“This has been a perfect day,” Anne said quietly.

“Almost,” Daniel whispered, and then she was in his arms again. He kissed her, but it was different this time. Less urgent. Less fiery. The touch of their lips was achingly soft, and maybe it didn’t make her feel crazed, like she wanted to press herself against him and take him within her. Maybe instead he made her feel weightless, as if she could take his hand and float away, just so long as he never stopped kissing her. Her entire body tingled, and she stood on her tiptoes, almost waiting for the moment she left the ground.

And then he broke the kiss, puling back just far enough to rest his forehead against hers. “There,” he said, cradling her face in his hands. “Now it’s a perfect day.” Chapter Twelve

Almost precisely one day later, Daniel was sitting in Whipple Hil’s wood-paneled library, wondering how it had come to pass that this day was so utterly less perfect than the one before.

After he had kissed Miss Wynter down by the lake, they had hiked back up to the clearing where poor Lord Finstead had been courting his beautiful but dim-witted princess, arriving only moments before Harriet, Elizabeth, and Frances did, accompanied by two footmen with picnic hampers. After a hearty meal, they had read from The Strange, Sad Tragedy of Lord Finstead for several more hours, until Daniel had begged for mercy, claiming that his sides hurt from so much laughter.

Even Harriet, who kept trying to remind them that her masterwork was not a comedy, took no offense.

Even Harriet, who kept trying to remind them that her masterwork was not a comedy, took no offense.

Back to the house they’d gone, only to discover that Daniel’s mother and sister had arrived. And while everyone was greeting everyone else as if they had not seen each other just two days earlier, Miss Wynter slipped away and retired to her room.

He had not seen her since.

Not at supper, which she’d been required to take in the nursery with Elizabeth and Frances, and not at breakfast, which . . . Wel, he didn’t know why she hadn’t come down to breakfast. All he knew was that it was well past noon and he was still uncomfortably full from having lingered at the table for two hours, hoping for a glimpse of her.

He’d been on his second complete breakfast by the time Sarah had seen fit to inform him that Lady Pleinsworth had given Miss Wynter much of the day off. It was a bonus, apparently, for all the extra work she had been performing. First the musicale, and now her double duty as governess and nanny. Miss Wynter had mentioned that she wanted to go to the vilage, Sarah had told him, and with the sun once again peeking through the clouds, it seemed an ideal day for her outing.

And so Daniel had set out to do all those things the lord of a manor was supposed to do when he wasn’t wildly infatuated with the governess. He met with the butler. He looked over the account books from the last three years, belatedly remembering that he did not particularly like adding sums, and he’d never been good at it, anyway.

There ought to have been a thousand things to do, and he was sure there were, but every time he sat down to complete a task, his mind wandered to her. Her smile. Her mouth when it was laughing, her eyes when they were sad.

Anne.

He liked her name. It suited her, simple and direct. Loyal to the bone. Those who did not know her well might think that her beauty required something more dramatic—perhaps Esmerelda, or Melissande.

But he knew her. He did not know her past, and he did not know her secrets, but he knew her. And she was an Anne through and through.

An Anne who was currently someplace he was not.

Good heavens, this was ridiculous. He was a grown man, and here he was moping about his (albeit large) house, all because he missed the company of the governess. He could not sit still, he could not even seem to sit straight. He even had to change chairs in the south salon because he was facing a mirror, and when he spied his reflection, he looked so hangdog and pathetic he could not tolerate it.

Finaly he went off to find someone who might be up for a game of cards. Honoria liked to play; Sarah, too. And if misery did not love company, at least it could be distracted by it. But when he arrived in the blue drawing room, all of his female relations (even the children), were huddled around a table, deep in discussions about Honoria’s upcoming wedding.

Daniel began his very quiet retreat to the door.

“Oh, Daniel,” his mother exclaimed, catching him before he could make his escape, “do come join us. We’re trying to decide if Honoria should be married in lavender-blue or blue-lavender.”

He opened his mouth to ask the difference, then decided against it. “Blue-lavender,” he said firmly, not having a clue as to what he was talking about.

“Do you think so?” his mother responded, frowning. “I realy think lavender-blue would be better.” The obvious question would have been why she’d asked his opinion in the first place, but once again, he decided that the wise man did not make such queries.

Instead he gave the ladies a polite bow and informed them that he was going to go off and catalogue the recent additions to the library.

“The library?” Honoria asked. “Realy?”

“I like to read,” he said.

“So do I, but what has that to do with cataloguing?”

He leaned down and murmured in her ear, “Is this where I am supposed to say aloud that I am trying to escape a gaggle of women?” She smiled, waited until he straightened, and replied, “I believe this is where you say that it has been far too long since you have read a book in English.”

“Indeed.” And off he went.

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