Chapter 16

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Edward felt utterly defeated. He was still standing before the chair Elizabeth had occupied just minutes before. He had let her go; he knew that she had to make up her own mind about it all. Edward had felt a stabbing pain in his chest when she had looked at him with contempt in her eyes.

What did he really expect would happen? Yes, the embrace with Amelia had been completely innocent, but what if it hadn't been? Had he not set out with other intentions? Edward felt like the biggest fool to have thought that Elizabeth wouldn't notice. And Matthew's response had been completely unexpected. Edward knew now that he should have told his friend everything to begin with.

Edward shook himself from his frozen state and paced the library floor. What would he do if Elizabeth wanted nothing more to do with him? Would his actions send her running into Matthew's arms? How he hoped Amelia could restore her faith in him by explaining exactly what had transpired in the carriage. And what of his friendship with Matthew? Edward would have to give his friend some time to cool off and hopefully then Matthew would listen.

Edward paused and raised a hand, pressing his fingertips to his forehead, and squeezed his eyes shut.

Lord, what if I lose them both because of my foolishness?

After a moment, Edward's eyes snapped open, and an angry glint shone in them. He growled deep in his throat. All of this deception had begun because of his father. True, Edward was to blame for his own actions, but Charles had been the instigator. None of this would have happened if his father had stayed away and kept his nose out of Edward's affairs of the heart. Edward was sick of this manipulation; he decided it was time someone put Charles in his place.

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Elizabeth was sitting in the high-backed reading chair nestled into the corner of her bedroom. She had retired to her room after talking with Edward, and she decided to read in her mother's diary to take her mind off of the events of the day. Elizabeth had sent Jane to ask Amelia to come to Elizabeth's room at her first convenience. She wasn't looking forward to the conversation, but she wanted to get it over with as soon as possible.

Elizabeth settled back into her chair and ran her fingers over the cover of Lydia's diary, feeling the indentions of the gold inlay gracing the front of the book. She gingerly opened the pages and began reading.

March 17, 1847

The most wonderful thing happened at my first ball of the season! I met a dashing young gentleman named Peter Montgomery, and is he ever so handsome! He was somewhat quiet and reserved, but I do believe that was due to the fact that he had not done a great deal of dancing in the past and was perhaps a little nervous. However, he did allow me to engage him in polite conversation, and I learned that his father owns a plantation not far out of town. I do hope to see him again in the future at other engagements; I most definitely enjoyed his company.

I do believe that Charles turned a mite green with envy when he spied me in conversation with Peter! I must admit I laughed at the sight of his face, contorted in a look of surprise, but seeing as we are old family friends, (the Stanton family is quite dear to us!) I think I am allowed to be amused at him.

Poor Charles, he has always been a little loathe to share my attentions with any others- I can remember a time when we were children playing in his father's carriage house and little Johnny and Sarah Higgins happened upon us, and little Sarah began begging me to go indoors to play dolls with her. Sarah was on the verge of convincing me to join her when Charles stepped in between us and ordered Sarah and her brother out of the carriage house, informing them both that they were not invited to play with us.

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