So she was not generally privy to gossip. About Gregory Bridgerton or anyone, for that matter.
And even on the odd occasion when she did see someone she knew, she couldn’t very well ask after him. People would think she was interested, which of course she was, but no one, absolutely no one, could ever know of it.
She was marrying someone else. In a week. And even if she weren’t, Gregory Bridgerton had shown no sign that he might be interested in taking Haselby’s place.
He had kissed her, that was true, and he had seemed concerned for her welfare, but if he was of the belief that a kiss demanded a proposal of marriage, he had made no indication. He had not known that her engagement to Haselby had been finalized-not when he’d kissed her, and not the following morning when they had stood awkwardly in the drive. He could only have believed that he was kissing a girl who was entirely unattached. One simply did not do such a thing unless one was ready and willing to step up to the altar.
But not Gregory. When she had finally told him, he hadn’t looked stricken. He hadn’t even looked mildly upset. There had been no pleas to reconsider, or to try to find a way out of it. All she’d seen in his face-and she had looked, oh, how she’d looked-was…nothing.
His face, his eyes-they had been almost blank. Maybe a touch of surprise, but no sorrow or relief. Nothing to indicate that her engagement meant anything to him, one way or another.
Oh, she did not think him a cad, and she was quite sure he would have married her, had it been necessary. But no one had seen them, and thus, as far as the rest of the world was concerned, it had never happened.
There were no consequences. For either of them.
But wouldn’t it have been nice if he’d seemed just a little bit upset? He’d kissed her, and the earth had shook-surely he’d felt it. Shouldn’t he have wanted more? Shouldn’t he have wanted, if not to marry her, then at least the possibility of doing so?
Instead he’d said, “I wish you the best,” and it had sounded so final. As she’d stood there, watching her trunks being loaded into the carriage, she had felt her heart breaking. Felt it, right there in her chest. It had hurt. And as she walked away, it had just got worse, pressing and squeezing until she thought it would steal her very breath. She’d begun to move faster-as fast as she could while maintaining a normal gait, and then finally she rounded a corner and collapsed onto a bench, letting her face fall helplessly into her hands.
And prayed that no one saw her.
She’d wanted to look back. She’d wanted to steal one last glance at him and memorize his stance-that singular way he held himself when he stood, hands behind his back, legs slightly apart. Lucy knew that hundreds of men stood the same way, but on him it was different. He could be facing the other direction, yards and yards away, and she would know it was he.
He walked differently, too, a little bit loose and easygoing, as if a small part of his heart was still seven years old. It was in the shoulders, the hips maybe-the sort of thing almost no one would notice, but Lucy had always paid attention to details.
But she hadn’t looked back. It would have only made it worse. He probably wasn’t watching her, but if he were…and he saw her turn around…
It would have been devastating. She wasn’t sure why, but it would. She didn’t want him to see her face. She had managed to remain composed through their conversation, but once she turned away, she had felt herself change. Her lips had parted, and she’d sucked in a huge breath, and it was as if she had hollowed herself out.
It was awful. And she didn’t want him to see it.
Besides, he wasn’t interested. He had all but fallen over himself to apologize for the kiss. She knew it was what he had to do; society dictated it (or if not that, then a quick trip to the altar). But it hurt all the same. She’d wanted to think he’d felt at least a tiny fraction of what she had. Not that anything could come of it, but it would have made her feel better.
Or maybe worse.
And in the end, it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter what her heart did or didn’t know, because she couldn’t do anything with it. What was the point of feelings if one couldn’t use them toward a tangible end? She had to be practical. It was what she was. It was her only constant in a world that was spinning far too quickly for her comfort.
But still-here in London-she wanted to see him. It was silly and it was foolish and it was most certainly unadvisable, but she wanted it all the same. She didn’t even have to speak with him. In fact she probably shouldn’t speak with him. But a glimpse…
A glimpse wouldn’t hurt anyone.
But when she had asked Uncle Robert if she might attend a party, he had refused, stating that there was little point in wasting time or money on the season when she was already in possession of the desired outcome-a proposal of marriage.
Furthermore, he informed her, Lord Davenport wished for Lucy to be introduced to society as Lady Haselby, not as Lady Lucinda Abernathy. Lucy wasn’t sure why this was important, especially as quite a few members of society already knew her as Lady Lucinda Abernathy, both from school and the “polishing” she and Hermione had undergone that spring. But Uncle Robert had indicated (in his inimitable manner, that is to say, without a word) that the interview was over, and he had already returned his attention to the papers on his desk.
For a brief moment, Lucy had remained in place. If she said his name, he might look up. Or he might not. But if he did, his patience would be thin, and she would feel like an annoyance, and she wouldn’t receive any answers to her questions, anyway.
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