Again, so like her. Wanting everyone to be happy. Try this. And if you don’t like it, try this or this or this or this. And if that doesn’t work, have mine.
She’d never said it, of course, but somehow he knew she would.
She looked down at the serving platter. “I do wish they weren’t all mixed up.”
He looked at her quizzically. “I beg your pardon?”
“Well,” she said-that singular sort of well that foretold a long and heartfelt explanation. “Don’t you think it would have made far more sense to separate the different types of sandwiches? To put each on its own smaller plate? That way, if you found one you liked, you would know exactly where to go to get another. Or”-at this she grew even more animated, as if she were attacking a problem of great societal importance-“if there was another. Consider it.” She waved at the platter. “There might not be a single ham sandwich left in the stack. And you couldn’t very well sift through them all, looking. It would be most impolite.”
He regarded her thoughtfully, then said, “You like things to be orderly, don’t you?”
“Oh, I do,” she said with feeling. “I really do.”
Gregory considered his own disorganized ways. He tossed shoes in the wardrobe, left invitations strewn about…The year before, he had released his valet-secretary from service for a week to visit his ailing father, and when the poor man had come back, the chaos on Gregory’s desk alone had nearly done him in.
Gregory looked at Lady Lucinda’s earnest expression and chuckled. He’d probably drive her mad in under a week as well.
“Do you like the sandwich?” she asked, once he’d taken a bite. “The cucumber?”
“Very intriguing,” he murmured.
“I wonder, is food meant to be intriguing?”
He finished the sandwich. “I’m not certain.”
She nodded absently, then said, “The ham is nice.”
They lapsed into a companionable silence as they glanced out across the room. The musicians were playing a lively waltz, and the ladies’ skirts were billowing like silken bells as they spun and twirled. It was impossible to watch the scene and not feel as if the night itself were alive…restless with energy…waiting to make its move.
Something would happen that night. Gregory was sure of it. Someone’s life would change.
If he was lucky, it would be his.
His hands began to tingle. His feet, too. It was taking everything he had just to stand still. He wanted to move, he wanted to do something. He wanted to set his life in motion, reach out and capture his dreams.
He wanted to move. He couldn’t stand still. He-
“Would you like to dance?”
He hadn’t meant to ask. But he’d turned, and Lucy was right there beside him, and the words just tumbled out.
Her eyes lit up. Even with the mask, he could see that she was delighted. “Yes,” she said, almost sighing as she added, “I love to dance.”
He took her hand and led her to the floor. The waltz was in full swing, and they quickly found their place in the music. It seemed to lift them, render them as one. Gregory needed only to press his hand at her waist, and she moved, exactly as he anticipated. They spun, they twirled, the air rushing past their faces so quickly that they had to laugh.
It was perfect. It was breathless. It was as if the music had crept under their skin and was guiding their every movement.
And then it was over.
So quickly. Too quickly. The music ended, and for a moment they stood, still in each other’s arms, still wrapped in the memory of the music.
“Oh, that was lovely,” Lady Lucinda said, and her eyes shone.
Gregory released her and bowed. “You are a superb dancer, Lady Lucinda. I knew you would be.”
“Thank you, I-” Her eyes snapped to his. “You did?”
“I-” Why had he said that? He hadn’t meant to say that. “You’re quite graceful,” he finally said, leading her back to the ballroom’s perimeter. Far more graceful than Miss Watson, actually, although that did make sense given what Lucy had said about her friend’s dancing ability.
“It is in the way you walk,” he added, since she seemed to be expecting a more detailed explanation.
And that would have to do, since he wasn’t about to examine the notion any further.
“Oh.” And her lips moved. Just a little. But it was enough. And it struck him-she looked happy. And he realized that most people didn’t. They looked amused, or entertained, or satisfied.
Lady Lucinda looked happy.
He rather liked that.
“I wonder where Hermione is,” she said, looking this way and that.
“She didn’t arrive with you?” Gregory asked, surprised.
“She did. But then we saw Richard. And he asked her to dance. Not,” she added with great emphasis, “because he is in love with her. He was merely being polite. That is what one does for one’s sister’s friends.”
“I have four sisters,” he reminded her. “I know.” But then he remembered. “I thought Miss Watson does not dance.”
“She doesn’t. But Richard does not know that. No one does. Except me. And you.” She looked at him with some urgency. “Please do not tell anyone. I beg of you. Hermione would be mortified.”
“My lips are sealed,” he promised.
“I imagine they went off to find something to drink,” Lucy said, leaning slightly to one side as she tried to catch a glimpse of the lemonade table. “Hermione made a comment about being overheated. It is her favorite excuse. It almost always works when someone asks her to dance.”
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