Chapter 51

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"And that is precisely why Father said adding these cash crops to the field rotation would prove to be much more lucrative over the fiscal year."

Edward periodically nodded as Matthew prattled on about farming finances and politics, trying not to look apathetic as his gaze roamed the entryway. Normally, he'd be quite interested in his friend's views on the subject, but tonight, Edward's mind was racing through a myriad of thoughts, like a whirlwind inside his head, making it difficult to focus on the words issued forth from Matthew's lips.

The two had taken up post at the foot of the staircase, in hopes of intercepting the lovely Montgomery sisters as they made an entrance to the festivities. Edward selfishly wanted a moment with Elizabeth before they were both surrounded by the assemblage. He knew that although this party was in honor of his and Elizabeth's future union, propriety would dictate that they shouldn't spend much time solely with each other, particularly for dances. Edward rather disliked this aspect, as all he longed for was to be near to her for the duration of the evening.

For heaven's sake, when are they coming down? A minute more and I'm sure we'll miss the ball in its entirety...or I'll lose my wits standing here.

Edward rocked on his heels slightly, finding it arduous to hold his person completely motionless; his body was alive with anticipation, his fingers tingling at the thought of taking the delicate hand of his dearest and placing it in the crook of his arm.

This is ridiculous...why should I be so anxious to see her? What is so different about this night than any other?

Only that he intended to formally declare his feelings and intentions to her, which he had neglected to do previously amidst all the turmoil, and offer a little something special as a token of his affections...

Matthew's hearty chuckle brought him out of his thoughts, and Edward fixed a questioning look on his friend's face.

"Are you quite all right, old boy?" Matthew asked, unable to hide his amusement.

Edward cleared his throat, trying to regain some of his composure, "Of course I am. Why would you ask such a question?"

Matthew shot him an incredulous look, "It's only that I doubt you've heard but two words of anything I've said thus far, and you're as fidgety as a child."

"I apologize, my friend; you're completely right. It's just that... Well, it's..." Edward's gaze dropped with his voice, and he blew out a breath as he turned his back on the stairway in agitation. "Surely you can understand, I can think of nothing but being with her tonight."

"By Jove..." The breathless tone in Matthew's voice caused Edward to glance up at his friend. Noticing that his gaze rested on the staircase, Edward turned his eyes in that direction.

A heavenly creature was floating gracefully down the stairway, a dream-like image before his eyes, coveting all of his attention. He blinked a few times to be sure he was not imagining the scene in his mind, finally convinced when her form did not escape him.

While both of the sisters moved toward them carefully, arm in arm, Edward saw but one.

Time seemed to slow to a crawl around him as he beheld his beloved descending the steps in all her splendor. His heart squeezed within his chest to know that she was his, soon to be his wife, already his soul's mate.

"I seem to remember a scene quite like this one some months ago, eh, Stanton?" Edward barely recognized Matthew's voice, whispering beside him.

At that moment, the only thing in his world was her.

He swallowed hard, as his breath had seemed to lodge in his throat. What radiant beauty was in her possession, what grace evident in her every movement. Locks of dark silken tresses curled tenderly on her ivory neck, soft fabrics of white and lavender draped expertly about her delicate form in a most perfect way; he would scarcely have been surprised to discover that she was indeed royalty, and he, most deservedly under her feet.

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