It was right there, in the air, in the wind, in the water. One only had to wait for it.
To watch for it.
And fight for it.
And he would. As God was his witness, he would. Lucy had only to signal, and he would retrieve her.
He was a man in love.
Nothing could stop him.
“This is not, you realize, how I had intended to spend my Saturday morning.”
Gregory answered only with a nod. His brother had arrived four hours earlier, greeting him with a characteristically understated “This is interesting.”
Gregory had told Colin everything, even down to the events of the night before. He did not like telling tales of Lucy, but one really could not ask one’s brother to sit in a tree for hours without explaining why. And Gregory had found a certain comfort in unburdening himself to Colin. He had not lectured. He had not judged.
In fact, he had understood.
When Gregory had finished his tale, tersely explaining why he was waiting outside Fennsworth House, Colin had simply nodded and said, “I don’t suppose you have something to eat.”
Gregory shook his head and grinned.
It was good to have a brother.
“Rather poor planning on your part,” Colin muttered. But he was smiling, too.
They turned back to the house, which had long since begun to show signs of life. Curtains had been pulled back, candles lit and then snuffed as dawn had given way to morning.
“Shouldn’t she have come out by now?” Colin asked, squinting at the door.
Gregory frowned. He had been wondering the same thing. He had been telling himself that her absence boded well. If her uncle were going to force her to marry Haselby, wouldn’t she have left for the church by now? By his pocket watch, which admittedly wasn’t the most accurate of timepieces, the ceremony was due to begin in less than an hour.
But she had not signaled for his help, either.
And that did not sit well with him.
Suddenly Colin perked up.
“What is it?”
Colin motioned to the right with his head. “A carriage,” he said, “being brought ’round from the mews.”
Gregory’s eyes widened with horror as the front door to Fennsworth House opened. Servants spilled out, laughing and cheering as the vehicle came to a stop in front of Fennsworth House.
It was white, open, and festooned with perfectly pink flowers and wide rosy ribbons, trailing behind, fluttering in the light breeze.
It was a wedding carriage.
And no one seemed to find that odd.
Gregory’s skin began to tingle. His muscles burned.
“Not yet,” Colin said, placing a restraining hand on Gregory’s arm.
Gregory shook his head. His peripheral vision was beginning to fade from view, and all he could see was that damned carriage.
“I have to get her,” he said. “I have to go.”
“Wait,” Colin instructed. “Wait to see what happens. She might not come out. She might-”
But she did come out.
Not first. That was her brother, his new wife on his arm.
Then came an older man-her uncle, most probably-and that ancient woman Gregory had met at his sister’s ball.
In a wedding dress.
“Dear God,” he whispered.
She was walking freely. No one was forcing her.
Hermione said something to her, whispered in her ear.
And Lucy smiled.
Gregory began to gasp.
The pain was palpable. Real. It shot through his gut, squeezed at his organs until he could no longer move.
He could only stare.
“Did she tell you she wasn’t going to go through with it?” Colin whispered.
Gregory tried to say yes, but the word strangled him. He tried to recall their last conversation, every last word of it. She had said she must behave with honor. She had said she must do what was right. She had said that she loved him.
But she had never said that she would not marry Haselby.
“Oh my God,” he whispered.
His brother laid his hand over his own. “I’m sorry,” he said.
Gregory watched as Lucy stepped up into the open carriage. The servants were still cheering. Hermione was fussing with her hair, adjusting the veil, then laughing when the wind lifted the gauzy fabric in the air.
This could not be happening.
There had to be an explanation.
“No,” Gregory said, because it was the only word he could think to say. “No.”
Then he remembered. The hand signal. The wave. She would do it. She would signal to him. Whatever had transpired in the house, she had not been able to halt the proceedings. But now, out in the open, where he could see, she would signal.
She had to. She knew he could see her.
She knew he was out there.
He swallowed convulsively, never taking his eyes off her right hand.
“Is everyone here?” he heard Lucy’s brother call out.
He did not hear Lucy’s voice in the chorus of replies, but no one was questioning her presence.
She was the bride.
And he was a fool, watching her ride away.
“I’m sorry,” Colin said quietly, as they watched the carriage disappear around the corner.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Gregory whispered.
Colin jumped down out of the tree and silently held out his hand to Gregory.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Gregory said again, too bewildered to do anything but let his brother help him down. “She wouldn’t do this. She loves me.”
He looked at Colin. His eyes were kind, but pitying.
“No,” Gregory said. “No. You don’t know her. She would not-No. You don’t know her.”
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