“Will I see you in London?” he asked.

She looked up at him then, her eyes finally meeting his. She was searching for something. She was searching for something in him, and he did not think she found it.

She looked too somber, too tired.

Too not like her.

“I expect you shall,” she replied. “But it won’t be the same. I am engaged, you see.”

“Practically engaged,” he reminded her, smiling.

“No.” She shook her head, slow and resigned. “I truly am now. That is why Richard came to fetch me home. My uncle has finalized the agreements. I believe the banns will be read soon. It is done.”

His lips parted with surprise. “I see,” he said, and his mind raced. And raced and raced, and got absolutely nowhere. “I wish you the best,” he said, because what else could he say?

She nodded, then tilted her head toward the wide green lawn in front of the house. “I believe I shall take a turn around the garden. I have a long ride ahead of me.”

“Of course,” he said, giving her a polite bow. She did not wish for his company. She could not have made herself more clear if she had spoken the words.

“It has been lovely knowing you,” she said. Her eyes caught his, and for the first time in the conversation, he saw her, saw right down to everything inside of her, weary and bruised.

And he saw that she was saying goodbye.

“I am sorry…” She stopped, looked to the side. At a stone wall. “I am sorry that everything did not work out as you had hoped.”

I’m not, he thought, and he realized that it was true. He had a sudden flash of his life married to Hermione Watson, and he was…

Bored.

Good God, how was it he was only just now realizing it? He and Miss Watson were not suited at all, and in truth, he had made a narrow escape.

He wasn’t likely to trust his judgment next time when it came to matters of the heart, but that seemed far more preferable to a dull marriage. He supposed he had Lady Lucinda to thank for that, although he wasn’t sure why. She had not prevented his marriage to Miss Watson; in fact, she had encouraged it at every turn.

But somehow she was responsible for his coming to his senses. If there was any one true thing to be known that morning, that was it.

Lucy motioned to the lawn again. “I shall take that stroll,” she said.

He nodded his greeting and watched her as she walked off. Her hair was smoothed neatly into a bun, the blond strands catching the sunlight like honey and butter.

He waited for quite some time, not because he expected her to turn around, or even because he hoped she would.

It was just in case.

Because she might. She might turn around, and she might have something to say to him, and then he might reply, and she might-

But she didn’t. She kept on walking. She did not turn, did not look back, and so he spent his final minutes watching the back of her neck. And all he could think was-

Something is not right.

But for the life of him, he did not know what.

Thirteen

In which Our Heroine sees a glimpse of her future.

One month later

The food was exquisite, the table settings magnificent, the surroundings beyond opulent.

Lucy, however, was miserable.

Lord Haselby and his father, the Earl of Davenport, had come to Fennsworth House in London for supper. It had been Lucy’s idea, a fact which she now found painfully ironic. Her wedding was a mere week away, and yet until this night she hadn’t even seen her future husband. Not since the wedding had shifted from probable to imminent, anyway.

She and her uncle had arrived in London a fortnight earlier, and after eleven days had passed without a glimpse of her intended, she had approached her uncle and asked if they might arrange some sort of gathering. He had looked rather irritated, although not, Lucy was fairly certain, because he thought the request foolish. No, her mere presence was all it required to bring on such an expression. She was standing in front of him, and he had been forced to look up.

Uncle Robert did not like to be interrupted.

But he apparently saw the wisdom in allowing an affianced couple to share a word or two before they met at a church, so he had curtly told her that he would make the arrangements.

Buoyed by her small victory, Lucy had also asked if she might attend one of the many social events that were taking place practically right outside her door. The London social season had begun, and each night Lucy stood at her window, watching the elegant carriages roll by. Once there had been a party directly across St. James’s Square from Fennsworth House. The line of carriages had snaked around the square, and Lucy had snuffed the candles in her room so that she would not be silhouetted in the window as she watched the proceedings. A number of partygoers had grown impatient with the wait, and since the weather was so fine, they had disembarked on her side of the square and walked the rest of the way.

Lucy had told herself that she just wanted to see the gowns, but in her heart she knew the truth.

She was looking for Mr. Bridgerton.

She didn’t know what she would do if she actually saw him. Duck out of sight, she supposed. He had to know that this was her home, and surely he would be curious enough to glance at the façade, even if her presence in London was not a widely known fact.

But he didn’t attend that party, or if he did, his carriage had deposited him right at the front doorstep.

Or maybe he wasn’t in London at all. Lucy had no way of knowing. She was trapped in the house with her uncle and her aging, slightly deaf aunt Harriet, who had been brought in for the sake of propriety. Lucy left the house for trips to the dressmaker and walks in the park, but other than that, she was completely on her own, with an uncle who did not speak, and an aunt who could not hear.

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