To kick off our second year of celebrating Inspirational Regency fiction, we are presenting the serial story, A Suitable Match. At the end of the month we’ll be giving away a fabulous prize package filled with items tied to the story. For a chance to win, find the item mentioned in this section and leave a note in the comments. Details and a list of prizes can be found here.
The George and Pelican Inn, somewhere between Somerset and London
Cressida was momentarily stunned. Lord Twiford was the only one who knew she was here. Had he decided to finally give her a piece of his mind? She rose and went to the door, opening it slowly with one hand, holding her night rail close to her neck with the other. She felt the pearl necklace she always wore there.
Her shock was palpable. “Chard!”
At the same time she heard him say, “Cressy!”
Why hadn’t Lord Twiford warned her that Lord Chard was included in his party? “I beg your pardon, Lord Chard. I am afraid in the surprise of seeing you my manners fled.” She bowed her head, feeling ridiculous, following drawing room protocol while in her night clothes in an inn. “I did not expect . . . know you were here.”
“What are you doing here, Miss Blackstone?” he asked, more reserved now.
“There was an accident with my carriage and Lord Twiford was kind enough to take us up and bring us here.” Funny, after missing Chard for so long, she could think of no other words to say.
What the devil was Cressida Blackstone doing at the George? He had rehearsed and rehearsed what he would say to her if he ever saw her again, yet here he stood dumbfounded. She was even more beautiful than he remembered. No! He would not think on that. She had ended their engagement without one thought for his feelings: he would not fall prey to her just because her beautiful hair hung loosely around her shoulders and she stood in a thin night rail ready for bed.
“Lord Chard, is there something that you wished to say to me?”
Indeed there was, but now was not the time. “I beg your pardon, Miss Blackstone, I thought this was Lord Twiford’s room.” Blast! but he was as nervous as a schoolboy.
“My lord, we left many things . . . unsaid when I . . . left London three years ago.” Her voice was small and questioning, the opposite of her normal confident air. “If you would give me a few moments to dress, perhaps we should talk.”
“I assure you, Miss Blackstone, we have said all we need ever say to each other.” He bowed and turned back toward the stairs. He skipped most of the steps in his hurry to get to their private drawing room downstairs. He fought hard against his instinct to turn back and see if she remained in the doorway. He needed to think.
He had needed to marry money, but he had not expected to fall in love with her. He knew she would have been given the cut direct by the highest sticklers of Society. But he believed when they saw her gentle kindness and ladylike manners, they would come around. He would not have thrown her to the wolves, even had he not fallen in love for the first time in his life.
But she left him; disappeared, leaving only a note saying she knew he would not want her without the dowry she was supposed to be bringing to the marriage. She had not cared enough to face him, to hear his views on the matter. And he thought he was over her; he told himself so often that he was.
But the shock at seeing her also affected his heart and he realized he was not over her at all.
He turned around at the sound of footsteps. “Twiford, what is the meaning of this? What is she doing here?”
“My, my, word travels fast. What was I to do, leave her on the side of the road with an overturned carriage and a wounded driver? She wishes to make her own plans from here. I asked her to join our party, as London is her direction, but she seems quite adamant about not going with me. I don’t think I made a good impression on the chit.”
“Stow it! You did nothing but malign her at every turn.” He thought he noted a bit of hesitation before Twiford had switched to irony. What was afoot? “Well, she should not hire a carriage and ride all of the way to London on her own. You will need to convince her.”
Twiford went to the table and poured himself a brandy and downed it in one swallow. “I must convince her?
“You know I cannot. She made her feelings for me quite clear when she left me in. . . London.” How fortunate he now remembered all of the things he wanted to say to her for breaking his heart. “What is she doing traveling to London alone in any event?”
“I have not come to any conclusions about that myself. She seems inordinately interested in the coachman who was driving her carriage. He was injured; mostly cuts and bruises and a wonderful lump on the side of his head. She needed to hear that he is now sleeping peacefully in the quarters over the stable. It did not seem to ease her mind.”
“Leave him or bring him, I care not, but we leave for London after breakfast and you make sure she is with us.” He stomped out of the room, hoping he hadn’t let the feelings he now knew were not gone show in his manner. What would he do?
After a fitful night’s sleep, Lord Chard prepared himself to be cool and distant to Cressy . . . Miss Blackstone during the drive. Indeed, he intended to ride next to the carriages so he would not be put in a situation where he must be in close confinement with her.
“Twiford, we must push on if we are to reach London today. Can you not hurry the party along?”
“Yes, I will tell Godfrey he must not worry about how his cravat looks, when we all know it takes him two to eight neckcloths each and every time he gets dressed.”
Chard was immune to his sarcasm.“What about the ladies?” He looked off in the distance, trying to be nonchalant. “Is Miss Blackstone convinced to go with us?”
“I have only now sent a servant up to her asking her to join us in the breakfast parlor. Perhaps between the two of us we can overpower her scruples.”
Lord Chard noticed the servant approaching, but placed no importance on it until he heard him mutter “Blackstone.”
The man bowed and stepped back from Miles in subservience.
“I am sorry, Chard, but the landlord informed my servant that the lady is gone.”
*Section 4 was written by Mary Moore, www.marymooreauthor.com *
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