A Summer to Remember

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Book: A Summer to Remember Read Online Free PDF
Author: Mary Balogh
Tags: Fiction
should overhear you.” But she slanted him a quick, grateful smile. He clearly understood something about the flock of butterflies dancing frantically in her stomach and was doing his best to distract her.
    He led her toward the staircase and the slow-moving queue of guests ascending it. She drew a few deep, steadying breaths and resisted the urge to look at things rather than people. How many of the guests on the stairs, and how many guests in the ballroom above, had been at her wedding and witnessed her humiliation?
    The answer was, of course, a significant number of them. But a lifetime of training can be a marvelous thing, Lauren soon discovered. It took her up the stairs, along the receiving line, and into the ballroom, which was already crowded with people who for the moment had nothing better to do than watch and comment upon the arrival of fellow guests.
    She tried to concentrate upon the magnificence of the ballroom, which was lit by hundreds of candles set in three great crystal chandeliers overhead and in numerous wall sconces, and upon the sumptuous floral arrangements that filled the room with their delicate pastel shades and their perfume. And she tried—with some success—to look calmly about her, making eye contact with numerous other guests, inclining her head politely to those she recognized.
    But it was her own family who killed any remote chance that she might enjoy the evening—killed it by kindness. Almost before Lauren was fully inside the ballroom, still on Joseph’s arm, her uncle and aunt close by, Wilma and Lord Sutton came along, all gracious condescension, a thin, reedy young man in tow, and made the introductions.
Mr. Bartlett-Howe earnestly solicited the hand of Miss Edgeworth for the second set, it being understood that the Marquess of Attingsborough had already bespoken the first. And only a minute or so later Lord Sutton, who had wandered away, returned with yet another gentleman, who had apparently conceived a burning desire to reserve the third set with Miss Edgeworth.
    It seemed that her family, concerned that she might be a wallflower at her first ball in over a year, had spent the few days since she had agreed to attend lining up prospective partners for her—and prospective suitors too?
    Just a little over a year ago she had danced at her wedding eve ball, secure in her own attractiveness, the cynosure of all eyes, the admired and envied bride of the Earl of Kilbourne. Tonight she was an aging, faded beauty, unable to attract her own partners, in dire danger of declining into a permanent and irrevocable spinsterhood. Or so her family made her feel.
    Lauren felt the depth of humiliation. Even Joseph’s kindness in offering to escort her to the ball was—well, it was just
kindness.
    Lauren smiled her unconsciously arrogant smile and plied her fan with slow grace.
     
    When Kit and Lord Farrington arrived in Cavendish Square, the ball had been in progress for some time. But it was a clear, moonlit evening, unseasonably warm for the middle of May, and the front doors were still open wide. The merry noises of conversation and laughter spilled outside from the hall and stairs. The sound of an orchestra playing a vigorous country dance wafted down from the ballroom above.
    “A squeeze indeed,” Kit said, handing his opera cloak and silk hat to a liveried, bewigged footman and looking about the entrance hall with open interest. “Do you suppose the ballroom is as crowded, Farrington?”
    “Sure to be. More so, in fact.” His friend relinquished his own cloak and hat and checked the immaculate folds of his neckcloth. “We had better go up and find out.”
    Kit nodded affably to a few acquaintances, mostly male, as they ascended the staircase. This was the first ball he had attended since Lisbon. He could not even remember quite how long ago that had been. He had had invitations to several here in London, of course. His wilder exploits might have caused the highest sticklers to raise
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