Chapter 7

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Elizabeth ran toward her favorite garden spot as fast as her gown would allow her. How could she be so rude when he was apologizing? She had nearly accused him of pursuing her for her father's property, which was atrocious of her; but she couldn't for the life of her understand why he kept talking to her. He couldn't possibly find her interesting or attractive.

She sank down on the bench where she so often sought the Lord during her quiet times.

This is so confounding... He seems to be genuine when he speaks, but I don't know if I can trust him...he was so haughty that first day I met him. What if he is here to try to marry into Papa's legacy? Please Lord, help me to know the difference between what's real and true, and what is false.

Elizabeth covered her face with her hands as tears slid down her cheeks. She was so afraid of being wanted only for her father's possessions.

Lord, please let it be true, what Aunt Charlotte said. Please let there be a man out there who loves me for who I am.

Soft footsteps sounded to her right, and she quickly wiped at the tears on her face, for she knew to whom the footsteps belonged.

"Elizabeth," Edward's voice was soft, and he knelt before her, "I- I don't know what I've done to offend you, but please believe me, I never meant..." His voice trailed off and she looked at him through the tears in her eyes. He slowly reached out and touched her hand. She trembled at the gentleness of his touch. Oh, how she wanted to believe him...but she was still afraid to.

"Why won't you talk to me?" His voice was barely a whisper, his hand ever so gently stroking hers.

"I..." Elizabeth tried to speak.

I want to talk to you, but I'm afraid of what you make me feel...

She squeezed her eyes shut. "I'm sorry, Edward, I've been terrible." She opened her eyes again and focused on him. His wide blue eyes were full of tenderness, watching her. "It's just...well, I don't converse easily, and...I'm not much used to the company of men...and, I- I haven't given you a fair chance. Can we begin anew, like you said?" The touch of his hand on hers sent tingles up her arm.

Edward gave her a gentle smile and took both of her hands in his. "Yes, let's begin anew." He rose to his feet and held out a hand to her, "Shall we return to the terrace?"

She nodded, smiled at him, and took his hand. He helped her up, then tucked her hand under his elbow and led her back to the terrace.

Elizabeth marveled at the way he excused her awful behavior as if it hadn't happened. Perhaps she truly had misjudged him. They walked in silence until they reached the top of the steps leading up the terrace. She was very aware of his presence beside her, and the feel of his strong arm under her hand.

"Would you prefer to return to the parlor? It's a little cool out tonight." Edward asked politely. She could feel his eyes watching her closely.

"No, let's stay a little while longer. I love it out here." Elizabeth pointed to a pair of wooden outdoor chairs. "Shall we sit and talk?"

Edward grinned. "I'd love to."

The two made their way over to the chairs and settled back, taking in the view of the garden as dusk settled over the place where the sun's last beams had just disappeared.

"How did you like the horseback ride today?" Elizabeth asked.

"It was amazing. The countryside is so beautiful and relaxing. Your father is a great man. I can see that he loves his family and home, and takes great pride in both."

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