“Good day, Lady Quinseley,” he said pointedly, stepping aside with a grand sweeping motion indicating she should pass on by. “Please, don’t let me keep you.”

She planted her feet where they were. “Perhaps I have a second or two I might spare. Don’t let me stop you. What are you here for,Huntsman?”

Bianca closed her eyes as if in pain.

“No business of yours,” Harry informed the countess. “Carry on, then. Back to your cauldron you go.”

She smiled as if she merely found him amusing. “Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing.”

He stared at her. “What did you say?”

“It’s Shakespeare,” Tina whispered, behind him. “The next line is, ‘For a charm of powerful trouble, like a hell-broth boil and bubble.’ She’s up to something.”

“Of course she is up to something,” he whispered back. “It’s Lady Quinseley. With or without the theatrics, everything she does is a means to an end.”

And she did not appear to be going anywhere any time soon.

Bianca sucked in a deep breath, then met his eyes. “Just say it. Then we can be done.”

He frowned at her phrasing.

“That doesn’t sound very romantic,” he teased, trying to lighten the odd atmosphere. This was not how he had wanted his proposal to go. But if it was to be his only opportunity to ask the question he’d come for… He pulled the ring from his pocket and dropped to one knee. “My darling Bianca—”

“Good God, notthatring, I should hope,” Lady Quinseley stage-whispered. “That ring was intended for Lady Regina.”

Harry glared at the countess. “If you insist on being present when you are not wanted, at least have the decency to shut your mouth while you eavesdrop on a private conversation that has nothing to do with you.”

“By all means.” Lady Quinseley motioned him ahead. “I cannot wait to see how this ends.”

“A newbeginning,” Harry said firmly, keeping his gaze locked on Bianca. “One in which you and I—”

“No,” she said dully.

He blinked. “I haven’t even got to the part where I—”

“No, I won’t marry you.”

“She’s saving face,” said the countess conspiratorially. “An admirable strategy. Choosing to reject you, before you can reject her.”

“I haven’t been carrying this ring around all week because I planned torejecther,” he snapped.

“Of course not,” Lady Quinseley agreed. “You’ve been carrying it around because you planned to marry any vulgar chit with a dowry.”

He gritted his teeth. “She is not a—”

“There’s no dowry,” Bianca cut in.

Harry recoiled and nearly toppled over. He tried to recover his balance and hide his shock, but it was too late. Bianca had seen his reaction.

Everyone had.

“Then it is true?” Her voice was hollow. “You don’t want to marryme. You just wanted my dowry all along.”

“Well, he certainly wasn’t going to marry you for yourlooks,” said Lady Quinseley. “At the St. Trevelyon crush, I overheard Lady Regina tell Eagleton that seeing a whore’s by-blow in a ball gown was no better than putting cosmetics on a pig. And do you know what Eagleton said in response?”

Harry lowered the hand with the ring.

Bianca kept her eyes on his face. “What did he say?”

Tags: Erica Ridley Historical
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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