“Very well, but you mustn’t flirt with him. I mean it, Louisa. No flirting. You’re far too old to be acting like a lovestruck girl.”
With a sniff, Louisa replied, “A simple nod or the toss of one’s hair is not flirting. It’s merely… playing.”
Jenny gave her a flat stare. “Playing? It most assuredly is flirting. Now, promise me you’ll behave yourself.”
“Oh, very well,” Louisa replied. “I promise to act like a proper lady.”
When they entered the tobacconist, Jenny crinkled her nose in disgust. She never found the aroma of tobacco pleasant, nor the billowing smoke that burned one’s eyes, and wondered how anyone could possibly wish to inhale it. The smoke issuing from a blocked chimney last fall had left her coughing so violently that she was certain she would never be able to breathe again.
A clerk stood behind the counter, showing a selection of snuff boxes to another man, whose back was to them. “I’ll see what I have in the back, sir,” the clerk said and then walked through a door behind him.
“That must be he,” Louisa whispered. “The knight.”
The man turned, and Louisa gasped. Jenny had to admit he was handsome in his way with dark blond hair and piercing blue eyes. He was not as dashing as Lord Dowding, but she could see why Louisa had reacted as she had.
Without warning, the knight took two long steps toward Jenny and Louisa, his eyes narrowed. “What did you say?” he demanded.
Jenny took an involuntary step backward, but Louisa seemed unruffled by the sudden fierceness facing her. “I was in search of a knight. You are a knight, are you not?”
His eyes widened for a moment before a smile erupted on his lips. “I am he, Sir Aaron Kirkwood of the Most Noble Order of the Garter,” he said with a flourishing bow. “And might I say, Lady Emmerton, your beauty is far greater than what was told to me.” He looked past them toward the door. “Is your father not with you?”
Jenny found her mouth hanging open, and she shut it with a snap. The man had clearly mistaken Louisa for someone else!
“I think we should go,” Jenny said. “If you’ll excuse us, sir.”
The knight’s brows knitted in confusion. “Lady Emmerton? You seem concerned. Do you have something you wish to say? I’m at your disposal, no matter your request.”
Jenny thought Louisa’s look was not one of worry at all but rather one of admiration. She had seen Louisa act foolishly in the past, but this was going much too far.
Yet it had not gone as far as it could, for Jenny nearly fainted from embarrassment at what happened next.
Louisa raised herself onto her toes, her face mere inches from that of Lord Aaron, and whispered, “I’m not Lady Emmerton, sir knight, though I’m honored you would consider me beautiful, for I find your handsomeness takes away my breath. I’ve only heard the rumors of how you earned your title, but I shall show my appreciation for what you did for Her Highness Princess Charlotte by offering you a reward of my own. You may kiss me.”
“A kiss?” he asked, his eyes smoldering in a way of which Jenny did not approve.
Louisa nodded. “Yes.”
“And you find me handsome, you say?”
She nodded again.
“Many women desire what you request, but few are fortunate enough to receive it.” The man flashed a cocksure grin. “Sadly, fortune does not favor you this day.” His grin dropped and his voice became stern. “Who are you?”
Jenny did not care if Louisa became angry with her, but this man’s arrogance was more than she could bear. “Sir, the proprietor has yet to return, and there are no other witnesses to what has taken place here. We can leave and all this can be forgotten.”
“Do you think I care about what others think?” he replied, not taking his eyes off Louisa. “I demand to know the name of this girl who flirts so openly with me.”
Louisa pursed her lips and her brows lowered. “I’m a woman who recognizes a vain man when she sees him.” Then she added a belated, and downright rude, “Sir.”
Without another word, Louisa stormed from the shop.
Jenny, realizing her friend had left her behind with a very angry knight, bobbed a quick curtsy to the man and exited behind her. Once she caught up with Louisa, Jenny grabbed her by the arm. “What have you done?” she demanded, ignoring the cold vapor that spewed from her mouth. “Why would you ask a man you’ve just met for a kiss? A knight, Louisa! And in public! Have you gone mad?”
It had been a long time since Jenny had been this angry, especially with one of her Sisters. But she had also never witnessed such wanton behavior from someone who was supposed to be trained in propriety!
Louisa turned and marched away, her hands clenched at her side. “Oh, Jenny, I’m so angry! I’ve never experienced anyone so… so pompous, so…” She sighed. “Did you hear him? Many women desire him? Well, I’ll say this. I do not.”
Jenny frowned. As harsh as her words were, her sighs were not those of a woman scorned. No, she sounded as if…