Chapter 15

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After helping Amelia down from the runabout carriage and seeing her into the house, Edward looked about for Elizabeth. He was sure that she and Matthew couldn't have been back long, for the carriage they had used was still parked out front. Edward was just about to enter the house through the front door to inquire about Elizabeth when he spied Matthew exiting the outer door of the library. It appeared that Matthew was headed down the pathway which wound around the house and toward the gardens.

Edward hadn't planned on talking to Matthew just yet, but he figured now was as good as any. He headed swiftly down the pathway after Matthew, trying to catch him up. Matthew was nearly to the garden entrance when Edward had almost closed the distance between them. He let Matthew enter the garden before calling out; Edward thought it better to have this conversation away from the house and prying eyes and ears, anyway.

"Matthew, hold on there, I want to talk to you."

Matthew stopped mid step and froze for a moment before slowly turning around. Edward jogged the last few steps to close the gap, and noticed as he came to a stop that his friend wasn't in a good humor.

"Matthew, why the long face? Did you and Elizabeth not have a nice ride?" Panic rose up in Edward's chest at the thought of Elizabeth. "Is she not well?"

Matthew glared at Edward, his mouth set in a line. "So now you're concerned for her well being? You didn't seem to care when you asked to accompany Amelia instead of her."

"What are you talking about? You had already asked Elizabeth when I arrived. And don't you dare say that you didn't know I've been attached to her these past days." Edward tried to keep his voice calm.

Matthew clenched his fists at his sides. "How do you dare to explain Amelia wrapped in your arms earlier? Oh yes, you were very concerned for Elizabeth then, weren't you?"

Edward stared back at Matthew as the realization dawned on him. Matthew must have mistaken his pause for guilt, for he continued berating him.

"How could you be so thoughtless toward her? I knew you were a flirt, but this is despicable of you, Edward. They're sisters; do you really think you can have them both? And I suppose you just expect me to stand aside and let you have your pick?" Matthew's eyes blazed.

Anger surged through Edward. "That embrace wasn't what you think it was. There's so much you don't know about. I love Elizabeth, that's what I came to tell you."

"You sure have a horrific way of showing it. Since you have ruined my chances with Amelia, I hope you're up for a little competition for Elizabeth. You sure don't deserve her." Matthew glared at him hatefully and crossed his arms over his chest. "You're lucky I don't deck you right now."

Edward narrowed his eyes at Matthew. "You wouldn't dare. And if you don't stay away from Elizabeth, you will wish that you hadn't crossed me."

Matthew sneered at him, "Yes, now your true character shows itself; you're a deceiver and a bully just like your father, and I'll have nothing more to do with either of you." Matthew turned and stomped angrily toward the manor.

Edward stood still, watching Matthew's retreating form, feeling as if he had just been slapped across the face. Matthew knew how much he despised his father's unmoral behavior, and yet Matthew had chosen to compare him to Charles.

In his jealousy over Elizabeth, Edward had lost his temper when Matthew had suggested he was not worthy of her affections; not to mention the implied challenge Matthew had issued. Edward was grieved over the argument with his friend; he could see how things must have looked to Matthew, but he hadn't let Edward explain everything that had happened.

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