“Ah, yes. Who can forget his stirring portrayal of the devoted spouse of an allergy sufferer?”
Peter didn’t own a television, so it was unlikely he had seen Derrick’s work with his own eyes. Someone besides Grace was keeping him updated on the cast and crew of
. The entire village of Innisdale was probably snickering into its collective pint.
She would have liked to tell Peter about Lord Ruthven’s peculiar behavior in the cemetery, but she would have had to confess her own peculiar behavior.
“Well, why else would they—?” But the downstairs buzzer proclaimed that a customer had finally discovered them on their quiet country lane, and the conversation ended. Peter went downstairs and Grace cleaned up the remains of lunch.
“So how is it that you don’t ride to hounds but you’re still invited to the Hunt Ball?” Grace inquired later that afternoon as she was finishing up the Stark catalog.
“Eligible bachelors are welcome at any social event,” Peter informed her.
“Eligible?” she mused.
He corrected, “Willing to dance with anyone.”
“Uh-huh.” She laid aside her note pad. “What was it Kipling said about men who dance too well?”
“I have no idea.”
“I can’t remember myself,” admitted Grace, “but I believe it was fairly scathing.”
“Consider me duly scathed.” He studied her. “Your first Hunt Ball. My, my, you are moving up in the world.”
“I know it’s old hat for you, but I’m very excited.”
“I know you are. It’s rather sweet. Did you buy a new frock?”
Frock. He really was something of a throwback.
The style is the man himself
“I can’t afford to. The riding habit was expensive, even getting the jacket secondhand.”
Peter shook his head.
“I don’t expect you to understand,” Grace said.
“I understand. You’re suffering an acute case of Anglo-mania. If I find you buying champagne glasses with the queen’s portrait I’ll have to take steps.”
“I probably watched too many episodes of Masterpiece Theater at an impressionable age,” Grace agreed. “I used to dream about going to balls and fox hunts and village fetes.”
“My dear girl, you can’t really tell me that your life’s ambition is to rub elbows with overfed, undereducated boobs whose aim in life is to kill small animals with as much pomp and circumstance as they can afford.” He had gone back to scanning a bill of lading, so perhaps the grimness in his voice had to do with freight charges.
“Since you put it that way, no. But if I’m here it seems a pity not to experience everything offered.”
“ ‘Everything’ covers a lot of ground. Your sabbatical is nearly over, isn’t it?”
She didn’t know how to take that. She knew her sabbatical was nearly over as well as he did. And she remembered, if he did not, why she had taken this sabbatical.
Anything she might have said was cut off as the shop door opened with a jingle of bells. Mrs. Mac, Peter’s “char lady,” backed in, shaking out her dripping umbrella.
“Afternoon, dearies!” she chirped.
An apple-cheeked dumpling of a woman, with a mop of gray curls, Mrs. Mac could have passed for the grandmotherly type except for the sharp cold of her faded blue eyes.
“Wet through, I am.” Mrs. Mac dropped her umbrella and heavy carpetbag on the counter. “Such a to-do in the village!” Her eyes twinkled with wicked pleasure. “I could do with a cuppa.” She started for the stock room, shedding her black raincoat as she went.
“Neither rain nor wind nor sleet nor snow,” said Grace.
Peter said, “I was thinking more along the lines of ‘In thunder, lightning, or in rain.’ ”
Grace chuckled at the reference to
. Mrs. Mac did look a bit like a witch.
“What’s happened in the village?” she asked when Mrs. Mac returned, mug in hand. Grace always bit, she couldn’t help herself.
Mrs. Mac made an unlovely sucking sound at her tea before pronouncing, “Vandalism. Someone spray painted the side of the chapel.”
“Obscenities?” Grace inquired. Peter had already lost interest. Vandalism was not his idea of crime.
“No, no.” Mrs. Mac chortled. “It said, ‘The vampire walks’!”