What is happening? I asked. So send him home?

Had he? He hadn’t even noticed. But his senses had sharpened, and when he looked down, he saw that he was flexing his fingers.

No words for the sheer epiphany of the moment.And so, on an otherwise unremarkable Friday afternoon, in the heart of Mayfair, in a quiet drawing room on Mount Street, Colin Bridgerton kissed Penelope Featherington.

And it was glorious.His lips touched hers softly at first, not because he was trying to be gentle, although if he'd had the presence of mind to think about such things, it probably would have occurred to him that this was her first kiss, and it ought to be reverent and beautiful and all the things a girl dreams about as she's lying in bed at night.But in all truth, none of that was on Colin's mind. In fact, he was thinking of quite little. His kiss was soft and gentle because he was still so surprised that he was kissing her. He'd known her for years, had never even thought about touching his lips to hers. And now he couldn't have let her go if the fires of hell were licking his toes. He could barely believe what he was doing—or that he wanted to do it so damned much.

It wasn't the sort of a kiss one initiates because one is overcome with passion or emotion or anger or desire. It was a slower thing, a learning experience—for Colin just as much as for Penelope.And he was learning that everything he thought he'd known about kissing was rubbish.

Everything else had been mere lips and tongue and softly murmured but meaningless words.

There was something in the friction, the way he could hear and feel her breath at the same time.A few days later, Penelope returned from a shopping expedition with Eloise, Hyacinth, and Felicity to find her husband seated behind his desk in his study. He was reading something, uncharacteristically hunched as he pored over some unknown book or document.wColin?"

His head jerked up. He must not have heard her coming, which was surprising, since she hadn't made any effort to soften her steps. "Penelope," he said, rising to his feet as she entered the room, "how was your, er, whatever it was you did when you went out?"wShopping," she said with an amused smile. "I went shopping."wRight. So you did." He rocked slightly from foot to foot. "Did you buy anything?"wA bonnet," she replied, tempted to add and three diamond rings, just to see if he was listening.wGood, good," he murmured, obviously eager to get back to whatever it was on his desk.wWhat are you reading?" she asked.wNothing," he replied, almost reflexively, then he added, "Well, actually it's one of my journals."His face took on a strange expression, a little sheepish, a little defiant, almost as if he were embarrassed that he'd been caught, and at the same time daring her to ask more.wMay I look at it?" she asked, keeping her voice soft and, she hoped, unthreatening. It was strange to think that Colin was insecure about anything. Mention of his journals, however, seemed to bring out a vulnerability that was surprising ... and touching.

Penelope had spent so much of her life regarding Colin as an invincible tower of happiness and good cheer. He was self-confident, handsome, well liked, and intelligent. How easy it must be to be a Bridgerton, she'd thought on more than one occasion.There had been so many times—more than she could count—that she'd come home from tea with Eloise and her family, curled up on her bed, and wished that she'd been born a Bridgerton. Life was easy for them. They were smart and attractive and rich and everyone seemed to like them.

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