Home > To Sir Phillip, With Love (Bridgertons #5)(9)

To Sir Phillip, With Love (Bridgertons #5)(9)
Julia Quinn

“No,” Oliver said (with vehement nodding from Amanda), “you said no toads.”

“No amphibians of any kind,” Phillip ground out.

“But what if one of them is dying?” Amanda asked, her pretty blue eyes filling with tears.

“Not even then.”

“But—”

“You may tend to it outside.”

“What if it’s cold and freezing and only needs my care and a warm bed inside the house?”

“Frogs are supposed to be cold and freezing,” Phillip shot back. “It’s why they are amphibians.”

“But what if—”

“No!” he bellowed. “No frogs, toads, crickets, grasshoppers, or animals of any kind in the house!”

Amanda started gulping for air. “But but but—”

Phillip let out a long sigh. He never knew what to say to his children, and now his daughter looked as if she might dissolve into a pool of tears. “For the love of—” He caught himself just in time and softened his voice. “What is it, Amanda?”

She gasped, then sobbed, “What about Bessie?”

Phillip felt around unsuccessfully for a wall to sag against. “Naturally,” he ground out, “I did not intend to include our beloved spaniel in that statement.”

“Well, I wish you’d said so,” Amanda sniffed, looking surprisingly—and suspiciously—recovered. “You made me extremely sad.”

Phillip gritted his teeth. “I am sorry I made you feel sad.”

She nodded at him like a queen.

Phillip groaned. When had the twins gained the upper hand in the conversation? Surely a man of his size and (he’d like to think, anyway) intellect, ought to be able to manage two eight-year-olds.

But no, once again, despite his best intentions, he’d lost all control of the conversation and now he was actually apologizing to them.

Nothing made him feel more like a failure.

“Right, then,” he said, eager to be done. “Run along. I’m very busy.”

They stood there for a moment, just looking up at him with wide, blinking eyes. “All day?” Oliver finally asked.

“All day?” Phillip echoed. What the devil was he talking about?

“Are you going to be busy all day?” Oliver amended.

“Yes,” he said sharply, “I am.”

“What if we went on a nature walk?” Amanda suggested.

“I can’t,” he said, even though part of him wanted to. But the twins were so vexing, and they were sure to force him to lose his temper, and nothing terrified him more.

“We could help you in the greenhouse,” Oliver said.

Destroy it was more like it. “No,” Phillip said. He honestly didn’t think he could answer to his temper if they ruined his work.

“But—”

“I can’t,” he snapped, hating the tone of his voice.

“But—”

“And who is this?” came a voice from behind him.

He turned around. It was Eloise Bridgerton, sticking her nose into what was assuredly not her business, and this after arriving on his doorstep without even so much as a hint of warning.

“I beg your pardon,” he said to her, not bothering to hide the irritation in his voice.

She ignored him and faced the twins. “And who might you be?” she asked.

“Who are you?” Oliver demanded.

Amanda’s eyes narrowed into slits.

Phillip allowed himself his first true grin of the morning and crossed his arms. Yes, let’s see how Miss Bridgerton handled this.

“I am Miss Bridgerton,” she said.

“You’re not our new governess, are you?” Oliver asked, with suspicion bordering on venom.

“Heavens, no,” she replied. “What happened to your last governess?”

Phillip coughed. Loudly.

The twins took the hint. “Er, nothing,” Oliver said.

Miss Bridgerton didn’t look the least bit fooled by the air of innocence the twins were trying to convey, but she wisely did not choose to pursue the subject, and instead just said, “I am your guest.”

The twins pondered that for a moment, and then Amanda said, “We don’t want any guests.”

Followed by Oliver’s, “We don’t need any guests.”

“Children!” Phillip interjected, not really wanting to take Miss Bridgerton’s side after she’d been so meddlesome, but really having no other choice. He couldn’t let his children be so rude.

The twins crossed their arms in unison and gave Miss Bridgerton the cut direct.

“That’s it,” Phillip boomed. “You will apologize to Miss Bridgerton at once.”

They stared at her mutinously.

“Now!” he roared.

“Sorry,” they mumbled, but no one could ever have mistaken them for meaning it.

“Back to your room, the both of you,” Phillip said sharply.

They marched off like a pair of proud soldiers, noses in the air. It would have been quite an impressive sight, if Amanda hadn’t turned around at the bottom of the stairs and stuck out her tongue.

“Amanda!” he bellowed, striding toward her.

She tore up the stairs with the speed of a fox.

Phillip held himself very still for several moments, his hands fisted and shaking at his sides. Just once—once!—he would like his children to behave and mind and not answer a question with a question and be polite to guests and not stick out their tongues, and—

Just once, he’d like to feel that he was a good father, that he knew what he was doing.

And not raise his voice. He hated when he raised his voice, hated the flash of terror he thought he saw in their eyes.

Hated the memories it brought back for him.

“Sir Phillip?”

Miss Bridgerton. Damn, he’d almost forgotten she was there. He turned around. “Yes?” he asked, mortified that she’d witnessed his humiliation. Which of course made him irritated with her.

“Your butler brought the tea tray,” she said, motioning to the drawing room.

He gave her a curt nod. He needed to get outside. Away from his children, away from the woman who’d seen what a terrible father he was to them. It had started to rain, but he didn’t care.

“I hope you enjoy your breakfast,” he said. “I will see you after you have rested.”

And then he made haste out the door, making his way to his greenhouse, where he could be alone with his nonspeaking, nonmisbehaving, nonmeddlesome plants.

Chapter 3

. . . you will see why I could not accept his suit. He was too churlish by half and positively possessed of a foul temper. I should like to marry someone gracious and considerate, who treats me like a queen. Or at the very least, a princess. Surely that is not too much to ask.

—from Eloise Bridgerton to her
dear friend Penelope Featherington,
sent by messenger after Eloise
received her first proposal of marriage

By afternoon, Eloise was almost convinced that she had made a terrible mistake.

And in truth, the sole reason she was only almost convinced was that the only thing she hated more than making mistakes was the admission thereof. So she was trying to maintain a proverbial stiff upper lip and forcing herself to pretend that this ghastly situation might all work itself out in the end.

She had been left stunned—openmouthed, even—when Sir Phillip had departed with barely more than an “Enjoy your food” and then stalked out the door. She had traveled halfway across England, answering his invitation to come and visit, and he left her alone in the drawing room a mere half hour after she arrived?

She hadn’t expected him to fall in love at first sight and drop to his knees, professing his undying devotion, but she’d hoped for a little bit more than a curt “Who are you?” and “Enjoy your food.”

Or maybe she had expected him to fall in love at the first sight of her. She’d built an elaborate dream around her image of this man—an image which she now knew to be untrue. She’d let herself mold him into the perfect man, and it hurt so much to learn that he wasn’t just imperfect, he was quite close to abysmal.

And the worst was—she had only herself to blame. Sir Phillip had never misrepresented himself in his letters (although she did think he ought to have mentioned that he was a father, especially before he’d proposed marriage).

Her dreams had been just that—dreams. Wishful illusions, all of her own making. If he wasn’t what she’d expected, that was her fault. She’d been expecting something that didn’t even exist.

And she should have known better.

What’s more, he didn’t seem to be a very good father, which was as black a mark as anyone could get in her book.

No, she wasn’t being fair. She shouldn’t judge him so quickly on that score. The children didn’t look ill-treated or malnourished or anything so dire, but Sir Phillip clearly had no idea how to manage them. He had handled them all wrong this morning, and it was clear from the way they behaved that his relationship with them was distant at best.

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