The forget-me-not on Penelope´s upper left arm had appeared when she was just sixteen.
It was the first time visiting her friend Eloise and she had been laughing about something silly with the other girl when Colin Bridgerton seemed to materialize from her fantasies, a college student five years her senior and, as the flower proved, her soulmate.
The problem was that only Penelope considered it that way. To Colin, a new flower clearly meant little as they appeared not only for family but also for important lovers and sometimes friends. At 21 he already had collected a small garden: some roses, tulips and daisies.
His only comment when the flowers bloomed on his arm was a “Brilliant, I’m sure we’ll be good friends, Penelope!” and after ruffling her hair he had continued to make his way to the kitchen.
But Penelope? She knew better. It was impossible that this man was anything else than her soulmate. She would just have to wait for him to realize that, she was certainly good at it: always waiting for her sisters to include her, for her mother to consider her good enough for her fancy circles, for other people to notice her, for anything more than the solitude she was used to.
And her waiting had already worked as she had met the remarkable Eloise Bridgerton at school and now she finally knew what it felt to have a real friend. The best of friends. And her soulmate was her brother. It was simply perfect.
She would just have to wait. Even if she was a bit sick of it.
Eloise was eighteen and they were starting to college—Penelope to study writing, Eloise journalism—in a few weeks so the full Bridgerton clan was celebrating. Anthony and Benedict lounging by the pool were displaying their collection of flowers under the sun. The ones every Bridgerton shared Penelope had already documented: violets, lilies, sunflowers, bluebells and camellias. Every single one of them had the blooms so she new they were family traits, but Anthony —the oldest— had collected a pansy, some orchids and more recently, a single lily.
It was weird that she could tell what flowers were new, but her time in the background had allowed her to notice that type of thing. From that, and only to entertain herself, she had decided to record the flowers in a blog. It was just for her, but at sixteen she had forgotten that the Bridgertons were still part of what would have been the ton on the 1800’s and she had used real names and, well, somehow someone had found that post and her silly speculations about their origins. She’d panicked when the comments started, but then she realized people actually enjoyed her writing. For the first time shy, uninteresting, plain, fat Penelope was a succes. And it felt good, so she’d continued to do it, using her family position in those same society circles for the first time to document the flowers of other pseudo important people in London. The daily visits to Whistledown’s Garden were now in the six digits.
Who could the lily belong to? Had Anthony finally found his soulmate? Or was it something else? His mother loved all her children —eight! On this age and day!— but she hadn’t looked too happy when the pansy made its appearance. She would have to think about it later.
In the two years since her blooms had appeared Penelope hadn’t gotten anything new, she had the asters she shared with her sisters —she wasn’t surprised for the lack of variety— and Colin’s forget-me-not. It was a bit sad that even her sisters had a few more flowers, but she knew she got the important one.
“What are you looking at?” Colin’s voice interrupts her thoughts.
“Colin! You scared me! Where did you come from?”
“The kitchen,” he says, giving her his patented crooked smile. “There’s no good snacks out here.”
She smiles, it seems she can’t stop smiling when he’s around.
“The guys probably finished them before you arrived. It’s what happens when you are late I believe.”
“Please, I’m never late, everyone else is early.”
“Of course you would quote Princess Diaries,” she adds while rolling her eyes.
“You don’t think I’m as charming as Julie Andrews? The garden person certainly seems to think so, as they keep describing me with that word.”
“That’s a good word to be described, Colin. Better than the fruit look a like comments I got a couple years ago.”
“Uh, you are right. I’m sorry, Pen” he says looking a bit shamed and before she can say it doesn’t matter he adds. “But you haven’t answered, what were you looking at?”
The new flower on you brother to write about later on my blog, she didn’t say.
“Just the people by the pool, don’t you thing it would be amazing to spend a summer in a place where it’s sunny more than a couple days in the season?” she asks.
“I do,” he says looking at her in a weird way. Maybe he was actually seeing her? “That’s what I’m going to do, actually. Now that my degree is done I’ve decided to travel for a while. I’m leaving for Greece the day after tomorrow.”
“Oh,” is all she can say. Colin was leaving, going in an adventure far away from her. Of course he wasn’t seeing her. Why would he when she was just Penelope, the best friend of her younger sister? But meanwhile her heart is breaking because what if he returned full of flowers in his skin? What if he forgot about her and her own mark disappeared as if it had never existed? She knew that happened, her own mother was the example. She wants to curl into herself and cry but forces an smile on her face and says, “that’s amazing! I’m sure it’s going to be brilliant, Colin.”
“Yeah,” he says smiling and then directing his attention to his brothers, “I need to go bother Anthony and Benedict now, but take care while I’m away, okay? And keep Eloise away from trouble!”
“I’ll try,” she answers, but he’s already walking away.
Maybe he’d return soon. Maybe he would hate Greece or the food—as if Colin could ever dislike food—and his wanderlust would end quickly. There wasn’t anything wrong with hoping.
But Greece seemed to only open up a bigger appetite for Colin. Greece is followed by Italy, and Spain and Japan in that year. He returns of course, his mother would kill him if he didn’t. But with classes, and her blog and other responsibilities she doesn’t get to see him more than a day or two when she companies Eloise to family dinners. He also returns when Anthony and the lily owner—Kate—get married. She looks at the couple of soulmates with envy even when she knows it wasn’t easy for Kate to get Anthony to embrace their relationships completely, his pain at seeing what losing her father did to Violet a bigger trauma than anyone expected. But at the wedding they look radiant and in love, and Penelope only comfort is that Colin doesn’t seem to have any new flower with him.
They dance and he ruffles her hair and treats her the same way that he does Eloise and everything is so painful and lovely that nineteen years old Penelope doesn’t know how she’s still standing and not falling into pieces in front of everyone, ripped apart by the contradictions.
She saves every precious interaction and he just smiles and leaves again.
It seems Benedict Bridgerton still hasn’t found the mysterious owner of the carnations on his neck—the very impossible to hide marks appeared after his mother costume party two years ago—but recent reports show that the everyday more acclaimed artist has been walking around London with a lovely new girl nobody seems to know. Has he given up or does he knows something we don’t?
It’s also been known that Cressida Cowper is carrying a new bloom, too! Hopefully nothing poisonous, though I can’t confirm anything.
Colin’s been back for a week and already can’t wait to leave again. This is because even if he loves her mother—and he does, a whole lot—she has used every single second with him to talk about settling down and marriage and it would really be nice to have you here more than a week every six months, Colin and you know I’m not getting younger and I don’t have enough grandchildren yet and Oh your forget-me-not look so beautiful have you seen Penelope yet?
Sure, Penelope is a lovely girl but she’s never been more than an extension of Eloise to him. She was barely sixteen when they met for God’s sake! And he’s just twenty eight, it’s not like settle down young like in the regency era.
He can talk to Penelope and is always glad to see her but he certainly isn’t going to start a relationship with the girl. He knows it, his mother knows it and hell even his brothers know it, but they decided to get together—just the three oldest, as Gregory is at school—and after half an hour they still haven’t stopped bugging him about it and he’s so done with the conversation that he just explodes:
“Sharing a flower means nothing and I’m certainly not going to marry Penelope Featherington!”
“Oh,” comes the soft whisper from behind and Colin feels the blood leave his face. He was so annoyed he forgot they were just on the porch and there was more people around. That she was around. And he can see the heartbreak in her eyes.
“Penelope, I’m so sorry, I didn’t—” he looks around to his brothers but they seem to be frozen too, and then her voice come.
“I’ve never asked you to marry me. Or talked about the flowers, with you or anyone else.” She says full of dignity even if her voice trembled a bit at the end.
“I know that, but I didn’t want to insult you and—”
“I’m not. Insulted that is. It would be ridiculous. Benedict certainly wouldn’t be insulted if I’d said I wasn’t going to marry him, right?”
Benedict answers immediately, “Of course not.”
“So that’s that,” ends Penelope. “Now I need to leave because I have a report to finish checking.”
The brothers move in a fraction of a second but then Colin adds, “Are you walking to campus? You can’t go alone it’s dangerous.”
“I’m not, I’m going to ask for an Uber.”
“I can drive—” he starts before Anthony interrupts.
“I’ll drive you, and before you say anything it’s no trouble at all. Kate would actually kill me if she knew I let you go on an Uber.”
She smiles at the mention of his brother wife and soulmate and agrees. Then she directs a vague wave in their direction and stars walking away with Anthony, never looking back.
Colin feels a weird pang in his chest. Penelope always smiles when they say goodbye.
“Now that is going to come back to bite you in the ass,” says Benedict. “I never thought I would actually wish for the earth to swallow me until that moment and I wasn’t even involved in it.”
Colin groans and tells him to shut up. He’s certain Penelope will have forgotten this the next time he’s in town.
She holds the tears all the ride to campus, tells Anthony she knows it was not personal and most probably just the pressure, that it’s okay. But the minute she enters her room she breaks down.
She knew Colin didn’t see her like that, but knowing and listening to a direct rejection are two whole different things. With his careless words he hurt her more than any of her mother’s comments about her weight or lack of beauty. He has always been her constant, the anchor she has been grabbing since sixteen, he’s just so nice that she doesn’t know what to do with this Colin that ripped her heart with a single phrase.
Maybe it’s time for Penelope to stop waiting. To accept that her love is never going to happen, that it isn’t even wanted. She’s twenty three and getting a master in writing and a success with her blog even if nobody knows it. Maybe Colin is right and the flowers mean nothing, maybe if she stays away they will fade—she knows she won’t be able to do that, she’s not losing Eloise, not even if her heart breaks every time she gets close to the third Bridgerton sibling—and maybe is time she starts loving herself more than she loves her teenage fantasy.
Eventually the tears stop and her heart feels as if is not going to break with every beat. She looks at her forget-me-not and caress them slowly and tenderly. Then she gets up and puts on a cardigan that covers them even if she’s not really cold and goes to her desk and writes.
Felicity Featherington is apparently going to be the most popular of the sister! The girl is only fifteen but already shows promise of beauty and grace. So far we have only notice the asters that seem to be a family traits, but there’s no doubt she’ll be collecting a garden when she gets to make her debut—doesn’t that sound old?
Now that three of the Bridgerton siblings—A, B and D—are happily bonded and married is it possible that the time for C has finally arrived? Here in the garden we vote NO to that, but also know to never judge a mother trying to see to their children happiness. And C is returning from Australia this week.
Colin was right. Once he returns and eventually runs into Penelope and Eloise—for the first time Penelope wasn’t present in his welcome home dinner due to work—they get over the awkwardness in the first fifteen minutes and then everything is fine. Brilliant. Her sister’s best friend smiles and they exchange witty comments about the attendants to this party and how all the politics playing in the room made them feel as if they need to bow to some of this people. He laughs and feels happy to be home surrounded by family and friends.
Everything is exactly as he wanted it to be. Except it isn’t until later when he’s with his brothers that he realizes that her dress covered the forget-me-not she’s always been happy to display.
But time passes, and they are okay and she becomes one of his very best friends.
At his mother birthday dinner they are sitting next to each other. She’s funny once she gets comfortable with other people and lets go of her shyness. And Pen is clearly comfortable in the middle of the Bridgertons and their significant others. He likes that. She deserves to be around nice people—she’s been loyal to them for years and feels like part of the family, Anthony’s children even call her aunt Pen and he’s sure she’s less than a stranger to them than himself—and his family clearly thinks the same.
“You know, I would love to travel,” she tells him suddenly, “but then I would miss this so much I could never stay away for more than a few weeks.”
“Hey! I miss this, too. That’s why I always return.”
“I know that, Colin,” she says looking straight in to his eyes and for a single heartbeat he feels a little lost. “I also know that if you didn’t return your mother would probably hunt you down.”
“She really would,” adds Hyacinth from her other side, and then everyone starts laughing.
“Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” he tells her pointing at her face with his fork.
“I don’t think I could grow any fonder of this,” she says softly, and again he feels something in his heart or maybe the pit of his stomach. Yes, it must be that. His plate is empty and he’s still a bit hungry.
“Are you going to finish that?” he asks her with a sad face, always ready to use his looks for food.
“Have at it,” she responds shaking her head at him with a big smile. This is why he likes her.
He’s on the Himalaya doing some trekking with two groups—one that includes a very attractive blond Italian that’s been flirting with him for the last few hours—when he comes across a clearing full of forget-me-not and a big smile takes over his face. He’s used to see the flower on his body but he has never seen it in this extension. He knows they are a common wildflower here but it feels like a piece of home is suddenly in front of him.
Penelope needs to see this, he thinks, maybe then she’ll finally stop covering hers.
He takes a picture of the place, uploads it to his Instagram and then sends several different pics of the place directly to Pen.
Oh, Colin. That’s absolutely breathtaking, she answers after a few minutes.
Can you believe we carry a piece of this with us every day? he writes, and then sees the dots that indicate she’s writing, but no response appears.
We are pretty great, she sends eventually and for some reason he’s a bit disappointed by her perfectly good answer.
That we are, he finishes, and when he looks up he realizes the group of the blond moved on while he was talking with his friend.
He finds he doesn’t really mind, he wants to stay in this place for a little while.
“Colin you need to tell me where you got that hydrangea!” Yells Eloise while physically chasing his much taller and faster brother around the pool.
“Stop being a busy body!”
“But that way I can report it before the Garden! Penelope tell him he must tell me!”
Penelope doesn’t look up from her iPad—yes, she gave up her fantasy a while ago but the pain still flares in these type of moments—before answering, “I’m pretty sure he doesn’t and I would rather not get in the middle of that.”
“Wise choice,” says Sophie, sunbathing next to her.
“I have known them for ten years, I know exactly how they can get and when not to get involved,” whispers Penelope.
Sophie’s the nicest girl and also the most perceptive person she knows, so Pen is not surprised when she says, “I think I’ve had enough sun, want to inside and watch some Survivor?”
“Yes, please, I’m not focusing in this article anyway,” she answers with a grateful smile. The Bridgertons, even those who have entered the family through marriage truly are her favorite people in the world.
They are entering the house when they hear a “Collin don’t you dare!” followed by a splash.
The two start laughing and Violet, sitting in the kitchen, just shakes her head at the antics of her children. The girls don’t know it but she’s also lamenting the blindness of his third son.
“Did you know Penelope joined Tinder?” says Eloise while she let herself down next to him in the couch.
“I can’t say I did,” he says. Why would she join that? He’s sure they could introduce her to perfectly nice men they actually know and no some stranger from the internet that could be dangerous.
“I told her there could be dangerous people there!” says his sister echoing his thoughts. She keeps talking but now he’s trying to think of someone to introduce her and frowns because he can’t think of a single one. No one he knows is good enough for Penelope, she deserves someone great. “… and they even post pictures of their flowers just to hook up with others that have the same!”
“What? But that’s—” he doesn’t know how to end the phrase but it feels so very wrong to think of Penelope’s forget-me-not on display just to find someone who… who…
“Crazy! That’s what I said, but she said it was only to try. At least she didn’t displayed hers. Though she does look quite hot on the pictures. I know, I took them.”
“So you don’t like the idea of her being there but took the pictures anyway?” he asks.
“I am her friend,” she says nodding, as if that explained the nonsense. “Look!” And then her phone is right in front of his face.
And she does. Look beautiful. She’s not wearing anything too revealing but Eloise took great candid pictures of her in her bedroom, in front of a mirror, looking at the camera shyly in one and laughing—really laughing— in another. But is the last one that captures his attention. She’s wearing a short dress, no shoes and is sitting in the kitchen island with a mug in front of her. She has a cardigan on that is sliding down from her left shoulder and her right hand is clearly trying to keep it in place, but he can see a bit of her flowers and it takes his breath away. It feels a bit forbidden after all those years of her hiding them and he has to swallow to relax his throat.
“Doesn’t she looks great?” Eloise asks again.
“Yeah, she does,” he answers truly.
He’s been in Brazil for forty days—has seen the beaches, the Iguazu falls, Copacabana, Ipanema, the Amazon rain forest and is currently in Rio—and for the first time in forever traveling is not bringing him the peace he’s used to.
The place is full of tourist here for the carnaval, he’s at the foot of the Cristo Rendentor and all he can think about is how he has spent the last eight? Ten? Years of his life globetrotting and visiting the most splendid places and has nothing to show for it.
If Colin Bridgeton were to die tomorrow, what would be his legacy? A social media account? He hasn’t even shared this experiences, not really, with a real person. That’s not completely true, he thinks, he has shared the unedited pictures with Pen lately. But for some reason his life it’s making him feel empty. A failure compared to the accomplishment of his siblings. Lonely.
He has everything a young man could want. A great loving family, money, a hobby that actually allows him live, good friends. A girl who has looked at him as if he’s her whole world since she was seventeen and is now his best friend. A girl who looks beautiful and has a Tinder now and he’s going to kill Eloise for putting this thoughts inside his head.
He sighs. If these gorgeous views aren’t doing it for him it’s clear he needs to go home and do something about it. Maybe Pen will help him. She always does.
It’s taken some time an heartbreak along the way but when Penelope finishes her master and gets an stable work at a publication house she looks at her life and finds she’s actually quite happy with it: Her family has calmed down a lot since her sisters got married, her mother comments don’t affect her that much after all this time, she likes her body—something she never thought possible—and she knows she’ll never be thin because she likes to eat and exercise is fun but not that fun, and her curves are actually attractive and fun to dress, she has great friends, she’s independently wealthy—even if it’s a secret—and now has her dream job.
She even has Colin Bridgerton in her life, even if it’s not in the way she hoped. They are actual friends and it’s very nice.
All in all, she doesn’t have much to complain, even if she would like to not write about other people getting new flowers but her own. If there were any. After all these years she still have her asters and the forget-me-not she avoids looking in the mirror—and Colin’s arm—and covers since that horrible moment on the Bridgertons porch.
Her years writing Whistledown’s Garden are starting to get to her and now Cressida—a journalist like Eloise—is obsessed with uncovering her identity. Penelope has never been cruel to people in her blog, at least not to people who didn’t deserve it, but she has shared gossip of every important person in the country and she’d be lying if she said she wasn’t worried.
“Sorry I’m late.”
“Colin!” she says standing up to greet him with a hug. “It doesn’t matter, I was lost in my head anyway.”
“Is something wrong?” he asks, focusing his eyes on her face as if he’d be easily able to read the problem in it.
“No, nothing’s wrong. Just thinking. But when did you arrive? I was surprised to see your message.” She had been. Yes, they are friends but she did put some distance between them and that means that most of their interactions through the last years have included at least one other Bridgerton.
“Just yesterday,” he says with a crooked smile. “I don’t know why you were so surprised when you know I like your company.”
She smiles in answer and looks through the window of the bakery, when she looks back at him again she could swear he was looking at her arm, but quickly dismisses the idea and calls the waitress so they can order. She knows Colin must be hungry.
She’s still covering her flowers and he doesn’t know why it bothers him that much, just that it does. At the beginning—after the incident, as he has come to call it—he’d thought it was a coincidence, but now he knows it must be on purpose and some part of him rejects the action. Doesn’t she like them? He remember her smiling at them when she was a teenager. Have they… disappeared? His stomach does a full turn with that and he refuses to entertain the thought anymore besides, they can’t have disappeared because his are still there, he can see a bit of purple right now on the edge of his sleeve.
He also surprised himself when he texted Penelope, but he needed to discuss the way he was feeling lately with someone close that wouldn’t judge him. He knew his family would listen too, but with everyone been so freaking accomplished he hadn’t had the nerve to talk about his petty complains with them. He had a degree he had never used and thousands of fly miles under his belt but nothing tangible, nothing that could be considered a legacy or even a bit useful. Yes his Instagram account did big numbers and sponsors allowed him to not feel like a load for Anthony but still… he needed something else and he didn’t know what. And he wanted to talk about it with Pen.
“How was… I want to say Brazil? You do look tan.”
“Brazil, yes. It was very beautiful even if I wasn’t a fan of the current politics. The carnaval was spectacular. You would have liked it.”
“Maybe I’ll go someday, though I do think I would burn to a crisp under that sun.”
She would, he thought, with her redhead complexion of creamy skin she would need someone to constantly put sunscreen on her face, shoulders, back, and protecting the blooms in her arm… he swallows.
“That’s nothing a good sunscreen wouldn’t stop.”
“Maybe when I get vacations I’ll ask you for a good place to go,” she says with a big smile and suddenly the words leave his mouth.
“Pen, do you think I’m adrift?”
“What? No! Why would you think that?” she asks full of concern.
“I don’t know. I guess I’ve just been feeling… useless. Anthony is generally in charge o the family, Benedict has his art, Daphne is somehow racing a full family, Eloise is a journalist, Francie, Hyacinth and Gregory are all in school and I’m just, I don’t know, updating my Instagram,” he finishes.
“Oh Colin,” she whisper and takes his hand over the table. Suddenly he doesn’t want to eat. He just wants for them to stay like this and he doesn’t understand what is happening. “You are not useless, you are certainly not less than your siblings. Do you know how jealous I am of the way you followed your passion when you found it? I still have trouble talk with some people but you jumped on a plane alone and went to places you didn’t even spoke the language. And you share it with all of us. Yes you update your Instagram but your post are actually more than a picture, they are full of descriptions and feelings and it feels a bit like traveling with you. That’s not something easy to do, and I work in publishing so you have to believe me. Maybe you just… need to modify that passion so it gives you more satisfaction?”
“Like, I don’t know, maybe writing a book? You must have a lot of experiences and photos to share and it would be something tangible. I certainly would like to have a book with your name on my shelf,” she ends blushing.
“You would, uh?”
“What? I like books!”
He laughs and then her phone pings and she let go of his hand. He feels strangely bereft without her touch and he could swear his forget-me-not are tingling.
“Oh I need to go, there’s an emergency meeting I need to be in.”
“I’ll give you a ride,” he says staring to get up.
“I came in my car so don’t worry, finish eating the food, I know you want to,” she says and then quickly kisses his cheek.
He grabs her hand before she can leave, “Let me know when you are in your office? And will you go to the Danbury party?”
“Okay and yes. Eloise has to go to cover the event and she gets bored easily so I’ll need to be there.”
“I’ll see you there then.”
This time she smiles when she leaves. Fifteen minutes later he’s finishing and excellent piece of cake when he receives an @ the office from Pen.
Penelope is still shaking when she returns to the office. Did she really held Colin’s hand in public, just the two of them? Did she actually kissed him on the cheek? She knows she did because her flowers keep burning and she’s afraid she just did something terrible, something that send her back years, but talking about Colin’s passion had been so exciting she couldn’t have stopped herself even if she wanted.
And she hadn’t wanted. She wasn’t sixteen anymore and she knew she had to be realistic. But… it felt like something was changing.
Colin has never been this nervous about a party before and he can’t believe it is because of Penelope Featherington. How is it possible that this girl he’s known for the last twelve years has him feeling this way?
He’s always liked Pen. She’s always been there in the background next to Eloise and the rest of his family, so when did she changed enough to made him want her hands in his?
More worrying, had she changed or had it been him? Because if she hadn’t, well, then it meant he’d been an idiot for years and she had always been this cleaver, warm, intelligent person. A person anyone would want. A person he hadn’t asked if she’d come to the party alone or with someone else. He really was an idiot.
“Did you actually groan? What is wrong with you? You are always the jolly one,” interrupts him Benedict.
“I’m an idiot,” Colin answer, running his hand through his hair and messing it up.
“I knew that but how did you realize it?”
“Benedict Bridgerton do not call you brother an idiot,” says his mom.
“He called himself an idiot I only repeated it.”
“Well don’t, I know for a fact all my children are talented and smart,” she says laughing. “But what made you say that Colin?”
“I—” he doubts but ends up talking. This is his family and they may have the information he needs. “Penelope.”
“Oh… Oh!” exclaims his mother, “Finally!”
And that’s when Benedict starts laughing. “Oh, this is priceless. I new your words were going to come back to bite your ass and they did!”
“Yes, yes, very funny but do you know if she’s seeing anyone?”
“Whistledown’s Garden hasn’t written anything about it so I don’t think so, but if you really want to know you should ask Eloise.”
“What do you have to ask me brother dear?” ask his sister suddenly. He didn’t even knew she was here already.
“Is Penelope seeing anyone?”
This is probably the first time Eloise has been left speechless and he can’t enjoy it because he needs an answer. But his sister narrows her eyes and approaches.
“You will not hurt Penelope,” she starts, “for some miracle I didn’t lose her all those years ago and I certainly won’t do it now. I love you, Colin, but I will kill you with my bare hands is you brake her heart again.”
“Eloise,” whispers Violet, but Colin speaks immediately.
“I won’t. I promise you, Eloise, I won’t. I don’t even think I could. I—” as a reflex his hand goes to the blooms in his arm and Eloise notices and starts relaxing.
“She’s not,” she tells him, and he exhales before she continues, “but there is a guy in her office she’s contemplating going on a date with. He’s very nice actually,” she finishes.
“Thank you,” he tells her, and then Benedict says,
“Eloise Bridgerton you are bloody terrifying.”
When Anthony joins them nobody can stop laughing long enough to explain him what’s going on.
Meanwhile Colin can't wait to arrive to that party. He doesn't know when she started feeling this was about Penelope but he doesn't care care. He just doesn't want to ever stop.
Penelope arrives to the party with a group from her office, and sliding into well honed habits starts classifying the exposed flowers on people, trying to catch new ones, fading ones or just old favorites. She loves the variety in the room.
“Quite splendid, don’t you think?” says Charles. He’s handsome, very nice to her and they have been flirting—just a bit—for a few weeks, but she hasn’t accepted to go on a date with him yet.
She smiles at him and starts saying, “Yes, Lady Danbury always throws amazing—” when they are interrupted by a clearing throat.
“Goodnight,” says Colin Bridgerton from behind her, and when she turns to say hi he steals her breath. He’s wearing a very well fitted black suit with a dark green tie that match his eyes. She’s wearing green too, she didn’t picked it because of his eyes but because she loves the way it hugs her curves.
“Colin,” she smiles, and then she remembers her college, “this is Charles Martin, we work together. Charles, this is Colin Bridgerton, one of Eloise’s brothers and my friend.”
Did his mouth tighten with the word friend? Suddenly he grabs her hand.
“Excuse us, Charles, Penelope promised me a dance.”
“I—,” but he’s already dragging her away. “Colin! That was rude, I was talking to him!”
“And now you are dancing with me.”
“Did the Amazon made you into a savage, mister Bridgerton?”
“Of course nor, Miss Featherington, I was just impatient for my dance.”
“A dance I hadn’t promised," she scolds, but a smiles escapes right after.
“Do you really want me to return you to him?” he ask her softly when they are in the middle of the dancing couples, looking straight into her eyes.
“No,” she whispers, and then her hands are on his shoulders and his are on her waist and they are dancing very slowly.
“You look gorgeous by the way,” he says. “Green velvet really becomes you.” He attracts her closer to his body, until she has to rest her head on his chest to not hurt her neck. He’s so very tall.
“Did you know Eloise can be very scary?”
“Of course I knew. I lived with her, remember?”
“Mmm,” he says in a very low tone, “so you did.”
“What did she do to scare you?” she smiles.
“She said she would kill me with her bare hands if I ever broke your heart again.”
She stops and moves away a step. “What?!” she exclaims in a whisper. “But Eloise doesn’t… oh my God. I, I need some air.” And then she turns away a starts looking for a way out. She can’t breathe. Eloise never said anything and she always assumed it was because the idea of her and Colin was just impossible not because she was being careful and protective of her.
“Penelope,” Of course Colin followed her. Of course.
“What is happening here, Colin?” she ask with her eyes closed, afraid of breaking once again.
She hears him approach and then his finger is on her left upper arm and she’s trembling.
“You always cover them,” he says softly. “I haven’t seen your forget-me-not in years and all I’ve had these days is the reflection of mine in the mirror to assure myself that yours can’t be gone. That I didn’t broke this beyond repair with stupid words and the worst blindness on earth.
“Penelope,” he whispers in the darkness. “Beautiful, brilliant Penelope. I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry I didn’t see you, that I didn’t appreciate it you, that I was one of the bunch out there that has no idea you are a treasure. And I’ll be forever sorry. But I’ll also forever be grateful to Eloise because she kept you close so I could do this right now. So I could have a chance. Please, give me the chance.”
He’s clutching her to his chest and she’s crying but she manages to ask, “The chance for what?” She needs for him to be clear, she knows she won’t survive a heartbreak like that again even if it sounds completely dramatic.
“A chance to be with you. A chance to show you how beautiful you are. A chance to be us. Together. A chance to cherish you. A chance to love you.”
He cups her face in his hands and bends to put his forehead against hers. “Please,” he whispers again, very close to her lips, and instead of answering with words she just kisses him.
It starts slowly, as if none of them can believe it’s actually happening. And then he starts to increase the pressure, traveling to both corners of her mouth, biting softly until she opens and his tongue touches hers. That’s when the kiss change and it becomes a wild thing. He kisses her as if he needs her to survive, and she respond with the longing of twelve years. It’s a dance and a battle and a conversation full off promises all in one.
Eventually they have to separate, both of them breathing with difficulty and smiling wildly.
And then she remembers her secrets and starts panicking.
“Colin, there’s something—”
“Let’s get out of here.”
“But, this, you’ll be angry, I—”
He kisses again. “I really don’t care right now, sweet.”
“Is this about a boyfriend? A secret betrothed? Someone I have to fight?”
“Then it really doesn’t matter. Not right now. Right now the important thing is escaping without being detained by half the people in there, and that includes my family. Are you with me?”
She laughs. “Yes, I’m with you.”
“Brilliant. We’ll talk about whatever it is you need but once we are away from here. I promise. Now give me another kiss before we jump down this balcony.”
“Okay. Wait, what?!” but he’s already kissing her, and she’s sure after that’s over she’ll be jumping down a balcony with her soulmate.
Lady Danbury's party last night was an absolute success. All kind of flowers were exposed through dancing and conversation in a beautifully adorned ballroom. But one of the curiosities of the night was the disappearance of one Penelope Featherington and Colin Bridgerton. It’s been known for years that they shared a flower since the day they met but is it possible that the seed has finally bloomed? We certainly would like to know.
“I would make it spicier,” says her soulmate, currently sitting behind her—very naked—on her bed.
“Of course you would,” says Penelope while rolling her eyes.
“I saw that.”
“No, you didn’t.”
“Are you almost done?” he asks, getting distracted with her shoulder, kissing it softly until he reaches the forget-me-not that repeats in his arm. She explored them last night. Thoroughly. “I’m hungry.”
“Of course you are. What do you want to eat? I could make some pancakes.”
“That sounds good but I have a better idea,” he says, sliding his hands under the sheet and kissing her neck. “I need you to provide, though,” he whispers wickedly. And Penelope loves to write and her blog and the opportunity to finally write about herself. But she learned just like night that Colin’s hunger extends beyond food. And she’s discovered she loves to help him placating his needs just as much. So she closes the computer. The garden can wait.