When they smiled.

“Let me get you some water,” Freddie said. Carefully, he put a spoon to Hugh’s lips, dribbling the liquid into his mouth.

“More,” Hugh croaked. There had been nothing left to swallow. Every drop had just soaked into his parched tongue.

Freddie gave him a few more spoonfuls, then said, “Let’s wait a bit. I don’t want to give you too much at once.”

Hugh nodded. He didn’t know why, but he nodded.

“Does it hurt?”

It did, but Hugh had the strange sensation that it hadn’t hurt quite so much until Freddie asked about it.

“It’s still there, you know,” Freddie said, motioning toward the foot of the bed. “Your leg.”

Of course it was still there. It hurt like bloody hell. Where else would it be?

“Sometimes men feel pain even after they lose a limb,” Freddie said in a nervous rush. “Phantom pain, it’s called. I read about it, I don’t know when. Some time ago.”

Then it was probably true. Freddie’s memory was almost as good as Hugh’s, and his tastes had always run toward the biological sciences. When they were children, Freddie had practically lived outside, digging in the dirt, collecting his specimens. Hugh had tagged along after him a few times, but he’d been bored out of his skull.

Hugh had quickly discovered that one’s interest in beetles did not increase with the number of beetles located. The same went for frogs.

“Father’s downstairs,” Freddie said.

Hugh closed his eyes. It was the closest he could manage to a nod.

“I should get him.” Said without conviction.


A minute or so went by, and Freddie said, “Here, have a bit more water. You lost a great deal of blood. It will be why you feel so weak.”

Hugh took a few more spoonfuls. It hurt to swallow.

“Your leg is broken, too. The femur. The doctor set it, but he said the bone was splintered.” Freddie cleared his throat. “You’re going to be stuck here for quite some time, I’m afraid. The femur is the largest bone in the human body. It’s going to take several months to heal.”

Freddie was lying. Hugh could hear it in his voice. Which meant that it was going to take quite a bit longer than a few months to heal. Or maybe it wouldn’t heal at all. Maybe he was crippled.

Wouldn’t that be funny.

“What day is it?” Hugh rasped.

“You’ve been unconscious for three days,” Freddie answered, correctly interpreting the question.

“Three days,” Hugh echoed. Good Lord.

“I arrived yesterday. Corville notified me.”

Hugh nodded. It figured their butler would be the one to let Freddie know his brother had nearly died. “What about Daniel?” Hugh asked.

“Lord Winstead?” Freddie swallowed. “He’s gone.”

Hugh’s eyes flew open.

“No, no, not dead gone,” Freddie quickly said. “His shoulder was injured, but he’ll be fine. He’s just left England is all. Father tried to have him arrested, but you weren’t dead yet—”

Yet. Funny.

“—and then, well, I don’t know what Father said to him. He came to see you the day after it happened. I wasn’t here, but Corville told me Winstead tried to apologize. Father wasn’t having . . . well, you know Father.” Freddie swallowed and cleared his throat. “I think Lord Winstead went to France.”

“He should come back,” Hugh said hoarsely. It wasn’t Daniel’s fault. He hadn’t been the one to call for the duel.

“Yes, well, you can take that up with Father,” Freddie said uncomfortably. “He’s been talking about hunting him down.”

“In France?”

“I didn’t try to reason with him.”

“No, of course not.” Because who reasoned with a madman?

“They thought you might die,” Freddie explained.

“I see.” And that was the awful part. Hugh did see.

The Marquess of Ramsgate did not get to choose his heir; primogeniture would force him to give Freddie the title, the lands, the fortune, pretty much anything that wasn’t nailed down by entail. But if Lord Ramsgate could have chosen, they all knew he would have chosen Hugh.

Freddie was twenty-seven and had not yet married. Hugh was holding out hope that he might yet do so, but he knew there was no woman in the world who would catch Freddie’s eye. He accepted this about his brother. He didn’t understand it, but he accepted it. He just wished Freddie would understand that he could still get married and do his duty and take all this bloody pressure off Hugh. Surely there were plenty of women who would be thrilled to have their husbands out of their beds once the nursery was sufficiently populated.

Hugh’s father, however, was so disgusted he’d told Freddie not to bother with a bride. The title might have to reside with Freddie for a few years, but as far as Lord Ramsgate was planning, it ought to end up with Hugh or his children.

Not that he ever seemed to hold Hugh in much affection, either.

Lord Ramsgate was not the only nobleman who saw no reason to care for his children equally. Hugh would be better for Ramsgate, and thus Hugh was better, period.

Because they all knew that the marquess loved Ramsgate, Hugh, and Freddie in precisely that order.

And probably Freddie not at all.

“Would you like laudanum?” Freddie asked abruptly. “The doctor said we could give you some if you woke up.”

If. Even less funny than the yet.

Hugh gave a nod and allowed his older brother to help him into something approaching a sitting position. “God, that’s foul,” he said, handing the cup back to Freddie once he’d downed the contents.