Almost, Eloise thought, as if he actually cared about her.

“Sir Phillip,” she replied, “I assure you that I am perfectly fine. I’m quite certain I look a great deal worse than I feel.”

“You had better look worse than you feel,” he muttered.

Eloise scowled at him. It was a blackened eye, after all, and thus only a temporary blight on her appearance, but truly, he didn’t need to remind her that she looked a fright.

“I shall remain out of your way,” she told him, “which is all that really matters, correct?”

A vein began to twitch in his temple. Eloise took great pleasure in that.

“Go,” she said. And when he didn’t, she turned and began to walk through a gate to another segment of the garden.

“Stop this instant,” Sir Phillip ordered, closing the distance between them with a single step. “You may not go for a walk.”

Eloise wanted to ask him if he intended to tie her down, but she held her tongue, fearing that he might actually approve of the suggestion.

“Sir Phillip,” she said, “I fail to see how— Oh!”

Grumbling something about foolish women (and using another adjective which Eloise considered considerably less complimentary), Sir Phillip scooped her into his arms and strode over to the chaise, where he dumped her quite unceremoniously back onto the cushion.


“Stay there,” he ordered.

She sputtered, trying to find her voice after his unbelievable display of arrogance. “You can’t—”

“Good God, woman, you could try the patience of a saint.”

She glared at him.

“What,” he asked with weary impatience, “would it take to keep you from moving from this spot?”

“I can’t think of a thing,” she answered, quite honestly.

“Fine,” he said, his chin jutting out in a furiously stubborn manner. “Hike the entire countryside. Swim to France.”

“From Gloucestershire?” she asked, her lips twitching.

“If anyone could figure out a way to do it,” he said, “it would be you. Good day, Miss Bridgerton.”

And then he stalked off, leaving Eloise exactly where she’d been ten minutes earlier. Sitting on the chaise, so surprised by his sudden departure that she quite forgot that she’d meant to get up and leave.

If Phillip hadn’t already been convinced that he had made an ass of himself earlier that day, Eloise’s short missive informing him that she intended to take supper in her room that evening made it quite clear.

Considering she’d spent the afternoon complaining that she had no company, her decision to pass the evening by herself was a pointed insult, indeed.

He ate alone, in silence, as he had for so many months. Years, really, since Marina had rarely left her room to dine when she’d been alive. One would have thought he’d have grown used to it, but now he was restless and uncomfortable, ever aware of the servants, who all knew that Miss Bridgerton had rejected his company.

He grumbled to himself as he chewed his beefsteak. He knew that one was supposed to ignore the servants and go about daily life as if they didn’t exist, or if they did, as if they were an entirely different species altogether. And while he had to admit he didn’t have much interest in their lives outside of Romney Hall, the fact remained that they had interest in his, and he rather detested being the subject of gossip.

Which he surely would be tonight, as they gathered for supper in the alcove off the kitchen.

He took a vicious bite of his roll. He hoped they had to eat that damned fish from Amanda’s bed.

He made his way through the salad and the poultry and the pudding, even though the soup and the meat had proven quite enough. But there was always the chance that Eloise would change her mind and join him for supper. It didn’t seem likely, given her stubborn streak, but if she decided to bend her will, he wanted to be present when it happened.

When it became apparent that this was nothing but wishful thinking on his part, he considered going up to her, but even out here in the country, that was quite inappropriate, and besides, he doubted she wanted to see him.

Well, that wasn’t quite true. He rather thought that she did want to see him, but she wanted him humbled and apologetic. And even if he didn’t utter a single word resembling either I’m or sorry, his very appearance would be tantamount to eating crow.

Which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, considering that he’d already decided he’d be willing to wrap himself around her feet and beg her piteously to marry him if she would only consent to stay and mother his children. This, even though he had botched it up completely this afternoon—and morning, really, if one were to be honest about it.

But wanting to woo a woman didn’t mean one actually knew how to go about it.

His brother had been the one born with all the charm and flair, always knowing what to say and how to act. George would never have even noticed that the servants were eyeing him as if they were going to gossip about him ten minutes later, and in truth, the point was moot, because all that the servants had ever had to say was along the lines of, “That Master George is such a rascal.” All said with a smile and a blush, of course.

Phillip, on the other hand, had been quieter, more thoughtful, and certainly less suited to the role of father and lord of the manor. He’d always planned to leave Romney Hall and never look back, at least while his father was still alive. George was to marry Marina and have a half dozen perfect children, and Phillip would be the gruff and slightly eccentric uncle who lived over in Cambridge, spending all his time in his greenhouse, conducting experiments that no one else understood or in truth even cared about.

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