All she wanted was to go somewhere on her own two feet. Without informing anyone of her plans. And if she had to suffer through shooting pain every time she put weight on her foot, then so be it. It was worth it just to get out of her room.

But back to Lord Hugh. She knew that his leg bothered him after too much use, but did he feel pain every time he took a step? How was it possible she had not asked him this? They had walked together, certainly no long distances, but still, she should have known if he was in pain. She should have asked.

She hobbled a bit farther down the hall, then finally gave up and sat down in a chair. Someone would be along eventually. A maid . . . a footman . . . It was a busy house.

She sat, tapping a tune on her leg with her hands. Her mother would have a fit if she saw her like this. A lady was meant to sit still. A lady should speak softly and laugh musically and do all sorts of things that had never come naturally to Sarah. It was remarkable, really, that she loved her mother so well. By all rights, they should have wanted to kill each other.

After a few minutes Sarah heard someone moving around the corner. Should she call out? She did need help, but—

“Lady Sarah?”

It was him. She didn’t know why she was so surprised. Or pleased. But she was. Their last conversation had been awful, but when she saw Lord Hugh Prentice coming toward her down the hall, she was so happy to see him that it was astonishing.

He reached her side, then looked up and down the hall. “What are you doing here?”

“Resting, I’m afraid.” She kicked her foot out an inch or so. “My ambitions outstripped my abilities.”

“You shouldn’t be up and about.”

“I just spent three days practically tied to my bed.”

Was it her imagination, or did he suddenly look somewhat uncomfortable?

She kept talking. “And three more before that trapped in a coach—”

“As did we all.”

She pressed her lips together peevishly. “Yes, but the rest of you were able to get out and walk around.”

“Or limp,” he said dryly.

Her eyes flew to his face, but whatever emotions he hid behind his eyes, she could not interpret them.

“I owe you an apology,” he said stiffly.

She blinked. “For what?”

“I let you fall.”

She looked at him for a moment, utterly stunned that he might blame himself for what was so obviously an accident.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she assured him. “I would have fallen no matter what. Elizabeth was stepping on Frances’s hem, and Frances was tugging, and then Elizabeth moved her foot, and—” She waved her hand. “Well. Never you mind. Somehow Harriet was the one who came tumbling into me. If it had been only Frances, I daresay I might have been able to catch my balance.”

He did not say anything, and still she found herself unable to interpret his expression.

“It was on the step, you know,” she heard herself say. “That was when I injured my ankle. Not when I landed.” She had no idea why this might make a difference, but she’d never been talented at censoring her words when she was nervous.

“I owe you an apology as well,” she added haltingly.

He looked at her in question.

She swallowed. “I was very unkind to you in the carriage.”

He started to say something, probably, “Don’t be silly,” but she cut him off.

“I overreacted. It was very . . . embarrassing, Harriet’s play. And I just want you to know that I’m sure I would have acted the same way with anyone. So really, you shouldn’t feel insulted. At least, not personally.”

Good God, she was babbling. She’d never been good at apologies. Most of the time she simply refused to give them.

“Are you joining the gentlemen for the hunt?” she blurted out.

The corner of his mouth tightened and his brows rose into a wry expression as he said, “I cannot.”

“Oh. Oh.” Stupid fool, what had she been thinking? “I’m so sorry,” she said. “That was terribly insensitive of me.”

“You don’t need to dance around it, Lady Sarah. I am lame. It is a fact. And it is certainly not your fault.”

She nodded. “Still, I’m sorry.”

For the barest second he looked unsure of what to do, then, in a quiet voice, he said, “Apology accepted.”

“I don’t like that word, though,” she said.

His brows rose.

“Lame.” She scrunched her nose. “It makes you sound like a horse.”

“Have you an alternative?”

“No. But it’s not my job to solve the world’s problems, merely to state them.”

He stared at her.

“I jest.”

And then, finally, he smiled.

“Well,” she said, “I suppose I only jest a little. I don’t have a better word for it, and I probably cannot solve the world’s problems, although to be fair, no one has given me the opportunity to do so.” She looked up with slyly narrowed eyes, almost daring him to comment.

To her great surprise, he only laughed. “Tell me, Lady Sarah, what do you plan to do with yourself this morning? Somehow I doubt your intention is to sit in the hall all day.”

“I thought I might read in the library,” she admitted. “It’s silly, I know, since that’s what I’ve been doing in my room these past few days, but I’m desperate to be anywhere but that bedchamber. I think I would go read in a wardrobe just for the change of scenery.”

“It would be an interesting change of scenery,” he said.