Her eldest son’s interest in the Sheffields was most intriguing. Now, if she could only figure out which Sheffield he was interested in….

About a quarter of an hour later, Anthony was out strolling through his mother’s flower gardens, enjoying the contradiction of the warm sun and the cool breeze, when he heard the light sound of a second set of footsteps on a nearby path. This piqued his curiosity. The guests were all settling in their rooms, and it was the gardener’s day off. Frankly, he’d been anticipating solitude.

He turned toward the direction of the footfall, moving silently until he reached the end of his path. He looked to the right, then to the left, and then he saw…

Her.

Why, he wondered, was he surprised?

Kate Sheffield, dressed in a pale lavender frock, blending in charmingly with the irises and grape hyacinths. She was standing beside a decorative wooden arch, which, later in the year, would be covered with climbing pink and white roses.

He watched her for a moment as she trailed her fingers along some fuzzy plant he could never remember the name of, then bent down to sniff at a Dutch tulip.

“They don’t have a scent,” he called out, slowly making his way toward her.

She straightened immediately, her entire body reacting before she’d turned to see him. He could tell she’d recognized his voice, which left him feeling rather oddly satisfied.

As he approached her side, he motioned to the brilliant red bloom and said, “They’re lovely and somewhat rare in an English garden, but alas, with no perfume.”

She waited longer to reply than he would have expected, then she said, “I’ve never seen a tulip before.”

Something about that made him smile. “Never?”

“Well, not in the ground,” she explained. “Edwina has received many bouquets, and the bulb flowers are quite the rage this time of year. But I’ve never actually seen one growing.”

“They are my mother’s favorite,” Anthony said, reaching down and plucking one. “That and hyacinths, of course.”

She smiled curiously. “Of course?” she echoed.

“My youngest sister is named Hyacinth,” he said, handing her the flower. “Or didn’t you know that?”

She shook her head. “I didn’t.”

“I see,” he murmured. “We are quite famously named in alphabetical order, from Anthony right down to Hyacinth. But then, perhaps I know a great deal more about you than you know of me.”

Kate’s eyes widened in surprise at his enigmatic statement, but all she said was, “That may very well be true.”

Anthony quirked a brow. “I’m shocked, Miss Sheffield. I had donned all my armor and was expecting you to return with, ‘I know quite enough.’ ”

Kate tried not to make a face at his imitation of her voice. But her expression was wry in the extreme as she said, “I promised Mary I would be on my best behavior.”

Anthony let out a loud hoot of laughter.

“Strangely enough,” Kate muttered, “Edwina had a similar reaction.”

He leaned one hand against the arch, carefully avoiding the thorns on the climbing rose vine. “I find myself insanely curious as to what constitutes good behavior.”

She shrugged and fiddled with the tulip in her hand. “I expect I shall figure that out as I go along.”

“But you’re not supposed to argue with your host, correct?”

Kate shot him an arch look. “There was some debate over whether or not you qualify as our host, my lord. After all, the invitation was issued by your mother.”

“True,” he acceded, “but I do own the house.”

“Yes,” she muttered, “Mary said as much.”

He grinned. “This is killing you, isn’t it?”

“Being nice to you?”

He nodded.

“It’s not the easiest thing I’ve ever done.”

His expression changed slightly, as if he might be done teasing her. As if he might have something entirely different on his mind. “But it’s not the hardest thing, either, now, is it?” he murmured.

“I don’t like you, my lord,” she blurted out.

“No,” he said with an amused smile. “I didn’t think you did.”

Kate started to feel very strange, much like she had in his study, right before he’d kissed her. Her throat suddenly felt a bit tight, and her palms grew very warm. And her insides—well, there was really nothing to describe the tense, prickly feeling that tightened through her abdomen. Instinctively, and perhaps out of self-preservation, she took a step back.

He looked amused, as if he knew exactly what she was thinking.

She fiddled with the flower some more, then blurted out, “You shouldn’t have picked this.”

“You should have a tulip,” he said matter-of-factly. “It isn’t right that Edwina receives all the flowers.”

Kate’s stomach, already tense and prickly, did a little flip. “Nonetheless,” she managed to say, “your gardener will surely not appreciate the mutilation of his work.”

He smiled devilishly. “He’ll blame one of my younger siblings.”

She couldn’t help but smile. “I should think less of you for such a ploy,” she said.

“But you don’t?”

She shook her head. “But then again, it’s not as if my opinion of you could sink very much lower.”

“Ouch.” He shook a finger at her. “I thought you were supposed to be on your best behavior.”

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