Page 84 of Earl of Deception

After all the time spent together, through the many battles they had fought, side by side, they had emerged victorious. Soon, she would become Lady Jenny Dowding, wife of Nicholas, the earl. The man of whom she had dreamt, who just a short time ago had called on her at the school. Who had invited her to a masquerade ball, took her to a wishing well, and danced with her in a house that was said to be haunted. One who had brought down a vile marquess, avenged a sister he had never met, and kept a promise made to his father.

It had been worth every minute.

The future she had desired for so long was within her grasp, and all it would take was a few simple words.

Unshed tears stung her eyes as the rate of her heart increased. The setting was perfect for her to speak the words that rose from her very soul.

“I accept your proposal for marriage,” she said. “For, like you, I’ve never loved anyone else. Nor do I wish to do so. I love you, Nick Dowding. Now and forever.”

No sooner had the words left her mouth than Nick leaned down and kissed her. It was powerful and yet soothing and expressed all the love that had once been restrained.

Once the kiss ended, he held her, and they looked at the oak tree and the bright daffodil at its side. A symbol of who they were.

And nothing could ever break what they built together.

Chapter Thirty-Four

The following morning, Jenny sat on her bed, her legs beneath her. She recounted her tale of tricking Lord Tulk to a captive audience—the remaining student members of the Sisterhood.

“I cannot believe he did not recognize you!” Unity said.

Louisa shook her head. “But why would he? She wore a mask at the ball, so he has never seen her face.”

“Not to mention how well my ideas worked,” Ruth said. “You’ll all learn soon enough that men are easily fooled. Especially when they’ve had several glasses of brandy.”

Theodosia sniffed. “Go on, Jenny. There must be more to this story than tricking a marquess. You’re far too happy.”

“Well, I suppose there is more,” Jenny replied, grinning. She doubted she would ever stop smiling. “Lord Dowding proposed to me!”

Suddenly Jenny was bombarded with hugs and congratulations.

“Can you believe it? My dream is coming true. I’ll be married soon!”

“Well, I, for one, am very pleased for you,” Theodosia said. “I’m still sad you’re leaving in three days.”

Jenny nodded. “As am I. But we’ll write, won’t we? And we can see one another from time to time. You may visit me at Rosling Estate whenever you would like.”

Despite her declaration, a tendril of doubt crept into her thoughts. Marriage, children, and busy lives would make keeping such a promise difficult. But that did not mean she would not try.

The door opened, and Mrs. Shepherd poked her head into the room. “Jenny, there’s someone here to see you. A Lady Ayles?”

“I’ll speak to her for you,” Ruth said, but Jenny waved her off.

“No, I shall. It’s about time I put an end to her nonsense.”

Mrs. Shepherd frowned. “Want me to tell her to wait until Mrs. Rutley returns? It sounds like you need some reinforcements.”

“No, thank you, Mrs. Shepherd,” Jenny replied. “Mrs. Rutley won’t be there every time I have a problem. I must do this for myself. Is she in the parlor?”

The cook nodded, and Jenny made her way downstairs. Lady Ayles wore a white spencer jacket over a green dress, and several gems sparkled on her fingers and dangled from her ears.

“If you’re here to spread gossip about Nicholas, I don’t wish to hear it,” Jenny said, forgoing any pretense of formality. This woman wanted nothing more than to cause trouble, and Jenny would not allow her to do so. “He’s asked me to marry him, and I’ve accepted. Nothing you can say will change my mind.”

“How wonderful,” Lady Ayles replied. “May I be the first to congratulate you?” She reached into a small leather bag and produced a handful of what appeared to be letters. “Nicholas sent these to me, and now they are yours.”

Jenny shook her head in disbelief. “I don’t want them.”

Lady Ayles shrugged and placed them on a side table. “Read them, destroy them, do whatever you wish with them. I don’t care. But in them, you’ll find that whatever stories he’s told you about us are lies.”

Tags: Jennifer Monroe Historical
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