Granby’s arms remained stiffly at his sides. “It is hardly a matter of changing my mind.”
“If that’s what you say.” The man placed the card back in his breast pocket, waited for one more moment, then left the house.
Anne placed her hand over her heart and tried to take deep, silent breaths. If she’d had any doubts that the attack at Whipple Hill had been the work of George Chervil, they were gone now. And if he was wiling to risk the life of the Earl of Winstead to carry out his revenge, he wouldn’t think twice about harming one of the young Pleinsworth daughters.
Anne had ruined her own life when she’d let him seduce her at sixteen, but she would be damned before she alowed him to destroy anyone else. She was going to have to disappear. Immediately. George knew where she was, and he knew who she was.
But she could not leave the sitting room until Granby exited the hal, and he was just standing there, frozen in position with his hand on the doorknob. Then he turned, and when he did . . . Anne should have remembered that he missed nothing. If it had been Daniel at the door, he would not have noticed that the sitting room door was slightly ajar, but Granby? It was like waving a red flag in front of a bul. The door should be open, or it should be shut. But it was never left ajar, with a strip of air one inch wide.
And of course he saw her.
Anne did not pretend to hide. She owed him that much, after what he had just done for her. She opened the door and stepped out into the hal.
Their eyes met, and she waited, breath held, but he only nodded and said, “Miss Wynter.” She nodded in return, then dipped into a small curtsy of respect. “Mr. Granby.”
“It is a fine day, is it not?”
She swalowed. “Very fine.”
“Your afternoon off, I believe?”
He nodded once more, then said, as if nothing out of the ordinary had just occurred, “Carry on.” Carry on.
Wasn’t that what she always did? For three years on the Isle of Man, never seeing another person her own age except for Mrs. Summerlin’s nephew, who thought it good sport to chase her around the dining table. Then for nine months near Birmingham, only to be dismissed without a reference when Mrs. Barraclough caught Mr. Barraclough pounding on her door. Then three years in Shropshire, which hadn’t been too bad. Her employer was a widow, and her sons had more often than not been off at university. But then the daughters had had the effrontery to grow up, and Anne had been informed that her services were no longer needed.
But she’d carried on. She’d obtained a second letter of reference, which was what she’d needed to gain a position in the Pleinsworth household. And now that she’d be leaving, she’d carry on again.
Although where she’d carry herself to, she had no idea.
The folowing day, Daniel arrived at Pleinsworth House at precisely five minutes before eleven. He had prepared in his mind a list of questions he must ask of Anne, but when the butler admitted him to the house, he was met with considerable uproar. Harriet and Elizabeth were yeling at each other at the end of the hal, their mother was yeling at both of them, and on a backless bench near the sitting room door, three maids sat sobbing.
“What is going on?” he asked Sarah, who was attempting to usher a visibly distraught Frances into the sitting room.
Sarah gave him an impatient glance. “It is Miss Wynter. She has disappeared.”
Daniel’s heart stopped. “What? When? What happened?”
“I don’t know,” Sarah snapped. “I’m hardly privy to her intentions.” She gave him an irritated glance before turning back to Frances, who was crying so hard she could barely breathe.
“She was gone before lessons this morning,” Frances sobbed.
Daniel looked down at his young cousin. Frances’s eyes were red-rimmed and bloodshot, her cheeks were streaked with tears, and her little body was shaking uncontrolably. She looked, he realized, like he felt. Forcing down his terror, he crouched next to her so that he could look her in the eye. “What time do you begin lessons?” he asked.
Frances gasped for air, then got out, “Half nine.”
Daniel spun furiously back to Sarah. “She has been gone almost two hours and no one has informed me?”
“Frances, please,” Sarah begged, “you must try to stop crying. And no,” she said angrily, whipping her head back around to face Daniel, “no one informed you.
Why, pray tel, would we have done?”
“Don’t play games with me, Sarah,” he warned.
“Do I look like I’m playing games?” she snapped, before softening her voice for her sister. “Frances, please, darling, try to take a deep breath.”
“I should have been told,” Daniel said sharply. He was losing patience. For all any of them knew, Anne’s enemy—and he was now certain she had one—had snatched her from her bed. He needed answers, not sanctimonious scoldings from Sarah. “She’s been gone at least ninety minutes,” he said to her. “You should have
“What?” Sarah cut in. “What should we have done? Wasted valuable time notifying you? You, who have no connection or claim to her? You, whose intentions are—”
“I’m going to marry her,” he interrupted.
Frances stopped crying, her face lifting up toward his, eyes shining with hope. Even the maids, still three abreast on the bench, went silent.
“What did you say?” Sarah whispered.
“I love her,” he said, realizing the truth of it as the words left his lips. “I want to marry her.”