"'Twas a rough night." — MACBETH, Macbeth Act II, scene iii
I'll find my own damned wife, thank ye very much!"
Coll MacTaggert, Viscount Glendarril, shoved aside the curtains and stomped out of the Oswell-MacTaggert box at the Saint Genesius Theatre. She'd done it again. This time his mother, Francesca Oswell-MacTaggert, Countess Aldriss, had thrown two lasses at him while he was trying to watch a blasted play.
Two damned women and their families to share Lady Aldriss's private box. Since his two younger brothers firstly weren't present and secondly had already found wives, everyone in the entire damned theater had to know that the lasses were there for him.
"Coll." A low voice came from the curtains, and Matthew Harris stepped into the hallway. "Your mother wants to remind you not to repeat what happened on your first night in London."
That would've been the first time she'd flung a female at him. She'd tried to present him with a pretty wrapped bow of a lass whose family had already agreed to a marriage, and he'd fled into the streets rather than sit through Romeo and Juliet beside her. If his mother wanted to delve into the details, Miss Amelia-Rose Hyacinth Baxter had ended up married to a MacTaggert—just not to him. But his brother Niall loved her, and she him, so he had nothing else to say about that.
"So, Matthew Harris," he drawled. "I've nae seen ye without my sister by yer side for the past...what is it, three days since ye nearly ruined yer family's reputation?" Immediately Matthew took a half step backward, toward the curtains. "We're all friends here, Coll," he said. "Aden said I still had his blessing to marry your sister."
"My brother Aden is about to wed 'yer' sister, so I reckon he has reason to be forgiving of yer previous idiocy. And he's in love, so he sees everything covered with flower petals and cherubs."
"He may have proclaimed ye fit to wed our wee sister Eloise, but I havenae done so. And I'm the oldest—and the heir to our father. With him still in the Highlands, I speak for the MacTaggerts here in England."
Matthew took another step back toward the relative safety of Lady Aldriss's very fine theater box. "I made a horrible mistake and lost far more money than I could ever afford to repay," he said, lowering his voice still further. "But you know I was flimflammed—and far from the only man to fall into the trap set by Captain Vale."
"Aye. I do know that. I also ken that ye were about to sell yer sister to Vale to keep yerself from ruin. The only thing that prevented ye from having Miranda marry that vulture was my brother. Aden saved ye both; ye didnae have another plan at all."
The younger man's complexion paled, his generally cheery expression evaporating into glumness. "You're correct. I had no idea what to do. I'm very glad Aden was here in London, and that he cared enough for Miranda to save the two of us. He saved the entire Harris family, actually, and I will forever be in his debt."
"Aden's a good sort, once ye drag him out of the shadows," Coll agreed. "And since he loves yer sister and yer sister's a better woman than either of ye likely deserve, she's forgiven ye as well."
"Yes, she has. I'm very grateful."
"I'm nae yer sister."
"I—oh. I take your meaning. I've sworn off gambling of any kind, you know. And I've surrendered my membership to White's, Boodle's, and the Society. There will be no more clubs and no more wagering. I swear it."
"And that makes ye fit to wed my wee sister? I'm supposed to believe that ye willnae get into some sort of trouble again and decide ye need to sell off Eloise to set yerself upright?"
"I would not do any such thing," Matthew said adamantly. Behind them, muffled applause sounded from the theater. The younger man shifted again. "We should get back. Your mother—Lady Aldriss—was quite resolved that you shouldn't open yourself to more gossip by leaving her box yet again."
"I ken who my mother is. Right now I'm talking to ye about how ye keep scrambling away like a door mouse every time I walk into the room."