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Just like heaven, p.25
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       Just Like Heaven, p.25

           Julia Quinn
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  “Green?” he quipped.

  “I beg your pardon?”

  “You listed so many colors about which I must be wary.”

  For a moment Honoria could only stare. Wound infection was not a laughing matter.

  “Lady Honoria?” he murmured.

  She decided to proceed as if he’d said nothing. “Most importantly, you must watch for reddish streaks spreading from the wound. Those are the worst.”

  He blinked, but if he was startled by the turn of the conversation, he did not show it. Instead he looked down at his hand with a curious eye and said, “How red?”

  “I beg your pardon?”

  “How red do the streaks have to be before I must worry?”

  “How do you know so much about medicine?” Lady Danbury cut in.

  “Do you know, I’m not sure how red,” Honoria told Mr. Bridgerton. “I would think anything stripey ought to be a cause for alarm.” Then she turned to Lady Danbury and said, “I helped someone recently who had a terribly infected wound.”

  “Hand?” Lady Danbury barked.

  Honoria could not begin to imagine what she was talking about.

  “Was it her hand? Arm? Leg? It’s all in the details, gel.” She gave her cane a thump, narrowly missing Mr. Bridgerton’s foot. “Otherwise the story is dull.”

  “Sorry, ehrm . . . Leg.” Honoria did not see any reason to mention that it had been a he, not a she.

  Lady Danbury was silent for a moment, and then she positively cackled. Honoria had no idea why. Then she said something about needing to talk with the other violinist, and she wandered off, leaving Honoria alone—or as alone as two people could be in a crowded room—with Mr. Bridgerton.

  Honoria couldn’t help but watch her make her way over to Daisy, and Mr. Bridgerton said, “Don’t worry, she’s mostly harmless.”

  “My cousin Daisy?” she asked dubiously.

  “No,” he replied, momentarily nonplussed. “Lady Danbury.”

  Honoria looked past him to Daisy and Lady Danbury. “Is she deaf?”

  “Your cousin Daisy?”

  “No, Lady Danbury.”

  “I don’t believe so.”

  “Oh.” Honoria winced. “That’s too bad. She might be by the time Daisy is through with her.”

  At that Mr. Bridgerton could not resist looking over his shoulder. He was rewarded with the sight—or, more correctly, the sound—of Daisy making all her sentences loud and slow for Lady Danbury. He winced, too.

  “That’s not going to end well,” he murmured.

  Honoria could do nothing but shake her head and murmur, “No.”

  “Is your cousin fond of her toes?”

  Honoria blinked in confusion. “I believe so, yes.”

  “She’ll want to watch that cane, then.”

  Honoria looked back just in time to see Daisy let out a small shriek as she tried to jump back. She was not successful with the latter; Lady Danbury’s cane had her pinned rather firmly.

  They stood there for a moment, both trying not to smile, then Mr. Bridgerton said, “I understand you were in Cambridge last month.”

  “I was,” Honoria replied. “I had the pleasure of dining with your brother.”

  “Gregory? Really? You’d classify it as a pleasure?” But he was grinning as he said it, and Honoria could instantly picture what life must be like in the Bridgerton household: a great deal of teasing and a great deal of love.

  “He was most gracious to me,” she said with a smile.

  “Shall I tell you a secret?” Mr. Bridgerton murmured, and Honoria decided that in his case, it was right and proper to listen to gossip—he was an incredible flirt.

  “Must I keep the secret?” she asked, leaning forward ever-so-slightly.

  “Definitely not.”

  She gave him a sunny smile. “Then yes, please.”

  Mr. Bridgerton leaned in, just about as far as she had done. “He has been known to catapult peas across the supper table.”

  Honoria gave him a very somber nod. “Has he done this recently?”

  “Not too recently, no.”

  She pressed her lips together, trying not to smile. It was lovely to witness this type of sibling teasing. There used to be so much of it in her home, although most of the time she’d been but a witness. She was so much younger than the rest of her siblings; in all honesty, most of the time they’d probably just forgotten to tease her.

  “I have but one question, Mr. Bridgerton.”

  He cocked his head.

  “How was this catapult constructed?”

  He grinned. “Simple spoon, Lady Honoria. But in Gregory’s devious hands, there was nothing simple about it.”

  She laughed at that, and then quite suddenly felt a hand at her elbow.

  It was Marcus, and he looked furious.

  Chapter Twenty-one

  Marcus could not remember the last time he had been moved to violence, but as he stood there, staring into Colin Bridgerton’s smirky face, he was sorely tempted.

  “Lord Chatteris,” Bridgerton murmured, greeting him with a polite nod. A polite nod and a look. If Marcus had been in a better mood, he might have been able to articulate just what it was about that look that so irritated him, but Marcus wasn’t in a good mood. He had been in a good mood. He’d been in a very good mood, as a matter of fact, despite having just endured what was possibly the worst rendition of Mozart ever known to man.

  It did not matter that some tragic portion of his ears had died tonight; the rest of him had been awash with happiness. He’d sat in his seat and watched Honoria. If she’d been a grim warrior during her final rehearsal, then she was a happy member of the corps for the concert. She’d smiled all the way through, and he’d known that she hadn’t been smiling for the audience, or even for the music. She’d been smiling for the people she loved. And he could, for however brief a moment, imagine that he was one of those people.

  In his heart, she’d been smiling for him.

  But now she was smiling at Colin Bridgerton, he of the famous charm and sparkling green eyes. That had been almost tolerable, but when Colin Bridgerton had started smiling at her . . .

  Some things could not be borne.

  But before he could intercede, he had to extricate himself from his conversation with Felicity Featherington—or, rather, Felicity Featherington’s mother, who had him in the verbal equivalent of a vise. He had probably been impolite; no, he had certainly been impolite, but escape from the Featheringtons was not something one accomplished with tact or subtlety.

  Finally, after literally wrenching his arm from Mrs. Featherington’s grasp, he made his way over to Honoria, who was all aglow, laughing merrily with Mr. Bridgerton.

  He had every intention of being polite. He really did. But just as he approached, Honoria took a little step to the side, and he saw, peeking out from the hem of her skirt, a flash of red satin.

  Her lucky red shoes.

  And suddenly he was on fire.

  He didn’t want another man seeing those shoes. He didn’t want another man even knowing about them.

  He watched as she stepped into place, the seductive little scrap of red hiding itself back beneath her skirt. He stepped forward and said, in perhaps a frostier voice than he’d intended, “Lady Honoria.”

  “Lord Chatteris,” she replied.

  He hated when she called him Lord Chatteris.

  “How lovely to see you.” Her tone was that of a polite acquaintance, or perhaps a very distant cousin. “Are you acquainted with Mr. Bridgerton?”

  “I am,” was Marcus’s succinct reply.

  Bridgerton nodded, then Marcus nodded, and that, it seemed, was the extent of the conversation the two men wished to share.

  Marcus waited for Bridgerton to make up some excuse to leave, because surely he would understand that that was what was expected of him. But the annoying sod just stood there grinning, as if he hadn’t a care in the world.

  “Mr. Bridgerton was just saying—” Ho
noria began, at the precise time that Marcus said, “If you will excuse us. I require a private word with Lady Honoria.”

  But Marcus was louder, and more to the point, he actually finished his sentence. Honoria clamped her mouth shut and retreated into stony silence.

  Mr. Bridgerton gave him an assessing stare, holding his ground for just long enough to make Marcus’s jaw clench, and then, as if the moment had never occurred, he turned charming in the space of a second, executed a jaunty bow, and said, “But of course. I was just thinking that I should like a glass of lemonade above all things.”

  He bowed, he smiled, and he was gone.

  Honoria waited until he was out of earshot, then she turned to Marcus with an angry scowl. “That was incredibly rude of you.”

  He gave her a stern look. “Unlike the younger Mr. Bridgerton, this one is not wet behind the ears.”

  “What are you talking about?”

  “You should not be flirting with him.”

  Honoria’s mouth fell open. “I wasn’t!”

  “Of course you were,” he retorted. “I was watching you.”

  “No, you weren’t,” she shot back. “You were talking with Felicity Featherington!”

  “Who stands a full head shorter than I am. I could see right over her.”

  “If you must know,” Honoria ground out, quite unable to believe that he was acting like the aggrieved party, “your aunt called him over. Do you expect me to be rude and cut him here in my own home? At an event to which, I might add, he possesses an invitation?”

  The last she was not strictly positive about, but she couldn’t imagine that her mother wouldn’t have invited one of the Bridgertons.

  “My aunt?” he asked.

  “Lady Danbury. Your great-great-great-great . . .”

  He glared at her.

  “Great-great-great-great . . .” she continued, just to be annoying.

  Marcus said something under his breath, then said, in only a slightly more appropriate tone, “She is a menace.”

  “I like her,” Honoria said defiantly.

  He didn’t say anything, but he looked furious. And all Honoria could think was, Why? What on earth did he have to be so angry about? She was the one who was in love with a man who clearly thought of her as a burden. A burden with whom he had a pleasant friendship, but still, a burden. Even now he was still guided by his stupid promise to Daniel, scaring away gentlemen whom he deemed inappropriate.

  If he wasn’t going to love her, then at least he could stop ruining her chances with everyone else.

  “I’m leaving,” she declared, because she simply could not take it any longer. She didn’t want to see him, and she didn’t want to see Daisy, or Iris, or her mother, or even Mr. Bridgerton, who was off in the corner with his lemonade, being charming to Felicity Featherington’s older sister.

  “Where are you going?” he demanded.

  She didn’t answer. She didn’t see that it was any of his business.

  She left the room without a backward glance.

  Bloody hell.

  Marcus would have liked to have chased Honoria right out of the room, but nothing would have caused a bigger scene. He would also like to have thought that no one had noticed their argument, but Colin Bridgerton was smirking in the corner over his glass of lemonade, and Lady Danbury had that I-am-all-knowing-and-all-powerful look on her face that Marcus normally disregarded.

  This time, however, he had a sinking suspicion that she had somehow orchestrated his downfall.

  Finally, when the annoying Mr. Bridgerton raised his bandaged paw in mock salute, Marcus decided he had had enough, and he strode out the same door through which Honoria had exited. To hell with the gossips. If anyone noticed that they had both left and wanted to make a fuss over it, they could bloody well demand that Marcus propose marriage.

  He had no problem with that.

  After searching the garden, the drawing room, the music room, the library, and even the kitchens, he finally found Honoria in her bedroom, a location he forced his mind to disregard. But he’d spent enough time at Winstead House to know where the private apartments were, and after he’d gone through every other bloody room in the house, well, did she really expect that he wouldn’t find her there?

  “Marcus!” she nearly shrieked. “What are you doing here?”

  Apparently, she had expected that he wouldn’t find her here.

  The first words out of his mouth were the absolutely ill-advised “What is wrong with you?”

  “What is wrong with me?” She sat up quickly on her bed, scooching her body toward the headboard rather like a crab. “What is wrong with you?”

  “I’m not the one who stormed out of the party to go sulk in a corner.”

  “It’s not a party. It’s a musicale.”

  “It’s your musicale.”

  “And I’ll sulk if I want to,” she muttered.


  “Nothing.” She glared at him, crossing her arms tightly across her chest. “You shouldn’t be here.”

  He flicked his hand palm up through the air as if to say (with great sarcasm), Oh, really?

  She looked at his hand, and then at his face. “What is that supposed to mean?”

  “You just spent the better part of a week in my bedroom.”

  “You were almost dead!”

  She had a rather good point, but he was not prepared to admit it. “Now see here,” he said, getting back to the point that actually mattered, “I was doing you a favor when I asked Bridgerton to leave.”

  Her mouth fell open in outrage. “You—”

  “He is not the sort of person with whom you should be associating,” he said, cutting her off.


  “Will you keep your voice down?” he hissed.

  “I wasn’t making noise until you came in,” she hissed right back.

  He took a step forward, unable to keep his body entirely in check. “He is not the right man for you.”

  “I never said he was! Lady Danbury brought him over.”

  “She is a menace.”

  “You said that already.”

  “It bears repeating.”

  She scrambled—finally!—off the bed. “What on earth is so ‘menacing’ about introducing me to Colin Bridgerton?”

  “Because she was trying to make me jealous!” he fairly yelled.

  They both went absolutely silent, and then, after a quick look toward the open door, he hastily went over and shut it.

  When he turned back to Honoria, she was standing so still he could see her swallow. Her eyes were huge in her face—that owlish stare of hers that had always unnerved him. In the flickering candlelight, they glowed nearly silver, and he felt himself almost mesmerized.

  She was beautiful. He knew that already, but it hit him again, with a force that nearly knocked him to his knees.

  “Why would she want to do that?” she asked softly.

  He clamped his teeth together in an attempt not to answer, but finally he said, “I don’t know.”

  “Why would she think she could do it?” Honoria pressed.

  “Because she thinks she can do anything,” Marcus said desperately. Anything to avoid telling the truth. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to tell her he loved her, but this wasn’t the time. This wasn’t the way he wanted to do it.

  She swallowed again, the movement painfully exaggerated by the stillness of the rest of her. “And why do you think it’s your job to select which men I do and do not associate with?”

  He didn’t say anything.

  “Why, Marcus?”

  “Daniel asked me to,” he said in a tight, even voice. He wasn’t ashamed of it. He wasn’t even ashamed of not having told her. But he did not appreciate being backed into a corner.

  Honoria took a long, shaky breath, then let it back out. She brought one hand to her mouth, capturing the last puff of air, and then squeezed her eyes shut. For a moment, he thought she might cry, but then he realized
she was just doing what she needed to contain her emotions. Sorrow? Fury? He couldn’t tell, and for some reason this struck a stake in his heart.

  He wanted to know her. He wanted to know her completely.

  “Well,” she finally said, “he’s coming back shortly, so you are absolved of your responsibilities.”

  “No.” The word came from him like an oath, emerging from the very core of his being.

  She looked at him in impatient confusion. “What do you mean?”

  He stepped forward. He wasn’t sure what he was doing. He knew only that he couldn’t stop. “I mean no. I don’t want to be absolved.”

  Her lips parted.

  He took another step. His heart was pounding, and something within him had gone hot, and greedy, and if there was anything in the world besides her, besides him—he did not know it.

  “I want you,” he said, the words blunt, and almost harsh, but absolutely, indelibly true.

  “I want you,” he said again, and he reached out and took her hand. “I want you.”

  “Marcus, I—”

  “I want to kiss you,” he said, and he touched one finger to her lips. “I want to hold you.” And then, because he couldn’t have kept it inside for one second longer, he said, “I burn for you.”

  He took her face in his hands and he kissed her. He kissed her with everything that had been building within him, every last aching, hungry burst of desire. Since the moment he had realized he loved her, this passion had been growing within him. It had probably been there all along, just waiting for him to realize it.

  He loved her.

  He wanted her.

  He needed her.

  And he needed her now.

  He’d spent his life being a perfect gentleman. He’d never been a flirt. He’d never been a rogue. He hated being the center of attention, but by God, he wanted to be the center of her attention. He wanted to do the wrong thing, the bad thing. He wanted to pull her into his arms and carry her to her bed. He wanted to peel every last inch of her clothing from her body, and then he wanted to worship her. He wanted to show her all the things he wasn’t sure he knew how to say.

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