If ever a night were ripe for scandal, Gentle Reader, then surely it is St Valentine’s…
Whispers from Behind the Fan
“I’ll carry them, Evan.” Mr Brookes hugged the enormous and freshly purchased bouquet of hot-house red roses to his chest. “Like the human heart, roses bruise easily and my Roberta deserves only the very best.”
He had been in a poetic mood all day. Enough that even the pouring rain and the fruitless trip to Ackermann,’s for more Prussian blue paint hadn’t been able to dampen. “How many years have you and the mistress been married?”
“A quarter of a century. On this day, twenty-five years ago, she made me the happiest man in the world.” Mr Brookes sighed, a big soppy grin on his face. “I’ve always had a particular soft spot for Valentine’s Day ever since and, of course, it goes without saying it makes it much easier to remember not to forget about our anniversary. What about you?” He nodded to the sea of flowers filling the market in Covent Garden with a wink. “Do you have an eager sweetheart who might appreciate a little sweetening on this glorious day? I’ve always found a passionate red bloom gives a man the perfect excuse to steal a kiss or twenty.” He raised his eyebrows suggestively.
“No!” Evan shook his head. “Perish the thought.” After Lily had unceremonious flung him out of her room on his backside the other night, he wouldn’t dare try to steal a kiss from her again. The trouble was, now that he had kissed her, he didn’t have the enthusiasm to make any effort to steal one elsewhere either. She had got under his skin and somehow wormed her way into his heart, and as much as it bothered him to think it, he knew already she had ruined him for all other women. “I’ve got plans, Mr Brookes. Big ones. I want my own stable somewhere to raise horses and that’s too important to me to allow the distraction of a sweetheart, especially an eager one.” So why did he miss her so damn much?
“Ahhh… the folly of youth.” Mr Brookes slapped him on the back. “I used to think like that. I had lofty ambitions of painting the portraits of the great and the good, and of earning a fortune doing it. I misguidedly had no time for a sweetheart either. But that was because I was young and stupid and didn’t know that one salient and pertinent nugget of insider knowledge that all the most successful men know. The single thing that turned me from a struggling artist into the lucky fellow you see today.”
“And that thing is?”
“That with a good woman by your side, you won’t just achieve your lofty ambitions, you will exceed them—and you’ll have a much happier time doing it!”
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