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she stepped from the tub.
Katie blotted her shoulders with another towel, and helped her into the robe.  Shall I run downstairs and
tell Cook what you'd like for supper, Miss Emma?
 I'm not very hungry tonight.
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 Oh, but you must have something, miss!
Emma smiled and nodded reluctantly.  All right, I'll have tea and toast in my room. And I'd like
something to read. Please bring a copy of theTimes .
 Yes, miss.
Emma walked barefoot into her suite of rooms and sat at her dressing table. She pulled the pins from her
hair and unbraided it, luxuriously massaging her fingers over her sore scalp. Methodically she worked a
brush through her long, curly hair, smoothing out tangles and snarls until her arm was tired. After placing
the brush in one of the dressing table's intricate compartments, she stared at her reflection in the
gold-framed mirror.
An ordinary face, she thought. Pale skin with freckles, a straight nose, a sharp chin. The only thing that
pleased her were her blue eyes, identical to her father's, except that her lashes were auburn instead of
Nikolas Angelovsky had said she was desirable. He had called her beautiful. Had Adam ever said such
things to her? Emma couldn't remember such an occasion. Frowning, she went over to her silk-covered
bed and curled up on the blue counterpane. She propped her back against a brocaded pillow, lost in
thought until Katie arrived with the tea tray.
 Here, Miss Emma& tea, toast, and theTimes .
 Thank you, Katie. She watched as the maid set the tray beside her on the bed.
Katie gave her a look of friendly concern.  Everything all right, miss? You seem a bit peaked tonight.
 I'm fine. It was a very long day. Picking up a slice of buttered toast, Emma managed to produce one
of her usual impish grins, then took a large bite of toast. Looking reassured, the maid left the room.
Emma poured tea from a tiny porcelain pot into a flowered cup and stirred in a heaping spoonful of
crushed sugar. She took a sip, relishing the strong tea. Flipping open the paper, she scanned the long
columns and lingered on items of interest.
Her attention was snared by something near the bottom of an inside page, an announcement nearly
hidden in a sea of lines and letters. She started at it in mild surprise. As the words began to make an
impression on her mind, the ink seemed to grow blacker and spread before her eyes like a bloodstain. A
brittle sound left her lips. The teacup shook in her hand, until there were splashes of burning liquid on her
fingers and wrist. Somehow she set the cup in its place, and arranged it on the saucer with unnatural
concentration. She looked at the paper again& no, it couldn't be true; it was some horrible joke, a lie.
During his recent travels abroad, Viscount Adam Milbank became betrothed to Miss Charlotte Brixton,
renowned as the American enamelware heiress &
 You couldn't have, Adam, Emma whispered.  It's only been a few weeks. You wouldn't forget me
that quickly& you wouldn't betray me like this.
But the printed words loomed crazily in front of her, and the pain in her chest kept growing. She needed
help. She needed someone& some rational voice to keep her from going mad. She had never felt such
pain in her life. She couldn't bear it alone. Blinding tears dropped from her eyes. Stumbling from the bed,
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she rubbed her shaking hands over her wet face, and searched for her trousers and shirt. When she was
finally dressed, she pulled on a hooded cloak and strode from her room.
Katie passed her in the hall leading to the main staircase and stopped in astonishment.  Miss Emma,
what are you 
 I'm going out, Emma said hoarsely, keeping her face hidden in the deep hood of the cloak.  I don't
know when I'll return. And if you say a word to anyone that I've left, I'll have you dismissed.
 Yes, miss, Katie said, staring at her with dilated eyes.
Emma dragged a sleeve across her damp nose and blinked more tears from her eyes.  Everything will be
all right, Katie, she muttered.  Just don't tell anyone.
The maid gave a cautious nod of assent.
Emma hurried out of the house and headed to the stables, taking care that no one else saw her. She
saddled a horse herself, abruptly dismissing the sleepy-eyed stablehand, who tried to help her.  I'll do it
myself. Go back to your room.
 Going out to save another beastie, Miss Emma?
She ignored his cheeky question and fumbled at the saddle girth until it was properly snug. Her hands
were unsteady, clumsy; they weren't behaving normally at all.  Go away, she said to the stablehand,
who was watching her with sudden wariness.
 Can I do something, miss?
 Please just leave, she said gruffly. He obeyed reluctantly, throwing several glances over his shoulder as
he departed.
Emma mounted the gelding and rode through the stableyard into the street, feeling somehow that she had
only one chance at survival. She hadn't made a conscious decision about where to go, but it seemed as if
the decision had been made for her. Urging the horse into a gallop, she rode west toward the Angelovsky
manor, while the humid summer air did little to dry her streaming tears.
When she reached the manor, with its towering white marble columns and classically designed facade,
she ascended the semicircular staircase in front and thumped on the door with her knotted fist. An elderly
butler with white hair, black brows, and broad Slavic features appeared. She could never quite
remember his name, though she had seen him on several occasions.
 Please have someone see to my horse, Emma said.  And tell Prince Nikolas he has a visitor.
The butler replied in accented English.  Sir, you will have to return tomorrow. I will take your card, if
you wish.
 I'm not a sir! Emma cried desperately. She pulled the cloak hood from her head, and a tumble of
gleaming red curls fell down to her waist.  I want to see my cousin. Tell him  She broke off and shook
her head with a muffled groan.  Never mind. I shouldn't be here. I don't know what I'm doing.
 Lady Stokehurst, the butler said, his expression softening.  Do come inside. I will inquire if Prince
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Nikolas is available to speak with you.
 No, I don't think 
 Pahzhhlstah, he insisted, gesturing her inside.  Please, my lady.
Emma obeyed and waited tensely in the entrance hall, staring at the pattern of inlaid wood on the floor.
Before a full minute had passed, she heard Nikolas's quiet voice.
 Emma. A pair of gleaming black shoes came into her field of vision. Nikolas slid his fingers beneath her
chin, nudging her face upward. His eyes held hers, and his thumb brushed lightly over her tear-stained
cheek. His expression was dispassionate, and there was a comforting calmness about him.  Come with
me,dushenka . He drew her hand into the crook of his arm and pressed it there.
Emma held back skittishly.  Is someone with you? I didn't th-think to ask 
 No one is with me. He murmured a few quick phrases in Russian to the butler, who nodded
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