“I didn’t-” She fought for breath. “He didn’t-” She managed to look at her chest. It was covered with blood. “Oh my heavens.”

“I can’t find it,” Gregory said. He took her chin, positioning her face so that she was looking directly into his eyes.

And she almost didn’t recognize him.

His eyes…his beautiful hazel eyes…they looked lost, nearly empty. And it almost seemed to take away whatever it was that made him…him.

“Lucy,” he said, his voice hoarse with emotion, “please. Speak to me.”

“I’m not hurt,” she finally got out.

His hands froze. “The blood.”

“It’s not mine.” She looked up at him and brought her hand to his cheek. He was shaking. Oh dear God, he was shaking. She had never seen him thus, never imagined he could be brought to this point.

The look in his eyes-She realized it now. It had been terror.

“I’m not hurt,” she whispered. “Please…don’t…it’s all right, darling.” She didn’t know what she was saying; she only wanted to comfort him.

His breath was ragged, and when he spoke, his words were broken, unfinished. “I thought I’d-I don’t know what I thought.”

Something wet touched her finger, and she brushed it gently away. “It’s over now,” she said. “It’s over now, and-”

And suddenly she became aware of the rest of the people in the room. “Well, I think it’s over,” she said hesitantly, pushing herself into a seated position. Was her uncle dead? She knew he’d been shot. By Gregory or Richard, she did not know which. Both had fired their weapons.

But Uncle Robert had not been mortally wounded. He had pulled himself to the side of the room and was propped up against the wall, clutching his shoulder and staring ahead with a defeated expression.

Lucy scowled at him. “You’re lucky he’s not a better shot.”

Gregory made a rather strange, snorting sound.

Over in the corner, Richard and Hermione were clutching each other, but they both appeared unharmed. Lord Davenport was bellowing about something, she wasn’t sure what, and Lord Haselby-good God, her husband-was leaning idly against the doorjamb, watching the scene.

He caught her eye and smiled. Just a bit. No teeth, of course; he never smiled quite so broadly.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“Don’t be.”

Gregory rose to his knees beside her, one arm draped protectively over her shoulder. Haselby viewed the tableau with patent amusement, and perhaps just a touch of pleasure as well.

“Do you still desire that annulment?” he asked.

Lucy nodded.

“I’ll have the papers drawn up tomorrow.”

“Are you certain?” Lucy asked, concerned. He was a lovely man, really. She didn’t want his reputation to suffer.

“Lucy!”

She turned quickly to Gregory. “Sorry. I didn’t mean-I just-”

Haselby gave her a wave. “Please, don’t trouble yourself. It was the best thing that could possibly have happened. Shootings, blackmail, treason…No one will ever look to me as the cause of the annulment now.”

“Oh. Well, that’s good,” Lucy said brightly. She rose to her feet because, well, it seemed only polite, given how generous he was being. “But do you still wish for a wife? Because I could help you find one, once I’m settled, that is.”

Gregory’s eyes practically rolled back in his head. “Good God, Lucy.”

She watched as he stood. “I feel I must make this right. He thought he was getting a wife. In a way, it’s not precisely fair.”

Gregory closed his eyes for a long moment. “It is a good thing I love you so well,” he said wearily, “because otherwise, I should have to fit you with a muzzle.”

Lucy’s mouth fell open. “Gregory!” And then, “Hermione!”

“Sorry!” Hermione said, one hand still clapped over her mouth to muffle her laughter. “But you are well-matched.”

Haselby strolled into the room and handed her uncle a handkerchief. “You’ll want to staunch that,” he murmured. He turned back to Lucy. “I don’t really want a wife, as I’m sure you’re aware, but I suppose I must find some way to procreate or the title’ll go to my odious cousin. Which would be a shame, really. The House of Lords would surely elect to disband if ever he decided to take up his seat.”

Lucy just looked at him and blinked.

Haselby smiled. “So, yes, I should be grateful if you found someone suitable.”

“Of course,” she murmured.

“You’ll need my approval, too,” Lord Davenport blustered, marching forward.

Gregory turned to him with unveiled disgust. “You,” he bit off, “may shut up. Immediately.”

Davenport drew back in a huff. “Do you have any idea to whom you are speaking, you little whelp?”

Gregory’s eyes narrowed and he rose to his feet. “To a man in a very precarious position.”

“I beg your pardon.”

“You will cease your blackmail immediately,” Gregory said sharply.

Lord Davenport jerked his head toward Lucy’s uncle. “He was a traitor!”

“And you chose not to turn him in,” Gregory snapped, “which I would imagine the king would find equally reprehensible.”

Lord Davenport staggered back as if struck.

Gregory rose to his feet, pulling Lucy up along with him. “You,” he said to Lucy’s uncle, “will leave the country. Tomorrow. Don’t return.”

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