It's In His Kiss
By Julia Quinn
Avon ISBN: 0-06-053124-X
Ten years have passed, and we meet our heroine, who, it must be said, has never been known as a shy and retiring flower. The scene is the annual Smythe- Smith musicale, about ten minutes before Mr. Mozart begins to rotate in his grave.
"Why do we do this to ourselves?" Hyacinth Bridgerton wondered aloud.
"Because we are good, kind people," her sister-in-law replied, sitting in - God help them - a front-row seat.
"One would think," Hyacinth persisted, regarding the empty chair next to Penelope with the same excitement she might show a sea urchin, "that we would have learned our lesson last year. Or perhaps the year before that. Or maybe even -"
"Hyacinth?" Penelope said.
Hyacinth swung her gaze to Penelope, lifting one brow in question.
Hyacinth sighed. But she sat.
The Smythe-Smith musicale. Thankfully, it came around just once per year, because Hyacinth was quite certain it would take a full twelve months for her ears to recover.
Hyacinth let out another sigh, this one louder than the last. "I'm not entirely certain that I'm either good or kind."
"I'm not certain, either," Penelope said, "but I have decided to have faith in you nevertheless."
"Rather sporting of you," Hyacinth said.
"I thought so."
Hyacinth glanced at her sideways. "Of course you did not have any choice in the matter."
Penelope turned in her seat, her eyes narrowing. "Meaning?"
"Colin refused to accompany you, didn't he?" Hyacinth said with a sly look. Colin was Hyacinth's brother, and he'd married Penelope a year earlier.
Penelope clamped her mouth into a firm line.
"I do love it when I am right," Hyacinth said triumphantly. "Which is fortunate, since I so often am."
Penelope just looked at her. "You do know that you are insufferable."
"Of course." Hyacinth leaned toward Penelope with a devilish smile. "But you love me, anyway, admit it." "I admit nothing until the end of the evening."
"After we have both gone deaf?"
"After we see if you behave yourself."
Hyacinth laughed. "You married into the family. You have to love me. It's a contractual obligation."
"Funny how I don't recall that in the wedding vows."
"Funny," Hyacinth returned, "I remember it perfectly." Penelope looked at her and laughed. "I don't know how you do it, Hyacinth," she said, "but exasperating as you are, you somehow always manage to be charming."
"It's my greatest gift," Hyacinth said demurely.
"Well, you do receive extra points for coming with me tonight," Penelope said, patting her on the hand.
"Of course," Hyacinth replied. "For all my insufferable ways, I am in truth the soul of kindness and amiability." And she'd have to be, she thought, as she watched the scene unfolding on the small, makeshift stage. Another year, another Smythe-Smith musicale. Another opportunity to learn just how many ways one could ruin a perfectly good piece of music. Every year Hyacinth swore she wouldn't attend, then every year she somehow found herself at the event, smiling encouragingly at the four girls on the stage.
"At least last year I got to sit in the back," Hyacinth said.
"Yes, you did," Penelope replied, turning on her with suspicious eyes. "How did you manage that? Felicity, Eloise, and I were all up front."
Hyacinth shrugged. "A well-timed visit to the ladies' retiring room. In fact -"
"Don't you dare try that tonight," Penelope warned. "If you leave me up here by myself ..."
"Don't worry," Hyacinth said with a sigh. "I am here for the duration. But," she added, pointing her finger in what her mother would surely have termed a most unladylike manner, "I want my devotion to you to be duly noted."
"Why is it," Penelope asked, "that I am left with the feeling that you are keeping score of something, and when I least expect it, you will jump out in front of me, demanding a favor?"
Hyacinth looked at her and blinked. "Why would I need to jump?"
"Ah, look," Penelope said, after staring at her sister-in-law as if she were a lunatic, "here comes Lady Danbury." "Mrs. Bridgerton," Lady Danbury said, or rather barked. "Miss Bridgerton."
"Good evening, Lady Danbury," Penelope said to the elderly countess. "We saved you a seat right in front."
Lady D narrowed her eyes and poked Penelope lightly in the ankle with her cane. "Always thinking of others, aren't you?"
"Of course," Penelope demurred. "I wouldn't dream of -"
"Ha," Lady Danbury said.
It was, Hyacinth reflected, the countess's favorite syllable. That and hmmmph.
"Move over, Hyacinth," Lady D ordered. "I'll sit between you."
Hyacinth obediently moved one chair to the left. "We were just pondering our reasons for attending," she said as Lady Danbury settled into her seat. "I for one have come up blank."
"I can't speak for you," Lady D said to Hyacinth, "but she" - at this she jerked her head toward Penelope - "is here for the same reason I am."
"For the music?" Hyacinth queried, perhaps a little too politely.
Lady Danbury turned back to Hyacinth, her face creasing into what might have been a smile. "I've always liked you, Hyacinth Bridgerton."
"I've always liked you, too," Hyacinth replied.
"I expect it is because you come and read to me from time to time," Lady Danbury said.
"Every week," Hyacinth reminded her.
"Time to time, every week ... pfft." Lady Danbury's hand cut a dismissive wave through the air. "It's all the same if you're not making it a daily endeavor."
Hyacinth judged it best not to speak. Lady D would surely find some way to twist her words into a promise to visit every afternoon.
Excerpted from It's In His Kiss by Julia Quinn Excerpted by permission.
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