Today's Reading

Her maid, Smith, entered the room and Grandmamma rose. "Allow your maid to bathe your face in some cool water, then join me in the morning room. I have assembled a council of war."

Despite herself, Georgie smiled. "Is the duchess here?"

"Naturally." Her grandmother grinned conspiratorially. "We cannot make plans without her."

"And Mama?"

"Ah, well, you know how your mother feels about what she considers to be undue interference." Grandmamma wiggled her fingers as she left the room.

So it was true. Georgie had heard Mama would not engage in the schemes her grandmother and the duchess formed for Meg, Georgie's older sister, or for Kit, her older brother. Georgie did not understand the reason her mother found it distasteful. Both times her grandmother had become involved in matchmaking had resulted in successful marriages. She had never seen her brother and sister happier, and Meg was well on her way to being as canny as Grandmamma in arranging matches. Still, Georgie could think of nothing that the two older ladies could do to make Lord Turley love her. It wasn't as if he could be tricked into it.

She lay back down and her maid covered her eyes with a cool cloth that smelled like cucumbers.

Or could he be fooled into loving her? If so, how on earth would that work? And was it the best way forward? Georgie did not like the idea of deceiving him. She frowned to herself. She actually did not have anything to deceive him about.

Several minutes later she entered the morning room. The cheery parlor was everyone's favorite place in the house. The walls were covered with cream-colored silk paper, and large, bright floral patterns gave one the feeling of a garden in full bloom. Some of the flowers on the furniture and hangings were the same as those planted right outside the windows and in pots on the terrace. When the windows were open, the sweet scent of roses infused the room. The parlor even managed to cheer her a little.

Her grandmother poured a cup of tea and set it on the table next to the empty space on the small sofa. "I remember that you liked two sugars and milk."

"Yes, thank you." Georgie picked up the cup and sipped, letting the warmth of the tea sink into her. "It is perfect and just what I needed." Her mother always said that tea inevitably helped one feel better.

Her grandmother and the duchess sipped their tea as well. Finally, Grandmamma put her cup down. "I believe you should leave Town for a short holiday."

The duchess gave the same sort of decisive nod Grandmamma had done earlier.

Georgie almost dropped her cup. That was the last thing she had expected to hear. "But why? Where would I go? It is in the middle of the autumn Season. What excuse would I have?"

The duchess tilted her head to one side, her sharp dark blue eyes fixed on Georgie. "The alternative is flirting with other eligible gentlemen—"

"Or ineligible gentlemen." Her grandmother grinned wickedly.

"But," the duchess continued, "out of sight is not always out of mind."

"Very true." Grandmamma nodded sagely. "There are many times when it is wise to make a gentleman search you out."

But would he? Would Lord Turley search for her in the middle of the Season? Then again, if he did not, she had her answer. He did not love her and never would. "How do you plan on accomplishing it so that I do not appear as if I am running away?"

"Good girl." The duchess's dark eyes sparkled over her cup.

"As it happens"—Grandmamma took another sip of tea—"Your father mentioned that he must leave Town because of a problem with one of their properties to which Kit cannot attend because of his and Mary's new baby. I am certain that he will insist your mother accompany him." In other words, Grandmamma would convince Papa that Mama should go with him. "And the duchess and I cannot chaperone you as we have a prior engagement in the country with friends."
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