Sir Marcus helped himself to a glass of ratafia while he waited for her composure to return. He sipped the golden liquid, flinching a little at its apricot sweetness, but reasoned that any alcohol was better than none. He studied his hostess with his hooded, pale-green cat’s eyes. In his early forties, he was tall and long-limbed with a careless elegance. Born of an excellent family and with substantial money behind him, Sir Marcus had unfortunately indulged himself too often and too deeply. Lines of dissipation and a sallow complexion gave him a bored, sardonic look, which marred an otherwise handsome face. Despite his wealth, an intelligent brain and an acerbic wit, it was his notorious reputation, his rampant appetite for novel carnal entertainments and sexual delights, as well as his low-class chosen associates that labelled him as de trop. No self-respecting Mama would allow her innocent young daughter near him. He was excluded from fashionable salons.
Sir Marcus cared not a jot for conventional social gatherings where hawk-like chaperones cast vigilant eyes over the innocent young debutantes. He frequented establishments that catered to his debauched sexual proclivities with no questions asked, providing he could pay for them. He could, and did. He was also a seasoned gambler who had beggared many an eager young stripling in the respectable gentlemen’s clubs. Most nights, he drank himself well into his cups and then staggered back home to be undressed and put to bed by his long-suffering valet.
In short, Sir Marcus was not considered a very nice man, but then, he had never pretended to be.
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