“Don’t make eye contact,” Daniel once told Marcus as they were trying to avoid her on a hike down to the lake. “If you acknowledge her, it’s all over.”

They walked purposefully, heads forward. They were going fishing, and the last time Honoria had joined them she had dumped out all the worms.

“Daniel!” she yelled.

“Ignore her,” Daniel muttered.

“Daniel!!!!!!!!!!!!” She went from yell right to shriek.

Daniel flinched. “Faster,” he said. “If we make it to the woods she won’t find us.”

“She knows where the lake is,” Marcus felt compelled to point out.

“Yes, but – ”


” – she knows Mother will have her head if she goes into the woods alone. Even she’s not foolish enough to press Mother on that.”

“Dan – ” But she cut herself off. And then, in a voice so pathetic one could not help but turn, she said, “Marcus?”

He turned.

“Noooooooooooooo!” Daniel moaned.

“Marcus!” Honoria called out happily. She skipped forward, coming to a bounce and a stop in front of them. “What are you doing?”

“We’re going fishing,” Daniel growled, “and you’re not coming.”

“But I like to fish.”

“So do I. Without you.”

Her face screwed up.

“Don’t cry,” Marcus said quickly.

Daniel was unimpressed. “She’s faking.”

“I’m not faking!”

“Just don’t cry,” Marcus repeated, because truly, that had to be the most important thing.

“I won’t,” she said, batting her lashes, “if you let me go with you.”

How did a six-year-old know how to bat her lashes? Or maybe she didn’t, because a moment later she was squirming and rubbing her eye.

“Now what’s wrong?” Daniel asked.

“I got something in my eye.”

“Maybe it was a fly,” Daniel said slyly.

Honoria screamed.

“That might not have been the best thing to say,” Marcus pointed out.

“Get it out! Get it out!” she shrieked.

“Oh, settle down,” Daniel said. “You’re perfectly fine.”

But she kept screaming, batting at her face with her hands. Finally Marcus grabbed her hands in his and held her head utterly still, her hands at her temples, his hands over hers. “Honoria,” he said firmly, “Honoria!”

She blinked, gasped, and finally stilled.

“There is no fly,” he said to her.

“But – ”

“It was probably an eyelash.”

Her mouth formed a little O.

“Can I let go of you now?”

She nodded.

“You won’t start screaming?”

She shook her head.

Slowly, Marcus released her and took a step back.

“Can I come with you?” she asked.

“No!” Daniel practically howled.

And the truth was, Marcus didn’t really want her company, either. She was six. And a girl. “We’re going to be very busy,” he said, but he lacked Daniel’s indignation.


Marcus groaned. She looked so forlorn, standing there with tear-stained cheeks. Her light-brown hair, parted on the side and pulled back with some kind of clip, hung rather straight and limp, ending in straggle just below her shoulders. And her eyes – almost the exact shade of Daniel’s, an arrestingly unique shade of light purplish-blue; they were huge, and wet, and –

“I told you not to make eye contact,” Daniel said.

Marcus groaned. “Maybe just this once.”

“Oh, goody!” She leapt straight up into the air, bringing to mind a surprised cat, then gave Marcus an impulsive (but thankfully quick) hug. “Oh, thank you, Marcus! Thank you! You are the absolute best! The best of the best!” She narrowed her eyes and shot a look over at Daniel that was frighteningly adult. “Unlike you.”

His expression was equally malevolent. “I take pride in being the absolute worst.”

“I don’t care,” she announced. She grabbed Marcus’s hand. “Shall we go?”

He looked down at her hand in his. It was an utterly foreign sensation, and a strange and somewhat unpleasant feeling began to flutter in his chest that he belatedly realized was panic. He couldn’t remember the last time anyone had held his hand. His nurse, maybe? No, she had liked to grab his wrist. She got a better grip that way, he once heard her tell the housekeeper.

Had his father? His mother, sometime before she had died?

His heart pounded, and he felt Honoria’s little hand grow slick in his. He must be sweating, or she was, although he was fairly certain it was he.

He looked down at her. She was beaming up at him.

He dropped her hand. “Er, we have to go now,” he said awkwardly, “while the light is good.”

Both Smythe-Smiths looked at him curiously. “It’s barely noon,” Daniel said. “How long did you want to go fishing?”

“I don’t know,” Marcus said defensively. “It might take a while.”

Daniel shook his head. “Father just stocked the lake. You could probably swing a boot through the water and catch a fish.”

Honoria gasped with glee.

Daniel turned on her in an instant. “Don’t even think about it.”

“But – ”

“If my boots end up anywhere near the water I swear I will have you drawn and quartered.”