“Best not to look,” Anthony said, trying to tip her chin in the other direction.
Her breathing, which was already rapid from trying to control the pain, grew erratic and panicked. “Oh, my God,” she gasped. “It hurts. Didn’t realize how much it hurt until I saw—”
“Don’t look,” Anthony ordered.
“Oh, my God. Oh, my God.”
“Kate?” Edwina asked in a concerned voice, leaning in. “Are you all right?”
“Look at my leg!” Kate nearly shrieked. “Does it look all right?”
“I was actually speaking of your face. You look a bit green.”
But Kate couldn’t reply. She was hyperventilating too hard. And then, with Anthony, Edwina, Mr. Bagwell, and Newton all staring down at her, her eyes rolled back in her head, and she fainted.
Three hours later, Kate was installed in her bed, certainly not comfortable but at least in a bit less pain thanks to the laudanum Anthony had forced down her throat the minute they’d gotten home. Her leg had been expertly set by the three surgeons Anthony had summoned (not, as all three surgeons had pointed out, that more than one was needed to set a bone, but Anthony had crossed his arms implacably and stared them all down until they’d shut up), and a physician had stopped by to leave several prescriptions that he swore would hasten the bone-knitting process.
Anthony had fussed over her like a mother hen, second-guessing every move from every doctor until one of them had actually had the audacity to ask him when he’d received his license from the Royal College of Physicians.
Anthony had not been amused.
But after much haranguing, Kate’s leg was set and splinted, and she was told to look forward to at least a month of confinement in bed.
“Look forward?” she groaned to Anthony once the last of the surgeons had gone. “How can I look forward to that?”
“You’ll be able to catch up on your reading,” he suggested.
She let out an impatient exhale through her nose; it was hard to breathe through her mouth while clenching her teeth. “I wasn’t aware I was behind on my reading.”
If he’d been tempted to laugh, he did a good job of hiding it. “Perhaps you could take up needlework,” he suggested.
She just glared at him. As if the prospect of needlework were going to make her feel better.
He sat gingerly on the edge of her bed and patted the back of her hand. “I’ll keep you company,” he said with an encouraging smile. “I’d already decided to cut back on the time I spent at my club.”
Kate sighed. She was tired and cranky and in pain, and she was taking it out on her husband, which really wasn’t fair. She turned her hand over so that their palms met and then entwined her fingers through his. “I love you, you know,” she said softly.
He squeezed her hands and nodded, the warmth of his eyes on hers saying more than words ever could.
“You told me not to,” Kate said.
“I was an ass.”
She didn’t argue; a quirk of his lips told her that he noticed her lack of contradiction. After a moment of silence, she said, “You were saying some odd things in the park.”
Anthony’s hand remained in hers, but his body pulled back slightly. “I don’t know what you mean,” he replied.
“I think you do,” she said softly.
Anthony closed his eyes for a moment, then stood, his fingers trailing through her grasp until finally they were no longer touching at all. For so many years he’d been careful to keep his odd convictions to himself. It seemed best. Either people would believe him and then worry or they wouldn’t and then think him insane.
Neither option was particularly appealing.
But now, in the heat of one terrified moment, he’d blurted it out to his wife. He couldn’t even remember exactly what he’d said. But it had been enough to make her curious. And Kate wasn’t the sort to let go of a curiosity. He could practice all the avoidance he wanted, but eventually she’d get it out of him. A more stubborn woman had never been born.
He walked to the window and leaned against the sill, gazing blankly in front of him as if he could actually see the streetscape through the heavy burgundy drapes that had long since been pulled shut. “There is something you should know about me,” he whispered.
She didn’t say anything, but he knew she’d heard. Maybe it was the sound of her changing her position in bed, maybe it was the sheer electricity in the air. But somehow he knew.
He turned around. It would have been easier to speak his words to the curtains, but she deserved better from him. She was sitting up in bed, her leg propped up on pillows, her eyes wide and filled with a heartbreaking mix of curiosity and concern.
“I don’t know how to tell you this without sounding ridiculous,” he said.
“Sometimes the easiest way is just to say it,” she murmured. She patted an empty spot on the bed. “Do you want to sit beside me?”
He shook his head. Proximity would only make it that much more difficult. “Something happened to me when my father died,” he said.
“You were very close to him, weren’t you?”
He nodded. “Closer than I’d ever been to anyone, until I met you.”
Her eyes glistened. “What happened?”
“It was very unexpected,” he said. His voice was flat, as if he were recounting an obscure news item and not the single most disturbing event of his life. “A bee, I told you.”
“Who would have thought a bee could kill a man?” Anthony said with a caustic laugh. “It would have been funny if it weren’t so tragic.”
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