The Songbird's Seduction

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Authors: Connie Brockway
serious-mindedness.
    Not that he’d always been impolitic and outspoken. He wouldn’t have successfully won the hand of Ptolemy’s formal, perpetually unsmiling grandmother otherwise.
    “In fact, that tune sounded suspiciously like
popular
music,” he said.
    “Really?” Puzzling. Ptolemy hadn’t thought he knew any popular music. Not that he had anything against popular music; he just never had occasion to hear it, his work leaving little opportunity for that sort of thing.
    Perhaps if Cornelia had shown an interest . . . but Cornelia considered theatre frivolous and believed popular music caused brain decay. But it really was a catchy tune.
    “Good heavens, my boy! And where did you get that black eye? Did you walk into a door?” his grandfather asked in increasingly amazed tones as he nodded a dismissal to the footman.
    Heat rose in Ptolemy’s face.
    “You . . . you haven’t been in a
brawl
?” His grandfather’s dark eyes gleamed with approval. Not surprising: his grandfather hadalways enjoyed being the black sheep of the family, a role Ptolemy’s grandmother had claimed he’d come to rather late in life.
    Apparently the dignity that once had been the hallmark of his lordship’s character had eroded with time, eventually making him nearly unrecognizable as the somber, respectable young man to whom she’d been betrothed. At the time of her death last year, Ptolemy’s grandparents had not shared the same address in over two decades.
    “No. Of course not. I was involved in a minor incident at the Savoy. A misunderstanding.”
    The thick white shelf of his lordship’s brows climbed toward his hairline. “At the
Savoy
? You interest me greatly. I didn’t think you ever left the classroom. Or the mud huts. Or wherever it is you do your research.”
    “I was there with Cornelia and a fellow instructor, Lionel Underwood.”
    “Well, bully for Mr. Underwood for dragging you off that campus. You’re a young man, Ptolemy. It won’t kill you to act like one occasionally.”
    He smiled at his grandfather’s misinterpretation of the situation. Lionel Underwood, a bon vivant? Hardly. Lionel was a consummate teetotaler. He’d only come along because Ptolemy had asked him, being as he was the only person both Cornelia and he liked.
    Though, Ptolemy allowed with a twinge of guilt, he didn’t like self-effacing, hardworking and, well, frankly, dull Lionel so much as found him useful. Lionel always made himself available to escort Cornelia to the seemingly endless and—Ptolemy admitted—endlessly boring functions associated with the college where both Lionel and he were employed as dons.
    “
I
arranged the evening. It was to be a celebration.”
    “A celebration?” His grandfather tipped his head inquiringly.
    “Yes.” He took a deep breath. “I had planned on asking Cornelia to marry me—”
    “Please, say it’s not so!” His grandfather clamped his hand to his chest. “Not Cornelia!”
    “I resent that, Grandfather. Miss Litchfield is a remarkable young lady. She’s a highly organized and thorough researcher, with a true gift for management—”
    “I can well believe that.”
    “Don’t mutter. It makes me think you are saying nasty things.”
    “I am.”
    “Grandfather.”
    “I’m sorry—no, I’m not, I’m horrified. What on earth possessed you to ask Miss Litchfield to marry you?” He glanced sharply at Ptolemy. “You weren’t sozzled, were you?”
    “No!” He never got drunk. Drunk people lost their inhibitions and he had been trained from the cradle to believe that inhibitions provided civilization its best bulwark against anarchy. “And I haven’t asked her yet.”
    There hadn’t been any opportunity. Before coming to the Savoy, he’d planned to meet her at the British Library and propose somewhere in the stacks. But he’d missed his train and so had rung up Lionel and asked him to pick up the ring at the jeweler’s and then escort Cornelia to the Savoy to meet him.

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