Because what? Lucy wanted to scream. But even if she’d had the inclination, she lacked the energy.
“Because it was where I belonged,” Hermione finished softly, and she looked amazed, as if she hadn’t herself realized it until that very moment.
Lucy suddenly began to feel very queer. Her muscles felt twitchy, and she had the most insane desire to wrap her hands into fists. What did she mean? Why was she saying this? Everyone had spent so much time telling her that love was a thing of magic, something wild and uncontrollable that came like a thunderstorm.
And now it was something else? It was just comfort? Something peaceful? Something that actually sounded nice? “What happened to hearing music?” she heard herself demand. “To seeing the back of his head and knowing?”
Hermione gave her a helpless shrug. “I don’t know. But I shouldn’t trust it, if I were you.”
Lucy closed her eyes in agony. She didn’t need Hermione’s warning. She would never have trusted that sort of feeling. She wasn’t the sort who memorized love sonnets, and she never would be. But the other kind-the one with the laughing, the comfort, the feeling nice-that she would trust in a heartbeat.
And dear God, that was what she’d felt with Mr. Bridgerton.
All that and music, too.
Lucy felt the blood drain from her face. She’d heard music when she kissed him. It had been a veritable symphony, with soaring crescendos and pounding percussion and even that pulsing little underbeat one never noticed until it crept up and took over the rhythm of one’s heart.
Lucy had floated. She’d tingled. She’d felt all those things Hermione had said she’d felt with Mr. Edmonds-and everything she’d said she felt with Richard, as well.
All with one person.
She was in love with him. She was in love with Gregory Bridgerton. The realization couldn’t have been more clear…or more cruel.
“Lucy?” Hermione asked hesitantly. And then again-“Luce?”
“When is the wedding?” Lucy asked abruptly. Because changing the subject was the only thing she could do. She turned, looked directly at Hermione and held her gaze for the first time in the conversation. “Have you begun making plans? Will it be in Fenchley?”
Details. Details were her salvation. They always had been.
Hermione’s expression grew confused, then concerned, and then she said, “I…no, I believe it is to be at the Abbey. It’s a bit more grand. And…are you certain you’re all right?”
“Quite well,” Lucy said briskly, and she sounded like herself, so maybe that would mean she would begin to feel that way, too. “But you did not mention when.”
“Oh. Soon. I’m told there were people near the orangery last night. I am not certain what was heard-or repeated-but the whispering has begun, so we will need to have it all settled posthaste.” Hermione gave her a sweet smile. “I don’t mind. And I don’t think Richard does, either.”
Lucy wondered which of them would reach the altar first. She hoped it was Hermione.
A knock sounded on the door. It was a maid, followed by two footmen, there to remove Lucy’s trunks.
“Richard desires an early start,” Lucy explained, even though she had not seen her brother since the events of the previous night. Hermione probably knew more about their plans than she did.
“Think of it, Lucy,” Hermione said, walking her to the door. “We shall both be countesses. I of Fennsworth, and you of Davenport. We shall cut quite a dash, we two.”
Lucy knew that she was trying to cheer her up, so she used every ounce of her energy to force her smile to reach her eyes as she said, “It will be great fun, won’t it?”
Hermione took her hand and squeezed it. “Oh, it will, Lucy. You shall see. We are at the dawn of a new day, and it will be bright, indeed.”
Lucy gave her friend a hug. It was the only way she could think to hide her face from view.
Because there was no way she could feign a smile this time.
Gregory found her just in time. She was in the front drive, surprisingly alone, save for the handful of servants scurrying about. He could see her profile, chin tipped slightly up as she watched her trunks being loaded onto the carriage. She looked…composed. Carefully held.
“Lady Lucinda,” he called out.
She went quite still before she turned. And when she did, her eyes looked pained.
“I am glad I caught you,” he said, although he was no longer sure that he was. She was not happy to see him. He had not been expecting that.
“Mr. Bridgerton,” she said. Her lips were pinched at the corners, as if she thought she was smiling.
There were a hundred different things he could have said, so of course he chose the least meaningful and most obvious. “You’re leaving.”
“Yes,” she said, after the barest of pauses. “Richard desires an early start.”
Gregory looked around. “Is he here?”
“Not yet. I imagine he is saying goodbye to Hermione.”
“Ah. Yes.” He cleared his throat. “Of course.”
He looked at her, and she looked at him, and they were quiet.
“I wanted to say that I am sorry,” he said.
She…she didn’t smile. He wasn’t sure what her expression was, but it wasn’t a smile. “Of course,” she said.
Of course? Of course?
“I accept.” She looked slightly over his shoulder. “Please, do not think of it again.”
It was what she had to say, to be sure, but it still niggled at Gregory. He had kissed her, and it had been stupendous, and if he wished to remember it, he damned well would.
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