Everyone wondered where Damen had gone. And the Eastons kept quiet. Of their group, no one cared to think on him again. As for the rest of the unattached ladies, Damen was generally considered one of the very handsome-est footman they were likely to see. Odd that any discussed him at all. For good or ill, he had left his mark.
How someone so handsome and gentile could be pushed to such desperate measures confused Tabitha still. Handsome does not a good person make, she knew, but she still found it curious. She secretly hoped he would make something good of himself, far away from where she was. Oscar had not been able to find him, and no one knew where he went. She suspected a great mystery and the ever curious side to her nature wondered what had become of him, hoping not to have any more encounters with him, naturally.
Tabitha shivered every time she thought of him, disturbed she could be so beguiled by a man.
Henry reached for her hand under the table. His concerned eyes warmed her all over again. She smiled into his face, not hiding her joy. All his Whig tendencies, his desire for reform, all of his actions and opinions that concerned her earlier were welcome to her now, as long as he looked at her with such love in his eyes. In fact, they were a great curiosity. She had many questions to ask him, and, she grinned, a lifetime to do it.
The house party was over, and they would all return home today. Her life would be her own but so much sweeter. Henry loved her. At last.
She nibbled at her breakfast food. Everyone was subdued, talking quietly to the person at their side. Marjorie and Lord Beauchamp seemed content, an aura of calm hovered about them. Miss Townsend, and Lord Anthony joked together. She could almost hear their soft wit and see it in their expressions. Then her brothers entered and the noise in the room grew. They grabbed plates, chattering together, smiling at Henry and her in turn. What a difference one night made. And, she was thrilled to note, Tauney and Anne entered together, arm in arm.
Once her brothers had settled, Henry and Edward seemed to be having a quiet conversation. Edward gave a subtle nod, and then Henry stood. “If I might have everyone’s attention.”
All in the room stopped and turned their eyes to Henry. Anne looked to Tabitha with a mischievous smile and back at Henry.
Tabitha held her hands together in her lap, sitting as still as possible, wonder building inside.
“I would like you to be a part of something very special to me, to us,” he indicated Tabitha and all the Eastons. Large grins grew on every face. Even the countess’ lips quirked.
Henry held a hand out to Tabby. “May I?”
She placed her hand in his and rose. He led her a few paces from the table and said, “After a swift crack on the skull in the river, near fisticuffs with the Easton brothers, multiple misunderstandings, a drugging, carriage accident, and kidnapping–”
Gasps filled the room, the ladies wiggled uncomfortably in their seats.
“Oh, not to be worried, just some private matters within the Easton family, jokes, if you will.”
They relaxed again back in their seats, all smiles.
“What I really mean to say is, I have been blessed that all I ever want has always been right before my eyes if I would only see.” He kissed her hand. “And now that I do see, I wish to spend every day for the rest of our lives proving my love to you, making up for the days I missed.”
Tabitha’s grin couldn’t grow any wider.
He dropped to one knee. “Lady Tabitha Easton, will you do me the great honor of becoming my wife?”
She squealed, not even caring how girlish she sounded. She thought of all the times she doubted this moment would ever come to be. Filled to overflow with love for this man who knelt in front of her, she said, “yes, oh Henry, Yes.”
He stood and pulled her into his arms, hesitated only a moment before pressing his lips to hers.
And then the world did spin. Her legs no longer held her up.
Henry chuckled, his lips moving over hers, “I’ve got you.”
She pulled herself closer, pressing her mouth against his again and again, until Edward cleared his throat once, and then again.
Henry held a hand up. “Thank you Edward,” he placed a few more kisses to her lips, her cheeks, and then her forehead.
Henry turned to his best friend. “She is the most precious part of my life. I will care for her with all my love her life through.”
Tabitha thought she might burst her joy was so great. She shared a look of happiness with each of her brothers. Tauney wiped at his tears and even Edward’s eyes misted. She didn’t know what to say. “Thank you, dear brothers.” Then, turning to Henry, she added, “and to you, my love. I don’t know that any can be as happy as we two are.”
Laughter from all the other couples in the room only added to her joy.
Tabitha turned to Henry, more impatient than ever to begin their life together. “And now, let’s go home.”
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- Seventy Four: At Last
- Chapter Seventy: To the Rescue
- Sixty-Five: Nothing as it seems
- Chapter Sixty: Daring Declarations and Deception
- Chapter Fifty-Two: Poetry and a Kiss, Perhaps?
- Forty Seven: Stolen Moments
- Forty-Two: Distrust all Around
- Thirty-Eight: Up to Something
- Thirty-One: Whist and Wagers
- Twenty-Seven: Midnight Meetings and Stained Glass