Bending her knees, she planted the soles of her feet on the mattress for traction. First she lifted her hips, moving them an inch to the right. Then her shoulders. Then her hips again, and then her feet to catch up. Time for the shoulders, and then –


One of Marcus’s arms came down heavily across her.

Honoria froze again. Good heavens, what was she supposed to do now? Maybe if she waited a minute or two, he’d roll back to his previous position.

She waited. And she waited. And he moved.

Toward her.

Honoria swallowed nervously. She had no idea what time it was – sometime after dawn, but other than that, she had not a clue – and she really did not want Mrs. Wetherby coming in to find her pressed up against Marcus in bed. Or worse, her mother.

Surely no one would think badly of her, especially not after all that had transpired the day before. But she was unmarried, and so was he, and it was a bed, and he was wearing very little clothing, and –

That was it. She was getting out. If he woke up, he woke up. At least he wouldn’t wake up with a proverbial gun at his back, pointing him toward marriage.

She wrenched herself up and out of the bed, trying to ignore the rather pleasantly sleepy sounds he made as he rolled over and nestled beneath his quilt. Once she had her feet firmly on the carpet, she took a quick peek at his leg. It seemed to be healing properly, with no sign of those ominous red streaks Dr. Winters had warned about.

“Thank you,” she whispered, sending up a quick prayer for his continued recovery.

“You’re welcome,” Marcus murmured.

Honoria let out a little shriek of surprise, jumping back nearly a foot.

“Sorry,” he said, but he was laughing.

It was quite the loveliest sound Honoria had ever heard.

“I wasn’t thanking you,” she said pertly.

“I know.” He smiled.

She tried to smooth down her skirts, which were horribly wrinkled. She was wearing the same blue dress she’d donned in London, which had been – oh, dear heavens – two days earlier. She couldn’t even imagine what a fright she must look.

“How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Much better,” he said, sitting up. She noticed he pulled the blankets along with him. Which was surely the only reason her blush was pink instead of deep red. It was funny – almost. She’d seen his bare chest a hundred times the day before, had poked and jabbed at his naked leg, and even – not that she would ever tell him about it – caught a glimpse of one of his buttocks when he’d been tossing about. But now, when they were both fully awake and he was no longer at death’s door, she could not even bring her eyes to meet his.

“Is it still very painful?” she asked, motioning to his leg, which stuck out from under the covers.

“More of a dull ache.”

“You will have a terrible scar.”

He smiled wryly. “I shall wear it with pride and mendacity.”

“Mendacity?” she echoed, unable to contain her amusement.

He cocked his head to the side as he regarded the huge wound on his leg. “I was thinking I might set it about that I’d wrestled with a tiger.”

“A tiger. In Cambridgeshire.”

He shrugged. “It’s more likely than a shark.”

“Wild boar,” she decided.

“Now that’s just undignified.”

She pressed her lips together, then let out a little bubble of laughter. He did, too, and it was only then that she allowed herself to believe it: He was going to get better. It was a miracle. She could think of no other word to describe it. The color had returned to his face, and if perhaps he looked a little too thin, that was nothing compared to the clarity in his eyes.

He was going to be all right.


She looked up in question.

“You swayed,” he said. “I would help you, but . . .”

“I do feel a little unsteady,” she said, making her way to the chair by his bed. “I think . . .”

“Have you eaten?”

“Yes,” she said. “No. Well, some. I probably should do. I think I’m just . . . relieved.” And then, to her utmost horror, she began to sob. It came on suddenly, hitting her like a tall ocean wave. Every bit of her had been wound so tightly. She had pulled herself as long and as far as she could go, and now that she knew he would be well, she fell apart.

She was like a violin string, pulled taut, and then snapped in two.

“I’m sorry,” she said, gasping for breath between the sobs. “I don’t know . . . I didn’t mean . . . I’m just so happy . . .”

“Shhhh,” he crooned, taking her hand. “It’s all right. Everything is going to be all right.”

“I know,” she sobbed. “I know. That’s why I’m crying.”

“That’s why I’m crying, too,” he said softly.

She turned. There were no tears rolling down his face, but his eyes were wet. She had never seen him show such emotion, never even thought it possible. With a trembling hand, she reached out and touched his cheek, then the corner of his eye, drawing her fingers back when one of his tears slid onto her skin. And then she did something so unexpected that it took both of them by surprise.

She threw her arms around him, burying her face in the crook of his neck, and held tight. “I was so scared,” she whispered. “I don’t think I even knew how scared I was.”

His arms came around her, hesitantly at first, but then, as if he needed only that little push, he relaxed into the embrace, holding her softly against him, stroking her hair.