Secrets of Midnight(2)

By: Miriam Minger

Sobering at the thought, Lindsay sighed as she glanced at Corisande. "I know I've nearly hounded you to death, but it's not too late for you to come with me. We'd have the most marvelous time! I'll just tell Olympia" —even saying the woman's name was distasteful to Lindsay, who had never once been able to call her father's wife "Mother" — "well, I'll tell her that you could be another chaperone for me in case Aunt Winnie grows weary of all the balls—"

"You know I can't go," Corisande interrupted gently, trying not to be affected by the disappointment shining in Lindsay's blue eyes. Cerulean blue, her wildly imaginative friend liked to call them, not out of vanity but simply because she enjoyed the sound of the exotic word upon her tongue.

In fact, Lindsay Somerset didn't have a vain bone in her body, an amazing thing considering she was one of the loveliest young women in Cornwall. Her flawless skin, waist-length blond hair that was practically white, and hourglass figure were the stuff of King Arthur's legends. No, if anything, her only fault lay in her being too kindhearted for her own good.

Lindsay had earned Olympia's heated censure countless times when she had been caught taking food from the Somerset pantry to feed the parish's hungry tinners and their families, or been discovered selling her own shoes to purchase coal to warm some unfortunate soul's freezing cottage.

Corisande's causes had become Lindsay's; Corisande couldn't have wished for a friend more loyal and true. Yet Lindsay's life would have been much easier under Lady Somerset's roof if she'd been less caring. For that reason, for Lindsay's sake, Corisande was almost relieved to see her go.

"If you're thinking you can't go because you haven't the money," Lindsay began, clearly making one last valiant attempt to sway her, "I already told you I would share everything I have—"

"It's not the money," Corie broke in again, though, in truth, as a vicar's daughter she had virtually no coin to her name.

"Well, don't dare tell me it's because you wouldn't fit in," Lindsay said with reproach, her beautiful sky-blue eyes flashing now. "You're so pigheaded, Corie Easton!"

"Like you," Corisande said with fondness.

"Maybe so, but you're worse. Complicated, uncompromising, and full of the silliest notions. Like only pretty girls should go to London. You're pretty, Corie, prettier than most no matter—"

"And you've always been far too generous when it comes to judging your friends," Corisande cut in, the back of her hand brushing against the pale, grooved scar bisecting her cheek as she swept windblown hair out of her eyes. Wanting to change a subject that didn't bother her nearly as much as Lindsay thought it did, she added, "London is no place for someone like me. I wouldn't know what to do with myself there."

"You could have fun. See new things, meet new people, have wonderful adventures—oh, I can't wait to get to London!"

Corisande was glad to see that excitement now lit Lindsay's lovely face, her friend's eyes dancing with anticipation. Lord help her, if Lady Somerset did anything now to thwart Lindsay's dreams, Corisande couldn't say what she might do.

At the very least, she'd give that insufferable woman a tongue-lashing sure to straighten her sausage curls, something she'd longed to do for years, although Lindsay had prevented her every time. Lindsay simply loved her father too much to make his life any more miserable than it already was, again giving little thought to herself.

Just as Lindsay was doing now, insisting that Corisande accompany her even though she knew that Lady Somerset would never approve. If Corisande stepped one foot into that coach, Lady Somerset would have just the ammunition she needed to cancel the entire journey. Corisande's friendship with Lindsay had always been a thorn in the old bat's side, Corisande's zealous determination to help the parish's poor and needy hardly a pastime Lady Somerset considered suitable for a baronet's daughter.

At least she agreed with the woman on that score, Corisande thought as she glanced at Lindsay, her friend's eyes fixed expectantly to the east, as if she could see the roofs of London all the way from Cornwall. Not because helping those less fortunate than herself wasn't suitable for Lindsay, but because she finally had the chance to do something for herself. To make her own dreams come true.

When she'd told Lindsay that only pretty girls should go to London, she had meant merely that Lindsay with her peerless blond beauty was born for such a glittering world, a fact Corisande didn't begrudge her in the least. How could she? To experience life outside of Cornwall was all her indomitable friend had ever wanted to do. Just as staying in Cornwall where she was needed was what Corisande wanted to do. God knew, she had plenty of responsibilities to keep her busy, and with times being so harsh thanks to this damned interminable war with Napoleon and now America, too—

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