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Most of the gently bred women had been raised to smile and simper and act like nothing was ever wrong. It was part of what made them remarkably interchangeable. Which was probably why Graham was no closer to marriage at thirty-one than he'd been at twenty-one. He didn't want to lose track of his wife in the melee because he couldn't distinguish her from someone else.

Maddingly nodded in agreement with Graham's vague statement. "She might even be willing to live in the country while you stay in the city."

Sherrington scoffed. "Can't afford that nonsense." He frowned. "Think she'll expect such a thing, Wharton?"

How should he know? His parents enjoyed eating breakfast together every morning and talking in their private parlor into the night. He wasn't exactly the person to ask about distant marriages. Still, he didn't want his companions to know that he couldn't hold up his end of the conversation even if they'd given him a bucket to put it in. "Many matrons find a quiet life within the city, so she'll have no problem being more settled and less sociable."

Unless, of course, the woman was a harridan or bluestocking, but by the time Sherrington discovered that, he'd have bigger problems than Graham's poor advice. Of course, the chances of Sherrington considering such a woman were nonexistent. He wasn't looking for distinct and memorable.

Unlike Graham. Who had apparently imagined a splash of bright green in the shape of a dress because he was that desperate to meet someone who didn't bore him. A woman he could even begin to consider making a life with.

Sherrington and Maddingly continued their discussion, debating whether or not the girl's father would be amenable to Sherrington's suit. Graham made sure to pay a token of attention to the conversation so as not to be caught off guard again. Most of his attention was on the women dancing by, though. One wore a blue dress, the color distinct enough to stand out in a crowd. It wasn't as bold as a bright green, but it was at least unusual. The girl was probably less inane than the rest of them.

"I'd best move into position if I want to ask her for the next set of dances." Sherrington straightened his coat and nodded to his companions. "To the gallows, gentlemen."

Graham grinned. "Rather confident, isn't he?"

Maddingly laughed and wished his friend luck.

"Charville's girl won't be enough for me, I'm afraid." Maddingly adjusted his coat. "Only the biggest catch of the season will do for me."

Maddingly's difficulties weren't as bad as he made them seem, so Graham left him to his self-sacrificing monologue. The girl in green was more intriguing, even if she were only in his imagination. He turned his attention to the more deeply colored gowns of the matrons and spinsters. Still no vibrant spring green.

When Maddingly stopped talking, Graham continued the conversation, more out of habit than actual curiosity. "Who have you settled on, then?"

Whatever name Maddingly responded with didn't matter, because there, barely visible through the limbs of a cluster of potted trees along the far wall, was a patch of green. How had she gotten all the way over there without him seeing her?

"Yes," Maddingly continued, "I think Lady Thalia will be delighted by my intention to court her."

Graham actually knew who the mildly popular Lady Thalia was, and that far better matches than Maddingly were taking her for a turn around the floor, but he wasn't about to contradict the man. Especially not now that he knew the woman in green wasn't imaginary. Though why would a woman wear such an eye-catching color if she intended to plant herself behind the potted shrubbery all evening?

Plant herself behind the shrubbery.

A grin crossed Graham's face as he chuckled at his own cleverness.
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