One Year Later
Feeling awkward and heavy, her gown of silk and lace sewn to fit her swollen belly, Morgan stood before the cathedral’s altar beside Isabel. Like Morgan, Isabel’s pregnancy had been adroitly concealed behind a specially fitted dress, and both of them were waiting for Roslyn to walk down the aisle with the Duke of Hartington.
Under her lashes, Morgan eyed her future brother-in-law, Winston, the Earl of Perryshire, and concealed a smile. Though not nearly as handsome as either Brandon or Alexander, Morgan could not imagine a more perfect match for her sister. Throughout their long engagement, Winston and Roslyn had fallen deeply in love, and spent as much time as possible together.
“He looks absolutely dashing, does he not?” Isabel whispered, seeing the direction of Morgan’s gaze.
“He does,” Morgan whispered back, leaning toward her cousin. “He almost puts Alexander to shame.”
Isabel huffed in indignation. “Bite your tongue.”
Stifling a giggle, Morgan looked out over the guests in the cathedral, nearly every pew filled. The scandal over Luke’s criminal behavior did not last as long as Morgan thought it might, and due to the clean Cranston name, people put the blame clearly on the perpetrator, not on Rupert, the Marquess of Cranston. High society instead sympathized with the loss of his beloved wife at the hands of his own son.
She caught Brandon’s eye as he sat beside his father, witnessing his quick grin. Alexander cheerfully waved at Isabel, who snickered but dared not wave back under the watching eyes of the nobility in the cathedral. Even such a gesture to her husband might incite comment among them.
“Look,” Isabel hissed. “Here she comes.”
Turning her head, Morgan watched Roslyn walk down the aisle beside their father, her heart filling with joy and pride. “She is so beautiful,” she murmured, and this time Lord Perryshire heard her speak.
“Yes, she is,” he muttered from the side of his mouth. “That idiot Addstone lost a pearl beyond all price when he rejected her.”
Grinning sheepishly, he hastily added, “The former Addstone.”
All three caught the stern eyes of the archbishop, who stood before them with his crozier. Morgan gulped, and turned her attention to the ceremony about to begin. She ignored Isabel’s humorous nudge of her elbow, but sent Lord Perryshire a quick wink.
Delivered to her future husband’s side, Roslyn smiled at Morgan and Isabel behind her veil, then turned it onto Lord Perryshire, who gazed down at her with the adoration and love Roslyn would never have received from Luke. The archbishop intoned prayers, beginning the service that would join Roslyn to her new husband for the rest of her life.
“Do you, Winston, take this woman to be your loving wife? To have and to hold, through sickness and in health, till death do you part?”
Lord Perryshire smiled down at Roslyn as he accepted his vow. “I do.”
Happy tears burned in Morgan’s eyes as the archbishop turned to Roslyn. “Do you, Roslyn, take this man to be your loving husband? To have and to hold, through sickness and in health, till death do you part?”
Roslyn’s own tears glittered on her cheeks as she stared up at her lord. “I do.”
“My Lord, you may now kiss your bride.”
Lord Perryshire turned to Roslyn, and lifted her veil over her head. Bending, he placed a tender, sweet kiss on her lips, and Morgan’s eyes spilled over at the stunning and beautiful sight. He will make her so very happy. The audience of nobles from all over England applauded as the newly married couple began their slow walk back down the aisle.
Morgan and Isabel fell in behind the archbishop, as did Lord Perryshire’s brothers who had stood up for him. “As much as I love weddings,” Isabel whispered as they paced slowly down between the pews, “I must get out of this gown. The baby does not like it.”
“Feeling squeezed, is he?” Morgan’s own unborn baby apparently slept through the ceremony, for she felt no kicking at all despite the discomfort of her own dress.
“And I have to remain in it until after the formal reception. Makes me want to curse.”
Outside in the clear spring air, Morgan and Isabel were joined by their husbands, and stood and watched as the Earl and Countess of Perryshire formally greeted their guests. “Your father could not have picked a better man for Roslyn,” Brandon commented, his green eyes amused as he glanced down at Morgan. “A fine man.”
“I know,” Morgan replied, wanting to hold his hand but not daring to under the potentially watching eyes of the throng. “She found love, and that is what matters to me.”
“It is almost like a fairy tale from old,” Isabel added with a chuckle. “We all found it, love, happiness, our dreams came true.”
“They are spending their honey month on the Isle of Wight?” Alexander asked, watching the happy couple.
“Yes, Father has a manor house there,” Morgan answered. “Roslyn wanted to be near the sea, and Lord Perryshire had no objections.”
Alexander gestured toward a small crowd of nobles, and glanced down at Isabel. “Might we go speak with them, light of my life?”
Isabel laughed. “Keep calling me that, and you can have whatever you want.”
As the two drifted over to chat, Brandon daringly squeezed Morgan’s hand for a brief moment. “Do you ever wonder if we were fated to be together?” he asked.
Morgan eyed him, then gave him a brief nod. “Yes, I do. All the years we spent hating one another, only to find out how truly foolish that was.”
Frowning slightly, Brandon shook his head. “Somehow, I do not think we would have found love with one another if we had not once feuded.”
“Truly? You think we might have simply been friends all these years and never took that further into love?”
“No. It sounds strange, but I think, no, I believe, that only by coming to terms with despising one another could we find happiness with each other.”
“Lord Despicable.” Morgan snickered.
“You really do not want to know what I used to call you,” he replied with a laugh.
“Oh, tell me,” Morgan demanded, keeping her voice down.
“I will not say it aloud, but.” Bending, Brandon whispered in her ear.
Shocked, Morgan stared at him her eyes wide. “You did not!”
“I did. But now I call you the absolute love of my life, my moon and my stars.”
Eyeing him sidelong, Morgan commented, “That is much better than the other. You really called me that?”
“Never aloud, my love.” He grinned. “But all that is behind us, and I love you with all my heart and soul.”
Wanting to wrap her arms around him, Morgan grinned back, her heart swelling with happiness. “And I love you, my handsome husband, my joy, my life’s partner.”
Ah, before you go...
Please don't forget to follow me on Bookbub to get all my latest news and updates ♥