One can only imagine the relief of Lady Bridgerton. How mortifying it will be if Daphne remains on the shelf for yet another season! And Lady B—with three more daughters to marry off. Oh, the horror.


There was no way Daphne could refuse.

First of all, her mother was impaling her with her deadly I-Am-Your-Mother-Don't-You-Dare-Defy-Me gaze.

Secondly, the duke had clearly not given Anthony the entire story of their meeting in the dimly lit hallway; to make a show of refusing to dance with him would certainly raise undue speculation.

Not to mention that Daphne really didn't particularly relish getting drawn into a conversation with the Featheringtons, which was sure to happen if she didn't make immediate haste for the dance floor.

And finally, she kind of sort of just a little teeny bit actually wanted to dance with the duke.

Of course the arrogant boor didn't even give her the chance to accept. Before Daphne could manage an “I'd be delighted,” or even a mere, “Yes,” he had her halfway across the room.

The orchestra was still producing those awful noises it makes while the musicians were getting ready to begin, so they were forced to wait a moment before they actually danced.

“Thank God you didn't refuse,” the duke said with great feeling.

“When would I have had the opportunity?”


He grinned at her.

Daphne answered that with a scowl. “I wasn't given the opportunity to accept, either, if you recall.”

He raised a brow. “Does that mean I must ask you again?”

“No, of course not,” Daphne replied, rolling her eyes. “That would be rather childish of me, don't you think? And besides, it would cause a terrible scene, which I don't think either of us desires.”

He cocked his head and gave her a rather assessing glance, as if he had analyzed her personality in an instant and decided she might just be acceptable. Daphne found the experience somewhat unnerving.

Just then the orchestra ceased its discordant warm-up and struck the first notes of a waltz.

Simon groaned. “Do young ladies still need permission to waltz?”

Daphne found herself smiling at his discomfort. “How long have you been away?”

“Five years. Do they?”


“Do you have it?” He looked almost pained at the prospect of his escape plan falling apart.

“Of course.”

He swept her into his arms and whirled her into the throng of elegantly clad couples. “Good.”

They had made a full circle of the ballroom before Daphne asked, “How much of our meeting did you reveal to my brothers? I saw you with them, you know.”

Simon only smiled.

“What are you grinning about?” she asked suspiciously.

“I was merely marveling at your restraint.”

“I beg your pardon?”

He shrugged slightly, his shoulders rising as his head tilted to the right. “I hadn't thought you the most patient of ladies,” he said, “and here it took you a full three and a half minutes before asking me about my conversation with your brothers.”

Daphne fought a blush. The truth was, the duke was a most accomplished dancer, and she'd been enjoying the waltz too much even to think of conversation.

“But since you asked,” he said, mercifully sparing her from having to make a comment, “all I told them was that I ran into you in the hall and that, given your coloring, I instantly recognized you as a Bridgerton and introduced myself.”

“Do you think they believed you?”

“Yes,” he said softly, “I rather think they did.”

“Not that we have anything to hide,” she added quickly.

“Of course not.”

“If there is any villain in this piece it is most certainly Nigel.”

“Of course.”

She chewed on her lower lip. “Do you think he's still out in the hall?”

“I certainly have no intention of finding out.”

There was an awkward moment of silence, and then Daphne said, “It has been some time since you have attended a London ball, has it not? Nigel and I must have been quite a welcome.”

“You were a welcome sight. He was not.”

She smiled slightly at the compliment. “Aside from our little escapade, have you been enjoying your evening?”

Simon's answer was so unequivocally in the negative that he actually snorted a laugh before saying it.

“Really?” Daphne replied, her brows arching with curiosity. “Now that is interesting.”

“You find my agony interesting? Remind me never to turn to you should I ever fall ill.”

“Oh, please,” she scoffed. “It can't have been that bad.”

“Oh, it can.”

“Certainly not as bad as my evening.”

“You did look rather miserable with your mother and Macclesfield,” he allowed.

“How kind of you to point it out,” she muttered.

“But I still think my evening was worse.”

Daphne laughed, a light musical sound that warmed Simon's bones. “What a sad pair we are,” she said. “Surely we can manage a conversation on a topic other than our respective terrible evenings.”

Simon said nothing.

Daphne said nothing.

“Well, I can't think of anything,” he said.

Daphne laughed again, this time with more gaiety, and Simon once again found himself mesmerized by her smile.

“I give in,” she gasped. “What has turned your evening into such a dreadful affair?”

“What or whom?”

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