“Yes,” Posy murmured, “she would, wouldn’t she?”
“Minty,” Sophie said, testing the sound on her tongue. “I like it. No, I think I love it. It suits her.”
Posy kissed the top of Minty’s head. “What kind of girl will you be?” she whispered. “Sweet and docile?”
Sophie chuckled at that. She had been present at twelve birthings—four of her own, five of Posy’s, and three of Benedict’s sister Eloise. Never had she heard a baby enter this world with as loud a cry as little Minty. “This one,” she said firmly, “is going to lead you a merry chase.”
And she did. But that, dear reader, is another story . . .
Romancing Mister Bridgerton
To say that a big secret was revealed in Romancing Mister Bridgerton would be a major understatement. But Eloise Bridgerton—one of the book’s most important secondary characters—left town before all of London learned the truth about Lady Whistledown. Many of my readers expected a scene in the next book (To Sir Phillip, With Love) that showed Eloise “finding out,” but there was no way to fit such a scene in the book. Eventually, however, Eloise would have to know, and that’s where the 2nd epilogue comes in . . .
Romancing Mister Bridgerton:
The 2nd Epilogue
“You didn’t tell her?”
Penelope Bridgerton would have said more, and in fact would have liked to say more, but words were difficult, what with her mouth hanging slack. Her husband had just returned from a mad dash across the south of England with his three brothers, in pursuit of his sister Eloise, who had, by all accounts, run off to elope with—
Oh, dear God.
“Is she married?” Penelope asked frantically.
Colin tossed his hat on a chair with a clever little twist of his wrist, one corner of his mouth lifting in a satisfied smile as it spun through the air on a perfect horizontal axis. “Not yet,” he replied.
So she hadn’t eloped. But she had run away. And she’d done it in secret. Eloise, who was Penelope’s closest friend. Eloise, who told Penelope everything. Eloise, who apparently didn’t tell Penelope everything, had run off to the home of a man none of them knew, leaving a note assuring her family that all would be well and not to worry.
Not to worry????
Good heavens, one would think Eloise Bridgerton knew her family better than that. They had been frantic, every last one of them. Penelope had stayed with her new mother-in-law while the men were searching for Eloise. Violet Bridgerton had put up a good front, but her skin was positively ashen, and Penelope could not help but notice the way her hands shook with every movement.
And now Colin was back, acting as if nothing was amiss, answering none of her questions to her satisfaction, and beyond all that—
“How could you not have told her?” she said again, dogging his heels.
He sprawled into a chair and shrugged. “There really wasn’t an appropriate time.”
“You were gone five days!”
“Yes, well, not all of them were with Eloise. A day’s travel on either end, after all.”
Colin summoned just enough energy to glance about the room. “Don’t suppose you ordered tea?”
“Yes, of course,” Penelope said reflexively, since it had not taken more than a week of marriage to learn that when it came to her new husband, it was best to always have food at the ready. “But Colin—”
“I did hurry back, you know.”
“I can see that,” she said, taking in his dampened, windblown hair. “Did you ride?”
“Wiltshire, actually. We retired to Benedict’s.”
He smiled disarmingly. “I missed you.”
And Penelope was not so accustomed to his affection that she did not blush. “I missed you, too, but—”
“Come sit with me.”
Where? Penelope almost demanded. Because the only flat surface was his lap.
His smile, which had been charm personified, grew more heated. “I’m missing you right now,” he murmured.
Much to her extreme embarrassment, her gaze moved instantly to the front of his breeches. Colin let out a bark of laughter, and Penelope crossed her arms. “Don’t, Colin,” she warned.
“Don’t what?” he asked, all innocence.
“Even if we weren’t in the sitting room, and even if the draperies weren’t open—”
“An easily remedied nuisance,” he commented with a glance to the windows.
“And even,” she ground out, her voice growing in depth, if not quite in volume, “were we not expecting a maid to enter at any moment, the poor thing staggering under the weight of your tea tray, the fact of the matter is—”
Colin let out a sigh.
“—you have not answered my question!”
He blinked. “I’ve quite forgotten what it was.”
A full ten seconds elapsed before she spoke. And then: “I’m going to kill you.”
“Of that, I’m certain,” he said offhandedly. “Truly, the only question is when.”
“Might be sooner rather than later,” he murmured. “But in truth, I thought I’d go in an apoplexy, brought on by bad behavior.”
She stared at him.
“Your bad behavior,” he clarified.
“I didn’t have bad behavior before I met you,” she retorted.
“Oh, ho, ho,” he chortled. “Now that is rich.”
And Penelope was forced to shut her mouth. Because, blast it all, he was right. And that was what all of this was about, as it happened. Her husband, after entering the hall, shrugging off his coat, and kissing her rather soundly on the lips (in front of the butler!), had blithely informed her, “Oh, and by the by, I never did tell her you were Whistledown.”
And if there was anything that might count as bad behavior, it had to be ten years as the author of the now infamous Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers. Over the past decade, Penelope had, in her pseudonymous guise, managed to insult just about everyone in society, even herself. (Surely, the ton would have grown suspicious if she had never poked fun at herself, and besides, she really did look like an overripe citrus fruit in the dreadful yellows and oranges her mother had always forced her to wear.)
Penelope had “retired” just before her marriage, but a blackmail attempt had convinced Colin that the best course of action was to reveal her secret in a grand gesture, and so he had announced her identity at his sister Daphne’s ball. It had all been very romantic and very, well, grand, but by the end of the night it had become apparent that Eloise had disappeared.
Eloise had been Penelope’s closest friend for years, but even she had not known Penelope’s big secret. And now she still didn’t. She’d left the party before Colin had announced it, and he apparently had not seen fit to say anything once he’d found her.
“Frankly,” Colin said, his voice holding an uncharacteristic strain of irritability, “it’s less than she deserved, after what she put us through.”
“Well, yes,” Penelope murmured, feeling rather disloyal even as she said it. But the entire Bridgerton clan had been mad with worry. Eloise had left a note, it was true, but it had somehow got mixed into her mother’s correspondence, and an entire day had passed before the family was reassured that Eloise had not been abducted. And even then, no one’s mind was set at
ease; Eloise may have left of her own accord, but it had taken another day of tearing her bedchamber to bits before they found a letter from Sir Phillip Crane that indicated where she might have run off to.
Considering all that, Colin did have something of a point.
“We have to go back in a few days for the wedding,” he said. “We’ll tell her then.”
“Oh, but we can’t!”
He paused. Then he smiled. “And why is that?” he asked, his eyes resting on her with great appreciation.
“It will be her wedding day,” Penelope explained, aware that he’d been hoping for a far more diabolical reason. “She must be the center of all attention. I cannot tell her something such as this.”
“A bit more altruistic than I’d like,” he mused, “but the end result is the same, so you have my approval—”
“I don’t need your approval,” Penelope cut in.
“But nonetheless, you have it,” he said smoothly. “We shall keep Eloise in the dark.” He tapped his fingertips together and sighed with audible pleasure. “It will be a most excellent wedding.”
The maid arrived just then, carrying a heavily laden tea tray. Penelope tried not to notice that she let out a little grunt when she was finally able to set it down.
“You may close the door behind you,” Colin said, once the maid had straightened.
Penelope’s eyes darted to the door, then to her husband, who had risen and was shutting the draperies.
“Colin!” she yelped, because his arms had stolen around her, and his lips were on her neck, and she could feel herself going quite liquid in his embrace. “I thought you wanted food,” she gasped.
“I do,” he murmured, tugging on the bodice of her dress. “But I want you more.”
And as Penelope sank to the cushions that had somehow found their way to the plush carpet below, she felt very loved indeed.
Several days later, Penelope was seated in a carriage, gazing out the window and scolding herself.
Colin was asleep.
She was a widgeon for feeling so nervous about seeing Eloise again. Eloise, for heaven’s sake. They had been as close as sisters for over a decade. Closer. Except, maybe . . . not quite as close as either had thought. They had kept secrets, both of them. Penelope wanted to wring Eloise’s neck for not telling her about her suitor, but really, she hadn’t a leg to stand on. When Eloise found out that Penelope was Lady Whistledown . . .