10 Bí Quyết Chinh Phục Trái Tim


“… I will say that he is one of the handsomest visitors we’ve had in a very long time.”
“Perhaps ever,” Gwen added, and there was a murmur of agreement from around the table.
“He looks like an angel.”
“A wicked one… fallen from heaven. Did you see the way he stormed in here and demanded to see Georgiana?”
Juliana froze. They were talking about Simon. It appeared she would not be able to escape him after all.
“The biggest, too,” added a tall, thin woman whom Juliana had never met.
“I wonder if he is that big all over,” someone said, and the girls dissolved into a fit of giggles at the innuendo.
“He’s a guest!” Gwen snapped a towel in the direction of the woman who had made the suggestive comment before smiling wide. “Not that I haven’t had that thought myself.”
“Please, tell me you are not speaking of whom I think you are speaking.”
Juliana’s head snapped up as the entire tableful of women laughed and cleared a space for the newcomer—Lady Georgiana.
It had to be her. She looked just like him, all golden-haired and amber-eyed. She was nowhere near his size, however. She was petite and lovely, like a porcelain doll, with the soft, round beauty of a woman who had just given birth. She did not look seventeen. Indeed, she looked much older. Wiser.
“If you thought we were speaking of your handsome brother, you are right,” Gwen teased. “Are you feeling up to peeling apples?”
Gwen did not wait for an answer, placing a basketful of bright red apples in front of Georgiana. The younger girl did not protest, instead lifting a small paring knife and setting to work. A shock of surprise went through Juliana at the scene—the sister of a duke happily peeling apples in the kitchens of Minerva House—but she did not comment. “My handsome brother, is he?” Georgiana said, lifting her gaze to Juliana’s with a smile.
Juliana went instantly back to work.
Fold, punch, fold, punch.
“You must admit, he is good-looking.”
Juliana pretended not to hear.
Turn, flour, fold, punch.
“He has enough women in London throwing themselves at him. Do not give him the pleasure of such a reception here.”
Pretended not to think of other women in his arms. Of Penelope in his arms.
Flip, fold, press.
“Nah, men like the duke are too cold, anyway.” The tall woman added, “Look at what he’s done, sending you and Caroline away for the scandal.”
“He didn’t exactly send us away.”
The larger woman waved a hand in dismissal. “I don’t care what happened. You’re here with us instead of there with him, and that’s enough for me. I like my men with heart.”
“He has heart.” Juliana didn’t know she had spoken aloud until the conversation around the table went silent.
“He does, does he?” She looked up, cheeks flaming, and met Georgiana’s curious eyes before returning to the dough. “We have not been introduced.”
“This is Lord Nicholas’s sister,” Gwen hurried to say.
“Miss Fiori, is it?”
Juliana looked up again, hands wrist deep in pastry. “Juliana.”
Georgiana nodded. “And what do you know of my brother’s heart, Juliana?”
“I—I simply mean he must have a heart, no?” When none of the women replied, returned to the dough. “I don’t know.”
Fold, turn, fold.
“It sounds like you know quite a bit.”
“I don’t.” She meant for it to sound more emphatic than it was.
“Juliana,” Georgiana asked in a pointed way that was all too familiar, “are you… fond of my brother?”
She shouldn’t be. He was everything she didn’t want. Everything she loathed about England and aristocrats and men.
Except the parts of him that were everything she loved about them.
But his bad far outweighed the good.
Hadn’t he just proven it?
Juliana slapped her hand into the dough, her hand spreading the mass flat on the table. “Your brother is not fond of me.”
There was a long silence before she looked up to find Georgiana smiling at her. “That is not what I asked, though.”
“No!” she burst out. “There is nothing about that man to be fond of.” Georgiana’s mouth dropped open as she continued. “All he cares about is his precious dukedom”—she collected the dough violently into a ball—“and his precious reputation.” She punched the ball, enjoying the sensation of dough pressing through her fingers. She flipped the disk over and repeated the action before she realized that she had just insulted the lady’s brother. “And you, of course, my lady.”
“But he is handsome,” Gwen interjected, trying for levity.
Juliana was not amused. “I don’t care how big he is or how handsome. No, I am not fond of him.”
There was stunned silence around the table, and Juliana blew a strand of hair from where it had come loose. She rubbed one floury hand across her cheek.
“Of course you aren’t,” Georgiana said carefully.
There was a chorus of agreement from around the table, and Juliana realized just how silly she must look. “I am sorry.”
“Nonsense. He is a very difficult man to be fond of. You needn’t tell me that,” Georgiana said.
Gwen snatched the dough from Juliana’s grip, returning it to the bowl. “I think this is kneaded very well. Thank you.”
“You are welcome.” She heard the pout in her tone. Did not care for it.

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