And then, after the third time he had been refused entry, he saw her. Just a glimpse through the window; she’d let the curtains fall quickly. But it had been enough. He’d not been able to see her face-not well enough to gauge her expression. But there had been something in the way she moved, in the hurried, almost frantic release of the curtains.
Something was wrong.
Was she being held against her will? Had she been drugged? Gregory’s mind raced with the possibilities, each more dire than the last.
And now it was Friday night. Her wedding was in less than twelve hours. And there was not a whisper-not a peep-of gossip. If there were even a hint that the Haselby-Abernathy wedding might not take place as planned, Gregory would have heard about it. If nothing else, Hyacinth would have said something. Hyacinth knew everything, usually before the subjects of the rumors themselves.
Gregory stood in the shadows across the street from Fennsworth House and leaned against the trunk of a tree, staring, just staring. Was that her window? The one through which he’d seen her earlier that day? There was no candlelight peeking through, but the draperies were probably heavy and thick. Or perhaps she’d gone to bed. It was late.
And she had a wedding in the morning.
He could not let her marry Lord Haselby. He could not. If there was one thing he knew in his heart, it was that he and Lucinda Abernathy were meant to be husband and wife. Hers was the face he was supposed to gaze upon over eggs and bacon and kippers and cod and toast every morning.
A snort of laughter pressed through his nose, but it was that nervous, desperate kind of laughter, the sound one made when the only alternative was to cry. Lucy had to marry him, if only so that they could eat masses and masses of food together every morning.
He looked at her window.
What he hoped was her window. With his luck he was mooning over the servants’ washroom.
How long he stood there he did not know. For the first time in his memory, he felt powerless, and at least this-watching a bloody window-was something he could control.
He thought about his life. Charmed, for sure. Plenty of money, lovely family, scads of friends. He had his health, he had his sanity, and until the fiasco with Hermione Watson, an unshakable belief in his own sense of judgment. He might not be the most disciplined of men, and perhaps he should have paid more attention to all those things Anthony liked to pester him about, but he knew what was right, and he knew what was wrong, and he’d known-he had absolutely known-that his life would play out on a happy and contented canvas.
He was simply that sort of person.
He wasn’t melancholy. He wasn’t given to fits of temper.
And he’d never had to work very hard.
He looked up at the window, thoughtfully.
He’d grown complacent. So sure of his own happy ending that he hadn’t believed-he still couldn’t quite believe-that he might not get what he wanted.
He had proposed. She had accepted. True, she had been promised to Haselby, and still was, for that matter.
But wasn’t true love supposed to triumph? Hadn’t it done so for all his brothers and sisters? Why the hell was he so unlucky?
He thought about his mother, remembered the look on her face when she had so skillfully dissected his character. She had got most everything right, he realized.
But only most.
It was true that he had never had to work very hard at anything. But that was only part of the story. He was not indolent. He would work his fingers to the very bone if only…
If only he had a reason.
He stared at the window.
He had a reason now.
He’d been waiting, he realized. Waiting for Lucy to convince her uncle to release her from her engagement. Waiting for the puzzle pieces that made up his life to fall into position so that he could fit the last one in its place with a triumphant “Aha!”
Waiting for love. Waiting for a calling.
Waiting for clarity, for that moment when he would know exactly how to proceed.
It was time to stop waiting, time to forget about fate and destiny.
It was time to act. To work.
No one was going to hand him that second-to-last piece of the puzzle; he had to find it for himself.
He needed to see Lucy. And it had to be now, since it appeared he was forbidden to call upon her in a more conventional manner.
He crossed the street, then slipped around the corner to the back of the house. The ground floor windows were tightly shut, and all was dark. Higher on the façade, a few curtains fluttered in the breeze, but there was no way Gregory could scale the building without killing himself.
He took stock of his surroundings. To the left, the street. To the right, the alley and mews. And in front of him…
The servants’ entrance.
He regarded it thoughtfully. Well, why not?
He stepped forward and placed his hand on the knob.
Gregory almost laughed with delight. At the very least, he went back to believing-well, perhaps just a little-about fate and destiny and all that rot. Surely this was not a usual occurrence. A servant must have sneaked out, perhaps to make his own assignation. If the door was unlocked, then clearly Gregory was meant to go inside.
Or he was mad in the head.
He decided to believe in fate.
Gregory shut the door quietly behind him, then gave his eyes a minute to become accustomed to the dark. He appeared to be in a large pantry, with the kitchen off to the right. There was a decent chance that some of the lower servants slept nearby, so he removed his boots, carrying them in one hand as he ventured deeper into the house.
His stockinged feet were silent as he crept up the back stairs, making his way to the second floor-the one he thought housed Lucy’s bedchamber. He paused on the landing, stopping for a brief moment of sanity before stepping out into the hall.
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