“You noticed,” he murmured, giving her a practiced smile.
“It’s not a compliment,” she told him, trying not to think about what it might mean that his face had become so familiar to her that she noticed a new splotch amidst the aftermath of his fight with Lord Chatteris. It was ridiculous, realy. He looked ridiculous.
“Nonetheless, I can’t help but be flattered that you noticed the latest addition to my colection,” he said.
She roled her eyes. “Because personal injuries are such a dignified thing to colect.”
“Are all governesses so sarcastic?”
From anyone else she would have taken it as a setdown, a reminder to remember her place. But that wasn’t what he was about. And he was smiling as he said it.
She gave him a pointed look. “You’re avoiding the question.”
She thought he might have looked a little embarrassed. It was difficult to say; any blush that might have touched his cheeks was obscured by the current topic of conversation, namely, the bruises.
He shrugged. “Two ruffians attempted to make off with my purse last night.”
“Oh, no!” she cried, completely surprising herself with the strength of her reaction. “What happened? Are you all right?”
“It was not as bad as it could have been,” he demurred. “Marcus did more damage the night of the musicale.”
“But common criminals! You could have been kiled.”
He leaned toward her. Just a little. “Would you have missed me?”
She felt her cheeks grow warm, and it took her a few moments to muster an appropriately stern expression. “You would have been missed by many people,” she said firmly.
“Where were you walking?” she asked. Details, she reminded herself. Details were important. Details were crisp and dry and had nothing to do with emotions or missing anyone or worrying or caring or any sort of –ing except knowing the facts. “Was it in Mayfair? I would not have thought it so dangerous.”
“It was not Mayfair,” he told her. “But not far from it. I was walking home from Chatteris House. It was late. I was not paying attention.” Anne did not know where the Earl of Chatteris lived, but it could not have been too far from Winstead House. All of the noble families lived in relative proximity to one another. And even if Lord Chatteris lived on the edge of the fashionable areas, Lord Winstead would hardly have needed to walk through slums to get home.
“I did not realize the city had grown so dangerous,” she said. She swalowed, wondering if the attack upon Lord Winstead could have had anything to do with her spying George Chervil on Piccadily. No, how could it? She and Lord Winstead had been seen in public together only once—the previous day at Hyde Park—and it would have been clear to any onlooker that she’d been there as governess to his young cousins.
“I suppose I should thank you for insisting upon seeing me home the other night,” she said.
He turned, and the intensity in his eyes took her breath away. “I would not alow you to walk two steps alone at night, much less a half mile.” Her lips parted, and she thought that she must have meant to speak, but all she could do was stare. Her eyes locked onto his, and it was remarkable, because she didn’t notice the color of them, that amazingly bright light blue. She saw beyond that, to the depths of . . . something. Or maybe it wasn’t that at al. Maybe it was she who had been exposed. Maybe he saw all of her secrets, her fears.
She breathed then—finaly—and yanked her gaze away from his. What was that? Or more to the point, who was she? Because she did not know the woman who had stared at him as if gazing into her own future. She was not fanciful. She did not believe in fate. And she had never believed that eyes were the windows to the soul. Not after the way George Chervil had once looked at her.
She swalowed, taking a moment to regain her equilibrium. “You say that as if the sentiment is particular to me,” she said, pleased with the relative normalcy of her voice, “but I know that you would insist upon doing the same for any lady.”
He gave her a smile so flirtatious she had to wonder if she had imagined the intensity in his eyes just a few moments before. “Most ladies would pretend to be flattered.”
“I think this is where I am meant to say that I am not most ladies,” she said dryly.
“It certainly would flow wel, were we on the stage.”
“I shal have to inform Harriet,” Anne said with a laugh. “She fancies herself a playwright.”
“Does she now?”
Anne nodded. “I believe she has begun a new opus. It sounds terribly depressing. Something about Henry VIII.” He winced. “That is grim.”
“She is trying to convince me to take the role of Anne Boleyn.”
He smothered a laugh. “There is no way my aunt is paying you enough.”
Anne declined to comment on that, instead saying, “I do thank you for your concern the other night. But as for being flattered, I am far more impressed by a gentleman who values the safety and security of all women.”
He took a moment to reflect on that, then nodded, his head jerking a little to the side as he did so. He was uncomfortable, Anne realized with surprise. He was not used to being complimented for such things.
She smiled to herself. There was something rather endearing about watching him shift in his seat. She supposed he was used to being praised for his charm or his good looks.
But for his good behavior? She had a feeling it was long overdue.
“Does it hurt?” she asked.