Grandmama jumped again into the fray. “I suppose,” she said to Gabriel, “you wish to stay at the Swan.”
“As it’s the only other establishment in Wells where I’d even consider stabling the horses, yes.”
“The sheets are always damp.”
“And how would you know that? You’ve just said you exclusively patronize the Royal Hart.”
“It is the common report,” answered Grandmama coldly.
“Fine! You stay at the Royal Hart, and I’ll stay at the Swan.”
“Don’t be absurd.”
“It’s not absurd. It seems to me an eminently practical plan.”
“Need I remind you that we travel under your protection?” Grandmama smiled triumphantly, and it was to be seen that she had clinched the argument, for Gabriel glared but added:
“Don’t blame me when we all emerge from the Hart infested with fleas.”
“We shan’t,” she answered, with maddening serenity. “I won’t allow it. Dear me, you’re quite peevish today! Go and ride your horse until your temper cools. That’s what Richard always did. Not that he was ever as snappish as you are.”
“It grieves me to inform you that it’s raining today. Again.”
“Have you no other occupation? Surely you have something better to do than badger a helpless old woman.”
He visibly ground his teeth, his eyes flashing even more magnificently. “Yes,” he said with heavy sarcasm, “extremely helpless.”
There was, Livia mused, something vivifying about a good brangle. Grandmama had a nice healthy flush of color in her cheeks. And Gabriel looked so handsome that she wished she could go over and take hold of him in a brazen way and kiss him for a good long time.
This snippet appears in Chapter 12, but if you like, you can read all of Chapter 1 here.