Dance cards were immediately brought forth. A minuet was assigned to Miss Royle, a country dance for Lady Sarah, and for Honoria he claimed a waltz. Let gossipmongers do with it what they would. It wasn’t as if he’d never waltzed with her before.

Once the dances had been sorted out, they stood there again, a silent little quartet (all quartets should be so silent, Marcus thought), until Honoria’s cousin cleared her throat and said, “Actually, I think the dancing is beginning right now.”

Which meant that it was time for the minuet.

Miss Royle looked over at him and beamed. Belatedly he remembered that her mother had a mind to pair the two of them up.

Honoria looked over at him as if to say – Be very afraid.

And all he could think was – Damn it, I never got one of those éclairs.

“He likes you,” Sarah said, the moment Marcus and Cecily headed off for their minuet.

“What?” Honoria asked. She had to blink. Her eyes had become unfocused from staring at Marcus’s back as he’d walked away.

“He likes you,” Sarah said.

“What are you talking about, of course he does. We have been friends forever.” Well, that was not quite true. They had known each other forever. They had become friends – true friends – quite recently.

“No, he likes you,” Sarah said, with great exaggeration.

“What?” Honoria said again, because clearly she’d been reduced to idiocy. “Oh. No. No, of course not.”

But still, her heart leapt.

Sarah shook her head slowly, as if coming to a realization even as she spoke. “Cecily told me she suspected it, back when the two of you went to check on him at Fensmore after he was caught out in the rain, but I thought she was imagining things.”

“You should pay attention to your first inclinations,” Honoria said briskly.

Sarah scoffed at that. “Didn’t you see the way he was staring at you?”

Honoria, practically begging to be contradicted, said, “He wasn’t staring at me.”

“Oh, yes he was,” Sarah countered. “Oh, and by the way, in case you were worried, I am not interested in him myself.”

Honoria could only blink.

“Back at the Royles’,” Sarah reminded her, “when I was pondering the possibility that he might fall rather quickly in love with me?”

“Oh, right,” Honoria recalled, trying not to notice how her stomach turned to acid at the thought of Marcus falling in love with someone else. She cleared her throat. “I’d forgotten.”

Sarah shrugged. “It was a desperate hope.” She looked out over the crowd, murmuring, “I wonder if there are any gentlemen here who might be willing to marry me before Wednesday.”


“I’m joking. Good heavens, you should know that.” And then she said, “He’s looking at you again.”

“What?” Honoria actually jumped in surprise. “No, he can’t be. He’s dancing with Cecily.”

“He’s dancing with Cecily and looking at you,” Sarah replied, sounding rather satisfied with her assessment.

Honoria would have liked to have thought that that meant he cared, but after having read Daniel’s letter, she knew better. “It’s not because he cares for me,” she said, shaking her head.

“Really?” Sarah looked as if she might cross her arms. “Then what, pray tell, is it?”

Honoria swallowed, then looked furtively about. “Can you keep a secret?”

“Of course.”

“Daniel asked him to ‘watch over me’ while he is gone.”

Sarah was unimpressed. “Why is that a secret?”

“It’s not, I suppose. Well, yes, it is. Because no one told me about it.”

“Then how do you know?”

Honoria felt her cheeks grow warm. “I might have read something I wasn’t meant to,” she muttered.

Sarah’s eyes grew wide. “Really?” she said, leaning in. “That is so unlike you.”

“It was a moment of weakness.”

“One you now regret?”

Honoria thought about that for a moment. “No,” she admitted.

“Honoria Smythe-Smith,” Sarah said, positively grinning, “I am so proud of you.”

“I would ask why,” Honoria replied warily, “but I’m not sure I want to know the answer.”

“This is probably the most improper thing you’ve ever done.”

“That’s not true.”

“Oh, perhaps you forgot to tell me about the time you ran naked through Hyde Park?”


Sarah chuckled. “Everybody has read something they weren’t meant to at some point in their lives. I’m just glad you have finally chosen to join the rest of humanity.”

“I’m not so stiff and proper,” Honoria protested.

“Of course not. But I wouldn’t call you adventurous.”

“I wouldn’t call you adventurous either.”

“No.” Sarah’s shoulders drooped. “I’m not.”

They stood there for a moment, a little bit sad, a little bit reflective. “Well,” Honoria said, trying to inject a note of levity back into the air, “you’re not going to run naked through Hyde Park, are you?”

“Not without you,” Sarah said slyly.

Honoria laughed at that, then impulsively put her arm around her cousin’s shoulders and gave her a little squeeze. “I love you, you know that.”