What Lady Winstead wished to discuss, it turned out, was how they might celebrate Daniel’s return. But the discussion did not get very far; Honoria sensibly pointed out that there wasn’t much they could do if they did not know the date of his arrival. Her mother managed to ignore this for at least ten minutes, debating small gatherings versus large, and whether Lord Ramsgate and Lord Hugh should be invited, and if they were, could one be certain that they would decline? Any reasonable person would do so, but with Lord Ramsgate, one never could tell.

“Mother,” Honoria said again, “there is nothing we can do until Daniel arrives. He may not even want a celebration.”

“Nonsense. Of course he will. He – ”

“He left the country in disgrace,” Honoria cut in. She hated to be so blunt, but there was nothing else for it.

“Yes, but it wasn’t fair.”

“It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t fair. It is what it is, and he might not wish to remind anyone of it.”

Her mother looked unconvinced, but she let the matter drop, and then there was nothing to do but go to bed.

The following morning, Honoria arose with the sun. They were to depart early; it was the only way to make it to London without having to stop for the night along the route. After a quick breakfast, she made her way to Marcus’s room to say good-bye.

And maybe more.

But when she arrived, he was not in his bed. A housemaid was there, however, pulling the sheets from the mattress.

“Do you know where Lord Chatteris is?” Honoria inquired, hoping that nothing was amiss.

“He’s just in the next room,” the maid replied. Then her cheeks went a bit pink. “With his valet.”

Honoria swallowed and probably turned a little pink herself, understanding quite well that this meant that Marcus was taking a bath. The maid departed with her bundle of linens, and Honoria stood alone in his bedchamber for a moment, wondering what to do next. She supposed she would have to say good-bye in writing. She could not wait for him here; it was beyond irregular, beyond even all the other irregularities they had committed in the past week.

There were certain rules of propriety that could be bent when someone was deathly ill, but now Marcus was up and about, and apparently in some degree of undress. There was no way her presence in his room could lead to anything other than complete ruination.

And besides, her mother was most impatient to be off.

She glanced about the room for paper and pen. There was a small desk by the window, and on his bedside table she saw –

The letter from Daniel.

It lay where Marcus had set it down it the night before, two somewhat wrinkled pages filled with the small, tight writing people used when they were trying to save postage. Marcus hadn’t told her anything that was in the letter other than the fact that Daniel was coming home. Which was of course the most important thing, but even so, she was ravenous for news. It had been so long since she’d had any information of him. She didn’t care if he only mentioned what he’d eaten for breakfast . . . It would be breakfast in Italy and thus terribly exotic. What was he doing? Was he bored? Could he speak Italian?

She stared at the two sheets of paper. Would it be so very terrible if she took a peek?

No. She couldn’t. It would be a gross breach of trust, a complete invasion of Marcus’s privacy. And of Daniel’s.

But then again, what could they possibly have to talk about that would not be of her concern?

She turned, glancing toward the door the maid had motioned to. She couldn’t hear anything coming through it. If Marcus was finished with his bath, surely she’d hear him moving about. She looked back at the letter.

She was a very fast reader.

In the end, she didn’t really make a decision to read Daniel’s letter to Marcus. Rather, she didn’t allow herself to decide not to. It was a small distinction, but one that somehow allowed her to ignore her own moral code and do something that would have incensed her if it had been her letter lying on the table.

She moved quickly, as if speed might make the sin smaller, and snatched up the two sheets of paper. Dear Marcus et cetera et cetera . . . Daniel wrote about the apartment he’d rented, describing all the neighborhood shops in lovely detail but managing to omit the name of the city he was in. He then went on about the food, which he insisted was superior to English fare. After that there was a brief paragraph about his plans to come home.

Smiling, Honoria turned to the second sheet of the letter. Daniel wrote the way he spoke, and she could practically hear his voice coming from the page.

In the next paragraph Daniel asked Marcus to inform his mother of his impending return, which made Honoria smile more broadly. Daniel could never have imagined that they would be standing with Marcus when he read the missive.

And then, at the end, Honoria saw her own name.

I have not heard any news of Honoria marrying, so I assume she is still unwed. I must thank you again for scaring off Fotheringham last year. He’s a rotter, and it infuriates me that he even attempted to court her.

What was this? Honoria blinked, as if that might somehow change the words on the page. Marcus had had something to do with Lord Fotheringham not coming up to scratch? She had decided that she did not like Lord Fotheringham and would not accept him, but still . . .

Travers, too, would have been a bad alliance. I hope you did not have to pay him to leave her alone, but if you did, I shall reimburse you.

What? People were being paid to . . . to what? To not court her? That didn’t even make sense.

I appreciate your looking out for her. It was a great deal to ask, and I know I did not give you much choice, asking as I did on the eve of my departure. I shall assume the responsibility when I return, and you shall be free to leave London, which I know you detest.