Debt of Honor
behind his back to give himself an aura of indifference.
    She turned to him. Lord, she had gorgeous eyes. They were now filled with a combination of awe and anxiety.
    “Will it suit you?” he asked.
    “Yes.” He didn’t miss the enthusiasm underlying her answer. “It does. I will give you the specifications tomorrow.”
    Percy swallowed a smile. It sounded as if he had been summarily dismissed from his own orangery. “Very well,” he said. “Let me find Mrs. Waters.”
    Allowing himself the last waft of her scented water, he headed for the door. It was definitely safer to leave her alone, before some foolish idea planted itself in his head. Despite his resolution, Letitia’s presence in his house might turn out to be more difficult to ignore than he had assumed it would be.

Chapter Seven
    Letitia exhaled with relief once the door closed behind Sir Percival. His gaze had the most disconcerting effect on her concentration, and her thoughts were in turmoil already, without any need for more confusion. She sat on the nearest bench and looked around again, tapping one foot on the floor tile. The day had taken an unexpected turn. Not only did she get her wish, but it far exceeded her expectations.
    Here was an opportunity to arrange a studio the likes of which no one had even dreamed of. She got up and paced along the line of French doors leading to the gardens, trying to measure the distance. Then along the shorter glass wall. Satisfied that her initial guess as to the size seemed close to reality, she looked around, as much as all the shrubs, tubs and vases crowding the space allowed. The canvases that needed preparation could go on the back wall now barely visible through all that greenery. She could have a good, long bench for all materials and use it as a working space. With a large easel placed toward the other end of the orangery, there would be plenty of space to move around, arrange various props and even add some armchairs to relax in or have a cup of tea with Josepha.
    Her chemise began to cling uncomfortably to her skin. Only the vents under the roof were open, so the air inside was hot, thick and humid. No wonder no one came here anymore. With all those beautiful French doors firmly shut, one turned in no time into a gigantic chunk of stewed mutton. In the future, the doors would be open for ventilation, whenever possible.
    What sort of a person had been the first Lady Hanbury? The indoor garden was magnificent in its lush growth, but at the same time, it made one feel…insignificant, almost oppressed by the heavy canopy of unfamiliar plants.
    Letitia reached into her pocket for a handkerchief to wipe the sweat from her brow and headed for the door. She would wait for the housekeeper outside, or else Mrs. Waters would find a puddle of sweat on the orangery floor, instead of her new mistress. Once outside the orangery, Letitia took a deep breath of drier, cooler air and exhaled with relief. The corridor was, thankfully, much more suited to human habitation.
    Then she suddenly heard children’s laughter and running feet moving through the main hall. Who was this? Sir Percival said he had no children, and she had not seen any yesterday or this morning.
    But just as she approached the corner, a huge cannonball hit her stomach so unexpectedly and with such force that she doubled over it, her hands catching something warm and fuzzy.
    “Oggghhh!” she groaned while the dull aftereffect of the collision sent the remnants of hot chocolate up her throat.
    “Aawww! My nose…” wailed the cannonball.
    “William!” That came from the boy who stopped a couple of feet in front of her, his eyes round as saucers.
    “I beg your pardon, ma’am,” he said and swallowed. “We didn’t know Uncle Percy had a guest.”
    Well, neither did she.
    The cannonball nodded vigorously in agreement and wiggled out of her hands.
    Who were they? Uncle Percy? So her husband had family nearby. She didn’t know anything about

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