It would be two hours before Anne finaly let herself into her own room, changed into her nightgown, and crawled into bed. And it would be two hours more before she could even try to fall asleep. All she could do was stare at the ceiling, and think, and wonder, and whisper.
“Annelise Sophronia Shawcross,” she finaly said to herself, “what have you got yourself into?” Chapter Three
The folowing afternoon, despite the dowager Countess of Winstead’s insistence that she did not wish to let her newly returned son out of her sight, Daniel made his way over to Pleinsworth House. He did not tell his mother where he was going; she would surely have insisted upon accompanying him. Instead, he told her that he had legal matters to attend to, which was true. A gentleman could not return from a three-year trip abroad without having to visit at least one solicitor. But it just so happened that the law office of Streatham and Ponce was only two miles in the opposite direction of Pleinsworth House. A mere trifle, realy, and who could say that he wouldn’t suddenly take it upon himself to visit his young cousins? It was an idea that could come to a man as easily in a carriage riding through the city as anywhere else.
The Pleinsworths’ back entrance, for example.
Or the entire time he’d walked himself home.
Or in bed. He’d lain awake half the night thinking of the mysterious Miss Wynter—the curve of her cheek, the scent of her skin. He was bewitched, he freely admitted it, and he told himself that it was because he was so happy to be home. It made perfect sense that he’d find himself enchanted by such a lovely example of English womanhood.
And so after a grueling two-hour appointment with Messrs. Streatham, Ponce, and Beaufort-Graves (who apparently hadn’t quite managed to get his name on the door yet), Daniel directed his driver to Pleinsworth House. He did want to see his cousins.
He just wanted to see their governess more.
His aunt was not at home, but his cousin Sarah was, and she greeted him with a delighted cry and a warm hug. “Why didn’t anyone tell me you’d returned?” she demanded. She drew back, blinking as she got a good look at his face. “And what happened to you?” He opened his mouth to reply, but she cut in with “And don’t tell me you were attacked by footpads, because I heard all about Marcus’s blackened eyes last night.”
“He looks worse than I do,” Daniel confirmed. “And as for why your family did not tell you I was back, they did not know. I did not want my arrival to interrupt the concert.”
“Very thoughtful of you,” she said wryly.
He looked down at her with affection. She was the same age as his sister, and growing up, it had often seemed that she’d spent as much time in his household as in her own. “Indeed,” he murmured. “I watched from the rehearsal room. Imagine my surprise to see a stranger at the piano.” She put a hand to her heart. “I was il.”
“I am relieved to see that you’ve made a speedy recovery from death’s door.”
“I could barely remain upright yesterday,” she insisted.
“Oh, indeed. The vertigo, you know.” She flicked her hand in the air, as if waving away her words. “It’s a terrible burden.”
“I’m sure people who suffer from it think so.”
Her lips pressed together for a moment, then she said, “But enough of me. I assume you heard Honoria’s splendid news?” He folowed her into the drawing room and took a seat. “That she is soon to be Lady Chatteris? Indeed.”
“Wel, I am happy for her, even if you are not,” Sarah said with a sniff. “And don’t say that you are, because your injuries say otherwise.”
“I’m overjoyed for them both,” he said firmly. “This”—his hand twirled before his face—“was merely a misunderstanding.” She gave him a dubious look, but all she said was, “Tea?”
“I would be delighted.” He stood as she rose to ring for it. “Tell me, are your sisters at home?”
“Up in the schoolroom. Do you wish to see them?”
“Of course,” he said immediately. “They will have grown so much in my absence.”
“They’ll be down soon,” Sarah said, returning to the sofa. “Harriet has spies all over the house. Someone will alert them to your arrival, I’m sure.”
“Tell me,” he said, sitting back into a casual position, “who was that at the piano last night?” She looked at him curiously.
“In your stead,” he added unnecessarily. “Because you were il.”
“That was Miss Wynter,” she replied. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. “She is my sisters’ governess.”
“How fortuitous that she could play.”
“A happy accident indeed,” Sarah said. “I had feared the concert would be canceled.”
“Your cousins would have been so disappointed,” he murmured. “But this . . . what was her name again? Miss Wynter?”
“She knew the piece?”
Sarah leveled a frank stare in his direction. “Apparently so.”
He nodded. “I should think the family owes the talented Miss Wynter a rousing round of thanks.”
“She has certainly earned my mother’s gratitude.”
“Has she been your sisters’ governess for long?”
“About a year. Why do you ask?”
“No reason. Just curiosity.”
“Funny,” she said slowly, “you’ve never been curious about my sisters before.”