What was he thinking? He hadn’t the slightest clue what might happen if he were caught here. Was he breaking a law? Probably. He couldn’t imagine how he might not be. And while his position as brother to a viscount would keep him from the gallows, it would not wipe his slate clean when the home he’d chosen to invade belonged to an earl.
But he had to see Lucy. He was done with waiting.
He took a moment on the landing to orient himself, then walked toward the front of the house. There were two doors at the end. He paused, painting a picture of the house’s façade in his mind, then reached for the one on the left. If Lucy had indeed been in her own room when he’d seen her, then this was the correct door. If not…
Well, then, he hadn’t a clue. Not a clue. And here he was, prowling in the Earl of Fennsworth’s house after midnight.
He turned the knob slowly, letting out a relieved breath when it made no clicks or squeaks. He opened the door just far enough to fit his body through the opening, then carefully shut it behind him, only then taking the time to examine the room.
It was dark, with scarcely any moonlight filtering in around the window coverings. His eyes had already adjusted to the dimness, however, and he could make out various pieces of furniture-a dressing table, a wardrobe…
It was a heavy, substantial thing, with a canopy and full drapes that closed around it. If there was indeed someone inside, she slept quietly-no snoring, no rustling, nothing.
That’s how Lucy would sleep, he suddenly thought. Like the dead. She was no delicate flower, his Lucy, and she would not tolerate anything less than a perfectly restful night. It seemed odd that he would be so certain of this, but he was.
He knew her, he realized. He truly knew her. Not just the usual things. In fact, he didn’t know the usual things. He did not know her favorite color. Nor could he guess her favorite animal or food.
But somehow it didn’t matter if he didn’t know if she preferred pink or blue or purple or black. He knew her heart. He wanted her heart.
And he could not allow her to marry someone else.
Carefully, he drew back the curtains.
There was no one there.
Gregory swore under his breath, until he realized that the sheets were mussed, the pillow with a fresh indent of someone’s head.
He whirled around just in time to see a candlestick swinging wildly through the air at him.
Letting out a surprised grunt, he ducked, but not fast enough to avoid a glancing blow to his temple. He swore again, this time in full voice, and then he heard-
He blinked. “Lucy?”
She rushed forward. “What are you doing here?”
He motioned impatiently toward the bed. “Why aren’t you asleep?”
“Because I’m getting married tomorrow.”
“Well, that’s why I’m here.”
She stared at him dumbly, as if his presence was so unexpected that she could not muster the correct reaction. “I thought you were an intruder,” she finally said, motioning to the candlestick.
He allowed himself the tiniest of smiles. “Not to put too fine a point on it,” he murmured, “but I am.”
For a moment it looked as if she might return the smile. But instead she hugged her arms to her chest and said, “You must go. Right now.”
“Not until you speak with me.”
Her eyes slid to a point over his shoulder. “There is nothing to say.”
“What about ‘I love you’?”
“Don’t say that,” she whispered.
He stepped forward. “I love you.”
Even closer. “I love you.”
She took a breath. Squared her shoulders. “I am marrying Lord Haselby tomorrow.”
“No,” he said, “you’re not.”
Her lips parted.
He reached out and captured her hand in his. She did not pull away.
“Lucy,” he whispered.
She closed her eyes.
“Be with me,” he said.
Slowly, she shook her head. “Please don’t.”
He tugged her closer and pulled the candlestick from her slackening fingers. “Be with me, Lucy Abernathy. Be my love, be my wife.”
She opened her eyes, but she held his gaze for only a moment before twisting away. “You’re making it so much worse,” she whispered.
The pain in her voice was unbearable. “Lucy,” he said, touching her cheek, “let me help you.”
She shook her head, but she paused as her cheek settled into his palm. Not for long. Barely a second. But he felt it.
“You can’t marry him,” he said, tilting her face toward his. “You won’t be happy.”
Her eyes glistened as they met his. In the dim light of the night, they looked a dark, dark gray, and achingly sad. He could imagine the entire world there, in the depths of her gaze. Everything he needed to know, everything he might ever need to know-it was there, within her.
“You won’t be happy, Lucy,” he whispered. “You know that you won’t.”
Still, she didn’t speak. The only sound was her breath, moving quietly across her lips. And then, finally-
“I will be content.”
“Content?” he echoed. His hand dropped from her face, falling to his side as he stepped back. “You will be content?”
“And that’s enough?”
She nodded again, but smaller this time.
Anger began to spark within him. She was willing to toss him away for that? Why wasn’t she willing to fight?
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