Authors: Kate Dolan
“She thought I was dead?” Edmund could not believe his ears. “Did you not tell her I was here, that I could not come to see her because I was here?”
His angry reaction obviously intimidated Susan because she was some moments in responding, and even then her words came out cowed and apologetic. “Miss Newman said it might upset her, sir. To know you was…you know…”
He leaned in close to his mother’s face. “So you thought I had died?”
She nodded, tears shining in the corners of her eyes.
He stretched his arms around her thin shoulders. “To think what I have put you through. Oh, Mother, I am so sorry.” He choked on the last words and felt the sting of tears in his own eyes.
“You,” his mother licked her lips, her voice growing stronger as she continued, “you should not be shorry. Sorry,” she repeated with greater clarity. “All is well now that you are married.”
How on earth could he admit that he was not? He could not begin to explain what had happened. But neither could he hide the truth from his mother any longer. “I did not marry Jeanne,” he admitted softly.
“Tomorrow, then? The wedding is tomorrow? I shall get to see it?” Hope radiated from his mother’s eyes.
“Look how well she is speaking now!” her maid interjected excitedly before Franklin silenced her with a stern look.
“No, the wedding is not tomorrow. There will be no wedding—at least, not between me and Jeanne.”
The light faded from his mother’s face. “No wedding? Again?”
“I do not want to marry Jeanne, Mother.”
“Your hand was promised.” A stern frown creased his mother’s forehead. “We cannot break that promise.”
“It was you who promised Jeanne’s mother that I would marry her and care for her. And I will still care for her—she and her aunt will be given additional resources. But I cannot enter into a marriage with no love or respect.”
“Jeanne loves you.”
“She loves my title and position in society. And my money. And I suppose she might have loved me, if I had given her a chance. But I never did.”
Probably because you never gave me a choice
, he added to himself.
Tears trailed down the creases of his mother’s face. “I so wanted to see you married and happy.”
“I will be married—and very happy.” Edmund took out a handkerchief and blotted her tears.
“Well, I must say you don’t look very happy,” Geoffrey appraised dubiously as he suddenly approached. He stretched forth his hand. “Congratulations. I hear you are to marry Lucia.”
“What?” his mother struggled to sit up. “You are to marry whom?”
Edmund cleared his throat. “Well, I suppose I had better make some introductions. Mother, may I present Miss Lucia Wright and Mr. Geoffrey Wright and their stepfather, Mr. Lewis.”
Geoffrey and Mr. Lewis bowed while Lucia curtsied very prettily. “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Lady Rutherford.”
Edmund’s mother sat up further. “You are Lucia? The one he is to marry?”
Lucia bowed her head. “Yes, my lady.”
She frowned. “This is a disappointment.” She turned to Edmund. “She will never fit into the gown we picked out.”
“Gown?” Edmund asked.
“Katherine and I designed the gown for the wedding years ago.”
“Perhaps the gown can be altered?”
“Ah no.” She peered at Lucia. “Come here, Miss Wright, let me see you. No, the color is all wrong. I suppose Jeanne will have to wear it on her own wedding day.” She sighed. “If she ever has one.”
“She will.” Edmund patted her hand. “Jeanne is a beautiful girl and will have a handsome fortune. She will choose someone to please her.”
“I always thought that someone would be you. Oh well. I suppose I will have to make the best of it.” His mother pursed her lips. “I think a rose color, not too pale, would be lovely.”
Edmund looked at her blankly. “For?”
“For Miss Wright’s gown, of course. I came all this way to see a wedding, and I’ll not be disappointed.”
Edmund leaned in to whisper to her. “So you do not object to the change in bride, then?”
“I knew you did not like Jeanne,” she whispered back. “I never liked her much, either. I just never could see any way to break the engagement promise. However did you manage it?”
“It’s a long story, Mother. One best saved until you are a little stronger and all of us are fortified with a good meal and copious quantities of drink.”
“Edmund!” His mother struggled to make her expression stern rather than amused.
“I am not sure you’ll believe the tale, Mother. In fact, I am not sure I do myself.” He took Lucia’s hand and kissed it affectionately. “But there are certain ways to remind myself of my good fortune.”
Lucia smiled up at him.
“Do you still feel as though the floor has been swept out from under you?” he asked her softly.
“I think I feel that sensation a bit myself.”
“It has intensified, actually,” she confessed, “so that now instead of feeling merely like I’m tumbling aimlessly about the room, I feel as if we’ve all been swept out there.” She pointed out the window to the darkening sky. “Like we’re tumbling among the stars.” She shook her head. “It makes no sense at all.”
“No sense whatsoever,” he agreed. “But there are times when no sense is exactly what we need.”
About the Author
After coming from Chicago to attend college at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, Kate Dolan grew attached to the mid-Atlantic region and never moved back. She holds an interdisciplinary degree in English, history and drama and a law degree from the University of Richmond School of Law, and has written professionally in a variety of fields since 1992. Currently living in a suburb of Baltimore, she is ideally positioned to drag her husband and two children to visit an endless array of historical sites. She also volunteers as a living historian in order to teach-and learn-more about the past. In addition to historical romance, Kate also writes history, historical fiction and mysteries.
Kate welcomes comments from readers. You can find her website and email address on her author bio page at www.ellorascave.com.
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