“I swear, the chit will never see what is coming,” a deep voice snickered conspiratorially from behind the dark curtains and glass door that separated the main room from the veranda. “After the way she dismissed my attempts to court her, I intend to take great pleasure in showing her what she missed.” “I think you should be careful. Her friend protects her like a mother hen,” another male voice said before pausing. “Although now that I think on it, the mother hen probably needs what I can offer her,” he said, laughing sarcastically. A moment of silence followed the laughter. “Christ. We are standing here at the club voicing absurdities. Perhaps we should lower our voices. Someone might overhear and believe we are serious,” the second man added, his voice suddenly sounding nervous. “I am serious. The chit needs to be taken down a peg,” the first voice returned, sounding irritated with his friend. “Tonight’s ball will be the perfect opportunity.” “Are you dicked in the nob?” whispered his cohort. “Wellington and half of London’s elite will be there. Finish your drink and stop being absurd.” “I am not absurd. You will see,” the first voice returned, his speech slightly slurred. One man whispered something inaudible, and the discussion became muffled and distant because of the curtains and doors separating Christopher Anglesey, the fifth Marquess of Banbury, from the veranda behind him. The conversation had startled him, and he had struggled to recognize the voices. What a strange discussion to have had, he thought. The first man had sounded serious, and it concerned him. Christopher gave up the notion of relaxing with his paper and enjoying the last of his brandy as his curiosity got the best of him. He rose to his feet, planning to step onto the veranda to identify these ill-mannered louts. Too late. The other door to the veranda was being closed by a footman and a sudden gathering of gentlemen and cigar smoke in that corner of the room made it impossible to discern who the two men had been, although he noted some standing and jesting in the small corner. He saw few he knew, and of those he did, he could not imagine them holding such a conversation. Frustrated, he watched as the small group moved further away, heading in the direction of the gaming room and more alcohol to abuse their already jaded senses. Disgusted, he checked his watch and decided to leave. As he walked to the door to retrieve his belongings, the conversation replayed in his head. What had happened to people these days?There was such lack of regard. Christopher had just overheard a most vile conversation between two younger members of the set, arguing over the seduction and ruination of a young woman. There was nothing he could do without knowing for sure who had spoken, and he had little time to employ spy tactics. He needed to return home as he had promised his mother and sister that he would escort them to the Fairbanks ball this evening. Since Waterloo, everyone was celebrating, and this was yet another ball to honor the Duke of Wellington. He looked forward to seeing his friends, especially Matthew Romney and his lovely new wife. Romney had recently returned home after a harrowing experience in America. He had been injured in the Battle of New Orleans and had been saved by a young American woman and her incomparable dog—a woman he later married. Romney had survived near-fatal battlefield injuries, fever, and a shipwreck to return home after everyone had presumed him dead. He chuckled. Even the skeptical biddies of the ton were enamored of Lady Bethany Romney. And, of course, everyone adored the animal. “Your hat and coat, Lord Banbury,” said the deep voice of the front butler as he helped Christopher into his coat. “Thank you, Miles,” the marquess returned, accepting his hat and cane. The door closed behind him, and the disturbing conversation surfaced in his mind yet again. Christopher wished he had identified the two men who had been talking. Debauching a young woman was serious. His conscience berated him. He should have determined who these men were and which young women they were speaking about. Then he could have seen that their fathers or older brothers became aware. He would kill someone for talking so about his sister. Let it go, he told himself. They are just braggarts. Despite his determination to set it aside, the conversation ate at him. He pulled out his watch, looked at it, and clicked it shut. “I believe I have enough time for Gentleman Jackson’s,” he murmured out loud. “A good knock around the ring should be just what I need to clear my head.” At that moment, his carriage rolled up and his driver stepped down to open the door.