Which of course she did.

“I hope you’re satisfied,” she said coldly.

Lord Hugh stood at the sound of her voice. His movements were stiff, and he leaned heavily on the arm of the chair as he rose. “I beg your pardon?” he said politely, regarding her with an expression that was completely devoid of emotion.

He did not even have the decency to appear uncomfortable in her presence? Sarah felt her hands turn to rocky little fists. “Have you no shame?”

This elicited a blink, but little else. “It really depends on the situation,” he finally murmured.

Sarah searched her repertoire for suitable exclamations of feminine outrage, finally settling on “You, sir, are no gentleman.”

At that, she finally gained his full attention. His grass-green eyes met hers, narrowing ever-so-slightly in thought, and it was then that Sarah realized—

He did not know who she was.

She gasped.

“Now what?” he muttered.

He didn’t know who she was. He had bloody well ruined her life, and he didn’t know who she was?

Irony, thy name was about to be cursed.

Chapter Three

How They Met

(the way he remembers it)

In retrospect, Hugh thought, he should have realized that the young woman standing before him was unhinged when she declared him no gentleman. Not that it wasn’t the truth; for all that he tried to behave as a civilized adult, he knew that his soul had been black as soot for years.

But really . . . “You, sir, are no gentleman” directly following “I hope you’re satisfied” and “Have you no shame?”

Surely no adult of reasonable intelligence and sanity would be so redundant. Not to mention trite. Either the poor woman had been spending too much time at the theater, or she’d convinced herself she was a character in one of those awful melodramas everyone was reading lately.

His inclination was to turn on his good heel and depart, but judging by the wild look in her eyes she’d probably follow, and he wasn’t exactly the speediest fox in the hunt these days. Best to tackle the problem head-on, so to speak.

“Are you unwell?” he asked carefully. “Would you like me to fetch someone for you?”

She sputtered and fumed, her cheeks turning so pink he could see the deepening color even in the dim light cast by the sconces. “You . . . You . . .”

He took a discreet step away. He did not think she was literally spitting her words, but with the way her lips were pressing together, he really could not be too careful.

“Perhaps you should sit down?” he suggested. He motioned to a nearby settee, hoping she would not expect him to help her get there. His balance was not what it once was.

“Fourteen men,” she hissed.

He could not even begin to wonder what she was about.

“Did you know that?” she asked, and he realized she was shaking. “Fourteen.”

He cleared his throat. “And only one of me.”

There was a moment of silence. A moment of blessed silence. Then she spoke.

“You don’t know who I am, do you?” she demanded.

Hugh regarded her more closely. She looked vaguely familiar, but logically speaking, this meant nothing. Hugh did not socialize very often, but there were only so many members of the ton. Eventually every face would look familiar.

If he had remained at this evening’s gathering for more than a few moments, he might have learned her identity, but he had left the ballroom almost as quickly as he’d found it. Charles Dunwoody’s expression had turned ashen when Hugh had offered his felicitations, leaving Hugh to wonder if he had lost his last friend in London. Finally Charles pulled him aside and informed him that Daniel Smythe-Smith’s mother and sister were present.

He had not asked Hugh to leave, but then again, they’d both known he’d not needed to. Hugh had immediately bowed and retreated. He’d caused those two women enough pain. To remain at the ball would have been nothing short of spiteful.

Especially since he couldn’t bloody well dance.

But his leg had hurt, and he hadn’t felt like pushing through the line of carriages outside to find a hired hack, at least not right away. So he’d made his way to a quiet salon, where he’d been hoping to sit and rest in solitude.

Or not.

The woman who had intruded upon his refuge was still standing just inside the doorway, her fury so palpable that Hugh was almost prepared to reexamine his beliefs on the possibility of spontaneous combustion of the human form.

“You have ruined my life,” she hissed.

That he knew to be untrue. He had ruined Daniel Smythe-Smith’s life, and by extension possibly that of his unmarried younger sister, but this darkly brunette woman in front of him was not Honoria Smythe-Smith. Lady Honoria had much lighter hair, and her face wasn’t nearly as expressive, although the deep emotion on this woman could easily have been brought on by insanity. Or, now that he thought on it, drink.

Yes, that was far more likely. Hugh was not sure how many glasses of ratafia were required to intoxicate a woman of approximately nine stone, but clearly she’d managed it.

“I regret that I have distressed you,” he said, “but I’m afraid you have confused me with someone else.” Then he added—not because he wanted to but rather because he had to; she was bloody well blocking the corridor and clearly needed some sort of verbal nudge to be on her way—“If I may be of any further assistance . . .”

“You may assist me,” she spat, “by removing your presence from London.”

He tried not to groan. This was getting tedious.