Oh well, nothing to do about it. Gregory Bridgerton already thought her a widgeon-he might as well think her a widgeon who would weigh twelve stone by the year’s end.

“He’s rather amusing, actually,” Hermione said, absently twirling her hair.

“I’ve heard he’s quite charming.”

“Mmmm.”

Lucy watched her friend closely. Hermione was gazing out the window, and if she didn’t quite have that ridiculous memorizing-a-love-sonnet look to her, she had at least worked her way up to a couplet or two.

“He is extremely handsome,” Lucy said. There seemed no harm in confessing it. It wasn’t as if she was planning to set her cap for him, and his looks were fine enough that it could be interpreted as a statement of fact rather than opinion.

“Do you think so?” Hermione asked. She turned back to Lucy, her head tilting thoughtfully to the side.

“Oh yes,” Lucy replied. “His eyes, particularly. I’m quite partial to hazel eyes. I always have been.”

Actually, she’d never considered it one way or the other, but now that she thought about it, hazel eyes were rather fine. Bit of brown, bit of green. Best of both worlds.

Hermione looked at her curiously. “I didn’t know that.”

Lucy shrugged. “I don’t tell you everything.”

Another lie. Hermione was privy to every boring detail of Lucy’s life and had been for three years. Except, of course, for her plans to match Hermione with Mr. Bridgerton.

Mr. Bridgerton. Right. Must return the conversation to the subject of him.

“But you must agree,” Lucy said in her most pondering of voices, “he’s not too handsome. It’s a good thing, really.”

“Mr. Bridgerton?”

“Yes. His nose has a great deal of character, wouldn’t you say? And his eyebrows aren’t quite even.” Lucy frowned. She hadn’t realized she was quite so familiar with Gregory Bridgerton’s face.

Hermione did nothing but nod, so Lucy continued with “I don’t think I should want to be married to someone who was too handsome. It must be terribly intimidating. I would feel like a duck every time I opened my mouth.”

Hermione giggled at that. “A duck?”

Lucy nodded and decided not to quack. She wondered if the men who courted Hermione worried about the same thing.

“He’s quite dark,” Hermione said.

“Not so dark.” Lucy thought his hair a medium-brown.

“Yes, but Mr. Edmonds is so fair.”

Mr. Edmonds did have lovely blond hair, so Lucy decided not to comment. And she knew she had to be very careful at this point. If she pushed Hermione too hard in Mr. Bridgerton’s direction, Hermione would surely balk and go right back to being in love with Mr. Edmonds, which, of course, was utter disaster.

No, Lucy was going to need to be subtle. If Hermione was going to switch her devotion to Mr. Bridgerton, she was going to have to figure it out for herself. Or think she did.

“And his family is very smart,” Hermione murmured.

“Mr. Edmonds’s?” Lucy asked, deliberately misinterpreting.

“No, Mr. Bridgerton’s, of course. I have heard such interesting things about them.”

“Oh, yes,” Lucy said. “I have as well. I rather admire Lady Bridgerton. She’s been a marvelous hostess.”

Hermione nodded her agreement. “I think she prefers you to me.”

“Don’t be silly.”

“I don’t mind,” Hermione said with a shrug. “It’s not as if she doesn’t like me. She just likes you better. Women always like you better.”

Lucy opened her mouth to contradict but then stopped, realizing that it was true. How odd that she had never noticed it. “Well, it’s not as if you’d be marrying her,” she said.

Hermione looked at her sharply. “I didn’t say I wished to marry Mr. Bridgerton.”

“No, of course not,” Lucy said, mentally kicking herself. She’d known the words were a mistake the minute they’d escaped her mouth.

“But…” Hermione sighed and proceeded to stare off into space.

Lucy leaned forward. So this was what it meant to hang on a word.

And she hung, and she hung…until she could bear it no longer. “Hermione?” she finally queried.

Hermione flopped back onto the bed. “Oh, Lucy,” she moaned, in tones worthy of Covent Garden, “I’m so confused.”

“Confused?” Lucy smiled. This had to be a good thing.

“Yes,” Hermione replied, from her decidedly inelegant position atop the bed. “When I was sitting at the table with Mr. Bridgerton-well, actually at first I thought him quite mad-but then I realized I was enjoying myself. He was funny, actually, and made me laugh.”

Lucy did not speak, waiting for Hermione to gather the rest of her thoughts.

Hermione made a little noise, half-sigh, half-moan. Wholly distressed. “And then once I realized that, I looked up at him, and I-” She rolled onto her side, leaning on her elbow and propping her head up with one hand. “I fluttered.”

Lucy was still trying to digest the mad comment. “Fluttered?” she echoed. “What is fluttered?”

“My stomach. My heart. My-my something. I don’t know what.”

“Similar to when you saw Mr. Edmonds for the first time?”

“No. No. No.” Each no was said with a different emphasis, and Lucy had the distinct sense that Hermione was trying to convince herself of it.

“It wasn’t the same at all,” Hermione said. “But it was…a little bit the same. On a much smaller scale.”

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