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Authors: Jennifer McNare

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BOOK: Dreaming of You
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Coming around his desk, Dr. Fielding extended his hand.  “Thank you, Nurse Boyd,” he said, nodding to the woman as she pulled the door closed behind her.  “Your Grace, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
 

Shaking the elderly physician’s hand, Gavin repeated the sentiment.  “It is a pleasure to make yours as well, Dr. Fielding.  Thank you for seeing me on such short notice.”
 

“Of course, of course, please have a seat,” he said, motioning toward the small leather sofa that sat against the wall.  “May I get you anything?” he asked politely.  “Something to drink perhaps?”
 

“No, I’m fine.  Thank you.”
 

“Well then, what is that I can do for you Your Grace?” the older man asked, settling himself into the chair that sat next to the sofa.
 

Over the years, the Montrose family had made several generous charitable contributions to the hospital, but this was the first time Gavin had actually visited the facility himself.  “I am here to inquire about one of your patients, Nelson Bingham, Lord Hattford.”
 

“Oh?  Are you a friend of Lord Hattford’s?” Dr. Fielding asked.
 

“We attended Eton together,” Gavin replied, in lieu of affirmation.  “And my wife was previously married to Lord Hattford’s uncle, prior to his death.”
 

“I see.”
 

“In any event, it recently came to my attention that Lord Hattford hadn’t been released from the hospital as of yet,” he began, “and considering the length of time since his accident occurred, I found that news rather surprising.”  He eyed Dr. Fielding questioningly.  “Were his injuries that serious?”
 

“Yes, well, normally we do not discuss our patient’s conditions with anyone other than immediate members of the family,” Dr. Fielding replied, shifting uneasily in his chair.
 

Gavin merely quirked his brow as he continued to look the physician in the eye.
 

“However,” clearing his throat, Dr. Fielding again shifted slightly in his chair, “considering Her Grace’s relationship with Lord Hattford, I suppose there would be no harm in discussing his situation with you.”
 

“I would appreciate that,” Gavin said with a slight nod of his head.
 

 

 

Ten minutes later, Gavin knew the full extent of Nelson’s injuries.  To say that he was shocked would have been an understatement.  “And the condition is irreversible?”
 

“I’m afraid so.  As I said before, the damage to Lord Hattford’s brain was quite extensive.  Although he is able to open his eyes and is somewhat responsive to external stimuli, he is for the most part catatonic, and in all likelihood he will never regain the cognitive abilities he once had.”
 

Dear God, though he had little affection for Nelson, Gavin wouldn’t have wished such a fate upon his worst enemy.  “But the infection that kept him from being released weeks ago, once the majority of his physical injuries had healed; you now have that under control?” he asked.
 

“It appears so, Your Grace.  If all continues to go well, Lord Hattford should be able to be released into his mother’s care within the next several days.”
 

“But he will need extensive, around the clock care?”
 

“Yes,” Dr. Fielding nodded.  “It is highly unlikely that Lord Hattford will ever be able to care for himself, and thus, he will presumably require continuous nursing care for the remainder of his life.”  
 

“I see.”  Gavin looked up at the ceiling, slowly shaking his head from side to side.
 

“It is a grave tragedy indeed.”
 

“Dr. Fielding,” he began, turning his focus back to the physician, “I would like to cover the full cost of Lord Hattford’s medical expenses myself, present and future.  Whatever his needs may be, I wish for him to receive the absolute best of care for as long as he lives.”
 

The elderly doctor looked slightly taken aback.  “That is very generous of you, Your Grace.”
 

Considering all that Nelson had lost, it was but a mere pittance.  “It is the least I can do,” Gavin admitted.  “However, there is one stipulation.  I would prefer that my financial assistance remain anonymous.”
 

“Anonymous?”
 

“Yes.”  Gavin’s expression was uncompromising.  
 

“You do not wish for Lord Hattford’s mother to know of your generosity?” Dr. Fielding asked, his expression somewhat puzzled.
 

“No, for reasons of my own, I do not.  You may simply tell her that one of your institution’s many benefactors took an interest in her son’s case and made an anonymous donation to provide for his life-long care,” he replied.  “And of course, in continued support of the amazing work you and your staff do for the people of this community, I shall be making a sizeable contribution to the hospital as well.”
 

Dr. Fielding’s eyes lit up behind his wire-rimmed spectacles.  “Yes, well, I am quite certain that we shall be able to handle the situation to your complete satisfaction, Your Grace.”
 

 

 

As his coach pulled away from the front of the hospital, Gavin came to terms with the fact that Nelson Bingham was never going to fully recover from his injuries.  As such, even if he had wanted to right the wrong that had been done and somehow put Charles Cavendish’s immense wealth into Nelson’s hands, whether he was deserving of it or not, there was no longer any point in even considering the matter.  According to Dr. Fielding, Nelson would likely never regain the mental capabilities needed to see to his own care, and thus, he certainly wouldn’t be able to manage the large fortune his uncle had amassed.  Sadly, Gavin realized that it was just another tragedy to befall a man whose life had been plummeting in a downward spiral for years.
 

 

 

Later that afternoon, Gavin inadvertently came upon Melody as he entered the library in search of a book.  He’d mentioned the tale of Robin Hood to William and Emma the other day, and he’d promised to read them one of the many stories written about the legendary hero.
 

Turning her head toward the door, Melody was surprised to see Gavin enter the room, for she hadn’t been aware that he’d returned for his earlier outing.  Seated in one of the library’s large, comfortable chairs, she’d been lost in thought, the book she’d pulled from one of the shelves sitting unopened in her lap.  “Gavin, I wasn’t aware that you were home,” she said, smiling hesitantly as their gazes met.  Though nearly a month had passed since their wedding, she and Gavin’s relationship outside of the bedroom had remained relatively unchanged, and much to her enduring disappointment, was still somewhat awkward.  In fact, it was that very thing that she’d been pondering just moments ago, and wondering what, if anything, she could possibly do to change it.
 

Gavin considered telling Melody about his visit to the hospital, but something in her expression gave him pause.  “Is something troubling you,” he asked, eyeing her inquisitively.
 

“No, not really,” she hedged.  “I was just thinking…” she trailed off, suddenly unsure if she was making the right decision.  It had seemed like a good idea when she’d thought of it just a few minutes earlier, but now so wasn’t so sure.
 

“Yes?”
 

After a brief hesitation, she decided to proceed with her request.  “Well, I realize that they were just here, for the wedding.  But, I was thinking that I might like to take the children to visit my parents for a few days.”
 

“Oh.”
 

“It’s just that, well, I haven’t seen my brother in months you see, and since he wasn’t able to attend the wedding, well, I was hoping-.”
 

“Melody, you don’t need to explain,” Gavin said, gently cutting off her rambling, a look of understanding upon his face.  “I have no issue with you taking the children to visit your family.”
 

“You don’t?”  
 

“Of course not,” Gavin replied honestly.  “I understand how much your family means to you and I would never try to keep you or the children from seeing them as often as you wish.”
 

Once again, she was reminded of how very different Gavin was from Charles Cavendish, and it brought an appreciative smile to her lips.  “Thank you, Gavin.  That means a great deal to me.”
 

Nodding, Gavin returned her smile and then turned his attention to the fully-laden bookcases that lined the walls of the room.  How easy it was to make her happy, he reflected as he set about locating the book he was after.  Suddenly pensive, his thoughts turned to the past weeks as he searched the shelves.  Once again, Melody had surprised him, as she often had during the course of the past months, for he had yet to see any signs of a woman who was capable of the selfish machinations that had resulted in his abduction years earlier.  It had been quite the opposite, in fact.  
 

From what he’d observed, Melody not only possessed a fiercely passionate nature, but for all intents and purposes, she appeared to be a truly loving and kindhearted person, the kind of individual he’d always imagined her to be during their time at the cottage, a genuinely good person who treated everyone around
her with the utmost care and respect.  His mother and sister, both excellent judges of character, adored her, as did the members of their household staff.  In addition, and as a result of her seemingly inherent charm and affability, she was fast becoming one of the most popular members of their social set, though she made no visible effort to purposefully or calculatedly court anyone’s good favor.  
 

However, he had begun to notice something else as well, something he found oddly troubling.  Though outwardly Melody appeared to be happy and content, he occasionally caught glimpses of a vastly different emotion lurking within the depths of her expressive blue eyes.  If he wasn’t mistaken, it was sadness, and he was beginning to fear that
he
was the cause of it.  As a result, he was finding it more and more difficult to maintain the emotional barrier he’d erected between them, and with increasing frequency, he was beginning to wonder what would happen if he dared to allow it to fall.
 

As his gaze fell finally upon the leather-bound book he’d been looking for, he turned back toward where Melody sat, his thoughts still pensive.  The book she’d been holding in her lap was open now, and for a moment he simply watched her as she held it aloft, her eyes scanning the written words.  Glancing up, she caught his eyes upon her a moment later.  Discomfited at having been caught staring, Gavin thoughts were still in turmoil as he quickly took his leave.  Bidding her a good afternoon, he hastened from the room, leaving Melody to her reading.
 

 

 

The following day, as Melody began the preparations for her and the children’s journey to the country, she once again pondered the state of affairs between her and Gavin.  As much as she loved him, it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to deal with the conflicting aspects of their relationship.  Although she cherished their passion filled nights more than anything, it was the days that were beginning to weigh upon her with a growing sense of despair, for as much as she craved Gavin’s lovemaking; she craved his love even more.  That she didn’t have that, that she might never have that, was slowly tearing at her heart, bit by bit.  
 

Thus, it was her most fervent wish that this trip and the resulting time that she and Gavin would spend apart, might trigger a change, a change for the better.  It might be a foolish notion, but she hoped that given time alone, Gavin might find that not only did he miss having her in his bed, but that he actually missed
her
.  Knowing that it might very well come to nothing, or that it could change everything, for the better
or
the worse, was a risk.   But it was a risk she was willing to take, one she
had
to take.
 

 

Chapter 28

 

As the coach rolled to a stop before her parent’s home, Melody felt her spirits lift dramatically.  She was so looking forward to spending time with her mother and father, and of course she had missed Adam dreadfully during the past months and could hardly wait to see her younger brother again.
 

Stepping down from the vehicle, Melody couldn’t help but notice the wide-eyed stare of Timothy Dutton the man who filled the dual role of the Settrington’s butler and footman, as she and the children exited the large, elegant traveling coach displaying the Rutherford Crest.  And if possible, his astonishment seemed only to increase as he took in the four armed and mounted outriders, each man stylishly outfitted in the Rutherford red and gold livery.  They were quite a site she realized, and most certainly were to a modest and unassuming man like Mr. Dutton, who had grown up in the local village and had been employed by her parents for as long as she could remember.  
 

Although she had inherited a great deal of money from her late husband, more than enough to afford her parents a much more lavish lifestyle than they were accustomed, they remained content to live as they always had.  Aside from the handful of servants they employed, her mother and father continued to enjoy a relatively modest standard of living, despite Melody’s never-ending attempts to share her good fortune.
 

Exiting the house behind Mr. Dutton, Melody’s father approached her and the children with a wide grin.  “Welcome, welcome,” he called, extending his arms as William and Emma rushed forward to greet him.
 

“Hello Papa,” Melody said, as she too stepped toward her father.  “It’s so good to see you again,” she told him, placing a light kiss upon his cheek as William and Emma moved to greet their grandmother, who now stood in the open doorway, a wide smile lighting up her jubilant expression.
 

BOOK: Dreaming of You
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