had allowed…well she couldn’t even finish the thought. “I was on the settee in the library when your pounding and yelling woke me,” Stanwick drawled. Hélène’s eyes met his. “I did not know you stayed.” Why would he do such a thing? “I wanted to make sure you were all right.” Jordan whipped around and stared at her. “How would Stanwick know of your injury?” Hélène glared at Stanwick. Why did he have to be here? Her brothers and Acker did not need to know about last night. Stanwick even had her winnings, so what did he have to gain by enlightening them about what had been a most humiliating experience? “How are you feeling, by the way?” he asked as he crossed the room and took a seat opposite her. “Dr. Brune said you were to remain in bed for a few days.” “Is this true?” Acker demanded. “I don’t need to be coddled,” she snapped. Perhaps she should have remained in bed. Maybe she would have gotten some sympathy from the gentlemen in the room, or perhaps they would have left her alone. Then she would have had time to think about what she was going to tell her family. As it was, her leg throbbed and she just wanted to take a few drops of the laudanum Dr. Brune had left and lie down. Unfortunately, now was not the time to show weakness. Stanwick leaned forward. “There are seven stitches in your leg. I don’t think lying in bed for a day to heal is being coddled.” “Seven?” Acker asked. “Stitches?” Jordan stressed. Hélène sighed. This was not going well, and she wished Stanwick would just be quiet. “How the hell do you know how many stitches my sister has in her leg?” Jordan demanded. Stanwick’s eyes widened and he slowly turned to Jordan. “Sister?” Acker in turn lifted an eyebrow and crossed his arms over his chest, also looking at Jordan. Exactly how was Jordan going to explain? “Hélène’s relationship to me is not important at the moment,” Jordan argued. “What is your involvement with her injury?” Hélène sighed. She had hoped the conversation would turn from last night, but apparently Jordan wasn’t about to enlighten Stanwick about their kinship. Hélène watched Stanwick’s dark eyes as he mulled over what he was going to say. She forced herself to breathe, though she feared he would tell them everything. “I’ve brought tea, Miss Mirabelle,” a footman announced as he came in the room. “Thank you, Vickary.” Hélène smiled at the young man. Hélène gazed at the tea service. A cup of tea was precisely what she needed at the moment. As she was the only female in the room, it was her duty to pour. She slowly leaned forward, but winced as the stitches pulled and a sharp pain tore through her thigh. Perhaps she wasn’t as thirsty as she thought. Stanwick grasped the handle of the delicate teapot. “Allow me.” Their eyes met and held. He looked ruggedly handsome this morning with a midnight, wayward curl resting on his forehead. His chiseled features were all the more defined by the dark shadow on his lower cheeks and chin. “Thank you,” Hélène murmured, glancing away from his dark, penetrating gaze.
Pain sliced through Hélène’s eyes and her mouth grew white and pinched when she attempted to be the proper hostess in pouring tea for his guests. Neither Acker nor Trent moved to assist. Didn’t they note the pain in her eyes? Her face didn’t completely relax until she was once again against the back of the settee. This was his fault. No, it was hers for putting herself in a dangerous situation. Just further proof that women were mad. Yet she was a lovely madwoman. One might forget the insanity that must run through her veins with one look into those beguiling blue eyes framed with dark lashes. Stanwick poured a cup of tea. “Do you take milk? Sugar?” “Nothing, thank you,” Hélène answered. He used all his will to contain his composure, but being in such close proximity