Chapter 42

14.5K 672 83

Elizabeth sat in the chair she reserved for reading in her bed chamber; it was nestled into a nook of bay windows with a small, round wooden side table as a companion. It was early afternoon; Aunt Charlotte and Amelia had helped her to complete her toilette and dressed her in a simple dressing gown. The exertion it had required left her feeling drained, and after Papa had been in to see about her condition, she had asked them to leave her for some quiet time alone to rest.

She leaned into the chair-back slowly, feeling every tender spot as her body protested, and gazed out of the window, which overlooked the gardens behind the plantation house. Beautiful blooms and vivid colors met her eyes, but she didn't truly see any of it.

Edward's handsome face occupied her mind's eye; she thought about the many times he'd inquired of her family about her health, the several times he had asked to visit her or speak to her since this morning. Each time she had told Aunt Charlotte or Amelia to turn him away, the ache in her heart increased, until her chest pained her to draw breath.

She thought about the time they had spent together in the few weeks they had known each other; in retrospect they seemed altogether too short. She remembered the tender way Edward had pursued her and knelt before her in the garden, the way he had laughed and teased her while they were horseback riding, the look of desire in his eyes when he had combed his fingers through her loose hair. She shivered and squeezed her eyes shut as she thought of the way he held her in his arms as he kissed her lips.

Her dear Edward...she was sure he must be agonizing, wondering why she would not speak to him, and yet, if he knew what it was she was going to say to him, he would cease to hurry to her side.

Elizabeth had finally decided she would speak to Edward after the evening meal, she felt sure she could manage to leave her room for a short while. She pressed her hand to her forehead as she went over in her mind once more the words she must say. Her chin began to tremble; she reminded herself why she had to say good-bye to Edward, her dear, sweet Edward...

Assuredly, this was the only way to relieve Papa from the pressure of Mr. Stanton's demands, even though she hoped that her father would not dare to let him have his way, she couldn't be sure. Besides, who could say that her father would still agree to let her marry Edward anyhow, after what Mr. Stanton had done, he might throw them all out of the house.

And her dear, sweet sister...Amelia had said that she would never agree to marriage to Edward, but in truth, she had little say in the matter if Papa and Mr. Stanton were to come to an agreement. However, in light of everything which had transpired, Mr. Stanton was no longer in a position to require anything of the Montgomery family, and she hoped that Mr. Stanton would retreat without a fuss if she denied Edward and his proposal; she had determined to make sure of it.

Elizabeth squeezed her eyes shut; silent tears sliding down her cheeks.

Blast Mr. Stanton and all his destruction... Why...why wouldn't You change his heart Lord? Isn't that what You would have wanted for him? Instead, You ask me to deny my heart?

A sharp rap sounded on the bed chamber door, startling Elizabeth, jolting her from her thoughts.

"Elizabeth? Are you decent?" A familiar voice spoke through the door.

She whirled her head toward the door. Edward...

"I... Uh, well..." Elizabeth stuttered, seemingly unable to speak.

No, not now... I can't... I'm not ready for this...

"Elizabeth, I'm coming in." The door knob turned.

No, Edward. Go away, please... Try as she may, she could not seem to make her lips move, or her tongue to speak.

The door burst open, and before she could respond, Edward rushed forward, kneeling beside her chair, gently grasping her hand.

An Unexpected LoveRead this story for FREE!