true,â Imy admitted reluctantly, âbut I know she wonât agree. Drake, there is something about you she doesnât like.â
âYes, I had noticed,â he said dryly, âand Iâm quite curious to know why.â
âSo that explains this sudden interest in Celia!â she accused with narrowed eyes, placing her hands on her hips. âYou are bored, and now you want to upset poor Celly. Well, I wonât have it, Drake. Celia is not one of your worldly London ladies, you know.â
âDonât get yourself in such a state, Imy,â he soothed. âI merely see no cause for the girlâs aversion to me and am curious to know the cause. Besides, you need not change your normal mode of doing things just because I am here.â
âJust so long as thatâs all,â she warned, her expression still suspicious.
He gave her the same smile that as children he had used to obtain her allegiance when he had gotten into a scrape.
âOf course thatâs all. Dash it, Imy. Sheâs the governess,â came his innocent reply.
Henry and Peter ran down the garden steps when they espied Celia returning to Harbrooke later that morning.
âYouâve been gone four days,â Henry chastised as if she were a truant child.
Celia laughed and gave him a hug. Peter held on to her skirts and vied for her attention.
âWe have missed you so much!â Peter was so mournful she felt as if she had been gone for a year.
She pulled them both to a nearby bench and listened as they told her of all they had been doing while she had been at Harford Abbey. Celia could not help smiling as they talked over themselves in their excitement. After four days of solemnity at Harford Abbey, the boysâ exuberance was delightful.
âThere you are, Celly!â Imogene called from the drawing roomâs French doors as she saw Celia in the garden. âI am so glad that you are home. Now I must speak to you privately. Children, run along and play. You can see Celly later,â she said, waving them off.
Celia looked at her friend in surprise. Imogene rarely allowed herself to become ruffled. Celia actually began to worry as Imogene tugged her into the house by the wrist.
Closing the French doors of the drawing room behind her, Imogene pulled Celia to a blue damask-covered settee.
âCelia, Major David Rotham is coming here the day after tomorrow!â
Evidently, by the look in Imogeneâs eyes, this caused much more than the distress of feeling unprepared for another guest, Celia concluded.
âWhy are you upset, Imy? Is this Major Rotham a horrible person?â
âOh, no, he is very nice. At least he was fifteen years ago. He is one of Drakeâs greatest friends. They served together. But I knew him also, years ago, during my come-out in London.â
Imogene looked away from her friend and bit her lip, feeling a little self-conscious at what she was going to say.
âYou see, David was one of my admirers.â
Still somewhat confused, but trying to allay whatever fears Imy seemed to have, Celia said, âIâm sure you had legions of them, Imy.â
âHe wasnât just a suitor, Celly. David was one of my particular beaux, and â¦ well â¦ you see, I believe it quite hurt him when I married Philip.â
Imogeneâs eyes looked to Celiaâs for understanding. Because of their years of friendship, Celia knew that Imogene must have cared for this man if the thought of hurting him still distressed her after so many years. Imogene had previously recounted her wonderful time in London and tales of her many beaux. She had even shown Celia some of the more flowery epistles she had received from admiring swains. But the descriptions had all been lighthearted, and Celia could not recall Imogene ever mentioning a David Rotham.
âI see,â she said with empathy. âYou must feel rather awkward. One never knows how to handle