McAlistair's Fortune
She twisted her lips in disapproval. “A carriage accident, honestly. Someone could have been injured.”
    He remained still, but unless she was mistaken, his eyes narrowed a bit. “Explain.”
    “Right. Well. It’s nothing more than an absurd attempt at matchmaking, you see. The note, this trip, all of it was set up with the hope I would fall madly in love with my rescuer.”
    She tried not to smile at the sign of jealousy. How lovely.
    “I’m not entirely certain, but I suspect it’s Mr. Hunter. Odd choice for a white knight though, isn’t he? Gray perhaps—”
    “No. Who’s responsible?”
    “Who’s…? Oh.” Oh. “Mr. Fletcher, with Lady Thurston and Mrs. Summers. It has something to do with a deathbed promise Mr. Fletcher made to the late Duke of Rockeforte.”
    He seemed to consider that for a moment. “No.”
    “No?” She blinked at him. “What do you mean, no?”
    “You’re mistaken.”
    “I’m not. I overheard their conversation on the matter…most of it,” she amended. “Enough of it,” she added when he sent her a dubious look. “Enough to know the threatening letter was sent by Mr. Fletcher.”
    Irritation bit at her. “Yes. No. Who. Tell me, Mr. McAlistair, do you ever speak in whole, multiple-word sentences?”
    “Occasionally.” He took hold of her horse’s bridle and tugged gently to start them moving again. “Ride.”
    She leaned forward and slapped his hand away. “ No .”
    For the first time since meeting him, Evie had the occasion to see McAlistair look surprised. It was only a slight widening of his eyes, but she noticed it, just as she noticed when his brow furrowed by the smallest fraction of an inch.
    “You’re not stammering.”
    How thoughtful of him to point it out. “I stammer when I’m nervous, and I’m not nervous at the moment. I’m annoyed. I don’t care to be treated like some helpless idiot you can order and drag about.”
    “You’re not an idiot.”
    “Then why—”
    “But you are mistaken.”
    If she thought he’d give her the time, she would have squeezed her eyes shut and counted to ten, slowly. She squeezed the reins instead, hard. “How can you be so…” Damnably bloody-minded. “…So certain this isn’t all a preposterous attempt to see me maneuvered into matrimony with the right gentleman?”
    “Because,” he said with a wry hook of his lips, “she sent you with me.”
    McAlistair started them forward again, and this time Evie let him.
    She considered resisting further, but since he didn’t seem inclined to be reasonable, and because the pace he set was hard, but no longer dangerous, she decided against it.
    Besides, he had a point.
    She sent you with me.
    Why the devil had Mrs. Summers sent her off with McAlistair?
    Why had Mrs. Summers sent her off at all? There were a thousand different ways that could have been contrived to put her together with her intended rescuer. Most of them, she was sure, did not require a carriage accident, a dangerous ride through the woods, and two days alone with a man who was not an immediate member of her family. If anyone were to discover she’d gone off alone with McAlistair, she’d be ruined.
    If it weren’t for the fact that a scandal for her meant a scandal for her entire family, Evie rather thought she wouldn’t mind being a ruined woman. Surely there was great freedom in no longer being subjected to the stringent rules of the ton. But there was her family to consider, and if anyone caught wind of her ride today…
    She threw a glance over her shoulder and wondered if she could find her way back to the carriage without McAlistair’s guidance. Likely not, she decided, which left her no choice but to continue on and hope that when they finally stopped, she could convince him of the ruse, persuade him to return to the others, and pray no one outside their little group would ever be the wiser.
    And then what? Did she want to go back to the others and tell them she

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