Enchanted by a Lady'sImperfections
Spring, London, 1811.
Helena tiptoed to the door of her mother’s room, and stood there quietly, listening outside it. The primrose nightdress she had on complimented her fair skin. Her golden blonde tresses tumbled about her face, and her grey, round eyes were lit with curiosity. Helena was slender, with her curves in all the right places.
Helena pushed her ears into the hard surface. She wondered why the physician had been summoned so late at night. Her mother had been ill for two months, and during that period, the physician had told her and her father, the Duke of Maridale, that there was next to nothing he could do regarding her illness. It was strange that he had returned after two months.
It was supposed to have been her Season, but sadly, things hadn’t gone according to the plan. Helena was set to make her debut when her mother, the duchess, suddenly became very ill. Unfortunately, that foiled her plans to debut, and Helena spent the Season reading to and caring for her mother. She had no intention of debuting when her mother, who was her closest companion, was ill. Helena loved her mother to the moon and back, and the feeling was mutual.
“My sincere apologies, Your Grace. I’m afraid the duchess has passed on.”
Helena felt a sudden chill rush from her head all the way down to her feet. She shivered and froze where she stood. Perhaps she hadn’t heard correctly and she was imagining things. Surely, it must be the worry which kept her up at night that was making her delusional.
“Are you sure?” Helena heard her father ask. “Please, check her again. It can’t be.”
“I am so sorry for your loss, Your Grace.”
The room began to spin. Helena could feel her heart beating in her mouth. What was she going to do without her mother? How was she meant to navigate the world without her? No, it couldn’t be. She needed to see for herself. Helena tried to reach for the door handle, but she couldn’t lift her arm properly. She was beginning to sway from side to side as her vision blurred.
Just then, the door opened, and the physician stood in front of her.
“Lady Helena,” he said in surprise.
Victor, the duke, gasped. “Helena!”
His voice was the last thing Helena heard before her head fell back and her entire body started the journey to the ground. A tear trickled down her face as she slumped. Helena felt her body hit the wooden floor, and she heard faint, muffled voices before she drifted far from reality. When Helena woke up the next morning, she just knew things would never be the same from then on.
A year later, Helena’s prediction proved to have been spot on. She sat in her mother’s room, reminiscing about how things had been a year ago. Not only had Helena’s countenance changed, but she had been driven to a state of depression, and she had put on a few pounds. If someone had seen her in early spring last year and come back a year later, they wouldn’t recognize her.
Helena was plump, depressed, and unable to think highly of herself. She couldn’t explain how the change had happened. It just had, after she had lost the only person in the world with whom she had such a strong, special bond.
“I just knew I would find you here.”
Helena jumped from the bed and swiftly turned around. She paid a polite curtsey to her father, and kept her eyes to the ground.
“Good morning, Father,” she said weakly. “I trust you had a good night.”
“Why are you here, Helena?” he demanded. “Are you ever going to move on with your life?”
Victor had never quite understood why she’d changed so much. Since he had been able to get over the loss of his wife quickly, he expected his daughter to do the same.
“You are debuting this Season, but you don’t look the slightest bit prepared,” he said. “You’ve gained so much weight, you barely talk, and you cry so much it irks me.”
“I’m sorry, Father,” Helena apologized.
“Don’t be sorry, be better. Since your mother died, you’ve changed so much. You refuse to go out in public, you are lazy around the house, lying in bed all day long. At the slightest inconvenience, you panic and start shaking like a leaf.”
“I’ll try to be better,” Helena sobbed.
“Oh, come on! Don’t tell me you’re crying again.”
“I’m not,” Helena denied, clearly on the verge of tears.
Victor stood with his arms akimbo, a disappointed look on his face. He stormed out of the room, muttering to himself.
Helena crashed onto the bed, crying. It wasn’t that she wanted to be this way; she just couldn’t help it. She couldn’t control it. There was a hole in her heart that nothing seemed to be able to fill, not even food. Helena was lonely, but she wasn’t ready to try to socialize, and she was surely not ready for the Season. Her mother had promised to tell her everything she needed to know about the balls, and the gentlemen, and the dancing. But they’d never had the chance to talk about any of it. Not only was it the commencement of the London Season, but it was also the anniversary of the duchess’ death. How was she expected to put on a smile and enjoy the Season when her entire being missed someone so dearly?
Unable to walk out of the room, scared she might run into her father and he would see her crying, Helena curled up into the bed instead. She shut her eyes, trying to think happy thoughts to distract her from her misery. If she wanted to lead a normal life and make her father proud, then she knew she must learn how to move on. It was paramount for her future.
“What do I do, Mother?” Helena whispered, sobbing. “How do I fix this?”
The sun seemed unusually bright that morning. It had rained most of the night, hence Helena thought the sun would at least take a break from casting its harsh rays over the Earth. It had been a long, cleansing rain, one that took with it the oppressive humidity and replaced it with cool, soothing air. Helena took a deep, calming breath prepared to have breakfast.
It was the start of the Season. Her Aunt Eliza and cousins Eric and Phoebe had come from Bath for the London Season. Eliza Bramshire was Victor’s youngest sister and the Dowager Viscountess of Bramshire. Helena loved her aunt and her cousins dearly and always looked forward to their visit every year. She didn’t have to be alone in the house with her father when they were in London for the Season.
Helena turned to see Juliet, her maid standing at the door. “Is it time for breakfast?”
Helena rose to her feet and sighed. Her legs felt leaden as she walked out of her bedchamber, making her way to the breakfast room. It was the start of the Season, the third since her mother, the duchess, had passed away. Helena knew her father was going to be on edge. She had already gone two Seasons without a match. Victor didn’t fail to voice his disappointment every time he had the chance.
He had asked for the family to gather for breakfast; that meant he had something to say to them, or perhaps something to say specifically to Helena. Her father wasn’t a very patient man, and he knew how nervous she became at the start of every London Season after her mother died.
What bothered Helena was that her father didn’t understand her situation. For the last two Seasons, Helena had suffered ridicule for being plump. She’d been aware of so many demeaning stares, subtle comments, and laughs. Helena already hated the London Season, and the ridicule just made it worse. Her father blamed her for her extra weight. He claimed she’d let herself go and given up on life when her mother passed away. Victor wasn’t wrong, but it hurt that she couldn’t seem to please her father.
“Good morning, Father.” Helena curtsied to him.
He was the only one seated at the table. Victor didn’t lift his head. “Good morning, Helena. Please sit while we await your aunt and cousins.”
Helena took her seat at the end of the table. She sighed and stared at her cup of tea. The silence was very familiar, so it wasn’t too uncomfortable. Victor sat at the head of the table engrossed in the book in his hand and holding a cup of tea in the other.
The chorus followed Eliza and her children as they entered the dining room paying their respects to the duke. Helena rose and greeted her aunt, and her cousins too, before they all settled down around the table. Food was served, comprising of toast and butter, marmalade, and plenty of hot tea. Helena’s favourite plum cake sat in the middle of the table, but she hesitated to reach for it; Victor had advised her to eat as little as possible in preparation for the London Season.
“Oh, my darling, Helena,’’ Eliza beamed. “You look as marvellous as ever.’’
Helena smiled, flattered by the compliment. “Thank you, Aunty. You look very well too.’’
Helena’s Aunt Eliza was the most cheerful person Helena had ever met. She was almost double Helena’s size, very plump, with chubby cheeks. Eliza loved flowery dresses, and she wore them all the time. The manner in which she dressed matched her attitude—bubbly and full of life.
“Helena, has your father informed you that he has increased your dowry?’’ Eliza asked. “He must be very eager to find a match for you.”
Helena glanced at her father, who remained unfazed. She was sure he had only done such a thing for his own personal interest. With each successive Season, Victor had added to her dowry for the sole purpose of attracting a son-in-law who would bring good business connections.
“Helena,” Victor finally spoke. “It is imperative you find a match this Season. You cannot fail.’’
“Oh, don’t be like that, Victor,’’ Eliza chimed in. “Don’t put pressure on the poor girl. Helena, I’m sure the perfect gentleman is out there waiting for you. You don’t have to worry about a thing.’’
“Then he’d better appear soon,” Victor said under his breath. “I’m beginning to lose my patience.’’
It was times like this that Helena wished she had a better relationship with her father. There were times when she felt he perceived her merely as a burden. She could count on her fingers the number of times her father had looked her in the eyes. Perhaps if she was able to find a match during the coming Season then her father might be more affectionate to her.
“Helena, Mother’s musical evening is coming up next month, and I’m sure it’s going to be amazing,” Phoebe gushed, changing the subject.
Phoebe was Eliza’s youngest child; she was supposed to have been having her debut that Season, but she had insisted on waiting till she turned eighteen. She had her mother’s cheerful attitude, except it was encased in a far more slender body.
“That’s good news, Aunt Eliza,” Helena said. “I’ll look forward to it.”
“You know it’s not too late to be a part of the musicale,” Eliza noted.
Helena wanted to say no outright to the suggestion, but she refrained. If she blurted it aloud, then they’d all be curious to know the reason. In truth, Helena did not fancy the attention participating in the musicale would draw, and especially not performing before a large group of people. She couldn’t even imagine doing it; there was already enough for her to worry about.
“You flatter me, Aunt Eliza,” was all Helena could say.
“Come on, Helena,” Phoebe chimed in, trying to persuade her. “It will be magnificent! There will be a lot of people listening to you play. You’ll be very popular,”
“I think I’ll just focus on the Season itself,” Helena said, stirring her tea.
“Nonsense,” Victor said and dropped his book on the table. “You will be a part of the musicale. I think it’s time you show off your talent to the world. I spent a fortune on your pianoforte lessons.”
“It will be fun, Helena,” Eric chimed in. “You won’t be the only one up on the stage.”
Eric was Viscount Bramshire. He had a sturdy build, and honey-coloured hair. His face was square-shaped, with a pointy nose, and mutton chop sideburns. When his father had passed away six years ago, he was saddled with the responsibilities that came with the title. Helena was close to him, and they talked when he had the time to spare. However, she didn’t think she knew him well enough to judge his character completely accurately. Eric was always quiet, and even when the family came from Bath to London once a year, he was never around much.
“I won’t take no for an answer,” Victor continued, picking up his book. “It’s settled. You will take part in Eliza’s musicale. Hopefully, it will help improve your reputation for accomplishment.”
Helena diverted her eyes to her food and continued eating without saying a word. It was not the time to argue with her father’s decision, especially not in front of other people. As much as she disliked the idea of performing in a musicale, she didn’t want to step on her father’s toes.
“Oh, before I forget,” Eliza said, clearing her throat. “Helena, we’re going to see Juliet, the modiste, after breakfast. She needs to see you for your final fittings.”
“You look very beautiful in this dress, Lady Helena,” Sara, the assistant modiste said.
Helena stood in front of the looking glass and let out a long sigh. Any other young lady would look confident in the lovely dress she was wearing; a high-waisted pale-blue gown. The sheer cotton fabric was lightly embroidered with silk thread, the square neckline and the puffed sleeves edged with lace and tiny pearls, with an overdress of fine muslin in a toning colour.
Helena loved the dress, and she knew the colour suited her beautifully. But over the last two years, Helena had been cruelly humbled by Society. A dress she thought looked exquisite on her was bound to be deemed ‘more suitable for her size’ by the ladies of the ton.
“The dress is beautiful, Sara. Thank you,” Helen said.
“I am not only talking about the dress. You look beautiful. This Season will be your best one yet, I’m sure of it. You’re going to find a gentleman who will sweep you off your feet.”
Helena dropped her head, tired of looking at her own reflection. “Hopefully. In truth, as the days go by, my optimism wanes.”
“That’s all right,” Sara told her. “I’m glad to see how well you look this Season. It’s the most cheerful I’ve seen you, Helena. That’s progress.”
“I might as well try,” Helena told her. “My father is desperate for me to marry this Season. Who can blame him? This is my third.”
“This is your Season,” Sara said. “Oh, I just know it.”
Helena smiled at her and turned to the looking glass again. She had stopped caring about how she looked for so long that when she finally decided to make an effort, it seemed almost too late. She couldn’t change how she looked, but at least she could try to appear more confident, especially in this dress.
“Oh, Helena!” Eliza came running back with an armful of dresses. “These will suit you perfectly.”
Helena watched Eliza drop the dresses onto a chair and scurry back to get more. Her enthusiasm reminded Helena of her mother’s excited demeanour when her daughter had been due to come out during that unfortunate year. One good thing Helena had recently realized was that thinking of her mother no longer drove her to the verge of tears, as it had used to; she was now merely saddened by such thoughts. Helena knew she was going to miss her mother terribly for the rest of her life, so crying every time she remembered losing her was futile.
The sound of giggling coming from the far end of the room startled Helena out of her thoughts. She scanned the store, and her gaze fell on a posse of young women, gossiping. Helena would have turned away quickly and minded her own business if she hadn’t been sure the girls were laughing at her. They took turns staring and whispering, making sure to be obvious. She recognised a few as fellow debutantes for the upcoming Season, while some she knew from previous balls.
They approached her all together, walking with poise, looking as if they felt they had achieved something by claiming her attention.
“Helena. . .” Amanda said, pausing at Helena’s side, looking down her nose haughtily.
They had once been friends, Helena and Amanda. At least, until Amanda decided it was better to bully Helena about her weight than remain friends with her. Amanda had debuted the year before, but apparently, her father had turned down every man who came for her hand. She was the daughter of the Duke of Parrington, and her father loved and spoiled her. Amanda was a beautiful lady, with curly, golden hair and pale skin. For the life of her, Helena could not understand why Amanda took pleasure in taunting her.
‘’How are you, Amanda?’’ Helen asked, forcing a smile.
Amanda shrugged her shoulders. ‘’I’ve been busy preparing for the Season. I see you’ve . . . lost a little weight,’’ she said with mocking insincerity.
Helena might have believed she meant it as a compliment, that was, if the other girls hadn’t burst out laughing. Helena couldn’t understand it; Amanda gained nothing from being mean to her. If her mother were alive, Helena knew this scenario would never have happened; the late duchess would have been quick to put Amanda in her place.
‘’I reckon this is your third Season.’’ Amanda said, tilting her head to the side.
‘’Indeed,’’ Helena answered.
Before Amanda could make another sarcastic comment, Sara returned, interrupting the conversation. “Helena, darling, I’ve noted all the adjustments, so you need to change out of the dress now, come, I’ll help you.’’
Helena followed Sara into the fitting room, biting her tongue to keep herself from crying; she hated how sentimental she became when she was spoken to in that manner. She was mature now and had the ability to defend herself. However, she needed everything to go well that Season. Helena was afraid her father had reached his end with her, and the last thing she wanted was to disappoint him any further.
‘’Ignore them,’’ Sara told her. “Ladies like Amanda will push you to the end for no other reason than to amuse themselves.’’
Helena sighed. “Thank you, Sara. “I plan to ignore them all Season. Snide comments like Lady Amanda’s do affect me badly, and I could do without them. The further I stay away from her the better.’’
Simon Sterling, the second son of the late Earl of Sterndale finally arrived in London after what seemed like eternity. He had spent the last several years overseeing the family’s business connections in the Far East. He maintained the interest that his late father, the Earl of Sterndale, had held in a shipping company which Simon’s elder brother, Travis, had inherited four years ago.
Simon dismounted from his horse and stood outside the manor with his arms akimbo. He was of average height, with a wiry build. Simon had light-blond hair parted down in the middle and a boyish smile. His pale-blue eyes were round, with full lashes, his face smooth and clean-shaven, his skin lightly tanned.
The manor was just as he remembered it. Situated in the fashionable St. John district, the building was a sight to behold. Simon breathed in the warm air, redolent with the heavy fragrance of blossom. He took in the view of the lush green grass and trees, the beautiful spread of blue sky, and the sound of the trees billowing in the breeze. In the far distance, right in the middle of the field, he could see the pond he remembered all too well.
The huge manor house, which stood right in the centre of the estate, was built of stones of many different sizes and shapes. Simon remembered how he used to kill time by counting the stones and noting the different colours. He stopped, however, when he realized it was no use—he would never be able to count them all. However many there were, and whatever shape and size, in the end, they all came together nicely.
“My lord.” Andrews, the butler, welcomed Simon with a smile and a bow. “It is good to have you back.”
“It’s great to be back, Andrews.” Simon beamed at the man.
“Lord Sterling is in his dressing room,” Andrews announced.
Simon followed Andrews, heading to his brother’s chambers. He had not seen him in years, and Simon could already feel the excitement flowing through his body.
Travis froze when Andrews announced Simon’s presence. He stared at him with his mouth ajar, and brought both hands to his hips, slowly breaking into a smile.
You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Simon noted, chuckling.
Travis approached him, laughing too. “I might as well have! What’s it been? Four years since I last set eyes on you?”
They hugged, patting each other’s backs as they rocked back and forth. Simon felt at peace, finally home with his family. He could at last take a rest from business and find new interests.
“Father?” Simon heard a girl saying softly. He turned around to see a little girl standing in front of him, about four or five years old.
“Good morning, sir,” she greeted him in a high-pitched voice, looking sorry to have interrupted the conversation.
Simon smiled and squatted by her side. “Well, good morning to you too. What’s your name, pretty lady?”
“My name is Emma,” she answered. “Are you my uncle?”
“I am,” Simon said, chuckling. “Aren’t you quick-witted? I’m Simon Sterling, your father’s charming younger brother. I reckon the last time I saw you, you were merely an infant.”
“I haven’t seen you at all, Uncle Simon,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “Father talks about you all the time. He says you’re travelling around the world on business.”
Simon chuckled, finding Emma adorable. “Emma, I’m to blame for being absent, let me apologize. But I got you something. . .”
Simon watched her, while reaching into his pocket to pull out his gift for Emma. “Here,” he said. “I hope you like it.”
“Whoa!” Emma gushed. “A pink ribbon! Father, look.”
“Do you like it?” Simon asked.
Emma nodded, skipping away excitedly without saying another word.
“Simon, my darling!”
Simon’s face lit up; he would recognise the voice of his loving mother anywhere. He turned around and watched the Dowager Countess of Sterndale, Lady Matilda, and the Countess of Sterndale, Travis’ wife, Lady Charlotte, hurry into the room.
Simon couldn’t hide his surprise at seeing Charlotte was heavily pregnant. Matilda had her arms spread as she approached Simon, beaming. Simon couldn’t mask his amusement. He chuckled, spreading his arms too.
“Mother.” He embraced Matilda, resting his head on her shoulder and taking in the smell of her perfume. He hadn’t seen his mother in so long, he didn’t want the hug to end. “Oh, how much I’ve missed you.”
Matilda patted his back gently. “I’ve missed you too, my darling son.”
“Let me see you.” Matilda pulled away from the hug and assessed his face.
“You look as radiant as ever, Mother,” Simon noted, pecking her on the forehead. “I trust you have been well?”
“Indeed, my dear. You look rested.”
“Simon!” Charlotte chimed in, smiling too.
Simon turned away from Matilda and returned Charlotte’s smile “My lady. Look at you, Charlotte.”
“Oh, well, we’ll have another baby in the family any moment now.”
“Well, I’m glad to have returned, then,” Simon said. “I’m happy I’ll be here to witness the birth of my second niece or nephew.”
“Your journey must have been tiring,” Matilda interjected. “You only arrived moments ago. Come, my dearest. You must be thirsty. I’ll ring for a drink.”
Matilda said she was merely ringing for a drink, but in the matter of twenty minutes, she had arranged for a late lunch. She practically dragged Simon to the main dining room and sat him down, together with the entire family. It was amazing how quickly the meal had appeared in such a short time.
“Oh, since you’re here already,” Matilda started, placing her teacup down, “Simon, I wish you to accompany me to the Countess of Davenshire’s soirée tomorrow. It’s perfect timing.”
Simon sighed, smiling. “Mother, I only arrived minutes ago. I was hoping I could rest tomorrow, and possibly the next day too.”
“Oh, don’t say no to me,” Matilda begged. “I get lonely at these gatherings, and you’re the best of company.”
Travis laughed, shaking his head. “It’s a trap, Simon. Mother wants to start playing matchmaker for you this Season as soon as possible.”
“Don’t discourage him,” Matilda rasped at him. “Simon, I really would love your company. I always feel I look better on your arm.”
“Fine, Mother.” Simon succumbed. “I’ll come with you to your soirée. It’s been a while since I attended one, anyway.”
Simon saw the look of excitement on his mother’s face and was satisfied. As long as she was happy, he was too. It was time to get accustomed again to London, since he had been gone a good while.
The colours of spring; Simon particularly loved it when the rain drummed on the roof, the earthy smell of wet soil after the rain, and the cool air it left behind. He loved the sound of the wind rustling through the trees; it had such a calming effect on him.
Simon rode his horse through Hyde Park, basking in the fresh, vibrant atmosphere. He’d missed the green grass of England while he was abroad, and appreciated the beauty of the park. The sun was beautiful, shining down on the park and warming everything below. It was a bright, refreshing day.
There were couples talking in the open. A few other people were having picnics on the grass since the weather was perfect for it. Others mounted canopies in designated areas of the park and sat beneath them, enjoying themselves. There were a lot of mothers and daughters, groups of gentlemen, all enjoying the scenery in their own way. Sets of ladies were also strolling along, giggling.
Simon rode towards the tall trees bordering the park. He brought his horse to a halt and dismounted. After a quick stretch, he strolled to stand near the water’s edge of the Serpentine River.
“Where are the ducks?”
Simon remembered the ducks well; watching their antics had always been the best part about coming to the park years ago. Watching them waddle about, going in and out of the water, was comical. He couldn’t help but feel disappointed that they weren’t there today. There were a few people seated close to the river, enjoying its shining beauty, as it stretched away, meandering in the wide, serpentine arcs from which it got its name.
“I just had this feeling in my stomach that I would find you here.”
Simon turned around and found Travis standing by his side. Travis was dressed rather formally for a morning stroll. He always wore his hair slicked back, with neatly shaven sideburns, and a thin moustache on his upper lip.
“Did you follow me here?”
“Of course not.” Travis scoffed. “I, too, have a habit of taking a ride first thing in the morning. It helps to clear my head.”
“Well, that’s good,” Simon noted, glancing at the water. “This is one reason I’m so glad to be back in London; I’ve missed this river.”
“I could have guessed that,” Travis replied. “You used to come here for the ducks. I reckon I’ve never met a man as fascinated by ducks as you.”
Simon laughed quietly. “I’m not fascinated by them. I just liked to feed them.”
“Well, perhaps that’s why they seem to have left. Perhaps there was no one left to feed them.”
“That can’t be true,”
Travis took two steps forward and stood by Simon’s side. “Simon, I’m curious. . .”
His statement caught Simon’s attention. Simon tilted his head to the side and arched his eyebrows. “What might you be curious about, Brother?”
“You,” he stated bluntly. “I came here to clear my head. Apparently, working on ledgers for a prolonged period of time has a certain befuddling impact on one. That’s why I came to the park. Did you come here to clear your head too, Simon?”
“Well . . . yes. You could say that.”
“Are you considering staying here in London permanently?” Travis asked.
“When did you start reading minds, Travis?” Simon asked. “First, you follow me here, then you read my very thoughts.”
Travis shook his head. “I did not follow you here, Simon. But that is beside the point. Simon, I really think you should consider making London your permanent residence. This might sound selfish, but I don’t want to have to keep worrying about where you are. I want you to settle down in one place. Preferably here.”
Simon bit back a smile. That was the exact reason he had decided to take a stroll; he’d needed to clear his head and think. Seeing Travis and his family all together, seemingly so happy, had reminded Simon that he could have the same kind of future. He could stop being a bachelor and find a match. Someone to settle down with. He’d woken up that morning with so many conflicting thoughts running through his brain that he’d decided the best thing would be to go riding through the park.
“Well, who is going to oversee the business in the Far East?”
“We can get someone, hire a manager, someone who actually lives there to oversee it and report back to you.”
Simon sighed. “I don’t know, Travis.”
“Simon, you cannot be a bachelor forever.”
“I know,” Simon groaned. “Let me ask you this . . . are you happy, Travis?”
“Extremely,” his brother answered. “Of course, the title comes with responsibilities, but I wouldn’t trade my life with Charlotte for anything.”
“I remember when you first met Charlotte, the day you told me you’d found her—the woman you wanted to spend the rest of your life with.”
“I remember that day. I also remember being a little bit drunk.”
Simon laughed. “A little. But I’d like that too, so I’m thinking about it. I don’t know yet . . . but I just want you to know that I also have it in mind.”
“Fair enough. Just. . . You being far from home makes me think of how Father passed away and I—”
“You don’t have to worry about me, Travis,” Simon assured him, placing an arm across his brother’s shoulder.
“I do. Father’s illness was sudden. We didn’t even know . . . couldn’t do a thing. It scares me that something like that can happen in the blink of an eye. I don’t want to blink, and the next second . . . I’m worried about you, Simon.”
“No need! Come on, I’m not a child.”
“You are to me.”
Simon scoffed. “Travis, I’m twenty-six years old. You already have a child to worry about. Two soon, counting the one in Charlotte’s belly.”
“Well, hopefully, sometime in the near future, you will have one too. And, as much as I will always encourage you to find a match this Season, be careful with Mother.”
“Oh.” Simon sucked in his teeth. “You don’t have to tell me, Brother.”
Travis chuckled. “She can be a little . . . much. So, decide for yourself, all right? Use your intuition.”
“I always do,” Simon said. “Speaking of Mother, I should return home and prepare for this soirée tonight.”
“All right. We’ll go together.”
Remounting their horses, they turned back toward the manor, managing a small race along the way, which Travis won. Simon laughed more than he had done in a while, feeling exhilarated. The ride was a much-needed respite, and he was glad to have had a talk with Travis.
I hope you enjoyed the preview of my new novel“Enchanted by a Lady’s Imperfections”. It will be live on Amazon soon!