Anne made her way to her small room and quickly brushed the flour from her hair and slipped into the green dress. She tucked a lace fichu into the low neckline and glanced at herself in the small looking glass. It would have to do.

She made her way back to the kitchen to prepare the tea tray. Sophia's attitude grew worse every day. She complained about having to marry Tony Matthews, but sang a different tune when he was around. If their circumstances weren't so dire, Anne would let her drop the whole thing.

She placed the kettle on to boil and turned to look out the kitchen window. Winter was just around the corner. How Anne wished her mother were alive. She didn't know how much more she could take. She might have to throw her pride away and ask her brother for help after all.

"The cake looks nice, miss," Hannah said as she entered the kitchen. "Fine job you've done."

"Thank you." Anne sat at the table and played with the herbs she'd placed around the cake "What news from town?"

"Everyone is talking about the handsome young man who is visiting Lady Danford," Hannah said as she tied on her apron.

Anne made a face. "Mr. Matthews's brother."

"So you've met the young man? What's he like?"

"Arrogant," Anne said shortly.

Hannah laughed. "Aren't they all?"

"True. This man more than most."

"Perhaps this will speed up the engagement," Hannah said.

"I doubt it. Although if they don't marry we won't have to listen to Tony Matthews's poetry anymore." Anne groaned. "It's dreadful." She cut the cake into thin slices and readied the tea service with their best cups and saucers. This visit had to go well. She needed Tony Matthews to propose to Sophia.

"Anne! Anne, you'll never guess! Our brother is here!" Sophia danced into the kitchen. "At last! Isn't it exciting?"

A teacup crashed onto the table as it slipped from Anne's hand. "Here? In Beetham?"

"No, here, in the parlor! Oh, do you think he'll take us all back to London with him?" Sophia capered like a child.

"Calm yourself, Sophia." Anne smoothed her skirts down, patted her hair, and tried vainly to calm her racing heart. What could he want? She knew better than to hope he'd had a change of heart. He lacked a heart to change. "Please join Juliet upstairs while I see to him."

"But, Anne, I want to see him now. It's been ages." Sophia locked her jaw.

"Do as I ask for once, please?" Anne growled.

"But Anne—" Sophia whined.

"Now." Anne stared her sister into submission. Sophia turned and stomped up the stairs.

Releasing the breath she had been holding, Anne turned to Hannah and asked her to fetch her husband, Thomas.

"He walked into town, miss. Do you expect trouble?"

"I don't know. To say that my brother and I didn't part well is an understatement." Her stomach lurched.

"I'll fetch him right now, miss." Hannah grabbed her wrap and hurried out the kitchen door.

Anne pinched her cheeks for color. The last time she had seen Sir John he was in the process of throwing his half sisters into a carriage along with all their belongings. Anne could remember watching him turn his back before the carriage rolled away, leaving her to explain his actions to her younger sisters. They had cried for hours. She took a deep breath and entered the parlor.

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