Chapter Three

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The next afternoon, Anne placed an apple cake on the small wooden worktable in the cottage kitchen. She breathed in the scent of cinnamon and apples. She sent a mental thank-you to Mrs. Fellows for the generous gift of apples from the Lodge's orchard. She would also make jam with Hannah, their maid of all work, later. She loved baking. Had they stayed with John, she'd never have had the opportunity to learn to cook.

"What is that glorious smell?" Juliet bounded into the kitchen, her glossy dark hair dancing around her face. "Please say I can have some."

"No, you may not," Sophia said as she entered the kitchen behind her sister. "We are expecting guests. I just dusted the parlor." She tossed down the rag with a martyred flourish. "I don't understand why Hannah can't dust."

"Hannah can't do everything." Anne gently placed the cake on a plate. "Juliet, pass me those herbs, please."

Juliet passed the basket to Anne. "Do I have to listen to Mr. Matthews spout his pathetic poetry about Sophia's eyes?"

Anne stifled a laugh. "It's not that bad. I need to go up to the Lodge."

"I'll be sick if I have to sit and watch him make cow eyes at her again," Juliet said.

"Anne, you have to be here! Tony's brother is coming specifically to meet the family." Sophia tsked at her sister. "You are covered in flour."

"I've already met Mr. Matthews's brother." And it wasn't something she wanted to repeat. Anne brushed out her dress. "Lady Danford needs me. Juliet will be here."

"You will be here, Anne. I insist." Sophia took Anne's arm and tugged her toward the stairs. "I've laid out your green dress. Change out of that old thing."

"Surely having tea with the man's brother isn't worth changing for," Anne argued. It was one of the few nice day dresses she owned.

"I can't believe we are having this conversation. You are the one pushing me to marry well," Sophia said with a toss of her head.

"I'm not pushing you—"

"You most certainly are!" Sophia said. "Please change. And do something about your hair. It's worse than usual, if that's possible."

Anne gritted her teeth and waited for her temper to cool before trusting herself to speak. Lord, Sophia was a trial. She needed a comeuppance, but not today. "Very well, the green dress."

"You needn't act as if the green dress were an elegant ball gown. Only Sophia gets new dresses. How can we make a good impression if the two of us look like we dressed from the rag bag?" said Juliet as she toyed with the cake.

Sophia sniffed. "If I'm to marry well, then I must dress well. I don't see why you're complaining. Once I'm married, you'll have new dresses."

"Juliet, leave the cake alone," Anne said. "Sophia, there's no need to crow at your sister."

"I'm the one making the sacrifice and saving the family," Sophia cried. "I get so sick of listening to her complain."

"Poor Sophia, so deprived. I'm sick of you!" Juliet stomped up the stairs.

Anne winced as a door slammed. "Sophia, that wasn't helpful."

Sophia huffed and pulled a face. "This wouldn't have happened if we'd stayed with our brother."

Anne couldn't win. She sighed, her shoulders slumped. "Go prepare for your visitors. We can discuss this later."

There would be no running away to the Fairy Steps today. Not with Mr. Matthews and his brother coming to call. She pressed a hand to her forehead. The visit from hell, and no way to escape.

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