Not to mention that at least half her brain was focused on Marcus, and the fact that he was still talking to Felicity Featherington. Who, Honoria could not help but note, looked exceptionally pretty that evening in a gown the exact shade of primrose she had intended to purchase before she’d had to leave London to care for Marcus when he had a fever.

There was a time and a place for everything, Honoria decided, even pettiness.

Lady Danbury leaned over and peered down at the violin in her hands. “Violin?”

Honoria wrenched her gaze back to Lady Danbury. “Ehrm, yes, ma’am.”

The elderly countess looked up with a shrewd look in her eye. “I can see that you wanted to make a comment about it not being a pianoforte.”

“No, ma’am.” And then, because it had been that sort of evening, Honoria said, “I was going to make a comment about it not being a cello.”

Lady Danbury’s wrinkled face erupted into a smile, and she chuckled loudly enough to make Honoria’s mother look over in alarm.

“I find it difficult to distinguish between a violin and a viola,” Lady Danbury said. “Don’t you?”

“No,” Honoria replied, feeling a bit braver now that she was getting warmed up, “but that might be because I actually play the violin.”

Well, she thought as an addendum, “play” might be too ambitious a verb. But this she kept to herself.

Lady Danbury gave her cane a thump. “I didn’t recognize the gel at the piano.”

“That is Miss Wynter, the governess for the younger Pleinsworth girls. My cousin Sarah took ill and needed a replacement.” Honoria frowned. “I thought there was to be an announcement.”

“There may have been. I’m sure I wasn’t listening.”

It was on the tip of Honoria’s tongue to say that she hoped Lady Danbury hadn’t been listening to anything that night, but she swallowed the retort. She had a cheerful façade to maintain, and she fully blamed Marcus – and, to a lesser extent, Felicity Featherington – for making her so irritable.

“Who are you looking at?” Lady Danbury asked slyly.

Honoria was very quick to answer, “No one.”

“Then who are you looking for?”

Good heavens, the woman was like a barnacle. “Again, no one, ma’am,” Honoria said, she hoped sweetly.

“Hmmmph. He’s my nephew, you know.”

Honoria tried not to be alarmed. “I beg your pardon?”

“Chatteris. My great-great-nephew, if one must put a fine point on it, but all those greats do make one feel ancient.”

Honoria looked at Marcus, then back at Lady Danbury. “Mar – I mean, Lord Chatteris is your nephew?”

“Not that he visits as often as he should.”

“Well, he doesn’t like London,” Honoria murmured without thinking.

Lady Danbury let out a sly chuckle. “You know that, do you?”

Honoria hated that her cheeks were growing warm. “I have known him nearly all my life.”

“Yes, yes,” Lady Danbury said, rather dismissively, “so I’ve heard. I – ” Something seemed to catch her attention, and then she leaned in with a terrifying look in her eye. “I’m going to do you a very big favor.”

“I really wish you wouldn’t,” Honoria said weakly, because surely nothing good could come of that expression on Lady Danbury’s face.

“Pfft. Leave it all to me. I have an excellent record with this sort of thing.” She paused. “Well, one for one, anyway, but I’m optimistic for the future.”

“What?” Honoria asked desperately.

Lady Danbury ignored her. “Mr. Bridgerton! Mr. Bridgerton!” she called enthusiastically. She waved her hand, but unfortunately that particular appendage was attached to her cane, and Honoria had to weave and bob to the right to avoid getting her ear lopped off.

By the time Honoria got herself straightened out, they had been joined by a handsome man with a devilish gleam in his green eyes. It took her a moment, but just before he was introduced, she recognized him as Colin Bridgerton, one of Gregory Bridgerton’s older brothers. Honoria did not know him personally, but she had heard her older sisters sigh about him incessantly when they were out and unmarried. His charm was almost as legendary as his smile.

And his smile was presently directed at her. Honoria felt her stomach flip and quickly set it back to rights. If she weren’t desperately in love with Marcus (whose smile was far more subtle, and thus far more meaningful), this would be a dangerous man indeed.

“I have been out of the country,” Mr. Bridgerton said smoothly, just after he kissed her hand, “so I am not sure that we have been introduced.”

Honoria nodded and was about to say something utterly forgettable when she saw that his hand had been bandaged.

“I hope your injury is not severe,” she said politely.

“Oh, this?” he held up his hand. His fingers were free to waggle, but the rest of it looked rather like a mitt. “It’s nothing. An altercation with a letter opener.”

“Well, please do be careful of infection,” Honoria said, somewhat more forcefully than was de rigueur. “If it grows red, or swollen, or even worse, yellow, then you must see a doctor at once.”

“Green?” he quipped.

“I beg your pardon?”

“You listed so many colors about which I must be wary.”

For a moment Honoria could only stare. Wound infection was not a laughing matter.

“Lady Honoria?” he murmured.