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Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 6

October 13, 2020 07:12PM
Chapter Six

“This is truly delicious, Juliana,” said Fennimore. “Thank you for taking the trouble to make it.” He was chewing with some difficulty on the other side of his mouth, but enjoying the sumptuous meal all the same.

“Well, at least that brute was good for something,” she replied with a mischievous grin. “I didn’t have to do anything more to tenderize it. He pounded it well enough with his thick skull.”

She giggled, then stifled her laughter at the sight of her brother’s reproachful look.

“Juliana, you hurt him very badly. He is in terrible pain.”

“It was no more than he deserved, striking you like that! Do you think he regrets, for one moment, almost breaking your jaw? It is a miracle you didn’t lose any teeth, Simon!”

“But he used only his fist, Juliana, while you swung at him with a five pound weight! It is not the same!”

“I took no unfair advantage,” she retorted. “He was twice my size and an army officer trained in battle. I was simply clever enough to use what was at hand.”

“Nevertheless,” said Fennimore, shaking his head in frustration. “This has to stop, Juliana. I am no longer a little boy being bullied by some ruffians behind the rectory. I am a man, and you must allow me to deal with such men in my own way!”

“But you make no effort to defend yourself, Simon. I know you don’t believe in fighting, but you cannot let such people abuse you and do nothing about it!”

“So you intend to walk ten steps behind me for the rest of your life and spring upon anyone who dares argue with me? My darling sister, you have always been my most steadfast defender and my best friend, but for both our sakes, you must think of how these incidents are perceived by the world. You are a beautiful young lady and…”

“So now we come to the heart of it,” she said, growing angry. “My behavior is unladylike and reflects badly on you. Well, I am sorry to have embarrassed you, dear brother. In the future, I shall endeavor to remember my place in society and act like the demur little creature you wish me to be!”

“Julie, the drama is unnecessary. You know full well that is not what I mean. You could never embarrass me…but the truth is that I feel diminished when you continually come to my rescue — as if you believe me incapable of dealing with life’s little battles. Yes, I may get bruised or lose a tooth, as every man does now and then, but I may also come out ahead in the end, as I manage to talk my way out of most confrontations. And as for you…it is time you made some difficult decisions, my darling girl.”

She threw back her head, tossing her curls with her usual air of indifference. Wishing to avoid such conversations, she always made light of them.

“What difficult decisions can I possibly have to make? I am young, clever, very beautiful — or so my elder brother tells me — and most importantly, I am well provided for. My life is perfect just as it is.”

“Julie,” he said tenderly, taking both her hands in his and drawing her over to the well worn settee. “Be serious for once. You must make yourself look at your problems in the light of day or you shall wake up one morning and find that father has married you off to some wealthy, middle aged man with false teeth and a house in the country.”

She tried to pull free of him, but he would not let her go. “I must clear away the dishes,” she insisted, avoiding his gaze.

“Juliana, I don’t need to live at home to know that mother and father are desperately trying to make a match for you. You must face it and try to find someone of your own choosing before you are forced into some dreadful match and a lifetime of misery. You are no longer a girl of fifteen, with years and years ahead of you.”

“You need not remind me of my age, Simon. I am well aware that being six and twenty and unwed is pitiable. But I do not understand why I must marry at all? I am perfectly content. I have a comfortable home, all the diversions I require and you to love and care for. Why can I not continue in this way? Why can they not let me be?” she said with tears now filling her eyes.

“But that is precisely why you must take your life into your own hands and make your own decisions. The time has come. You must ask yourself what you really want out of life. If you truly wish to remain unattached I shall faithfully support you in that decision. But you must be certain that it is what you truly want.”

“But what do my feelings signify in any case? Have you not heard? Juliana Fennimore may be wealthy and accomplished, but she is a wild, difficult creature. She will not be the quiet, dutiful wife! She may prove too hard to handle to be worth the trouble.”

“Yes, I have heard that,” said Fennimore, grinning. “And it is exactly what you wish them all to believe.”

“Well, all the men I meet seem to think that by taking a wealthy young woman off her father’s hands, they earn themselves the right to a life of idleness and amusement. Their wife’s inheritance will supply them with all the capital necessary for gaming, drinking and keeping a mistress! You have had your inheritance snatched away from you, Simon, and I will not let some undeserving, egotistical, good-for-nothing man, dwindle away mine. I have better uses for it!”

“Like supporting my research, no doubt.”

She blushed and said nothing. He knew her too well.

“Juliana, you cannot sacrifice your own life for mine. You cannot set aside your inheritance for me and deny yourself the happiness it may bring you.”

“It was once your inheritance, Simon!”

“That is no longer important. It is bad enough that you share your pin money with me, conspire with cook to keep me fed and supply me with life’s little necessities each time you come. You know how grateful I am for all your love and support, Juliana, and I pray that we shall always be as close and dear to each other as we are now ... but we must each seek our own happiness and build our own lives. Then we will have so much more to share with one another.”

“Simon!” she now cried with the sudden realization of what his words implied. “Is there something you’ve been keeping from me? Have you met someone? Is this what all this is about?”

“No, of course not! Well, what I mean to say is that…I have begun to see the possibility of a different sort of life for myself…one that might include…a wife, perhaps. But none of that is possible now; you know I have no way of supporting her.”

The look on Juliana’s face made him blush. They had always been so close, had shared everything, and here he was admitting that he had fallen in love and had kept it from her.

Juliana gasped, then giggled and sat down again. “So, there is someone. Someone important.”

“Yes, but she does not even know the depths of my feelings for her, and it may be years before I can even approach her with a proposal. Just listen to me!” he said shaking his head and laughing, “I’m talking as if she would actually have me – and be willing to wait for me to earn a decent living! It is probably all smoke and dreams anyway, but the point is that I now know there is a life for me outside the laboratory. I had never even contemplated that before. And there is a better life awaiting you, my darling sister, if you would only seek it out. Don’t let our parents make this important decision for you. You need a husband you can truly love and admire! I know your tender heart and generous nature. You were not meant to be alone, Juliana. You are passionate and caring, and hungry for life. And I know how much you adore children! Those are the things you should be striving for!”

“But I cannot find him!” she shouted, throwing up her hands in obvious frustration. “He does not frequent Mrs. Abernathy’s card parties or the Billingsley’s soirees! Or if he does, I do not recognize him. The only men I meet are pompous, ignorant fools who…”

”Surely, I am not the only clever and affectionate man in all of London, Juliana. And further more, when was the last time you actually accepted an invitation to one of those soirees?”

“Oh Simon, you know I cannot bear them — the ridiculous small talk, the insincere compliments, the whispered remarks when one enters the room. This would be my seventh season, Simon. It is humiliating.”

“That may be true, but you cannot give up. If father makes another match for you and you reject it once again, he will cast you off to aunt Helen in the country, and then where will we be? You know it is for my sake alone that I ask you to persevere, my love,” he said grinning and lifting her chin to kiss her brow. “I cannot bear to have you so far away from me.”

“I shall try — for your sake, then,” she said with a teasing smile. “You must, however, now tell me all about this remarkable woman. How wonderful she must be to have won your heart, dear Simon. I cannot wait to meet her.”

“I cannot tell you much about her or introduce you, just yet. She is in the midst of some unpleasantness with her own family and has asked me to be discreet. So I beg you not to press me, Julie, but to be patient. It is for this reason alone that I have kept all knowledge of her from you. I cannot fail her, or she will never trust me.”


After three days under Dr. Morrison’s care, Richard Fitzwilliam was released to the care of his cousins. The jolting ride home was an agony, with the Colonel’s equilibrium affecting his stomach as well as his head. James was obliged to pull to the side of the road on two occasions so as not to dirty the coach. When finally settled in his bed and medicated again, the Colonel slept fitfully for a few hours, soaking the bedding with perspiration.

Whenever he awoke, he saw through a feverish haze the faces of either Elizabeth or Georgiana, as they soothed his brow with cool, wet cloths or helped him to take some liquid sustenance. Broths and puddings of every kind were being urged down his throat, but he could take no more than two or three spoonfuls. He was in constant pain, despite the Laudanum, and utterly exhausted by it.

It was Elizabeth’s cool hand on his brow and her comforting words that sustained him. It seemed she did not hate him for his interference after all — or at least, she had forgiven him. Surely she could not be caring for him so tenderly were she still angry. He thought of the two women who had been responsible for putting him in this pitiful condition. Elizabeth could not be blamed for his need to meddle into her affairs, and the other…well, he certainly could not explain his interest in her. He saw her now, as if in a dream, her eyes flashing, her face flushed with rage. Yet now, as then, he wanted only to stop the barrage of angry words by covering her mouth with his own. Was he mad? The woman was a menace ... though the most bewitching one he ever beheld. Of course, she was already taken! Fennimore! Curse the man! He had become the source of all his misery.

Any movement, no matter how slight, caused pain and often nausea, and so he lay as still as possible, his eyes shut to escape the light. He could easily sense who sat beside him by the sound of their breathing, a telltale fragrance, perhaps, or the obvious tranquility or impatience with which they waited. Elizabeth was always the most calm of his visitors — hardly ever shifting about in her chair or fidgeting with one thing or another.

He should have felt embarrassed to be in her presence after spying on her and getting himself into such a troublesome fix. But her company quieted him. Indeed, he found it very comforting. How much Dr. Morrison had disclosed about the altercation or who his assailant had been, he did not know. And so, it was only Elizabeth to whom he could speak without the fear of revealing too much.

On his third day at Grosvenor Square he was feeling a bit more human when Elizabeth brought in his lunch tray and came to sit beside him. His cousin’s valet, who had been given the unenviable task of seeing to his physical needs, had just left him somewhat refreshed and presentable. He managed an awkward smile in Elizabeth’s direction.

“You are being far too good to me, Elizabeth — I hope you don’t feel it a cruel obligation after our last conversation. But you must know how appreciative I am for your kindness, and how much I value your company.”

“Richard, dear Richard! I feel I am to blame for all your terrible suffering! I should never have tried to hide the truth from you; it was ridiculous to do so! “

He opened his mouth to respond, but she continued on hastily. “Please, Richard, allow me to say what we both know to be true. You were only being loyal to Fitzwilliam when you went back to Crestwood Lane, and I assume that it was there that the clash occurred.”

“Did Dr. Morrison not tell you?” he asked incredulously.

“He said only that you were brought to his surgery in a hansom cab by a young man. That man remains nameless, but I imagine it must have been Simon Fennimore. Am I right?”

The Colonel nodded, then turned away. So his being outmaneuvered and wounded by a woman was yet a secret. Elizabeth obviously assumed that Fennimore had done the deed, and more importantly, Fitzwilliam knew nothing of the entire affair. What could he possibly say to Elizabeth?

He need not have fretted; Elizabeth now did all the talking.

“Richard,” she began anxiously, “You must know that Fitzwilliam and Edward are everything to me — that my happiness and well being depend solely on theirs. I would no more injure them, than set myself aflame! I need you to believe that my reasons for going to Crestwood Lane are innocent — for they truly are. Unfortunately, I cannot divulge my reasons for going there just now. I am caught in a wretched situation. I know what I am doing seems improper, and that keeping it from Fitzwilliam certainly is…but I have no choice. You must believe that. The secret I must keep for the present will not have to be kept forever, and when the time comes that I can explain it all, I know you will acquit me of any wrongdoing. Please trust me! Please keep this our secret until that time. Fitzwilliam would be so hurt if he knew I was deceiving him…but I must for now. Please, my dearest friend.”

She looked at him so beseechingly that he could not help but give her a consenting nod. He wanted to believe her more than anything. He longed for the peace and tranquility he had always known in this house, for the verification that such love did exist in the world and that it was attainable and lasting. Most of all, he couldn’t bear thinking ill of her.

Bending to kiss his brow with the most heartfelt affection, she murmured. “You shall never regret your faith in me, Richard. It will be months yet before you can know my secret, but you shall know it. I promise.”


“Do come in, Miss Burton,” said Simon Fennimore beaming as he opened the door to let her in, “I hope you are well; you certainly look well.”

Anne startled on first seeing him, but tried to hide her alarm. His face was frightfully discolored and still somewhat swollen.

In his enthusiasm to see her, he had quite forgotten his appearance. And as he no longer felt any pain, he had resolved to put the incident behind him. However, one look at her expression told him he would have to come up with some sort of reasonable explanation in a great hurry.

“Ah yes, I’d quite forgotten. I don’t pose a very pretty picture, do I? I’m afraid I met with a little accident, Miss Burton. I stumbled and hit my jaw against some furniture. No real harm was done except to my ego — clumsy fool that I am. It looks far worse than it is, I assure you, so please don’t look so alarmed. Though, I would certainly understand your desire to look in the other direction.”

“Oh no! I was just taken aback for a moment; forgive me. You must have received a terrible blow! Are you sure that you are quite well? I need not inconvenience you just now if you prefer to rest.”

“What, and deny me the pleasure of seeing you looking so well?”

“Thank you, sir. Thanks to you, I am feeling much stronger,” she answered, trying not to stare. “Hopefully, the results of your examination will concur with my feelings.”

“Actually, Miss Burton, I don’t think that I shall be examining you today. For one thing, Mrs. Darcy is not here.”

“Oh, I see. I suppose she is just a bit delayed; otherwise she would have sent word. Can we not wait for her … are you pressed for time? I would not keep you if you were…”

“No, Miss Burton, the next hour is reserved for you, as always, but I’m afraid that Mrs. Darcy will not be coming. You see, she sent an express a few days ago with what I fear will be a somewhat distressing message for you. She believes it is no longer safe to be seen in the neighborhood and therefore feels it best to stay away. She regrets not being able to tell you this herself.”

“Oh…,” said Anne softly, stunned at this sudden turn of events. Her mind reeled with images of the possible scenarios that might have prompted such a decision. What could have happened to frighten Elizabeth into such cautious behavior? Anne's thoughts turned inward, and she barely heard what Dr. Fennimore said next.

“Besides, I have felt for some time that there is no longer any justification for a weekly examination. You have been a model patient and are so much improved that I am not at all anxious about turning your care over to another physician. I’ve taken the liberty of writing down the names of several men that I trust and admire, so you can…”

“You no longer wish to see me?” she said, looking up rather abruptly. As the meaning of his words registered in her brain, she felt suddenly abandoned and utterly bewildered as to the reason for it. “You wish me to go elsewhere…to find another doctor?”

“Well, yes, Miss Burton, actually I do. You see, I have long felt the impropriety of our situation, and as you no longer need my particular specialization, I thought it best to recommend a…”

“Yes, of course, I understand,” she said hastily retying her bonnet and getting ready to take her leave. “You have been very kind and generous with your time, Dr. Fennimore, and I thank you with all my heart for all you have done for me. But I shall trouble you no more. You have far more important work to do.” Saying this, she made for the door, wishing to escape as fast as possible. She had entered nearly bursting with joy to see him again and now…their relationship was suddenly at an end!

She fumbled with the doorknob, and unable to turn it, found herself in a panic. Her heart beat wildly, her breath faltered. She had to make her escape before she embarrassed herself completely!

In a heartbeat his hand clasped hers on the knob, his body blocking her way. He spoke her name over and over again until she was forced to acknowledge him — her eyes brimming and refusing to focus on his.

“Anne… Anne Marie, stop. Look at me! You’ve got it all wrong. You’ve misunderstood…but then how could I have expected you to understand? Please give me a chance to explain,” he said, looking at her with great tenderness.

“I only wish to put an end to this professional relationship with you in order to nurture a far more personal one. I cannot continue being your doctor feeling about you the way I do.” His smile was warm, yet uncertain, as he looked to her for some encouragement. She lifted her eyes to him in wonder, her lips parting involuntarily in amazement.

“It is improper for me to examine you when I deliberately take twice as long as is necessary to listen to your heart…just so that I can remain close to you. And it does not take a full five minutes to take your pulse or to look into your throat! I find myself taking liberties that have nothing to do with good medicine — taking advantage of my position as your physician as I have accused others of doing. That is why I must send you to someone else.”

The blush of his cheek was the most beautiful thing Anne had ever beheld. She bit her lip to keep from weeping.

“I hope I have not been too presumptuous in speaking to you this way, Miss Burton. I can only hope that you have developed some tender feelings towards me — ones that you can separate from your gratitude to me as your doctor.”

She could not answer immediately. Her emotions, having been thrown so violently from one extreme to another, were threatening to pour forth in sobs of joy. She pressed her fingers to her lips to hold them back, but the floodgates of her eyes had already yielded. He moved closer to support her, gently laying his hands on both her shoulders.”

“Please tell me those are tears of joy, Miss Burton. I could not bear to have upset you otherwise.”

“I never believed it possible! I would not have allowed myself to dream…” she began. “But of course, they are tears of joy! I have loved you for so long, Simon. Oh dear,” she said turning her face away in embarrassment, “a lady isn’t supposed to admit that so readily, is she? Forgive me, I…”

“Forgive you? Miss Burton, Anne-Marie! I could not have hoped for a more wonderful response! You have had my heart for so many months now, and although I thought I believed an attachment was growing between us, I could not be certain that it was not wishful thinking on my part. How happy you have made me, Anne Marie — how incredibly happy.”

His left hand traveled down to the small of her back to draw her near, while his right hand caressed her cheeks and wiped away her tears. Inching his face ever closer to hers, he smiled tenderly at her as he patiently waited for her to regain her composure. Only when he saw her bashfully eyeing his lips, did he bend to kiss her. The kiss was a gentle, hesitant one, until, pulling back to gauge her response, he pressed his lips to hers once more for the kind of kiss he so longed to give her. They wept and laughed together, kissing each other again and again, clinging to each other with unreserved fervor. Anne, who had for so long been denied any form of physical affection, could barely restrain herself. She hugged her beloved to her with all her strength, stroking his hair, his back, his face. If this was only a dream she would make the most of it while it lasted. How she loved him…this wonderful, beautiful man!

Holding her firmly to his chest, he finally whispered, “If we remain this way much longer, Anne-Marie, I don’t know that I will find the strength for self restraint. Come, let us go to the sweet shop and celebrate with a bite to eat.”

“Oh yes! Good gracious! I can’t believe how I've been behaving! What must you think of me, Simon? It is just…”

“That you love me?” He completed her thought, laughing heartily. “You could not have made me happier, my sweet girl. And you must never speak of shame and your feelings for me in the same breath. Your affection is more than I dared hope for!”

Taking her by the hand, he led her out the back door.


They had sat in silence for some time, eyeing each other shyly while sharing a sweet — their smiles and blushes saying so much more than words could ever express. Though the formal words had not yet been spoken, there was an understanding between them. They belonged to one another. It had been settled with their first embrace.

“Anne-Marie,” he said softly, “is there no one in your family of whom I could ask permission to court you?”

“To court me?” she said incredulously, not taking the trouble to hide her surprise.

“Well, I have no right to ask for your hand just yet. I have nothing to offer you, after all, no way of supporting you. And I’m afraid, even once we do make it public, ours will have to be a rather long engagement. I plan to see Dr. Morrison tomorrow for a position in his practice, for he has been encouraging me to join him for some time now. You must understand that I will never be able to give you the kind of life you deserve, my dearest Anne, but if you will have me, I shall try to make up for it with my love for you.”

“But your research, your work — you cannot abandon it!”

“No, I shall never do that, but I will have to devote less time to it. I shall have to make do with evenings and Sunday afternoons and…”

“And when do you propose to rest, dear Simon?”

“I shall manage it; you wait and see. A man in love can perform miracles!” he laughed.

Both fell silent as they stared down at their interlaced fingers.

“Simon,” Anne whispered, lifting her gaze to his, “there is something I must tell you about myself. For when the time comes, I cannot have you asking for the hand of the wrong woman. My name isn’t Anne-Marie…It is simply Anne. I hope you understand my reasons for deceiving you; it was necessary for me to hide my identity.”

“I thought as much,” said Fennimore, grinning at her affectionately. “But am I not to know your family name as well? Or am I not yet to be fully trusted?” he chuckled.

“I would rather keep it secret for a little while longer; but not for the reasons you might imagine. I…I want you to think of me as you always have — to love me for the woman you believe me to be. In any case, I’ve left my family home for now and may never be allowed there again.”

“Oh dear,” he said with a teasing grin, ”I've fallen in love with a woman of mystery. Are you next in line to the throne or perhaps the granddaughter of the Earl of Wessox? Do you think you’ll frighten me away if I find out that you are a fine lady, my dearest Anne? I’m afraid I have known that all along. I come from respectable stock myself, I’ll have you know. My family is held in very high esteem and is worth…a great deal of money.”

He saw her eyes widen in surprise and continued. “What a fine pair we make, you and I. You have fled your home and I have been thrown out of mine. I’m sorry, Anne,” he now said, suddenly becoming grave, “but I have been both disinherited and disowned. Had I been a more obedient son, I would have been able to offer you the world.”

“My world has never been as rich or as beautiful as it is today, dear Simon. I have lived, I will admit, with great luxury all my life and it has never made me happy. Your love, your affectionate attention is all I need. We will find a way to live comfortably, I am sure…but you must not neglect your research, and you must let me see this personal undertaking to its end. It means a great deal to me.”

She withheld the fact that their financial future and their ability to plan a more timely wedding rested on the fifteen thousand pounds she was yet to make her own. This would remain her secret…for if she failed, she would be disappointed enough for the two of them.

“Your struggles, your burdens, I now take upon my shoulders, Anne, and I promise to do everything in power to help and support you. If we could afford to marry now I might argue with you and say that we should face these troubles openly…together as a couple; but I cannot. So, I am yours to command. What would you have me do?”

“Nothing, nothing other than what you have been doing all along. Pretend you have never heard of Anne de Bourgh,” she said, smiling shyly, “and if at all possible, keep your acquaintance with Mrs. Darcy secret as well. It would be best if no one ever made the connection between the three of us.”

“But Anne,” he said looking somewhat bewildered, “I’ve already come into contact with two gentleman related to Mrs. Darcy. I made no mention of you, of course, but had no way of denying my acquaintance with her.”

“Two gentleman?” said Anne rather loudly, drawing unwanted attention to herself. She smiled sheepishly at the stern looking governess at the nearby table and murmured, “Excuse me,” before turning back to continue the conversation in more muted tones. “What two gentleman? When? You must tell me all, Simon!”

“Mr. Darcy came to thank me for my intervention the very next day after we met. He knocked on my door with an embarrassingly large basket filled with spirits, sweets, and fruits, though he never even came inside — simply shook my hand and offered a few words of gratitude.”

“Fitzwilliam was here — on Crestwood Lane?” She could barely breathe. How close had she come to meeting him…to ruining her chances of obtaining her freedom on her own terms? She paled and asked hesitantly. “And the second gentleman? Who was he?”

“Ah, well…now you’ve caught me. I must first admit to an earlier deception. Not wishing to upset you, I fabricated the story about these bruises. The truth is they are the result of a rather heated exchange between this military gentleman and myself. Of course, I told him nothing — but neither did I lie. Unfortunately, his frustration got the better of him, I’m afraid, and I was caught completely off guard.”

“He struck you? But why? What did this row have to do with Mrs. Darcy?”

“Well, he claimed to be Mrs. Darcy’s cousin and demanded to know why she was coming to see me every week. He evidently thought that there was something unsavory going on between us. I assured him there was not, but when I refused to share the nature of our relationship or the reason for her coming, he…he became incensed. I don’t blame him really. He was only being loyal to Mr. Darcy, I suppose. I didn’t catch his name at first, but later found out that it was Fitzwilliam…Richard Fitzwilliam.”

“Richard? How dare he meddle in Elizabeth’s affairs! And how dare he strike you? Oh, Simon, I am so sorry! I can’t imagine how he found out about her coming here, but now I understand why she was forced to stay away…” Anne grew suddenly quiet, obviously trying to digest all she had just learned.

“What have I done to her?” she murmured after a few moments of anxious contemplation. “I knew there was bound to be some unpleasantness when my cousin found out about the secret I had forced on Elizabeth, but I never dreamed of anything like this happening! And Richard…how on earth did he become involved? I hope you gave him back as good as he gave, Simon.”

“So…Mr. Darcy is your cousin? And the Colonel — is he related as well?”

Anne nodded, and Simon Fennimore sighed, shaking his head.

“Well, the Colonel is in rather bad shape, I fear…but I can neither take the blame or the credit for that. My sister Juliana came upon our row and…well, in an effort to protect me, she swung at him with the heavy bag she was carrying. I was actually quite upset with her,” he said solemnly. “ for he was quite seriously hurt. She walloped him on the side of the head and injured his inner ear. It was necessary for him to remain at Dr. Morrison’s surgery for three days before he could be moved to the Darcys’ for another month of convalescence. Dr. Morrison said he was still in an inordinate amount of pain. I’m afraid he has paid dearly for his interference, Anne.”

Anne was too overcome to speak. Richard was seriously hurt and Elizabeth had been put in a dangerously compromised position! Did Fitzwilliam now doubt her faithfulness? How much pain had she already caused her dear family, and how on earth could she allow the situation to continue?

Yet, one thing truly puzzled her. Had Fitzwilliam been told about Elizabeth’s visits to Crestwood Lane? Surely, if he had any inkling of it, he would have confronted Simon himself by now? Had Elizabeth managed to invent a believable story…or had she sworn Richard to secrecy as well? Before she had the answers to all these questions, she would be wise not to incriminate herself. Perhaps, all was not yet lost. Tears welled up as she realized the consequences she would have to face if she was forced to gave up now.

“Simon,” she whispered, “I feel suddenly so terribly vulnerable. I thought I had hidden myself away so well, but obviously, I’ve been blind and foolish. And so much more is at stake now…” She brought his hand to her lips for a brief, furtive kiss, then looked at him beseechingly.

“If Mama finds me now, she will come and drag me back to Rosings, with a constable at her side, if necessary, claiming that my behavior is only further proof of my inability to make rational choices and live without her care.” Here, she pressed his hand and murmured, “She would never approve of our attachment and would do what she could to separate us. Simon, legally winning my independence from her is more important than ever. If I don’t, we may never be together.”

“I understand that, Anne, but what else can we to do?”

“I must go deeper into hiding — from Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth, from Richard and…from you. We cannot risk being discovered together, Simon, or having you, inadvertently lead someone to me. I cannot bear the thought of leaving you for so long, but I must. And you must not make it harder for me,” she said suddenly rising and gesturing him to stay seated. “We have a three month separation to endure…but we must endure it! Please tell me that you will wait for me,” she begged, her tears spilling over onto her cheeks.

“How can you even ask it, Anne?” he said rising, though not moving towards her. “But you cannot leave me with no way of reaching you! I must have some weekly assurance that you are well. Please Anne…”

She shook her head, ever so slightly, and fled.

Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 6

Gaby A.October 13, 2020 07:12PM

Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 6

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Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 6

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Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 6

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Re: Dearest Anne Book 2 Chapter 6

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