Anastasia relaxed into the corner of the sofa, but quickly sat upright again as her mother gave her a stern, meaningful look. Feeling annoyed, she stared into the depths of the delicate china cup in her hand, swirling the contents gently, hoping to try and block out the rest of the room.
"You've been rather quiet this evening, Anna," Robert stated, taking a seat in the armchair next to her.
"Have I?" She kept her gaze on the cup, following the patterns in the liquid with her eyes. She was in a foul mood and in no humour to entertain her cousin.
"Yes. You scarcely laughed at any of my jokes, and they were jolly good ones too, if I do say so myself."
"Why don't you tell them to your stupid friend then?"
"Campbell? Really, Anna, I thought you'd be wonderful friends. Especially after what I'm told happened this afternoon." Robert watched as his cousin's head shot up, her eyes glinting dangerously. "Anyway," he continued hastily, knowing better than to provoke Anastasia, "I couldn't tell him my marvelous jokes even if I wanted to. Charlotte, you see, has stolen him from me."
Anastasia followed his gaze across the room to where Mr. Campbell was talking seriously and animatedly and Charlotte, next to him, listened earnestly, nodding and giggling at regular intervals. Anastasia rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to Robert.
"Will you go riding tomorrow?" she asked hopefully, wanting to divert the conversation from Mr. Campbell to a far more favourable topic. Robert and Charlotte often called at Avondale for Anastasia to accompany them on horseback. Though Charlotte had never been as good a rider as Anastasia or her brother, they still all enjoyed hacking in the woods between Avondale and Fawley.
Robert grinned. "I will, but I have asked Campbell to come too."
Anastasia groaned involuntarily. Only a few hours had passed since their first meeting, but she was already tired of Mr. Campbell.
"I hope you'll still come?"
Anastasia chewed on her lip, weighing the possibilities. "Very well," she conceded eventually. It was a long time since she had spent time with her cousins, and Mr. Campbell wasn't about to rob her of that. In fact, she decided that she would still enjoy her summer as much as she always did, regardless of his presence. What was the worst that could happen anyway? That she would fall off her horse and he would have to carry her home? What was the likelihood of that? "But only if I do not have to talk to him."
"Oh," Robert said slyly, "I think we can trust Charlotte to keep him engaged." They looked across to the pair again; Mr. Campbell lost in some speech he was making, Charlotte watching him absent mindedly, looking slightly bewildered, but agreeing with everything he said all the same.
Anastasia frowned. "Does it not bother you that your sister is so obviously attached to your friend?"
"Not at all, Charlotte can't possibly hold any serious feelings - she's only known him a few days! And Campbell evidently doesn't even realise that she's flirting. He's never been particularly interested in such matters."
Anastasia sighed thoughtfully. "If that is the case, then you should keep an eye on Charlotte and discourage any sort of attachment on her side."
"Jealous, are you?" Robert smirked, dodging out of the way as Anastasia's hand flew at him. "Hey!"