Asa Makepeace

The second eldest brother in the Makepeace family, Asa has the shoulders of a bull, the mane of a lion, and his business is a mystery to his family.

Hero of Sweetest Scoundrel.

Also appears in Wicked Intentions, Scandalous Desires, Dearest Rogue, and Duke of Sin.

* * *

Temperance blinked at the sight of Asa—she hadn’t seen him in months. Oh, dear, this was not good. Asa and Concord rarely agreed on anything, and in fact had made pains to speak to each other as little as possible for years. This morning, however, they stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the narrow foundling home hallway, united in their anger toward Caire—and their unhappiness with her. Concord was the taller of the two, his graying brown hair clubbed back and, like all her brothers, unpowdered.

Asa’s hair, in contrast, was a deep golden-brown, the color of a lion, and though he was several inches shorter than Concord his broad shoulders nearly took up the width of the hall. His shirt and coat strained over his chest as if he did some physical labor every day of his life. Yet no one in the family knew exactly how Asa earned his living and he himself was quite vague when asked. Temperance had long had the suspicion that her other brothers feared to press him too closely in case his work was not entirely respectable.

“Lord Caire did not hold me against my will,” she said now.

Concord scowled. “Then what were you doing at his house all night?”

“Lord Caire was ill. I merely stayed to help nurse him.”

“Ill in what way?” Asa asked.

“He had an infection,” she said cautiously. 

Asa’s green eyes sharpened. “An infection of what?”

“A shoulder wound.”

Her brothers exchanged a glance.

“And how was he wounded?” Concord rumbled.

Temperance winced. “He was attacked the other night by footpads. One stabbed him in the shoulder.”

For a moment both of her brothers merely stared at her and then Concord’s eyes narrowed. “You spent the night with an aristocrat who gets himself attacked by footpads.”

“It was hardly his fault,” Temperance protested.

“Nevertheless,” Concord began pedantically.

Fortunately, Asa interrupted him. “She looks half dead, Con. Let’s continue this discussion in the kitchen.”

For a moment Concord glared at his younger brother and Temperance thought he might refuse out of sheer contrariness. Then he pursed his lips. “Very well.”

He turned and stomped off down the hall. Asa gestured for Temperance to precede him. His eyes were unreadable. Temperance inhaled, wishing she could have this confrontation when she’d had more sleep. She stopped short in the doorway, staring at Winter. “Why aren’t you at the school?”

He looked at her, his dark brown eyes shadowed. “I closed the school today after searching all night for you.”

“Oh, Winter, I am so sorry.” Guilt swept away what little vigor she still had. Temperance sank into one of the kitchen chairs. “I couldn’t leave him last night, truly. He had no one to help him.”

Concord snorted not very nicely. “An aristocrat? His home wasn’t crawling with servants to tend him?”

“There were servants, yes, but no one to ca—” she almost said care for him but at the last second Temperance bit back the words. “No one to take charge.”

Asa looked thoughtfully at her, as if he knew the word she’d cut off. 

But Concord merely pulled at his chin—a habit he had when distressed. “Why have you sought the company of this man in the first place?”

“He took me to a musicale last night,” Temperance said. “I wanted to meet someone we could persuade to become a patron for the home. We are in need of funds to continue to keep the home open.”

She glanced at Winter as she ended her explanation and saw him close his eyes. Asa’s mouth had compressed while Concord was frowning thunderously. There was a heavy silence.

Then Concord spoke. “Why haven’t you informed us of your distress?”

“Because we knew you would want to help, brother, even if you could ill-afford to do so.” Winter said quietly.

“And I?” Asa said softly.

Winter looked at him mutely. Though they had debated asking Concord for help, they had never once discussed going to Asa.

–from Wicked Intentions