She pouted and looked down, muttering, “I was thinking about my boots.”

Marcus felt a little laugh bubble over his lips. Honoria immediately looked back up, regarding him with an expression of utter betrayal.

“It would have to be a very small fish,” he said quickly.

This did not seem to satisfy her.

“You can’t eat them when they’re that small,” he tried. “They’re mostly bones.”

“Let’s go,” Daniel muttered. And they did, tramping off through the woods, Honoria’s little legs pumping at double speed, just to keep up.

“I’m not fond of fish, actually,” she said, keeping up a steady stream of chatter. “They smell horrid. And they taste fishy . . .”

And then, on the way back –

“. . . I still think that pink one looked big enough to eat. If you liked fish, which I don’t. But if you did like fish . . .”

“Do not ever invite her to come with us again,” Daniel said to Marcus.

“. . . which I don’t. But I think Mother likes fish. And I am sure she would like a pink fish . . .”

“I won’t,” Marcus assured him. It seemed the height of rudeness to criticize a little girl, but she was exhausting.

“. . . although Charlotte wouldn’t. Charlotte hates pink. She won’t wear it. She says it makes her look gaunt. I don’t know what gaunt means, but it sounds unpleasant. I like lavender, myself.”

The two boys let out identical sighs and would have kept walking except that Honoria jumped in front of them and grinned. “It matches my eyes,” she said.

“The fish?” Marcus asked, glancing down at the bucket in his hand. There were three nice-sized trout bumping up against the sides. There would have been more, except that Honoria had accidentally kicked the bucket, sending Marcus’s first two prizes back into the lake.

“No. Haven’t you been listening?”

Marcus would always remember that moment. It was to be the first time he would ever be faced with that most vexing of female quirks: the question that had nothing but wrong answers.

“Lavender matches my eyes,” Honoria said with great authority. “My father told me so.”

“Then it must be true,” Marcus said with relief.

She twirled her hair around her finger, but the curl immediately fell out when she let go. “Brown matches my hair, but I prefer lavender.”

Marcus finally set the bucket down. It was growing heavy, and the handle was digging into his palm.

“Oh, no,” Daniel said, grabbing Marcus’s bucket with his free hand and giving it back to Marcus. “We are going home.” He glared at Honoria. “Out of our way.”

“Why are you nice to everyone but me?” she asked.

“Because you are a pest!” he fairly yelled.

It was true, but Marcus still felt sorry for her. Some of the time. She was practically an only child, and he knew precisely how that felt. All she wanted was to be a part of things, to be included in games and parties and all those activities her family was constantly telling her she was too young for.

Honoria took the verbal blow without flinching. She stood still, staring venomously at her brother. Then she sucked in one long, loud breath through her nose.

Marcus wished he had a handkerchief.

“Marcus,” she said. She turned to face him, although it really wasn’t so much that as it was turning her back on her brother. “Would you like to have a tea party with me?”

Daniel snickered.

“I will bring my best dolls,” she said with complete gravity.

Dear God, anything but this.

“And there will be cakes,” she added, in a prim little voice that scared him to death.

Marcus shot a panicked look at Daniel, but he was no help whatsoever.

“Well?” Honoria demanded.

“No,” Marcus blurted out.

“No?” She gave him an owlish stare.

“I can’t. I’m busy.”

“Doing what?”

Marcus cleared his throat. Twice. “Things.”

“What kinds of things?”

“Things.” And then he felt terrible, because he hadn’t meant to be so adamant. “Daniel and I have plans.”

She looked stricken. Her lower lip began to tremble, and for once Marcus did not think she was faking.

“I’m sorry,” he added, because he hadn’t wanted to hurt her feelings. But for heaven’s sake, it was a tea party! There wasn’t a twelve-year-old boy alive who wanted to attend a tea party.

With dolls.

Marcus shuddered.

Honoria’s face grew red with rage as she swung around to face her brother. “You made him say that.”

“I didn’t say a word,” Daniel replied.

“I hate you,” she said in a low voice. “I hate you both.” And then she yelled it. “I hate you! Especially you, Marcus! I really hate you!”

And then she ran to the house as fast as her skinny little legs could carry her, which wasn’t very fast at all. Marcus and Daniel just stood there, silently watching her go.

When she was nearly to the house, Daniel nodded and said, “She hates you. You are officially a member of the family.”

And he was. From that moment on, he was.

Until the spring of 1821, when Daniel went and ruined it all.

Chapter One

March 1824

Cambridge, England

Lady Honoria Smythe-Smith was desperate.

Desperate for a sunny day, desperate for a husband, desperate – she thought with an exhausted sigh as she looked down at her ruined blue slippers – for a new pair of shoes.