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Authors: Cheryl Holt

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BOOK: Dreams of Desire
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“Never again.”
“I want to belong somewhere. It’s all I’ve ever wanted. I want a home of my own and children to mother. Will you give them to me?”
“Yes, Lily, I will give them to you.” He rested a palm on her stomach, his quiet confirmation that he suspected they’d already started the family she craved.
“Then yes, John Middleton, I will marry you.”
There was a shocked pause.
“Do you mean it?”
“Yes, I mean it.”
“With me it’s forever. If you can’t abide your life with me, I won’t allow you to flit off like my mother did.”
Barbara snorted, as Lily smiled and said, “Why would I ever go? I have everything I need right here with you.”
Epilogue
“WHERE will you go?”
“I haven’t decided.”
Phillip gazed at Miss Lambert, then stopped to correct himself. She was now Countess of Penworth, but he was having trouble getting used to the appellation.
The hell with it,
he mused. She’d always been Miss Lambert to him, and she always would be. It seemed wrong to stick such a fancy label on her.
“How about your sister?” she asked. “Will she stay in Scotland?”
“Yes, she’s content to remain, and it doesn’t appear as if Captain Odell will return anytime soon to kick her out of his house.”
“Will you travel north to live with her again?”
He stared at the sky as if he could see Scotland, as if he could see Clarinda smiling and waving.
“No, I won’t go back.”
“How will you occupy yourself?”
“I have no idea.”
“Why do I assume you’ll find some mischief?”
“I have a knack for it, don’t I?”
“You surely do.”
He pointed to her wedding band.
“I believe,” he smirked, “someone owes me an apology. That would be you. Did I, or did I not, tell you he would marry you in the end?”
“Yes, you did, and I was an absolute churl to have doubted you.”
He chuckled. “I love to be proved right. Say thank you.”
“Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.”
She clucked her tongue in disgust. “You’re a vain beast. Much like my husband, but I like you both anyway.”
She rose on tiptoe and kissed him on the cheek, which made him feel absurdly glad.
They were by his peddler’s wagon, the rear doors propped wide to display his bottles and jars. During his sojourn in Scotland, he’d stored it in a shed, and with his being back in England, he’d pulled it out and cleaned it up, but it didn’t hold the thrill it previously had.
Perhaps, at age thirty, he was finally growing up and becoming interested in honest endeavors. Or perhaps—without Clarinda by his side—his chosen profession no longer appealed.
He had no desire to seek out new customers, to hawk his wares or mix batches of potion. He was restless, chomping at the bit to be on the road. But to where?
He had no home; he didn’t belong anywhere and never had. Where would he go, and once he arrived, what would he do?
Penworth’s carriage was parked down the street. The door opened, and he climbed out.
“Lily,” Penworth said, “I’m sorry, but we need to depart.”
“Duty calls,” she told Phillip. “We’re off to Penworth Hall, his family seat in the country, so I can be formally introduced to the servants and tenants.”
“My little countess,” Phillip teased. “How are you enjoying yourself?”
“I’m so happy, Dudley.”
“And I am so delighted for you.”
He escorted her over to her husband, and Penworth helped her into the carriage.
He and Penworth didn’t like each other very much. It was difficult to move beyond the night when Penworth had caught Phillip and Barbara in bed together. But as a favor to Penworth’s wife and mother—whom they both adored—they could manage not to bicker.
“Take care of her, Penworth,” Phillip insisted. “If you don’t, you’ll answer to me.”
“It will never be necessary, Dudley. Lily is my rock and my foundation. She always will be.”
Penworth hoisted himself in, and a footman shut the door. Miss Lambert leaned out the window, and Phillip clasped her hand.
“I’ll worry about you,” she said.
“I’ll be fine.”
“Write to me when you can.”
“I will.”
He’d never had a person with whom to correspond, and he was pitifully flattered that she’d suggested it.
“I have to keep Barbara apprised of your antics,” Miss Lambert explained. “She’ll want to know where you are and what you’re doing.”
“Well then, I’ll definitely be sure to stay in touch.”
A silence ensued, and suddenly, they were both ridiculously maudlin.
“Let me hear your French accent,” Miss Lambert said. “Let me hear it one last time.”
“Au revoir, mon amie.”
“Good-bye.”
“Ah,
chérie
, have a grand life.”
“I intend to.”
Phillip kissed her knuckles, and the intimacy was too much for Penworth. He rapped on the roof, and the carriage lurched away. Miss Lambert waved until they were far in the distance and Phillip could no longer see her.
He nodded his farewell, pleased with himself and the conclusion he’d wrought, and then he turned to his wagon.
The placard painted on the side made him snort with amusement. He claimed to sell a bit of everything: Love Potions! Invigorating Tonics! The Latest Therapies Known to Man & Science! The list went on and on.
People were so damned gullible, so lonely and easily swayed.
Don’t forget the spinsters you’ve cured,
he reflected to himself.
If you don’t believe me, just ask Lily Lambert.
He puttered around, fussing with the display, rearranging the jars, but his heart wasn’t in it.
Ultimately, an acquaintance arrived, a fellow for whom he’d been waiting. After a brief discussion, they settled on a price for the wagon, the horse, and all the merchandise. Money was exchanged, and there was no reason to linger.
He peered down the street. Where to go? What to do?
He picked a direction and started off, but at the last second, he went back. He grabbed a few vials of love potion, of his Spinster’s Cure, and a bottle of his Woman’s Daily Remedy.
“You never know when one of these might come in handy,” he advised his friend.
He spun and walked on.
BOOK: Dreams of Desire
7.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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