Chapter 29

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"Edward, please, you don't have to do this." Elizabeth gripped his arms with an iron grasp, terrified to let him go into the city alone, and at night.

The others quietly milled around the room in the back ground, talking of the unbelievable events, voicing questions and opinions. Fear gripped her tightly, wrapping around her middle, crushing the air from her chest.

Edward gently peeled her fingers off of his arms and took her by the shoulders, rubbing his hands up and down her arms. He looked her in the eye and lowered his voice, "My dear Elizabeth, I must do this; it is the only way our families will ever have any peace of mind. I've got to find something concrete in order to stop my father, and I think I can. You have to trust me; I will take care of this."

"But..." she barely whispered. She felt deflated. Elizabeth knew that he was right, but she couldn't lose him. It felt like her mother leaving all over again.

Lord, how can I just let him go? What if... What if he doesn't come back?

Elizabeth dropped her head, fiercely attempting to hold back her tears. "I know... I, I don't want you to go, but I understand." She looked up, her eyes pleading with him, "Please, at least take someone with you."

Matthew clapped a hand onto Edward's shoulder. "Pardon me, Edward. I'll go with you my friend. It's the least I can do to help."

Edward shook his head at Matthew. "No, I think you should stay here, my absence will be less noticeable than if we both leave. My father cannot suspect or know what I am doing, he needs to stay here, or he will surely cause trouble for me."

"But won't it be even more suspicious if you go alone?" Amelia asked. "Your father might suspect you're up to something if you just leave, but if the both of you go, well, we can come up with a story to tell him. Even better, we can let him think that the two of you have gone to Mr. Callaway's home, and he won't even think otherwise. That should give you tonight and all of tomorrow, at least."

Matthew nodded, and Edward seemed to consider the idea.

"Yes. Yes, Edward. Amelia's plan makes sense," Elizabeth pleaded. "And knowing that Mr. Callaway is with you is the only way I'll be comforted."

Edward nodded in agreement, "Alright, then. This is what we'll do. But, I don't exactly favor leaving all of you here with my father. There's no telling what he's got up his sleeve."

Peter spoke up from behind his desk, "Don't worry, Edward. I will take extra precautions."

"Good," Edward nodded. "And my father cannot know of my forthcoming engagement to Miss Montgomery. Until we have leverage, he must think that I am in pursuit of Miss Amelia. We don't want to set him off, not when we're so close."

"Quite right," Peter replied.

Amelia snickered, "Don't you worry about that, Mr. Stanton. I will be sure to talk about you plenty around your father. Come to think of it, I do believe this will be rather fun!" She laughed girlishly.

Edward raised an eyebrow as Elizabeth reached out and lightly shoved her sister's shoulder. "Amelia," she hissed.

"What? If this is to work, we can't very well sit around all day rigidly, acting as though the elder Mr. Stanton is an elephant in the room, the very thing that we cannot notice or speak of."

Aunt Charlotte hid a grin behind her hand. "I'm afraid she has a point there. We all have to act as though Mr. Stanton is not the cad we know him to be."

"Yes, and, since we have to do this, why not make it just a little bit entertaining? Besides, it's all at Mr. Stanton's expense, he just doesn't know it," Amelia twisted her mouth with a hint of sass and crossed her arms matter-of-factly.

Matthew chuckled. "That's my girl," he said under his breath, grinning at Amelia. She beamed back at him.

Peter cleared his throat, "Yes, well, let's not get out of hand, Amelia, dear. Don't do anything over-dramatic. Now, if you ladies will excuse us," Peter gestured toward the door, waving them out, "Edward, I think it's about time we question Thomas."

Edward nodded. "Yes, let's get on with it," he glanced over at his friend, "Afterward, Matthew and I need to prepare for our departure tonight."

Aunt Charlotte and Amelia had already made their way out of the office, but Elizabeth stopped in the doorway, listening to the last statement, watching Edward. She couldn't help herself, couldn't tear her eyes away.

Only this morning we were swept away in a sea of delight together; and tonight he will rush off on a dangerous mission...

Edward caught sight of her frozen in the doorway. He glanced over at her father, "Excuse me just a moment," he murmured.

He crossed the room in quick strides, stopping just inches from her. Elizabeth's heart lurched as he placed his hand on the side of her neck.

"I know you're frightened," his voice was low, almost a whisper, "but we're all going to be alright, Elizabeth. You must have faith in God; He is shining His light in the dark places."

Edward's thumb brushed softly over her skin, and she nearly catapulted into his arms as her emotions overflowed. Instead, she released a soft sigh.

"I know you are right," she whispered, closing her eyes.

I just don't want to be away from you.

Edward leaned down and kissed her softly on the cheek. "We will talk more later on. Your father needs me now."

She nodded, breathing deeply. "Thank you for helping him, I know it means so much to him."

Edward flashed a brilliant smile at her. "The pleasure is all mine, darling."

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Edward waited on the terrace; he had already taken his belongings down to the stable for the stable hands to pack into his saddlebag. He prayed that he'd be able to find something, anything, to use to quiet his father. Edward knew he'd have to work fast, he wouldn't have much time.

His father had returned from the city uneventfully, and Edward wasn't sure if he had been up to anything sinister, but thankfully, he didn't appear to suspect any difference in the lot of them.

They'd all been very careful to wait a long while after his father had retired to his room to make any moves. He and Matthew had packed their items earlier in the afternoon and stashed them in the pantry off of the kitchen. Matthew and Amelia had taken their goodbyes earlier in the parlor; afterward Amelia had retired with Charlotte. Elizabeth had asked to meet him outside on the terrace before he took his leave, and Matthew had gone ahead to the stables to wait, giving him time with Elizabeth.

Edward's thoughts turned to the earlier meeting with Peter's butler, Thomas Briggs. Nothing fruitful had actually come from the meeting, other than the fact that Thomas had claimed to know nothing of the letter or from whence it came. Thomas seemed to be fairly confident that none of the servants working at the plantation back then would have done such a thing, and he confirmed that no emergency of any sort had gone on around that time.

Neither Peter nor he had thought about it, but, Thomas had offered to draft a sample of his handwriting for comparison, and it was clearly not the same writing. Of course, that didn't completely clear Thomas by default, but Edward had a gut feeling that the man was telling the truth.

Now, Edward knew what he had earlier suspected deep within his heart - if Thomas truly didn't write that note, and it was not drafted out of any truth, but only deception, then Edward had to consider the fact that his father could be involved. And he needed to find proof, proof to either condemn or free his father from these allegations. If his father was indeed innocent of this particular deception, then Edward must find something else.

Incidentally, Edward had been sure to tell Mr. Montgomery to place the note in question in a very secure place.

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Hello again!

I managed to get quite a bit of writing in yesterday, and thus, here is another update! :)

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