―This is good for your soul?" she asked dubiously.

He shrugged, looking out over the crowd. ―One never knows when one will need to know how to describe something."

Annabel found this to be an extremely odd statement, but she didn‘t say anything.

―Besides," he said breezily, ―were it not for misunderstandings, we would be sadly lacking in great literature."

She looked at him questioningly.

―Where would Romeo and Juliet be?"


―True, but think of the hours of entertainment the rest of us would have lost."

Annabel smiled. She couldn‘t help it. ―I prefer comedies myself."

―Do you? I suppose they are more entertaining. But then one would never experience the heightened sense of drama afforded by tragedies." He turned to her with that expression of his she was growing so accustomed to—the polite mask he wore for society, the one that labeled him a bored bon vivant , oxymoron though it was. And indeed, he let out a slightly affected sigh before saying, ―What would life be without bleak moments?"

―Rather lovely, I think." Annabel considered her recent bleak moment, at the hands—or rather, paws—of Lord Newbury. She‘d have been quite happy to have done without.

―Hmmm." That was all he said, or rather, hmmmed. Annabel felt a strange need to fill the silence, and she blurted out, ―I was voted Winslow Most Likely to Speak Her Mind."

That caught his attention. ―Really?" His lips twitched. ―And who might we count among the electorate?"

―Er, the other Winslows."

He chuckled.

―There are eight of us," she explained. ―Ten with my parents, well, nine now that my father has passed, but still, more than enough for a decent vote."

―I‘m sorry about your father," he said.

She nodded, waiting for the familiar lump to form in her throat. But it didn‘t. ―He was a good man," she said.

He nodded in acknowledgment, then asked, ―What other titles have you won?"

She gave a guilty grimace. ―Winslow Most Likely to Fall Asleep in Church."

He laughed loudly at that.

―Everyone‘s looking," she whispered urgently.

―Don‘t mind it. It‘s all to your benefit in the end."

Right. Annabel smiled awkwardly. This was all about their performance, wasn‘t it?

―Anything else?" he asked. ―Not that anything could possibly be better than the last."

―I came in third for Winslow Most Likely to Outrun a Turkey."

He did not laugh this time, but this appeared to require a valiant effort on his part. ―Youare a country girl," he said.

She nodded.

―Is it so very difficult to outrun a turkey?"

―Not for me."

―Go on," he urged. ―I find this fascinating."

―That‘s right," she said. ―You have no siblings."

―A lack for which I have never been so bereft as tonight. Just think of the titles I might have won."

―Grey Most Likely to Join a Pirate Ship?" she suggested, with a nod toward his patch.

―Privateer, if you please. I‘m much too refined for piracy."

She rolled her eyes a bit, then offered: ―Grey Most Likely to Get Lost on a Heath?"

―You are a cruel woman. I knew where I was the entire time. I was thinking Grey Most Likely to Win a Fortune at Darts."

―Grey Most Likely to Open a Lending Library?" she tried.

He laughed. ―Grey Most Likely to Butcher an Opera."

Her mouth fell open. ―Do you sing?"

―I tried once." He leaned down confidentially. ―It was a moment never to be repeated."

―Probably wise," she murmured, ―assuming you wish to keep your friends."

―Or at the very least, allow my friends to keep their hearing."

She grinned, starting to feel giddy with the joke. ―Grey Most Likely to Write a Book!"

He froze. ―Why would you say that?"

―I–I don‘t know," she said, perplexed by his reaction. He was not angry, but he had gone utterly serious. ―I suppose I think you have a way with words. Didn‘t I once say you were a poet?"

―Did you?"

―Before I knew who you were," she clarified. ―On the heath."

―Oh, right." He pressed his lips together, thinking.

―And you showed great concern forRomeo and Juliet . The play, that is, not the characters. On that score you were remarkably uncaring."

―Someone needs to be uncaring," he said.

―Well put," she said with a snort.

―I do try."

Then she remembered. ―Oh, and of course there is Mrs. Gorely!"

―There is?"

―Yes, you are such an admirer. I really should read one of her books," Annabel mused.

―Perhaps I will give you one of my autographed copies."

―Oh no, you mustn‘t do that. You should reserve those for true devotees. I don‘t even know if I will like it. Lady Olivia doesn‘t seem to."

―Your cousin does," he pointed out.

―True. But Louisa also likes those horrible Mrs. Radcliffe novels, which honestly, I can‘t abide."

―Mrs. Gorely is far superior to Mrs. Radcliffe," he said firmly.

―You‘ve read both?"

―Of course. There is no comparison."

―Hmmm. Well, I should give it a try. Judge for myself."

―Then I shall give you one of my unautographed copies."

―You have multiple editions?" My goodness, she hadn‘t realized he was as big a fan as that.

He gave a little shrug. ―I had them all before I found the autographed set."