“I believe you said you forget nothing,” he said.

“So I did,” Lady Danbury replied. “Rather like your father in that regard, I expect.”

Sarah gasped. Even for Lady Danbury, this was audacious.

But Lord Hugh proved to be more than her match. His expression did not change in the least as he said, “Ah, but that is not the case at all. My father’s memory is relentlessly selective.”

“But tenacious.”

“Also relentlessly.”

“Well,” Lady Danbury declared, thumping her cane on the carpet. “I expect it’s time to call him off.”

“I have very little control over my father, Lady Danbury.”

“No man is without all resources.”

He tipped his head in a tiny salute. “I did not say that I was.”

Sarah’s eyes flicked back and forth so fast she was getting dizzy.

“This nonsense has gone on long enough,” Lady Danbury announced.

“On that point, we are in agreement,” Lord Hugh replied, but to Sarah’s ears, they were still sparring.

“It is good to see you at this wedding,” the elderly countess said. “I hope it portends peaceful times to come.”

“As Lord Chatteris is not my great-grandnephew, I can only assume that I was invited out of friendship.”

“Or to keep an eye on you.”

“Ah,” Lord Hugh said, one corner of his mouth sliding into a wry curve, “but that would be counterproductive. One would assume that the only dastardly deed for which I might need monitoring would involve Lord Winstead, who, as we both know, is here at the wedding.”

His face resumed its normal inscrutable mask, and he regarded Lady Danbury unblinkingly until she said, “I believe that is quite the longest sentence I have ever heard you utter.”

“Have you heard him utter many sentences?” Sarah inquired.

Lady Danbury turned to her with a hawkish expression. “I’d quite forgotten you were there.”

“I have been uncharacteristically quiet.”

“Which brings me to my original point,” Lady Danbury declared.

“That we are awkward?” Lord Hugh murmured.


This, predictably, was met with an awkward pause.

“You, Lord Hugh,” Lady Danbury declared, “have been abnormally taciturn since the day you were born.”

“You were there?” he queried.

Lady Danbury’s face screwed up, but it was obvious she appreciated an excellent riposte, even when directed at her. “How do you put up with him?” she asked Sarah.

“I rarely have to,” Sarah replied with a shrug.


“She has been assigned to me,” Lord Hugh explained.

Lady Danbury’s eyes narrowed. “For someone so uncommunicative, you’re quite pithy this evening.”

“It must be the company.”

“I do tend to bring out the best in people.” Lady Danbury smiled slyly and swung around to face Sarah. “What do you think?”

“Without a doubt you bring out the best in me,” Sarah proclaimed. She’d always known when to say what someone else wanted to hear.

“I must say,” Lord Hugh said in a dry tone, “I find this conversation diverting.”

“Well, you would, wouldn’t you?” Lady Danbury retorted. “It’s not as if you’ve had to tax your brain to keep up with me.”

Sarah felt her lips part again as she tried to sort that one out. Had Lady Danbury just called him clever? Or was she insulting him by saying that he hadn’t added anything of interest to the conversation?

And what did it mean that Sarah had to tax her brain to keep up with her?

“You look perplexed, Lady Sarah,” Lady Danbury said.

“I find myself fervently hoping that we will soon be called in to supper,” Sarah admitted.

Lady Danbury snorted with amusement.

Emboldened, Sarah said to Lord Hugh, “I believe I have begun to pray to the butler.”

“If there are to be replies, you’ll certainly hear his before anyone else’s,” he said.

“Now this is more like it,” Lady Danbury announced. “Look at the two of you. You’re positively bantering.”

“Bantering,” Lord Hugh repeated, as if he could not quite grasp the word.

“It’s not as entertaining for me as an awkward conversation, but I imagine you prefer it.” Lady Danbury pressed her lips together and glanced about the room. “I suppose I shall have to find someone else to entertain me now. It’s quite a delicate balance, you know, finding awkwardness without stupidity.” She thumped her cane on the carpet, hmmphed, and departed.

Sarah turned to Lord Hugh. “She’s mad.”

“I might point out that you recently said the same thing to me.”

Sarah was sure there were a thousand different responses to that, but she managed to think of precisely none of them before Iris suddenly appeared. Sarah clenched her teeth. She was still very annoyed with her.

“I found her,” Iris announced, her face still grim with latent determination. “We are saved.”

Sarah could not find enough charity within herself to say something bright and congratulatory. She did, however, nod.

Iris gave her a queer look, punctuated with a tiny shrug.

“Lord Hugh,” Sarah said, with perhaps a bit more emphasis than was strictly necessary, “may I present my cousin, Miss Smythe-Smith? Formerly Miss Iris Smythe-Smith,” she added, for no reason other than her own sense of annoyance. “Her elder sister was recently wed.”