chapter three

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‘And what brings about this visit so early in the morning my dear friend?’

 ‘A question or two perhaps, an inquiry a stupid notion, why I am here I know not my friend.’

 ‘You cannot even justify your presence here by stating your need to see my little one,’

 ‘Of course he couldn’t, Sir George is as rude as the ground he walks upon and as uncalled for as any other man, except you my darling’, Claire stated as she stopped next to her husband with their new born daughter in her arm. Sir George had been friends with Lord Conrad for a number of years and he considered him a good enough friend to trust with his current state of mind, but as to why he had this current state of mind he knew not.

 After he left the Edwards estate his mind kept wandering to Annabelle and her resolve, her strength and her lack of recognition of authority. But if the ruckus he had heard before he had met her was anything to go by she was not the type to respect anyone who did not support her ideas or maybe she was just spoilt as he had heard her mother call her.

 ‘Come now George sit, I know not why your face looks as though you are terribly ill,’ Claire said as she smiled at him, ‘or I hope those ladies you call friends haven’t ailed you with God knows what.’

 ‘Claire, Lord Conrad exclaimed. His wife had a way with words, she never minced them and cared not for what others thought when she spoke them. ‘Forgive her George,’

 Before he had the pleasure of a reply Claire had called for one of her ladies to take the baby, then she turned to face Lord Conrad with fury seeping out of her pores.

 ‘FORGIVE ME? for what? You men and your less than discreet ways,’ she spun round to face George, ‘and you that hussy you have been parading around town, I hope to God you will not invent some pathetic excuse to marry her for if you do I assure you, you will put me in an early grave. My children will not be subjected to scanty, loose women as their relations. Find yourself a decent enough woman and marry her.’ She turned to her husband again, ‘And James if I ever get word you have been aiding this man,’ her hand flying in George’s direction, ‘you will need to look for living quarters because my children will not share a home with a wayward man. I hope I have made myself clear to you both’, with that she left the room in a huff calling after her maid and child.

 ‘Your wife James is one of a kind. How you stay married is beyond me my friend.’ Sir George laughed. His friend gave him a look of scorn and worry as he turned to look in the direction his wife had gone. If she heard that comment he was surely sleeping elsewhere for the night.

 James invited his friend to a seat and a drink before inquiring on the reason he had a paid a visit at such an early hour. After a few minutes of careless chatter James put on his serious face and leaned in as if to whisper, ‘Why are you here? Don’t tell me she’s pregnant and you’re looking for a way out because if that s the case dear old friend I am not going to help you. I have a family and a wife I love and do not plan on leaving for a lifetime.’

 ‘No, she’s not, and I pray to God she doesn’t even think about getting pregnant. If she does I believe it is I who would be in an early grave. I came to inquire about a certain Lady Annabelle Edwards. Do you know her?’ he asked watching his friends face lighten at the thought of a memory. Had his wife been in the room she would assume a relation had passed between the both of them.

 ‘I have had the pleasure of meeting her once, a very remarkable young woman. She keeps silent until provoked. Other than that she is quite respectable and charming. Any man who has had the pleasure of being in her presence…’

 ‘Don’t you dare finish that sentence,’ his wife’s voice sounded as she entered the room. ‘So this is why you sought my husband at such an hour George to pick up his rubbish.’

 George could not help but smile at this statement. Claire was not a jealous woman nor had she reason to be. James was a faithful man who would lay down his life for his wife, but that did not stop her from reproaching him for every little detail.

 ‘My visit was solely to inquire about a certain maiden, a Lay Annabelle.’

 ‘Edwards,’ she finished the sentence for him. ‘Quite a woman, keep your dirty ands off her. She is a gem that deserves a man who loves her not a hungry animal.’ She said matter of factly.

 ‘My hands dear Claire are not upon her but my mother believes me a match for her. The date has been set all I need is the bride. Claire turned to him with a look of horror upon her face.

 ‘Is her mother mad, letting her marry you.’

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 It had been a week since he had visited Lord Edwards estate, George was in his study looking through papers and like every other day he could not find it in him to concentrate on what he was doing. He tossed the papers aside as thoughts of Annabelle’s angry features crept into his mind for the fifth time that hour.

 How was it possible such a girl, a simple maid of mixed blood, had such an effect on him. His concubine had come to see him everyday but each day he declined to see her, wishing to be left alone.

 His thoughts were removed from Annabelle to a darling little girl he adored with everything he had, everything. He would give up the world for her and it was because of her he was the way he was. No on would understand him, not even Claire, she called his love an excuse. An excuse it was but it was one he was content with living with. She was his world and meant everything and everything he did centered around her. If he was to marry it would be to protect her. For she was his everything.

 A letter arrived for him about a month later from his other inquiring on his current status. He tossed it aside as soon as he had seen Lady Edwards name on it. She had refused to see him. He had been to their estate twice, on both counts she simply regarded him and left the room, leaving him with her parents.

 His mother was to arrive in a fortnight and he had to have news for her but he knew not how to get that darn woman without her running off in some fuss or another.

 An answer came to him almost immediately when he received an invitation to a masked ball that evening. He was informed Lady Annabelle would be there as well. All he had to do was convince her to leave with him and he would be safe from the wrath of his mother who never took no for an answer. Though he knew not whether he was fearing for himself or for Annabelle.

 ‘Thomas,’ his voice echoed through the halls of his home. The sound of feet running in his direction made him turn around and look at the stout man now before him. Thomas had worked for him for close to eight years and no matter how many words George threw at him about walking around like a sack of potatoes, Thomas kept on adding pounds upon his frame. He now looked like he had been running a distance when he had just appeared from around the corner at a faster pace than he usually walked, knowing George did not like to be kept waiting.

 ‘Yes Sir,’ he managed to say between breaths.

 Tossing aside the thoughts of the weight of the man standing before him, ‘Find out for me what a certain Lady Annabelle Edwards will be wearing at this ball. I want all the details down to her mask, is that understood.’

 ‘Yes Sir.’ Thomas replied and made his way back down the hall he had appeared from.

 George had a plan, not knowing how well it would work, he was willing to try it. If she was going to refuse to see him he shall see to it she sees him everyday. By the fall of the sun George had shared this information with James, who advised him against it. He insisted it would never work and the consequences of it may be too grand for him to bear on his shoulders.

 Expecting just that from his friend he added no more to the conversation and left. He needed to get everything set, his angel would thank him for this later. She would wish to be next to him forever for the good deed he was doing her.

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