Silence stretched through the crowd as all eyes aimed toward Mercedes. Even the horses seemed remarkably quiet. Panic grew inside her chest like rising dough, suffocating her slowly. They all expected an explanation—one she couldn’t give.

“My dear.” Mr. Braxton took a step closer. “Will you please clarify why you were running from me?”

All of this was a mistake. She needed to set the matter straight. Now. Although she assumed Mr. Braxton’s change of attitude was all for show, her heart leapt at the tenderness he displayed. That could be the only reason her mind had go

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