A Night Like This

Page 54

“Lord Winstead . . . He—” She gasped, and her eyes finaly opened to reveal a bathroom, far more elegant and ornate than the one to which she was currently assigned up in the nursery. There were two maids with her, one adding water to a steaming bath, the other attempting to remove her sodden clothing.

“Is he all right?” Anne asked franticaly. “Lord Winstead?” Flashes of memory rushed at her. The rain. The horses breaking free. The horrifying sound of splintering wood. And then the curricle, hurtling forward on just one wheel. And then . . . nothing. Anne could not recall a thing. They must have crashed—why couldn’t she remember it?

Dear God, what had happened to them?

“His lordship is wel,” the maid assured her. “Exhausted as a body can be, but it’s nothing a bit of rest won’t cure.” Her eyes shone with pride as she adjusted Anne’s position so that she could peel her sleeves from her arms. “He’s a hero, he is. A true hero.” Anne rubbed her face with her hand. “I can’t remember what happened. A few bits and pieces, but that’s al.”

“His lordship told us you were thrown from the carriage,” the maid said, getting to work on the other sleeve. “Lady Winstead said you likely hit your head.”

“Lady Winstead?” When had she seen Lady Winstead?

“His lordship’s mother,” the maid explained, misinterpreting Anne’s query. “She knows a bit about injuries and healing, she does. She examined you right there on the floor of the front hal.”

“Oh, dear God.” Anne didn’t know why this was so mortifying, but it was.

“Her ladyship said you’ve a lump, right about here.” The maid touched her own head, a couple of inches above her left ear.

Anne’s hand, still rubbing her temple, moved upward through her hair. She found the bump instantly, bulging and tender. “Ow,” she said, puling her fingers away.

She looked at her hand. There was no blood. Or maybe there had been, and the rain had washed it away.

“Lady Winstead said she thought you’d want some privacy,” the maid continued, sliding Anne’s dress from her body. “We’re to get you warmed and washed and then put into bed. She sent for a doctor.”

“Oh, I’m sure I don’t need a doctor,” Anne said quickly. She still felt awful—sore, and cold, and with a lumpy explanation for her raging headache. But they were temporary sorts of ailments, the kind one instinctively knew needed nothing but a soft bed and hot soup.

But the maid just shrugged. “She already sent for one, so I don’t think you’ve got much choice.” Anne nodded.

“Everyone is right worried about you. Little Lady Frances was crying, and—”

“Frances?” Anne interrupted. “But she never cries.”

“She was this time.”

“Oh, please,” Anne begged, heartbroken with worry. “Please have someone let her know that I’m all right.”

“A footman will be up with more hot water soon. We’ll have him tell Lady—”

“A footman?” Anne gasped, her hands instinctively covering her nudity. She was still in her chemise, but wet, it was practicaly transparent.

“Don’t worry,” the maid said with a chuckle. “He leaves it at the door. It’s just so Peggy doesn’t have to carry it up the stairs.” Peggy, who was pouring yet another bucket of water into the tub, turned and smiled.

“Thank you,” Anne said quietly. “Thank you both.”

“I’m Bess,” the first maid told her. “Do you think you can stand up? Just for a minute? This slip has got to come off over your head.” Anne nodded, and with help from Bess she rose to her feet, holding onto the side of the large porcelain tub for support. Once the chemise had been removed, Bess helped Anne into the tub, and she sank down gratefuly into the water. It was too hot, but she didn’t mind. It felt so good to be something other than numb.

She soaked in the bath until the water faded to lukewarm, then Bess helped her into her wool nightgown, which Bess had brought down from Anne’s room in the nursery.

“Here you are,” Bess said, leading Anne across the plush carpet to a beautiful canopied bed.

“What room is this?” Anne asked, taking in the elegant surroundings. Scrolwork swirled along the ceilings, and the wals were covered in damask of the most delicate silvery blue. It was by far the grandest room she’d ever slept in.

“The blue guest bedroom,” Bess said, fluffing her pilows. “It’s one of the finest at Whipple Hil. Right on the same halway as the family.” As the family? Anne looked up in surprise.

Bess shrugged. “His lordship insisted upon it.”

“Oh,” Anne said with a gulp, wondering what the rest of his family thought about that.

Bess watched as Anne settled in under the heavy quilts, then asked, “Shal I tell everyone that you’re able to receive visitors? I know they’ll want to see you.”

“Not Lord Winstead?” Anne asked in horror. Surely they would not alow him to enter her bedroom. Wel, not her bedroom, but still, a bedroom. With her in it.

“Oh, no,” Bess reassured her. “He’s off in his own bed, asleep, I hope. I don’t think we’ll see him for at least a day. The poor man is exhausted. I reckon you weigh quite a bit more wet than you do dry.” Bess chuckled at her own joke, then left the room.

Less than a minute later, Lady Pleinsworth entered. “Oh, my poor, poor girl,” she exclaimed. “You gave us such a fright. But my heavens, you look vastly better than you did an hour ago.”

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