'Here I was thinking it was going to be just dreadful!'

“Here I was thinking it was going to be just dreadful!” Lady Anna tittered. “You know, I never had The Talk at all because my mama died so long ago, and my papa must have thought that what I didn’t know couldn’t hurt me!”

Anna paused to allow Wynna to laugh at her joke, but Wynna only smiled weakly.

Wynna only smiled weakly.

“So it was your mama who had to tell me about it, and the way she told it, I thought I should be bringing a bit of leather to bite down on, like when they cut a man open for surgery, and maybe my beads so I could pray to the saints for deliverance.”

Still Wynna said nothing.

“But it wasn’t so bad at all! But I guess you already knew that, you sly one.” Anna nodded sagely at her sister-​​in-​​law. “I guess Anson got to you before your mother ever did.”

“Well, I don’t know…”

'And I guess Bertie must have got a different The Talk from your papa.'

“And I guess Bertie must have got a different The Talk from your papa, because he seems to like it just fine!” She clapped her hands over her cheeks to hide her blush. “But he was so sweet! He just made me laugh and laugh the whole time, practically. It was not romantic at all, but I didn’t mind, as it was not dreadful at all, either, like your mama said.”

Wynna nodded meekly.

Wynna nodded meekly.

“Just giggles and kisses, that’s what I say,” Anna sighed contentedly. “If you ever hear us laughing about giggles and kisses, Wynn, now you’ll know why. That’s what that means! But I’m sure you and Anson have your own secret words as well.”

'But I'm sure you and Anson have your own secret words as well.'

“Well, I don’t know…”

Anna turned to the cradle and cooed, “Or you better, once this little man gets old enough to understand English! Isn’t it so, darling? Or there won’t be any more where you come from!”

She laughed and smoothed out the folds of her dress upon her lap.

She laughed and smoothed out the folds of her dress upon her lap.

Her dress! Her pretty pink jacket, stiff with the very richness of the fabric! Her gown beneath, of real patterned silk from the Continent! She did not know where the Continent was, though her husband had been there once, but she knew it was a fine place from which to have the cloth for one’s dresses.

And it was only her second best!

“What do you think, Wynn?”

Wynna shrugged her shoulders beneath the plain green wool of her gown. “Well, I don’t know…”

'Well, I don't know...'

“I’m so happy you live so close by! Mind you, I like to ride, but it’s close enough to walk, and you know what that means!”

Wynna did not seem to know, so Anna explained.

“That means it’s close enough to visit when we’re in a delicate condition as your mama calls it.” She giggled prettily behind her hand. “At least for a while, after we’re too ‘delicate’ to ride but not too ‘delicate’ to walk. Isn’t it so?”

“Well, I don’t know but I guess I’m glad to have you and Bertie live so close by now. We’ve been real lonely out here.”

'That's just what I was saying to Bertie.'

“That’s just what I was saying to Bertie. ‘I’m so glad your sister lives so close to us!’ And I hope you will come to visit us often, and don’t be shy because we live in such a fine house.”

“I wouldn’t ever be shy about visiting my brother.”

“No, nor visiting me neither. And when our children are a little older – if the Lord blesses us with children, that is – they shall play together, and won’t that be sweet!”

“I don’t know but I guess that would be real good for Ethelmund to have other little children to play with.”

“That’s just what I was saying to Bertie. ‘It would be real good – ’ Oh!”


Anson walked on the quiet feet of a lynx. It was the rush of wind from the opening door that had interrupted her.

Anna was so accustomed to her towering husband that she was almost disappointed by the sight of him. Anson never would be a tall man, but a moment’s study reminded her that he was compact and leanly muscled like a fine-​​blooded animal. There was just as much manhood packed onto his lithe body as there was stretched out over the great length of her husband’s.

“Surprise!” she cried.


Anna had been thinking of and planning for this moment for a very long time. Anson, however, did not seem to find anything surprising in it, and he sauntered around the cradle and kissed Wynna before he acknowledged her at all.

“Pardon me if I don’t kiss your ladyship’s hand,” he drawled. “Mine are all filthy from working with them.”

'Mine are all filthy from working with them.'

She held up the back of her hand. “You don’t work with your lips, do you?”

“No… but sometimes I play with them.” He turned his head and winked at his wife. Wynna blushed and smiled dazedly.

Wynna blushed and smiled dazedly.

Anson did not bend to kiss her hand, so Anna let it drop after a moment, beginning to grow pink herself.

“Bet you didn’t expect to see me here!” she smiled fiercely.

“Oh, I figured you’d be along before too many days. Anyway, I saw your horse.”

“Oh? How do you like her? She was a gift from His Grace the Duke,” she said proudly.

'Oh?  How do you like her?'

“I guessed that. I know that horse. It was I who broke her to saddle. A pretty little thing, though not a great horse for all that. Some of the pretty ones are that way.”

“That’s not a very kind thing to say about a wedding gift from a Duke!” Anna scolded him.

Anson’s brows lowered slightly over his green eyes. “Your ladyship asked me how I liked her. I don’t think she’s cut out to be a lady’s horse, but that’s what she has become, so the lady will just have to make the best of her.”

'The lady will just have to make the best of her.'

I think she’s precious.”

“She didn’t give me much trouble though. I’ll grant her that. She knew who was her master soon enough. I have respect for a horse who admits when she’s been beaten. But if she ever acts up for you, you just bring her back to me, and I’ll take her for a ride and remind her.”

“I’m certain…” Anna was about to snap at him and remind him who was the lady here, but she had the odd impression that the green of his eyes had darkened into black since he had come in, and it unnerved her.

It unnerved her.

Anson turned abruptly to the cradle. “How’s this son of mine, Wynnie?”

“Oh…” Wynna blinked. “He’s been real good today.”

“That’s my boy!” Anson took up the baby and kissed his belly. “Thank God you got your mama’s sweet nature, eh, my man?”

“He looks just like you though, Anson,” Anna said.

'He looks just like you though, Anson.'

“Poor creature!” Anson groaned. “But all is not lost! He has his mama’s pretty eyes, and if they’re half as irresistible on a boy as they are on her, he’ll be breaking hearts right and left.”

Wynna’s dark eyes were shining more than usual, but she said nothing.

“I think green eyes are real pretty too,” Anna said. She had meant to contradict him, but somehow it had come out as a compliment.

'I think green eyes are real pretty too.'

“Do you?” He turned his green eyes on her just as abruptly as he had turned them away. They were dark, dark green.

Anna sank back against the bench. “Well, I like brown eyes best of all, of course.” She attempted a giggle, but it sounded so flat that she wished she could draw it back in again.

“I thought you would,” Anson smiled.

'I thought you would.'