When Colin didn’t reply to John’s words, Annabelle gathered her courage and slipped her hand from John’s arm and dropped into her lowest curtsy.
“Your Grace,” she said, coming up so slowly that Colin had time to walk over to her and impatiently tap his foot before her eyes came up to his.
“May I say how beautiful you look tonight,” is what Colin planned to say, it is what he should have said.
What came out instead was “You look well considering you’ve been ill for a week.”
Victoria gasped beside him and Colin frowned inwardly. What sort of gentleman said something like that to a lady? An angry gentleman, that was who.
“I apologise Miss Collins for my rudeness. I was just shocked to see you looking so well.”
Annabelle closed her gaping mouth and nodded slowly. Was she supposed to say something to that?
Colin ground his teeth together.
“Well?” he asked testily.
“Well?” she repeated with a slight twitch in the corner of her mouth that annoyed Colin to no end.
“Well, how are you here looking so well?”
He realised too late that he had just repeated what he had originally apologised for, but set his jaw and stared at her.
The twitch in her mouth happened again and Colin felt himself softening.
“I wasn’t really sick your grace,” Annabelle whispered in a conspirator tone.
“No?” he whispered back, delighted by her charm despite his intention to stay aloof.
“No, I was just having a week off from the circuit. I can see why you and your counterparts never attend balls,” she slid her eyes over to John and Colin found himself clenching inside again.
“They are just exhausting,” she let out an exaggerated sigh and John chuckled.
Colin couldn’t quite bring himself to laugh. She was right, they were exhausting, but he also knew she was lying to him.
“Well, it seems that the rest did you good. You are glowing tonight.”
Annabelle frowned at him. What was he doing now? Colin came in to the box like a thundercloud, she chided him out of his bad mood and now he was complimenting her? The man was as moody as her Aunt Eustacia and that was saying something.