“Ehrm, no. I mean, yes. I mean, there was a spider!”

He looked down at the floor. “A spider?”

“It went that way,” she said quickly, pointing to the left. And sort of to the right as well.

Lord Hugh frowned, leaning on his cane as his body swayed to one side to better glance down the hall.

“I’m terrified of them,” Sarah said. It wasn’t quite true, but almost so. She certainly did not like them.

“Well, I don’t see it now.”

“Should I go find someone?” she blurted, thinking that a trip across the house, perhaps all the way to the servants quarters, might not be such a bad idea. If she could not see Hugh Prentice, this madness would have to end, wouldn’t it? “You know,” she went on, making it all up as she went along, “to search it out. And kill it. Good heavens, there could be a nest.”

“I am sure the maids of Fensmore would never allow such a thing to come to pass.”

“Nevertheless,” she squeaked. And then she winced, because the squeak had been awful.

“Perhaps it would be easier to ring for a footman?” He motioned to the drawing room, which was just a few feet away.

She nodded, because of course he was correct, and already she felt herself returning to normal. Her heartbeat was slowing, and as long as she did not look at his mouth, the urge to kiss him was gone. Mostly.

She straightened her shoulders. She could do this. “Thank you for your kind escort,” she said, and stepped into the drawing room.

It was empty.

“Well, this is very strange,” she said.

Hugh’s lips pressed together. “Indeed.”

“I’m not sure . . . ,” Sarah began, but she didn’t have to figure out what to say next, because Lord Hugh had turned to her with slightly narrowed eyes. “Your cousin,” he began. “She wouldn’t—”

“No!” Sarah exclaimed. “I mean, no,” she said in a much more appropriate voice. “Iris maybe, but not Hon—” She cut herself off. The last thing she wanted was for him to think any of the Smythe-Smiths were trying to throw them together.

“Look!” she said, her voice coming out overbright and loud. She flittered her hand toward a table to the left. “Empty plates. There were people here. They’re just gone now.”

He didn’t say anything.

“Should we sit down?” she asked awkwardly.

He still didn’t say anything. He did turn his head, though, to more directly face her.

“And wait?” she offered. “Since we said we would?” She felt ridiculous. And uncommonly fidgety. But now she felt as if she had to prove something to herself, that she could be in the same room as him and feel perfectly normal.

“Frances will be expecting us to be here,” she added, since Lord Hugh had seemingly gone mute. She supposed he was just thinking, but really, couldn’t he think and make idle conversation at the same time? She did it all the time.

“After you, Lady Sarah,” he said. Finally.

She made her way over to a blue and gold sofa, the same one, she realized, she’d been sleeping on the day before when he’d woken her up. She was tempted to glance behind her as she walked to make sure that he did not need her assistance. Which was ridiculous, because she knew he didn’t need her assistance, at least not in such a simple endeavor as this.

But she wanted to, and when she finally reached the sofa and sat down, she was unaccountably relieved to be able to look up at him. He was only a few steps behind, and a moment later he was seated in the blue chair he had occupied the day before.

Déjà vu, she thought, except everything was different now. Everything except where they were sitting. It had taken only a day, and her world had been turned upside down.

Chapter Nine

“Déjà vu,” Lady Sarah quipped, and Hugh was thinking that very thing, except it wasn’t quite the same. The table was not where it had been the day before. He’d thought it had looked off when he sat down.

“Is something the matter?” she asked.

He had a feeling he was frowning. “No, just . . .” He shifted in his seat. How difficult would it be to move the table? It was still covered with half-empty plates that the servants must not have realized were ready to be removed. But surely he could shove those aside. . . .

“Oh!” Lady Sarah said suddenly. “You need to stretch out your leg. Of course.”

“I think the table is not quite where it was yesterday,” he said.

She looked down at the table and then back at him.

“I had room to extend my leg,” he clarified.

“So you did,” she said briskly. She stood, and he almost groaned. He placed his hands on the arms of the chair, getting ready to push himself up, but Lady Sarah placed one hand lightly over his and said, “No, please do not feel you must rise.”

He looked down at her hand, but just as quickly as it had appeared, it was gone, and she started to move the dishes to a different table.

“Don’t,” he said, finding no joy in watching her perform menial tasks on his behalf.

She ignored him. “There,” she said, placing her hands on her hips as she surveyed the partially cleared table. She looked up. “Would it be more comfortable to have your foot on the floor or on the table?”

Good God. He couldn’t believe she was even asking. “I’m not going to put my foot on the table.”

“Would you do so at your home?”

“Of course, but—”

“Then you have answered my question,” she said pertly, turning back to the dirty dishes.