She scowled at them all. Daisy actually took a step back.

“He should not be out and about,” Honoria growled.

“Lord Chatteris,” Sarah said, with complete confidence.

“Stay here,” Honoria said to the others. “I shall return shortly.”

“Need we practice in your absence?” Iris inquired.

Honoria rolled her eyes, refusing to dignify that with a response.

“His lordship is already waiting in the drawing room,” Poole informed her.

Of course. No butler would insult an earl by forcing him to leave his calling card on the silver tray and depart.

“I’ll be right back,” Honoria said to her cousins.

“You said that,” Sarah said.

“Don’t follow me.”

“You said that, too,” Sarah said. “Or something quite synonymous.”

Honoria gave her one last glare before leaving the room. She had not told Sarah much about her time at Fensmore, just that Marcus had taken ill, and she and her mother had aided in his convalescence. But Sarah knew her better than anyone; she was going to be curious, especially now that Honoria had nearly lost her temper at the mere sight of Marcus’s calling card.

Honoria marched through the house, her anger growing with every step. What on earth was he thinking? Dr. Winters could not have been more clear. Marcus was to stay in bed for a week and then remain at home for another week after that, possibly two. In no mathematical universe could that equate to his being here in London at that moment.

“What on earth were you – ” She thundered into the drawing room but stopped short when she saw him standing by the fireplace, a veritable picture of health. “Marcus?”

He smiled, and her heart – wretched, traitorous organ – melted. “Honoria,” he said. “It’s lovely to see you, too.”

“You look . . .” She blinked, still not quite believing her eyes. His color was good, his eyes had lost that sunken look, and he appeared to have regained whatever weight he’d lost. ” . . . well,” she finally finished, unable to keep the surprise from her voice.

“Dr. Winters declared me fit to travel,” he explained. “He said he had never seen anyone recuperate from a fever with such speed.”

“It must have been the treacle tart.”

His eyes grew warm. “Indeed.”

“What brings you to town?” she asked. She wanted to add, “Since you’ve been recently released from your obligation to ensure that I don’t marry an idiot.”

She was, perhaps, just a little bit bitter.

But not angry. There was no point, and indeed no reason, to be angry with him. He had only been doing what Daniel had asked of him. And it wasn’t as if he had thwarted any real romances. Honoria had not been terribly enamored of any of her suitors, and the truth was, had any of them proposed, she probably would not have accepted.

But it was embarrassing. Why couldn’t someone have told her that Marcus had been meddling in her affairs? She might have made a fuss – oh, very well, she would definitely have made a fuss – but not a big one. And if she had known, she would not have misinterpreted his actions at Fensmore. She wouldn’t have thought that maybe he might be falling a little bit in love with her.

And she wouldn’t have allowed herself to fall in love with him.

But if there was one thing she was sure of, it was that she was not going to let him know that anything was out of the ordinary. As far as he knew, she was still oblivious to his machinations.

So she put her best smile on her face and was quite sure she looked terribly interested in everything he had to say as he answered, “I didn’t want to miss the musicale.”

“Oh, now I know you’re lying.”

“No, really,” he insisted. “The knowledge of your true feelings will bring an entirely new dimension to the endeavor.”

She rolled her eyes. “Please. No matter how much you think you are laughing with me, and not at me, you cannot escape the cacophony.”

“I am pondering discreet balls of cotton for my ears.”

“If my mother catches you, she shall be mortally wounded. And she, who saved you from a mortal wound.”

He looked at her with some surprise. “She still thinks you’re talented?”

“Every one of us,” Honoria confirmed. “I think she is a little sad that I am the last of her daughters to perform. But I suppose the torch will soon pass to a new generation. I have many nieces who are practicing their little fingers off on their tiny little violins.”

“Really? Tiny ones?”

“No. It just sounds better to describe them that way.”

He chuckled at that, then fell silent. They were both silent, just standing there in the drawing room, uncharacteristically awkward and, well, silent.

It was odd. It was not like them at all.

“Would you care to take a stroll?” he asked suddenly. “The weather is fine.”

“No,” she said, a little more brusquely than she would have liked. “Thank you.”

A shadow passed over his eyes and then was gone so quickly she thought she might have imagined it. “Very well,” he said stiffly.

“I can’t,” she added, because she hadn’t really meant to hurt his feelings. Or maybe she had, and now she felt guilty. “My cousins are all here. We’re practicing.”

A faint look of alarm crossed his face.

“You will probably want to find some sort of business that removes you from Mayfair entirely,” she told him. “Daisy has not yet managed pianissimo.” At his blank stare, she added, “She’s loud.”