She paused, twisting her lips. “He is rather young, isn’t he?”

“Not so much younger than I am,” Gregory said, even though he’d thought Fennsworth the veriest infant the night before.

Kate appeared to give that some thought. “No,” she said slowly, “there’s a difference. He’s not…Well, I don’t know. Anyway-”

Why did she keep changing the subject just when she started to say something he actually wanted to hear?

“-the betrothal is done,” she continued, picking up speed with that, “and I believe that all parties involved are content.”

Gregory supposed he did not count as an involved party. But then again, he felt more irritation than anything else. He did not like being beaten. At anything.

Well, except for shooting. He’d long since given up on that.

How was it that it never occurred to him, not even once, that he might not win Miss Watson in the end? He had accepted that it would not be easy, but to him, it was a fait accompli. Predestined.

He’d actually been making progress with her. She had laughed with him, by gad. Laughed. Surely that had to have meant something.

“They are leaving today,” Kate said. “All of them. Separately, of course. Lady and Miss Watson are off to prepare for the wedding, and Lord Fennsworth is taking his sister home. It’s why he came, after all.”

Lucy. He had to see Lucy.

He’d been trying not to think about her.

With mixed results.

But she was there, all the time, hovering at the back of his mind, even while he was stewing over the loss of Miss Watson.

Lucy. It was impossible now to think of her as Lady Lucinda. Even if he hadn’t kissed her, she would be Lucy. It was who she was. It fit her perfectly.

But he had kissed her. And it had been magnificent.

But most of all, unexpected.

Everything about it had surprised him, even the very fact that he’d done it. It was Lucy. He wasn’t supposed to kiss Lucy.

But she’d been holding his arm. And her eyes-what was it about her eyes? She’d been looking up at him, searching for something.

Searching him for something.

He hadn’t meant to do it. It just happened. He’d felt pulled, inexorably tugged toward her, and the space between them had grown smaller and smaller…

And then there she was. In his arms.

He’d wanted to melt to the floor, lose himself in her and never let go.

He’d wanted to kiss her until they both fell apart from the passion of it.

He’d wanted to-

Well. He’d wanted to do quite a bit, to tell the truth. But he’d also been a little bit drunk.

Not very. But enough to doubt the veracity of his response.

And he’d been angry. And off-balance.

Not with Lucy, of course, but he was quite certain it had impaired his judgment.

Still, he should see her. She was a gently bred young lady. One didn’t kiss one of those without making explanations. And he ought to apologize as well, although that didn’t really feel like what he wanted to do.

But it was what he should do.

He looked up at Kate. “When are they leaving?”

“Lady and Miss Watson? This afternoon, I believe.”

No, he almost blurted out, I meant Lady Lucinda. But he caught himself and kept his voice unconcerned as he said instead, “And Fennsworth?”

“Soon, I think. Lady Lucinda has already been down for breakfast.” Kate thought for a moment. “I believe Fennsworth said he wished to be home by supper. But they can make the journey in one day. They don’t live too very far away.”

“Near Dover,” Gregory murmured absently.

Kate’s brow furrowed. “I think you’re right.”

Gregory frowned at his food. He’d thought to wait here for Lucy; she would not be able to miss breakfast. But if she’d already eaten, then the time of her departure would be growing near.

And he needed to find her.

He stood. A bit abruptly-he knocked his thigh against the edge of the table, causing Kate to look up at him with a startled expression.

“You’re not going to finish your breakfast?” she asked.

He shook his head. “I’m not hungry.”

She looked at him with patent disbelief. She’d been a member of the family for over ten years, after all. “How is that possible?”

He ignored the question. “I bid you a lovely morning.”

“Gregory?”

He turned. He didn’t want to, but there was a slight edge to her voice, just enough for him to know he needed to pay attention.

Kate’s eyes filled with compassion-and apprehension. “You’re not going to seek out Miss Watson, are you?”

“No,” he said, and it was almost funny, because that was the last thing on his mind.

Lucy stared at her packed trunks, feeling tired. And sad. And confused.

And heaven knew what else.

Wrung out. That was how she felt. She’d watched the maids with the bath towels, how they twisted and twisted to wring out every last drop of water.

So it had come to this.

She was a bath towel.

“Lucy?”

It was Hermione, quietly entering their room. Lucy had already been asleep when Hermione had returned the night before, and Hermione had been asleep when Lucy had left for breakfast.

When Lucy had returned, Hermione had been gone. In many ways, Lucy had been grateful for that.

“I was with my mother,” Hermione explained. “We depart this afternoon.”

Lucy nodded. Lady Bridgerton had found her at breakfast and informed her of everyone’s plans. By the time she had returned to her bedchamber, her belongings were all packed and ready to be loaded onto a carriage.

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