He had no idea what she was talking about, but for some inexplicable reason, it was making him happy.
She sat in the chair next to him. “I just came. I got the letter from Mrs. Wetherby, and I didn’t even stop to think about the fact that there was nothing I could do to help you. I just came.”
“You’re helping,” he whispered. And she was.
He was feeling better already.
Honoria woke the following morning in pain. Her neck was stiff, her back ached, and her left foot had fallen completely asleep. And she was hot and sweaty, which, in addition to making her uncomfortable, made her feel remarkably unattractive. And possibly fragrant. And by fragrant, she meant –
Oh, bother, she knew what she meant, and so would anyone else who came within five feet of her.
She’d closed the window after Marcus had dozed off. It had nearly killed her to do so; it went against all common sense. But she was not confident enough to defy the doctor’s instructions and leave it open.
She shook out her foot, wincing as tiny needles of pain shot through her. Blast it all, she hated when her foot fell asleep. She reached down to squeeze it, trying to restore her circulation, but this just made her entire lower leg feel as if she’d set it on fire.
With a yawn and a groan, she pushed herself to her feet, trying to ignore the ominous creaking in her joints. There was a reason human beings didn’t sleep in chairs, she decided. If she was still here the next night, she was taking to the floor.
Half walking and half hobbling, she made her way over to the window, eager to pull back the curtains and allow at least a little sunshine in. Marcus was sleeping, so she didn’t want to make it too bright, but she was feeling a rather urgent need to see him. The color of his skin, the circles under his eyes. She wasn’t sure what she’d do with this information, but then again, she hadn’t been sure of anything since she’d entered his room the night before.
And she needed a reason to get out of the bloody chair.
She pulled back one side of the curtains, blinking in the flood of early morning light. It couldn’t be too much past dawn; the sky was still hung with wisps of pink and peach, and the morning mist was flowing softly across the lawn.
It looked lovely out there, gentle and fresh, and Honoria cracked the window open again, even pressing her face up to the small opening, just to breathe in the cool moisture.
But she had a job to do. So she took a step back and turned around, with every intention of laying a gentle hand on Marcus’s forehead to check if his fever had returned. But before she’d taken more than two steps, he rolled over in his sleep and –
Good God, had his face been so red the night before?
She hurried to his side, stumbling over her still tingling left foot. He looked awful – red and puffy, and when she touched him his skin was dry and parched.
And hot. Terrifyingly hot.
Quickly, Honoria ran to the pitcher of water. She didn’t see any towels or handkerchiefs, so she just dunked her hands in, then laid them on his cheeks, trying to cool him down. But it was clear that this was not going to be a tenable solution, so she dashed over to a set of drawers, yanking them open in turn until she found what she thought were handkerchiefs. It was only when she shook one out to dunk it in the pitcher of water that she realized it was something else altogether.
Oh, dear Lord. She was about to put his unmentionables on his face.
She felt her own face go red as she squeezed out the excess water and hurried back to his side. She mumbled an apology – not that he was sensible enough to understand it, or the offense she was about to commit – and pressed the wet linen against his forehead.
He immediately began to toss and turn, making strange, worrisome sounds – grunts and half-words, sentences with no beginnings or ends. She heard “Stop,” and “No,” but she also thought she might have heard “Facilitate,” “Monkfish,” and “Footbridge.”
She definitely heard him say, “Daniel.”
Blinking back tears, she left his side for a moment to bring the pitcher of water closer. He’d knocked the cooling cloth from his face by the time she returned, and when she tried to reapply it, he pushed her away.
“Marcus,” she said sternly, even though she knew he wouldn’t hear her, “you have to let me help you.”
But he struggled against her, thrashing this way and that until she was practically sitting on him just to keep him down. “Stop it,” she snapped when he pushed up against her. “You. Will. Not. Win. And by that” – she jammed down hard on one of his shoulders with her forearm – “I mean that if I win, you win.”
He jerked up suddenly and their heads knocked. Honoria let out a grunt of pain, but she didn’t let go. “Oh, no, you don’t,” she ground out. “And by that I mean” – she put her face close to his – “you will not die.”
Using all her weight to keep him down, she jabbed one arm out toward the pitcher of water, trying to resoak the linen. “You’re going to hate me tomorrow when you realize what I put on your face,” she told him, slapping it back down on his forehead. She hadn’t meant to be so rough, but he wasn’t really offering her any opportunities for gentle movement.
“Calm down,” she said slowly, moving the cloth to his neck. “I promise you, if you are calm, you will feel much better.” She dunked the cloth again. “Which really pales in comparison to how much better I will feel.”
The next time she managed to get the wet cloth on his chest, which she’d long since ceased to notice was bare. But he didn’t seem to like that; he pushed back against her, hard, and she went tumbling off the far side of the bed, landing on the carpet with a jarring thud.