Lady Maddox cocked an eyebrow and regarded Colin. “Wilde, it sounds suspiciously like you have been reading my husband’s private journal. Tell me you aren’t following in Anthony’s ghastly footsteps.”
Anthony turned crimson.
Lady Maddox giggled. “Oh, yes. I’ve read it. Truly a work of art, darling. Ever think of having it published?”
“Please tell me you did not just admit to reading that piece of—”
“Fine literature,” Lady Maddox finished. “And to be precise, Cordelia and I happened upon it. Quite interesting. I had no idea it was possible for a woman to—”
“Stop.” Anthony held up his hand and looked helplessly around the room. “We are not discussing what is past. We are discussing Wilde’s current path of self-destruction! Look at him!” Anthony pointed. Lady Maddox offered Colin a sympathetic smile and turned back to her husband.
“He is drinking coffee, my dear. He seems fine.” She patted Anthony on the hand and sighed. “Besides, before we were married, every article of clothing in your possession was black or gray. Perhaps he is taking after your impeccable sense of style, hmm?”
Colin laughed at Anthony’s irritated expression. Couldn’t really argue that point, considering Colin was only mimicking Anthony’s own good taste. He leaned forward and drummed his fingers against the table.
“Fine.” Anthony exhaled. “But truly, I wrote those journals when I was but a lad of one-and-twenty. Rules have, er… changed.”
“Have they?” Colin and Lady Maddox asked in unison.
“Of course.” Anthony stared into his coffee.
“And how, my dear, would you know this?” Lady Maddox asked, crossing her arms.
“My dear, up until last year I was…”
“Whoring around,” Colin finished for him. “Yes, we know. Now, will you help me or not? I mean to make certain my name is on the lips of as many women as possible. After all, does not your journal discuss the importance of keeping several mistresses at once?” He left out the part about Gemma’s face last night and how her expression had finally pushed him to desperation. He’d hurt her just like she’d hurt him. Funnily enough, those brief few seconds when their eyes had met, he hadn’t felt a thing. Not a blasted thing. He was finally numb. He’d looked into her eyes and his heart actually seemed to stop beating. He’d finally gone too far. If turning into a rake kept his heart in the same condition as it had felt in those brief minutes, then he would do it and never look back. It hurt too blasted much to continue on in this way. To continue living a life without Gemma in it.
Anthony choked on his coffee. “Apologies, memory’s quite fuzzy on that one.”
“Indeed,” Lady Maddox added. “Shall I leave you to your plans then, gentlemen?”
Colin nodded. “That would be best. After all, your husband has to polish me into the worst sort of rake the ton has ever seen.”
“God help us all,” Anthony muttered.
“Well, if last night was any indication,” Lady Maddox sighed, “you are halfway there. Good luck with your debauchery, gentlemen. I shall pray for your success.”
Anthony cursed. “My dear, that is blasphemous!”
“So is keeping a journal of your rakish escapades in the same location as your Bible, love.”
Colin burst into laughter. “And the point goes to your wife.”
“I—” Anthony grunted. “My dear, if you will excuse us, it seems I have my work cut out for me.”
“Absolutely.” She grinned and quit the room.