Lord Westfield stared up at her dubiously from the stable yard. “Are you sure?” he asked.
Em leaned her elbows on the windowsill of the empty room she was in—one of his cousins’, he’d said—and frowned back down at him with her sternest expression. “Of course I’m sure. I’ve done it a hundred times.”
Harry knotted the rope firmly around Westfield’s waist and gave it a tug. “Give us the other end, Em,” he said. She tossed down the other end of the rope after checking that it was securely looped around the bedpost. Even Lord Westfield’s weight wouldn’t stir the massive bed. “Look, Lordship, it’ll be easy. I’ll have hold of this rope and give you some weight to lean up against, so it’s just a hop and a jump up the wall your first time.”
Lord Westfield sighed. “All right.”
“Fingers on the outcrops,” Em called from above. “Toes in the cracks.”
He examined the wall, then put his hand tentatively on an outcropping brick. Harry and Em nodded encouragingly, heads bobbing in time like marionettes. He muttered something Em couldn’t hear. Harry snorted. Another hand came up to the wall, and his foot found the first crack.
Em was watching his face, enchanted by the expression of fierce concentration that had overtaken his usual mild vagueness. She saw the realization sweep over him, though she didn’t know what it was at first. His hands and feet suddenly moved, faster and faster, and he swarmed up the wall like a great lanky beetle. His beaming face popped up over the window ledge and Em sputtered. “What? How . . .?”
“I can do this,” he said, delighted.
Em stared at Harry, who was laughing so hard he could barely stand. “Of all the—”
“It’s math,” Lord Westfield said, still hanging over the window. “You just find the angles. I like math.”
“Of course you do,” Em said. “Now do it again.” He might be a climbing savant, but she was going to make sure her unexpected genius truly knew what he was doing before she let him loose on the rooftops of London.
“All right,” he said, his sweet, genuine smile catching her unawares. He disappeared back over the edge, and she leaned out to watch him carefully climb back down. He jumped the last few feet, and he and Harry engaged in some sort of male congratulatory ritual.
She made him climb up and down twice more before she let him do it without the rope. Harry tossed up the rope and scaled the wall himself—for practice, he said—before turning to watch with her from the window. “He can’t pick locks worth a damn, but he’s a climber, all right,” he said.
“I know,” she said, watching Lord Westfield settle his fingers into the first marks. “It’s amazing. He says it’s math.” They watched as he progressed—a bit slower this time without the rope guaranteeing his safety, sensible man. When he was just over halfway up the wall, Em’s ears caught an unexpected noise—a carriage, much closer than the noise of the ongoing traffic of London all around them. “Lord Westfield—” she started.
“Wait a minute,” he said. “My hands are a bit slippery.”
“Oh, hell,” Harry breathed beside her.
A large, finely detailed carriage turned into the stableyard beneath them, followed by another slightly smaller one. The coachmen gaped at the man clinging to the wall even as they neatly turned and stopped horses and carriages with the ease of long habit.
Lord Westfield progressed further up the wall. His concentration was so focused that Em didn’t think he had any idea what was happening. She held her breath as he came higher . . . higher . . .
Harry leaned out the window. “Westfield,” he said. Lord Westfield raised his head. “What?” he said irritably.
“I think your father is home.”
Em watched in horror as everything seemed to happen in slow motion. Lord Westfield’s head turned. His eyes widened as the door of the first carriage began to open. His hand slipped. His head turned back and he caught Em’s gaze as Harry lunged. The audible slap of their hands connecting was thunderous in the silent courtyard.
“THOMAS!” The feminine shriek broke the hideous silence, and Em leaned forward to help Harry drag Lord Westfield through the window as a lady burst from the carriage, shoving past the footman who was trying to help her out.
A final tug brought Westfield’s long legs over the window frame, and the three of them tumbled to the floor. Em closed her eyes and breathed in and out, then opened them. She found Lord Westfield staring at her ruefully.
“I think we’re in trouble,” he said.
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