I froze, equally surprised. His bright blue eyes caught my attention, and I felt breathless. He was quite possibly the best looking man I had seen yet.
And he’s supposed to marry Leslie, I reminded myself. I blushed and looked down at the stones that formed the floor.
“I came for some air,” I said, trying to force the blush away. A breeze blew around us toying with my hair and skirt. I forced myself to look up to see him studying me with a smile.
“There’s plenty of air up here,” he said, offering me a hand. I took it and he gracefully led me to the wall where I sat down. “So you are Cadman’s ward and Lady Leslie’s companion.”
“And you are a knight of Cornwall and the son of a duke, in addition to being Leslie’s betrothed,” i said, watching him. He was so handsome with a strong squared off jaw and chiseled features. He had jet black hair that was tied back simply with a blue ribbon, glinting with a little bit of red in the sun.
“I’m sorry,” he said, looking away as he sat down beside me. “I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced yet.” I tilted my head.
“Is there a need for introduction, Lord Gavin?” I asked. “Since we already know who the other is?” he laughed.
“You aren’t at all what I expected of a companion,” he said, looking at me again.
“And you aren’t at all what I imagined Leslie’s husband would be like,” I said, the blush appearing again.
“Lady Morgan,” he said lightly. “Would you be so kind as to tell me if that’s a good thing or a bad thing?” I paused, thinking.
“Well, it’s good that you aren’t so upright and proper that you had to send me back into the manor house,” I said. “But I hate to think of what that will do to your marital bliss.”
“So tell me,” he said. “What is Lady Leslie like? After all, our fathers arranged the marriage, and i have not been permitted to talk to her since we arrived.”
“Leslie,” I said with a sigh. “She must surely be the ideal wife. She has no desires for adventure or for learning. She firmly believes that a woman’s place is in the home- rearing children and making her husband comfortable in his own house.”
“I see,” he said, carefully glancing up at the sky. “And what do you think?”
“Me?” I asked, surprised. No man that i had ever conversed with had asked me my opinion on the topic. He nodded.
“You’re the only one up here, Lady Morgan,” he said.
“Please,” I said, reaching out and gently touching his hand. “I’d rather you called me Morgan. And to answer your question, I find the idea of staying at home with a babe to my breast stifling and repulsive.”
“Stifling? And repulsive?” he asked, a slight blush coloring his face. I nodded. “But why?”
“Well, I suppose that it’s because I feel that marriage is unfair. A woman leaves her home, her friends and her family behind when she marries. After the vows are said, though, she has no rights to herself any longer. She sacrifices those to who husband, who can do as he pleases with her,” I paused and took a breath. “The woman is the one at fault if a male heir is not born, and then if he is born and falls ill or dies it is her bad milk that is to fault.”
“Indeed,” Gavin said, his tone neutral as his eyes drifted closed. “But you still haven’t answered my question, Morgan. Why do you find the idea of being a mother repulsive and stifling?”
“It’s stifling and repulsive because I feel that a woman could do so much more, if given the chance. I believe that a woman should be able to travel as any man would, to learn as any man could, and to be as free as any man is,” I said.
“You are indeed a unique woman, Morgan,” Gavin said, taking my hand in his. “I almost wish-” he stopped, looking guilty.
“You wish what?” I asked, looking into his eyes again.
“I wish that it was you i was betrothed to,” he said quietly. “Because you seem to be the type of person that every day would be an adventure with. Like I could learn to love you, instead of only owing you my duty.”
“That’s rather forward of you,” I said, hating myself for wishing the same. He was the first man to not care that I wasn’t the ideal bride, or to care that I had some ideas that varied from what convention permitted. He’s engaged to be married to Leslie. Not you, Leslie. He just met you, so what do you think you’re doing, Morgan? He raised my hand to his lips and kissed it.
I felt like my insides were melting. He gently lowered my hand and smiled ruefully at me.
“And yet I notice that you aren’t objecting,” he said.
“Is there any reason for me to object?” I asked, instantly wishing that I could take it back. We both knew that we shouldn’t be sitting there, behaving as we were. The wedding would take place at the end of the week and even if I was to be his bride, it would be seen as improper.
“I should go,” he said, looking at me sadly. I watched as he bowed and left, wishing that it had been my lips that he had kissed instead of my hand.
It began to rain shortly after he left, but instead of going inside, as I knew that I should I say outside for a little while longer, thinking. Gavin had still wanted to get to know me, even after he had heard what I thought about marriage. He hadn’t thought I was joking, nor had he thought that I was a fool.
Finally it got to be too cold for me to sit in the rain any longer, and I snuck down to my chambers by way of the servant’s stairwell. As I changed I heard a maid slip into my room. Not wanting to have to answer questions about why I was wet, I stayed quiet until after she had left.
Once I had dried myself off and redressed for supper, I moved out from behind the screen that had been constructed for my modesty, curious as to why the maid had been in my room. Obviously she hadn’t been looking for me, since she hadn’t spoken at all.
A small white envelope sat on my dressing table, addressed to me in an unfamiliar hand. I picked it up, my curiosity growing. Who would be writing me a letter? I wondered, turning it over to look at the seal.
What I saw surprised me, causing me to drop the envelope. It was unmistakably Gavin’s seal. With trembling fingers I picked it up and opened it.
Dear Morgan, it read. I was delighted to be able to talk to you, and I wish to see you again, perhaps outside of what people call a proper setting. I long, even yearn, to know you better. When might we meet again?
Yours truly, Sir Gavin
I set the note down, smiling. He wanted to get to know me better. I hadn’t scared him away.
My heart felt lighter than it had for a long time a I quickly did my hair up. I wanted to look pretty for Gavin tonight. A knock on the door interrupted my thoughts abruptly.
“Come in,” I said, quickly picking up the note and tucking it into my bodice. If someone else found and read it, there would be all sorts of trouble.
Leslie drifted in, looking her best. A sudden pain to my heart quickly brought my mood down, and I forced myself to keep my expression clear. Gavin would be marrying Leslie, no matter what. It had been pre-arranged, and if I ruined her marriage in any way, Uncle would have me out of his home in no time.
“Oh, Morgan, isn’t it wonderful?” she cooed. “I’m to be married to lord Gavin. It will be simply fabulous, won’t it?”
“Wonderful, indeed,” was all I could manage.