He nearly bounced right off his feet, just thinking about it.
It had been splendid. Marvelous. A kiss to deny all previous kisses. Realy, he didn’t know what he’d been doing with all those other women, because whatever had happened when his lips had touched theirs, those had not been kisses.
Not like last night.
When he reached the breakfast room, he was delighted to see Miss Wynter standing by the sideboard. But any thought of flirtation was dashed when he also spied Frances, who was being directed to put more food on her plate.
“But I don’t like kippers,” Frances said.
“You don’t have to eat them,” Miss Wynter replied with great patience. “But you will not survive to dinner with only one piece of bacon on your plate. Have some eggs.”
“I don’t like them that way.”
“Since when?” Miss Wynter asked, sounding rather suspicious. Or perhaps merely exasperated.
Frances wrinkled her nose and bent over the chafing dish. “They look very runny.”
“Which can be rectified immediately,” Daniel announced, deciding it was as good a time as any to make his presence known.
“Daniel!” Frances exclaimed, her eyes lighting with delight.
He stole a glance at Miss Wynter—he still was not quite thinking of her as Anne, except, it seemed, when he had her in his arms. Her reaction was not quite so effusive, but her cheeks did turn an extremely fetching shade of pink.
“I’ll ask the cook to prepare you a fresh portion,” he said to Frances, reaching out to tousle her hair.
“You’ll do no such thing,” Miss Wynter said sternly. “These eggs are perfectly acceptable. It would be a dreadful waste of food to prepare more.” He glanced down at Frances, giving her a sympathetic shrug. “There will be no crossing Miss Wynter, I’m afraid. Why don’t you find something else to your liking?”
“I am not fond of kippers.”
He glanced over at the offending dish and grimaced. “I’m not, either. I don’t know anyone who is, quite frankly, except for my sister, and I’ll tell you, she ends up smeling like fish for the rest of the day.”
Frances gasped with gleeful horror.
Daniel looked over at Miss Wynter. “Do you like kippers?”
She stared back. “Very much.”
“Pity.” He sighed and turned back to Frances. “I shal have to advise Lord Chatteris about it now that he and Honoria are to be married. I can’t imagine he will wish to be kissing someone with kippers on her breath.”
Frances clapped a hand over her mouth and giggled ecstaticaly. Miss Wynter gave him an extremely stern look and said, “This is hardly an appropriate conversation for children.”
To which he simply had to say, “But it is for adults?”
She almost smiled. He could tell she wanted to. But she said, “No.”
He gave a sad nod. “Pity.”
“I shal have toast,” Frances announced. “With heaps and heaps of jam.”
“One heap only, please,” Miss Wynter instructed.
“Nanny Flanders lets me have two heaps.”
“I’m not Nanny Flanders.”
“Hear, hear,” Daniel remarked quietly.
Miss Wynter gave him A Look.
Miss Wynter gave him A Look.
“In front of the children. Realy,” he scolded, murmuring the words as he brushed by her so that Frances wouldn’t hear. “Where is everyone else?” he asked loudly, taking a plate and heading straight for the bacon. Everything was better with bacon.
Life was better with bacon.
“Elizabeth and Harriet will be down shortly,” Miss Wynter replied. “I don’t know about Lady Pleinsworth and Lady Sarah. We are not anywhere near their rooms.”
“Sarah hates getting up in the morning,” Frances said, eyeing Miss Wynter as she scooped out her jam.
Miss Wynter eyed her back, and Frances stopped at one scoop, looking a bit deflated as she took her seat.
“Your aunt is also not an early riser,” Miss Wynter said to Daniel, carefuly filing her own plate. Bacon, eggs, toast, jam, a Cornish pasty . . . She was quite the fan of breakfast, he saw.
A big scoop of butter, a more moderate portion of orange marmalade, and then . . .
Not the kippers.
The kippers. At least three times as much as a normal human being should consume.
“Kippers?” he asked. “Must you?”
“I told you I liked them.”
Or more to the point, he’d told her how well they served as armor against a kiss.
“They are practicaly the national food of the Isle of Man,” she said, plopping one last slimy little fish on her plate for good measure.
“We have been studying the Isle of Man for geography,” Frances said glumly. “The people are Manx. There are cats that are Manx. That’s the only good thing about it. The word Manx.”
Daniel could not even think of a comment.
“It ends in an x, ” Frances explained, not that that cleared things up any.
Daniel cleared his throat, deciding not to pursue the x-ish (x-ient? x-astic?) avenue of conversation, and folowed Miss Wynter back to the table. “It’s not a very large island,” he commented. “I wouldn’t have thought there was much to study.”
“To the contrary,” she remarked, taking a seat diagonal from Frances. “The island is very rich in history.”
“And fish, apparently.”
“It is,” Miss Wynter admitted, jabbing a kipper with her fork, “the only thing I miss from my time there.” Daniel regarded her curiously as he sat next to her, taking the seat directly across from Frances. It was such an odd statement, coming from a woman so tight-lipped about her past.