Author’s Note: Such interesting family dynamics…
“Grace! Where have you been? We were worried—we brought the dress to you since you were so uncooperative earlier—and the servants said you were gone. Gone, on the eve of your wedding, and if you were so foolish as to think you would run—”
“Mother, please,” she said, her cheeks red with humiliation. He’d not known many women who would start their tirades outside the home, lest they cause a scene or a scandal, and it seemed clear that his mother did not approve of her friends’ actions, but she would not intervene in the disciplining of another woman’s child.
Grace was not much of a child, though. She might not have been beautiful, but she was a full-grown woman with a woman’s body, a figure not quite what fashion demanded, but nevertheless very much an adult.
“I will not stand for such behavior. You will go inside, and we will discuss this later.”
He should not have encouraged her to wait for the money, he saw that now. “Oh, now, please, do not censure her on my account.”
His mother’s eyes widened in horror. “Graydon! What are you doing here?”
He could not help the smile. “Me? Oh, I know I seldom leave the comfort of my home, but I confess, there was plenty of enticement to do so today. After all, how could I resist finding out more about the young lady that so captivated you and Father that you arranged a marriage for us? You must want her for a daughter-in-law rather badly, and so how could I not wish to know of her?”
Grace gaped at him, and he smiled, knowing she was ill-prepared for a man like him. He confounded most of the people who knew him, and that was something he took a rather perverse pleasure in doing.
“Then… you and Grace have… come to an understanding?”
“Not quite, but we had some chance to speak, which is to be preferred in cases such as these. Now that I have seen one lady home, perhaps I should perform that duty for my mother? We should not be late for supper, after all.”
She winced, and he wondered if she felt humiliated by him, as she so often claimed she was. She preferred it when he was out of the country, as he did as well, and would almost be sure to accept, as she did her best to keep him out of the public eye, such a disgrace as he was to her.
“We have not yet made the adjustments to Grace’s dress,” her mother said. “If you could perhaps wait a few minutes longer, we shall have it done and then there will be one less thing to worry about before the ceremony.”
In fairness, he supposed they should have been told that there would be no ceremony, but he didn’t feel much like it—let them spend their money and have a disaster when she failed to show. He would laugh. Then they’d ship him off out of the country again and hope to have better timing with their next attempt.
Coming home early had spoiled all their plans, hadn’t it?
“Oh, but then I should very much like to see this dress, and I am afraid that’s not permitted, is it?”
Grace stared at him, her mouth opening as though she would speak, but she said nothing. She turned and fled into the house, and he shook his head, going to his mother’s side. “Come now. Let us be off. I think I have done enough damage here.”
“Yes,” she said, her voice cold. “I suspect you rather have, haven’t you?”
He wrapped her arm around his, patting her hand. “Now, Mother, you know I have done no worse to you than you attempted to do to me, and we are once more at a stalemate.”
She glared at him, saying nothing, and he smiled despite knowing he was in for a very unpleasant evening back at home.