“Yet another thing you’ve managed to ruin for me,” he muttered.

Apparently, he was.

“It doesn’t matter, though,” he said. “It all worked out in the end. I found you at your lover’s house, just as I expected I would.” Anne watched as he glanced around the room, looking for something else with which to block the door. There wasn’t much, not unless he moved the entire bed.

“How many have you had since I knew you?” he asked, turning slowly around.

Anne shook her head. What was he talking about?

“Oh, you’ll tell me,” he snapped, and he strode forward and yanked the gag from her mouth. “How many lovers?” For about one second Anne considered screaming. But George was holding a knife, and he’d locked the door and put a chair in front of it. If anyone was near, and if that person cared to save her, George would still be able to slice her to ribbons before help arrived.

“How many?” George demanded.

“None,” Anne said automaticaly. It seemed amazing that she might forget her night with Daniel when faced with such a question, but what came to mind first were all those years of loneliness, of having not so much as a friend, much less a lover.

“Oh, I think Lord Winstead would have something else to say about that,” George sneered. “Unless . . .” His mouth slid into an unpleasantly gleeful smile. “Are you teling me he couldn’t perform?”

It was very tempting to give George a catalogue of all the ways Daniel had outperformed him, but instead Anne just said, “He is my fiancé.” George laughed at that. “Yes, so you believe. Good God, the man has my admiration. What a trick. And no one will take your word over his after the fact.” He paused for a moment, looking almost wistful. “It must be convenient to be an earl. I couldn’t have got away with that.” He brightened. “still, as it turns out, I didn’t even have to ask. All I had to do was say, ‘I love you,’ and you not only believed me, you thought it meant I’d marry you.” He looked over at her and tsk tsked. “Foolish girl.”

“I will not disagree with you on that point.”

His head tilted, and he regarded her approvingly. “My my, we’ve grown wise in our old age.” By this point Anne had realized that she had to keep George talking. It delayed his attack, and it gave her time to plot. Not to mention that when George was talking, he was generaly boasting, and when he was boasting, he was distracted.

“I’ve had time to learn from my mistakes,” she said, taking a quick glance at the window when he walked to the wardrobe to get something out. How high up were they? If she jumped, could she survive?

He turned around, apparently not finding what he was looking for, and crossed his arms. “Wel, that’s nice to hear.” Anne blinked in surprise. He was regarding her with an expression that was almost paternal. “Do you have children?” she blurted out.

His expression turned to ice. “No.”

And just like that, Anne knew. He had never consummated his marriage. Was he impotent? And if so, did he blame her for it?

She gave her head a tiny shake. What a stupid question. Of course he blamed her for it. And dear God above, she finaly comprehended the extent of his rage. It wasn’t just his face; in his eyes, she had unmanned him.

“Why are you shaking your head?” George demanded.

“I’m not,” she replied, then realized she was shaking her head again. “Or I didn’t mean to. It’s just something I do when I’m thinking.” His eyes slitted. “What are you thinking about?”

“You,” she said, quite honestly.

“Realy?” For a moment he looked pleased, but this quickly gave way to suspicion. “Why?”

“Wel, you’re the only other person in the room. It makes sense that I’d be thinking about you.” He took a step toward her. “What were you thinking?”

How on earth could she not have noticed how utterly self-absorbed he was? Granted, she’d been only sixteen, but surely, she’d had more sense than that.

“What were you thinking?” he persisted when she did not immediately reply.

She considered how to answer this. She certainly could not tell him that she had been pondering his impotence, so instead she said, “The scar is not as dreadful as I think you think it is.”

He snorted and turned back to whatever it was he was doing. “You’re just saying that to get on my good side.”

“I would say it to get on your good side,” she admitted, craning her neck to get a better look at his activities. He seemed to be rearranging everything again, which seemed rather pointless, as there wasn’t much in the hired room to rearrange. “But as it happens,” Anne continued, “I think it’s the truth. You’re not as pretty as you were when we were young, but a man doesn’t want to be pretty, does he?”

“Perhaps not, but I don’t know a soul who’d want this.” George made a grand, sarcastic gesture to his face, his hand sweeping down from ear to chin.

“I am sorry I hurt you, you know,” Anne said, and to her great surprise, she realized she meant it. “I’m not sorry I defended myself, but I am sorry you were injured in the process. If you’d just let me go when I asked, none of this would have happened.”

“Oh, so now it’s my fault?”

She shut her mouth. She shouldn’t have said the last bit, and she was not going to compound her error by saying what she wanted to say, which was, Well, yes.

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