The Duke and I (Bridgertons 1) - Page 38


“Indeed,” he murmured.

She smiled. And he smiled. And they held hands.

“I was thinking . . .” Katharine began.

“Yes, pet?”

“If Francesca is to be Francesca Hyacinth, then Eloise ought to be Eloise Lucy. Because Mama is the very best of mothers.”

Gregory fought against the lump rising in his throat. “Yes,” he said hoarsely, “she is.”

“I think Mama would like that,” Katharine said. “Don’t you?”

Somehow, he managed to nod. “She would probably say that we should name the baby for someone else. She’s quite generous that way.”

“I know. That’s why we must do it while she is still asleep. Before she has a chance to argue. Because she will, you know.”

Gregory chuckled.

“She’ll say we shouldn’t have done it,” Katharine said, “but secretly she will be delighted.”

Gregory swallowed another lump in his throat, but this one, thankfully, was born of paternal love. “I think you’re right.”

Katharine beamed.

He ruffled her hair. Soon she’d be too old for such affections; she’d tell him not to muss her coiffure. But for now, he was taking all the hair ruffling he could get. He smiled down at her. “How do you know your mama so well?”

She looked up at him with an indulgent expression. They had had this conversation before. “Because I’m exactly like her.”

“Exactly,” he agreed. They held hands for a few more moments until something occurred to him. “Lucy or Lucinda?”

“Oh, Lucy,” Katharine said, knowing instantly what he was talking about. “She’s not really a Lucinda.”

Gregory sighed and looked over at his wife, still sleeping in her bed. “No,” he said quietly, “she’s not.” He felt his daughter’s hand slip into his, small and warm.

“La la la Lucy,” Katharine said, and he could hear her quiet smile in her voice.

“La la la Lucy,” he repeated. And amazingly, he heard a smile in his own voice, too.

A few hours later Dr. Jarvis returned, tired and rumpled after delivering another baby down in the village. Gregory knew the doctor well; Peter Jarvis had been fresh from his studies when Gregory and Lucy had decided to take up residence near Winkfield, and he had served as the family doctor ever since. He and Gregory were of a similar age, and they had shared many a supper together over the years. Mrs. Jarvis, too, was a good friend of Lucy’s, and their children had played together often.

But in all their years of friendship, Gregory had never seen such an expression on Peter’s face. His lips were pinched at the corners, and there were none of the usual pleasantries before he examined Lucy.

Hyacinth was there, too, having insisted that Lucy needed the support of another woman in the room. “As if either of you could possibly understand the rigors of childbirth,” she’d said, with some disdain.

Gregory hadn’t said a word. He’d just stepped aside to allow his sister inside. There was something comforting in her fierce presence. Or maybe inspiring. Hyacinth was such a force; one almost believed she could will Lucy to heal herself.

They both stood back as the doctor took Lucy’s pulse and listened to her heart. And then, to Gregory’s complete shock, Peter grabbed her roughly by the shoulder and began to shake.

“What are you doing?” Gregory cried, leaping forward to intervene.

“Waking her up,” Peter said resolutely.

“But doesn’t she need her rest?”

“She needs to wake up more.”

“But—” Gregory didn’t know just what he was protesting, and the truth was, it didn’t matter, because when Peter cut him off, it was to say:

“For God’s sake, Bridgerton, we need to know that she can wake up.” He shook her again, and this time, he said loudly, “Lady Lucinda! Lady Lucinda!”

“She’s not a Lucinda,” Gregory heard himself say, and then he stepped forward and called out, “Lucy? Lucy?”

She shifted position, mumbling something in her sleep.

Gregory looked sharply over at Peter, every question in the world hanging in his eyes.

“See if you can get her to answer you,” Peter said.

“Let me try,” Hyacinth said forcefully. Gregory watched as she leaned down and said something into Lucy’s ear.

“What are you saying?” he asked.

Hyacinth shook her head. “You don’t want to know.”

“Oh, for God’s sake,” he muttered, pushing her aside. He picked up Lucy’s hand and squeezed it with more force than he’d done earlier. “Lucy! How many steps are there in the back staircase from the kitchen to the first floor?”

She didn’t open her eyes, but she did make a sound that he thought sounded like—

“Did you say fifteen?” he asked her.

She snorted, and this time he heard her clearly. “Sixteen.”

“Oh, thank God.” Gregory let go of her hand and collapsed into the chair by her bed. “There,” he said. “There. She’s all right. She will be all right.”

“Gregory . . .” But Peter’s voice was not reassuring.

“You told me we had to awaken her.”

“We did,” Peter said with stiff acknowledgment. “And it was a very good sign that we were able to. But it doesn’t mean—”

“Don’t say it,” Gregory said in a low voice.

“But you must—”

“Don’t say it!”

Peter went silent. He just stood there, looking at him with an awful expression. It was pity and compassion and regret and nothing he ever wanted to see on a doctor’s face.

Gregory slumped. He’d done what had been asked of him. He’d woken Lucy, if only for a moment. She was sleeping again, now curled on her side, facing in the other direction.

“I did what you asked,” he said softly. He looked back up at Peter. “I did what you asked,” he repeated, sharply this time.

“I know,” Peter said gently, “and I can’t tell you how reassuring it is that she spoke. But we cannot count that as a guarantee.”

Gregory tried to speak, but his throat was closing. That awful choking feeling was rushing through him again, and all he could manage was to breathe. If he could just breathe, and do nothing else, he might be able to keep from crying in front of his friend.

“The body needs to regain its strength after a blood loss,” Peter explained. “She may sleep a while yet. And she might—” He cleared his throat. “She might not wake up again.”

“Of course she will wake up,” Hyacinth said sharply. “She’s done it once, she can do it again.”

The doctor gave her a fleeting glance before turning his attention back to Gregory. “If all goes well, I would think we could expect a fairly ordinary recovery. It might take some time,” he warned. “I can’t be sure how much blood she’s lost. It can take months for the body to reconstitute its necessary fluids.”

Gregory nodded slowly.

“She’ll be weak. I should think she’d need to remain in bed for at least a month.”

“She won’t like that.”

Peter cleared his throat. Awkwardly. “You will send someone if there is a change?”

Gregory nodded dumbly.

“No,” Hyacinth said, stepping forth to bar the door. “I have more questions.”

“I’m sorry,” the doctor said quietly. “I have no more answers.”

And even Hyacinth could not argue with that.

When morning came, bright and unfathomably cheery, Gregory woke in Lucy’s sickroom, still in the chair next to her bed. She was sleeping, but she was restless, making her usual sleepy sounds as she shifted position. And then, amazingly, she opened her eyes.

“Lucy?” Gregory clutched her hand, then had to force himself to loosen his grip.

“I’m thirsty,” she said weakly.

He nodded and rushed to get her a glass of water. “You had me so— I didn’t—” But he couldn’t say anything more. His voice b

roke into a thousand pieces, and all that came out was a wrenching sob. He froze, his back to her as he tried to regain his composure. His hand shook; the water splashed onto his sleeve.

He heard Lucy try to say his name, and he knew he had to get ahold of himself. She was the one who had nearly died; he did not get to collapse while she needed him.

He took a deep breath. Then another. “Here you are,” he said, trying to keep his voice bright as he turned around. He brought the glass to her, then immediately realized his mistake. She was too weak to hold the glass, much less push herself up into a sitting position.

He set it down on a nearby table, then put his arms around her in a gentle embrace so that he could help her up. “Let me just fix the pillows,” he murmured, shifting and fluffing until he was satisfied that she had adequate support. He held the glass to her lips and gave it the tiniest of tips. Lucy took a bit, then sat back, breathing hard from the effort of drinking.

Gregory watched her silently. He couldn’t imagine she’d got more than a few drops into her. “You should drink more,” he said.

She nodded, almost imperceptibly, then said, “In a moment.”

“Would it be easier with a spoon?”

She closed her eyes and gave another weak nod.

He looked around the room. Someone had brought him tea the night before and they hadn’t come to clean it up. Probably hadn’t wanted to disturb him. Gregory decided that expeditiousness was more important than cleanliness, and he plucked the spoon from the sugar dish. Then he thought—she could probably use a bit of sugar, so he brought the whole thing over.

“Here you are,” he murmured, giving her a spoonful of water. “Do you want some sugar, too?”

She nodded, and so he put a bit on her tongue.


Tags: Julia Quinn Bridgertons Romance
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