Part Sixteen of Eighteen – Lady Julia Tate from The Ultimate Escape, by Susana Ellis
Julia chimed in her congratulations with all the rest. Personally, she thought Miss Penrose seemed very reluctant for a young lady soon to be wed. But then, she was barely acquainted with her husband-to-be, so a bit of hesitationÂ was only natural, she supposed. Now in her case, she knew just about everything to know about her own betrothed, having grown up with him. On the other hand, the grown Oliver was much more difficult to fathom than the open, honest boy she had known. When theyâ€™d met years ago at the Hortonsâ€™ ball, their first meeting as adults, sheâ€™d been certain their connection was still there. The warmth of his brown eyes, in fact, seemed to indicate a more grown-up interest in her. But heâ€™d never done anything to confirm that belief, and after years of waitingâ€”during which time heâ€™d married her best friendâ€”sheâ€™d given up believing that he ever would.
Until heâ€™d come to her as a widower and abruptly made her an offer of marriage. Which sheâ€™d eagerly accepted and then begun to wonder about his motives.
â€œLady Julia,â€ began Miss Amberly with her customary frankness, â€œI hear you are soon to be wed to Mr. Oliver Stanton, of Stantonâ€™s Bank. Is it a love match, then? I understand you turned down several excellent matches in the past.â€
Juliaâ€™s eyes narrowed. She was sick to death of the veiled remarks about Oliverâ€™s social status. If only that were the problem! She knew how to deal with the high-and-mighty set. The Pendletons, though titled, valued strength of character above birth and connections.
â€œWell,â€ she snapped, â€œif itâ€™s any of your business, Oliver and I grew up together in East Sussex, and yes, I believe we shall rub along quite well together.â€
Miss Amberlyâ€™s cheeks reddened, and Miss Pritchard took the plate of scones and offered them to Julia. â€œThe scones are delicious, Lady Julia. Take two if you wish.â€
Julia winced. Her temper had got the better of her again. â€œForgive me,â€ she said, with a look of contrition at Miss Amberly first, and then the other ladies. â€œI shouldnâ€™t have spoken so. I was raised better than that. Yes, it is true that I love Oliver Stanton and have always done so. I just wish,â€ she said, swallowing hard, â€œthat I knew he felt the same.â€
She accepted a scone and quickly bit into it.
â€œNo need to apologize,â€ replied Miss Amberly with a shrug. â€œIâ€™m far too outspoken. And probably shallow and superficial too. But thatâ€™s just the way I am.â€
Miss Templeton sighed deeply. â€œYour family is much more open-minded that most. The Beachams would undoubtedly make Frederickâ€™s life miserable if he were to wed one such as I. It was for his own well-being that I turned him down.â€
â€œNonsense!â€ Julia said, wiping away the crumbs from her mouth with a napkin. â€œHow could wedding someone he doesnâ€™t love make him happy? Surely he can manage his own family, can he not?â€
Miss Templeton flinched. â€œBut-Butâ€¦ society would look down on him for marrying beneath him. And I couldnâ€™t bear it if he grew to think of me as a burdenâ€¦ a mistake.â€
â€œI never heard such rubbish before in my life,â€ burst out Miss Amberly, with a pained expression. â€œHappiness doesnâ€™t just happen. You make it for yourself. Personally, I think youâ€™d be a great deal more happy with your viscount than I would ever be with that evil, old marquess my parents have planned for me.â€
Miss Templeton opened her mouth, but nothing came out.
Julia kept quiet for once. How could any intelligent woman refuse a proposal of marriage from a man she loved because her social status was inferior to his? She just couldnâ€™t fathom it. But then, in her own case, she was the one with the higher status. Sheâ€™d always disdained its importance, but then, sheâ€™d always had it. What if she had been born a bankerâ€™s daughter and fallen in love with an earlâ€™s heir? Would it have made a difference?
Her skin tingled. It might have, had her swainâ€™s parents been high-in-the-instep as Miss Templetonâ€™s viscountâ€™s were.
Then she let out a breath. Nonsense. That couldnâ€™t be the reason Oliver had declined to court her all those years ago. Heâ€™d surely known her parents werenâ€™t like that. Hadnâ€™t he?
*****COME BACK IN AN HOUR TO CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION*****
Meet Lady Julia Tate in The Ultimate Escape:
On the eve of her wedding, Julia realizes she cannot marry her fiancÃ© after all, no matter that itâ€™s been her dream for eight long years. Too distraught to face him, she follows in her motherâ€™s footsteps and flees to the future for a brief reprieve.
Oliver knows he has bungled things badly, but he is determined to win the woman he loves, even if he must travel through time to do it.
Available only in the Bluestocking Bellesâ€™ holiday box setâ€”
Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem
In this collection of novellas, the Bluestocking Belles bring you seven runaway Regency brides resisting and romancing their holiday heroes under the mistletoe. Whether scampering away or dashing toward their destinies, avoiding a rogue or chasing after a scoundrel, these ladies and their gentlemen leave miles of mayhem behind them on the slippery road to a happy-ever-after.
***All proceeds benefit the Malala Fund.***
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