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Love According to Lily
By Julianne MacLean
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Julianne MacLean
All right reserved.
Wentworth Castle, Yorkshire
With the late-afternoon sun beaming in through the lace curtains and bathing her room in bright, shiny light, Lily Langdon sat at her desk, tapping her foot impatiently on the floor while she tapped her pen in a similar rhythm upon the letter she was trying to write. She gazed at the clock on the mantel, ticking away in the silence, while the sunlight reflected off the silver-and-gold plated face.
She was anxious and edgy today. She couldn't pretend not to know why. She knew enough about her own emotions to understand it. It was the first day of her brother James's annual shooting party. The guests had been arriving all day, and in a very short time, she would have to begin preparing for dinner -- dressing in one of her elegant gowns and donning heavy jewels.
She'd already chosen the gown for this evening -- her dark blue satin Worth with the black velvet roses emblazoned on the hem. She need only select the right earrings to go with her sapphire necklace. Then she would be ready to venture downstairs and meet all the guests in the drawing room.
Lily continued to tap her pen upon her desk, still feeling frustratingly anxious. It was not something she enjoyed, mingling in a room full of strangers. Of course, they wouldn't all be strangers. Her family would be there, and friends of her family, some of whom she had known forever ...
Perhaps that was why she was anxious.
A knock sounded. She rose from her desk chair, crossed the room and opened the door. "Mother ..."
Her mother, Marion, the dowager duchess, stood in the corridor with her hands clasped in front of her. She wore a long-sleeved black day dress, buttoned stiffly around her neck. Her dark gray hair was pulled into a tight bun at the back of her head. "Lily, I must have a word with you."
Lily stepped back and invited her into the room.
While her mother gazed around at everything -- the pile of unfinished letters on the desk, the modern novel lying open on the bed -- a sense of inadequacy swept through Lily.
She quickly moved to close the book and turn it over, face down, wondering if she would ever be able to disregard the enduring weight of her mother's disappointment in her. Lily's mother had never understood Lily's romantic nature, in particular when it made Lily take exception to her duties, for Marion was a strict, humorless woman, and she would never even consider questioning her duties.
Marion sat down on a chair, while Lily sat on the sofa opposite. They gazed at each other uncomfortably for a few seconds before Marion spoke.
"Lily, as you know, the guests have been arriving throughout the day."
"As it happens, there is a particular gentleman who arrived not more than an hour ago -- a young man I encouraged Sophia to invite, as I believe he is a charming and respectable young man. He is Lord Richard, the Earl of Stellerton's youngest son."
A youngest son. Lily squeezed her hands together in her lap. There was a time when her mother would only consider an eldest son as husband material -- for Lily was after all the daughter of a duke. But Lilywas twenty-one now, and not exactly without her share of knocks and scratches. She suspected hermotherwas becoming desperate.
"How old is he?" Lily asked, grasping frantically for calm, intelligent questions when all she really wanted to do was leap out of her chair and say, "I don't want to be shepherded!"
But she didn't leap out of her chair because she supposed she did want guidance. She was afraid of trusting her own judgment when it came to men. She knew how foolish one could become when blinded by passion, for she had become infatuated with someone once -- Pierre, a charming Frenchman with an enchanting accent. That man had unfortunately turned out to be something very different from what she had believed him to be. Yet for a brief week or two, she had fancied herself in love with him.
And then there was Whitby. Always Whitby. But he did not see Lily as a woman. He saw her as a child or sister. To hope for something more where he was concerned was unrealistic and foolish.
So yes, she needed guidance, because she wanted to get on with her life.
"Lord Richard is twenty-six," her mother replied. "I met him when he arrived, and I can assure you, he's very handsome."
Lily lowered her gaze. "You know I don't consider that themost important quality in a husband."
"Well, you did at one time," her mother said flatly, revealing the embers of resentment that still smoldered over Lily's recklessness with Pierre.
Lily wondered if she would ever be able to make up for that misstep.
"Is he expecting to meet me tonight?" she asked. "Is that why he came?"
"Yes. Like you, he doesn't enjoy London during the Season, and he is looking for a quiet country girl."
Excerpted from Love According to Lily by Julianne MacLean Copyright © 2005 by Julianne MacLean. Excerpted by permission.
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