“Excellent work, Mr. Bridgerton,” Lady Lucinda said. “Don’t you agree, Hermione?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Hope he brings pie,” Neville said as he held the door open for the ladies. “I can always eat pie.”

Gregory tucked Miss Watson’s hand in the crook of his arm before she could escape. “I asked for a selection of foods,” he said quietly to her. “I hope there is something that meets your cravings.”

She looked up at him and he felt it again, the air swooshing from his body as he lost himself in her eyes. And he knew she felt it, too. She had to. How could she not, when he felt as if his own legs might give out beneath him?

“I am sure that it will be delightful,” she said.

“Are you in possession of a sweet tooth?”

“I am,” she admitted.

“Then you are in luck,” Gregory told her. “Mr. Gladdish has promised to include some of his wife’s gooseberry pie, which is quite famous in this district.”

“Pie?” Neville visibly perked up. He turned to Lady Lucinda. “Did he say we were getting pie?”

“I believe he did,” she replied.

Neville sighed with pleasure. “Do you like pie, Lady Lucinda?”

The barest hint of exasperation washed over her features as she asked, “What sort of pie, Mr. Berbrooke?”

“Oh, any pie. Sweet, savory, fruit, meat.”

“Well…” She cleared her throat, glancing about as if the buildings and trees might offer some guidance. “I…ah…I suppose I like most pies.”

And it was in that minute that Gregory was quite certain Neville had fallen in love.

Poor Lady Lucinda.

They walked across the main thoroughfare to a grassy field, and Gregory swept open the sheets, laying them flat upon the ground. Lady Lucinda, clever girl that she was, sat first, then patted a spot for Neville that would guarantee that Gregory and Miss Watson would be forced to share the other patch of cloth.

And then Gregory set about winning her heart.

Four

In which Our Heroine offers advice, Our Hero takes it, and everyone eats too much pie.

He was going about it all wrong.

Lucy glanced over Mr. Berbrooke’s shoulder, trying not to frown. Mr. Bridgerton was making a valiant attempt to win Hermione’s favor, and Lucy had to admit that under normal circumstances, with a different female, he would have succeeded handily. Lucy thought of the many girls she knew from school-any one of them would be head over heels in love with him by now. Every one of them, as a matter of fact.

But not Hermione.

He was trying too hard. Being too attentive, too focused, too…too…Well, too in love, quite frankly, or at least too infatuated.

Mr. Bridgerton was charming, and he was handsome, and obviously quite intelligent as well, but Hermione had seen all this before. Lucy could not even begin to count the number of gentlemen who had pursued her friend in much the same manner. Some were witty, some were earnest. They gave flowers, poetry, candy-one even brought Hermione a puppy (instantly refused by Hermione’s mother, who had informed the poor gentleman that the natural habitat of dogs did not include Aubusson carpets, porcelain from the Orient, or herself).

But underneath they were all the same. They hung on her every word, they gazed at her as if she were a Greek goddess come down to earth, and they fell over each other in an attempt to offer the cleverest, most romantic compliments ever to rain down upon her pretty ears. And they never seemed to understand how completely unoriginal they all were.

If Mr. Bridgerton truly wished to pique Hermione’s interest, he was going to need to do something different.

“More gooseberry pie, Lady Lucinda?” Mr. Berbrooke asked.

“Yes, please,” Lucy murmured, if only to keep him busy with the slicing as she pondered what to do next. She really didn’t want Hermione to throw her life away on Mr. Edmonds, and truly, Mr. Bridgerton was perfect. He just needed a little help.

“Oh, look!” Lucy exclaimed. “Hermione doesn’t have any pie.”

“No pie?” Mr. Berbrooke gasped.

Lucy batted her eyelashes at him, not a mannerism with which she had much practice or skill. “Would you be so kind as to serve her?”

As Mr. Berbrooke nodded, Lucy stood up. “I believe I will stretch my legs,” she announced. “There are lovely flowers on the far side of the field. Mr. Bridgerton, do you know anything about the local flora?”

He looked up, surprised by her question. “A bit.” But he didn’t move.

Hermione was busy assuring Mr. Berbrooke that she adored gooseberry pie, so Lucy took advantage of the moment and jerked her head toward the flowers, giving Mr. Bridgerton the sort of urgent look that generally meant “Come with me now.”

For a moment he appeared to be puzzled, but he quickly recovered and rose to his feet. “Will you allow me to tell you a bit about the scenery, Lady Lucinda?”

“That would be marvelous,” she said, perhaps a touch too enthusiastically. Hermione was staring at her with patent suspicion. But Lucy knew that she would not offer to join them; to do so would encourage Mr. Bridgerton to believe she desired his company.

So Hermione would be left with Mr. Berbrooke and the pie. Lucy shrugged. It was only fair.

“That one, I believe, is a daisy,” Mr. Bridgerton said, once they had crossed the field. “And that stalky blue one-Actually, I don’t know what it’s called.”

“Delphinium,” Lucy said briskly, “and you must know that I did not summon you to speak of flowers.”

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