―Oh, she‘s watching, don‘t worry."

―Do you think so? She looks quite engrossed."

―My dear cousin can most certainly read the newspaper and spy upon us at the same time. She could probably paint a watercolor and conduct an orchestra, as well." He cocked his head toward Miss Winslow in salute. ―Women, I have learned, can do at least six things at once without pausing for breath."

―And men?"

―Oh, we are much too lugheaded. It‘s a miracle we can walk and talk at the same time."

She laughed, then motioned down at his feet. ―You seem to be succeeding admirably."

He pretended to be amazed. ―Well, look at that. I must be improving."

She laughed again, a lovely, throaty sound. He smiled over at her, since that was what one did when a lady laughed in one‘s presence, and for a moment he forgot where he was. The trees, the grass, the entire world just slipped away, and all he saw was her face, and her smile, and her lips, so full and pink, curved so deliciously at the corners.

His body began to thrum with a light, heady feeling. It wasn‘t lust, or even desire—he knew exactly how those felt. This was different. Excitement, perhaps. Maybe anticipation, although he was not sure for what. They were merely walking in the park. Still, he could not quite shake the feeling that he was waiting for something good.

It was an excellent sensation.

―I think I rather enjoy being rescued," he said as they strolled sedately toward Stanhope Gate.

The weather was fine, Miss Winslow was lovely, and Olivia was now well out of earshot.

What more could a man want in an afternoon?

Except possibly the afternoon part. He squinted up at the sky. It was definitely still morning.

―I am so sorry about my grandmother," Miss Winslow said. With great feeling.

―Tut tut, don‘t you know you‘re not supposed to mention such things?"

She sighed. ―Really? I can‘t even apologize?"

―Of course not." He grinned down at her. ―You‘re supposed to sweep it under the rug and hope I did not notice."

Her brows rose dubiously. ―That her hand was on your…er…"

He waved a hand, although the truth was, he was rather enjoying her blush. ―I can‘t remember a thing."

For a moment her face was perfectly blank, and then she just shook her head. ―London society baffles me."

―There is no sense to it, certainly," he agreed.

―Just look at my situation."

―I know. It‘s a shame. But it‘s the way things work. If I don‘t want you, and my uncle doesn‘t want you"—here he watched her, trying to gauge whether this was a disappointment—―neither will anyone else."

―No, I understand that," she said. ―I find it monstrously unfair—"

―Agreed," he put in.

―—but I do understand it. But still, I suspect there are all sorts of nuances of which I am completely unaware."

―Oh, absolutely. For example, our performance here in the park—there are all sorts of details that must be played precisely right."

―I have no idea what you‘re talking about."

He adjusted his position so that he was more directly facing her. ―It‘s all in how I look at you."

―I beg your pardon?"

He smiled down at her, gazing adoringly at her face. ―Rather like this," he murmured.

Her lips parted, and for a moment she didn‘t breathe.

He loved that he could do this to her. Almost as much as he loved that he knew she didn‘t breathe. God, how loved being able to read women. ―No, no," he admonished. ―You can‘t look back at me like that."

She gave a dazed blink. ―What?"

He leaned another inch down and mock whispered, ―People are watching."

Her eyes widened, and he could tell the exact moment her brain snapped back to attention. She tried to be surreptitious as she looked to the left and then to the right, and then, slowly and with the utmost confusion, back at him. But really, she had no clue what she was doing.

―You‘re quite bad at this," he told her.

―I am utterly at a loss," she admitted.

―Probably why you have no idea what you‘re doing," he said smoothly. ―Allow me to edify: We are in the park."

Annabel raised a brow. ―I‘m aware."

―With about a hundred or so of our closest acquaintances."

She turned her head again, this time toward Rotten Row, where several small groups of ladies were pretending not to look at them.

―Don‘t be so obvious," he said, giving a nod of greeting to Mrs. Brompton and her daughter Camilla, who were smiling at them in that I acknowledge you but perhaps we should not converse sort of way.

Annabel meant to get annoyed; really, who looked at another person like that? But then she couldn‘t help but congratulate herself for having successfully interpreted a multifaceted expression.

However rude it might be.

―You look annoyed," Mr. Grey said.

―No." Well, maybe yes.

―You do understand what we are doing," he verified.

―I thought I did," she muttered.

―You may have noticed that you have become an object of speculation," he said.

Annabel fought the urge to snort. ―You could say that."

―Why, Miss Winslow, do I detect a hint of sarcasm in your voice?"

―Just a hint."

He looked about ready to chuckle but did not. It was a common expression for him, she realized.

He saw humor everywhere. It was a rare gift, that, and possibly why everyone liked to be near him. He was happy, and if one could be near a happy person, perhaps it would rub off. Happiness could be like a head cold. Or cholera.