The Dream of Love: Episode 4


“Three days have passed since you brought Remi here,” Nathaniel Sherbourne, Earl of Welles, said to Adam as he led him into his study and offered him a seat. “I’ve sent several messages to Lord Hartfield, letting him know his daughter is here and safe with us. The bounder has yet to respond.”   Adam was not surprised. “Remi’s been subjected to this all her life. It’s a wonder she’s turned out as sweet as she has when both parents behave like infantile terrors.”
Nathaniel offered him a glass of sherry to warm his insides from the chill of this unusually wet and blustery June day. It was late afternoon, but the gathering storm clouds had darkened the sky, turning it an ominous grayish-black. “Would you care to stay for supper?”
The storm would soon unleash its fury, and Adam was eager to return to the vicarage before the deluge descended upon them. “I’ll pass. But I did hope to see Remi. How is she faring? Do you mind her staying with you a little while longer?”
Nathaniel settled in a chair behind his desk and leaned back casually. “She can stay with us as long as she pleases. We have plenty of room. Poppy and Lavinia enjoy her company. She makes no demands and is no trouble at all.”
Adam breathed a sigh of relief. “I don’t suppose she intends to apologize to her father anytime soon?”
Nathaniel groaned and shook his head. “No, she’ll never give him the satisfaction. She’s a sweet girl, as you say. But she also has an obstinate streak in her, no doubt inherited from her father.”
Adam frowned.
“What’s wrong?”
“Lord Hartfield is up to something. He’s too quiet, don’t you think? I had better pay a call on him tomorrow to make certain he isn’t planning anything foolish.”
“To punish his own daughter? Has he said anything to make you think so?”
“Not in so many words. Just a vague threat, but I dismissed it as the raging of an angry father. His silence worries me, however. It means he’s sitting and stewing. I’d feel more comfortable having him throw another of his apoplectic tantrums to get the anger out of his system.” He shook his head. “But this silence... he’s like a volcano building up pressure inside of him. I fear what the eruption, when it occurs, will bring.”
“Poppy and I will be on our guard. We won’t let him be alone with Remi if he attempts to see her.” Nathaniel rose. “The ladies are probably having tea in the summer parlor at this hour. Shall we join them?”
Adam nodded.
He was eager to see Remi for more reasons than simply to ask how she was settling in. When last he’d been with her, she’d been going on about the importance of hugs and kisses. Tame kisses on the cheek and innocent, grandfatherly hugs. He’d thought to be kind and give her those in parting. He’d told himself it was the sort of pious gesture a vicar ought to do for a member of his flock whose heart was aching.
What he had not expected was the effect a simple kiss on her cheek would have on him. And when he took her in his arms to hug her, the feel of her body pressed to his was not something he was prepared for, nor was the surge of his desire. It was so strong, he thought the heavens might open up and angry archangels start hurling lightning bolts down on him. Keep your hands off the delectable girl.
Well, perhaps a slight exaggeration.
He followed Nathaniel down the hall toward the clatter of teacups and feminine laughter. He heard Remi’s gentle laugh.
His breath caught at the sight of her. She was wearing what had to be a gown borrowed from Poppy, although the pale green silk fit her to perfection, accentuating the soft curves of her body. Her hair was loosely braided and pinned in an intricate twist at the nape of her slender neck. She looked beautiful.
“Adam, how nice to see you.” Nathaniel’s aunt, Lavinia, smiled up at him. She was seated on the divan beside Remi.
Poppy greeted him warmly as well. “Do come join us. We’re just having our tea. It’s a horrid afternoon. I hope the storm blows over quickly. Will you stay for supper?”
“Your husband asked, but I dare not. Perhaps another time.” He turned to Remi. “How are you, Lady Remington?”
She cast him an impertinent grin. “Enjoying myself tremendously and feeling absolutely no guilt for imposing on my friends.”
He could see by her expression that she was thinking of their conversation when he’d brought her to Sherbourne Manor, the one about how parents ought to behave toward their children, and husbands and wives ought to behave toward each other. Nathaniel and Poppy were the perfect example of a couple in love.
He thought it might make her wistful not to have this in her life. But quite the opposite seemed true. She glowed with happiness when Nathaniel bent down to kiss his wife’s cheek. Whatever love aura was floating in the air, Remi was absorbing it and tucking it into her heart.
He sat in a chair opposite the divan and studied her. “How is your ankle?”
“Much better. The swelling has gone down and I have no problem putting pressure on it. I’ll be fit enough to dance a jig by tomorrow.”
“Good.” He cleared his throat, not wanting to broach the topic of her father while in company, but they were not going to be alone anytime soon and the Sherbournes knew all that was going on anyway. “Is there any message you wish to convey to your father? I plan on paying him a call tomorrow.”
Her smile faded. “You mean any message other than those Lord Welles has sent around and my father has seen fit to ignore? No, I have nothing to say to him.” She folded her hands on her lap and stared down at her toes. “It feels different this time, doesn’t it?”
Adam did not want to lie to her. “Yes, it does.”
She glanced up at Nathaniel. “Lord Welles, I may have to impose on your kindness a little while longer. Not only to remain here, but to seek your assistance in claiming whatever is rightfully mine. My father is not going to take me back this time. I feel it in my bones. I already know my mother doesn’t want me. Even if she felt any pity toward me, in this she’ll do as my father commands. He’ll threaten to cut off her allowance if she dares to defy him.”
She sighed raggedly and her eyes began to tear. “I should not be feeling so awful. I’ve been living with this all my life. But even being shuttled back and forth between them feels better than being completely on my own.”
Adam reached over and covered her hands with one of his. “You will not be alone. I’ve told you already, come to me whenever you need help.” He glanced at Poppy, Lavinia, and Nathaniel, who all looked quite grim on her behalf.
Nathaniel nodded. “Vicar Carstairs will see your father tomorrow, as he said. We’ll decide what to do after they meet. Remi, it is as the vicar says. You are not alone in Wellesford. You, Poppy, Olivia, and Penelope have been friends since childhood. Olivia is now married to the Duke of Hartford. You’ll have an earl, a duke, and a vicar to bring pressure on your father to do what’s right.” He cast her a gentle smile. “And if all else fails, you have Poppy, Olivia, and Penelope to take up arms against your father. He doesn’t stand a chance against them.”
A roll of thunder sounded in the distance.
Adam slapped his hands on his thighs and rose. “I had better return to the vicarage before the skies open up.”
Remi jumped up with him. “I’ll see you out. That is... if you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind. You can tell me what I should convey to your father while you walk me to the door.”
“I doubt you’ll be willing to repeat what I’d like to tell him. It isn’t at all ladylike.”
He laughed. “I’ll phrase it as politely as I can.”
Remi took his arm as they walked out of the summer parlor. He noticed she had no trouble walking. He was glad the ankle sprain had healed nicely, but was surprised Lord Welles had not followed them out. Perhaps Poppy had warned him to stay put and allow them a few minutes alone.
He ignored the ache brought on by having to part from this girl. “I’ll see you tomorrow, assuming the storm lets up early enough in the day. I’ll come by as soon as I’ve met with your father.”
“Thank you for all you’re doing for me.” She was staring down at her toes again. “I’m sorry I’m such a nuisance.”
“You’re not a nuisance. This is what I do, Remi. I’m supposed to heal hurt souls.” He cupped a finger under her chin and tipped her gaze up to meet his. Then, without thinking, he leaned forward to plant a soft kiss on her cheek.
She threw her arms around him and hugged him fiercely.
    He closed his arms around her slender, little body and inhaled the scent of her lavender soap as he buried his face against her neck.
Those damn archangels began tossing lightning bolts at him again. Warning! Warning! Yes, he would burn in the fires of hell if he allowed his lips to touch her skin and his hands to roam where he desired over her body.
Eternal damnation seemed worth it at the moment.
It was Remi who drew away first.
Their embrace had lasted no more than a few seconds, but the fire she’d ignited in his soul lasted much longer and simply would not burn itself out. Not even as he rode to the vicarage in a torrential downpour.
Everything around him was drenched and flooded.
But the Remi fire still burned.
What was he going to do about her?