Although she would have said the same thing anyway. Honoria was marvelously loyal that way.

“It is true,” Sarah said, “and it does not bother me. Well, not very much, anyway. It certainly does not bother me about Lord Hugh, given that I return the sentiment in spades.”

Honoria took a moment to wade through Sarah’s words, then rolled her eyes. Not very much, but Sarah knew her too well to miss the gesture. It was the closest her kind and gentle cousin ever came to a screaming fit.

“I think you should give him a chance,” Honoria said. “You’ve never even had a proper conversation with him.”

There had been nothing proper about it, Sarah thought darkly. They had nearly come to blows. And she certainly hadn’t known what to say to him. She felt ill every time she recalled their meeting at the Dunwoody engagement fête. She’d done nothing but spout clichés. She might have even stamped her foot. He probably thought her an utter imbecile, and the truth was, she rather thought she’d acted like one.

Not that she cared what he thought of her. That would ascribe far too much importance to his opinion. But in that awful moment in the Dunwoody library—and in the few brief words they’d exchanged since—Hugh Prentice had reduced her to someone she didn’t much like.

And that was unforgivable.

“It’s not up to me to say who you will or will not get on with,” Honoria continued after it became clear that Sarah was not going to comment, “but I’m sure you can find the strength to endure Lord Hugh’s company for one day.”

“Sarcasm becomes you,” Sarah said suspiciously. “When did that happen?”

Honoria smiled. “I knew I could depend upon you.”

“Indeed,” Sarah muttered.

“He’s not so dreadful,” Honoria said, patting her on the arm. “I think he’s rather handsome, actually.”

“It doesn’t matter if he’s handsome.”

Honoria leapt on that. “So you think he is handsome.”

“I think he’s quite strange,” Sarah shot back, “and if you are trying to play matchmaker . . .”

“I’m not!” Honoria held up her arms in mock surrender. “I swear it. I was merely making an observation. I think he has very nice eyes.”

“I’d like him better if he had a vestigial toe,” Sarah muttered. Maybe she should write a book.

“A vestigial—what?”

“Yes, his eyes are perfectly nice,” Sarah said obediently. It was true, she supposed. He did have very nice eyes, green as grass, and piercingly intelligent. But nice eyes did not a future husband make. And no, she did not view every single man through the lens of eligibility—well, not very much, and certainly not him—but it was clear that despite her protestations, Honoria was casting her thoughts in that direction.

“I will do this for you,” Sarah said, “because you know I would do anything for you. Which means I would throw myself in front of a moving carriage if it came to that.” She paused, giving Honoria time to absorb that before continuing with a grand sweep of her arm. “And if I would throw myself in front of a moving carriage, it stands to reason that I would also consent to an activity that does not require the taking of my own life.”

Honoria looked at her blankly.

“Such as sitting next to Lord Hugh Prentice at your wedding breakfast.”

It took Honoria a moment to take that in. “How very . . . logical.”

“And by the way, it’s two days I must suffer his company, not one.” She wrinkled her nose. “Just to be clear.”

Honoria smiled graciously. “Then you shall entertain Lord Hugh this evening before supper?”

“Entertain,” Sarah repeated sardonically. “Shall I dance? Because you know I’m not going to play the pianoforte.”

Honoria laughed as she headed for the door. “Just be your usual charming self,” she said, poking her face back in the room for one last second. “He will love you.”

“God forbid.”

“He works in strange ways . . .”

“Not that strange.”

“Methinks the lady—”

“Don’t say it,” Sarah cut in.

Honoria’s brows rose. “Shakespeare certainly knew what he was talking about.”

Sarah threw a pillow at her.

But she missed. It was that kind of a day.

Later that day

Chatteris had arranged for target shooting that afternoon, and as this was one of the few sports in which Hugh could still participate, he decided to head down to the south lawn at the appointed time. Or rather, thirty minutes before the appointed time. His leg was still annoyingly stiff, and he found that even with his cane to aid him, he was walking more slowly than usual. There were remedies to ease the pain, but the salve that had been put forth by his doctor smelled like death. As for laudanum, he could not tolerate the dullness of mind it brought on.

All that was left was drink, and it was true that a snifter or two of brandy seemed to loosen the muscle and suppress the ache. But he rarely allowed himself to over-imbibe; just look what had happened the last time he’d got drunk. He also tried his best to avoid spirits until nightfall at the earliest. The few times he’d given in and gulped something down, he’d been disgusted with himself for days.

He had so few methods with which to measure his strength. It had become a point of honor to make it through to dusk with only his wits to battle the pain.

Stairs were always the most difficult, and he paused at the landing to flex and straighten his leg. Maybe he shouldn’t bother. He hadn’t even made it halfway to the south lawn and already the familiar dull throb was pulsing through his thigh. No one would be the wiser if he just turned around and went back to his room.