The Perks of Being a Beauty

Free The Perks of Being a Beauty by Manda Collins

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Authors: Manda Collins
Tags: Romance
sense at all, you will take this chance to wash your hands of me now while you still have a chance.”
    “But what if I admire the fact that you’ve managed to mend your ways?” he asked seriously. “Because I do. I admire the way you have molded yourself into someone better than you once were. I admire the fact that you had the courage to own your sins to the people you sinned against. And I admire the way you have dedicated yourself to atoning for your sins. Even if I think you do yourself a disservice by prolonging your own punishment.”
    For a moment he thought that she would give in to the tears gathering in her eyes. But she drew strength from some inner core and blinked away the moisture. “Your faith in me does not go unappreciated,” she said quietly. “Even if I think you are too quick to forgive me.”
    “Why not let me be the judge of my own behavior?” he asked softly. “And why not let me choose whom I wish to call friend.”
    “So what you want from me is friendship?” she asked, one brow raised skeptically.
    He barked out a laugh. “Hell, no. I want a great deal more than friendship. But for now it’s what I’m willing to settle for.”
    “Once upon a time you were my best friend in the world,” she said with a crooked smile. “I would like to have a friend like that again.”
    “So would I,” he said, slipping his arm through hers and waiting for the last strains of the dance to fade away before leading her onto the impromptu dance floor.
    “Shall we risk it?” he asked, pulling her into his arms in preparation for a waltz.
    “Let’s do it,” she said, smiling up at him as the other couples took their places.
    By the time the music began, they were both grinning. If anyone noticed, they kept their thoughts to themselves.
    *   *   *
    Though she would have been loath to admit as much to the man himself, Amelia could not help but feel an inner glow at being twirled around the Smithson drawing room in Lord Quentin Fortescue’s arms. Some small corner of her heart had never stopped longing for him. And the reality of being with him here, now, and in these circumstances—while she was employed as a companion to a much richer, much sweeter young lady, made it all the more special.
    “A penny for them,” he said, smiling down at her as they both kept to the steps of the dance. “If I were to guess, I’d say you’re wondering whether we might find a way to continue our botanical experiments.”
    Amelia felt the blush rise from her chest all the way up into her cheeks. “I believe you overestimate my interest in…” she paused, searching for just the right word, “… in horticulture. In fact, I am quite sure that I do not care for it at all.”
    “A fib if ever I’ve heard one, Miss Snowe,” he said with a smug laugh. “In fact, I’d wager that you enjoyed your foray into the art of making things grow quite a bit.”
    She bit her lip. Making things grow indeed. “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” she said pertly.
    “Miss Snowe, I had no idea you were interested in gardening,” Miss Smithson said as she twirled past in Mr. Wallace’s arms. “Mama will be so pleased to hear of it. For I must admit I find it to be rather tedious.”
    “Do not mistake the matter, Harriet,” Amelia replied with a dampening look for Quentin. “I believe Lord Quentin was mistaking my willingness to garden at all with a real desire to do so. I must confess that I find gardening to be tedious in the extreme.”
    “Tsk, tsk, Miss Snowe,” Quentin said. “If I’m any judge of the matter, I’d say that you are merely pretending to find it tedious. There is no shame in admitting you find such things enjoyable. Indeed, I believe more ladies enjoy gardening than are willing to admit.”
    “Well, I shall never be one of those ladies, my lord,” Harriet said in all seriousness. “I think it’s quite unnatural. And one gets all sweaty and damp. Not to mention the things it does

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