“I enjoy spending time with you,” he answered honestly. He slid his hand into his pocket and touched the ring with his fingertips. “I have a gift I hope you’ll like.”
“Hmm,” was all she said before turning around and strolling back to the carriage.
“It’s rude not to take your proper leave of someone,” he called out.
“Bianca can do what she wants,” piped up the one they called Goose. “She just found out she’s—”
One of the others clapped a hand over Goose’s mouth.
The carriage pulled away before Harry could ask any questions.
He turned to Tina instead. “What was that about?”
“Early birthday present,” she answered. “Will you be going out tonight?”
“I won’t be making any social appearances at all until I resolve our situation.” He fingered the ring in his pocket. Was choosing love the right answer? “Also, I might have to literally hold Father down to prevent him from going out and incurring even more bills we cannot pay.”
Harry narrowed his eyes with suspicion. “Why do you ask?”
“No reason,” she said innocently. “Ignorance is bliss.”
She skipped off into the town house before he could take her to task for whatever secret she was keeping from him.
Rather than follow his sister, Harry stared after the distantly retreating coach-and-four instead. He had a picnic to plan. A question to propose. A mission to achieve.
He would carry around this ring until Bianca agreed to become his wife.
An afternoon picnic in Richmond Park was perhaps not the night of champagne and opera that Harry wished he could give Bianca, but at least their surroundings were beautiful. Richmond Park was one of the largest in London. It contained many pedestrian walkways and acres of unexplored woods, home to countless deer and other animals.
The basket in Harry’s arms contained food and drink and a large blanket. But arguably the most important element to keep track of was the engagement ring in his pocket.
“What, ho, Eagleton!” called out a jovial voice.
Harry wished he could pretend not to have heard. He was trying to stage a romantic birthday for Bianca, and the last thing he needed were old Oxford mates blathering about the weather or horse races or the new cut of their waistcoat.
“Good afternoon.” Harry inclined his head to Lord Devin, hoping that would be the end of it.
It was not.
“You wily old goat,” said Devin. He clapped Harry on the shoulder with a knowing look in his eye. “The Huntsman is a bloodhound, eh? Should’ve known you’d be the first to smell the scent of pounds sterling in the air.”
Harry stared at him in confusion. “What?”
“Oh, don’t get your cravat twisted, I’m only bamming with you. My felicitations, old man, honestly. I should’ve bet on you at White’s. When are the nuptials, then?”
“We’re not betrothed,” Bianca said tightly.
“Oh.” Lord Devin’s startled gaze flew from Harry to Bianca and back again. “Oh.”
“No,” Harry corrected quickly. “This is not a protector-and-mistress situation.”
“Well… of course it isn’t,” Devin said uncertainly. “Why wouldyoupayher, whenshe’sthe one with the money? A dowry like that would set a man up for life.”
Harry blinked. “She has thewhatdid you just say?”