He motioned with his head. “Over there.”

She turned them so they were facing the right direction, then said, “Actually, I think the more pertinent question might be, how far is it to Fensmore?”

“Three miles.”

“Thr – ” She caught herself, bringing her volume down from a shriek to something almost normal. “I’m sorry, did you say three miles?”


Was he insane? “Marcus, there is no way I can prop you up for three miles. We’re going to have to go to the Royles’.”

“Oh no,” he said, deadly serious. “I am not showing up on their doorstep in this condition.”

Privately, Honoria agreed with him. An injured, unmarried earl, completely dependent on her mercy? Mrs. Royle would see it as a gift from heaven. He’d probably find himself ushered to a sickroom before he could protest. With Cecily Royle as his nurse.

“You won’t have to help me the whole way, anyway,” he said. “It will improve as I walk on it.”

She looked at him. “That makes no sense.”

“Just help me home, will you?” He sounded exhausted. Maybe exasperated. Probably both.

“I’ll try,” she agreed, but only because she knew it would not work. She gave it five minutes at most before he admitted defeat.

They hobbled a few yards, then Marcus said, “A mole hole would have been much smaller.”

“I know. But I needed to be able to fit my foot in it.”

He took another step, then half-hopped the next one. “What did you think was going to happen?”

She let out a sigh. She’d long since passed the point of embarrassment. There seemed no point in pretending she had any remaining pride. “I don’t know,” she said wearily. “I suppose I thought my prince charming was going to come and save me. Perhaps help me home in precisely the manner I’m helping you.”

He glanced over at her. “And Prince Charming is . . .”

She looked at him as if he’d gone mad. Surely he didn’t think she was going to give him a name.

“Honoria . . . ,” he prodded.

“It’s none of your business.”

He actually chuckled. “What do you think I will do with the information?”

“I just don’t want – ”

“You crippled me, Honoria.”

It was a low blow, but an effective one.

“Oh, very well,” she said, giving up the fight. “If you must know, it was Gregory Bridgerton.”

Marcus stopped walking and looked at her with a touch of surprise. “Greg – ”

“The youngest one,” she interrupted. “The youngest son, I mean. The one who is unmarried.”

“I know who he is.”

“Very well, then. What is wrong with him?” At that she cocked her head to the side and waited expectantly.

He thought for a moment. “Nothing.”

“You – wait.” She blinked. “Nothing?”

He shook his head, then shifted his weight a little; his good foot was beginning to fall asleep. “Nothing comes immediately to mind.” It was true. She could do a good deal worse than Gregory Bridgerton.

“Really?” she asked suspiciously. “You find nothing at all objectionable about him.”

Marcus pretended to think about this a bit longer. Clearly he was supposed to be playing a role here, probably that of the villain. Or if not that, then the grumpy old man. “I suppose he’s a bit young,” he said. He motioned to a fallen tree about five yards away. “Help me over there, would you? I need to sit down.”

Together they hobbled over to the long, thick log. Carefully, Honoria unwrapped his arm from her shoulder and eased him down. “He’s not so young,” she said.

Marcus looked down at his foot. It looked so normal inside the boot, and yet it felt like someone had wrapped manacles around it. And then shoved the whole thing in the boot. “He’s still at university,” he said.

“He’s older than I am.”

He looked back up at her. “Has he kicked any dogs lately?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Well, there.” He gestured with his free hand in an uncharacteristically expansive motion. “You have my blessing.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Why do I need your blessing?”

Good Lord, she was difficult. “You don’t. But would it be so very painful to receive it, anyway?”

“No,” she said slowly, “but . . .”

He waited. And then finally, “But what?”

“I don’t know.” She bit off each word with remarkable enunciation, her eyes never leaving his.

He stifled a laugh. “Why are you so suspicious of my motives?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” she replied, all sarcasm. “Perhaps because you spent all of last season glowering at me.”

“I did not.”

She snorted. “Oh, you did.”

“I might have glowered at one or two of your suitors” – damn it, he hadn’t meant to say that – “but not at you.”

“Then you were spying on me,” she said triumphantly.

“Of course not,” he lied. “But I couldn’t very well miss you.”

She gasped in horror. “What does that mean?”

Bloody hell, he was in for it now. “It doesn’t mean a thing. You were in London. I was in London.” When she didn’t respond, he added, “I saw every other lady, too.” And then, before he realized it was the worst thing he could have said, he added, “You’re just the only one I remember.”