Emily’s face turned ashen. “That cannot be true,” she exclaimed. “You must be mistaken, Charlotte.”
Charlotte’s expression was one of great concern when she saw her cousin’s reaction to the news. She took her hand and led her over to the sofa. After, she gently pushed her onto the seat, she sat beside her. Holding her hands in hers, she said to Emily, her gaze unwavering, “I assure you, dear cousin, that I am not mistaken. I received the news from a very reliable source.”
“May I inquire as to whom this source was?”
“His sister, Anne. I was on my way to the drugstore when a fine carriage pulled up alongside me. It was Anne. She called me over and inquired after my family and my own health. And then, she announced that Edward was to be engaged to Mabel Turner.”
“Mable Turner?” Emily looked aghast. “That nasty little creature?” Mabel Turner was the last person on the planet she would have expected Edward to have any romantic attachment to. She was the most insufferable person she had ever had the misfortune of knowing. They met when Emily’s older sister Viola was employed as Lady’s Maid for Mrs. Turner.
They instantly disliked each other. Mabel disliked her because she was smart and clever and Emily disliked her because she was vain and pretentious. She hated when Mabel called her “Mole face” because of the moles on her face and referred to the birthmark on her neck as “hideous”. This discord between them continued into their teenage years and presently.
“Emily, I know about your history with Mabel, but you must put all of that aside. She is Edward’s intended. There must be something commendable about her character to stir the affections of a man such as Edward.”
Emily’s eyes flashed at her. “I don’t know how she managed to get her claws in Edward but it had nothing to do with her character, I can assure you.”
Charlotte sighed. “Whatever you might think of her she is to marry Edward. The wedding ceremony is in a fortnight.”
Emily sucked in her breath sharply and tugging her hands from her cousin’s, she rose unsteadily to her feet. She wrung her hands, the tears threatening to fall. “How could he do this?” she cried, her voice a broken whisper. “Oh, Edward.”
She threw herself onto the ottoman and broke down.
Alarmed, Charlotte rushed over to her and tried to put her arms around her but she pushed her away. “Please leave.”
Charlotte drew back, her own face pale. “Very well, dear. I will leave you be but I shall call upon you in the morning.”
She turned and left the room, her skirts making a swishing sound.
After she was gone, Emily stayed there on the ottoman, weeping as the pain of Edward’s treachery ripped through her. She thought he loved her. The way he looked at her whenever they were together spoke volumes of his unprofessed love. So, why was he marrying someone else? What made it unbearable and highly reprehensible was that it was Mabel, her mortal enemy.
Anger filled her and the sobs subsided. Brushing her wet cheeks, she got up from the Ottoman and hurried from the room. She was going to change and go for a long walk in the moors. As she climbed the stairs to her room, Hilda, the housekeeper called out to her, “Miss Emily, Mr. Edward is here to see you. He’s in the drawing-room.”
Emily’s heart lurched and her grip tightened on the handrail. “Please inform Mr. Taylor that I’m not receiving any visitors today.”
“Mr. Edward said that he is here on a very important matter, Miss Emily.”
Fresh tears pricked her eyes. He’s here to tell me about his engagement. “Hilda, I don’t care why he’s here. I don’t want to see him. Send him away.”
“But, Miss Emily–”
“Send him away, Hilda.”
“Very well, Miss Emily.” Hilda turned and scurried off.
Emily turned and ran back down the stairs, through the foyer and out of the door. She headed for the summit, and didn’t stop running until she was at the top. She leaned against the fortress, her cheeks flushed from the exercise. Her chest heaved as she tried to catch her breath. Below the sea continued on its unhurried pace and the sun hide behind the clouds. A gentle breeze stirred the strawberry blond ringlets which framed her face. Usually her place of solace and contentment, today it offered her neither.
She started when she heard a sound behind her and turned. Her body stiffened when she saw Edward’s tall figure rapidly approaching her. When he was standing in front of her, she glared at him, her green eyes hostile as they met his tawny ones. “What are you doing here?” she demanded. “I told Hilda to send you away.”
“I had to see you, Emily.”
“Why, what could you possibly have to say to me?”
“I came to clear up a misunderstanding.”
“You are under the impression that I am to marry Mabel Turner.”
“Yes. Your sister Anne had informed my cousin, Charlotte of your engagement.” She looked away so that he couldn’t see the tears in her eyes. “The wedding is in a fortnight.”
“Emily, your cousin has been misinformed. There is no nor will there ever be such an occasion between Miss Turner and me.”
She looked at him. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that Miss Turner and I are not engaged nor are we ever likely to be.”
“But why would your sister say otherwise?”
“Anne and Miss Turner are dear friends and it has always been my sister’s wish that I would form a romantic attachment to her friend. Even after she saw that my affections were engaged elsewhere, it did nothing to divert her intention to secure what she believe to be a very agreeable match.”
“So, you have no feelings for Mabel?”
He shook his head. “No. How could I have feelings for her or anyone else when my heart belongs to you?” He moved closer, his expression earnest now. “I need to know if my feelings are returned.”
She gazed up at him, squinting as the sun emerged from behind the clouds. “They are,” she assured him.
He moved so that he was blocking her from the sun. His eyes met hers in a steady gaze. “Emily, will you make me the happiest man in the world by becoming my wife?”
She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. The tears ran down her cheeks.
He took her hands in his. “And now, that I have secured your consent, I must see your father and secure his as well.”
She smiled. “I’m quite certain that he would not withhold it.”