I beg your pardon? I read them, I whispered. I loved them.

—I was hoping it could be you. It would go a long way toward making everything, well . . . She swallowed and her eyes flicked toward the ceiling for a moment as she tried to find the correct words. Toward making everything right. Or at least appear to be right.

He did not have anything to add to that, so he waited for her to continue.She did not disappoint. I was hoping I might ask you a favor.

Hugh could not imagine what, but she was the bride, and if she wanted to ask him to stand on his head, it was his understanding that he was obligated to try.My cousin Arthur has taken ill, she said, and he was to sit at the head table at the wedding breakfast.Oh, no. No, she wasn’t asking—

We need another gentleman, and——I was hoping it could be you. It would go a long way toward making everything, well . . . She swallowed and her eyes flicked toward the ceiling for a moment as she tried to find the correct words. Toward making everything right. Or at least appear to be right.

He stared at her for a moment. It wasn’t that his heart was sinking; hearts didn’t sink so much as they did a tight panicky squeeze, and the truth was, his did neither. There was no reason to fear being forced to sit at the head table, but there was every reason to dread it.

Not that’s it not right, she said hastily. As far as I am concerned—and my mother, too, I can say quite reliably—we hold you in great esteem. We know . . . That is to say, Daniel told us what you did.Elizabeth gave a little frown of disappointment and lowered the book. I was asking, she (apparently) repeated, if you knew if all of the guests had arrived.

I think so, Sarah replied, although truthfully she had no idea. I really couldn’t say about the ones who are staying in the village. Their cousin Honoria Smythe-Smith was marrying the Earl of Chatteris the following morning. The ceremony was to be held here at Fensmore, the ancestral Chatteris home in northern Cambridgeshire. But even Lord Chatteris’s grand home could not hold all of the guests who were coming up from London; quite a few had been forced to take rooms at the local inns.As family, the Pleinsworths had been the first to be allotted rooms at Fensmore, and they had arrived nearly a week ahead of time to help with the preparations. Or perhaps more accurately, their mother was helping with the preparations. Sarah had been tasked with the job of keeping her sisters out of trouble.

Which wasn’t easy.Normally, the girls would have been watched over by their governess, allowing Sarah to attend to her duties as Honoria’s maid of honor, but as it happened, their (now former) governess was getting married the next fortnight.

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