Seasons of Love
Book 2.5 in the Just a Touch of Scandal Series
Two stories to celebrate the change of seasons, and that love is often found closer than you think.
A Christmas Choice
Little Chipping’s annual Christmas Assembly is considered a joyous occasion. Charlotte Dowell has been dreading the evening.
Four years ago, Charlotte’s heart was broken when her father refused a match between herself and Edmund Harrington. She’s nursed the flame ever since, taking comfort in her beau’s infrequent letters from London, where he seeks his fortune. Much to the distress of her parents, she’s also turned down offers from several gentlemen, and they urge her not to refuse Percy Bassett, whom they hope will propose during the assembly.
Charlotte is determined to refuse, pinning her hopes on Edmund’s promised return. But that refusal will end the relationship which has grown between them, an idea which hurts more than she expected. Faced with a choice, she must follow where her heart leads. But will it be the right one?
A Summer Quest
Sophia Marcus knows who she wants to marry. The problem is, he’s not the man her father has in mind. He believes the sizeable estate his daughter will inherit warrants a title, and he’s invited a candidate to Wyldfell Priory for the Summer Market Fair.
Philip Harrington wants to marry Sophia. The problem is, six months ago his brother scandalized Little Chipping and the family has been under a cloud ever since. They’re on the verge of being accepted by society once more, but it is clear Sophia’s father has his sights set elsewhere.
Counting on Philip’s ability to produce the finest hog at the Summer Market, Philip and Sophia hatch a plan to rid her of an unwanted suitor and raise his standing in her father’s eyes. But the suitor is not without his own allies, and another scandal looms on the horizon.
“I read other things, some of which I’m certain would please your father.” Percy’s expression sobered. “Did he tell you I spoke with him?”
Here it comes. Charlotte tensed as her pleasure in their conversation vanished. He would ask, she would refuse–or at least beg a delay in answering–and there would be no more chances to sit like this. The idea of the loss hurt more than expected. Her throat tight, she nodded.
He turned his head away, taking a deep breath. “You have refused others in the past, enough to make me wonder if you feel some impediment. My hope was we would reach a point where we could be as honest and frank as we are now, without this layer of expectations laid on you.”
“Why did you speak with him?” she asked, her voice soft. “What happened to change your mind?”
Percy turned back. “Because he put me in a position where I found myself obliged to admit my intentions toward you include marriage. He sought me out, not the other way around.”
“He asked you?” His words were unexpected.
“Then told my father. That’s why they appear eager. They think I will ask you to marry me tonight.”
He fixed her with a clear, steady gaze. “That depends. Do I wish you as my wife? Yes, but given my conversation with your father and your mother’s eagerness, I’ll wager they offer you no choice. That’s not what I want.”
When she did not respond, he reached out to take her hand. “I’m no fool. You refused five honest gentlemen with no apparent fault. Something holds you back.”
“I would not say they were without faults.” Charlotte tried to steer the discussion to safer waters. “Mr. Stanton’s breath proved not at all pleasant when he came close to ask his question. He reeked of onions.”
“Then I shall ban onions from my diet.” The quick smile vanished. “If I were to ask you now, you would refuse.”
Charlotte opened her mouth but stopped. She tried again, her voice tight. “I’m sorry.”
Her eyes stung as she turned her head away. With the others this had been easy. She felt little affection for several of her suitors, and even with those who stood higher in her esteem, there’d been no emotional attachment. But Percy…
For a year, he had danced attendance on her, calling regularly, walking together after church, one of the first to claim her as a partner at assemblies or parties. All the while, he never pushed too hard, never demanded declarations of affection. Somehow, he became a fixture in her life, a treasured friend she would lose because her heart belonged to another.