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e responded with feigned enthusiasm, his lighthearted mood gone. There was nothing to be done now. It was entirely possible he was mistaken about her feelings and her return was prompted by no more than her need for assistance from an Englishman. It was possible he was simply a convenience. And possible as well that she had no intentions toward him beyond sharing his bed. “My lord,” Tatiana called and waved again from the terrace. “Will you join us?” “Good afternoon, Matthew.” The dowager duchess waved at an empty chair. “Do sit down and tell us how your aerostat is progressing today.” In spite of his now dour mood, Matt smiled. He appreciated the older lady’s use of the proper term, and while he’d never admit it to Tatiana, pink hair straighteners in his own mind he did tend to refer to the aerostat as nothing more exotic than a balloon. “Quite well, thank you, ma’am.” Tatiana poured a cup of tea and handed it to him. Her fingers touched his and electricity sparked between them. His gaze jumped to hers and his breath caught at the emotion simmering in her green eyes. “I can just see it from here.” The dowager shaded her eyes and stared out in the general vicinity of the lake. “Do you see it, my dear?” Tatiana reluctantly pulled her gaze from Matt’s and followed the dowager’s gaze. “I think so.” She squinted and held her hand out to block the bright late-summer sun. “That is it, is it not, my lord? That bright yellow b ghd ceramic straighteners lob?” “If you can see it, it should no longer be a blob,” Matt said, scanning the distance. He spotted it, noting the inflation was nearly completed. “Once it’s fully inflated it will be tied down. I plan to go up in it in a bit—tethered to the groun ghd straighteners ireland d, of course.” “Oh, Matthew, may I come?” Tatiana’s eyes sparkled with excitement. “It has been such a long time.” “Indeed, far too long.” Were they talking about his balloon or something entirely different? And far more important? “I do understand how perhaps today is not a wise choice—the sky is far too gray—but”—Her Grace leaned closer—“you will take me soon, will you not? Preferably before any of my family arrives.” “You fear they might forbid you to go up because of the potential danger.” Matt nodded sagely. “My dear young man. No one forbids me to do anything I wish to do. Why, the very thought is absurd. No, I am simply afraid that once the numero ghd hair dryer us members of my family arrive, they will monopolize your time and I shall not get to fly at all.” ghd hair She smiled. “I should then be most unhappy.” Matt chuckled. “I shall make certain, Your Grace, that you get to fly.” “I thought you wo ghd hair straighteners uld. Now, enough fun for the moment. It is time for more serious matters.” She turned to Tatiana. “Do you prefer to ask me questions about S pink ghd ophia or should I simply ramble on until you are bored?” “I cannot imagine being bored, Your Grace.” “Very well. Let me think. It was a long time ago, 1760-something. The exact date eludes me.” The dowager settled back in her chair in the manner of a master storyteller. “The old duke was still alive. My husband was the Marquess of Helmsley then. Sophia’s mother, then the Queen of Avalonia, was a friend of my mother’s, although I have no idea how they were acquainted. At any rate, if memory serves, the “She and her daughter arrived in England with very little.” Her Grace shook her head at the memory. “It was really quite sad. She had some clothing and trinkets, the type of sentimental odds and ends one might grab as a keepsake. I recall she had a small portrait of her husband. He’d been killed only recently.” The dowager gazed off into the distance and the long-ago. “It was apparent she’d loved him a great deal, yet, for the most part, she kept her feelings to herself. We became firm friends during her stay here—of course she had no one else—and she once told me mourning was a luxury she could not indulge. She could not allow her personal sorrow to cripple her. She had a child, his child, to protect, and that was paramount to her. “She remained here, oh, let me think.” Her Grace paused to gather the years. “A month or so, I believe. Sophia was extremely restless, and rightly so. She’d had no word from Avalonia and feared she could have been followed by her family’ pink ghd s enemies. She felt compelled to move from one location to another. That’s why she stayed so briefly with Lady Hutchins, barely more than a week.” She glanced at Tatiana. “Pity she is no ghd flat iron longer with us. She might be able to tell you more.” “I cannot imagine how difficult this must have ghd hair ireland been for her. Forced to flee with nothing more than a handful of keepsakes. The princess had spent her life surrounded by the finest things, clothing and jewels and whatnot. What a shame she had to leave it all behind.” Tatiana’s comment was offhand, but something in her manner caught Matt’s attention and he studied her carefully. “Indeed, she had no more than a single bag with her and no jewels that I was aware of.” The dowager thought for a moment. “A ring, I think. Perhaps a necklace as well. I don’t recall more than that, although she was not penniless.” She cast them an apologetic smile. “I fear I can tell you little else. Soon after leaving Effington Hall, she met the Earl of Worthington and married him. He was considerably older than she, but I think she had had love and was now looking for a safe and secure home for her and her daughter. The earl died, oh, ten or fifteen years later and left her quite well off. “Sophia and I saw each other a time or two after her marriage, but she rarely left Worthington Castle. I always thought she considered it her haven and was therefore reluctant to stray far from its gates. We corresponded sporadically until her death, twenty years ago now.” The dowager shook her head. “I must say, it’s depressing to note now many people in this story are no longer with us. Such is the curse of a long life, I suppose. And in truth”—she smiled—“I am willing to bear it.” Her gaze met buy ghd straighteners Tatiana’s and her voice was firm. “When you write this history of yours, speak well of her courage. I have never met another woman, and only a handful of men, with her strength of character and depth of determination. I have often wondered if that is why she spent the long years after her marriage and the earl’s death in relative solitude. If she had exhausted he cheap ghd straighteners r reserves of strength and valor and now had to concentrate on the simplicities of an ordinary life.” The lady chuckled. “A rather fanciful notion, I suppose.” “Not at all,” Matt said thoughtfully. “I can see your point. It makes a great deal of sense.” “You are a charmer, Matthew.” The dowager had the look of a grandmother about to ruffle the hair of a small child, and Matt braced himself. Thankfully, she did no such thing. Her gaze slid to Tatiana. “Last night you mentioned seeing her rooms. I believe she had a suite in the guest wing, but in this my memory fails. It could well be the rooms you and Lord Matthew share, as those are the best-appointed rooms in that wing. However, they have been refurbished once or twice since Sophia’s stay. “Of course, she would be.” Tatiana nodded. “By the look on your face, I fear I did not give you what you wished for. I hope you are not disappointed?” “Not at all, ma’am.” Tatiana shrugged as if it were of no consequence, but Matt noted a touch of concern in her eyes. “I am merely trying to tell her story. Nothing more.” Her Grace turned back toward Matt. “Well, perhaps your grandmother can add to the story.” Matt winced to himself. “Perhaps.” “Your grandmother?” Tatiana said slowly. “I fear you have me at a disadvantage, my lord. What does your grandmother have to do with this?” The dowager turned to her in surprise. “My dear, in your note you said yo ghd ireland u were retracing the travels of the princess and wished to speak to the three women who helped her. Lady Hutchins, whose demise you had already learned of, Lady Cranston and myself. Lady Cranston is my dear friend Beatrice. Matthew’s grandmother.” “Your grandmother?” Tatiana’s voice was level. “My father’s mother.” Matt smiled in an apologetic manner. “I cannot believe you did not tell her this.” Her Grace drew her brows together in a chastising manner. “Although I suppose I can well understand your reluctance.” “You can?” Matt said and hoped her reasons would be good ones. Tatiana’s eyes narrowed slightly. “You can?” “It’s obvious.” The dowager settled back in her chair and studied him for a long moment. “In spite of your naval exploits and your daring in the skies, when it comes to matters of family, you, my dear boy,

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