Epee took a deep gulp of wine, eyes never leaving the spectacle on the far side of the ballroom.
He caught Dagger’s eyes briefly, and saw he was just as bewildered.
His eyes went back to Sabre – who was currently bickering loudly and colorfully with the Duke of Lashton, as though they were well acquainted.
Well acquainted lovers, at that, unless he was seriously mistaken in what those two rather thorough kisses meant.
What in the bloody hell?
This combined with what Sharp had told him of the debacle at the club the other day…he was starting to wonder what had happened to his brother.
“I wasn’t aware Sabre had a twin,” Sharp murmured in his ear.
Epee shook his head. “Me neither,” he muttered. “The Sabre I know would never act so in public. The Duke just kissed him! I’m not that audacious.”
“A pity,” Sharp said, smirking.
“You be quiet,” Epee said, shaking his head in amusement. He turned to smile at Sharp, but the sound of laughter from the crowd around Sabre and the Duke drew his attention, and he was astonished to see the Duke arm in arm with Sabre, telling something to the King and Queen while waving his free hand wildly about – and everyone laughing, and Sabre only standing there glaring at the Duke, and not at all bothered by the fact the man was clinging to him.
He shook his head and finished his wine. “I do not understand it.”
When the group finally broke up a few minutes later, with the Duke dragging Sabre off to the buffet table, he made a beeline for Dagger and Katan.
“What in the world has happened to my brother?” he demanded. “Am I seeing things?”
“Not unless we’re all as delusional as you,” Katan said, looking amused. “He called your brother ‘rose’ three times, and all Sabre did was sputter and get red in the face. I have never seen the like. Whip asked me to send a note that would ensure Sabre attended the ball. I should have pressed him harder to tell me why. Does your brother have a twin we never know about?”
Epee snorted at the recurring theory. “If I were still on speaking terms with my father, I would ask. As it stands, I cannot imagine what else it might be.”
“The Duke?” Dagger proposed in his quiet, direct way. “I do not know how they met, but they seem well-acquainted. His grace seems to handle Sabre with the same skill a duelist handles a sword.”
“They must be recently met,” Epee said. “Only a week or so ago, there was nothing different about him. This is the first I’ve seen him in forever.”
“He definitely wasn’t like this at the club,” Sharp said. “When I saw him, he looked like a man licking his wounds. Then he got into it with your father, and I do not believe he’s been in town since.”
Epee shrugged. “I guess we could go ask?” He turned to look toward the buffet table, and saw Sabre was no longer there. Scanning the ballroom, he quickly found him standing with the Duke by one of the open archways leading to the balcony.
He watched, unable to look away, as the Duke pulled a red rose from one of the many wreaths hanging around the ballroom and twirled it playfully before brushing it across Sabre’s face – and his jaw dropped when Sabre’s face went red, but his only motion was to grab the rose and throw it aside, before resuming eating from the little plate in his other hand.
The Duke smirked, obviously having made some point or won some small battle, and simply continued to talk while Sabre ate.
“You are positive he doesn’t have a twin?” Katan asked. “That is not Sabre.”
Epee motioned helplessly. “Damned if I know.”
“It’s the Duke,” Dagger said again. “I would say that much is obvious.”
“He’s being…not Sabre because he’s got a lover with no sense of decorum?”
Dagger quirked a brow at him, obviously amused. “I don’t think it’s a lover, so much as Sabre is in love.”
Epee opened his mouth to say something flippant about monsters and ogres not being capable of love, but his eyes fell once again on Sabre, far away on the other side of the room, tucked into that archway with the odd Duke.
Sabre was smiling. Only a little bit, but it was there. A real smile, not one of his nasty smirks or sneers or mocking grins.
His brother looked happy. Sabre never looked happy.
“I think you’re right,” Epee said in disbelief.
Dagger snorted. “So did he really tell your father to go to hell? He is not wearing the family sword, I notice.”
“He told Rapier a lot more than that,” Sharp replied, and launched into his retelling of the fight in the club for Dagger and Katan, and all those who tried to pretend they did not slink closer to hear it.