Chapter 43

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Edward and Elizabeth spent the afternoon together in the library, talking and laughing, sometimes reading together, sometimes entertaining who ever happened to stop in to chat with them. They even played a game of chess, although Edward found it quite difficult to keep his attention on the game with such a lovely woman sitting across from him. At one point, Matthew and Miss Amelia had joined them for a little while before heading out of doors arm in arm to take a stroll together in the gardens.

Shortly after the two had left the room, Elizabeth looked at him from the opposite end of the settee they occupied and said, "I do believe those two are becoming rather attached," hiding a grin behind her hand.

His eyes beheld her for a lingering moment; she was more radiant than he had ever seen her, a rosy blush to her cheeks, a twinkling to her eyes, her soft lips curved into a becoming smile. Edward hadn't felt so lighthearted in days; in some of the moments of laughter with Elizabeth, he felt as though they had never been anything but this, carefree and in love with one another.

"Yes, I believe you're right, my dear. If we're not careful, they may zip right by us on the way to the altar." He feigned a serious face, raising an eyebrow.

Elizabeth gasped, "Oh Edward, they aren't that far along as of yet."

"One never knows, darling," he leveled a smoldering gaze on her. "Love does strange things to one, does it not?"

Her eyes widened and she glanced away from him, her cheeks flushing, a smile creeping across her face. He reached out and gently brushed his fingers across her cheek and down the side of her neck. Edward noticed her visibly shiver at his touch, which made him want to slide over near her and take her into his arms. But he resisted.

Being near her was intoxicating, it was difficult to keep an appropriate distance between them, yet there was no place on God's green earth he would rather be than in the same room as her, even if he could not touch her at all.

Edward remembered the churning of his stomach as his nerves had taken over his body in the moment just before he had burst into her bed chamber earlier. It was insanity, he knew; but he'd had no other choice. Even though he had begun to understand the reasons for her distance, still, in the aftermath of all she had been through, he had been terrified that he would be unable to convince her that they belonged together. Yes, she had tried earnestly to resist him, but as she had squeezed her eyes shut in an obvious effort to stave off her rising emotions, he had seized his opportunity. Edward had known he was successful in causing her to submit to her feelings for him when her arms slid around his neck and she held to him. Grinning at the memory, he fixed his gaze on her feminine form, thankful that they had been able to restore confidence in their relationship. Everything else felt like minor details at this point.

The door to the library opened, and Mr. Montgomery entered the room.

"Hello, Papa," Elizabeth said in her musical voice.

Mr. Montgomery's eyes rested on Elizabeth in surprise. "Elizabeth, my dear, you must be feeling better. Hello, Edward," he nodded.

Edward inclined his head toward Mr. Montgomery. "Hello, sir."

Elizabeth glanced over at Edward and smiled, "Yes, Papa, I'm feeling much better now, thank you."

Edward's heart leapt in his chest, and he grinned back at her.

Elizabeth's father came near to her, and bent to kiss her cheek. "I'm delighted to hear that, daughter." He took a seat in the chair adjacent to her.

"Edward, I came to talk to you about your father. How is his recovery coming?" Genuine concern crossed Mr. Montgomery's features.

"Well, sir, I saw him this morning, and he is well considering his condition. I believe his arm will be bound for a few weeks, to help secure the shoulder joint and prevent further separation. He sleeps a lot due to the laudanum, but I believe he is quite sore, however."

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