A Spear of Summer Grass - By Deanna Raybourn


Don’t believe the stories you have heard about me. I have never killed anyone, and I have never stolen another woman’s husband. Oh, if I find one lying around unattended, I might climb on, but I never took one that didn’t want taking. And I never meant to go to Africa. I blame it on the weather. It was a wretched day in Paris, grey and gloomy and spitting with rain, when I was summoned to my mother’s suite at the Hotel de Crillon. I had dressed carefully for the occasion, not because Mossy would care—my mother is curiously unfussy about such things. But I knew wearing something chic would make me feel a little better about the ordeal to come. So I put on a divine little Molyneux dress in scarlet silk with a matching cloche, topped it with a clever chinchilla stole and left my suite, boarded the lift and rode up two floors to her rooms.

My mother’s Swedish maid answered the door with a scowl.

“Good afternoon, Ingeborg. I hope you’ve been well?”

The scowl deepened. “Your mother is worried about you,” she informed me coldly. “And I am worried about your mother.” Ingeborg had been worrying about my mother since before I was born. The fact that I had been a breech baby was enough to put me in her black books forever.

“Oh, don’t fuss, Ingeborg. Mossy is strong as an ox. All her people live to be a hundred or more.”

Ingeborg gave me another scowl and ushered me into the main room of the suite. Mossy was there, of course, holding court in the centre of a group of gentlemen. This was nothing new. Since her debut in New Orleans some thirty years before she had never been at a loss for masculine attention. She was standing at the fireplace, one elbow propped on the marble mantelpiece, dressed for riding and exhaling a cloud of cigarette smoke as she talked.

“But that’s just not possible, Nigel. I’m afraid it simply won’t do.” She was arguing with her ex-husband, but you’d have to know her well to realise it. Mossy never raised her voice.

“What won’t do? Did Nigel propose something scandalous?” I asked hopefully. The men turned as one to look at me, and Mossy’s lips curved into a wide grin.

“Hello, darling. Come and kiss me.” I did as she told me to, swiftly dropping a kiss to one powdered cheek. But not swiftly enough. She nipped me sharply with her fingertips as I edged away. “You’ve been naughty, Delilah. Time to pay the piper, darling.”

I looked around the room, smiling at each of the gentlemen in turn. Nigel, my former stepfather, was a rotund Englishman with a florid complexion and a heart condition, and at the moment he looked about ten minutes past death. Quentin Harkness was there too, I was happy to see, and I stood on tiptoe to kiss him. Like Mossy, I’ve had my share of matrimonial mishaps. Quentin was the second. He was a terrible husband, but he’s a divine ex and an even better solicitor.

“How is Cornelia?” I asked him. “And the twins? Walking yet?”

“Last month actually. And Cornelia is fine, thanks,” he said blandly. I only asked to be polite and he knew it. Cornelia had been engaged to him before our marriage, and she had snapped him back up before the ink was dry on our divorce papers. But the children were sweet, and I was glad he seemed happy. Of course, Quentin was English. It was difficult to tell how he felt about most things.

I leaned closer. “How much trouble am I in?” I whispered. He bent down, his mouth just grazing the edge of my bob.

“Rather a lot.”

I pulled a face at him and took a seat on one of the fragile little sofas scattered about, crossing my legs neatly at the ankle just as my deportment teacher had taught me.

“Really, Miss Drummond, I do not think you comprehend the gravity of the situation at all,” Mossy’s English solicitor began. I struggled to remember his name. Weatherby? Enderby? Endicott?

I smiled widely, showing off Mossy’s rather considerable investment in my orthodontia.

“I assure you I do, Mr.—” I broke off and caught a flicker of a smile on Quentin’s face. Drat him. I carried on as smoothly as I could manage. “That is to say, I am quite sure things will come right in the end. I have every intention of taking your excellent advice.” I had learned that particular soothing tone