Secrets of Midnight(4)

By: Miriam Minger


"Lindsay!"

"Come on, Corie, it will be fun. Here, I'll go first!"

Lindsay closed her eyes and tilted her face upward as if she were looking at someone. "Oh, Corie, he's so handsome."

"Of course he's handsome, silly." Corisande gazed wryly at her beautiful friend. "But that isn't the most important thing. What kind of man do you want him to be?"

"A valiant man, an adventurer," Lindsay murmured dreamily, making Corisande smile to herself. "Someone who'll show me new places. Grand, exciting places! There's so much more to the world than Cornwall. I want to see it all! I want to experience things I've only read about in Papa's books!"

Corisande felt a twinge of sadness, but quickly stifled it. She'd always known Lindsay might one day leave Cornwall and not return. If that meant her dear friend would be happy, she would simply have to bear it.

"He'll want me with him, of course. Always by his side." Lindsay hugged her arms to her breasts. "And we'll be hopelessly, deliriously in love. Nothing will be more important to him than our life together . . ." Sighing deeply, she opened her eyes and smiled at Corisande. "Your turn."

Corisande squeezed her eyes shut, feeling that her ideal man was going to seem bland as paste next to Lindsay's. Which in truth was fine with her. Trustworthy, dependable. A companion to help her, nothing more. She could not yet envision his face, but it mattered little if he was handsome or not—

"No fair keeping it to yourself, Corie. You have to say what you want aloud," Lindsay urged with impatience.

"Well, I'd want a man who cares about the things I do," Corisande began firmly, starting with what mattered most to her. "Someone who's willing to work side by side with me to help ease the lives of those around us." She threw a small smile in Lindsay's direction. "Now that you'll be busy traveling the world, of course. And he must care just as much as I do about righting wrongs. God knows, there's enough injustice in this parish to make the angels weep—"

"But what of love, Corie? Wouldn't you like for a man to just sweep you off your feet?"

Corisande was taken aback, but she should have expected such an unsettling question from Lindsay.

To be that much in love with someone? Her father had deeply loved her French-born mother, which was probably why he'd become an eccentric shell of a man at her death eight years ago. The same vicious fever that had claimed Adele Easton had taken Lindsay's mother as well. But while Sir Randolph had remarried, much that he must rue the day, Joseph Easton had not. No, Corisande wasn't sure at all if she wanted a love that could bring such pain. In fact, she didn't want to fall in love with anyone, something she hadn't even told Lindsay. Just thinking about her father . . .

"I'd certainly have to respect a man first before I would ever marry him," she answered, skipping over the topic of love altogether. "He would have to be honorable, selfless—"

"Sounds dull as a saint."

Corisande gave a small laugh as she opened her eyes. "Well, not so dull that he'd be afraid to take chances. Fair trading's no occupation for the faint of heart."

"And you're certainly not the woman for any fainthearted man, no matter what you say," Lindsay said with a snort. She released Corisande's hands and jumped nimbly to the ground. "You'd have suitors buzzing around you like honeybees if you'd just learn to curb your temper."

"And you might have been happily married several times over if you'd settled for a husband of good Cornish stock, but no, only a bold adventurer with a daring gleam in his eye will do!" Corisande countered, jumping down next to Lindsay. They both stared at each other for a long moment, then burst out laughing.

"I'd say we're done with making secret pacts for the day, wouldn't you?"

Corisande nodded, looping her arm through Lindsay's as they set out once more along the cliff.

"So I'll be twenty going into my first Season," Lindsay said with a jaunty toss of her head. "Better that than some foolish green goose of a girl who doesn't have a clue what she wants."

"So I'm known for my temper." Corisande gave a nonchalant shrug as she looked out across a sunlit Mount's Bay. "At least it's helped me to get things done."

Just as she'd be venting her legendary spleen first thing tomorrow morning, Corisande thought to herself. She'd already decided to ride out to Arundale's Kitchen as soon as she saw that Lindsay was happily settled in her coach and bound for London.

She doubted she would get a wink of sleep tonight with Oliver Trelawny's ship due in from Brittany and then Lindsay leaving so bright and early, but the news she'd received only a few hours ago fairly screamed for her attention. This time that damned mine captain Jack Pascoe had gone too far, cutting the tinners' wages by a full half because they'd fallen behind in their work due to bad weather. Was the man mad? How did he expect the tinners to feed their families, to clothe and shelter them on what had already been a mere pittance?

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