In the Garden of Seduction
she and the marquess shared a very personal,
unspoken communication.
    By the time she dropped her gaze, she knew
neither one of them was thinking about Penelope. In fact, those few
seconds were so emotionally charged, her mind went blank. Cassandra
blinked, surprised to hear the conversation still flowing smoothly
around her.
    “It’s a good idea. Don’t you think it’s a
good idea, Cassandra?” She heard Penelope appealing to her.
    “What…? Oh, I’m afraid I wasn’t listening.
What’s a good idea?” She felt Lord Sutherfield’s gaze still on her,
but could not bring herself to look at him again.
    “A picnic, silly. Regina Barkley and I were
discussing it just the other day. There is nothing as fun as an
outdoor luncheon, don’t you think so, Roger?”
    Roger turned on Penelope a half-witted grin.
“I think it’s a grand idea. What say, gentlemen, how about a
picnic?”
    With everyone’s agreement, Penelope began to
jump up and down and clap her hands. “Wonderful! I’m sorry you’ll
miss the entertainment, Cassandra. But with your foot…” She
shrugged her shoulders.
    The uproar that followed was gratifying.
    “I think we should wait until Miss James has
sufficiently recovered so that she might also partake of the fun,”
said Mr. Stiles, whose voice was finally heard above the
others.
    Cassandra decided she liked Harry Stiles.
She sent the homely gentleman a dazzling smile. “Please don’t worry
about me,” she said. “I would hate to ruin everyone’s fun.”
    “See? She doesn’t mind,” Penelope piped
in.
    “I see no reason why the picnic should not
go on as planned and with Miss James in attendance. An outing and
fresh air are just what the doctor ordered,” stated Lord
Sutherfield.
    “But what of her foot?” Penelope
countered.
    “Miss James can be carried to and from the
carriage.” The marquess’ gaze slid to Cassandra’s face, and he gave
her a wink.
    Cassandra was discomfited, but before she
had a chance to respond, Roger spoke. It apparently had just
occurred to him that the marquess posed a threat.
    “A capital idea. I shall carry my cousin.”
He looked at Lord Sutherfield suspiciously. “After all, she and I
are almost…well, anyway,” he sputtered, “I shall carry her.”
    Where before the noise had been deafening,
an awkward hush now descended. Every eye in the parlor turned to
Lord Sutherfield, waiting for him to respond.
    “Then, I think we are agreed,” the marquess
said. His expression was bland, but his gaze never left Cassandra’s
face. “We will have a picnic and Miss James will attend.”
    Again an uncomfortable silence ensued.
    Mr. Stiles mercifully spoke up. “Perhaps on
that note we should take our leave.” Clearly nervous, he ran his
index finger inside his collar.
    Cassandra could hardly blame him. The
situation felt uncomfortable to her as well. Why had Roger chosen
this inappropriate moment to announce his intentions? Good thing
she was injured, she thought, or she would leap off the sofa and
choke him senseless.
    Mr. Stiles and Lord Sutherfield made good
their escape at that point, and Cassandra sent a troubled look
across the room at their retreating backs. She sensed the marquess’
displeasure, but really, none of this was her fault.
    And dinner a few hours later was almost as
unpleasant. Special arrangements had been made to accommodate
Cassandra’s injury so she would be able to dine with the family.
Though she had now decided that her desire to leave her room was
definitely misguided.
    Her grandfather had not been home when the
visitors had called, but he arrived shortly before the evening
meal. While he was still enjoying his nightly sherry, Penelope
regaled him with the afternoon’s events. He listened silently,
although clearly he was annoyed. He swallowed the remainder of his
drink in one impatient gulp and then stalked into dinner.
    “Never did like picnics,” he grumbled at one
point. “Frittering the day away, consuming dainty

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