I hope you and your loved ones are keeping safe. I live in Canada and although we have survived the first wave of the pandemic, I cannot help but worry for my kids with the schools re-openign in less than a month. Here, parents are given the option of choosing between online or in-person school and I am still not sure which way to go. I am a teacher and a mother, so I get to look at things from two different perspectives. On the one hand, as a teacher, I know how important school is and I don’t want my girls to suffer academically, emotionally and socially. On the other hand, as their mother, I don’t want to risk them becoming infected with the virus. I have the option of staying at home and keeping them with me while supervising their on-line schooling. But I also know they need to be with their friends. It’s a tough decision! Do any of you have school-age children? Do you share my concerns? What option(s) do you have in terms of on-line/in-person school?
On a completely different note, these days I keep myself busy and sane by re-writing parts of my third novel, To Desire and Deserve. I finished writing this novel a couple of years ago, but I have since decided to change certain elements about the story. So, I am re-reading and re-writing. It is an interesting process as I re-acquaint myself with the characters I wrote a while back. Although the novel has not gone under serious editing yet, I want to share an excerpt with you today. In this excerpt, Georgianna and her husband, Lord Paisley, have recently found out that they are expecting their first child. Col. Fitzwilliam, who fell in love with Lord Paisley’s sister, Lady Claire, in the previous novel, is coming to visit and to declare himself. Col. Fitzwilliam is a second son, and therefore doesn’t have an estate or fortune, and Lady Claire has a considerable dowery. Georgiana is nervous, as she doesn’t know how her husband will respond to Col. Fitzwilliam’s intention to propose to Lady Claire. I hope you will enjoy the excerpt.
To say that Lord and Lady Paisley were happy would not do them justice. It had been a few days since the doctor had confirmed their suspicion, and the couple had been quietly and privately enjoying their beautiful secret.
“There you are, my dear,” Lord Paisley said as he entered the drawing room. “I have been looking everywhere for you.”
Georgiana smiled at him. “When did you return from the village?”
“Just now.” He sat beside her on the sofa and kissed her lips softly, his hand gently caressing her abdomen. “How are you feeling?”
“I am wonderful.” She assured. “I have been reading my letters. I have had a letter from my aunt this morning with fantastic news.”
“Really?” He asked, amused by her excitement.
“Yes. Richard has returned to England.”
“That is indeed fantastic news. Does he intend to stay in England for long? Shall we see him in London?”
Georgiana shook her head. “My aunt does not say how long he intends to stay. But here is the excellent news. Richard intends to visit us at Paisley Court on his way to London.”
“Indeed? When are we to expect him?”
“I believe in a fortnight or so.” Georgiana shrugged. “No doubt he will write to you himself and let you know of his plans.”
“No doubt.” Lord Paisley smiled.
“And your mother and sisters will have returned to Paisley Court by then,” Georgiana said, her eyes shining with enthusiasm.
“I suppose so,” Lord Paisley said, having surmised the reason for his wife’s excitement.
“No doubt Richard is visiting Paisley Court with an important purpose,” Georgiana declared.
“No doubt.” Lord Paisley agreed. “He must be missing you greatly, my love. And I cannot blame the man. You are quite hard to live without. Quite impossible, in fact.”
He leaned over and kissed her again, momentarily making her forget about Richard’s news.
“You are very charming, Julian.” She smiled as she moved closer in his embrace and leaned her head against his chest. “But I was not referring to myself. I was rather thinking of another important reason why Richard would be visiting Paisley Court.”
“Oh?” He asked, feigning ignorance.
“I am speaking of Claire, of course,” Georgiana said, trying to sound nonchalant, cautiously awaiting his response.
“Is that so?” he asked in his usual calm.
“You must know that Richard is in love with Claire,” Georgiana said, raising her head to see his face.
“Is he?” He raised an eyebrow.
“I believe Richard is coming with the intention of declaring himself.”
He stared at her for a moment, his eyes not giving any indication of his feelings on the subject. “I see. Has he spoken to you about his … er… intentions?”
Georgiana laughed nervously. “Of course not. But I have known him long enough to have noticed his feelings for Claire. And I am sure that Claire returns his feelings as well.”
“Hmmm,” He said, his fingers absently playing with Georgiana’s.
“You do not have any objections, do you?” Georgiana asked hesitantly.
He raised an eyebrow.“Objections?”
“You will not stand in their way, I mean. If they love each other, surely, you would not interfere.”
He shrugged. “I am the head of the family, my love. It is my responsibility to see to my sisters’ wellbeing.”
“But Richard is the best of men.”
“I confess I am a little envious,” Lord Paisley said, removing a piece of lint from his coat. “I had hoped that you considered me the best of men.”
“Do be serious, Julian. You cannot possibly have any objections where Richard is concerned.”
“Col. Fitzwilliam is a very amiable gentleman.” Lord Paisley conceded magnanimously. “I certainly enjoy his company.”
“Richard is more than just amiable. He is brave, trustworthy and intelligent.”
“Those are excellent qualities for a soldier.” Lord Paisley agreed.
“He is the son of the Earl of Matlock.” Georgiana reminded him with the haughtiness that greatly resembled her brother’s.
“He is the second son of the Earl of Matlock.” His Lordship corrected with a smile.
Georgiana’s eyes grew wide with shock and indignation. “I cannot believe you said that.”
“Is my statement inaccurate?” Lord Paisley raised an eyebrow, seemingly unaffected by her rising ire.
“Your assessment is unkind. How can you punish him for not being the first born?”
“I am not punishing him, my sweet.” Lord Paisley shook his head, his calm smile driving her to madness. “I am simply stating the facts. Claire has a large fortune. Col. Fitzwilliam, though quite an amiable gentleman, is hardly eligible for a young lady of my sister’s standing. Marrying a Paisley is a very advantageous marriage for him.”
“By that calculation,” Georgiana said challengingly, as she stood up and walked away from him. “I wonder why you decided to marry me.”
“I beg your pardon?” Lord Paisley asked, his eyes suddenly having lost some of their former humor.
“My father, while a most respectable man, was only a gentleman farmer.” Georgiana shrugged. “He did not belong to the peerage. I am not titled, and my inheritance, though considerable, certainly fails to compare with that of your sisters’. You could have looked much higher than me when choosing a wife.”
“We are not discussing our marriage, Georgiana.”
“One cannot help but see the similarities.” Georgiana insisted, her color rising and her eyes growing the dark shade of blue he admired so much.
“I beg to differ, my girl. If one looks closely, one will see that there are no similarities between our cases. I am a man of means. I have no need for my future wife’s fortune or position in society. While you have both wealth and connections, I did not choose you according to such considerations. I married you because I love you.”
“So, you are condemning Richard to a loveless marriage because he lacks your fortune?” Georgiana accused, too upset to be charmed by his words.
“No,” Lord Paisley said, standing up and walking toward her. “I am simply making certain that neither he nor any other man condemns my sister to a loveless marriage because of her fortune.”
“What about my cousin? What about his happiness?”
“While I wish your cousin the best, I am only responsible for my sister’s happiness.”
“Your sister is an intelligent lady who can make her own decisions. Should she not be allowed to decide what makes her happy?”
“This is not a case for women’s rights, Georgiana.” Lord Paisley reminded her, his eyes dancing with amusement.
“Is it not?” Georgiana asked, now made angrier by his nonchalance. “You give yourself every right to judge what brings you happiness, but you refuse to allow your sister the same rights.”
“I am fulfilling my responsibilities as her brother. Do not make me out to be a villain, my love.”
“It is villainy of the acutest kind to take your sister’s happiness away under the guise of brotherly love and responsibility,” Georgiana said with feeling, her eyes throwing daggers at him.
“Magnificent,” he said, a pleased smile gracing his lips.
“I beg your pardon?” She asked with no little shock.
“You are magnificent when you are angry, my love. You are relentless and courageous and quite simply, breathtaking.”
Georgiana stared at him, unable to understand whether or not he was laughing at her. “Are you mocking me? How can you be so insensitive?”
“Believe me, my love.” He smiled rakishly. “I am not insensitive to your charms. In fact, all my senses become alive when you look at me with those beautiful, furious, blue eyes.
“You are mad,” she said, blushing at the way his eyes roamed her body.
“I am.” He agreed. “You, my darling wife, drive me to madness. Now, come here.”
“I most certainly will not.” Georgiana refused.
“Come here, Georgiana.”
“No,” she said petulantly.
His smiled grew deeper. “If you do not, I will have to come and fetch you myself.”
“You would not,” she said with very little conviction.
“You know that I would. And when I do, I will conduct you to your bedchamber, where I hope to express myself quite eloquently.”
Georgiana blushed crimson.
“But before that pleasurable event takes place.” He continued, thoroughly enjoying himself. “I would like you to join me on the sofa, where we will, with a little effort, try to talk rationally about this matter of your cousin and my sister.
He offered his hand and waited for her to decide her next move. Georgiana knew her husband well enough to understand that despite his charm and politeness, he was not a man to be refused. She also knew that Julian was a reasonable man. So, she accepted his invitation and placed her hand in his.
“Thank you.” He smiled at her and guided her to the sofa where he sat beside her again.
“Your cousin wrote to me about a month ago,” he said, surprising Georgiana greatly. “He communicated to me of his intention to visit Paisley Court upon his return to London. He also hinted at a special reason for him to visit Paisley Court; a reason that is quite important to his future happiness. Now, although he did not openly mention my sister’s name, I flatter myself, I am not so dim witted as to not understand his meaning. I also understand that his purpose in writing the letter was to ask, albeit indirectly, for my permission for him to pursue his purpose.”
“Then, am I correct to understand that you have replied to my cousin’s letter?” Georgiana asked hesitantly.
He nodded. “The fact that he is coming to Paisley Court should indicate that I have welcomed him.”
Georgiana looked down at her hands with no little embarrassment. She had misunderstood him and had berated him shamelessly. “I beg your pardon, Julian,” she said softly, not yet able to meet his eyes. “I do not know why I thought… that is… I was …”
“You were protecting your cousin’s happiness. I think that is very honorable.”
“I misjudged you,” Georgiana said, her eyes glued to her hands. “You must think me quite ill-mannered,”
“I think you quite adorable,” he said, gently taking her hands in his. “But I am curious as to why you decided I was such a sad character as to … er … how did you put it, my sweet? Oh yes, condemn my sister to a loveless marriage?”
“I should not have said that. I was afraid you were going to refuse Richard on account of his lack of fortune.”
“I would refuse him or any other gentleman if I suspect that there is no real attachment. But I know what it means to love a woman. And I know what it means to be happy in one’s marriage. I would never take that happiness away from my sisters.”
“I love you,” she said with feeling. “Please forgive my rash behavior. I should not have made such unfair assumptions about you.”
He smiled mischievously. “In your defense, I never bothered to correct your assumption. In fact, I rather enjoyed watching you all riled up.”
Georgiana shook her head in disbelief at her husband’s playfulness.“You bated me.”
He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. “You made it so deliciously easy.”
“You are odious and terrible and …” She forgot her words as his lips found the sensitive spot behind her ear.
“Go on, my love. Do not stop on my account. You were saying?”
“I… I think you … are … shameless,” she said with great difficulty.
He stopped his pleasurable pursuits and gazed at her with amusement. “Now, my love, that is enough rational conversation for one day. It is time for me to take you to your bed.”