“For the love of— Frances!” Elizabeth glared at her younger sister as if she might take her head off. “It hasn’t been more than five minutes since we switched places!”

Frances gave a helpless shrug. “But I’m bored.”

Sarah stole a glace at Hugh. He seemed to be trying not to laugh. Which she supposed was the best she could hope for.

“Can’t we do something?” Frances pleaded.

“I am,” Elizabeth ground out, holding up her book.

“You know that’s not what I meant.”

“Oh, no!” Harriet cried out.

“I knew you were going to spill the ink!” Elizabeth yelled. Then she let out a shriek, “Don’t get it on me!”

“Stop moving so much!”

“I can help!” Frances said excitedly, leaping into the fray.

Sarah was just about to intervene when Lord Hugh reached forward, grabbed Frances by the collar, and hauled her across the carriage, where he deposited her unceremoniously onto Sarah’s lap.

It was rather magnificent, really.

Frances gaped.

“You should stay out of it,” he advised.

Sarah, meanwhile, was dealing with an elbow to her lungs. “I can’t breathe,” she gasped.

Frances adjusted her position. “Better?” she asked brightly.

Sarah’s reply was a huge gulp of air. Somehow she managed to twist her head to the side so that she was facing Lord Hugh. “I would compliment you on a superior extrication except that I seem to have lost all feeling in my legs.”

“Well, at least you’re breathing now,” he said.

And then—heaven help her—she started to laugh. There was something so ludicrous about being complimented for breathing. Or maybe it was just that one had to laugh when the best thing about one’s situation was that one was still breathing.

And so she did. She laughed. She laughed so hard and so long that Frances slid right off her lap to the floor. And then she kept on laughing until the tears were running down her face, and Elizabeth and Harriet stopped their bickering and stared, astounded.

“What’s wrong with Sarah?” Elizabeth asked.

“It was something about having trouble breathing,” Frances said from the floor.

Sarah let out a little shriek of laughter at that, then clutched her chest, gasping, “Can’t breathe. Laughing too hard.”

Like all good laughter, it was contagious, and before long the whole carriage was giggling, even Lord Hugh, whom Sarah could never have imagined laughing like that. Oh, he smirked, and occasionally he chuckled, but right then, as the Pleinsworth carriage rolled south toward Thrapstone, he was as undone as the rest of them.

It was a glorious moment.

“Oh my,” Sarah finally managed to say.

“I don’t even know what we’re laughing about,” Elizabeth said, still grinning from ear to ear.

Sarah finished wiping the tears from her eyes and tried to explain. “It was— He said— oh, never mind, it would never be as funny in the retelling.”

“I’ve got the ink cleaned up, at least,” Harriet said. She pulled a sheepish face. “Well, except for my hands.”

Sarah looked over and winced. Only one of Harriet’s fingers seemed to have been spared.

“You look as if you’ve got the plague,” Elizabeth said.

“No, I think that’s on your neck,” Harriet replied, taking no offense whatsoever. “Frances, you should get off the floor.”

Frances looked up at Elizabeth, who had slid back into the seat by the window. Elizabeth sighed and moved to the center.

“I’m just going to get bored again,” Frances said as soon as she was settled.

“No, you’re not,” Hugh said firmly.

Sarah turned to look at him, amused and impressed. It took a brave man to take on the Pleinsworth girls.

“We shall find something to do,” he announced.

She waited for him to realize that could never be enough of an answer. Apparently her sisters were doing the same, for at least ten seconds passed before Elizabeth asked him, “Have you any suggestions?”

“He’s brilliant with numbers,” Frances said. “He can multiply monstrously huge sums in his head. I’ve seen him do it.”

“I can’t imagine you will find it entertaining to quiz me at maths for nine hours,” he said.

“No, but it might be entertaining for the next ten minutes,” Sarah said, and she meant every word. How was it possible that she did not know this about him? She knew that he was very clever; Daniel and Marcus had both said so. She also knew that he had been considered unbeatable at cards. After all that had happened, there was no way she could not know that.

“How monstrously huge?” she asked, because truly, she wanted to know.

“At least four digits,” Frances said. “That’s what he did at the wedding breakfast. It was brilliant.”

Sarah peered over at Hugh. He seemed to be blushing. Well, maybe just a little bit. Or maybe not. Maybe she just wanted him to be blushing. There was something quite appealing about the notion.

But then she caught something else in his expression. She didn’t know how to describe it, except that she suddenly knew . . .

“You can do more than four digits,” she said with wonder.

“It is a talent,” he said, “that has brought me as much trouble as it has benefit.”

“May I quiz you?” Sarah asked, trying to keep some of the eagerness out of her voice.

He leaned toward her with a bit of smirk. “Only if I can quiz you.”