“Nonsense,” Harriet cut in. “Miss Wynter was heroic from the start. And she did a very good job. She missed one of her entrances, but other than that, she was superb.”

Superb? Daniel alowed himself a mental sigh. There were many adjectives to describe Miss Wynter’s piano skils, but superb was not one of them. And if Harriet thought so . . .

Wel, she was going to fit right in when it came time for her to play in the quartet.

“I wonder what she’s doing in the mews?” Harriet said as they stepped out behind the house. “Go fetch her, Frances.” Frances let out an indignant puff of air. “Why do I have to?”

“Because you do.”

Daniel released Frances’s arm. He wasn’t going to argue with Harriet; he wasn’t sure he could speak quickly enough to win. “I will wait right here, Frances,” he told her.

Frances stomped off, only to return a minute later. Alone.

Daniel frowned. This would not do.

“She said she would be with us in a moment,” Frances informed them.

“Did you tell her that Cousin Daniel is going to join us?” Harriet asked.

“No, I forgot.” She shrugged. “She won’t mind.”

Daniel was not so sure about that. He was fairly certain that Miss Wynter had known he was in the drawing room (hence her rapid flight to the mews), but he did not think she realized that he intended to accompany them to the park.

It was going to be a lovely outing. Joly, even.

“What do you suppose is taking her so long?” Elizabeth asked.

“She’s only been a minute,” Harriet replied.

“Wel, now, that’s not true. She was in there at least five minutes before we arrived.”

“Ten,” Frances put in.

“Ten?” Daniel echoed. They were making him dizzy.

“Minutes,” Frances explained.

“It wasn’t ten.”

He wasn’t sure who’d spoken that time.

“Wel, it wasn’t five.”

Or that time.

“We can settle for eight, but I think it’s inaccurate.”

“Why do you talk so quickly?” Daniel had to ask.

They paused, all three of them, and regarded him with similarly owlish expressions.

“We’re not talking quickly,” Elizabeth said.

Added Harriet: “We always talk this way.”

And then finaly Frances informed him, “Everyone else understands us.”

It was remarkable, Daniel thought, how three young girls could reduce him to speechlessness.

“I wonder what’s taking Miss Wynter so long,” Harriet mused.

“I wonder what’s taking Miss Wynter so long,” Harriet mused.

“I’ll get her this time,” Elizabeth declared, shooting a look at Frances that said she found her to be ineffectual in the extreme.

Frances just shrugged.

But just as Elizabeth reached the entrance to the mews, out stepped the lady in question, looking very much like a governess in her practical dove gray day dress and matching bonnet. She was puling on her gloves, frowning at what Daniel could only imagine was a hole in the seam.

“This must be Miss Wynter,” he said loudly, before she saw him.

She looked up but quickly masked her alarm.

“I have heard such splendid things about you,” he said in a grand voice, stepping forward to offer her his arm. When she took it—reluctantly, he was sure—he leaned down and murmured, so that only she could hear, “Surprised?”

Chapter Four

She wasn’t surprised.

Why would she be surprised? He had told her he would be here, even when she had said she would not be at home when he caled. He had told her he would be there again, even when she’d told him again that she wouldn’t be at home.

Again.

He was the Earl of Winstead. Men of his position did as they pleased. When it came to women, she thought irritably, men below his position did as they pleased.

He was not a malicious man, nor even truly selfish. Anne liked to think she had become a good judge of character over the years, certainly better than she’d been at sixteen. Lord Winstead was not going to seduce anyone who didn’t know what she was doing, and he wasn’t going to ruin or threaten or blackmail or any of those things, at least not on purpose.

If she found her life upended by this man it would not be because he’d meant to do it. It would simply happen because he fancied her and he wanted her to fancy him. And it would never occur to him that he should not alow himself to pursue her.

He was alowed to do anything else. Why not that?

“You should not have come,” she said quietly as they walked to the park, the three Pleinsworth daughters several yards ahead of them.

“I wished to see my cousins,” he replied, all innocence.

She glanced at him sideways. “Then why are you lagging behind with me?”

“Look at them,” he said, motioning with his hand. “Would you have me shove one of them into the street?” It was true. Harriet, Elizabeth, and Frances were walking three across along the pavement, oldest to youngest, the way their mother liked for them to promenade.

Anne could not believe they had chosen this day to finaly folow directions.

“How is your eye?” she asked. It looked worse in the harsh light of day, almost as if the bruise was melting across the bridge of his nose. But at least now she knew what color his eyes were—light, bright blue. It was almost absurd how much she had wondered about that.

“It’s not so bad as long as I don’t touch it,” he told her. “If you would endeavor not to throw stones at my face, I would be much obliged.”

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