Romancing Mister Bridgerton: The 2nd Epilogue (Bridgertons 4.5) - Page 5


“For good,” Penelope added. “People have asked, but I shan’t be induced to pick up my quill again.” She paused, thinking of the scribblin

gs she’d embarked upon at home. “At least not as Whistledown.” She looked at Eloise, who had sat down next to her on the table. Her face was somewhat blank, and she hadn’t said anything in ages —well, ages for Eloise, at least.

Penelope tried to smile. “I am thinking of writing a novel, actually.”

Still nothing from Eloise, although she was blinking quite rapidly, and her brow was scrunched up as if she were thinking quite hard.

And so Penelope took one of her hands and said the one thing she was really feeling. “I’m sorry, Eloise.”

Eloise had been staring rather blankly at an end table, but at that, she turned, her eyes finding Penelope’s. “You’re sorry?” she echoed, and she sounded dubious, as if sorry couldn’t possibly be the correct emotion, or at least, not enough of it.

Penelope’s heart sank. “I’m so sorry,” she said again. “I should have told you. I should have—”

“Are you mad ?” Eloise asked, finally seeming to snap to attention. “Of course you should not have told me. I could never have kept this a secret.”

Penelope thought it rather remarkable of her to admit it.

“I am so proud of you,” Eloise continued. “Forget the writing for a moment—I cannot even fathom the logistics of it all, and someday—when it is not my wedding day—I shall insist upon hearing every last detail.”

“You were surprised, then?” Penelope murmured.

Eloise gave her a rather dry look. “To put it mildly.”

“I had to get her a chair,” Hyacinth supplied.

“I was already sitting down,” Eloise ground out.

Hyacinth waved her hand in the air. “Nevertheless.”

“Ignore her,” Eloise said, focusing firmly on Penelope. “Truly, I cannot begin to tell you how impressed I am—now that I’ve got over the shock, that is.”

“Really?” It hadn’t occurred to Penelope until that very moment just how much she’d wished for Eloise’s approval.

“Keeping us all in the dark for so long,” Eloise said, shaking her head with slow admiration. “From me. From her. ” She jabbed a finger in Hyacinth’s direction. “It’s really very well done of you.” At that she leaned forward and enveloped Penelope in a warm hug.

“You’re not angry with me?”

Eloise moved back and opened her mouth, and Penelope could see that she’d been about to say, “No,” probably to be followed by, “Of course not.”

But the words remained in Eloise’s mouth, and she just sat there, looking slightly thoughtful and surprised until she finally said…“No.”

Penelope felt her brows lift. “Are you certain?” Because Eloise didn’t sound certain. She didn’t much sound like Eloise, to be honest.

“It would be different if I were still in London,” Eloise said quietly, “with nothing else to do. But this—” She glanced around the room, gesturing rather vaguely toward the window. “Here. It’s just not the same. It’s a different life,” she said quietly. “I’m a different person. A little bit, at least.”

“Lady Crane,” Penelope reminded her.

Eloise smiled. “Good of you to remind me of that, Mrs. Bridgerton.”

Penelope almost laughed. “Can you believe it?”

“Of you, or me?” Eloise asked.

“Both.”

Colin, who had been keeping a respectful distance—one hand firmly clamped around Hyacinth’s arm to keep her at a respectful distance—stepped forward. “We should probably return,” he said quietly. He held out his hand, and helped first Penelope, then Eloise, to her feet. “You,” he said, leaning forward to kiss his sister on the cheek, “should certainly return.”

Eloise smiled wistfully, the blushing bride once again, and nodded. With one last squeeze of Penelope’s hands, she brushed past Hyacinth (rolling her eyes as she did so) and made her way back to her wedding party.

Penelope watched her go, linking her arm in Colin’s and leaned gently into him. They both stood there in contented silence, idly watching the now-empty doorway, listening to the sounds of the party wafting through the air.

“Do you think it would be polite if we left?” he murmured.

“Probably not.”

“Do you think Eloise would mind?”

Penelope shook her head.

Colin’s arms tightened around her, and she felt his lips gently brush her ear. “Let’s go,” he said.

She did not argue.

On the twenty-fifth of May, in the year 1824, precisely one day after the wedding of Eloise Bridgerton to Sir Phillip Crane, three missives were delivered to the room of Mr. and Mrs. Colin Bridgerton, guests at the Rose and Bramble Inn, near Tetbury, Gloucestershire. They arrived together; all were from Romney Hall.

“Which shall we open first?” Penelope asked, spreading them before her on the bed.

Colin yanked off the shirt he’d donned to answer the knock. “I defer to your good judgment as always.”

“As always?”

He crawled back into bed beside her. She was remarkably adorable when she was being sarcastic. He couldn’t think of another soul who could carry that off. “As whenever it suits me,” he amended.

“Your mother, then,” Penelope said, plucking one of the letters off the sheet. She broke open the seal and carefully unfolded the paper.

Colin watched as she read. Her eyes widened, then her brows rose, then her lips pinched slightly at the corners, as if she were smiling despite herself.

“What does she have to say?” he asked.

“She forgives us.”

“I don’t suppose it would make any sense for me to ask for what.”

Penelope gave him a stern look. “For leaving the wedding early.”

“You told me Eloise wouldn’t mind.”

“And I’m sure she did not. But this is your mother. ”

“Write back and assure her that should she ever remarry, I will stay to the bitter end.”

“I will do no such thing,” Penelope replied, rolling her eyes. “I don’t think she expects a reply, in any case.”

“Really?” Now he was curious, because his mother always expected replies. “What did we do to earn her forgiveness, then?”

“Er, she mentioned something about the timely delivery of grandchildren.”

Colin grinned. “Are you blushing?”

“No.”

“You are. ”

She elbowed him in the ribs. “I’m not. Here, read it yourself if you are so inclined. I shall read Hyacinth’s.”

“I don’t suppose she returned my ten pounds,” Colin grumbled.

Penelope unfolded the paper and shook it out. Nothing fluttered down.

“That minx is lucky she’s my sister,” he muttered.

“What a bad sport you are,” Penelope chided. “She bested you, and rather brilliantly, too.”

“Oh, please,” he scoffed. “I did not see you praising her cunning yesterday afternoon.”

She waved off his protests. “Yes, well, some things are more easily seen in hindsight.”

“What does she have to say?” Colin asked, leaning over her shoulder. Knowing Hyacinth, it was probably some scheme to extort more money from his pockets.

“It’s rather sweet, actually,” Penelope said. “Nothing nefarious at all.”

“Did you read both sides?” Colin asked dubiously.

“She only wrote on one side.”

“Uncharacteristically uneconomical of her,” he added, with suspicion.

“Oh, heavens, Colin, it is just an account of the wedding after we left. And I must say, she has a superior eye for humor and detail. She would have made a fine Whistledown.”

“God help us all.”

The last letter was from Eloise, and unlike the other two, it was addressed to Penelope alone. Colin was curious, of course—who wouldn’t be? But he moved away to allow Penelope her privacy. Her friendship with his sister was something he held in both awe and respect. He was close to his brothers—extremely so. But h

e had never seen a bond of friendship quite so deep as that between Penelope and Eloise.

“Oh!” Penelope let out, as she turned a page. Eloise’s missive was a good deal longer than the previous two, and she’d managed to fill two sheets, front and back. “That minx.”


Tags: Julia Quinn Bridgertons Romance
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