I threw up my hands. “Oh, suit yourself! But I won’t cry at your funeral after Lady Huxtable -“
“Did somebody say my name?”
An icy trickle rushed down my spine. I slowly turned around.
My aunt was standing there, her carriage elegant and effect, her eyebrows raised at the sight of a man in my bedchamber. My mouth felt suddenly dry, completely incapable of forming words. Lord Windham only smiled, an insufferable tug at the corner of his lips.
Just then Candace walked back into the room with the card and blanched when she saw Lady Huxtable.
“Madam! Er, you’ve come home earlier than expected.”
“Yes, amazing that my early arrival is surprising to you, given that we have an unexpected guest here, in Miss Delacourt’s chamber, no less.”
Candace began turning alternate shades of white and red and I sincerely wished that Lord Windham would just disappear. He looked in little danger of disappearing, however, as he watched the interplay between my guardian and Candace, the same irritable tugging at the bottom of his lower lip distracting me.
As if he could read my thoughts, Lord Windham suddenly turned towards me. His eyes were deep and dark and strangely serious. There was something rather like … was it apology I saw swimming in the endless depths of his eyes?
My guardian’s voice jolted me out of my thoughts. “Samantha? I’ve been speaking to you for at least a minute, child! Perhaps you should get back in bed. You’re looking rather peaked.”
“Had I known you were sick, Isabelle and I never would have left you alone. When you slept in, Samantha, I thought it was simply the result of coming in so late last night…” Lady Huxtable’s voice trailed off and then she turned to Candace. “Have you sent for the doctor?”
“Aye, Madam. He prescribed bed rest for a week. Said he’d be back in the morning to check up on Miss Samantha.”
“Very well,” my guardian sniffed and then gave me one of her rare apologetic looks. “I’m so sorry that you caught my cold. We’ll let you get some rest now.” And then she very firmly took Lord Windham by the elbow and escorted him out of my chamber before he or I could say another word.
The door shut behind them with a resounding click.
Candace, looking more flustered than I’d ever seen her look, busied herself tucking me back into bed and feeling my forehead for fever.
“Your cheeks look rather flushed but your fever seems to have abated. Hmm...”
As she was plumping my pillows, Isabelle opened the door and peeked around it.
“May I come in, Sam?”
Candace gave Isabelle a friendly look. She was particularly fond of my cousin as they both shared a weakness for astrology.
“Come in, dear. I was just putting Samantha to bed again, the poor thing. She seems to have contracted Lady Huxtable’s cold.”
Isabelle shut the door quietly behind her and rushed towards me, her skirts making a whispering sound against the floor as she moved. She carried a straw bonnet in her hands, pink ribbons trailing down from it.
“Oh, my poor coz! I didn’t know you were sick! I wouldn’t have gone with Vincent and Lady H. to the library if I would’ve known!”
“I’m fine, Izzie. Really.”
“I should have realized last night when you came home from the ball with that awful headache. But I thought you were just upset because Lord Windham never returned to claim his dance.”
I shot my cousin a dirty look but she just stared back at me with innocent eyes. It was very easy to forget sometimes that Isabelle’s pretty golden curls concealed such a quick thinking brain.
Candace cleared her throat, but it sounded more like she was trying to suppress a laugh.
“Speak of the devil, that same man came to call on Miss Samantha while you and Lady Huxtable were out with Mr. de Grave. Came right up into Miss Samantha’s chamber, if you can believe it! Refused to wait for Lady Huxtable to arrive. Of all the nerve.” Candace’s eyes narrowed to cat-like slits and Isabelle giggled.
“My, coz, but you do seem to have an effect on gentlemen. First Lord Windham and then Viscount Dubois. I wonder who’s next?”
I suddenly remembered the card. “That’s right – Candace, did you ever find the card that came with Viscount Dubois’s flowers?” I tried to ignore the fact that Isabelle’s eyes were positively ready to come out of their sockets, she looked that surprised.
“Oh yes, here it is, Miss Samantha.” Candace handed me a small envelope. I opened it and removed a small card. I wished I could remember Viscount Dubois, but I only had a vague impression of a tall man with bright medals on his coat.