Robert Anderson's eyes narrowed, his attention pinned across the ballroom on Linus Radcliffe. The deliberately casual set of the man's shoulders, the lazy hint of a smile on his lips, the intent blue gaze fixed on the young blond gentleman he was speaking to
A grunt rumbled Rob's throat.
Enough. He could not take another night.
He brought the cut crystal glass to his lips, downing the remaining whisky in one swallow. Dropping the empty glass on a passing servant's tray, he pushed from the wall.
Using his height to his full advantage, he kept Linus in his sights as he weaved through the crowd.
With a friendly hand on the blond's shoulder, Linus leaned in a bit closer. Not so close as to rouse suspicionLinus knew where that line resided better than anyonebut definitely closer. His lips moved.
Rob lengthened his stride.
A woman stepped directly in front of him. Rob stopped just in time to keep from barreling into Mrs. Lydia Jefferies, his current paramour. Her turquoise silk gown draped her elegant form, the bodice highlighting a rather impressive bosom. The young widow should have been able to keep his attention longer than a week. He had pursued her, after all. Yet
He glanced over her dark brown head, to another dark brown head that was still tipped much too closelyat least in Rob's opiniontoward that pretty blond.
"Anderson," she said, reaching out to touch a familiar hand to his forearm. "A new set is soon to start."
The absolute last thing he wanted to do was dance at the moment. "Not tonight, my dear. The musicians aren't to my liking."
A slight bow, and he stepped around her. Likely rude to dismiss her in such a manner. All right. It had been rude. Tomorrow he'd buy her a pretty bauble, pay her a call, employ a bit more charm than tonight, and by the time he left her drawing room their dalliance would be firmly behind him.
Striving for casual, he slowed his pace as he neared Linus. His friend was impeccably dressed, as always. A deep navy coat that appeared black when not under the full force of the many chandeliers overhead. A splash of white from his cravat above a copper silk waistcoat Linus had borrowed from Rob's own closet. Given they were of a similar height and build, both a nudge over six feet tall and with muscles enough to prove they regularly visited the fencing academy and Gentleman Jackson's, he and Linus occasionally made use of each other's wardrobes. But though they frequented the same tailor, Rob's clothes somehow always looked better on Linus than on himself.
He stopped next to Linus and clapped him on the shoulder. "Evening, Radcliffe." A stern glare was all it took to send the young blond scurrying away with a hastily murmured excuse. What excuse the blond used Rob did not much care. All that mattered was that the young man had left.
A frown touched Linus's mouth as he watched those slim shoulders disappear into the crowd. "Not kind of you to have scared Tarington away."
"Was that his name?"
"That is his name."
As if Rob could keep track of the various men who rotated in and out of Linus's bed. Or rather, the various men's beds that Linus rotated in and out of.
That noxious knot, the one that had been growing progressively larger since the start of the Season, swelled in his gut, tightening his stomach.
"It's getting late," Rob said. "Don't you agree?"
"It's barely midnight." Dismissing the question as ridiculous, Linus scanned the ballroom.