And Lord Winstead was quite possibly the most impossible dream of al. If she alowed herself to want him, it would destroy her.
But oh, how she wanted to want him.
“Miss Wynter?” His voice filtered over her like a warm breeze.
“That is—” She cleared her throat, trying to find her voice, the one that actualy sounded like herself. “That is very kind of you to adjust your schedule for your aunt.”
“I did not do it for my aunt,” he said softly. “But I expect you know that.”
“Why?” she asked softly. She knew she would not have to explain the query; he would know what she meant.
Not why did he do it. Why her?
But he didn’t answer. At least not right away. And then, finaly, just when she thought she might have to look up and into his face, he said, “I don’t know.” She did look then. His answer had been so frank and unexpected that she couldn’t not look. She turned her face to his, and when she did, she was gripped by the strangest, most intense longing to simply reach out and touch her hand to his. To somehow connect.
But she didn’t. She couldn’t. And she knew that, even if he did not.
The folowing evening, Anne stepped down from the Pleinsworths’ traveling coach and looked up, taking in her first glance at Whipple Hil. It was a lovely house, solid and stately, situated amidst gently roling hils that sloped down to a large, tree-lined pond. There was something very homey about it, Anne thought, which struck her as interesting since it was the ancestral estate of the Earls of Winstead. Not that she was terribly familiar with the great homes of the aristocracy, but those that she had seen had always been terribly ornate and imperious.
The sun had already set, but the orange glow of twilight still hung in the air, lending just a touch of warmth to the rapidly approaching night. Anne was eager to find her room and perhaps have a bowl of hot soup for supper, but the night before their departure Nanny Flanders had come down with a stomach ailment. With Nanny remaining behind in London, Anne had been pressed into double duty, serving as nurse and governess, which meant that she would be required to get the girls settled into their room before she could tend to any of her own needs. Lady Pleinsworth had promised her an extra afternoon off while they were in the country, but she had not been specific as to when, and Anne feared that it would slip her mind completely.
“Come along, girls,” she said briskly. Harriet had run ahead to one of the other carriages—the one with Sarah and Lady Pleinsworth—and Elizabeth had run back to the other. Although what she was talking about with the ladies’ maids, Anne could not begin to guess.
“I’m right here,” Frances said gamely.
“So you are,” Anne replied. “Gold star for you.”
“It’s realy too bad that you don’t have actual gold stars. I shouldn’t have to pinch up my pin money each week.”
“If I had actual gold stars,” Anne replied with a quirk of her brow, “I shouldn’t have to be your governess.”
“Touché,” Frances said admiringly.
Anne gave her a wink. There was something rather satisfying about earning the regard of a ten-year-old. “Where are your sisters?” she muttered, then caled,
Harriet came bounding back. “Mama says I may eat with the adults while we are here.”
“Ooooh, Elizabeth is not going to be happy about that,” Frances predicted.
“Not happy about what?” Elizabeth asked. “And you would not believe what Peggy just told me.” Peggy was Sarah’s maid. Anne quite liked her, although she was a terrible gossip.
“What did she say?” Frances asked. “And Harriet will be eating with the adults while we’re here.” Elizabeth gasped in righteous outrage. “That is patently unfair. And Peggy said that Sarah said that Daniel said that Miss Wynter is to eat with the family as wel.”
“That won’t happen,” Anne said firmly. It would be highly out of the ordinary—a governess generaly only joined the family when she was needed to bolster the numbers—but beyond that, she had work to do. She popped her hand lightly on Frances’s head. “I shal be eating with you.” The unexpected blessing of Nanny Flanders having taken sick. Anne could not imagine what Lord Winstead had been thinking, requesting that she join the family for supper. If ever there was a move designed to put her in an awkward position, that was it. The lord of the manor asking to dine with the governess? He might as well just come out and say he was trying to get her into his bed.
Which she had a feeling he was. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d had to fend off unwanted advances from her employers.
But it would be the first time a part of her had wanted to give in.
“Good evening!” It was Lord Winstead, come out onto the portico to greet them.
“Daniel!” Frances shrieked. She did a 180 degree turn, kicking up dust all over her sisters, and ran toward him, practicaly knocking him down as she launched herself into his arms.
“Frances!” Lady Pleinsworth scolded. “You are far too old to be jumping on your cousin.”
“I don’t mind,” Lord Winstead said with a laugh. He tousled Frances’s hair, which earned him a wide grin.
Frances twisted her head backwards to ask her mother, “If I’m too old to jump on Daniel, does that mean I’m old enough to eat with the adults?”
“Not even close to it,” Lady Pleinsworth replied pertly.