She’s my sister-in-law, Cash says. She’s your wife. No, this is fine. This is beautiful.

Of course I did. Her son married my daughter.

Or, he thought with a bit more anticipation, he hadn’t seen his mistress in some time. Well, not a mistress, exactly. Gareth hadn’t enough money to keep a woman like Maria in the style to which she was accustomed, but luckily one of her previous gentlemen had given her a neat little house in Bloomsbury, eliminating the need for Gareth to do the same. Since he wasn’t paying her bills, she felt no need to remain faithful, but that hardly signified, since he didn’t, either.And it had been a while. It seemed the only woman he’d spent any time with lately was Hyacinth, and the Lord knew he couldn’t dally there.

Gareth murmured his farewells to a few acquaintances near the ballroom door, then slipped out into the hall. It was surprisingly empty, given the number of people attending the party. He started to walk toward the front of the house, but then stopped. It was a long way to Blooms-bury, especially in a hired hack, which was what he was going to need to use, since he’d gained a ride over with his grandmother. The Bridgertons had set aside a room in the back for gentlemen to see to their needs. Gareth decided to make use of it.He turned around and retraced his steps, then bypassed the ballroom door and headed farther down the hall. A couple of laughing gentlemen stepped out as he reached the door, and Gareth nodded his greetings before entering.It was one of those two-room chambers, with a small waiting area outside an inner sanctum to afford a bit more privacy. The door to the second room was closed, so Gareth whistled softly to himself as he waited his turn.

He loved to whistle.My bonnie lies over the ocean…

He always sang the words to himself as he whistled.

My bonnie lies over the sea….His eyes crinkled slightly at the comers. "Pity, then. I would have felt compelled to partner you, and I've never danced inBerkeley Square."

If he'd said the same to her just two days earlier, she would have laughed at his joke and let him be the witty and charming one. But she must have heard Lady Danbury's voice at the back of her head again, because she suddenly decided she didn't want to be the same old Penelope Featherington.She decided to join in the fun.

She smiled a smile she didn't think she'd even known how to smile. It was wicked and she was mysterious, and she knew it wasn't all in her head because Colin's eyes widened markedly as she murmured, "That's a shame. It's ratherenjoyable."wPenelope Featherington," he drawled, "I thought yousaid you weren't dancing."She shrugged."I lied."wIf that's the case," he said, "then surelythis must be my dance."