“I’ll do my best,” I promised, though in truth I wasn’t sure if Henry could be trusted to do the same. Before boarding his ship for England, he had taken me in his arms and kissed me for everyone to see. In front of hundreds of witnesses, he had publicly staked his claim and made it clear where his heart belonged. Despite Nora’s warning about her mother, I hoped he would do it again.
By the time the last remaining steps fell away I was smiling like a fool, unable to contain my happiness any longer. After so long apart, he was close enough to touch, and for a brief moment we stood as if frozen, just staring at each other. His light brown hair was tied back, revealing the lines and features of his face, all somehow even more beautiful than I had remembered. The strong jaw and full mouth, the straight nose and green eyes sent my heart racing. All rational thought fled my mind, as did any promise not to throw myself into his arms. I moved forward, expecting him to do the same when Nora’s hold strengthened, forcing me to a dead stop. I tried to pull free, but she refused to let go.
Henry bowed deeply. “Miss Kilbrid, Nora Goodwin,” he said, addressing us both. “I trust you had a good voyage.”
His demeanor brought me up short. “Henry,” I laughed, on the verge of chiding his formality when Nora’s arm grew even tighter around my own.
“You trust wrong, Henry Fitzalan,” she said pleasantly. “Poseidon was in mean spirits and tried more than once to claim us. I consider it nothing less than a miracle to be standing here today.”
A muscle twitched in Henry’s jaw. “Well, you are arrived safe and sound and for that I am thankful.”
I couldn’t believe my own ears. Fifteen weeks apart and this was the best he could do? Unless being thankful was really all he felt from our reunion.
My smile faltered, then faded altogether. It had never occurred to me that Henry would not share in my happiness, that his feelings for me might have changed since we’d been apart.
“Any news from Hopewell?” Henry asked, addressing Nora. “I assume the harvest proved a success.”
“The reapers were just beginning when we sailed, but I’m sure it went well,” Nora said. “And Anne and Gideon Boyle send their regards.”
I remained silent while they spoke, desperately searching Henry’s face for any sign of his feelings. What I had mistaken for a serious expression now looked like a mask, closely banked and devoid of any real emotion. He wouldn’t even look at me, focusing all of his attention on Nora.
You were nothing more than a diversion until his lordship could return to England.
The hateful words barged unwelcome into my head. But James had been wrong about the soldiers, certainly he was also wrong about Henry. So why wouldn’t Henry look at me? My heart panged in my chest, threatening to burst. If we weren’t in public, I would have demanded an explanation on the spot. Instead, I tightened my free hand into a fist, hard enough for the bones to groan and forestall my impending tears. If I had to feel something, anger was the safer path, holding my heart together and affording me the necessary time until we could be alone.
Henry glanced over my shoulder as James approached with Lucy and Beth in tow. “Welcome home, James”
The two men clasped hands in greeting. “It’s good to be back, my lord.”
I compressed my lips to keep from screaming.
“And Lucy Goodwin,” Heny said next. “I hope your stay in London is pleasant.”
“Thank you, Henry Fitzalan,” Lucy said, a bit stiffly, as though she wasn’t quite sure what to make of him. “I shall find the city more to my liking once I’ve been settled into proper lodgings. If you would be so kind to call a carriage, we can be on our way.”
“I’ll handle any further arrangements, my lord,” James said. “The ladies’ trunks will be brought up shortly, and then I’ll see them safely delivered to Lansbury