By Katherine Givens
Originally published in the Daily Love.
August 1, 1810
Please do not fault me for my emotions. As you would say, a Spanish doxy has not won my heart. The woman I speak of is someone who has shared a correspondence for several months. The woman I speak of wrote about wishing upon a star for me, meeting me in Britain, and desiring to see the true Derbyshire. This woman loves to take long walks in the winter, hates being seen as a wilting flower, and tries to tame fresh colts. The woman I speak of is you! I love you with all my heart. I love you with every fiber of my being. I love you. Not Flora.
At your command, I have written a letter to Flora. I have broken off my engagement with her. She does not love me, nor do I love her. She deserves to find someone who will feel for her as I feel for you. Give her the chance to find this special man. You have no need to look further, for I am yours body and soul.
A few days ago, I requested a discharge from my superior. As a close friend of mine, he is willing to release me from my service. I have fought for my country, but it is time for me to fight for what I want. By the time you read this letter, my ship will have landed in Britain. I am coming for you, Henrietta.
Henrietta was stunned. She reread Charles’ letter a second and third time to make certain she was not hallucinating. When the words remained unchanged, she could only conclude that this valiant soldier was in love with her.
To be sure, Flora wrote a letter to Henrietta, which was received a few days ago, about her cancelled engagement. Her sister complained that Charles was an ungrateful man. She was willing to marry him. From her sister’s chilled words, she was treating Charles like a charity case. Flora went on to say she had no clue why Charles ended the engagement, but her concern lay with being rejected in front of the whole ton. As usual, appearances mattered more than the feelings of everyone involved. Towards the end of the letter, Flora said that she was determined to wash her hands of Charles and accept the proposal of a New Yorker. Knowing Flora, she would be married to this American and flashing him before the ton before the month was out.
A knock sounded at the door. Henrietta beckoned the intruder inside. A skittish maid slipped into the room.
“Miss. There is a man here to see you,” explained the maid, shifting from foot to foot.
“Does he have a card?” Henrietta asked.
“No,” squeaked the maid.
Henrietta folded the letter and placed it onto her table. “Does he realize I am no longer seeing visitors?”
“I told him. He still wishes to see you.”
Henrietta sighed. Although she wished to contemplate Charles’ letter, she decided it was best to entertain this mystery stranger for the next quarter of an hour. “Let him in.”
The maid disappeared. Henrietta turned in her seat to gaze at her reflection. Over the past few months, she found herself falling in love with Charles. She tried to squash these feelings out of loyalty to her sister. Never could she betray her own flesh and blood.
At least until she read Flora’s uncaring letter for her former fiancé. Flora never loved Charles. Her written words proved what Henrietta had suspected for quite some time. And now that Charles admitted his devotion to her…
The door to the room swung wide open. Henrietta nearly fell out of her seat when she recognized the man the maid had admitted. Charles.
She swung away from the mirror to look into his handsome green eyes. Without glancing at the maid, Henrietta ordered, “Leave us.”
The mousy maid scurried from the room, shutting the door behind her. Henrietta’s intent gaze slid over Charles’ form. He wore a brown coat over a white linen shirt and a gold embroidered waistcoat. A cravat covered his masculine throat. Black breeches molded against muscular thighs. His brown hair was tousled from the strong winds outside. A scar cut from his nose to his ear. Concern bubbled in Henrietta when she saw this symbol of his service for his country.
“Henrietta,” he whispered.
“Charles,” she mumbled.