Chapter 19

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Edward retreated from where Elizabeth sat with his father feeling like a chastened child. What she was doing sitting there with his father, chatting like old friends, was well beyond him. She had asked Charles to escort her to the parlor; he had heard her with his own ears. Edward had no idea what she was up to, but he hoped that she wasn't going to question his father about what he was doing here. If she asked too many questions, Charles was likely to explode.

He'd been trying to save Elizabeth from his father's wrath; she had no idea what Charles was really like. It wouldn't matter to Charles that she's a female or that he's a guest in her father's house if she agitated him; however, Edward decided there was little Charles could really do to harm Elizabeth here in the parlor with the others around. Elizabeth's eyes had pleaded with him to leave; it was the only reason he'd withdrawn himself from the conversation.

Her rejection still smarted. Edward was anxious to speak with her, to find out if her feelings for him had changed. He prayed that her discussion with Amelia had eased her fears and restored her opinion of him; however, Matthew's vexing behavior was surely causing her confusion. He needed to settle that problem before he could try to make it up with Elizabeth.

Edward decided that it was well beyond time to talk with Matthew about this whole ugly mess. He spotted Matthew speaking with Peter across the room, near the window, and made his way toward them.

As he approached, Peter turned toward him with a smile. "Edward, would you care to join in on our discussion of current events?"

"Pardon me, Mr. Montgomery, but perhaps another time. Matthew, may I please have a word with you in private?" Edward tried to keep his expression open and friendly.

Peter glanced between the two young men and nodded. "Go ahead, Matthew. We can continue our discussion later, if you like."

Matthew stared back at Edward as though he was thinking of a sarcastic retort, but finally he sighed and conceded. "Alright, then," his voice sounded pinched.

Edward led the way out through the doors leading to the terrace. There were still a few rays of sunlight glowing slightly, given the days were lengthening slowly. He stopped near the railing, not far from where he had stood with Elizabeth on that sweet evening not long ago. Matthew stood a few feet away, his arms crossed over his chest, waiting.

Edward sighed, "Matthew, my friend, I'm sorry. I don't want to argue with you." Edward looked down at the stone terrace floor, scuffing the toe of his dress shoe across the rough surface. "This whole situation is a complete disaster. I realize I should have told you everything from the start."

Matthew eyed him warily, "What exactly are you talking about?"

Edward blew out a breath. "My father demanded for me to come here so that I could, uh, convince Amelia to marry me," Edward looked at his friend sheepishly.

Matthew narrowed his eyes and began angrily, "So you were trying to win over Amelia today!"

Edward put a hand out in the air. "Wait, that's not the whole story. Amelia is wonderful and charming, but Elizabeth is the one I want. See, I had an accidental run-in with Elizabeth one day in town awhile before we came here. I didn't know who she was, until we arrived here; and well, since then..." Edward's cheeks flushed and his voice trailed off.

"You fell in love with her." Matthew's face softened and he stared down at his shoes.

Edward nodded. "I had plans to ask her father if I could court her when my father showed up here. He's completely obsessed with me marrying Amelia for some strange reason. Somehow he knew of my feelings for Elizabeth and he threatened to cut me off if I didn't leave off pursuing her. I was afraid of him and for a moment, I entertained trying to be friendly to Amelia long enough to convince him to go back home, but I discovered in the carriage today that I just couldn't do it."

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