In which Our Hero falls in love.
Two months earlier
Unlike most men of his acquaintance, Gregory Bridgerton believed in true love.
He’d have to have been a fool not to.
Consider the following:
His eldest brother, Anthony.
His eldest sister, Daphne.
His other brothers, Benedict and Colin, not to mention his sisters, Eloise, Francesca, and (galling but true) Hyacinth, all of whom-all of whom-were quite happily besotted with their spouses.
For most men, such a state of affairs would produce nothing quite so much as bile, but for Gregory, who had been born with an uncommonly cheerful, if occasionally (according to his younger sister) annoying, spirit, it simply meant that he had no choice but to believe the obvious:
It was not a wispy figment of the imagination, designed to keep the poets from complete starvation. It might not be something that one could see or smell or touch, but it was out there, and it was only a matter of time before he, too, found the woman of his dreams and settled down to be fruitful, multiply, and take on such baffling hobbies as papier-mâché and the collection of nutmeg graters.
Although, if one wanted to put a fine point on it, which did seem rather precise for such an abstract sort of concept, his dreams didn’t exactly include a woman. Well, not one with any specific and identifiable attributes. He didn’t know anything about this woman of his, the one who was supposed to transform his life completely, turning him into a happy pillar of boredom and respectability. He didn’t know if she would be short or tall, dark or fair. He’d like to think she would be intelligent and in possession of a fine sense of humor, but beyond that, how was he to know? She could be shy or out-spoken. She might like to sing. Or maybe not. Maybe she was a horsewoman, with a ruddy complexion born of too much time out of doors.
He didn’t know. When it came to this woman, this impossible, wonderful, and currently nonexistent woman, all he really knew was that when he found her…
He didn’t know how he’d know; he just knew that he would. Something this momentous, this earth-shattering and life-altering…well, really, it wasn’t going to whisper its way into existence. It would come full and forceful, like the proverbial ton of bricks. The only question was when.
And in the meantime, he saw no reason not to have a fine time while he anticipated her arrival. One didn’t need to behave like a monk while waiting for one’s true love, after all.
Gregory was, by all accounts, a fairly typical man about London, with a comfortable-although by no means extravagant-allowance, plenty of friends, and a level enough head to know when to quit a gaming table. He was considered a decent enough catch on the Marriage Mart, if not precisely the top selection (fourth sons never did command a great deal of attention), and he was always in demand when the society matrons needed an eligible man to even up the numbers at dinner parties.
Which did make his aforementioned allowance stretch a bit further-always a benefit.
Perhaps he ought to have had a bit more purpose in his life. Some sort of direction, or even just a meaningful task to complete. But that could wait, couldn’t it? Soon, he was sure, everything would come clear. He would know just what it was he wished to do, and whom he wished to do it with, and in the meantime, he’d-
Not have a fine time. Not just at this moment, at least.
Gregory was presently sitting in a leather chair, a rather accommodating one, not that that really had any bearing on the matter other than the fact that the lack of discomfort was conducive to daydreaming, which in turn was conducive to not listening to his brother, who, it should be noted, was standing approximately four feet away, droning on about something or other, almost certainly involving some variation of the words duty and responsibility.
Gregory wasn’t really paying attention. He rarely did.
Well, no, occasionally he did, but-
He looked up, blinking. Anthony’s arms were crossed, never a good sign. Anthony was the Viscount Bridgerton, and had been for more than twenty years. And while he was, Gregory would be the first to insist, the very best of brothers, he would have made a rather fine feudal lord.
“Begging your pardon for intruding upon your thoughts, such as they are,” Anthony said in a dry voice, “but have you, perhaps-just perhaps-heard anything I’ve said?”
“Diligence,” Gregory parroted, nodding with what he deemed sufficient gravity. “Direction.”
“Indeed,” Anthony replied, and Gregory congratulated himself on what had clearly been an inspired performance. “It was well past time that you finally sought some direction in your life.”
“Of course,” Gregory murmured, mostly because he’d missed supper, and he was hungry, and he’d heard that his sister-in-law was serving light refreshments in the garden. Besides, it never made sense to argue with Anthony. Never.
“You must make a change. Choose a new course.”
“Indeed.” Maybe there would be sandwiches. He could eat about forty of those ridiculous little ones with the crusts cut off right then.
Anthony’s voice held that tone. The one that, while impossible to describe, was easy enough to recognize. And Gregory knew it was time to pay attention.
“Right,” he said, because truly, it was remarkable how well a single syllable could delay a proper sentence. “I expect I’ll join the clergy.”
That stopped Anthony cold. Dead, frozen, cold. Gregory paused to savor the moment. Too bad he had to become a bloody vicar to achieve it.
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