well enough to disclose that there was an unconscious man upstairs in the guest chamber. “I don’t. Perhaps it blew there from the square.”

“Surely a gentleman would know if he’d lost his hat,” Phoebe said.

“Maybe someone left it there on purpose,” Miss Whitford suggested as a maid entered with a tray of refreshments, which she arranged on a low table situated between the settee and chairs.

“Would you pour the lemonade, please?” Jane asked.

“Thank you, Laura,” Phoebe said warmly to the maid, who smiled in response.

“It’s nice to see you, my lady,” Laura said to Phoebe while pouring.

Miss Whitford appeared to be a few years younger than her sister. With blonde hair, light hazel eyes, and a shorter, more curvaceous frame, she and Lady Gresham did not look very much like sisters.