Chapter 3

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Mayfair, London

"I am not wearing that gown, Aunt Mel. It's practically indecent!" Olivia groaned.

"Of course not! Why do you say that?" her aunt demanded, dangling a maroon taffeta gown before Olivia's eyes. It was beautiful, no doubt.

"For one, the bodice is so low that my breasts might pop out at any time."

"Olivia Cavendish, that is no way to speak in front of your aunt," she said, trying to look stern.

"Would you rather I spoke this way in front of my peers?"

Olivia knew that she was often bold but she'd learnt that from none other than her dear aunt.

"I never..." her aunt started and then her face split into a reluctant smile. "What am I going to do with you?" she shook her head. Olivia shrugged and turned to hold onto the bed post so her maid could lace her corset.

"Not too tight," she instructed. She only wore a corset because propriety demanded it.

Meanwhile, Menace, her terrifying looking mastiff pushed the door open and jumped onto her bed.

"Get down from the bed this instant, dog," Aunt Mel ordered. Menace didn't budge and Olivia had to bite back a smile. Her aunt huffed.

"What are you wearing then?" her aunt asked, deciding to ignore the hound.

"The mint green silk."

"Over my dead body. You'll look like a cucumber in that one," her aunt muttered, picking up said gown as though even touching it was below her dignity.

Olivia rolled her eyes.

Cucumber?

Aunt Mel certainly knew how to bring down her ego a notch or two.

Aunt Mel began rummaging through her closet while she rolled on her stockings.

"This!" she exclaimed exiting the closet, holding up a beige silk gown with a ruffled bodice.

It was a beautiful gown although it was meant for someone younger. But seeing Aunt Mel's excited expression, Olivia didn't have the heart to say no.

She nodded.

Aunt Mel squealed. "Listen to me and you're going to have scores of suitors, just you wait! And then you'll be married in no time," she said and gave the gown to her maid to get it ironed.

Olivia did have suitors, just not the sort she wanted.

"I doubt I'm going to get married at this age, Aunt Mel."

"Nonsense. You're not old."

"I'm five and twenty."

"Just stuff it, Olivia. I promised your mother, god bless her soul, that I'm going to get you married and I'll be damned if I break that promise. I made the mistake of trusting your father the first time around. I'm not going to sit around and wait for you to get betrothed to some silly fortune hunter again or not marry at all," her aunt finished.

"You're not married," Olivia pointed out.

Aunt Mel-Lady Melissa Bentley was a beautiful woman. Even at forty three, she was quite exquisite. She had the same blue eyes as her niece. She was usually cheerful and full of life, bustling about the place. But there was a sadness in her that Olivia had sensed more times than she could count.

"Marriage is not for everyone, my dear girl," she smiled sadly, her eyes taking on a far away look.

Olivia just gazed at her face, wishing her aunt would confide in her. But Aunt Mel had always been very secretive about her reasons for not marrying.

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