The Worthington Girl
A/N ~ Soooooo sorry for the long absence. I wasn't feeling well for a long while there, but I'm back!!! Thanks to everyone who's kept up with this blog.
"They're not speaking," Allegra grumbled over her early morning tea, in the kitchen with her cousin. "The Dowager and the Count are back to doing that thing where they're not speaking to each other."
"Honestly, what's with these people?" Clementine blinked, clutching her tea cup. She'd had an enjoyable time at the Queen's palace, but the mood at the Mironov house this morning was ruining it. "It seems like every time they entertain or are entertained, they ending up hating each other."
"You could ask Iakov," Allegra suggested. "He never really did clarify what he meant about their hostility being all an act."
"I would ask Iakov but he's one of them now, remember? Moved to proper chambers and everything. Due for another session with the tailor tomorrow. Besides," Clementine shook her head, "do we really need an explanation about it being 'all an act'?" She chuckled. "They love each other cousin."
Allegra was visibly disturbed. "What are you on about?"
"Oh, come now," Clementine rolled her eyes. "They're the same age. They've been living under the same roof for twenty years. They're practically attached at the hip." She reached for a biscuit nearby. "It's so obvious."
Allegra seemed to mull this over. "And you really think it's love? Not just...the usual?"
Clementine was suddenly very sober. "He should've married by now, had children, but instead, it's like he's been waiting for her."
Allegra returned to her work, stacking more dishes for the wash. "A pleasing fiction."
Clementine shrugged. "Why else would he name Iakov his heir, when he could still marry and sire heirs of his own?"
For Iakov, becoming a real Mironov was deeply uncomfortable.
Instead of drawing and tending Adrik's bath, he was instead in a tub beside him, and the Count was in one of his moods.
"Have you chosen a suit for the ball?" Adrik suddenly asked, as their valets added more water to raise the temperature.
Iakov tried not to panic. "The...ball?"
"You've already met the Queen of England; you're not getting out of the Trowbridge Ball," Adrik scowled.
Iakov was almost distraught. "You said I didn't have to marry an English girl."
"No, but you still have to get used to attending gatherings, conversing with nobility...dancing."
Iakov visibly cringed, and Adrik didn't miss it.
"Don't start," he admonished the younger man. "The Dowager and I both taught you all the dances--quadrille, cotillion, even the scotch reel. Tonight you must dance with at least three young ladies."
Iakov shifted uncomfortably in his tub. "But what if they think it...'means' something? And their mamas expect me to call on them later?"
"Well," Adrik shrugged, "you must learn to handle that too. Besides, it'll be good practice. These English mamas are nothing compared to the ones you'll have to deal with back home."
It suddenly occurred to Elizabeth, as she was choosing her gown, that just as Adrik was still fair game to the ton, so was she.
She was a wealthy widow, after all, and still a beautiful woman. Elizabeth began envisioning the hordes of penniless rakes and lords in title only, all vying for her bank accounts. She could smell the rotting teeth of the twice and thrice-widowed men old enough to be her grandfather, condescendingly telling her not to feel bad about not having children.
"Dear God," she gasped aloud, shuddering.
Clementine, who was busy testing perfumes, turned towards her and asked, "Madam?"
"I thought Adrik was the only one who had to worry about the swarm," the Dowager confessed aloud, more so to herself than her maid. "But I've just realized that they I maybe bombarded as well."
"Quite likely, madam," Clementine nodded.
"I'm not going," Elizabeth decided, resolutely walking over to her bed and taking a seat. "Tell boys I'm not feeling well this evening and that they're on their own."
That should make Adrik happy at least, she mused to herself. She really wasn't in the mood for the awkward silent carriage rides to and from the party, nor did she want to hand any more ammunition to Lady Whistledown and the ton.
Clementine bowed her head slightly, hiding her confusion. "Yes, madam."
Cordelia Patridge stared at her reflection in her bedroom mirror, steeling and willing herself into pure conviction. Wearing only her undergarments, her hair and makeup were already done while she awaited the arrival of her dress. Her lady's maid had braided it simply about her head, which was not the usual style in Mayfair. But then again, she wasn't going to the Trowbridge Ball as a typical Mayfair debutante. Not tonight.
"What's tonight?" Mary Anne Hallewell absently asked, lounging on Cordelia's bed nearby and lazily browsing the latest copy of Lady Whistledown's Society Pages. For the ball she'd chosen a classic empire-waisted gown, but she'd gone with the unconventional shade of deep ocean blue silk. She wore a circlet of sapphires, with a necklace and earrings to match.
"Tonight," Cordelia clarified, "I finally make a true connection with the Count."
That caught Mary Anne's attention. She looked up at her friend in disbelief. "You can't be serious."
Cordelia resolutely nodded at her reflection. "It's been too long since our last meeting. It's time we were finally reunited."
"Are you mad?" Mary Anne blinked. "Every unwed woman is going to be throwing herself at that man. The one who gets chosen--if anyone gets chosen--will have to marry him and move to Russia."
"The Mironov family has wealth beyond all imagining," Cordelia brushed her off. "You've seen how his stepmother dresses. She purchased her home sight unseen in Mayfair and you saw how well appointed it is. Marrying a Mironov is worth the risk."
"And what makes you think you'll stand out among the swarm?" her friend insisted. "He's a grown man of five-and-thirty--what will you even talk about? Do you not recall the agony of being...interviewed by Anthony Bridgerton?"
Cordelia's lady's maid arrived with her dress just as she turned to give her friend a slow, wry smirk. "I have a secret weapon, friend."
The dress was new, fresh from the clutches of Madam Delacroix, and when the maid unboxed it, Mary Anne let out an audible gasp.
Next: Veta's Echo
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