The Dream of Love: FINALE!


Remi shook her head, uncertain she’d heard right. Was Adam really going to tell her about himself? She offered no resistance when he took her hand and led her back to the bench beside the river, keeping hold of her hand even after they sat. “I told you I had four older brothers,” he said, his eyes taking on a distant look. “Two of them died in the war. One early in the Peninsular War, and the other about a year before Waterloo.”

She held her breath.
“We were five brothers in all. One the heir, the other the spare. The third for the military. He was the one who died early on in Spain. The fourth was meant for the Church. Then there was me, meant for nothing. So, I went against my father’s wishes and joined the military, never realizing that brother number four felt the need to protect me. Instead of becoming a priest, he joined the Scots Greys shortly after I did. Callum wasn’t a soldier. He was a gentle soul. That last battle... we were ambushed by the French. By the time I could fight my way to him, he’d taken a mortal blow.” He buried his head in his hands, propping his bent elbows on his thighs. “I couldn’t protect him. He died in my arms.”
“Oh, Adam.” Remi’s breaths were ragged and she fought to keep her tears from streaming down her face. “I’m so sorry. You must have loved him very much.”
He nodded. “I’d gone against my father’s wishes, and my brother died because of it. How could I return to Inverness? Me alive and Callum gone. I didn’t know how else to honor him, so I joined the Church as he was always meant to do.”
“Why the Church of England?”
He shrugged. “Why not? I wasn’t ever returning to Scotland. I was going to bury my past and make a new life for myself. I wound up here in the Cotswolds, in this village of Wellesford. I preached forgiveness and faith, but felt none of it for the longest time.”
“What changed you?”
“One Christmas a few years ago,  I received a sign from above.” He cast her a wry smile. “I saw a vision of the Nativity. All of it, even the three Magi. But that is a story for another time. It finally made me believe, made me start thinking there was a reason I was led here.”
Remi’s heartbeat roared in her ears. “Do you think it was for me?”   
Adam didn’t respond to the question. “How are you feeling?” he asked instead. “Well enough to walk back to the manor?”
She nodded.
“Good, I feel like I’ve been slammed in the gut by a battering ram. Don’t ask me any more questions, Remi. All right?”
“Yes.” She now understood him better, and although she wasn’t certain her dreams would come true on the night of her party, she now had a kernel of hope. That Adam had confided in her, despite his overwhelming heartbreak, had to mean something. But he was wrong in believing his family did not miss him and would not want him back. His father had to be devastated. Two sons dead and a third too ashamed to face him. If she were the father, she’d have every Bow Street Runner in England tracking him down through every shire and village.
No matter what happened at her party, she would make an effort to convince Adam he needed to return home and reconcile with his family.
He did not go inside the manor house with her, but took her hand for a brief moment at the door. “Kit is lucky to have you protecting her.”
Her fox?
Why bring up that frightened little animal now?
Adam seemed to read her thoughts. “Foxes aren’t the only wounded creatures you seem capable of saving.” He kissed her lightly on the cheek and strode away.
She heard nothing from him after that, so by the night of her party, she was afraid he’d changed his mind and would not attend. She was not about to let that happen, not too proud to traipse across the meadow and drag him to her party. She didn’t care if her fine slippers were ruined or the hem of her gown splattered with mud. It was a lovely tea rose silk that brought out her roses and cream complexion.
“You look like a princess,” Poppy whispered as they stood in the entry hall with Nathaniel, greeting their guests. Lavinia was next to her, holding Periwinkle in her arms, while Nathaniel’s young ward, Pip, stood beside Nathaniel. “Don’t worry, Remi. He’ll be here,” Lavinia whispered.
She hoped so.
She wanted to believe in dreams coming true, but gave up hope as the orchestra struck up a lively reel. Mr. Squibb’s son claimed her for the dance. He was as full of himself as his wealthy merchant father was. His hand kept drifting lower on her waist every time they swung around. How long before he accidentally planted his sweaty palm on her backside?
But she had to keep her spirits up, remain hopeful.
Dreams do come true.
Dreams do come true.
She inhaled lightly when Adam seemed to magically appear in the doorway. She craned her neck to follow him as he moved through the crowd toward her. He was not smiling by the time he reached the dance floor. Had he seen Mr. Squibb’s odious son and the direction of his hand?
He must have, for his gaze turned... predatory.
Suddenly it was as though everything she’d read in The Book of Love was coming true. Adam’s eyes were dark and threatening. He began to prowl along the edges of the dance floor like a lion penned in its cage.
Was she mistaken or did his chest suddenly swell? Although she had no desire to have young Squibb’s clammy hand on her backside, it was almost worth it to see how Adam would respond. But Squibb had also taken notice of Adam. His hand no longer roamed downward. Indeed, he was almost afraid to touch her.
She cast Adam a beaming smile as they twirled past him. Unfortunately, she wasn’t very tall and quickly lost sight of her proud lion as she was drawn into the center of a circle of dancers.
Adam strode toward her as soon as the dance ended and she was returned to Lavinia’s side. Her heart began to pound wildly, for his expression was not in the least bit tame. “It’s too be a waltz,” Lavinia whispered excitedly.
Her gaze remained on Adam as he strode to her side. “I believe this dance is mine, Lady Remington.”
“Yes, Vicar. I have you clearly written in my dance card.” She took his offered hand, never mind that she had no dance card or even a pencil with which to write his name down.
He placed his arm around her waist and took her hand in his. “Are ye ready, Remi?” he asked in his delicious, rumbling brogue.
“I’ve been ready for you all of my life.” This was no time to mince words. She loved him, and the only question remaining was whether he loved her.
The music started.
She closed her eyes and allowed herself to be guided by Adam’s steps and the gentle touch of his hand. He was a surprisingly good dancer, quite graceful on his feet. Was it so different from the twists and turns when fighting on a field of battle? Since he was cavalry, she imagined him upon his deep-chested gray, guiding the steed left or right, forward or back with the slightest motion of his thighs, rider and horse moving as one.
“Remi, you look lost in a dream. Will you keep your eyes closed the entire dance?”
She nodded. “I’m afraid to open them. Is this real? Am I truly in your arms?”
“Aye, lass.”
“You’re talking like a braw Scot again. I like that. Thank you for dancing with me.” She opened her eyes and smiled at him. “Will you claim me for a second?”
“And set tongues wagging?” He grinned. “Of course.”
She inhaled lightly. “Adam, do you think... that is...will you–”
A commotion in the entry hall startled everyone. Someone was shouting and pushing his way through the crowd. The music trickled to a stop as the orchestra stopped playing. “Oh, no.” She recognized her father’s apoplectic bellow.
Adam drew her behind him as her father stormed toward them. “Remi, stay back.”
“Have you not shamed me enough, you ungrateful child?” Her father tried to grab her, but Adam would not allow it, keeping himself positioned between them.
“Are you drunk, Lord Hartfield? Keep away from Remi. I won’t let you harm her.”
“She’s my daughter. Mine. You have no right to come between us.”
Adam wouldn’t budge. “You’re angry. You’ll hurt her and I cannot allow that. Come into Lord Welles’ study and we’ll discuss your daughter’s–”
“We’ll discuss nothing.” He tried to push his way past Adam again, but he was a big, stubborn, immovable Scot.
“I am not turning your daughter over to you. Join me and Lord Welles in his study and we’ll talk about her situation.”
“Who are you to order me about? You are nothing, a nobody. Do you think I’d ever allow a lowly vicar anywhere near my daughter?” He threw his head back and laughed. “I’ve had enough of her nonsense. She’s coming home with me. She’ll marry the man I choose. If I catch you near her again, I’ll have you shot.”
Remi gasped and stormed around Adam, ignoring him as he grabbed her around the waist and attempted to haul her behind him. She wriggled out of his grasp and confronted her father. “I’ll shoot you first if you dare harm him! I love that man! And I–”
Oh, heavens.
She’d shouted it so everyone could hear.
If Adam didn’t love her, then her humiliation would be complete. Too late to take it back. It wasn’t as if she could hide her feelings anyway.
Adam knew how she felt before she’d ever told him. Now everyone knew it.
Poppy, Nathaniel, Lavinia, Pip, Periwinkle, their entire Sherbourne staff, and all their invited guests were gaping at her. An oppressive silence descended upon the ballroom. Remi tipped her chin into the air. “I love him,” she repeated, because if she was going to take a fall, it was going to be a spectacular, talk-about-it-for-years, humiliating failure.
She turned to Adam and looked up to meet his gaze.
He groaned. “Remi, what are ye doing?
“Vicar Carstairs...” She cleared her throat. “Vicar Carstairs... would you do me the honor... Um, would you give me the greatest pleasure...” She was trying to propose marriage and failing miserably. She now understood how a frightened suitor felt when laying open his heart and soul. “Because I think if we... Gretna Green... you know. They do it quick there.”
She glanced at Periwinkle, wishing the dog would bark. Or pee on someone. Anything to take all eyes off her.
She closed her eyes, fighting to stave off tears.
Adam caressed her cheek. “Yes.”
“What?” She opened her eyes to stare at him.
“Masterfully done, lass,” he said in a whisper, but his smile was exquisitely tender. “Yes, Lady Remington. I will marry you.”
A collective gasp carried through the room.
“Yes?” Had he just accepted her? Women would be wailing in the streets of Wellesford tonight. “Is that what you said? Yes?”
Her father tried to grab her, but Adam was having none of that. He stepped between them again. “No more, Lord Hartfield. Come into the study and we’ll work out the terms.”
Her father burst out laughing. “Terms?” he said with bitter derision. “There will be no terms. You’ll have not a shilling from me. You want my daughter? Then take her with nothing, for that’s all I’ll give her. Nothing. Not my wealth. Not my connections. No allowance. She’ll come to you with the clothes on her back and nothing more. What do you say to that, Vicar?” He turned and whirled to face everyone. “Same goes for any of you other fortune hunters. Not so much as a crumb will you have from me.”
Remi was shaking, she couldn’t help it. She was angry. She was so very hurt. All her years of wanting to love this man and this is how he felt? Not even a pang of regret when tossing her into the dust bin? “Adam, I’m so sorry. I’ll understand if you walk away from me.”
He took her hand in his and kept a tight hold. “Not letting go of you, Remi. Not ever.”
His words further infuriated her father. “Better think twice, Vicar. She’s letting you go. Take her up on it because I will crush you. I’ll destroy your family and all you hold dear. I’ll–”
“You’ll do nothing of the sort,” Poppy’s husband said with a growl, obviously having had enough of this scandalous display of temper in his home.
“Who’s to stop me? You?” Her father raised a fist and drew it back, but Adam caught the swing before it could strike Nathaniel.
“Enough,” Adam said calmly. “You’ll crush no one. You’ll go home and sleep off your drunken rage. Perhaps as that dense fog of stupor dissipates, you’ll come to realize what a gem you have in Remi. She loves you with all her being, would have taken any scrap of affection from you and treasured it. You’ve had your chance and now it is mine.”
He turned to Remi. “I will love you to the day I die. While there is breath in me, I will honor and cherish you and the children I hope we’ll be blessed to have.”
Several ladies fainted.
Remi couldn’t pull her gaze from Adam, but she though Emily Dowd and Lady Monkton were among those who had thudded to the floor. Yes, there would be weeping, wailing, and fainting throughout Wellesford tonight.
“Adam, do you mean it?” she whispered, hardly daring to breathe.
“Aye, lass. Every blessed word. I’m sorry you proposed to me first, but it was my intention to offer for you tonight.” He kissed her lightly on the lips, the pressure of his mouth warm and delightful on hers. “As for my family, there’s something I ought to have told you about them.”
Her father laughed harshly. “Here it comes, Remi. Now you’ll see what you’ve stepped into. You could have had a viscount or a baron. Perhaps an earl. But you’ve chosen the penniless son of a lowly Scottish crofter. Let’s see how warm your threadbare clothing keeps you in the years to come.”
She ignored her father and maintained her gaze on Adam. She knew he would pounce on the man if he dared harm her. The man. She couldn’t think of him as her father. What man would ever treat his children this way? “If you love your family,” she said, smiling up at Adam, “then I shall love them, too.”
“As I’m sure they’ll love you.” He was grinning at her now. “I should have told you about them sooner.”
She nodded. “It isn’t important. I love you for the man you are.”
“A nobody,” her father muttered.
Adam’s smile faded as he stared at her. “Perhaps I am that, but my family is quite important in Scotland.”
More snorts of disdain from her father. “Whiskey runners?”
“Aye, there’s a little of that. Remi, lass, I wanted to tell you sooner.” He glanced over her head to Nathaniel. “Lord Welles has always known the truth, but I asked him to keep it quiet. There’s no need any longer.” He sounded pained as he said, “My father... happens to be the Duke of Inverness.”
More female bodies dropped. Remi was too busy making sense of what he was telling her. “Not that I’ll ever inherit the title. As I said, I have older brothers and they have sons of their own. My brother Gavin is the heir and Gareth is the spare. At best I was only ever third in line. Now I believe I’m about seventh.”
“You’re the son of a duke?”
“Fifth son by birth order.”
She cast him a glowing smile. “I love fifth sons.”
“And I happen to love auburn-haired hoydens who save foxes. Will ye come home with me, Remi?”
“To Scotland?”
He nodded. “Aye, lass. My father will be pleased to meet my new wife. It will be good to see him and my brothers again. As you said, it’s long past time we reconciled.”
“It would be my pleasure.”   

A special thanks to Meara Platt for allowing us to publish this story throughout the past year.  To read  it in it’s entirety, just go to our homepage, open the July/August 2020 issue to begin the journey! To discover more of her delightful and heartwarming books, visit:
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