She turned, and she felt her head tilt ever-so-slightly to the side, as if somehow, if she changed her angle, she would see him more clearly. And amazingly, she did. She moved, and he came into focus, which was so very strange, because she would have sworn that her vision had been crystal clear just a moment earlier.
It was as if she’d never really seen him before. She looked into his eyes, and she saw more than color, more than shape. It wasn’t that the iris was brown, or the pupil was black. It was that he was there, and she could see him, every last bit of him, and she thought –
I love him.
It echoed in her mind.
I love him.
Nothing could have been more stunning, at the same time more simple and true. She felt as if something within her had been dislodged for years, and he had, with five innocent words – I wasn’t looking at Sarah – bumped it into place.
She loved him. She would always love him. It made such sense. Who could she possibly love but Marcus Holroyd?
“I was looking at you,” he said, so softly she couldn’t even be sure she’d heard it. “I was looking only at you.”
She looked down. Her hand was on his. She didn’t remember putting it there. “Marcus?” she whispered, and she didn’t know why it was a question. But she couldn’t have made herself say any other word.
“Honoria,” he whispered, and then –
“My lord! My lord!”
Honoria jumped back, nearly falling out of the chair. There was a small commotion in the corridor, the sound of feet hurrying toward them. Hastily, Honoria stood and stepped back behind the chair.
A moment later, Honoria’s mother and Mrs. Wetherby came tearing into the room. “A letter has arrived,” Lady Winstead said breathlessly. “From Daniel.”
Honoria swayed slightly, then grabbed the back of the chair for support. They had not heard from her brother in over a year. Well, perhaps Marcus had, but she had not, and Daniel had long since stopped trying to write to their mother.
“What does it say?” Lady Winstead asked, even though Marcus was still breaking the seal.
“Let him open it first,” Honoria admonished. It was on the tip of her tongue to say that they ought to leave the room to allow him to read the letter in private, but she could not bring herself to do so. Daniel was her only brother, and she’d missed him so dreadfully. As the months had gone by without even a simple note from him, she’d told herself that he hadn’t meant to ignore her. His letter surely had been lost; international post was notoriously unreliable.
But right now she didn’t care why she had not heard from him in so long; she just wanted to know what was in his letter to Marcus.
And so they all stood there, staring at Marcus with bated breath. It was beyond rude, but no one was willing to budge.
“Is he well?” her mother finally ventured when Marcus finished the first page.
“Yes,” he murmured, blinking as if he couldn’t quite believe what he was reading. “Yes. He’s coming home, actually.”
“What?” Lady Winstead went pale, and Honoria rushed over to her side lest she need support.
Marcus cleared his throat. “He writes that he has received some sort of correspondence from Hugh Prentice. Ramsgate has finally agreed to let bygones be bygones.”
As bygones went, Honoria could not help but think, this one was rather large. And the last time she’d seen the Marquess of Ramsgate, he’d nearly gone into an apoplectic fit at the sight of her. Granted, that had been over a year earlier, but still.
“Could Lord Hugh be playing a trick?” Honoria asked. “To lure Daniel back into the country?”
“I don’t think so,” Marcus said, looking down at the second page of the letter. “He’s not the sort to do such a thing.”
“Not the sort?” Lady Winstead echoed, disbelief making her voice rise in pitch. “He ruined my son’s life.”
“That’s what made it all so very strange,” Marcus said. He was still looking down, reading the words on the paper even as he spoke. “Hugh Prentice has always been a good man. He is eccentric, but he is not without honor.”
“Does Daniel say when he’ll return?” Honoria asked.
Marcus shook his head. “He is not specific. He mentions that he has a few matters to take care of in Italy, and then he will commence his journey home.”
“Oh, my heavens,” Lady Winstead said, sinking into a nearby chair. “I never thought I would see the day. I never even allowed myself to think about it. Which of course meant that I thought of nothing but.”
For a moment Honoria could do nothing but stare at her mother. For three years she had not even mentioned Daniel’s name. And now she was saying that he was all she had thought about?
Honoria shook her head. There was no point in being angry with her mother. Whatever she had done or been these last few years, she had more than redeemed herself in these last few days. Honoria knew without a doubt that Marcus would not be alive were it not for her mother’s nursing skills.
“How long does it take to travel from Italy to England?” Honoria asked, because surely that had to be the most important question.
Marcus looked up. “I have no idea. I’m not even sure what part of Italy he’s in.”
Honoria nodded. Her brother had always had a habit of telling stories and leaving out all the most important details.
“This is very exciting,” Mrs. Wetherby said. “I know you’ve all missed him terribly.”
For a moment the room went silent. It was one of those comments that was so obvious that no one quite knew how to agree. Finally, Lady Winstead said, “Well, it’s a good thing we are already planning to leave for London tomorrow. I should hate to be away from home when he arrives.” She looked over at Marcus and said, “We shall take our leave for the evening. I’m sure you wish to get some rest. Come along, Honoria. We have much to discuss, you and I.”