“I am returning you to bed,” Hermione said, her tone brooking no argument. “And then I will summon Mother. She will know what to do.”

Lucy nodded with relief. Lady Watson’s remedy for any sort of ailment was chocolate and biscuits. Unorthodox, to be sure, but as it was what Hermione’s mother chose whenever she claimed to be ill, she couldn’t very well deny it to anyone else.

Hermione guided her back to their bedchamber, even going so far as to remove Lucy’s slippers for her before she lay atop the bed. “If I didn’t know you so well,” Hermione said, tossing the slippers carelessly into the armoire, “I would think you were faking.”

“I would never.”

“Oh, you would,” Hermione said. “You absolutely would. But you could never carry it off. You’re far too traditional.”

Traditional? What had that to do with anything?

Hermione let out a little huff of air. “I’m probably going to have to sit with that wearisome Mr. Bridgerton at breakfast now.”

“He’s not so dreadful,” Lucy said, with perhaps a bit more verve than one might expect from someone with a belly full of bad salmon.

“I suppose not,” Hermione acceded. “He’s better than most, I daresay.”

Lucy winced at the echo of her own words. So much better than the rest. So much better than the rest.

It was quite possibly the most appalling thing ever to cross her lips.

“But he is not for me,” Hermione continued, oblivious to Lucy’s distress. “He will realize it soon enough. And then he will move on to someone else.”

Lucy doubted that, but she didn’t say anything. What a coil. Hermione was in love with Mr. Edmonds, Mr. Bridgerton was in love with Hermione, and Lucy was not in love with Mr. Bridgerton.

But he thought she was.

Which was nonsense, of course. She would never allow that to happen, practically engaged as she was to Lord Haselby.

Haselby . She nearly groaned. This would all be so much easier if she could remember his face.

“Perhaps I’ll ring for breakfast,” Hermione said, her face lighting up as if she had just discovered a new continent. “Do you think they will send up a tray?”

Oh, blast. There went all her plans. Now Hermione had an excuse to remain in their chamber all day. And the next, too, if Lucy continued to feign illness.

“I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner,” Hermione said, heading to the bellpull. “I would much rather remain here with you.”

“Don’t,” Lucy called out, her brain spinning madly.

“Why not?”

Indeed. Lucy thought quickly. “If you have them bring a tray, you might not get what you want.”

“But I know what I want. Coddled eggs and toast. Surely they can manage that.”

“But I don’t want coddled eggs and toast.” Lucy tried to keep her expression as pitiful and pathetic as she could manage. “You know my taste so well. If you go to the breakfast room, I’m sure you would find something exactly right.”

“But I thought you weren’t going to eat.”

Lucy put her hand back on her belly. “Well, I might want to eat a little.”

“Oh, very well,” Hermione said, by now sounding more impatient than anything else. “What do you want?”

“Er, perhaps some bacon?”

“With a fishy stomach?”

“I’m not sure it was the fish.”

For the longest moment, Hermione just stood there and stared at her. “Just bacon, then?” she finally asked.

“Ehm, and anything else you think I might enjoy,” Lucy said, since it would have been easy enough to ring for bacon.

Hermione let out a pent-up breath. “I shall return soon.” She regarded Lucy with a slightly suspicious expression. “Don’t overexert yourself.”

“I won’t,” Lucy promised. She smiled at the door as it closed behind Hermione. She counted to ten, then hopped out of bed and ran to the wardrobe to straighten her slippers. Once that was done to her satisfaction, she snatched up a book and crawled back in to settle down and read.

All in all, it was turning out to be a lovely morning.

By the time Gregory entered the breakfast room, he was feeling much better. What had happened the night before-it was nothing. Practically forgotten.

It wasn’t as if he’d wanted to kiss Lady Lucinda. He’d merely wondered about it, which was worlds apart.

He was just a man, after all. He’d wondered about hundreds of women, most of the time without any intention of even speaking to them. Everybody wondered. It was whether one acted upon it that made the difference.

What was that his brothers-his happily married brothers, he might add-had once said? Marriage didn’t render them blind. They might not be looking for other women, but that didn’t mean they didn’t notice what was standing right in front of them. Whether it was a barmaid with extremely large bosoms or a proper young lady with a-well, with a pair of lips-one couldn’t very well not see the body part in question.

And if one saw, then of course one would wonder, and-

And nothing. It all added up to nothing.

Which meant Gregory could eat his breakfast with a clear head.

Eggs were good for the soul, he decided. Bacon, too.

The only other occupant of the breakfast room was the fiftyish and perpetually starchy Mr. Snowe, who was thankfully more interested in his newspaper than in conversation. After the obligatory grunts of greeting, Gregory sat down at the opposite end of the table and began to eat.

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