“You’re not coming?” Frances demanded. She gave Anne the sort of look normaly reserved for those found guilty of high treason.

“I wouldn’t want to get in your way,” Anne demurred.

“Oh, but you would not be in the way, Miss Wynter,” said Lord Winstead. “The path is very wide.”

“Nevertheless.”

“Nevertheless?” he echoed.

She gave a crisp nod.

“Hardly a rebuttal worthy of London’s finest governess.”

“A lovely compliment to be sure,” she voleyed, “but unlikely to spur me to battle.”

He stepped toward her, murmuring, “Coward.”

“Hardly,” she returned, managing to respond without even moving her lips. And then, with a bright smile: “Come along, girls, let’s get started. I shal remain here for a moment to help you begin.”

“I don’t need help,” Frances grumbled. “I just need to not have to do it.”

Anne just smiled. She knew that Frances would be boasting of her steps and calculations later that evening.

“You, too, Lord Winstead.” Anne gazed at him with her most benign expression. The girls were already moving forward, unfortunately at differing speeds, which meant that a cacophony of numbers filed the air.

“Oh, but I can’t,” he said. One of his hands fluttered up to rest over his heart.

“Why can’t you?” Harriet asked, at the same moment that Anne said, “Of course you can.”

“I feel dizzy,” he said, and it was such an obvious clanker that Anne could not help but roll her eyes. “It’s true,” he insisted. “I have the . . . oh, what was it that befel poor Sarah . . . the vertigo.”

“It was a stomach ailment,” corrected Harriet, and she took a discreet step back.

“You didn’t seem dizzy before,” Frances said.

“Wel, that was because I wasn’t closing my eye.”

That silenced all of them.

And then finaly: “I beg your pardon?” From Anne, who realy did want to know what closing his eye had to do with anything.

“I always close my eye when I count,” he told her. With a completely straight face.

“You always— Wait a moment,” Anne said suspiciously. “You close one of your eyes when you count?”

“Wel, I could hardly close both.”

“Why not?” Frances asked.

“I wouldn’t be able to see,” he said, as if the answer were plain as day.

“I wouldn’t be able to see,” he said, as if the answer were plain as day.

“You don’t need to be able to see to count,” Frances replied.

“I do.”

He was lying. Anne could not believe the girls weren’t howling in protest. But they weren’t. In fact, Elizabeth looked utterly fascinated. “Which eye?” she asked.

He cleared his throat, and Anne was fairly certain she saw him wink each of his eyes, as if to remember which was the injured party. “The right one,” he finaly decided.

“Of course,” Harriet said.

Anne looked at her. “What?”

“Wel, he’s right-handed, isn’t he?” Harriet looked to her cousin. “Aren’t you?”

“I am,” he confirmed.

Anne looked from Lord Winstead to Harriet and back again. “And this is relevant because . . . ?” Lord Winstead gave her a tiny shrug, saved from having to answer by Harriet, who said, “It just is.”

“I’m sure I could take on the chalenge next week,” Lord Winstead said, “once my eye has healed. I don’t know why it did not occur to me that I would lose my sense of balance with only the swolen eye to look through.”

Anne’s eyes—both of them—narrowed. “I thought one’s balance was affected by one’s hearing.” Frances gasped. “Don’t tell me he’s going deaf?”

“He’s not going deaf,” Anne retorted. “Although I might, if you yell like that again. Now, get going, the three of you, and carry on with your work. I’m going to sit down.”

“As am I,” Lord Winstead said jauntily. “But I shal be with you three in spirit.”

The girls went back to their counting, and Anne strode over to the bench. Lord Winstead was right behind her, and as they sat she said, “I can’t believe they believed that nonsense about your eye.”

“Oh, they didn’t believe it,” he said nonchalantly. “I told them earlier I’d give them a pound each if they endeavored to give us a few moments alone.”

“What?” Anne screeched.

He doubled over laughing. “Of course I didn’t. Good heavens, do you think me a complete dunce? No, don’t answer that.” She shook her head, annoyed with herself for having been such an easy mark. still, she couldn’t be angry; his laughter was far too good-natured.

“I’m surprised no one has come over to greet you,” she said. The park was not any more crowded than usual for this time of day, but they were hardly the only people out for a stroll. Anne knew that Lord Winstead had been an extremely popular gentleman when he’d lived in London; it was hard to believe that no one had noticed his presence in Hyde Park.

“I don’t think it was common knowledge that I planned to return,” he said. “People see what they expect to see, and no one in the park expects to see me.” He gave her a rueful half grin and glanced up and to the left, as if motioning to his swolen eye. “Especialy not in this condition.”

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