Chapter 59

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Benjamin walked with Clara along the canal, flanked by an avenue of trees.

"It is so beautiful here," Clara stated, in awe of her surroundings.

"Yes, the garden is rather extensive. When Queen Charlotte took over this place, it was mostly flat. She's cultivated this land with the help of Major Price. Changed it into what it is now over the last twenty years. This is where she found her solace in dealing with her husband's illness."

"I cannot imagine her anguish. Queen Charlotte obviously loves the King. To see her hopes crushed, broke my heart. I could not imagine what that would feel like, to have you with me but your mind forsaken. The man I love lost to me, yet I could still see you, touch you. It seems like a fate worse than death."

Benjamin remained silent as they continued to walk on back to the carriage that would bring them home. "Clara, we must discuss our living arrangements. Until I've had the chance to court you and show a proper effort to win your hand, I fear me must part."

"And so, it begins," Clara said, slowing her steps.

Benjamin stopped, causing Clara to stop with him. "What would you have me do, Clara? Admit to her Majesty that her most trusted man has been lying to her for years? Surely, after all we've endured, a few weeks shouldn't matter?"

"You're right, of course. I'm sorry Benjamin. Just the thought of being without you..."

Benjamin grabbed Clara by her shoulders. "I will enjoy this separation no more than you will, Clara, but I will get you a room at the hotel I mentioned. I've already inquired into a companion for you. You will wait to get the directive from the Queen with the details of when and where you are to attend. I'm certain I will also get an invitation. I believe Queen Charlotte is looking to make a match of us. So, if you play along, we get to distract our Queen from her woes and give her the pleasure of knowing she brought together two lovers that will last a lifetime."

"When you say it like that, our deceit sounds almost noble," Clara replied.

Benjamin grinned at her.

"Although I am not looking forward to our separation. I am looking forward to courting you properly. I will set up an account in your name that you may draw from to purchase some new gowns and whatever else you may need. I think I'm going to enjoy this," Benjamin admitted.

"Just promise me we won't drag this out, Benjamin."

"You have my word," Benjamin told her.

They were dropped off at Benjamin's flat. Benjamin made all the arrangements. By nightfall, Clara was ready to move on to the hotel.

There was a knock on the door. Benjamin opened it expecting it to be Clara's companion, however, he now stood face to face with Mr. Brummell.

"Beau? What are you...? Why are you here?"

"I came to check on young, Claremont. May I come in?"

"Now is not the best time," Benjamin told him, but Beau pushed past him, looking as if he was staring at a ghost.

"Clara?"

Benjamin sighed as he closed his eyes and the door. He had not realized Clara had come down the stairs and was standing in the hall.

"Hello, Beau," Clara said, smiling.

Beau looked back to Benjamin. "But I thought...?"

"You thought what you wanted you to think. What I needed you to think."

Beau stared was staring at Clara so intently she felt uncomfortable. He took the few steps that separated them and lifted her chin to the only source of light in the hall. Now he appeared cross.

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