Honoria thought not.

Still, the last thing she wanted was to talk with him about it, so when Mrs. Wetherby told her that he had still been sleeping when she’d gone to check on him, Honoria decided to make her visit posthaste in order to catch him before he awakened.

His door had been left slightly ajar, so she placed her palm against the dark wood and pushed very slowly. It was unfathomable that a house as well run as Fensmore might have creaky hinges on its doors, but one could never be too careful. Once she’d made a head-sized opening, she poked in, turned her neck so that she could see him, and –

He turned and looked at her.

“Oh, you’re awake!” The words popped out of her mouth like the chirp of a small, stunned bird.

Drat it all.

Marcus was sitting up in bed, his blankets tucked neatly around his waist. Honoria noticed with relief that he had finally donned a nightshirt.

He held up a book. “I’ve been trying to read.”

“Oh, then I won’t bother you,” she said quickly, even though the tone of his voice had been clearly of the I’ve-been-trying-to-read-but-I-just-can’t-get-into-it variety.

Then she curtsied.


Why on earth had she curtsied? She’d never curtsied to Marcus in her life. She’d nodded her head, and she’d even done a little bob at the knees, but good heavens, he would have collapsed laughing if she’d curtsied to him. In fact, he was quite possibly laughing right at that moment. But she would never know, because she fled before he could make a sound.

Still, when she came across her mother and Mrs. Wetherby in the drawing room later that day, she could say with utmost honesty that she had been to visit Marcus and she had found him to be quite improved.

“He’s even reading,” she said, sounding gorgeously casual. “That must be a good sign.”

“What was he reading?” her mother asked politely, reaching forward to pour her a cup of tea.

“Ehrm . . .” Honoria blinked, recalling nothing beyond the dark red leather of the book cover. “I didn’t notice, actually.”

“We should probably bring him some more books from which to choose,” Lady Winstead said, handing Honoria her tea. “It’s hot,” she warned. Then she continued, “It is dreadfully dull to be confined to bed. I speak from experience. I was confined for four months while I was carrying you, and three with Charlotte.”

“I didn’t know.”

Lady Winstead waved it off. “There was nothing to be done about it. It’s not as if I had a choice. But I can tell you that books positively saved my sanity. One can either read or embroider, and I don’t see Marcus picking up a needle and thread.”

“No,” Honoria agreed, smiling at the thought.

Her mother took another sip of her tea. “You should investigate his library and see what you can find for him. And he can have my novel when we leave.” She set down her cup. “I brought that one by Sarah Gorely. I’m almost done with it. It is marvelous thus far.”

“Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron?” Honoria asked dubiously. She’d read it, too, and had found it to be highly diverting, but it was almost farcically melodramatic, and she could not imagine Marcus enjoying it. If Honoria recalled correctly, there was quite a lot of hanging from cliffs. And from trees. And window ledges. “Don’t you think he would prefer something more serious?”

“I’m sure he thinks he would prefer something more serious. But that boy is far too serious already. He needs more levity in his life.”

“He’s hardly a boy any longer.”

“He will always be a boy to me.” Lady Winstead turned to Mrs. Wetherby, who had remained silent during the entire exchange. “Don’t you agree?”

“Oh, indeed,” Mrs. Wetherby agreed. “But of course I have known him since he was in nappies.”

Honoria was certain Marcus would not approve of this conversation.

“Perhaps you can choose some books for him, Honoria,” her mother said. “I am sure you know his taste better than I.”

“I’m not sure that I do, actually,” Honoria said, looking down at her tea. For some reason that bothered her.

“We have a comprehensive library here at Fensmore,” Mrs. Wetherby said with pride.

“I’m sure I’ll find something,” Honoria said, pasting a bright smile on her face.

“You shall have to,” her mother said, “unless you wish to teach him to embroider.”

Honoria shot her a panicked look, then saw the laughter in her eyes. “Oh, can you imagine?” Lady Winstead said with a chuckle. “I know that men make marvelous tailors, but I am sure they have teams of needlewomen hiding in their back rooms.”

“Their fingers are too big,” Mrs. Wetherby agreed. “They can’t hold the needles properly.”

“Well, he couldn’t be any worse than Margaret.” Lady Winstead turned to Mrs. Wetherby and explained, “My eldest daughter. I have never seen anyone less skilled with a needle.”

Honoria looked over at her mother with interest. She had never realized that Margaret was so dismal at needlework. But then again, Margaret was seventeen years older than she was. She had been married and out of the Smythe-Smith household before Honoria had even been old enough to form memories.

“It’s a good thing she had such talent for the violin,” Lady Winstead continued.

Honoria looked up sharply at that. She’d heard Margaret play. “Talent” was not a word she’d have used to describe it.