It was her.
The woman had haunted his dreams far too many nights for him not to recognize her. He shuffled forward, expecting her to disappear like a mirage any second. The scuff of his shoes on the graveled path drew her head around, and she retreated into the shadows of the vines reaching overhead to form an arch.
He held his hands up in mock surrender. “I’m sorry for startling you, miss. I mean you no harm.”
“It seems to me that’s exactly what a man bent on taking advantage of a woman would declare.” She was well spoken, but her accent wasn’t that of a ton lady. It was wholly unique. Perhaps she was from Northumberland or from a village near Wales.
Simon opened his mouth to respond with reassurances then closed it. She didn’t sound frightened. Quite the opposite, in fact. If he had to put a name to her tone, he would call it teasing.
“I’m harmless, I swear.” He put his hand over his heart in a pledge he wasn’t sure was even true. At least where she was concerned.
“A man let loose in a darkened garden is not a man to be trusted, sir.”
He squinted to see her better, but didn’t dare move closer. The last thing he wanted was to scare her off. Why did he feel like a callow youth going courting for the first time? Actually, he only assumed this was how one felt when calling upon a lady one admired. He’d never had to deal with an infestation of butterflies on this scale.