Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart
were lines of relief. “Who is she?”
    I fanned my face, grateful for the actual heat that disguised the elevated temperature of my emotions. “An older lady. I met her right here, actually. She was selling some greeting cards she ’d made.”
    “How was your visit?” He watched me intently, searching for something in my face.
    “Very nice.” I resisted the urge my pull my bag closer to me. “Shall we?” I gestured up the path, away from Harriet’s cottage.
    He stood up and came toward me. “I wanted to check out the university’s Botanic Garden. Would you like to come with me?”
    The manuscript made my purse feel as if it weighed a ton. I would dearly have loved to stash the pages in my room, but James was standing in front of me, making my pulse race again,and I couldn’t bring myself to turn down the opportunity to spend time with him.
    He stepped onto the path, and we started walking. My heart rate hadn’t slowed a bit.
    “So tell me more about your friend,” he said as we made our way back toward Christ Church and then alongside the meadow that separated it from the river. The cows stood somnolent amid the dry grass, inert in the heat.
    “My friend? Oh, you mean Harriet.” I couldn’t look at him when I answered. “She’s just a harmless old lady, I guess. She has the most amazing cottage, though. Full of knickknacks.”
    “Sounds like your average grandmother.”
    “If your average grandmother lived somewhere that looked like it was painted by Beatrix Potter.” I smiled and tried not to look as guilty as I felt.

    The Botanic Garden was ripe with the fragrances of summer—honeysuckle and newly mown grass. I wanted to stop and smell the roses, quite literally, but James sped down the path as if he were power walking instead of playing tourist.
    We were making our way through the famous walled garden, where large rectangles created by the footpaths housed different families of plants. Since it was a scientific garden, every bit of flora was clearly labeled. I’d read somewhere that there were more than eight thousand kinds of plants kept there,and I wondered who had the job of making all the labels. At my office, making the labels for all the medical files was a task nobody wanted and had been, consequently, one that I’d frequently wound up doing myself.
    The heat and the long walk from Harriet’s cottage and then to the Botanic Garden finally caught up to me. “I need to sit down. Just for a minute.”
    I moved toward a bench near the path under the shelter of some clearly labeled trees. I didn’t care what they were called, though, just that their ancient branches blocked out the sun for the time being.
    James agreed to stop with enough reluctance to let me know he wasn’t happy about it, but I was so hot, I didn’t care. Clearly he wasn’t a man used to dawdling, but I supposed if you had made it in the New York publishing world, you wouldn’t be known for your ability to relax. After a long pause, he sank down on the bench beside me.
    The cool shade provided welcome relief. “I want to take it all in,” I said, indicating the garden around me with one hand. The spire of Magdalen College towered in the foreground, and the drone of bees made me sleepy. Especially since I hadn’t slept much the night before. Insomnia was apparently one of the prices I was paying for my current sins.
    “It’s nice,” he said, glancing around.
His foot tapped the ground in a nervous pattern. Sitting still was definitely not his forte.
    I had thought that an afternoon walk would give us achance to get to know each other. Despite the kiss I’d spurned the night before, I still couldn’t accept that he was interested in me romantically. But the swarm of butterflies that invaded my stomach every time I saw him told me everything I needed to know about my own feelings.
    He glanced around. “Are you ready to keep going?”
    “In a moment.” It had occurred to me, while I was

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