"I must say," Tilney drawled from far too close to Lizzie's ear, "that I find this unexpectedly comfortable."
Lizzie's eyes popped open and she sat bolt upright. After a moment's confusion she realised that she was lying in the bed next to Tilney. Were it not for the fact that he lay under the duvet and she on top of it, Lizzie might well have fainted with alarm right there.
"I-I—" she began stammering as she slipped off the bed. "It was the surgeon. He insisted I rest. I did not wish to make him suspect anything was amiss, so I followed his orders." She feared that her face had probably turned scarlet.
Tilney stretched and yawned. "Well, I feel unaccountably better. And hungry. Do tell me I will be able to eat something now. Don't want that infernal sawbones to be forbidding me to put on the feedbag."
"No, not at all. In fact, he was telling me to be sure to make you eat. Let me run down to the landlord and ask him for your supper." Lizzie stepped toward the door, whisking away the lock of hair that decided to cover her eyes.
"Wait, Bennett," Tilney said, his voice softer than before. "Don't run away just yet."
Lizzie paused, attempting to compose herself before she turned her face toward his. "What is it, Tilney?"
To her surprise, his face did not reveal the usual lazy grin, but a rather more serious expression. "I knew I fell asleep like a child while you were telling me your life story, but I do hope you will enlighten me to the cause of your present ticklish situation. I do want to know."
The warmth that flushed her cheeks made Lizzie even more eager to depart. "I shall," she managed to say, her voice higher than usual from the strain of suppressing her conflicting emotions. "Do let me get you some sustenance, first."
"Bennett," Tilney repeated. "I want to know everything." His smile returned but it was almost shy and his eyes had a kind of warmth in their gaze that made Lizzie blush further. She nodded her head, not trusting herself to answer with words and hurried out the door.
In the dark of the corridor, Lizzie exhaled with relief. Why oh why, did she have to be kidnapped from her uncle's funeral, exiled on a white slaver's ship, rescued by pirates and nearly drowned in a storm just so she could run into Tilney in a small coastal village of France. It was as if some guiding influence willfully threw her into one adventure after another for its own amusement.
If only she had not been thrown into Tilney's path! If only he had been a dullard and a fool! She would not be in the situation she was. Resolutely, she turned to head down the staircase. It would be best to get away from Tilney as quickly as possible. Lizzie could not bear to wrong him or herself. The less he knew, the better.
She would have to give him the slip, as they said, leave his side and go to the King of Naples. It was the only way. Yet her steps were heavy as she descended to the main floor.