She still looked doubtful. “So everyone simply agreed on Greenwich? I find it difficult to believe that the French wouldn't have insisted upon Paris, and the Pope, I'm sure, would have preferred Rome…”

“Well, it wasn't an agreement, precisely,” he allowed with a laugh. “There was no official treaty, if that is what you mean. But the Royal Observatory publishes an excellent set of charts and tables each year—it's called the Nautical Almanac. And a sailor would have to be insane to attempt to navigate the ocean without one on board. And since the Nautical Almanac measures longitude with Greenwich as zero…well, everyone else has adopted it as well.”

“You seem to know quite a bit about this.”

He shrugged. “If you spend enough time on a ship, you learn.”

“Well, I'm afraid it wasn't the sort of thing one learned in the Bridgerton nursery.” She cocked her head to the side in a somewhat self-deprecating manner. “Most of my learning was restricted to what my governess knew.”

“Pity,” he murmured. Then he asked, “Only most?”

“If there was something that interested me, I could usually find several books to read on the topic in our library.”

“I would wager then, that your interests did not lie in abstract mathematics.”

Daphne laughed. “Like you, you mean? Hardly, I'm afraid. My mother always said that it was a wonder I could add high enough to put shoes on my feet.”

Simon winced.

“I know, I know,” she said, still smiling. “You sorts who excel at arithmetic simply don't understand how we lesser mortals can look at a page of numbers and not know the answer—or at least how to get to the answer—instantly. Colin is the same way.”

He smiled, because she was exactly right. “What, then, were your favorite subjects?”

“Hmm? Oh, history and literature. Which was fortunate, since we had no end of books on those topics.”

He took another sip of his lemonade. “I've never had any great passion for history.”

“Really? Why not, do you think?”

Simon pondered that for a moment, wondering if perhaps his lack of enthusiasm for history was due to his distaste for his dukedom and all the tradition that wrapped around it. His father had been so passionate about the title…

But of course all he said was, “Don't know, really. Just didn't like it, I suppose.”

They fell into a few moments of companionable silence, the gentle river wind ruffling their hair. Then Daphne smiled, and said, “Well, I won't apologize again, since I'm too fond of my life to sacrifice it needlessly at your hands, but I am glad that you're not miserable after my mother browbeat you into accompanying us.”

The look he gave her was vaguely sardonic. “If I hadn't wanted to join you, there is nothing your mother could have said that would have secured my presence.”

She snorted. “And this from a man who is feigning a courtship to me, of all people, all because he's too polite to refuse invitations from his friends' new wives.”

A rather irritable scowl immediately darkened his features. “What do you mean, you of all people?”

“Well, I…” She blinked in surprise. She had no idea what she meant. “I don't know,” she finally said.

“Well, stop saying it,” he grumbled, then settled back into his chair.

Daphne's eyes inexplicably focused on a wet spot on the railing as she fought to keep an absurd smile off her face. Simon was so sweet when he was grumpy.

“What are you looking at?” he asked.

Her lips twitched. “Nothing.”

“Then what are you smiling about?”

That she most certainly was not going to reveal. “I'm not smiling.”

“If you're not smiling,” he muttered, “then you're either about to suffer a seizure or sneeze.”

“Neither,” she said in a breezy voice. “Just enjoying the excellent weather.”

Simon was leaning his head against the back of the chair, so he just rolled it to the side so he could look at her. “And the company's not that bad,” he teased.

Daphne shot a pointed look at Anthony, who was leaning against the rail on the opposite side of the deck, glowering at them both. “All of the company?” she asked.

“If you mean your belligerent brother,” Simon replied, “I'm actually finding his distress most amusing.”

Daphne fought a smile and didn't win. “That's not very kindhearted of you.”

“I never said I was kind. And look—” Simon tipped his head ever so slightly in Anthony's direction. Anthony's scowl had, unbelievably, turned even blacker. “He knows we're talking about him. It's killing him.”

“I thought you were friends.”

“We are friends. This is what friends do to one another.”

“Men are mad.”

“Generally speaking,” he agreed.

She rolled her eyes. “I thought the primary rule of friendship was that one was not supposed to dally with one's friend's sister.”

“Ah, but I'm not dallying. I'm merely pretending to dally.”

Daphne nodded thoughtfully and glanced at Anthony. “And it's still killing him—even though he knows the truth of the matter.”

“I know.” Simon grinned. “Isn't it brilliant?”

Just then Violet came sailing across the deck. “Children!” she called out. “Children! Oh, pardon me, your grace,” she added when she spied him. “It's certainly not fair for me to lump you with my children.”



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