Chapter 32

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Edward and Matthew had been searching all night, sifting through old files, papers, books, anything they could imagine possibly holding a clue. They had searched the bank office first, under the blanket of darkness the night provided, not wanting to bring any attention to the prying and digging they were engaged in. Edward knew that a man with plenty of prestige and skeletons to conceal like his father would have eyes and ears everywhere, and Edward didn't want any surprises.

Now, it was early mid-morning, and Edward and Matthew were in his father's personal office at his residence. Edward had dodged the butler's questions with the story that his father had asked him to collect some files that he needed for business. He had felt a twinge of guilt at rifling through all of his father's personal items, knowing that if all of this ended badly, his father would consider him a traitor forever. However, Edward tried to focus on the fact that his father had brought all of this on himself by his dishonorable actions.

"Find anything?" Matthew asked from the bookshelf across the office.

"No, not as of yet," Edward replied, flipping through papers from his father's desk drawer. Matthew had been such a big help, Edward was sure he could've never gotten this far on his own.

The friends fell silent again; the opening of drawers, the rustling of papers, and the snapping of book covers as they closed were the only sounds in the room.

After a few minutes, Edward broke the silence, "I can't thank you enough for helping me with all of this, Matthew. I'm very glad you offered and that Elizabeth and Amelia convinced me that I needed help." He looked around the spacious office and all the furniture holding items to be checked, and added sheepishly, "I never would've made it through all of this in one day by myself."

Matthew grinned at him over his shoulder, "Don't mention it again, old friend. Besides, remember that I have an interest at stake here myself, so don't you start thinking that I have purely unselfish motives for being here." He winked, and Edward chuckled.

"Duly noted," Edward laughed.

"Hey, when you first ran into Miss Montgomery, literally," Matthew began, grinning ridiculously, "that day on the street, did you ever imagine seeing her again?"

Edward laughed, and smiled as he remembered the day in question. He pictured the contempt on Elizabeth's beautiful face as she silently accused him of being a pompous idiot. And she was completely right about him.

"Honestly, my friend, I wanted nothing more than to follow her home, to find out all I could about her, but she rendered me speechless, and all I could do was stand there grinning like a fool as she made her escape. I remember that although she seemed to be timid, her temper flared, and she was hot at me," he grinned at the memory, "I'm quite sure it had everything to do with me acting like an arrogant jerk. But after I lost sight of her, I never thought I'd see her again. You can imagine now that I nearly had an episode of shock when we arrived at the plantation and I saw her descend the stairs in all her glory."

Matthew chuckled, "Yes, I do believe I recall your face turning a greenish, grayish color. Have you considered the fact that your father actually did you a favor, in a way, by sending you there?"

"Ironically, yes, I have. I never would have found Elizabeth again otherwise." Edward paused, his smile reaching his voice, "And have you considered the fact that I did you a favor by dragging you along with me?"

Matthew froze with his hand on a book that he was returning to its place. Edward swore the back of his neck was reddening.

Without turning to meet his friend's eyes, Matthew shrugged, "I'm sure I don't know what you mean..."

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