Chapter Eight

Gavin and I met again in private the day before the wedding. We spent nearly the entire afternoon together talking and laughing.

It was so easy to talk to him, and he seemed to be genuinely interested in what I was thinking. I envied Leslie and the nagging feeling in the back of my mind wouldn’t let me forget that he would marry Leslie and leave.

“What’s wrong, Morgan?” he asked finally, leaning over and brushing my hair away from my face gently.

“I just can’t forget that you’re to marry Leslie,” I told him. “That, no matter how much we talk and agree with each other, come tomorrow you’ll be duty bound to Leslie.”

“Oh,” he said, his face falling. “Lady Leslie. Right.” I couldn’t help but notice how unenthusiastic he sounded. Silence fell for several minutes.

“I wish it was you that I was marrying,” he said, breaking the silence. I turned to face him startled.

“Gavin, you don’t mean that,” I reprimanded, my heart not in it. It filled me with pleasure that he preferred me to Leslie, the perfect bride.

“If I was to marry you, we could have adventures together,” he said with his eyes starry as he slipped into a day dream. “Can’t you see it? You’d be by my side constantly, and we’d never get bored.”

“But that wouldn’t be very practical, would it?” I asked sadly. “I told you, I don’t want to have any children. Your family line would die out.” He sighed heavily.

“Fortuna est crudelis,” he said. “To trade freedom and adventure for duty and practicality.”

“Amare est esse crudelis,” I responded sadly. “To die so young, replaced by responsibility.” He placed an arm around my shoulder, gently drawing my closer.

“Please tell me that I can continue to get to know you,” he whispered. “Even after I do my duty.”

“I cannot make promises about the future,” I whispered, resting my head against his chest. “It’s too uncertain. But I do hope that will be the case.” He made a contented noise, and we sat in silence that way for a while.

“It’s getting close to supper time,” he said finally, letting his arm drop back to his side. “And we both have to return to our roles.”

“Indeed,” I said reluctantly. “I hope to speak with you again, Gavin.” He leaned in and kissed each of my cheeks once, causing me to turn a brilliant shade of red, I’m sure. Marriage would not be bad at all if he were your husband, I thought, longing for him to kiss my lips.

“And I you,” he murmured. He looked into my eyes for a moment before leaning in again.

Gently and tenderly he kissed me on the lips, his own lingering on mine. My eyes drifted shut as my heart tried to leap into my throat. When he finally withdrew, he was smiling as me lovingly.

“I will do my duty,” he said. “But know that my heart is with you.” With that, he turned and walked off.

As I watched him go my emotions and thoughts swirled around my mind, confusing me further. You only just met him, how can he say that his heart is with you? But what does it matter? He cares for you more than Leslie!

My heart sank at that thought. He’s marrying Leslie, and there’s nothing you can do about it. In fact, you’re duty bound to not get in between them. You cannot afford to ruin their marriage.

I made my way up to my room sadly. Of all of the people that Leslie could marry, it had to be Gavin. Beautiful Gavin, who didn’t hate me for my thoughts on the subject of marriage and a woman’s capabilities.

Morgan, you’re an idiot, I thought, sitting down at my dressing table, staring at the items on it without really seeing them. You’ve let your heart run away, and now you’re going to have to pay the price for it. He’ll marry Leslie, and you can’t stop it. But why do you even care? I rested my head in my hands, tears forming rapidly.

I care because he’s so different. He’s not like everyone else, I thought, guiltily aware that that was not a good enough excuse.

You met him not even five days ago, and even then you knew that he was to be married to Leslie. What on earth were you thinking? A single tear slipped down my face. I knew the answer, and I regretted it.

I wasn’t.

I rested my head on the palms of my hands, fighting the urge to cry. I was stupid, so stupid, to fall for a man engaged to marry my cousin. A knock on the door made me jump and I hurriedly dried my face as I rose to get the door.

Aunt Mary stood in the doorway, looking a little upset. I froze, as I hadn’t expected to see her.

“Where were you?” she demanded, her lips pursed as she finished speaking, her hands on her hips.

“I was here and there,” I said airily, frightened that she might know of what I was doing. There would be so much trouble if it got around that I had spent the afternoon with Gavin. “Stretching my legs and getting some fresh air.”

“Leslie required your help earlier,” she snapped. A sigh of relief rose in my throat, and I swallowed it back. “You were no where to be found.”

“I’m sorry,” I apologized. “Ladies Rosanne, Elizabeth, Rachelle and Sarah told me that I was not needed, so I left for a walk.” Aunt Mary exhaled sharply at the names of her step-daughters and daughter-in-law.

“Those girls,” she hissed. The surprised me. She had never seemed to dislike the children of her husband’s deceased first wife, but the look on her face was more that minor disgust or dislike. “I’m sorry, Morgan. I seem to have to discuss this with them.”

“Alright,” I said, confused as she turned and walked off.

“Oh, and Morgan?” she called over her shoulder. “Do tidy up. Supper will be soon.”

“Of course, Aunt Mary,” I said, closing the door.

The evening passed in a blur, with Leslie being as close to Gavin as was proper, and Gavin watching me from the other side of the room. I avoided his eyes carefully, painfully aware of Leslie’s demure flirting. I excused myself early, and made my way to the top of the tower.

Stars blinked down at me, some glowing sympathetically while others seemed harsh and judgmental. I felt the hot tears fill my eyes and the stars blurred together in my sight.

A sudden pain in my knees told me that I had fallen, and I placed my hands on the cold, rough stone floor. I blinked, and it came into focus. Little wet spots marked where my tears had fallen, and I wiped away the dampness from my face.

Why do you care? What is wrong with you? I thought, changing how I was sitting so that my back was against the wall, with my knees tucked under my chin. You knew from the start that he was engaged to Leslie. You knew, and you were such a fool to allow yourself to feel for him.

I closed my eyes and tilted my head back. The moon was full, and I could see more clearly than normal, but it didn’t do anything to help my tear stained vision.

It’s over, Morgan. Tomorrow, when they say those vows, you will be forced to move on, I told myself silently. You’ll have to figure out what you’ll do, and where you’ll go.

The door to the tower creaked slightly as someone pushed it open, and I looked at the intruders. Sir Cyric and Kellan were standing there, arms wrapped around each other and laughter fading as they caught sight of me.

“Morgan!” Kellan exclaimed, detaching herself from Cyric’s arms and crossing the floor to kneel beside me. “I never expected to see you up here, and all alone, too! Oh, dear, you’ve been crying, haven’t you? What’s the matter?” As she spoke, she pulled a handkerchief out and wiped my cheeks dry before pressing it into my hand.

My fingers clenched tightly around the handkerchief, and I looked up into her concerned face. There was no denying that a change had occurred in Kellan, and that she had become a woman.

“What good is true love, if there are a hundred reasons that it cannot be acted upon?” I asked her quietly. Her face was sober as she knelt beside me. “When duty and propriety and family all demand the death of that love?”

“I don’t know, Morgan,” Kellan said just as quietly. “But if this is about feelings of love, well, those are fickle things. What is this about, Morgan?” Cyric stood where Kellan had left him, looking awkward. I glanced at him, and Kellan followed my gaze.

With a sigh she stood and approached him. They exchanged a few quiet words, and then he bowed to me and left silently. Kellan returned to my side, and pulled me to my feet.

“You know that you can trust me, Morgan,” she said quietly. “After all of my secrets that you kept, I owe you much.”

“Have you forgotten Deverall?” I asked, curious as to what I had just witnessed. Kellan seemed to care for Cyric, and she seemed to be so happy with him. “Do you still care for him?”

“Of course I haven’t forgotten him,” she said sadly, with a slight laugh. “He was my first love. And yes, I still care for him, but I have learned to love Cyric. He makes me happier than I had ever been before.” She studied me searchingly. “What’s this about, Morgan?”

“You must think I’m so silly,” I said, leaning against the wall. “I’ve fallen in love, Kel, but with the wrong person.”

“Oh, you can’t mean that,” she said soothingly.

“But I do,” I said. “Would the right man be my cousin’s betrothed?”