“Prepared?” Colin queried.

“For what came next,” Violet clarified. “It would have been a huge scandal.”

“It already is a huge scandal,” Gregory muttered.

“Yes, but not as much as if she’d said yes,” his mother said. “Not that I am glad for the outcome. You know I wish you nothing but your heart’s happiness. But she will be looked upon approvingly for her choice. She will be viewed as a sensible girl.”

Gregory felt one corner of his mouth lift into a wry smile. “And I, a lovesick fool.”

No one contradicted him.

After a moment his mother said, “You are taking this rather well, I must say.”

Indeed.

“I would have thought-” She broke off. “Well, it matters not what I would have thought, merely what actually is.”

“No,” Gregory said, turning sharply to look at her. “What would you have thought? How should I be acting?”

“It is not a question of should,” his mother said, clearly flustered by the sudden questions. “Merely that I would have thought you would seem…angrier.”

He stared at her for a long moment, then turned back to the window. They were traveling along Piccadilly, heading west toward Hyde Park. Why wasn’t he angrier? Why wasn’t he putting his fist through the wall? He’d had to be dragged from the church and forcibly stuffed into the carriage, but once that had been done, he had been overcome by a bizarre, almost preternatural calm.

And then something his mother had said echoed in his mind.

You know I wish you nothing but your heart’s happiness.

His heart’s happiness.

Lucy loved him. He was certain of it. He had seen it in her eyes, even in the moment she’d refused him. He knew it because she had told him so, and she did not lie about such things. He had felt it in the way she had kissed him, and in the warmth of her embrace.

She loved him. And whatever had made her go ahead with her marriage to Haselby, it was bigger than she was. Stronger.

She needed his help.

“Gregory?” his mother said softly.

He turned. Blinked.

“You started in your seat,” she said.

Had he? He hadn’t even noticed. But his senses had sharpened, and when he looked down, he saw that he was flexing his fingers.

“Stop the carriage.”

Everyone turned to face him. Even Hyacinth, who had been determinedly glaring out the window.

“Stop the carriage,” he said again.

“Why?” his mother asked, clearly suspicious.

“I need air,” he replied, and it wasn’t even a lie.

Colin knocked on the wall. “I’ll walk with you.”

“No. I prefer to be alone.”

His mother’s eyes widened. “Gregory…You don’t plan to…”

“Storm the church?” he finished for her. He leaned back, giving her a casually lopsided smile. “I believe I’ve embarrassed myself enough for one day, wouldn’t you think?”

“They’ll have said their vows by now, anyway,” Hyacinth put in.

Gregory fought the urge to glare at his sister, who never seemed to miss an opportunity to poke, prod, or twist. “Precisely,” he replied.

“I would feel better if you weren’t alone,” Violet said, her blue eyes still filled with concern.

“Let him go,” Colin said softly.

Gregory turned to his older brother in surprise. He had not expected to be championed by him.

“He is a man,” Colin added. “He can make his own decisions.”

Even Hyacinth did not attempt to contradict.

The carriage had already come to a halt, and the driver was waiting outside the door. At Colin’s nod, he opened it.

“I wish you wouldn’t go,” Violet said.

Gregory kissed her cheek. “I need air,” he said. “That is all.”

He hopped down, but before he could shut the door, Colin leaned out.

“Don’t do anything foolish,” Colin said quietly.

“Nothing foolish,” Gregory promised him, “only what is necessary.”

He took stock of his location, and then, as his mother’s carriage had not moved, deliberately set off to the south.

Away from St. George’s.

But once he reached the next street he doubled around.

Running.

Twenty-three

In which Our Hero risks everything. Again.

In the ten years since her uncle had become her guardian, Lucy had never known him to host a party. He was not one to smile upon any sort of unnecessary expense-in truth, he was not one to smile at all. So it was with some suspicion that she approached the lavish fête being thrown in her honor at Fennsworth House following the wedding ceremony.

Lord Davenport had surely insisted upon it. Uncle Robert would have been content to serve tea cakes at the church and be done with it.

But no, the wedding must be an event, in the most extravagant sense of the word, and so as soon as the ceremony was over, Lucy was whisked to her soon-to-be-former home and given just enough time in her soon-to-be-former bedchamber to splash some cool water on her face before she was summoned to greet her guests below.

It was remarkable, she thought as she nodded and received the well wishes of the attendees, just how good the ton was at pretending nothing had happened.

Oh, they would be speaking of nothing else tomorrow, and she could probably look forward to being the main topic of conversation for the next few months, even. And certainly for the next year no one would say her name without appending, “You know the one. With the wedding.”

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