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A Lady Never Tells(8)

By:Candace Camp

Then, as suddenly as he had whisked her into his arms, Royce released her and took a step back. Mary saw mirrored in his eyes some of the same amazement she was sure was in her own gaze, but he recovered more quickly than she.

Giving her a quick, impudent grin, he tipped his hat a fraction. “There. I think that’s adequate recompense, don’t you?”

Before she could dredge up a single thought, much less come up with a rejoinder, he turned on his heel and strode out of the inn. Mary watched him go, sagging against the door in sudden weakness. Even after he was out of sight, she remained where she was, her brain a whirl. Whatever was the matter with her?

It occurred to her that she was standing in the hall of an inn, where anyone could have seen them kiss, and she straightened, quickly glancing up and down the corridor. A blush rushed into her cheeks as embarrassment seized her. She had acted like a common hussy!

She raised shaky hands to her cheeks to cool the flames that burned there, and tried to pull herself together. She could not let her sisters see her so agitated. Sir Royce had not behaved like a gentleman, and she had responded in a way not at all like herself. No doubt she should have slapped him—or, at the very least, pushed him away. But it had been a very trying day; it was no wonder she had been slow to react. In another moment or two she would have shaken off her strange stupor and pulled out of his arms. Wouldn’t she?

As for the strange sensations that had flooded her while he kissed her—the heat, the eagerness, the wild fizzing of her nerves—well, she would not think about that now.

Mary drew a deep breath and smoothed down her skirts; then, lifting her chin, she turned and opened the door, marching back into the room. Her sisters turned to her.

“What happened?”

“Where did you go?”

“What did you say to Mr. Winslow?”

“Sir Royce,” Rose corrected Camellia. “Now that we are here, we should learn to use their terms.”

“Sir. Mr. What difference does it make?” Camellia retorted. “He’s the same man whatever title you give him, isn’t he?”

“Yes, of course,” Mary said. “But I suppose it’s impolite for us to address him as ‘Mr.’”

Camellia shrugged. “If someone told you to call him Emperor, would you do it?”

Lily rolled her eyes. “Oh, Cam, honestly, it’s not a crime to have a title. I think it’s romantic.”

Camellia made a face. “You think everything’s romantic.”

“All right, girls,” Mary said automatically. “There is no need to fuss at each other.”

“Why did you go out into the hall with him?” Lily asked.

“I just … thanked him again for what he did for us.” Mary felt her cheeks grow heated, and she prayed that her sisters did not notice.

“Don’t you think we should have told him who we are and what we’re doing here?” Rose asked, frowning. “He probably could have helped us find our grandfather, couldn’t he? Why, he might even know the earl; he seemed a very fine gentleman.”

“Dressing like a popinjay doesn’t make you a gentleman,” Camellia pointed out.

“He didn’t dress like a popinjay,” Lily protested. “It was that other silly man who looked like a bird.”

“A bird in lavender-striped trousers,” Camellia agreed, grinning.

“What?” Rose looked from one to the other. “What are you talking about?”

“Oh, you should have seen him, Rose!” Lily jumped up, her heart-shaped face alight with laughter. She posed, her hand on one hip, her chin tilted up, looking at Rose down the length of her nose. “He stood like this, and he looked so silly, and you could see his coat was padded out to here.” She held her hands out on either side of her shoulders.#p#分页标题#e#

Rose giggled at her antics, and Mary smiled. It seemed as if Rose had hardly smiled since they left America. More than one night Mary had heard her sister crying softly in her bunk on the ship, after she thought all the others had gone to sleep. It was a relief to see her laugh again.

“He had a flower in his lapel the size of my fist,” Mary added, wanting to keep the smile on Rose’s face.

“No! Really?”

“Yes, and his coat was canary yellow,” Mary continued.

“That’s unkind to canaries,” Lily protested. “It was a perfectly vile color.”

“You should have seen his face when he saw my knife,” Camellia put in. “I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head.”

“Sir Royce called him his cousin, but he wasn’t like Sir Royce at all.” Lily shot a pointed glance at Camellia. “Sir Royce is a gentleman.”