And then, as the room practically pulsed with fury, Uncle Robert stepped into the breach. “I am pleased we have decided to hold the wedding here in London,” he said, his voice even and smooth and tinged with finality, as if to say-We are done with that, then. “As you know,” he continued, while everyone else regained his composure, “Fennsworth was married at the Abbey just two weeks ago, and while it does put one in the mind of ancestral history-I believe the last seven earls held their weddings in residence-really, hardly anyone was able to attend.”
Lucy suspected that had as much to do with the hurried nature of the event as with its location, but this didn’t seem the time to weigh in on the topic. And she had loved the wedding for its smallness. Richard and Hermione had been so very happy, and everyone in attendance had come out of love and friendship. It had truly been a joyous occasion.
Until they had left the next day for their honeymoon trip to Brighton. Lucy had never felt so miserable and alone as when she’d stood in the drive and waved them away.
They would be back soon, she reminded herself. Before her own wedding. Hermione would be her only attendant, and Richard was to give her away.
And in the meantime she had Aunt Harriet to keep her company. And Lord Davenport. And Haselby, who was either utterly brilliant or completely insane.
A bubble of laughter-ironic, absurd, and highly inappropriate-pressed in her throat, escaping through her nose with an inelegant snort.
“Enh?” Lord Davenport grunted.
“It is nothing,” she hastily said, coughing as best she could. “A bit of food. Fishbone, probably.”
It was almost funny. It would have been funny, even, if she’d been reading it in a book. It would have had to have been a satire, she decided, because it certainly wasn’t a romance.
And she couldn’t bear to think it might turn out a tragedy.
She looked around the table at the three men who presently made up her life. She was going to have to make the best of it. There was nothing else to do. There was no sense in remaining miserable, no matter how difficult it was to look on the bright side. And truly, it could have been worse.
So she did what she did best and tried to look at it all from a practical standpoint, mentally cataloguing all the ways it could have been worse.
But instead, Gregory Bridgerton’s face kept coming to mind-and all the ways it could have been better.
In which Our Hero and Heroine are reunited, and the birds of London are ecstatic.
When Gregory saw her, right there in Hyde Park his first day back in London, his first thought was-
Well, of course.
It seemed only natural that he would come across Lucy Abernathy in what was literally his first hour out and about in London. He didn’t know why; there was no logical reason for them to cross paths. But she had been much in his thoughts since they had parted ways in Kent. And even though he’d thought her still off at Fennsworth, he was strangely unsurprised that hers would be the first familiar face he’d see upon his return after a month in the country.
He’d arrived in town the night before, uncommonly weary after a long trip on flooded roads, and he’d gone straight to bed. When he woke-rather earlier than usual, actually-the world was still wet from the rains, but the sun had popped out and was shining brightly.
Gregory had immediately dressed to go out. He loved the way the air smelled clean after a good, stormy rain-even in London. No, especially in London. It was the only time the city smelled like that-thick and fresh, almost like leaves.
Gregory kept a small suite of rooms in a tidy little building in Marylebone, and though his furnishings were spare and simple, he rather liked the place. It felt like home.
His brother and his mother had, on multiple occasions, invited him to live with them. His friends thought him mad to refuse; both residences were considerably more opulent and more to the point, better staffed than his humble abode. But he preferred his independence. It wasn’t that he minded them telling him what to do-they knew he wasn’t going to listen, and he knew he wasn’t going to listen, but for the most part, everyone remained rather good-natured about it.
It was the scrutiny he couldn’t quite tolerate. Even if his mother was pretending not to interfere in his life, he knew that she was always watching him, taking note of his social schedule.
And commenting on it. Violet Bridgerton could, when the inclination struck, converse on the topic of young ladies, dance cards, and the intersection thereof (as pertained to her unmarried son) with a speed and facility that could make a grown man’s head spin.
And frequently did.
There was this young lady and that young lady and would he please be sure to dance with both of them-twice-at the next soiree, and above all, he must never, ever forget the other young lady. The one off by the wall, didn’t he see her, standing by herself. Her aunt, he must recall, was a close personal friend.
Gregory’s mother had a lot of close personal friends.
Violet Bridgerton had successfully ushered seven of her eight children into happy marriages, and now Gregory was bearing the sole brunt of her matchmaking fervor. He adored her, of course, and he adored that she cared so much for his well-being and happiness, but at times she made him want to pull his hair out.
And Anthony was worse. He didn’t even have to say anything. His mere presence was usually enough to make Gregory feel that he was somehow not living up to the family name. It was difficult to make one’s way in the world with the mighty Lord Bridgerton constantly looking over one’s shoulder. As far as Gregory could determine, his eldest brother had never made a mistake in his life.
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