May 15, 1815.
Today I fell in love.
Saraphina looked at the words she had written. So simple, but they spoke volumes. It was true she had fallen deeply, irreversibly in love with Nathaniel Ashbourne, the Duke of York and her childhood friend. How could it have happened? Why now? She had known Nathan for years, as he was only four years older than herself. So why after all this time did it happen now?
Saraphina couldn’t answer. Maybe she had always loved him but had never realized it. There was no point it questioning it now. It had happened.
But how does he feel about me? Saraphina pondered the question, as she walked across the Turkish carpet to her bed. What if he only thought of her as a sister? It was indeed possible. But she hoped not. There was nothing as painful as unrequited love. Having to watch the one you love from afar. Watch them fall in love with another, while your own heart cracked and shattered into so many pieces you could never put it back together. No she would never go through that. She had seen it happen to her own mother. Saw how reclusive her mother had become when she realized she could never gain her husband’s love. Theirs had been a marriage of convenience, based on politics and money. At least on her father’s part. Her mother had been desperately in love with her future husband. He had never acknowledged it even on is death bed.
Saraphina shook herself. There was no point in thinking about the past and getting upset. She wasn’t her mother. She was stronger. She would find a way to go on.
But first she had to find out how Nathan felt.
Laying back on the lilac-sheets of her bed, she replayed the days events in her mind…
Upon turning eighteen, Saraphina had come to London for the season with her Aunt Cassandra, the Countess of Maine, her traveling companion Miss Jeffries and her cousin Vanessa. Unlike herself, Vanessa was a diamond of first water. She was a blond, blue-eyed beauty, whereas Saraphina’s green eyes and brown hair were common enough. It was the girl’s first season, but Saraphina felt sure it would be Vanessa’s last as she was never lacking for suitors at any of the balls and soirees they attended. Furthermore, she had overheard her aunt and Miss Jeffries talking. They were clearly considering the proposal from the Earl of Roxford, Matthew Dunford. She though Matthew a pleasant enough fellow and quite suitable for her cousin. Matthew was spontaneous where her cousin had a natural tendency to plan things out to the point where they would surely be boring. But if Vanessa truly married him then next season she would be alone.
Unless she found a husband as well, Saraphina thought sarcastically. Such was not possible, especially if she looked among her current suitors all of whom she could not stand. Their idea of a perfect wife was someone who was demure and obedient. Both of which Saraphina hardly ever was. It was unfortunate but she had a terrible temper when provoked and got quite snappy when she was bored.
Scandalous, but true.
Tonight they had attended the dowager Countess of Dexter’s soiree. It had been as undeniable crush. (No doubt, Lady Dexter had been pleased.) Saraphina had stepped out onto the terrace for a breath of fresh air, when he had arrived.
Nathan had looked exceptionally handsome in his formal evening clothes. His deep blue velvet coat had accentuated his deep violet-blue eyes. The white linen shirt and elegantly tied muslin cravat were impeccably clean beneath his blue waistcoat and trousers. His clothes had fit him like a glove, emphasizing his lean, athletic form. Although in hindsight, she recalled, he had also looked somewhat nervous. (She hadn’t thought too much about it at the time, too busy with her own predicament of finding a suitable husband.)
Nathan’s expression had looked had been focused as if he were mentally reciting something. He had also run a hand through his unfashionably long raven-black hair, making it even more mussed that it already was. She had known Nathan long enough to realize that that had been a sure sign of anxiety.
What had he been so nervous about? She had behaved so selfishly that she had not even inquired.
“I have to tell him soon,” Saraphina said aloud. “I have to confess my love for him. I refuse to remain silent and wonder about what could have been.”
Going about this business was sure a lot harder than it sounded. And frankly, Nathan felt like banging his head on a nearby wall. What had he been thinking to come here in the middle of the night? But when he had tried speaking to her earlier he had been rendered speechless at the sight of her in the emerald ball-gown. Worse still, all his thoughts had scattered the moment he had met her sparking green eyes.
Get a hold of yourself, man.
Nathan gave his head a shake. Rounding the corner to the back of the London estate, he spotted his destination. Saraphina’s window.
He noticed the light coming through the window. It looked as if Lady Luck was on his side. Clearly Saraphina was still awake. (At least he wouldn’t have to wake her, that was a Herculean task even he couldn’t undertake; Saraphina could sleep like the dead.) Now how to get up there? Oh, Lord, why couldn’t Saraphina have picked a room on the ground floor. How on earth was he to climb up to her window without a ladder?
Backing up, Nathan nearly collided with a tree, but caught himself in time by grabbing hold of one of the branches. Staring a the branch beneath his hand, Nathan tested its sturdiness. It seemed strong enough to hold him. Yes, this just might work, he thought, with renewed hope.
Glancing up, Nathan noted that the tree reached all the way to Saraphina’s window. He started to climb. It was easy enough. He had years of practice climbing trees at his country estate. Saraphina and him, had often found that the only route of escape from his father’s hound—who often thought it was great fun to cover them in slobber whenever they happened to come outside—was up in a tree.
“I have to tell him soon. I have to confess my love for him. I refuse to remain silent and wonder about what could have been.”
Nathan stopped. Saraphina? Who the hell is she talking to? Nathan wondered, then as the words hit him. She was talking about confessing to someone. She loved someone. He felt like he had been punched in the gut and his heart forced into his throat. How could she have fallen in love with someone else, while he had been nearly driven out of his mind trying to build up the courage to tell her that he loved her?
No, this couldn’t be happening. Surely fate could be that cruel. But, alas, it could. Hadn’t that been proven when his mother had been taken from him at too young an age.
The last branch snapped under his foot and he fell to the ground. But he was too numb with shock to notice. He would have lain there for a while if the noise hadn’t brought Saraphina to her window.
When she spotted him, she nearly died of humiliation. Had he heard? She realized that he had been climbing to her window. Was he spying on her? Her embarrassment mingled with anger at the thought. Who was he to eavesdrop on her anyway?
“What the devil are you doing beneath my window?”
Nathan realized he had been seen But how dare she question him after what he had heard? Jealousy mixed with the hurt he was feeling. Some damn bastard thought he could take Saraphina from him without so much as a by your leave.
“Oh, I don’t know I was going to tell the girl of my dreams that I love her. I was even going to climb all the way to her window to do so without a care to my own safety, when I heard she already loves someone else.”
Saraphina was shocked.
Surely he wasn’t saying that he loved her? But he was. His words said as much. Saraphina nearly wept with joy. He loved her.
“You heard me, “ snapped Nathan. “Or should I –”
“Oh, Nathan, I love you, too,” said Saraphina.
Nathan blinked in surprise. “You do? Really? I thought you were going to confess to someone else. I heard you.” He finished suspiciously.
“I was going to confess to you. I love you. I think I always have. Only I didn’t know it till now. I mean how could I not love you. You’ve always been kind to me. I love talking to you and you listen, not like other men who think a woman’s opinion is worthless. Not to mention your handsome and charming and have always been my dearest friend.”
“I am, aren’t I?” Nathan was grinning widely now. Fate had stayed with him after all. He sobered. “I thought I was going to die when I thought you had fallen for someone else.”
“Well, I didn’t, did I?” Saraphina replied, “I fell in love with you, I really don’t know what’s gotten into me.” She teased.
Nathan climbed up the tree again and into Saraphina’s bedroom through the window.
“Probably the same things that’s gotten into me. Why else would I love the girl who thought it would be fun to put honey in my shoes?”
“I was ten, I thought a lot of things were funny back then,” said Saraphina.
“You still do,” muttered Nathan.
It was then that he noticed that she was only wearing a white nightgown. Innocent enough though it was, it would still be considered scandalous if he were discovered here.
“It would, wouldn’t it?” Saraphina asked and he realized he had spoken aloud.
“I wonder what Lady Cowper from Almack’s would say. She always said I would be involved in some scandal or other, what with my temper and all.” She gave him her hand and pulled him into her room. “ But it shouldn’t dent your reputation so much, your family thrives on scandal.”
Nathan saw the wicked grin on her face. Following her train of thought, he realized where she was headed and said, in a voice loud enough to carry into the other room. (Where her Aunt Cassandra was sleeping; she was a light sleeper, unlike her niece and sure to come running.)
“Lady Saraphina will you do me the honour of being my wife and duchess?”
And in an equally loud voice, Saraphina answered.
“I would love nothing more, except perhaps you.”
May 31, 1815
The last couple of weeks have been busy, what with getting married and all. I am happy to say that I shall never have to face the perils of unrequited love. My husband never fails to show me how much he loves me. And I am also happy to note that the day after the scandal of finding Nathan in my bedchamber, Vanessa also accepted the suit of Matthew Dunford. She is quite excited with her upcoming nuptials.
Duchess of York.
P.S: Lady Cowper was also notably pleased with her prediction coming true. (But not as pleased as I.)