Chapter 6

31.2K 1.2K 70

Elizabeth sat in the library alone trying to read her Jules Verne book, but her mind would not let her concentrate. Two days had passed since Mr. Stanton and Mr. Callaway had arrived, and her life had been upside-down ever since.

Mr. Stanton seemed to follow her every move whenever he was near. He constantly tried to converse with her, which puzzled her to no end. She barely spoke to him and excused herself whenever possible, and yet, still he approached her repeatedly. She just couldn't understand why he would try so hard when she gave him nothing in return, unless...he had ulterior motives. Elizabeth kept expecting that he would quickly lose interest like all the others had.

But if she was honest with herself, her resolve was weakening. It was becoming harder and harder to escape his presence. She sometimes found herself frozen by his gaze, those brilliant blue eyes drawing her in.

Thankfully, this afternoon she was free and clear of dodging his advances. Papa had taken him and Mr. Callaway out for a horseback ride through the countryside.

Elizabeth heard the door to the library creak open. Amelia stuck her head in and looked around before spotting her sister.

"Elizabeth, here you are, reading again, I see." Amelia made her way over to where Elizabeth was sitting with her book in her lap. "Jane has drawn us each a bath so we can wash before dinner. I'm going to wear my green silk gown tonight!" Amelia beamed.

Elizabeth looked at her sister with amusement. Amelia was definitely in her element, she would no doubt be an amazing mistress and hostess of her own home someday. She was so young and carefree; rarely had a negative or unexpressed thought. She glowed with happiness and excitement, just like Lydia had. Elizabeth envied her sister in so many ways.

"Amelia, can I ask you something? What is your opinion of Mr. Stanton and Mr. Callaway?" Elizabeth watched her sister carefully.

Amelia lowered herself into the chair facing Elizabeth and softened her voice as if she had a huge secret to share with her sister. "Oh, they are both very handsome, to be sure! Mr. Callaway is quite witty and humorous. I believe him to be very trustworthy. He can chat on for hours on end, and he's a good bridge player. Mr. Stanton is much quieter, but he's very intelligent and knowledgeable. He's very kind and funny, as well, and has impeccable manners. I like them both very much!"

Elizabeth considered her sisters words. Perhaps Amelia was not as immature as she sometimes appeared. Elizabeth was not much surprised by her sister's assessment of the two men; she perceived that it was a very honest and likely accurate opinion.

I'm sure I would have noticed as much about them as well, had I not been acting so selfishly.

Elizabeth decided to ask one more question to see what else her sister had noticed. "Amelia, I don't know if you've noticed, but, well, Mr. Stanton seems to be rather, I mean to say, he tries to talk to me quite a lot. Why do think that is, when I'm so quiet in return?"

"It's because he likes you, silly!" Amelia's face lit up in a big smile. "Yes, he likes you quite a lot. Aunt Charlotte even said so."

Elizabeth blushed at her sister's words. "No, surely not. You're both mistaken..."

Why would a handsome man like Mr. Stanton be interested in me? Again, the thought of the possibility of his interest in a profitable marriage crossed her mind.

Amelia jumped as the grandfather clock chimed four o'clock. "Oh, Lizzie! We must go, it's time to bathe and dress for dinner!"

"Yes, of course. Jane is expecting us." Elizabeth walked beside her sister. "Amelia, you will look positively radiant in that green silk! How should I have Jane dress my hair?"

Elizabeth smiled to herself as Amelia rattled on about hairstyles and fashion. Perhaps it would be okay to be excited about dressing for dinner. Just this once.

-------------------------------------

Edward was only half listening as Matthew entertained everyone at the dining table with stories of the outing that had taken place earlier that afternoon. Mr. Montgomery had taken Edward and Matthew for a scenic horseback ride around his plantation and surrounding countryside. It had been a beautiful day, and a magnificent view as well. On top of that, Edward had gained respect for Mr. Montgomery and liked his laid back personality a great deal.

I wish I knew why Elizabeth avoids me at every opportunity. I would think that she's not interested in me, except for one thing...her eyes reveal much more than she would like them to.

As the meal wound down, everyone stood and prepared to gather again in the parlor. Matthew offered his arm to Amelia, who took it happily, and they moved toward the hallway. Mr. Montgomery and Mrs. Gray fell in behind them, and Edward was about to approach Elizabeth and ask to escort her again, when he noticed her quietly slipping away toward the door to the terrace. Edward hung back, waiting for the others to proceed toward the parlor, before following her.

He opened the door and stepped out into the evening air. It had cooled off considerably since the sun had begun its descent. The terrace was raised, with stone steps descending to the gardens. The faint sound of gushing water caught his attention, and he noticed a large fountain, with water dancing high in the distance. It was a beautiful view; he could see why Elizabeth had slipped outside.

Edward saw her standing at the railing of the terrace, looking out over the gardens, the setting sun casting a glow over her hair. He approached her slowly and stood a few feet away at the railing.

"May I keep you company?" He said, turning toward her.

Elizabeth glanced sideways at him. "Yes, of course," she said quietly.

"I'm in awe of the beauty of this place. Your father has built quite an establishment here."

Elizabeth visibly bristled before saying, "Yes, he has worked very hard for many years." She grew quiet, and Edward wondered why she regarded him so tersely.

Lord, what can I say to cause her to talk to me?

Edward felt the response in his spirit, My Son, it's not as much in what you say as in what you do.

Edward considered what the Lord had put on his heart. It will take time and action to show her who I am and what I feel toward her. Maybe she needs time to trust...

They stood in silence for a few long seconds; then Edward decided to take a chance at a more personal conversation, hoping that it would not cause her to clam up even further.

"Miss Montgomery, I want to apologize to you for the way I acted toward you on the street that day in Richmond. I, well, I hope that we could begin anew. If you will accept my humble apologies, that is." Edward willed her to forgive him.

Elizabeth turned toward him and seemed to consider his words. She gazed at him with wonder in her eyes, and for a moment, Edward felt sure that she would shun him and turn away.

Finally, she spoke. "I do forgive you, Mr. Stanton, if you'll forgive me as well. I- I overreacted." She turned her eyes downward and said quietly, "Although, I don't know what you hope to gain by apologizing to me."

Edward was taken aback at her brazen statement. "I- I'm sure I don't know what you mean-"

Her face crumpled. "I shouldn't have... Please forgive me!" She covered her face with her hands and turned to leave, hurrying away before he could stop her. She scurried down the steps to the garden.

"Wait!" Edward called out after her, "Miss Montgomery, please come back!"

An Unexpected LoveRead this story for FREE!