Married To A Marquess(4)

By: Joyce Alec


Already, she had visited the seamstress in the small village next to the estate, having access to some funds. Her husband had deigned himself to send her a small amount each and every month – although, having very little to spend her coffers on, Alice had simply saved it, which meant that she was now able to order an almost entirely new wardrobe.

The seamstress, who had been completely overwhelmed with delight at Alice’s request for new gowns in the latest styles, had been more than willing to oblige, utterly thrilled by Alice’s interest in her work. She had been for numerous fittings, and the gowns were to be with her the following day.

Frowning, Alice did a quick calculation in regard to how quickly her letter would reach her mother. If she left two days from now, she would arrive in London in four days hence. By then, her mother should have been able to make all the arrangements, provided there was no refusal from her father. Alice did not think there would be, however, for she had seen first-hand how unsettled her father was over Alice’s absent husband.

Surely, he would agree that his daughter needed a little joy in her life and that returning to London to enjoy the season was entirely proper.

However, that was not Alice’s true intention.

Three years had changed her appearance somewhat, but not to the point that she was entirely unrecognizable. However, deep down, Alice was sure that her husband would not have any idea what his wife truly looked like. In fact, she did not think that he would recognize her at all.

She intended to take on a false name and enjoy the season as she ought to have done when she was still in her father’s house. Back then, she had been a quiet wallflower, barely able to pluck up the courage to speak to anyone and knowing full well that she was not the most beautiful of young ladies either.

However, in three years, Alice had grown a little taller and had taken up gardening, bringing a slight bloom to her normally pale face. In addition, her skin had cleared — the cook promised that it was because of the fresh air — and her hair had both lengthened and brightened in the sunshine, for Alice refused to wear a bonnet whenever she was outside in the gardens.

However, it was her confidence that shone through, which she hoped would lead to an ability to stand tall and consider herself an equal when she was in the midst of a London ball.

Smiling softly to herself, Alice wondered what her husband would think when he saw her, but it would not matter. He probably would not recognize her. She hoped that she might shame him into realizing what he had done in leaving his wife alone for three years, although she was not yet sure how to go about it.

At least she would have her dear friend Madeline, who was now Lady Astor, to assist her in the upcoming weeks. It would be wonderful just to see her dear friend again, having not laid eyes on her since Alice had been sent to the country estate.

Sighing to herself, Alice refilled her teacup and sat back in her chair, allowing her thoughts to run wild. A mixture of nerves and excitement coiled in her belly, making her look forward to the next stage of her life.





Chapter Three

“Madeline!”

Alice could not keep from weeping. She embraced her friend as soon as Madeline was announced, realizing just how much she had missed Madeline’s company.

Alice’s parents had allowed her to use their townhouse, and Madeline called as soon as she received Alice’s request for a visit.

The two women had been very close in their girlhood, although Madeline had always been much more outgoing and often grew frustrated with Alice’s decision to cling to the walls whenever they attended a ball or soiree.

“Now, now,” Madeline said, her own voice betraying her emotion. “None of that. No tears.” Her smile wobbled, and she laughed. “Even though I am overjoyed to see you.”

“And I you,” Alice responded, taking her friend’s hand and leading her to a chair. “Please, be seated. There is so much I want to ask you.”

Madeline sat as Alice rang for tea, her eyes contemplative. “Has it been just terrible?” she asked softly. “Being at that estate all alone?”

Alice sat down carefully so that she would not crumple the back of her new gown. “It was terrible for the first year, I will admit, but I have since come to terms with it — although I do not intend to simply go on as I have been any longer.” Her jaw set, she looked across at Madeline, who was regarding her carefully.