Undaunted Love (PART TWO): Banished Saga, Book 3.5 (2 page)

BOOK: Undaunted Love (PART TWO): Banished Saga, Book 3.5
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“I can’t imagine she’d travel so far.”

“Wouldn’t you for your father?” Sophronia raised an eyebrow, her aquamarine eyes lit with reproach.

Savannah blushed and nodded. “Of course.”

“You seem to have thrived under your aunt’s gentle care. It’s good to see you looking healthy and at peace.”

“Aunt Betsy is wonderful at spoiling me. And at making me face truths.” Savannah sighed, her gaze roaming Sophronia’s face. “You look much better too, Sophie.”

“A few bruises and a trifling head wound aren’t going to keep the likes of me down,” Sophie said. “Although, having suffered as I did, most terribly according to the papers”—she raised a sardonic eyebrow at Savannah—“it still had no bearing on your case against Jonas. My lawyer suggested I settle with him on my case.”

“I hope you gouged him for a horrid amount of money,” Savannah said.

“Never you fear, I did,” Sophronia said with a gleam to her eyes. “Now, on to more interesting topics. Did you write your young man at all?”

“No, I didn’t believe it would be proper. Not after I’d asked him for time to better determine what I needed. It seemed hypocritical.”

“Though you thought about him.” When Savannah nodded her agreement, Sophronia said, “I think you would have been surprised by his letters. I know Clarissa enjoyed her Gabriel’s letters and cherished all he sent her. Even though they were parted, it gave her the sense they were still close.”

“I know. But she hadn’t asked him for space. It’s not at all the same situation.” At Sophie’s challenging stare, Savannah fidgeted. “I’ve realized I need to see Jeremy. I want to. I want him in my life. And I fear I have ruined everything by my absence.”

Sophronia nodded her agreement. “I’m glad you took time away to determine your own mind. Now you’ll have no doubts. As for Mr. McLeod, I’ve rarely seen a man as dedicated to his love’s happiness. I was impressed by our conversation over tea and when he arrived the day you departed for Quincy. He appears the antithesis of Jonas.”

“I agree. I continue to hope he’ll give me another chance.” Savannah sighed. “I won’t contact him until after the funeral. It wouldn’t be seemly.”

“Well, I hope he doesn’t hear of your return before you write him. Men have a tendency to misunderstand even the most simple of situations.”

Savannah laughed at Sophronia and curled into her chair. “It’s good to be back, Sophie.”

***

THE FOLLOWING AFTERNOON, Savannah entered the formal front parlor and paused for a moment as she saw her father conversing with Sophie. “Father!” She rushed forward to hug him.

“There’s my girl,” he said. He pulled her to him and held her for a few moments. After he released her, he held onto her hand and eased her onto the settee next to him. “I’ve missed you while you’ve been with your aunt Betsy.”

“I missed you too, Father.”

“When you returned from Quincy, I continued to hope you’d return to us,” he said.

Savannah flinched at the reproach in his voice. She nodded, acknowledging his concern. “This is where I should be, Father. I can’t live under Mother’s constant criticism. I’m glad Aunt Betsy will be with you for a little while.”

“As are we, although we are all deeply saddened by the reason for her travel.”

“I know. The funeral is in a few days.”

“You will attend, Savannah?”

At her hesitancy, where she bit her lip and looked away, he reached forward and gripped her hand. “Savannah, what has you worried?”

“What if Jonas is there?” Her voice trembled at the thought.

“As if that man would deign to attend the funeral of a blacksmith,” Sophie said with a sniff.

“I worry he’ll surprise us. I can’t see him. I need more time before facing him again.” Savannah drew small circles on her dress in her agitation.

“Mrs. Chickering, do you mind if I have a few moments alone with my daughter?” Martin asked.

Sophie nodded, rose and closed the door behind her with a soft
click
.

“Why did you never tell me how he treated you?”

“I was ashamed. Afraid you’d believe it was my fault.” Savannah looked down. “And then I’d truly have had no hope.”

“Did you think I wouldn’t believe you? That I wouldn’t defend you against such a man?” he rasped.

“Mother said that I needed to accept my choices. That once I was married to him, I needed to believe as Jonas did and to not question him.” Savannah blinked away tears and turned her face away from her father, casting her face in shadow.

“Dammit, I’m not your mother!” Martin roared. “I would have protected you. I would have ensured you left his house after the first time he hurt you. Why would you stay?”

“I thought it was expected of me!” Savannah gripped the edge of the settee, her fingers digging into the fine silk as she met her father’s eyes, unable to hide the devastation in her gaze.

“To live with a man who brutalized you? How could you doubt me so?”

Savannah flinched at her father’s anguished whisper.

He rose and paced toward the mantel. As Savannah spoke, he held up a hand. He faced the crackling fire, staring into the flames. “Please, don’t say anything. I’m again acting as though this is your fault. As though you have something to atone for. Whereas I’m the one who needs forgiveness.”

He turned to face his daughter with tormented eyes. “Forgive me for failing you, Savannah. I realize now I chose not to see the subtle clues you showed us. I couldn’t bear to believe you would be treated in such a way. And now I realize the reality you suffered was much worse than anything I’d imagined.”

“How do you know how I was treated?” Savannah asked, tears trickling down her cheeks.

“Your aunt Betsy and I spoke late into the night last evening. She detailed the little you told her. It was enough to give me nightmares.”

“Did you speak with Mother about what Aunt Betsy said?”

Martin sighed and nodded.

Savannah’s breath hitched as she said, “So she understands now why I left.” She saw her father wince at the hopeful tone of her voice.

“Don’t become hopeful. She believes you …” He paused as though looking for the words. He looked away, unwilling to watch the hope dim from his daughter’s face as his words resonated.

“Fabricated the reason to abandon my good home and bring shame onto the entire family,” Savannah said, her voice laced with dull resignation.

“Exactly,” Martin said. He approached the settee and sat next to her. “I’m sorry for your mother.”

“At least you understand. Thank you.” She leaned into him. “Although I don’t believe you need it, I forgive you.”

“Thank you, my Savannah. I find I very much need it. It’s like a balm to a festering wound. As for your mother, I don’t know as she will ever change her mind.” He handed Savannah his clean linen handkerchief, and she scrubbed her face.

“I’m trying to accept her as she is, although I know I’ll never be close to her again.” She turned to sit sideways and to better face him. “I’m sorry for you. I wish she were more understanding.” At his inquisitive furrowing of his forehead, she whispered, “Aunt Betsy and I had plenty of time to chat while I visited. I badgered her into telling me about you and Mother.”

“She had no right, Savannah. That was not her story to tell.”

“Maybe not. But you were never going to tell me, and I needed to better understand Mother. I didn’t want my disappointment and hurt to evolve into hate.”

He nodded. “I can understand. It doesn’t paint either of us in a good light.” He squeezed her hand. “Whatever you imagine, however you believe what you have learned has helped you understand your mother better, never doubt what you knew to be true when you lived at home. We loved you and Lucas, and we love you now. We’ve come to care a great deal for each other. Never doubt the affection we’ve shown.

“The only time I’ve known regret since I married your mother has been recently. When I learned how you were treated by Jonas.” Martin met her worried gaze. “I want you to know I plan on visiting Jonas and demanding he release you from this marriage. He has no right to continue to wish you home after how he has treated you.”

“Please be careful. I know Jonas, and he’ll be enraged that you believe you have the right to give him any form of instruction.”

“I have failed in almost all aspects as a father once he was introduced to you. I refuse to fail you now.”

Savannah blinked away tears. “Thank you.”

“Is there any truth to the stories in the paper about you and a carpenter?”

Savannah blushed and looked away. Then she straightened her shoulders and met her father’s worried gaze with a hopeful one. “Yes, there is. Did you ever meet Jeremy McLeod? Gabriel’s youngest brother?” She watched as her father took a moment to think through the people he had met before he shook his head no. “He befriended me last summer. When I searched for my baby. We became close.”

“I can’t approve.”

“Father,” Savannah began but was hushed by Martin.

“I can’t approve until I can meet him and see for myself that he treats you well. I need to take his measure. See for myself how he is and not be guided by your mother or anyone else.”

“You liked Gabriel.”

“I did, and that is something this Jeremy has in his favor. But he is his own man, and I will judge him for who he is. Not who his family is.” He smiled at Savannah. “When can I meet him?”

“I’ll see what I can arrange,” Savannah whispered, fighting tears. “I believe you will like him.”

“The fact you think so highly of him is in his favor.” He gripped her hand as he rose to leave.

CHAPTER 3

“YOU SEEM TO BE LABORING under a misapprehension,” Jonas said. He sat in a polished mahogany swivel chair behind a large mahogany desk. The desk filled a quarter of the room, as though its size alone proclaimed the importance of the man sitting behind it. Sitting across from double doors, large windows let in late afternoon sunlight onto the desk. Dark wood paneling covered the walls, and thick red-and-black Persian carpets covered the wooden floors. A faint scent of cigar smoke lingered in the room, mingling with the aroma from the hothouse roses sitting on a table near a window to the left of the door.

Jonas’s navy jacket was slung over the back of a nearby chair, and he sat wearing a pristine white shirt, navy waistcoat and burgundy tie. Gold cuff links caught the sunlight. He crossed his legs, creasing his tailored suit pants, watching his father-in-law with thinly veiled contempt.

“I’ll have you know that no man has the right to treat my daughter as you have.” Martin Russell vibrated with fury as he watched his son-in-law. He wore an equally fine suit in a rich chocolate brown that highlighted his eyes. At this moment, they flashed with fury, appearing more black than brown.

“You fail to understand that, when I married her, she became mine, to do with as I wish.”

“She’s not a possession.”

“No, she’s of less value, as she causes me no end of expense for her upkeep. Nor does she fulfill her one purpose in this marriage,” Jonas said.

“You have no basis for complaint with Savannah. She has been a perfect wife for you from the first day.”

“Only a father could believe such about a daughter like yours,” Jonas said as he steepled his fingers and watched Martin disdainfully.

“Accuse me of being proud of my beautiful daughter. I see no shame in that. Charge her of any crime against you, and you are a liar.”

“Careful, old man,” Jonas said. “I’d hate to sue you for slander.”

“I wouldn’t think you’d want any more scandal associated with you,” Martin said on a deep exhale. He took another deep breath in an attempt to calm himself. “In whatever way you think you have been misused, I assure you my family’s suffering is worse.”

“She had one task. One!” Jonas said with a slight rise in his voice. He slammed his hand down on the desk as he leaned forward and glared at Martin. “And she couldn’t fulfill the most basic task. I was assured she was the epitome of a refined woman. I couldn’t have been more misled.”

“You were the most fortunate of men to have married my Savannah.”

“With the influence of women such as your rebellious niece, Clarissa, I count myself cursed. Mrs. Montgomery needed more guidance than a woman accustomed to my social standing should have needed to know her place.”

“Beating her into submission would never convince her to your way of thinking,” Martin hissed.

“After all I did for her, bringing her into my world and introducing her to the finest of society, how dare she produce a girl? Why would I want a daughter? I needed a son!” Jonas roared as he rose to pace the small area behind his desk.

“You are mad to believe she had any control over that outcome,” Martin said. “If you truly believe my daughter acted to thwart you in such a manner, I’m glad she is free of you.”

“Is that what you think?” Jonas asked as he turned to watch Martin with a possessive gleam in his eyes.

“Yes. We will always regret our liaison with you.”

“Finally something we have in common. My associates tell me your business is thriving of late. After a little … hiccup this summer, it appears your shop is more popular than ever.”

BOOK: Undaunted Love (PART TWO): Banished Saga, Book 3.5
7.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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