Hudson possessed the rich, resonant voice of a trained actor. It had a deep, vibrant quality that one associated with well-tuned instruments. The sound grated on Tobias's nerve endings, but he had to admit that it commanded attention in an almost uncanny fashion.
Hudson cut a decidedly fashionable figure in an excellently tailored dark blue coat, striped waistcoat, and pleated trousers. His neckcloth was tied in an elaborate and unusual manner that Tobias thought his brother-in-law, Anthony, would have admired. At one-and-twenty, Anthony was at the age when young men paid acute attention to such things. He would no doubt also approve of the unusual gold seals that decorated Hudson's watch.
Tobias mentally calculated that the doctor was somewhere in the middle of his forties. Hudson was endowed with the distinguished, well-modeled features of a man who would no doubt always turn ladies' heads, regardless of his age. His wealth of dark brown hair was silvered in a striking manner, and he wore his clothes with an authority and aplomb that would have done credit to Brummell himself in the heyday of his social reign.
"Howard." The strain evaporated from Lavinia's green eyes as she swept into the parlor. She held out both hands in unmistakable and enthusiastic welcome. "Forgive me for being late. I went shopping in Pall Mall and misjudged the time and the traffic."
Tobias was fascinated by the change that had come over her in the past few minutes. If he had not caught that brief glimpse of her expression when she came up the steps, he would never have guessed now that she had been troubled.
It annoyed him that the mere sight of Dr. Howard Hudson had had such an uplifting effect on her mood.
"Lavinia, my dear." Howard rose and took both her hands in his long, well-groomed fingers, squeezing gently. "Words cannot express how wonderful it is to see you again after all this time."
Another wave of disturbing, albeit inexplicable, unease washed through Tobias. Hudson's most arresting features, aside from his riveting voice, were his eyes. An unusual combination of brown and gold in color, they had a compelling effect.
Both voice and gaze were no doubt extremely useful in his profession, Tobias thought. Dr. Howard Hudson was a practitioner of the so-called science of mesmerism.
"I was so very pleased to receive your note yesterday," Lavinia said. "I had no notion that you were in London."
Hudson smiled. "I was the one who was delighted to discover that you were in Town. Imagine my surprise, my dear. The last I heard, you and your niece had gone off to Italy as companions to a lady named Mrs. Underwood."
"Our plans changed quite unexpectedly," Lavinia said smoothly. "Emeline and I were obliged by circumstances to return to England sooner than we had anticipated."
Tobias raised his brows at that understatement, but he wisely kept silent.
"Well, that is certainly fortunate as far as I am concerned." Howard gave her hands another little familiar squeeze and released her. "Allow me to introduce my wife, Celeste."
"How do you do, Mrs. Lake," Celeste murmured in dulcet tones. "Howard has told me so much about you."
Tobias was briefly amused by her manner. The almost theatrically gracious inclination of Celeste's head did not conceal the cold assessment in her pretty eyes. He could see her measuring, weighing, and passing judgment. It was obvious that she immediately dismissed Lavinia as no threat and of no consequence.
He was amused for the first time that afternoon. Dismissing Lavinia was always a mistake.
"This is, indeed, a pleasure." Lavinia sat down on the sofa, arranged the skirts of her plum-colored gown, and picked up the teapot. "I had no notion that Howard had married, but I am delighted to hear it. He has been alone much too long."
Excerpted from Don't Look Back by Amanda Quick Copyright 2002 by Amanda Quick. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
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Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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