Iris glanced over her shoulder. “Is he here yet?”

“No,” Sarah said with a happy sigh.

“Don’t get too complacent,” Iris warned. “He’ll be down. If Honoria asked you to watch out for him, she will have asked him—quite specifically—to come to supper.”

Sarah stared at Iris in horror. Honoria had said she wasn’t trying to make a match of the two of them . . . “Surely you don’t think—”

“No, no,” Iris said with a snort, “she wouldn’t dare try to play matchmaker. Not with you.”

Sarah’s lips came together to ask her what she meant by that, but before she could make a sound, Iris added, “You know Honoria. She likes everything to be neat and tidy. If she wants you to look after Lord Hugh, she’ll make sure he’s here to need looking after.”

Sarah considered this for a moment, then gave a nod of concurrence. Honoria was like that. “Well,” she declared, because she always did like a declarative well. “It’s going to make for a miserable two days, but I promised Honoria, and I always keep my obligations.”

If Iris had been sipping a drink, she would have sprayed it across the room. “You?”

“What do you mean, me?” Sarah demanded. Iris looked as if she was about to chortle with amusement.

“Oh, please,” Iris said, in that scornful way one could adopt only with family and still hope to be on speaking terms the next day, “you are the last person who can claim to keep all of her obligations.”

Sarah drew back, deeply affronted. “I beg your pardon.”

But if Iris saw Sarah’s distress, she did not notice. Or did not care. “Does your memory not stretch back to last April?” Iris prompted. “April the fourteenth, to be precise?”

The musicale. Sarah had backed out the afternoon of the performance. “I was ill,” she protested. “There was no way I could have played.”

Iris did not say a word. She didn’t have to. Sarah was lying, and they both knew it.

“Very well, I wasn’t ill,” Sarah admitted. “At least not very ill.”

“It’s nice of you to finally admit it,” Iris said in an annoyingly superior voice.

Sarah shifted her weight uncomfortably. It had been the two of them that spring, plus Honoria and Daisy. Honoria had been happy to play as long as she was with family, and Daisy was convinced that she was well on her way to becoming a virtuoso. Iris and Sarah, on the other hand, had held many conversations debating the various methods of death by musical instrument. Gallows humor. It had been the only way they’d been able to get through the dread.

“I did it for you,” she finally said to Iris.

“Oh, really.”

“I thought the entire performance would be canceled.”

Iris was clearly unconvinced.

“I did!” Sarah insisted. “Who would have ever thought Mama would drag poor Miss Wynter into the performance? Although it did turn out well for her, didn’t it?”

Miss Wynter—Miss Anne Wynter, who was going to marry Cousin Daniel in two weeks and become the Countess of Winstead—had made the mistake of once telling Sarah’s mother that she could play the pianoforte. Lady Pleinsworth, apparently, had not forgotten this.

“Daniel would have fallen in love with Miss Wynter regardless,” Iris retorted, “so don’t try to soothe your conscience with that.”

“I wasn’t. I was merely pointing out that I never could have foreseen—” She let out an impatient breath. None of this sounded the way it did in her head. “Iris, you must know that I was trying to save you.”

“You were trying to save yourself.”

“I was trying to save both of us. It just— It did not work the way I planned.”

Iris regarded her coolly. Sarah waited for her to respond, but she didn’t. She just stood there, drawing out the moment like soft treacle candy, stretched into a ropy swing. Finally, Sarah could take it no more, and she gave in with, “Just say it.”

Iris raised a brow.

“Whatever it is you’re so keen to tell me. Obviously there is something.”

Iris’s lips parted, then closed, as if she were taking time to choose the correct words. Finally, she said, “You know that I love you.”

It was not what Sarah had expected. Unfortunately, neither was what came next.

“I will always love you,” Iris continued. “In fact, I will probably even always like you, and you know I cannot say that about most of our family. But you can be terribly selfish. And the worst part of it is, you don’t even see it.”

It was the strangest thing, Sarah thought. She wanted to say something. She needed to say something, because that’s what she did when faced with something she didn’t like. Iris couldn’t call her selfish and expect Sarah to just stand there and listen.

And yet that was what she seemed to be doing.

She swallowed, and she felt her tongue dart out to moisten her lips, but she could not form words. All she could do was think No. It wasn’t true. She loved her family. She would do anything for them. That Iris could stand there and call her selfish . . .

It cut deep.

Sarah stared at her cousin’s face, sensing the precise moment when Iris moved on, when the fact that she’d just called Sarah selfish was no longer the most consequential thing in the world.

As if anything could be more consequential.

“There she is,” Iris said briskly. “Lady Edith. I need to get to her before Daisy does.” She took a step, then turned and said, “We can talk about this later. If you want.”