Bianca grinned despite herself. “She’s drunk half her glass already, and appears to be holding Eagleton’s as well.”

Where had the earl gone this time? To fetch “superior” cakes, so that Lady Regina need not imbibe the same flavors as an illegitimate orphan?

She forced her gaze back to Miss St. Trevelyon. “Thank you for saving me.”

“What are friends for?” her hostess answered lightly.

The words didn’t feel light. They felt like a much-needed hug. And further proof that Lady Regina, while no doubt a quintessential product of her environment, did not speak for all of Polite Society.

“Do you want to come and sit with my friends and me?” Bianca offered. “I am told we are a sad cluster of wilting wallflowers, but if you don’t mind absolutely no one noticing or listening to us, there’s actually quite a bit of fun to be had.”

“Perhaps in a little bit,” Miss St. Trevelyon answered, with a wistful look over Bianca’s shoulder in the direction of the spinster section. “I’m afraid I am on duty tonight. Iamthe housekeeper, after all, and there has been one calamity after another to sort.”

“Has there been?” Bianca said in surprise. “The party seems so smooth.”

“Let’s hope it stays that way. I’ve got to go and make certain everything is in place for the Shakespearean production. Meanwhile, I think you might be about to dance after all.”

“You do?” Bianca said, startled. “With whom?”

But Miss St. Trevelyon merely tossed her a cheeky grin and disappeared into the crowd.

With a shake of her head, Bianca turned back to retrieve her abandoned cakes—only for a strong male hand to trap her fingers before they could reach her plate.

“I believe this dance belongs to me.”


Bianca’s pulse fluttered at her throat as she gazed up at the Earl of Eagleton.

“Shouldn’t you be with Lady Regina?” she asked breathlessly.

“She’s had her set.”

“She’s glaring this way as though she expected another one.”

Harry’s intense blue eyes did not waver from Bianca’s face. “I am standing before the woman with whom I have been dying to dance all evening. If your dance card is full… ”

She saw no point in playing coy. “You must know that it is not.”

“All that proves is that we are surrounded by fools.” He wrapped her hand about his arm and turned toward the dance floor. “Come, make me the most envied of men.”

“But Lady Regina—”

“Must we talk about other women?”

“She thinks you’re going to offer for her.”

He did not deny it. “At this precise moment, what I can offer is a dance, and the person I would most like to dance with is you. You do have the right to say no, of course.”

Bianca had no wish to refuse a dance with the man she’d been thinking about without cease, ever since their first encounter. Even knowing Lady Regina was right, that Bianca wasn’t good enough to be one of them, that when Harry wed, it would be Lady Regina he met at the altar… None of that quenched her desire to know, at least once, what it felt like to dance in his arms.

She inclined her head. “I believe I can spare twenty minutes of my busy evening.”

“I am delighted to hear it. I believe this is to be the last dance before the play, and then supper.”

The music changed. A waltz! Could Bianca really be so lucky?

Yet she paused. According to Goose, young ladies of the ton were not allowed to waltz until the patronesses of Almack’s bestowed their official permission.

Tags: Erica Ridley Historical
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