Chapter 13

Moon light it looked so beautiful,my eyes transfixed upon it’s wonderous nature.As it streamed through the window,tonight was unlike any other night for I was a restless soul.Knowing what I knew,I clutched at the crucifix around my neck,it no longer symbolised my faith nor of new hope.But of the cross of shame and guilt.Why I couldn’t bare to lay beside Lord Henry tonight,temptation got the best out of me for I couldn’t resist sneaking a peek of my lover alone,a thing of beauty.He looked so peaceful and dreamy.One look at him,then the flashbacks of the sheer horror from my past and I instantly fall apart.I miss him so,but I can’t mask my emotions,I aught to act disciplined and distance myself.He’s the one and only reason why I breathe.But the past few months,he is the only one who has questioned my authority,doubted my motives.My heart aches how he feels that I’m only with him to make my former Lord Rickman wild with jealously.Tonight I’ve proved his point right,I may not have strayed from his side but I can still feel the stain upon my lips,the alcoholic and cigar aroma makes me gag.I feel so grubby and dirty,it’s too late to bathe for Mama and the others in the house may sense something is wrong and I refuse to give Lord Rickman the satisfaction I shall deal with this in my own unique way.I can not bare to be in this position,no longer know how to love my Ben.He’s the only one who can handle my wild disposition.Oh my love,I couldn’t cope if he took Lord Rickman’s word,over his version of events over mine.Turning my back upon his fiancee’ would be one deadly blow to the heart.
I feel as though my future is slipping away from beneath me.The beautiful fairytale will be over before I’ve even had a chance to say ‘I do.’ After all Oliver is good,he could lie upon oath in a place of court if his life depended upon it.Profess his innocence.Perhaps for my benefit swear upon the bible.Portray his former wife as the nymph,bestowing the forbidden kiss upon his lips.He doesn’t realise how much of an animal he’s become.The alcohol has taken a hold upon his brain,consumed like a drug.He’s fully become dependent upom it.Why it made him evolve into a dark beast before my eyes,I no longer recognise the man I married.Ever so greatful he,we didn’t commit the deadly sin of…I can’t continue the sentence.I’m more greatful he didn’t rip my beautiful corset from my body.The way he touched m,he may have gently swept my hair away from my shoulders but his act of the perfect gentleman stops there.I have marks upon my shoulders to prove it,the way he man handled me.Carefully concealed them with a shawl from Benjamin,he’s bound to jump to the wrong conclusions.Tears quickly rolled down my cheeks,I need to be with my sister’s right now.Sure they’ll take my word over Oliver’s?
Thank heaven’s Mari and Letty are staying at Mama’s,for one Evangaline and Holly although I love them so they are so naïve wouldn’t know what to say for the best.I mean Holly sometimes speaks to fill in the awkward silences.How I feel for Mari and Letty,they have their own problems but always remain steadfast and strong.They barely see their husbands,Edward and Mark they’re lucky if they receive the occasional letter from their beloveds they could go a week a month even without receiving word.The war may be over and the battle won.But like all noble knights at the realm,they have the duty and position of their regiment to protect the good of the country.I didn’t know how they survive on faith,preying that their husbands will return ever dreading the letters that drop through the door will be the dreaded telegram,that seals their fate in a split second.Stating they’ve gone missing in action or dead.Haunted at the memory,recoiling in my body over the memories feeling that Lord Rickman had died.I should be greatful for what I’ve got the love,compassion and companionship of a good gentleman.I bravely knocked upon their bedchamber door.
‘Whoever is it at this untimely hour?’
‘It’s Gisele.’ I whispered.
‘Allow her in Holl.’ scolded Evangaline.
Holly reluctantly allowed me in,they were all gathered upon Mari’s bed.A scene just like the good days,Evangaline sprawled across the pillow with her legs in the air.Exchanging stories of her encounter with Colonel Clarkson I should imagine? All that’s missing was the ever so beautiful and fair Lucille.I miss those familiar heavenly sounds of her giggles.Lucille Delessop,oozed such confidence and certainty about her future what a tragic waste.Endless talking by secluded candlelight so Mama wouldn’t suspect a
thing.Engrossed in conversation about sheer nonsense to avoid going to sleep.Mostly about gentleman.
‘Go on continue? It’s starting to get rather interesting.’ smiled Letitia.
Evangaline rolled her eyes,in a dreamy kind of way.Dominic,Colonel Clarkson I almost forgot where I was there.I’m sorry to shatter your illusions my dear sister’s.But there’s nothing really to tell.He said that he’d invite me over to his estate.No idea,when that’ll be show me around and perhaps he will teach me to ride his horses.’
‘That’s secret code for he’ll show you the stables I should imagine?’ I cheekily looked at Evangaline.
‘Gisele,I’m not like you.’
‘You’re such a wall flower,Evangaline you’re beautiful embrace it.Tell me where is your sense of adventure?’ I teased.
‘Not everybody’s like you and the delightful Lord Henry.After all I have my pride and dignity to think about.’
‘Whatevers happend to you Gisele you used to feel the same obsessed with remaining your pride?’ said Letitia.
‘I don’t think you’ll have that to worry about Evan? Judging by appearances I doubt Colonel Clarkson is that type of gentleman? He’s frightfully dull if you ask me?’ said Holly.
‘Nobody asked you for your opinion Holly-Florence?’
‘Oh Evangaline,must you address me by my full name how I hate it so?’
‘Serves you right?’
‘Girls!’ scolded Marianna.
‘Well she started it.’ said Holly.
‘I’m ending it now,honestly must you two always squabble?’ sighed Letitia.
‘Colonel Clarkson for your information Holly,is a kind and thoughtful human being.Why he’s a romantic at heart.Trying as he might to get over his beloved Cecile.’
‘Evan’s in love?’ teased Holly.
‘I shall jolly well hit you if you don’t stop.’
‘Ignore her Evangaline,she’s only jealous.I mean why you’re a breath of fresh air,some might say the right tonic that the Colonel’s needing to mend his broken heart.’
‘Thank you for your vote of confidence Gis,he’s a darling.An absolute pussy cat compared to Lord Arthur.The stories Benjamin shared with me tonight would make Papa turn in his grave.Look at my arms,the hairs are standing up on end I’m still in shock.Oh I could physically gag that I was bought by his endless lies.But no matter.I got off rather lightly.

What stories? Lord Benjamin didn’t say that he had anything to hide? What kind of shady past does Lord Arthur could be so wrong.That Lord Henry is so ashamed to speak of? I completely understand that we said no more secrets,complete honesty was the way forward in order to survive in our marriage.Well it’s suddenly dawned on me,I have absolutely no idea of what kind of family I am marrying myself into.For one I realised I didn’t have the full support of his parents.Yes I could deal with that,but this is too much.What other secret’s could my lover be consealing from me? I mean I lay there night after night.He could be a serial killer for all I know? Perhaps he has a secret love child to a harlot he has kept sweet in Versailles.Oh I shudder to think,maybe he’s not as perfect as I first initially thought.Lord Henry what secret are you protecting me from?
‘ He’s such a darling looking out for me in that way?’
‘My hero.’ I whispered under my breath.
‘Gisele,you must thank him for me.I insist.’
‘If I must?
I looked down,trying as I might to shield the redness of my eyes.
‘Is something bothering you my child?’
‘I’m perfectly fine.’
‘Come now,it’s not like you to be a restless soul? I know that you and Lord Henry can be like? Don’t deny it I know the way he looks at you? You normally can’t keep your hands off one another? Sometimes Letty’s tempted to throw water over the pair of you?’
‘Whatevers changed?’ asked Marianna looking curiously.
‘Oh you know Mari,forever wishing Lord Rickman would stop plaguing my thoughts and scuttle back under the rock he sprung from?’
‘I assumed you and Oliver had reached an understanding? Reconciled your differences for the sake of your children? That you’d forbid anyone say a bad word against him?’
‘That was before I discovered,he’s just like the other bullies that’s ever dared to cross my path.Like Earl Merrell’s and Duke Matthew,I never thought he would.’ I composed myself. ‘I can not believe I’m giving him the satisfaction of allowing him to bother me in this way.’
‘No,I can not believe that for one minute?’
‘You weren’t there Letitia.So don’t you go defending him.Sorry for I’ve said too much.’
‘Come now,you can’t say things and then refuse point blank to end them?’
‘Sisters,I refuse to continue because I am afraid to finish in case you don’t believe me? Why I’m starting to question my sanity…that worm I used to refer to as my protector and husband.He has absolute hold over Mama.’
‘You know that is not true?’
‘Oh it is so.She thinks he’s whiter than white.Going around acting all so charming and dashing to cause unsuspecting to swoon in his prescence.That he wouldn’t harm any fair maiden.Why he’s the noble knight the ever so valiant King Arthur,it was his wife Guinevere that betrayed him with his trusted Lancelot.’
‘I think she has a twist in the tale as that isn’t how legend has it.’ whispers Evangaline. ‘I mean don’t I remember Guinevere was ever faithful to her Arthur?’
‘Not in her head,By George! She’s finally lost it!’squealed Holly.
‘Hush,allow Gisele to speak.’ exclaimed Letitia.
‘I’m not going mad,my word I wish to god I was! I think I’d feel safer in an institute.He had me completely fooled,had me up on a pedastle and I allowed him to as I once thought I loved him.He was once this tall dark mysterious stranger.That I was longing to know more about,eventually I was bought in by his sob stories of his tragic past left with his sister as his ward.No father figure to look up to.Drawn in by his kindness beauty and generosity.Powerless to fight against my feelings for him any longer.His brooding features invited me in,manipulating with my emotions,enough to bestow a ring upon my finger.Naive was I to ever think I’d be ever bound to him even now.Lord Rickman filled me with false hope that if we didn’t work out he would eventually have to let me go.Unbeknown to yours truly turns out he has an unwritten law that I’m merely his property.Tonight in the darkness away from prying eyes he did just that.’
‘You disappeared?’
‘I needed time alone.’
‘Nothing new there then,you sense as though you’re drowning and you run.’
‘I felt suffocated….Oliver felt as though the walls were closing in on him too,I assumed that he was being a friend.Saying how he felt for me,saying the things I longed for my Benjamin to say,not once did he mention Papa.Oliver sensed that I was missing him andexclaimed that we’d toast to Papa’s memory in the drawing room.Stupid that I were I believed how sweet my Olly still was,despite all of our history he still cared for me.Alcohol consumed that Oliver that I knew,his fingers running through each individual lock of my hair.I squirmed as his fingers traced their way down my body.Leading to my thigh,then my stockings.He pulled me in,yearning for more.I repulsed at his touch,he thought he could heal me? Not making any sense at all.His soul is not of love no more it’s only made of ice.
‘You’re trembling?’
‘I’m fine.’
‘Fetch her a brandy!’ said Marianna.
‘Please,I need to get it out of me before I choke up.He said that he missed me,but no he didn’t act towards me as though he missed me.Not like an old lover returning from war and rekindling his love for me.He wasn’t patient,allowing me for time to think the truth sticks in my throat like cyanide.His animal antics took over him,gone was the perfect respectable gentleman.He said he was well within his rights,as I was his whore.Only his,tonight he stripped away my dignity and brutally kissed me.’
‘Does Benjamin know of what went on tonight?’
‘No and I’m not intending to tell him Benjamin has been ever so patient with me.Sparing my feelings,as my heart’s been healing from my hurt.If he knew the true extent of what occured tonight.He’d feel as though I encouraged him,that I insticated the kiss.As for Mama,she’d easily take Oliver’s word over mine she looks to him and sees him as the son she never had.All sweetness and light,the wronged man.As I remain the villainess of the piece,little does she realise is Benjamin is my perfect ending.Ever since I’ve returned here I’ve been walking across a bed of nails full of regret in order to get over the other side in one piece.’

The next day after last nights unexpected event,I attempted to make my way down the stairs quiet as a mouse without trying to preventing to wake Lord Henry.One false move on the stairs and I will awake my sleeping beauty.I examined the staircase in detail cob webs hung if Lady Antoinette was aware of this they’ll be hell to pay.I stumbled upon one of Esme’s toys.
‘I recognise those dainty footsteps!’
Damn those stairs.
He boldly came behind me and kissed my neck.I winced a little.
‘Is something troubling you?’
‘Ben,you startled me?’
‘Good morrow my fair Juliet.’
‘Good morrow my kind Romeo.’
‘Whatever happend to you last night?’
‘Burning the candle so to speak.’
‘You’ve lost me? I was kind of hoping you would come to me last night? Why I was a tortured soul without my true love? Why I had champagne on ice,room fit for a princess,rose petals sprinkled upon you’re bed?’
‘I’m flattered by you’re sweet gesture.’
‘I didn’t want to waste a second of this heavenly evening.My way of apologising.’
‘You can be overwhelming at times?’
‘I simply can not help it,you’re beauty has this effect on me.I think I’m owed a simple explanation?’
‘I didn’t want to wake you my Lord.You looked so peaceful,my sleeping prince.’I mocked him.
‘Hasn’t bothered you before?’
He placed his arms around my waist.
‘The truth of my where abouts.I had to unearth the details of my sister Evangaline’s encounter with the Colonel?’
‘Unlike Evangaline she’s normally lost for words?’
‘Quite the opposite,she had quite the story to tell? She said the words..bare with me just for one minute to get the words right.I had to thank you Lord Henry,I mean she was so full of enthusiam as though you’re her knight in shining armour.Tell me Benjamin,why does my sister have to thank you? My Lord is hiding something I can tell? You’re going all shifty eyed?’
‘It’s nothing my Lady,I promise you.’
‘She was desperate to paint a picture of your dear Arthur.But something was preventing her? Why?’
‘As I said before you know Evangaline ever the silent type.’
‘Why is that Benjamin,did you buy her silence?’
‘There are somethings that you aught not to know? Come now Gisele everything is all right,you have nothing to worry about it’s between you’re sister and I….it’s all resolved.’
‘What did you’re Arthur do that is so bad that you are unable to share with me? You are aware of all of my secrets?’
‘I do know that.’
‘Well I’m waiting?’
‘Whatever is it cat got your tongue? Benjamin I’m about to become you’re wife in a matter of months and the prospect of marrying another terrifies me because of my past.But none of that mattered because I thought that I had you’re full honesty.I trusted you with my heart,I share a bed with you every night.My children look up to you as a father figure….You stand before me know and you have the nerve to say none of this concerns you? And you’re consorting with my sister? Is that all it is? Or are you being unfaithful with her? I mean it hadn’t stopped you before? Have you any rende-vous in the stable that I aught to be aware of?’
‘No! How could you possibly suggest that? I love you?’
‘Love,such an easy word to fall from your lips Lord Henry?’
I heard Esme’s cries from the nursery,she must have heard our heated confrontation.I stopped in my tracks,I can’t believe I have been so self-centred worried whether Lord Henry has been unfaithful with my sister when all of the while I didn’t stop to take a breathe and consider the damage this is doing to my two daughters.
‘I’m coming petit Esme.’
He took hold of my hand.
‘I’m sorry.’
‘You apologing doesn’t mean you’ve wriggled out of this predicament.After I have dealt with my daughters bad dream,we are going to sit down in the drawing room and discuss this.I want to know every little detail…as I refuse to leave any stone unturned.’
With that I left his side,and headed to the nursery.I saw Esme cradling into Marianna.
‘I heard Es’s cries,so I came immediately.’
‘Thank you Marianna.Where is Ava?’
‘Having breakfast with her Papa.Oliver,he insisted that he spent some quality time with her.
Marianna passed Esme towards me. ‘Is it any wonder my girls are so confused with these terrible living arrangements? I have Mama to thank for this.Not knowing who to call their father.How dare Oliver defy me? Benjamin is Esme’s father in name if not in blood.I do not want that man any more near my daughter.What will it take to erase him from my life? Money,I do not care if it’s blood money I will do what it takes for I refuse him to destroy her life.’
I kissed Esme’s forehead.
‘Mama is never going to leave you.’ I could smell her sweet scent upon my body.
‘He was very apologetic over what happend to you? He will explain it all.’
‘Really you think a meeting set up between us will solve everything?’
‘The matter is between you and Oliver,I will not come between you two…’
‘Mari,where no longer married.’
‘You still have your pride?’
‘If only that where true?’ I sighed.
‘I will see you at breakfast?’
‘I don’t think that’ll be necessary Marianna.’
‘Oh you will come.’
‘Must I always bow down at her command?’
‘Mama’s serving up quite the breakfast feast.’
‘Oh great more croissants?’
‘Don’t be so ungreatful,when you’re ready of course.’
Marianna left Esme and I alone,twenty years of age and still being at the beckon call of my Mama.Yes Mama,no Mama three bags full Mama.Please allow me to breathe for just one moment for heaven’s sake.
‘Whatever is it Gisele?’
‘Aunt Mari is so pretty isn’t she?’ smiled Esme.
‘Isn’t she just?’ I smiled. I brought her closer to me.
‘I love snuggles with my Mama.’
‘I’m sorry that I haven’t been there for you Es but you always know that I’m always there for you?’
Esme nodded her head.
‘Now whatever is it?’
‘It’s nothing Mama.’
‘Come now Es,I know when you’re lying to me? Do you want your nose to grow as big as Pinocchio?’
‘Mama he’s a puppet.’
‘Esme your Papa and I brought you up to be honest with us,I can tell when you’re sad….Whatever is bothering my precious little angel today? Has Ava been unkind to you? If she has then Mama will be having a few stern words with her?’
‘Then whatever is it,was it another bad dream? If so I have something for you.It’s called a dream catcher I shall place it above your bed tonight,it has a special job a fairy sits on top and catches all of the bad dreams.Only leaves you with the nice ones.’
‘Are you and Papa angry?’
‘No darling,of course not.Why?’
‘Are you still getting married? I heard shouting Ava said you’re sad because of us,don’t you love him anymore?’
‘Ava was very bad to say that to you? Big sister’s can say things but they don’t mean them…Ava is only teasing you.Oh my sweet Es,please do not cry,I hate to see you upset.Of course you’re Papa and I love one another.It’s just that Mama is finding it very difficult adjusting to being back here.I miss Italy as well let me see this house it holds a lot of sad memories.Well of your dear Gran’Papa it makes me sad to see he never got to see his two beautiful grandchildren and then there’s you’re Uncle Carl Mama misses him so much as he was her best friend….’
‘And Aunt Lucy?’
‘Yes my sweet,Mama misses Aunt Lucille too a great deal.’
‘Please don’t be sad Mama.’
‘Oh you are so sweet my darling.’
‘Did I meet Aunt Lucy?’
‘No darling sadly you and Ava never had the opportunity of meeting her.She was have loved you girls,indulged you girls in sweets and lavish gifts.’
‘What was she like?’
‘She was a lot like you two,sweet without even intending to.Used her charm to get out of difficult situations,extremely bright and mischievous.A heartbreaker to all gentleman that crossed her path.She could twist him around her little finger,all it took was one look and playfully twist a strand of hair around.You know Uncle Tom? Before he met and married you’re Aunt Reinette and they lived happily ever after.Like all Kings and Queens do with their little fairy princess Lucille? Well there was a time when I thought Lucille was going to marry him.Tom was sweet but wasn’t bold enough to make an honest woman out of Lucille.For he was a man of no titles and feared that would bring scandal to our family name.He was merely a humble Architect,not great designer he is now.Despite that,Lucille didn’t listen to talk,she used to arrange secret meetings with him.He was Lucille’s Prince.Though she didn’t want to admit it.She loved him in her own special unique way.They had a bond,and a recognition for art.’ Tears rolled down my cheeks as began to remember the beautiful love story.I quickly composed myself.
‘Now where is my little girls beautiful smile? I do not want you to ever worry.As Papa and I love you so much.I kissed Esme upon her cheek.
‘Now,Gran’Mama has promised a breakfast to remember,go and play whilst your Mama gets dressed.Heaven forbid how she’ll react if we keep her waiting any longer.’

I was dressed in my yellow day dress,I hope Mama doesn’t think my choice is inappropriate but I craved the sun light the warm colours.I opted to wear my hair in loose curls today.Breakfast time,was a trying time to sit through so many questions I wanted to ask Lord Henry,but know wasn’t the appropriate time and I can not believe I had to share the same air as Lord Rickman.I couldn’t barely look at him as he addressed me.
‘It’s a beautiful day Lady Delessop?’
‘Isn’t it just?’ I smiled.
‘Oliver and I are thinking of walking around the estate later? Care to join us if you like?’ smiled Louisa.
‘That’s awfully kind of Louisa,but I have things that need attending to.’
‘Oh? Anything exciting?’
‘I doubt it much.’ I sighed. ‘You know the usual,corresponding to various friends.’
‘Pity,perhaps another time? Maybe afternoon tea?’
‘I would like that very much?’ I smiled.
Holly and Evangaline where watching the scene unfold. ‘Why can’t Gisele just be honest with Louisa.’
‘Hush Holly.’ Evangaline casually kicked her under the table.
‘Shouldn’t Louisa be aware of what her brother’s capable of?’
‘That is between Oliver and Gisele.’
‘It’s our duty to protect her,havent you forgotten the Delessop’s sister code?’
‘Of course I haven’t.But I’m staying out of it.’
‘He’s a monster.’
‘I think you should jolly well do the same.’
‘But nothing Gisele is perfectly capable of handling this.’
I turned away from Lord Henry.
‘Must we quarrell?’
‘We shall discuss this matter further….but not here.’
‘You can be impossible sometimes?’
‘I am not rising to the bait,especially not in polite company.’
‘Yes Mama?’
‘Enlighten us,you’re wedding is in a matter of months?’
‘Yes that is correct.’
‘And still you have nothing to show for it.’
‘It’s all in hand Mama. Why it’s going to be a beautiful and serene day.Something you will be proud of.I have my beautiful dream dress,the place is so beautiful why it will make angels weep.I have my beautiful Sophia agreeing to be my bridesmaid.You have made me so happy agreeing to do this.’ I clutched onto her hand.My beautiful sisters and Reinette alongside me,my angels as flower girls.I just have one vital ingredient missing….Louisa?’
‘Before I am about to begin,Lady Louisa,I realise that I may be about to put you in an extremely difficult position and I haven’t given you the time to think of a suitable answer…Since you where once married to my fiance’.I know waht you must be thinking that it is a spare of a moment thing,but the day wouldn’t be complete without you.I have a proposition for you will you do me the honour of becoming one of my brides maids?’
‘Gisele,I’m extremely honoured that you would consider me?’
‘What say you?’
‘I’d love to.’
Lord Henry looked at me,my if looks could kill? ‘Lady Delessop may I have a quiet little word with you in private?’
‘If you must my Lord? Louisa we shall discuss more of this over afternoon tea?’
‘I should like this very much.’ she smiled.
‘If you excuse me?’

I followed Lord Henry in the corridor.
‘Haven’t we got over these secret meetings?’
‘Why change the habit of a life time?’
‘No I refuse to discuss our matter in public,in the drawing room.Walls have ears.’
I opened the door and beckoned him in.
‘Is this necessary?’
‘Yes,secrets and lies almost destroyed this family…Now is something troubling you my Lord?’
‘Not at all my Lady.’
‘Come on,don’t tell me you wanted me alone to have a secret tryst?’
‘I wouldn’t say no to that?’
‘No,there’s more to you than that? More depth to you than just that? I can read yout body language like a book? The way you hold yourself? Clutching your hands,the terrible tension between us?’
‘You look beautiful did I ever mention that? But you know what I’m like when you wear your in such a way?’
‘You came in here,to tell me that? I don’t believe you? There’s something more underlining that’s bothering you?’
‘Louisa? You’re grande gesture out there?’
‘She’s a friend.’
‘Haven’t you forgotten the grief she’s caused you?’
‘All forgotten about.’
‘Or is my Lady trying to make a point?’
‘This isn’t a game,we reconciled our differences shame you can’t forgive and forget.’
‘Couldn’t we have discussed this matter in private? Before humiliating me?’
‘I never intended to…What can I say it was a spare of the moment thing,and it felt so right.Louisa standing by my side on my wedding day.My special day that I’ve been planning for such a long time,losing sleep over every little detail.I refuse to let you down.’
‘You’re not?’
‘At times I don’t think I don’t deserve you?’
‘You do,you will do me proud I know it.I trust you.
‘Trust? It’s such a funny word isn’t it? You speak of being humiliated in front of my family of what Louisa becoming my bridesmaid? It’s nothing compared to what you’re hiding from me? Tell me,do you get a kick in what you’re doing to me? I mean am I so inferior to you that you can not share this heavy burden.’
‘I had no intention to hurt you?’
‘I have a secret to confess to,I feel I aught to tell you.Lord Oliver he attacked me last night.’
‘What when?’
‘When I disappeared.I’ve got to go.’
‘No,you must stop running.’
‘You might not like what I have to say?’
He took hold of me and kissed me he pushed me against the wall.I pulled away.
‘I wish you’d stop doing that,using power.Leave me?’
‘I’m sorry.’
‘He was an animal,he wanted me….he ravaged me as though I were a piece of meat and loved every minute of it.’
‘I don’t believe that for a minute?’
‘Well I might as well have my public hanging now,before I stand before my family.Oliver will have them eating out of the palm of his hand.Say I encouraged him say that I was asking for it.That I was standing before him,begging him.I deserved it.’
‘Stop that!’
‘It’s true,I’m nothing but a common courtesan begging for scraps.He’s finally getting his act of revenge after all of the ill treatment I gave him.’
‘No one deserved to be punished in that way?’
‘He called me his dirty whore no one else’s.I’m still his despite being with you.’
‘He can’t do that’
‘You try telling him that.’
‘Did he?’
‘No he didn’t my love…But I am so close to that,I could feel his breathe on his body.’
‘Why are you telling me this?’
‘His hands upon his body almost broke me,if I kept this from you this could have destroyed us.’
‘I trust you.’
‘I couldn’t lay with you,knowing of this….my conscience got the better of me.So I sought my sister’s.I wanted so badly to come clean with you but I couldn’t find the words.I love you,so much it hurts.Then all the while I discover you’re playing you’re cards close to you’re chest.I took hold of Lord Henry’s hand. ‘No matter how big or small you’re secret is? I will not judge you?’
‘I’m going to kill him!’
‘I don’t want to cause a scene!’
‘Lord Rickman will not get away with this! How dare he touch my fiancee’.’
‘Look at me,I’m perfectly fine.’
‘No you’re not,you’re practically shaking?’
I touched Lord Henry’s face to soothe him. ‘There’s been enough blood amongst this family.’
‘You expect me to sit peacefully alongside him at dinner,smiling politely.Knowing what I know?’
‘Yes because you’re the better man.Rise above it,I beg of you please that’s all I ask of you.The sooner we are husband and wife then we are to leave London never to return you have my word.Please Ben for once trust me?’
‘You know I do.’
‘Now it’s my turn to do the same.I’m waiting?’
‘Evangaline and I aren’t see one another.I don’t know why you’d suggest that,I’d never be unfaithful to you.You’re impossible to live with sometimes.I can not wait to marry you.Ashamed of you? No I’d never feel that about you.I’m scared you’d think less of me? The Henry Dynastry aren’t as perfect as we make out to be.’
‘The Delessop’s dynasty have plenty of skeletons in the closest.Yes secrets have torn us apart,but there’s far worse.My Gran Mama the stories Mama has told me would make you blush.Why we thrive on scandal? It’s in our blood.I mean take yours truly for example,I’m hardly an innocent,I’ve did things that would make your toes curl.Am I ashamed yes,but it’s all in the past.The moral is whatever you have to throw at me,I won’t go in all guns blazing we will sit down and discuss this in a mature adult and contemporary way.Be it murder,fraud,frivoletry.Oooh don’t tell me? Lord Arthur has embarked on an incestious relationship with Ana.Is that why they’re always awkward around one another?’
‘No,don’t be so absurd.They just don’t see eye to eye.That is all,it’s not at all like the tangled plots in your obscured novels.’
‘I’m sorry Benjamin,please you’re making me ever so nervous.’
‘Arthur,my brother he was quite a player in his time.The Casanova of the Henry’s.Why Henry VIII is a gentleman in comparison to my brother.’
‘Tell me something that isn’t new?’
‘Well Arthur,he was such a restless soul,even at a tender age.He was an educated fool,mother and father had his whole life mapped out for him.Betrothed to a beautiful young lady named Clara,too beautiful for Arthur’s liking.He never played to his parent’s tune,much to his parent’s disgust he had itchy feet and longed to see the outside world.He took off with a word,didn’t have the decency to leave a note of apology.Word reached us that he was working his way,preying on poor defenceless females.Allowing them in with his friendly charm and interlect.My once so perfect brother soon came known as a gambler and a petty theif.’
‘So you’re brother’s quite the mask of zorro so to speak?’
‘Zorro has nothing on my brother.He was travelling upon a train,one day when he had a chance romantic encounter with a stranger.A beautiful sweet bella donna called Adrianna,the courtship developed extremely quickly I believed he’d changed.He returned to Versailles claiming he’d met the woman that would eventually become his wife.Unbeknown to us the love’s young dream were doomed from the start she had been fooled.Claiming that our family had reached financial difficulty.Adrianna took pity upon his misfortune as like Evangaline fell for his sweet perfect poetic words agreed to sell her jewellry believing her lover would pay her back in good time.Poor Adrianna was left with nothing,her family disowned her.Arthur stole her heart,as well as her reputation and fortune.’
‘And Evangaline became involved in this because?’
‘Evangaline and I wasn’t embarking upon a passionate liasion.Quite the opposite,I fear I’ve tainted Evangaline’s sweet nature.A night with yours truly and I would corrupt her.It was completely innocent,she means nothing to me in an intimate way.I was merely comforting her from her miss guidance and fortune.She was so convinced she’d driven him away.I was just putting her mind at ease.’
‘My poor sweet sister,I’m ever so sorry that I doubted you.Will you ever forgive me?’
‘I’m sure we can come to some sort of arrangement Lady Delessop?’
Lord Henry stretched out his hand and I politely took hold of it.I looked into his eyes and I knew that I could trust him with my heart.I gave him a playful glance and beckoned him to chase me up the long winding staircase,putting all feelings inside I longed to be with him,lose myself in his strong arms maybe that’ll enable myself to forget about the horrors of last nights events.I stopped in my tracks.
‘Lady Delessop,you look as though you’ve just seen a ghost?’
‘Lady Delessop?’
‘I came looking for you,Gisele I have something that I’d like to say to you.’
‘Please is this necessary?’
‘May I offer my most humblest apology.I behaved completely out of character,I am so ashamed.’
‘You don’t have to explain yourself.’
‘I vowed that I would forever protect you.’
He noticed the marks upon my neck.
‘Did I do this to you?’
‘I’ve experienced worse,the scars they’ll heal.’
‘Will you forgive me?’
‘Gisele,you didn’t say you came to harm at his hand?’
‘I’m perfectly fine Benjamin.’
‘No,you’re not you’re trembling.’
‘Please don’t.’
‘He’s had this confrontation a long time coming Gisele.So here we are,at long last face to face,I demand a duel Lord Rickman.’
‘Isn’t that a tad old fashioned what century do you think you’re living in? The dark ages?’
‘It should be I,that you have the issue with.Not the lovely Gisele,after all I tore two marriages apart.Broke your precious little sister’s heart.There we’re times I squirmed whenever you went near Gisele,and the children scared you’d wield your way back in allow Gisele to fall in love with you once more and I would be left out in the cold.But Gisele,ever the trusting type she has a good heart,my fallen angel.Oh Oliver is perfectly harmless,a good man perfect gentleman of society.Please give him the benefit of the doubt,why he’s lost everything at my hand.He’d forever protect me to the end of the earth.All Lady Gisele did was so wrong was fall in love with another gentleman.’
‘Something that isn’t her husband?’
‘Hardly worth a public hanging is it?’
‘This matter is strictly between Lady Delessop and I this doesn’t concern you.’
‘Gisele,is the warmest sweetest most genuine girl I’ve ever met.’
‘Gisele is no girl,she’s a fully developed woman in case you haven’t noticed?’
‘I shall let that remark pass me by as we have ladies here present.I’m privileged that she’s actually given me the time of day.She finds it difficult to get close to any one in fear that she has some curse placed upon her since birth.She ever carries the scars,of every beating she received from Earl Merrells.Living in fear the next one will be her last.What kind of environment is that to bring up her children.She’s a devoted mother vowing to protect her two children.I know her inside out,the sweet dimples the freckles that she is ashamed of.The marks that he did to her.She looked up to you,still admired you and respected you from afar.Because despite everything she still loved you,you still remain a part of her.Also simply for being Esme and Ava’s father.But you start to get nasty and heavy handed because Lady Delessop’s physical needs are met elsewhere.You may apologise for all and sundry Lord Rickman,but that’s because you’ve sobered up and feeling guilty.I’ll have you know she told me of all the vile things you reduced her to.No gentleman should speak to a lady in that appalling and disrespectful way.She’s not your whore,no longer you’re property.Tell me Lord Rickman how do you sleep at night? I could hit you,beat you black and blue leave you broken onto the ground.But I do not want to give you the satisfaction.You can pull at Gisele’s heartstrings all you like.She can forgive you,but let me tell you one thing Sir.If you ever harm a hair upon her head.I will hunt you down and kill you Lord Rickman with my bare hands if I have to and damn the consequences.’


Chapter 12

Lord Henry led me onto the cold marble floor,that’ll teach me to abandon my diamond encrusted shoes at the side of the ballroom floor.Oh my days! How my feet hurts me so,my toes are pinching me! That’ll teach me for chosing outer appearance than comfort.My mind started to wander whilst being in the arms of my love.What I would give right now to be in front of a romantic roaring fire and for Lord Henry to give me a foot massage.He can always work wonders,all of my tingles are running down my spine.Lady Gisele,this isn’t appropriate at all,Lord Henry looked down towards my feet, eyeing them attentively.
‘Well well well Lady Gisele,if Mama could see you now dancing bare footed with your fiance’ quite the scandal?’
‘Lord Henry,I’m merely showing the free spirit that I truly am.’
‘I sense a slight touch of gypsy blood within my precious little Gisele?’
‘Shh Lord Henry,please do not allow Mama hear you say that.Imagine what Lady Chadwick may say if she ever got wind of this conversation?’
‘Rest assured your secret’s safe with me my Lady.’
Lord Henry bowed towards me as the opening first notes of the song began to play.The warm rich lyrical sounds of the violin struck a chord in an almost haunting kind of way.The melodic echoes of the angel harp sent shivers down my spine.Why it almost transported me back to the beautiful Venice.Lord Henry,dominant as ever took full control,boldly taking me into hold.My how I love this level of sophistication and intimacy with him.I could close my eyes,for a split second and it would be just us.If only this were true.Why if I had my own way I would elope,I can not bare the attention focused upon me once more upon my wedding day.I love Lord Henry with my whole heart,I’m mad for him to speak.But alas were no longer love struck teenagers,that’s not how a grown lady aught to behave in society.Benjamin gently clasped onto my hand,pushing me in ever so tightly.Which made me gasp with excitement.We waltzed around the ball room,the various ladies locked eyes with their lovers or in Holly’s case a poor unsuspecting gentleman moving on in a counter clockwise formation.It was as though it was out of a fairytale.I looked on and admired the display unfolding before my very eyes.The sheer excitement,but trying as she might to mask her emotions.Much too soon to reveal her inner depth of her feelings poor thing.How I remember it well,the thrill of the chase,Evangaline,how she moved with such elegance and grace.In the arms of the debonair Colonel Clarkson,whilst I on the other hand struggled to keep up with Ben’s fancy footwork.I Initially felt ill at ease,like a new born deer.Stumbling toward’s it’s proud mother.But one powerful and may I say sheer look from Benjamin’s dark penetrating eyes made all of my fears vanish.Forever feeling safe in his arms it was a miracle that I managed to pull myself together.That’ll teach me to take my dancing shoes off,oh how my feet ache.Lord Henry and I became one again,he held me ever so closely in his arms.He gently kissed my forehead.
‘Well well well Lord Henry I detect you’re liking your close work tonight? Not that I’m complaining I admire those qualities in a gentleman.’
‘Standing before me my sweet lady,you look like the queen feline proudly surveying her much loved kingdom.’
‘And what part do you play in this surreal scene?’
‘Before ever toying with her prey,why I’m a poor unsuspecting mouse waiting for the feline to raise her claws and pounce…’
‘You’re comparing yourself to a weak and feeble creature the lowest of the low of the food chain? The naive mouse,ever so sweet comfortable in it’s own skin….weak and naive.Weak naive and sweet are no ways to describe you.I see you in a different way.I’d describe you as a gallant,dominant lion,especially behind closed doors?’ I whispered. ‘Is my Lord blushing?’
‘Lady Delessop,impish little remarks like that you’ll be put to death.’
‘Let them try,let them dare touch me and put me to death my Lord.Drag me to the unhallowed gallows kicking and screaming,I shall boldly look upon my executioner with a smile upon my face for I’ve previously just my lover to my bedchamber.As this maiden’s final request for one last moment delight.They can try as they might,tie my hands behind my back.Beat me,break me bleed the love I feel for you that flows through my veins.Steal away my passion,their piercing sounds enclose me.Before I break the rope that enchain me and I make a bid for freedom.’
‘Lady Delessop you have such a vivid imagination?’ Lord Henry raised his eye brows.
‘No,I’m happy for my beautiful Evan,hence for my sunshine exterior.For she has finally found her muse,her kindred.Tell me,where’s the crime in that?’

Colonel Clarkson summoned up the courage to make speak. ‘Lady Delessop may I say it’s been an absolute pleasure.’
‘Holly’s loss has been my gain…Likewise Colonel.’ She smiled.
‘Dominic my Lady.’ He kissed her hand.
‘Only if you call me Evangaline?’
‘Lady Delessop,when I return to my grande estate.I shall write to you immediately and arrange an outing.We shall get you acquainted with the horses and if you’re feeling brave? Maybe I could teach you to ride?
‘I should like that very much.’

‘Be still my beating heart.’ I sighed longing and hoping for that lady to me.Not involved with the Colonel of course,to be in the throws of romance with Lord Henry if only things were different.I would have loved to be romanced and courted out in the open with him.I wouldn’t have been reluctant to be in an arranged marriage with Benjamin,he’s so devilsly handsome without intending to.On reflection I look at myself now,and feel nothing but doubt.I mean honestly what is Lord Henry doing with me? I cannot barely look into the mirror any longer.Ever day I see a litle line appear upon my forehead.I know it hardly resembles the scars I carried from the beatings I endured at the hands of Jack.But youth is no longer on my side,all I see now is a poor reflection of my former more glorious self.The old Gisele has been hiding for ever so long.The dullness remains in my once bright impish eyes.What if once we are married and Lord Henry finally has the longed for ring placed upon my finger.What if I can not bare him that longed for son of us? He may stray elsewhere and once again I shall be left with nothing.
‘Lady Delessop?’
‘Yes my Lord.’
‘Is everything all right?’
‘Perfectly fine my Lord.’
‘Why are you addressing me as though you’re in a court? You’re certainly no Ophelia….You just seem distant that’s all?’
‘No,I’m just remonising fonding that’s all.’
‘Do you often wish it was you and I experiencing the first flush of romance running through your’e veins?’
‘No never,I’m blissfully.What do I sense my Lord is displeased with my answer?’
‘Do not lie or use me Gis…’
‘I have no intension to use you.’
‘I detect that all is that well in your world?’
‘Oh hark my Lord doesn’t believe a single word I am saying?’
‘Sometimes I feel as you’re pulling away from me,saying words merely to please me?’
‘I reflect upon what I had then and what I have with you now the tenderness and beautiful bond we share is unbreakable.When I wake up and you’re laying peacefully beside me.I pinch myself and count my lucky stars that you’re here with me no one else.I feel as though my looks are fading I no longer see myself as the youthful pretty young thing that chased Carl down the hill on a summer’s day.Soon I will become invisible to you.’ I said under my breathe.
‘Sorry,I didn’t catch that last part you where doing that mumbling thing again?’
‘You know I only do that when I’m nervous.’
‘Lady Delessop,you have nothing to be nervous about.Tell me will you miss England’s pleasant green pastures? The hustle and bustle of London once we’ve returned to Italy?’
‘Not a jot.’
‘You’re not saying this to please me?’
‘Let me think will I miss the sudden urge to breathe? As I walk through the town.The choking thick smoke,the familiar smells of this place Mama’s strong perfume,all I have remaining here are nothing but unpleasant memories.As for you thinking I’m lying to you.I’d never do that,I was open and brutally honest with you about the true nature of Duke Matthew’s death I didn’t have to but it was plaguing my thoughts.My sheer love and admiration for Carl and the inner depths of my violent relationship with Jack.Why doubt me now Ben,this is making me question our relationship.There was a underline reason for my return to England,lay some old ghosts to rest.To say hello to my son William.I feel so cut off from him in Italy,him lying in the ground rotting with the worms alone when it should be me in his place.Yes Oliver was perfectly right. we should have cremated him.I was shut down in shock refused to listen to him. The very thought of my beautiful son’s perfect body burnt to cinders….I believe that the lord had a purpose for my return,that was your Louisa.I’m ever so glad that I have resolved my differences with Louisa.
‘You have no idea what that means to me? Why it’s music to my ears that you’ve acted maturely put aside your differences…’
‘Ever so sorry to burst your bubble Ben…Mama and Papa once taught me to swallow my pride.Life’s too short to carry heavy burdens or to hold a grudge.Us Delessop’s women use a stiff upper lip and carry on.I mean didn’t you learn anything at sunday school as the Lord himself taught you to love,he died upon the cross a slow and grisely death to allow us mere mortal’s to forgive.Yes my beloved,I wasn’t always the bewitching nymph….I did not do that act of kindness nor of guilt to repent my unfaithfulness to her brother.I do not ask for Oliver’s forgiveness.I offered this olive branch,as my hand of friendship for myself as it was the noble thing to do.I am fully aware that you are against having anything more to do with her.Erase her from her lives and for a while I could deal with that arrangement.The truth is I missed her and she felt the same way.She helped me through ever so much,Louisa she through her harsh words was drowning throughout it all,she was reaching out.Such a fragile,beautiful misunderstood creature.I fear she may not recover from this.’
‘Oh don’t tell me you have been taken in by her sad little girl lost act?’
‘We did this to her Benjamin,we owe her that!’
‘You and I we owe that woman nothing.Tell me truthfully.What did we do that was so wrong? You have gone against everything I stand for?’
‘Is this what it all comes down to? You’re just like all of the gentleman I despise it all comes down to duty doesn’t it?’ Are you blind,you have absolutely no idea do you.To think I respected you because you we’re different? You may not understand why motives but I was told to respect other human beings feelings not to cowardly hide behind duty.We acted unfairly I didn’t reguard Louisa at all,no quite frankly I did the opposite stamped all over her pure heart.’
‘There’s nothing pure about that woman,and may I add unrequited love on her part.’
‘Unrequited love on her part.’
‘That may be but who stole away her dreams? I was the one who dealt the fatal blow,I should have ignored your lingering looks?’
‘You and I are both aware that isn’t the case.’
‘Don’t you dare put thoughts into my head.’
‘Why you couldn’t possibly think I could have been happy with her? I mean don’t you recall you almost ruined her wedding? Declaring you’re undying love for me? How those thoughts of lust running through your head wanting to be with me waking up beside you was plaguing your thoughts?’
‘Don’t,I could have got over you,if only you allowed me to do so.If you had kept you’re distance the foundation and joy of children could have brought you both together? Louisa would have made a wonderful wife and Mama if only you had given her the chance to prove herself.Instead of jumping into my cold bed the night of your wedding,I mean that is low even for you?’
‘The truth is finally coming out now.Couldn’t you have revealed this to me before starting a new life in Italy?’
Being back has truly got to me,opened up old wounds.’
The night I came to you,I needed you regretting my actions I knew in my heart I shouldn’t have married that woman.But it was too late,I placed that ring upon her finger and sealed my fate.You could have shown me the door,but you behaved quite the opposite you only encouraged me.You know my angel….’
‘I despise myself,you know Lord Henry I would have waited an age for you in these past few months I’ve grown as a person and I realise now that we went about exposing our liasion the wrong way.Louisa,is the injured soul of the piece.The damaged Ophelia and if I can not save her,if you’re preventing me from doing this.Then you Benjamin David Henry you make me completely lost for words.Even when I am so mad and upset with you,why do you have such a powerful hold over me? What you do to me,you look of yours.I mean even the look of disappointment,when you place your fingers upon my bare skin causes instant intense heat between us.Allowing me to forgive and forget once more.I love you,you know I do but nothing everything is to be on your terms I’m my own person and if you can not see that then Lord Henry I can not be around you at the minute.Tragic but so true,I’m sorry.’
‘Is this you telling me it’s over before we’ve even begun?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Gisele please say it isn’t so.I love you god damn it!’
‘You may love me Lord Henry but…’
‘Is this you running again?’
‘Yes Lord Henry.Coward that I am only standing up for what is true,this is Lady Delessop running away once more.Forgive me.’

The haunting beautiful sound of the soloist echoed around the room,I wanted ever so much longed to stay for the chorale but couldn’t bare to be in the same room as Ben,I felt so betrayed.Oh how I vowed never to run again,but I can not believe the one gentleman I grew to know and love can be so heartless and cruel natured towards his one love and wife.Not realise he’s doing it,under pressure gentleman can be so emotionally stunted.Maybe just maybe I could have prevented this too late now.I mean how do I know if my marriage to the Lord will work out.Will we be blessed with the grace of having children,I had the patience,hope and faith that it will happen.But the much dreaded seed of doubt that was once planted in my mind was consuming me.Will he act all emotionless towards me? His masked swan,the lonely angel he has saved from falling.Maybe that fateful night when he found me crumpled upon a heap he should have allowed me to die.
I was lying upon the dark bathroom floor,abandoned by Oliver.Grief stricken from losing William I prayed for mercy and no one heard my desperate plea.Clutching the pills and champagne I planned to slowly slip away.Taking a deep breathe I summoned the courage popped a pill into my mouth.I was shaking for what I was about to do,all of a sudden I collapsed on to the floor gravity took over my body.Lord Benjamin noticed the overflowing water and discovered me naked upon the floor.I was more ashamed than anything else.
‘Stay away from me!’
He noticed the pills upon the floor.
‘How many have you taken? Answer me!’
‘What does that matter now?’
‘You may not care but I do.I love you you stupid woman!’
‘No you don’t you love Louisa.Good bye.’
‘Oh no you don’t,think of Es and Ava.Oliver.’
‘Oliver’s abandoned me.’
‘Your husband may not be fulfilling his duties as a husband and left but I will not.’
‘You have Louisa to see to?’
He took no notice of what I had to say of Louisa,he demanded I spit them out one by one.I went frightfully pale he clutched my body and kissed my forehead.He cradled my body I fell in to his arms once more.From then on despite vowing to fight our intense feelings for one another we formed such a close bond.I could stay there forever despite displaying my body,I realised where I was and demanded him to get me a robe.I blushed a little.He took hold of my arm and embraced me ever so warmly that day on I fell so in love with that impossible gentleman.

Such a painful memory to recall,but he saved me.Why am I running away? I love him so much,I feel safe with him.The betrayal will always come between us.Clutching onto my shoes,I carefully made my way barefooted to the far end of the estate grounds.It was ever so dark and extremely cold I stood beneath the archway and stared out into the yonder distance.I fear that my sister’s where right ever since I have been with Oliver,there hasn’t been a period where I paused for breathe and survived alone.Declan,Jack and now Benjamin.I mean despite everything I’ve always gravitated back towards Oliver not this time.Truth is I can not bare to bring my girls up without a father.The shame of Italy…I mean is this cold feet talking? Or do I truly love Benjamin since I’m beginning to see him in a whole new light? No Gisele,don’t be so absurd this is the champagne talking,playing clever tricks with your mind.Of course you love him,he’s your kindred spirit you’ve been ever searching for.Suddenly I’m beginning to realise how harsh I’ve been towards him.Yes of course I should be greatful,that he no longer reguards her in a romantic kind of way.Back then their feelings of intensity and sheer lust.Love on Louisa’s part.Fondness and admiration on Lord Henry’s side.I looked up at the sky once more for some much needed guidance.
‘Carl,I bet you’re revelling in my new found misery? Laughing at your favourite lady’s misfortune? Yes you were perfectly within you’re right to doubt my feelings for Lord Henry? Oh hark at you Gisele,poor little rich girl what does she truly know of true heartache and tragedy? Well I can tell you the events I’ve endured I could write a novel and make a small fortune for I refuse to be a kept woman.Did I ever tell you about Lord Rickman’s absurd idea of whilst we where still married of running a stable for various lord’s and ladies.I mean can you imagine? Little old me a woman of business.Yes you’re perfectly right I might have ran off with the stable hand.Yes,I admit know that Lord Henry and I once had a heated encounter in the stables at Versailles.I was so ashamed then,but that is more excitement I had in such a long time.I can tell you all of this as you’re a friend and not once did you judge me? You must feel that I’m happy in my new life well what do you think? I’m standing here my cold stocking feet on the eve of my engagement gala.Talking into the misty distance,longing for you to ride upon your horse and rescue me.I may have my hair looking beautiful and prim.Not a curl out of place. Appearance a heavenly glow,looks can be deceptive.My make up may be flaking from my constant tears….Oh I’ve never felt so lost and vulnerable in all of my life.I need you now to reach out from beyond the grave and kiss my hair like you used to do.You’re not dead,why you only went away from me.Come back to me now,I beg of you!’

I turned around to face my former husband. ‘What ever do you want?’
‘It was all getting a tad too much for me…I came out for some air.’
‘Like wise.’
I couldn’t give him eye contact. ‘Holly can be so overbaring at times.’
‘Look at you?’
‘Please sweet pea.You’re freezing?’
‘Leave me be Oliver.’
‘Why are you only in your stocking feet?’
‘Who are you my Mama?’
‘You can be so stubborn sometimes?’
‘Maybe I have a reason to.’
‘Why isolate yourself from the world?’
‘Since when do I have to bow at your command? You are nothing to me.’
‘I detect you’re frightened? I heard you Gisele.’
‘I am no longer a concern of yours?’
‘Lady Delessop you know you can still talk to me,just because we’re no longer married it doesn’t mean I’ve stopped caring for you.’
I noticed that he was smoking a cigar.
‘That’s extremely sweet of you Oliver.Perhaps you can do something for me? May I have a cigar?’
‘Now come now,what would Lady Antoinette say if her daughter emerged back into the ballroom smelling of cigar smoke?’
‘Scent of my Papa you mean? She’d barely notice?’
‘You and I can toast to him later in the drawing room,alongside a cheeky glass of brandy? A fitting tribute to Lord William?’
‘You remembered?’
‘I saw you clutching a glass on the day of you’re Papa’s funeral.Smoking a cigarette you looked so beautiful.This night must be extremely difficult for you?’
‘Lord Henry has barely mentioned his name? He should be here with me.’
‘Well Lord Henry didn’t know him like I did.’
‘Papa should be here right now alongside me,acting the proud and devoted father toasting his little Princess’s happiness.’
‘I’m sorry.’
‘How he idolised his Gisele and I him.’
‘You know that I’ll always be here for you and the children.Be a friendly ear.A shoulder to cry on?’
‘Thank you ever so much,for your sweet and generous gesture.Extremely noble to think ever so highly of your former wife.’
‘Indeed under the circumstances.’
‘But it’s no longer you’re duty to nurture and protect me.I’m perfectly fine,content and happy in my life.’
‘Are you questioning me?’
‘How can you be possibly be happy?’
‘Hang on all of those words of kindness,stepping aside so I am able to marry Lord Henry was not because you truly meant them? Why they were merely to get into my stockings once more?’
‘Well if the cap still fits?’
‘You’re still drinking you promised me?’
‘I was surrounded by temptation my Lady.Remind you of somebody?’
‘You arrogant pig! Why you’re certainly no gentleman are you?’
I attempted to slap him.
‘One false move and I will slap you so hard that….’
‘And you’re certainly no Lady?! Now now violence solves nothing.’
‘I’m not afraid of you.’
‘I detect thee olde halo is slipping once more?’
‘How dare you judge my life!’
He touched my arm.
‘Unhand me you fiend or I’ll scream,I mean it.’
‘I’m ever so sorry if I may have offended you,thr truth hurts?’
‘I was so wrong to be taken in by your words.I mean how could you ever be happy for me? It’s all falling into place you’d always think that no matter which gentleman I ended up marrying I’d somehow gravitate back to you.You’re Claudio’s to my Hero,Anthony to my Cleopatra you know that is not true there just tragic hero’s in an old tatty play of mine that lines I clutch onto for solace and dear life.I never thought I’d ever say those words about my beloved bard.I was caught up in his wonderful little worlds because whilst I was with you I wanted the despair and anger to leave me.That’s how you made me feel,being here reminds me of how this household so many dark secrets….I never felt true love till now,our love blazes like wild fire.’
‘Is that why you ran?’
‘I panicked.’
‘You’re about to marry a scoundrel?
‘Benjamin, he has a good heart.’
‘Don’t tell me,he’s got to you two?’
‘We’ve been over this numerous times please why won’t you understand? I love him,with every breathe of my body.’
‘He’s a dangerous man.’
‘He’s a pussy cat.’
‘He has hurt my sister,destroyed your friendship.Don’t you resent him for that? You where once so close?’
‘We’ve resolved our differences,it’s all in the past.’
‘But it’ll never be the same…you used to be her one and only trusted confidante she told you everything.’
‘It’s a thing of the past.’
‘You don’t know that for certain? I mean do you know what he’s thinking every waking second of the day? I mean are they devoted to you or of other women he is pursuing?’
‘Go to hell Oliver.’
‘I didn’t want it to get nasty.
He grabbed hold of my wrist.
‘Let me go,or I’ll scratch you.I mean it.’
‘Finally the dirty feline is revealing her true colours? Shouldn’t we keep all of this foreplay behind closed doors?’
‘You’re nothing but a bully Oliver.Just like Jack.’
‘How dare you compare me to that sad and pathetic lowely man.You waltz back into here like a whirl wind you’re Mama may forgive you therefore you think you’re so perfect such a saint.But underneath it all you’re nothing but a sad and lonely little girl.I watched you tonight,since you’ve returned the way you move.Place your hands upon your knee at the dining table.Trying to seduce me with those alluring eyes of yours….whilst everyone is bought by your sweetness and light.You’re Mama may think you’ve changed for the better? But all of your wedding gown designs from you’re fancy magazine.Trying to brain wash you’re sisters the fake italian accent.The way you portray yourself you’ll never be one of those classic beautiful italian women that ooze such class and sophistication.I see under the make up,the facade.You’re not at the height of sophistication…’
‘I think I’ve had enough of you dissecting my personality,stripping all that is good away.’
‘Lord Henry may have caught your eye serenaded you with sonnets and endless dancing? Look closely into the light Gisele,you’ll always be a dirty little rich girl that Lord Henry had his wicked way with.’
He slowly lowered his hand down to my thigh.
‘How dare you touch me in that imperitent manner.You couldn’t be more wrong,you’re jealous because he loves me.’
‘Louisa thought the same she got the impression that she was the love of his life.The Leopard never changes his spots.His head will soon be turned by a brighter gazelle.A shining star,all pure and innocent.Soon be stalking his prey once more,you’re no longer that pretty little thing who charmed him….allowing him to fall in love with you.He’ll grow bored of you’re running you’ll see? Gone are those porcelain doll like features,you’re all shrivelled up like a dried up rose.How can you not know he won’t leave you alone with you’re broken dreams?’
‘You’re damaged goods.’
‘That maybe,but nobody knows you like I do darling.I know every part of your vulnerable body.My whore,I could have you right now if I wanted to.’
‘Don’t flatter yourself.’
‘You’re my sweet pea,I know what makes that little mind of yours tick.Leave that rogue and come back to me.’
Lord Oliver kissed me,it wasn’t like the first time after I accepted his marriage proposal.Gone was the tenderness and electricity that once flowed through my body.He wasn’t gentle,it felt awkward and rough.He pulled me towards him towards the fall,I fell into his arms.Try as I might to pull away I was frozen to the spot,he was strong.Strong like I remembered,his alcoholic breath repulsed me there was nothing romantic at all from our encounter.I didn’t want him and he just wanted to prove a point that no matter what I was still his at the click of his fingers.His hands moved down to my waist once more moving down to my thigh.I have to break away I can not go through with this,I do not love him.I managed to pull away my brain finally registering in my body.Try as I might to kick him in the groin,I couldn’t.How dare he use me,alcohol was his demon brought the worst out of him.Where was that gentleman that I once respected? How dare he use me,he once loved me once upon a time.Adored me,respected me.I mean what happened when he found out Duke Matthew raped me why he went out to confront him and got involved in a deadly feud.Leading him to go to war.Oliver once respected me,turns like he’s just like Matthew ever thinking my body’s his temple,his own precious property.Completely forbidden for any other gentleman to touch.
‘You sad pathetic little man! I’m fortunes fool once more for being taken in by you.Good night to you Lord Rickman!’
I ran inside as fast as I could.Like Romeo Montague,I certainly was fortunes fool.Will my fate be sealed the same and be banished from my childhood home.After all Mama,the great and powerful Lady Antoinette.How can I tell her that my former husband attached me.Oh Oliver wouldn’t harm a flea according to her.Instead of being exhiled to Mantua like my Shakespearean hero.I shall be banished to Venice never to return to England again.



Chapter 11

Surely you do not mean that Gisele?’ smiled Reinette.
‘Reinette,you’re ever so sweet but you do not know the full extent and true nature of my Mama.’
‘You’re lost so much in your life Gisele.Your Mama is the one person you should turn to in your time of need.’
‘Tom,I love you but please leave me be! You have been my true confidante throughout my life.’

It’s true Tom has indeed endured all of my pain,throughout all of this troubke and strife he has offered me love shelter and affection.In Lucille’s short lifetime he made such an impact.I can’t help thinking if Tom had made an honest woman of her.Then perhaps he could have tamed her wild and wily ways.All of the time I thought she had found her kindred spirit.For they brought the goodness out of one another.Sadly Lucille’s downfall was she never truly played it safe,she yearned for excitement and thrill of the chase.Looking back she had nothing but praise and admiration.Even as a penniless Architecht to Mama’s sheer disbelief.Tom has a kind and tender heart.Countless times I ran to him over my woes.Carl when my unfaithful heart was stirring and became public knowledge.I looked to Tom not a romantic attachment,it was purely and still is a platonic relationship.To me,he was more of a brother,certainly not the loving kind.So many times,I had carelessly lost my way.But Tom is ever so wise in his wisdom,he would have the right answer.This is the first time,I have rejected his point of view.Lady Antoinette,harsh it may sound dead to me.There’s only so many times she can make me appear to look small and foolish.
Holly flounced over,causing me to lose,my train of thought.
‘Lady Rickman,you have deceived me,you promised me that their would be handsome young gentlemen at your gala? They’re all frightfully dull.Where is all of the passion the thrill of the chase?’
‘Hello to you too! And please do not address me as Lady Rickman.’
‘It’s not all about you Gisele,I mean the amount of gentlemen that’s stepped on my toes! Take that gentleman over there that’s dancing with Aunt Grace.He goes by the name of Colonel Clarkson,all he aspeaks of his tiresome Shakespeare and his dead wive’s fan collection.’
‘He must be sweet on you?’
‘Do not mock me Tom.’
‘I thought you craved for the male attention?’
‘Preferably one that is one of age,that likes a good waltz light on his feet,
‘manages to take my breathe away whilst being a dab hand at the piano.Don’t get me started on his onion and cigar breathe.Mama has ideas of her own marrying a grieving widow.Oh I can not bare the thought of it,it makes me skin crawl.’
‘Oh Holly you never fail to amuse me.As for marrying him,don’t be so absurd? You barely know this gentleman?’
‘Oh no here he comes now!’
Holly conceals herself behind a curtain.
Colonel Clarkson,a tall gentleman who appeared to be aged thirty five.Strawberry blonde hair,hazel brown eyes came in our direction.I shall use my feminine wiles to divert him from Holly’s scent.I fluttered my eyelashes and approached this bumbling stranger.
‘Excuse me sir,pardon me if I may appear bold.I can’t help noticing you look lost? Are you expecting somebody?’
‘Lady Holly Delessop? I saw her head in your direction?’
‘Lady Gisele Delessop.’
‘Ah! Lady Gisele! We meet at long last! I am Colonel Dominic Clarkson.’
‘Pleasure to meet you,Colonel Clarkson.Thomas Davernport and his lovely wife Reinette,there dear friends of mine.’
‘How do you do?’
‘May I offer you my congratulations of your engagement to Lord Henry.’
‘Charmed I’m sure.’
‘You’re Mama Lady Antoinette,invited me as one of your guests? Said she was keen on introducing me to your sister Holly,she’s ever so delightful.’
‘Isn’t she just?’
I repulsed at the stench of his breathe,but smiled for I didn’t wish to offend the stranger.
‘Ever so kind of her,I haven’t had much female companianship since my beautiful Cecile was taken away from me.’
‘I’m ever so sorry,may I offer you my condolenses.’
‘Cecile was my life and soul for ever so long.We where sadly not blessed in the joy of children in the ten years together.’
‘I’m so sorry.’
‘No matter,we lived life saw so much travelled around the world in order to fill the void.She collected many beautiful things,fans in particular where her weakness….she left me her beautiful fan collection is all I have left of her,as she died so suddently.Left me without.But I’d rather have her you can not replace the love of your life.’
‘Quite right too.’
He produced a black and gold casket,enclosed it in was a beautiful pink and black fan,the corners had such fine detail unusal black roses.
‘The Lady Lily left this one to her Cecile,I should like you to have it.’
‘I’m speechless.’
‘Please take it my Lady.’
‘Colonel,that is ever so kind of you…for it’s such a generous offer.But I’m afraid I can not.’
‘It has such sentimental value to you?’
‘Please I beg of you,it’s no use to me.Take it.’
‘Thank you.’
‘Good to you?’
He bowed and walked away,on cue Holly emerged from the shadows.
‘What a frightfully odd man?’ scowled Holly.
‘I sense he’s lonely?’
‘Quite right too.’ smiled Tom.
‘Don’t tell me he’s got to you to Gisele?’
‘Holly,it appears that Colonel Clarkson is sweet on you?’
‘Kill me now!’
‘Holly! Please just I feel he needs a friendly ear? I feel for him,I do.On that first encounter I can tell how he dotes on his one true love Cecile.Reminds me of how I was with my Carl,constantly fretting and hung up on the past like he is now.He gave me her fan.Isn’t that sweet of him?’
‘You accepted a dead woman fan as a gift?’
‘Holly don’t be so cruel.’
‘I’ve heard it all now?’
‘I sense he’s lonely and in need of companianship? You could be there for him,give him your undivided attention.Maybe he could be the answer to all of solutions? He could tame your wiley ways?’
‘I’d like to see him try!’
‘Holly Delessop?’
‘Never! I simply refuse to….why if Colonel Clarkson was the last gentleman to walk upon this earth.I should rather die than be the dead wive’s replacement.’
‘Sometimes you can be so heartless.No withguard for anyone else’s feelings other than yourself.’
‘I can not speak to you when you’re being like this.’
And with that she waltzed off.
‘I wonder who she got that from?’
‘Tom I hope you’re not defending my sister?’
‘Believe me I wasn’t…’
‘He went out of his way all he did was offer a hand of friendship and she was downright beastly to him.’

I briefly lost my train of thought,standing across the crowded ball room was Lord Rickman,like the lone wolf he always portrayed himself excluding himself from the party.With his smouldering dark looks.Just like the first time we met ever so long ago.Oh why on earth did Mama insist upon inviting my former husband? Isn’t this painful enough for him.Try to escape him all I can.But despite Lord Henry’s protests to start again.It’s dawned on me that he will always remain a part of my world,as he’s Ava’s natural father and highly reguards Esme.On the other side of the room I spotted Evangaline was dancing with Lord Henry.Now it would normally be natural for a woman to become extremely jealous of your sister being in the arms with your fiance’.But it was a noble act of him to do,he too sensed that my sister was feeling low.I would wait a lifetime for that man.
My two worlds collided into one my former husband and my lover.Sounds awfully like a Shakespearean tragedy don’t you think?’
Lord Henry was inches away from my sister,I can imagine they could possibly feel one another’s heart beating.I sighed,I can not wait to dance with Lord Henry I refused to dance with him,for I promised the last dance for him.I am sticking to my principles,it will be worth the wait.
‘Whatever is it Evangaline?’
‘Not too close.’
‘Why ever not?’
‘People may talk?’ blushes Evangaline.
‘I’m sure your sister Gisele,wouldn’t be jealous of a little closeness?’ teased Lord Henry.
‘Why she was the one who asked me to wait for the last dance?’
‘I think that is romantic?’ Gushed Evangaline.’But I don’t think us becoming close upon the ballroom isn’t all right? Benjamin,after all we are soon to be brother and sister? May I ask you a question?’
‘Why must you always be so formal Evangaline? Live a little.’
‘What are your intentions for my sister? Speak now or forever face the consequences?’
‘Isn’t it normally the father that asks such an intriguing question?’
‘That may be Lord Henry,but since you are fully aware of my familys situation.Lord William past away some time ago.’
‘I should like to have met the gentleman,Gisele has told me so many endless stories.’
‘Now Gisele,she won’t forgive me for speaking out of term to her beloved.My sister she is such a fragile soul,I fear she hasn’t fully recovered since Duke Matthew attacked her…’
‘I realise that your Gisele was raped,and the thought of that monster what he did to her.’
‘And to lose Carl and her son.’
‘Those where Gisele’s dark and dangerous days,she contemplated suicide.She confided in me.She was lost,I was there held her hand….oh Evangaline it must be awful for you to hear these words.’
‘Go on? I need to hear it.’
‘Lady Delessop during that period she felt abandoned by her husband.Lord Rickman found the only comfort in my arms.She tried hating me,she truly did.We both tried it,but the passion drew us in.The temptation and pressure of her crumbling marriage it was too much.She was so ashamed to have fallen from grace once more…’
‘I had no idea how she felt this way,she was struggling and I failed to read the signals.’
‘I’m afraid I’ve said too much.Please Evangaline do not say a word.’
‘I promise.’
‘All I can say is how much stronger your sister has become.’
‘She still has a long way to go for full recovery?’
‘And I will be there by her side every step of the way.’
‘I never doubted that for a moment.’
‘Gisele,doesn’t realise how much of a beautiful person she truly is.Her self doubt makes me more emraptured by her.I love her,I realise that I went around romancing her the unconventional way.Louisa did mean something to me,for a time.I mean I would never have asked her to become my wife if I didn’t care for her.’
‘Tell me did you love her?’
‘For a time yes I truly loved Lady Rickman,she was so naive and beautiful.She had all of the qualities I longed for in a wife,kind sweet natured.I fear marriage changed her.She became damaged and possessed in her love for me.Changed the essence of her soul,it saddens me that Gisele and Louisa are no longer friends and I am the main cause for this. Lady Evangaline.’
‘Lord Henry?’
‘Evangaline how many times,Benjamin after all you are my sister?’
‘You’ve been allowed to say you’re piece and I accept that.Now it is my turn to speak out of turn? Lord Arthur.’
‘Please Benjamin.Do not speak of your brother,I have truly forgotten about him.’
‘Lord Arthur my brother,Lady Evangaline the way he treated you so appallingly.I can not imagine what you’ve been through?’
‘He was charming way beyond words.I admitted his independence and wisness was beyond his years.I honestly thought his words of marriage was too good to believe.’
‘I’m sorry.’
‘Please do not pity me Benjamin,I took a chance on a chance of happiness.Twas my fault,I lost my grasp on reality I should have walked away,I barely knew him…foolish and oh so wrong.Arthur transported me to a world,spoke of Italy America.Travelling to America has been a dream of mine for such a long time and I envy Gisele,she has spread her wings and leads her life in Italy.I couldn’t help think he could have offered me a life line.Swept off my feet by a stranger.Who may I add is rather light on his feet.Just like you are?’
‘It’s in the Henry blood.’
‘Don’t worry Benjamin,he hasn’t broke me for this lady shall come back screaming once more.Unlike Gisele,I don’t cry on the outside.’
‘Do not beat yourself up about it.For you’re not the first lady to be taken in by his words and you sharn’t be the last.He travelled far and wide,across the world.Allowing women to fall in love with them,there was a time he had a chance encounter with a bella donna going by the name of Adrianna,on a train journey.Their eyes met across a crowded room,sounds like the perfect love story.To Adrianna it was,for she taken in by his story of longing to find his kindred spirit.He was ever so charming.Months they spent courting,he quoted sonnets played the role of the romantic poet ever so well.She felt completely safe in his company for he promised her a life time together.Everything she’d been secretly yearning for a gentleman to whisper into her ear.Once she was manipulated,he sold her a story of the family being in trouble and needed urgent help.Pitying my brother she willingly handed over her wealth in the hope that once they where married the debt would be resolved.How wrong was Adrianna,the next day she woke up with nothing,he had left her took all of her wealth her jewellry as well as her pride.Adrianna was disowned,for she brought shame to her household.Now an outcast,unable to show her face her name became tainted to society.’
‘Oh my goodness.’
‘So I’d say you got away rather lightly Lady Evangaline.Is everything all right,you’ve gone extremely pale all of a sudden?’
‘I feel sick.’
‘I’m sorry to burden you with this.I honestly thought Arthur had changed and saw the error of his ways.When he had fallen in love with you,I was anxious at how close you had both become.’

I was sat alone,admiring my gala unfold I needed time alone,time to breathe.I admired the various dresses that the women wore.All different colours and styles,Holly had acquainted herself with a handsome stranger dancing alongside him.She was not afraid to show her emotions as he held her close,certainly looked like the cat who got the cream.
‘My this turned into quite a remarkable event?’
‘Don’t worry I wasn’t spying on you?’
‘I was coming to find you.’
‘Sorry I’ve been keeping a low profile.’
‘On the contrary,forgive me but I’ve been far too busy circulating.Is everything all right?’
‘I had a slight headache,and fell upon my bed.I lost track of time…I’ve only just arrived,I feel awful Gisele,I should be by your side supporting you.You’re not mad at me are you?’
‘Sophia you are one of my nearest and dearest friends.I could never be mad at you.’
‘I’m so relieved.’
‘I have been quietly amused by darling Holly’s antics?
‘Enlighten me?’
‘Truth be told,Mama’s latest bright idea is not to interfere in Holly’s love life,she has arranged a courtship with an unknown gentleman called Colonel Clarkson much to Holly’s disgust.Do you know of him?’
‘I am aware of him.’
‘Lucky Holly I say,he’s one of Daniel’s acquaintances ever since Carl died he has sadly had many friends.They bonded over a game of pigeon shooting.I’ve on the other hand has had the honour of meeting on a number of occasions.’
‘I thought so too,Holly has taken a sudden dislike to him.Apparently he’s far too dull for a wild spirit such a her.Lover of Shakespeare.’
‘Heaven forbid!’
‘You’re fully aware,that my sister is not a lover of books.An hour been lost in a book is nothing but pleasure to me,not to Holl…it’s her idea of hell on earth.She’s not easily satisfied unlike yours truly.But don’t tell Benjamin I said that.’
‘Not at all,it will be our little secret.’ giggled Sophia.
‘I’ve missed this,us just talking mainly about poor Holly’s misfortune.I imagine he’s been trying to woo her through endless scenes quoting love speeches to enchant her.But sadly it merely amuses her.He spoke of his wife Cecile?’
‘Cecile was an extremely beautiful woman,Dominic couldn’t believe his look when she fell for his bumbling ways.She was sweet from him from the start,I had the pleasure of meeting her at one of Lady Isabelle Chadwick’s annual events.She had beautiful brunette hair,always had a smile upon her face.A lover of horses.’
‘What happended to her?’
‘Dysentary stole her life away in the end.’
‘How awful.’
‘Leaving the poor Colonel childless and without a future heir to inherit his estate.So heartbroken,he only just caught his breathe married for ten long and blissful years.Her death,almost made him socially awkward.As though he’s forgotten how he aught to act around beautiful women in polite society.’
‘The poor chap.’
‘No matter,I’m surprised you’re shadow hasn’t graced us with her prescence?
‘Lady Lara Forster and I have mutual respect for one another.The truth is I didn’t fancy another encounter with the oh so charming Sir Declan Holmes.’
‘Is she still with him after all of his possessiveness?’
‘I received a letter from her not so long ago,apparently he’s changed his ways and they are happier than when they first met.’
‘I was wrong about you.’
‘You’ve lost me?’
‘You and Lord Henry,I honestly that you were a drop in the ocean.That Lord Henry was merely a rouge,a misfit.A complete lothario on the rebound from the disaster of a marriage to Lady Rickman.But the way I saw you two together earlier.The way his eyes light up full of passion.’
‘Mostly hunger on my loveable rouge’s part.’
‘Do not mock me Gisele,I can see how clearly taken you are with me he loves you.’
‘And I him.’
‘There’s fire within you that was once before Lady Gisele.I had my doubts….I would like to apologise?’
‘You don’t need to.’
‘I had my doubts,but dare I say this before I choke upon my words? I was proved wrong.You have finally gained my seal of approval.’
‘Can I have that down in writing?’
Lord Henry walked over.
‘Am I interrupting something?’
‘Sophia and I were putting the world to rights.’
He kissed me upon the cheek.
‘I am glad you put your feelings aside.’ he whispered into my ear.
I blushed a little,he cleared his throat. ‘Don’t rush but you’re Mama has instructed me in saying that the dining room is now ready for dinner.’
‘Well I must obey her commands.’ I sighed.
I took hold of his hand once more.

We where all gathered for dinner,I was ever so greatful that Sophia and I were once again on speaking terms.I admire how she put all of her feelings aside and has begun to accept Benjamin.
‘I thank you for taking the time to dance with Evangaline.’
‘She’s family now.’
‘Ever so sweet of you darling.’
He kissed me upon the cheek.
‘Smile my love,I know that you have had yet another disagreement with your Mama?’
‘Tom told you? How could he?’
‘I thought you and I didn’t keep secrets,it’s what keeps us alive isn’t it?’
‘I didn’t want to burden you.’
‘No Gisele I’m getting the impression that you think I would fall apart unable to handle the truth that you wished you married Carl.That you look towards me,and you’re thinking secret doubts about us?’
‘No.Never Ben,Sometimes I look at you and our beautiful life in Venice and I feel it’s unreal so perfect.It’s so perfect for a girl like me,as I am so used to disappointment.I want to cherish every single waking moment with you,sometimes I want to pause time so I can take a deep breathe and allow myself to take everything in.I’m afraid.’
‘What are you afraid of?’
‘That you’re not real,that I’ll blink my eyes and you’ll be gone and I’ll be back in a abusive relationship with that man.’
‘I’ll never leave you.’
I surveyed the room,Louisa was sat alongside her brother.
‘Smile Louisa.It’s a party not a wake.’
‘I have no idea how can you stomach this? I’m starting to feel nauseous.Why are we here?’
‘Gisele was a dear friend of yours?’
‘Once upon a time.’
‘It pains me to see you are both at war with one another?’
‘She started this,she stole the love of my life away!’
‘Enough! Life’s too short to hold a grudge Louisa.Do you want to be alone in the world forever?’
‘I have you my darling brother.’
‘There may come a time when I’m no longer around.Make your peace.’
‘I’m sorry since when do I have to obey you’re every command?’
‘I’m the closest you’ve had to a father figure and with every breathe in my body I Shall not allow this.’
‘What are you going to do punish me? I’m not a child.’
‘For heaven’s sake Esme and Ava act more mature than you sometimes.’
‘I’m surprised there not scarred for life having a mother such as Gisele.’
‘Gisele is a wonderful mother,I know we have our differences and she broke my heart time and time again.But she dotes on our children I shall not hear anything badly against her.’
‘You’re a coward.’
‘Do you realise how hard it was to swallow my pride? You said man up Oliver,Gisele no longer loves you and you’re old enough to accept the truth.Well I’m asking you please do the right thing before it’s too late.’

I started to twirl my spoon around in the soup.
‘Stop playing with your food Gis.’
‘You’re miles away?’
‘Where are the children?’
‘Esme and Ava they are in the nursery with Nancy.Your Mama,she thought that they looked tired and a dining room isn’t a place for young children?’
‘Did she know?’
‘Please do not shoot the messenger.’
‘I’m sorry,I wanted them here.Sharing the moment.’
I turned away and noticed that my Evangaline was quite taken by Colonel Clarkson.
‘You’re wife she looked extremely beautiful?’
‘Thank you.’
He put away the photograph.
‘Ten years Celile and I were married so you can understand why I may appear out of practice in the art of courtship?’
‘I think you’re doing perfectly well from where I’m sitting.’
‘Is it true that you’re sister lives in Italy?’
‘Is it true Colonel,she lives in Venice,her dear friend Tom Davernport is an architecht,has a vision of beauty.’
‘You must miss her?’
‘That I do.’
‘Holly,she’s quite an interesting creature?’
‘That’s the polite way of putting it.I’m ever so sorry she never give you the time of day?’
‘Not at all.’
‘Do not feel bad on her behalf she can be rather ignorant at times.I’m ashamed to be associated with her.’
‘Is it something I may have said to upset her? Perhaps if I’d only spared her feelings? Then I wouldn’t have received such a cold reception?’
‘Like I said,please do not feel offended by my sister’s erratic behaviour.Holly unlike dear true,has never had equisite taste in your man…For she tends to gravitate towards the opposite of a perfect masterpiece.She falls for the rough diamond,bad penny.Rouge who likes nothing more than drinking and gambling their fortune.It merely amuses her as she sees how it displeases Mama.Unlike I.’
‘And tell me what do you like in a gentleman hyperthetically of course Lady Delessop?’
‘Hyperthetically gosh I’ve never been asked that before.’
‘Take your time.’ Colonel Clarkson smiled reassuringly carefully putting my sister at ease.
‘Well It’s stupid really,for I like nothing more the art of conversation.A gentleman who allows me into his world without revealing too much gets me longing for long.You know invites me in with dark lingering eyes.Who isn’t afraid to make a fool of himself.’
‘A good sense of humour is quite important.’
‘Fills my life with endless sunshine.Talk about books,really explore the text.Have endless walks,teach me how to ride.’
‘You’ve never ridden a horse?’
‘No I’ve never felt the desire to.’
‘The truth is I have always been afraid to take a risk,you know always held back.You’re not the only one to lose some one so close to you.My sister Lucille died tragically in a horse accident.’
‘I’m so sorry.’
‘I felt as though I barely got to know her in the later years.You see Holly and I were once involved in a feud with Mama.Long story.’
‘I could teach you if you like?’
Evangaline looked at Colonel Clarkson and started to flutter her eyelashes.
‘Oh my,I fear I’ve gone and did it again.’
‘No Colonel,I should like that very much.’

I was once again alone,it was Sophia’s turn to have the honour of dancing with my beloved.I didn’t give a jot for I had danced almost every dance with different gentlemen and I always knew that no matter who Benjamin danced with he would finally return to me in the end.I caught him take a sly glance of me,with that knowing lingering look of his.I looked away bashfully,quietly giggling fanning myself with my new gift to disguise my blushes.I closed my eyes,this isn’t real at all I will wake up and all of this will vanish before me.Esme and Ava never born just a beautiful dream.Lord Henry would only be a beautiful vision that only exists in a romantic novel.I would be alone upon the floor,batterd and bruised with Jack awaiting to kill me.No matter how far I’ve come I can not erase the evil things he said and done.Every scald,bruise I had accepted because I deserved this as my punishment for acting unfaithful to Lord Rickman.I clutched on to my breast,I could barely breathe I dropped the fan upon the floor.Take deep breathes Gisele,I do not want to alarm Benjamin.The harder I tried to breathe,the tighter my lungs became.Some figure ran to my aid,I could barely see the figure at first for my eyes where trying as they might to shut,I was fighting my body against my mind.I started to slump agains the chair.
‘Gisele? Gisele? Wake up?’
The unknown female shook me. ‘Come on do not do this to me!’
It was though the angelic female voice was willing me back to the surface.My body felt ever so weak.All of my senses re-awoke.Smell of her sweet smelling perfume that familiar smell,I felt the intense heat from the figure.
I slowly opened my eyes,eyelashes rapidly blinking.It was Louisa standing before me.
I can not barely believe my eyes,my sworn enemy had transformed into my guardian angel.I felt overwhelmed.
‘Lou…What are you…doing here.’I said breathlessly.
‘Do not speak.breathe in and out.’ she clutched onto my hand. ‘One,two three and breathe out.Again.You can do this,your heart ever so heart.Have you taken something?’
I shook my head.
‘With me by your side,you can do this.I am allowing you to give up on me.’
We did this for a minute or so,I felt my heart go back to it’s normal rhythm it was no longer beating so fast,pulsating out of my chest.

A little while later,I thanked god and my lucky stars that I hadn’t caused a scene.Lord Henry can be overbearing at times,he would have carried me to bed and refused me to leave my bedchamber until I’ve fully recovered.
‘This corset is digging into me!’
‘That’ll teach you for wearing it too tight’ she teased.
‘You saved my life.’
‘Well someone had to.What happend to you?’
‘Thank you.’ I smiled.
‘The truth is,I came to find you.’ Louisa said stubbornly.
‘I do not deserve your kindness.’
‘Oh Gisele,please do not act the martyr.’
‘I don’t understand?’
‘At the dinner table I was given a firm talking to.’
‘He’s right,you and I we were such good friends.’
‘It wasn’t just you that got embroiled in the forbidden passion my husband.’
‘It shouldn’t have encouraged him.’
‘I was wild with jealously.Thought I had the answers to everything.Desperate for revenge.I didn’t care who got hurt.For once Gisele you where the black swan,unclean tainted caught in the cross fire.I needed you Gisele but was too cowardly and proud to admit it.The hair,the clothes.This isn’t how I behave I’m not my true self.In my loneliness I became too self-absorbed and vain….some say you were toxic to the core.Acid tongued,that you lived in the shadows.The Lady who haunts her prey with one. One Look of yours and you squeeze the life out of them.Hunting them down like your prey,take Carl for example.Unforgiveable I know.’
‘It broke my heart us drifting apart,I’m entirely to blame.’
‘I kind of figured that,you used to have such beautiful hair.
‘The reinvention of myself wasn’t merely to prove myself that I could survive in society without my husband,the truth hurt London was an isolated place,your Mama I was greatful for her hospitality extremely generous of her.In my heart I was longing to entice my Benjy back.Entice him and allow him to know what he had been missing.I look to you and I have so much to learn.I do not measure up to you.I’m not yet a mature woman in the eyes of society.I’m just a naive little girl forever making the wrong decisions.Society says I shouldn’t force your hand of friendship.Try as I might to fight it you’re friendship means a great deal more than a few choice words.Lady Delessop,I promise to lead by your example and learn by my past failings.Do you forgive me?’
‘Louisa my love,I miss you too.Just because Oliver and I are no longer together.’
‘I never thanked you for all allowing me to stay with you in Versailles and as for Sir Holmes to get involved with him….’
‘It’s all in the past,when we return to Venice please do not be a stranger.’ I smiled.

Time had soon past and I was soon reunited with my two beautiful daughters,Marianna had once again taken them under their wing she’s ever so good with them.
‘What took you so long?’ sighed Ava.
‘Mama has to talk to her guests.’
‘I miss you.’ sobbed Esme.
‘I know Esme,I miss you so but this evening is a big deal to Mama and Benjamin.’
‘Is Papa going away?’ asked Esme.
I detected she needed some reasurrance,her world is changing too.She is transforming into such a beautiful young lady.The image of Holly,her eyes glazed over I can not bare the thought of my little girl feeling hurt as it’s my job to love and protect their world I realise that I mustn’t wrap them up in cotton wool I must allow them to breathe.But I brought them into the world and aught to protect them in my bosoms their still vulnerable.I need to open and honest with them with my words of truth and tread gently in order to spare their precious little hearts.
‘No Es,whatever gave you that impression?’
‘He looks sad,and your marrying our new Papa?’
I bent down towards them,ensuring I was at their eye level.I need to think what I am about to say,for they do not miss a trick.
‘Ava,Esme Mama and Papa have grown to the stage where they no longer love one another.But it doesn’t mean we don’t love you any less.Your own little angels,just because I’m marrying your new Papa doesn’t mean that your losing your father.Oh my darlings,how I love you so.’
I embraced them both,I noticed Lord Henry alone once more he looked over and our eyes met.Him with nothing but a smile upon his face.Stood their undressing me with his eyes.He doesn’t speak,his look haunts me so.This child has certainly fallen from grace.Father forgive me,for I have sinned time and time again.For it tastes ever so sweet,I have no intention of letting you down again.
I slowly walked down towards Lord Henry.
‘My Lady?’
‘Lord Henry I’ve saved my last dance for you.’


Chapter 10

‘I’m ever so sorry if you feel that way Gisele?’
‘I fear the loss of my son has had a contribution to my drastic change in character Sophia.’
‘You are lost and wandering Gisele,you will find a way back?’
‘It’s hardened my heart once and for all.’
‘Sophia I refuse to any more of this?’
Sophia stood up.
‘Is there something wrong Sophia?’
‘If you excuse me Lady Antoinette,I should like to retire to my room.’
‘So soon?’
‘I’m feeling slightly fraught Lady Antoinette.Perhaps some time alone,time to reflect and gather my thoughts for this special occasion…is just the medicine I need.’
With that she left the dining room.
Lord Henry gave me the knowing look,his eyes as they gaze upon me normally send shivers down my spine. ‘Now by reputation isn’t it normally you that does all of the running?’ whispers Lord Henry.
‘Speak up Lord Henry,for it’s rather rude to whisper.’ piped up Lady Antoinette.
‘Forgive my husband,I didn’t think he learnt the correct etiquette for conversations?’
‘If I were you Lord Henry and you would like everything to remain intact.I’d keep your opinions to yourself,and that heel of mine shall remain firmly upon the floor.’
‘Fighting talk at the breakfast table Lady Gisele.You know I like that?’
‘For your information Benjamin,I divulged in Sophia allowed her to know a few home truths about your little wifey.Advising her that her tears of sadness are certainly not genuine.They are only crocodile tears.Sophia she accused of hardening my heart.Answer me truthfully Benjamin,is my heart made from stone?’
‘Choose your words wisely Lord Henry.’
‘Sophia isn’t entirely in the wrong Gisele.You have certainly transformed before my eyes.You don’t have to grieve in silence?’
‘I have no time for bitter sweet tears,for I’ve played the part…if I grieve anymore I fear I shall be taken away.’
‘Sometimes you can act so shut down? If I am going to make an honest woman out of you my Lady.Then aren’t I entitled to know all of you’re inner most secrets you’re hopes and fears?’
‘I don’t need any more emotional hassle…’
Before Lord Henry was allowed to speak,I hushed him for Mama was in fine form,full flow conversation heavily discussing my upcoming nuptials.I do wish she’d leave me be.Barely back in London five minutes and already she’s trying to map out every single movement of my wedding day.’
‘I’m quite confident Gisele’s to Lord Henry is going to be such a lavish event.Oh so romantic.’gushed Holly/
‘And quite right too Holly,only the best for my petit Gisele.’
‘Talk about rubbing salt into the wound?’ replied Letitia.
I detect that Letitia is trying to spare Louisa of pride.
‘Hasn’t she suffered enough,her heart is battered and broken?’
‘I’m perfectly fine Letitia.’ exclaimed Louisa under her breathe.
‘Somehow I doubt that very much?’ giggled Holly.
‘The reception shall take place here of course.’
‘That’s a wonderful idea Mama,I always feel close to Lucille and Papa here.’
‘It’s true,whenever I step into the ball room I can almost picture inside my head if only just for a brief second.Giggling and dancing with the officers,beaming with pure delight my little sunshine girl.Only I could grasp one last moment with her I would tell her how much I love and miss her.That despite Mama’s disapproval of her poker games,was ever so proud to call her my baby sister.
‘I am glad you approve,we shall toast with crystal flutes,champagne over flowing under the waterfall that’s located nearby.’
‘Waterfall?’ I mouthed quietly in Marianna’s direction.
‘By waterfall she means the lakeside nearby.’
‘Sounds oh so wonderful.’ I sighed to myself.’
‘Oooh I can not wait to see our choice of bridesmaids dresses!’ squealed Holly. ‘I can only imagine golden gowns like royalty.’
‘Gisele will opt for a safe colour more demure look I should imagine?’ said Evangaline.
‘Peach perhaps?’
‘Boring.’ sighed Holly.
‘Wonder if Lord Arthur will be present?’
‘You’re too sweet for your own good,fawning over Arthur you’re heads always in the clouds Evan.’
‘The wedding invitations will look second to none.The designs I have my eyes on Gisele.’
‘Mama that really isn’t necessary,Benjamin and I have found some beautiful templates in Italy.’
‘Nonsense,they won’t have a patch on these my child.Mama knows best,I presume you have chosen a suitable wedding gown to wear for the occasion?’
‘Of course Mama I’m not five.’
‘Since this is to be your second wedding,heaven forbid! My nerves are shot because of this.I suggest it to be tasteful and yes dignified also.Not a hint of scandal this time around young lady.’
‘I personally selected it in one of my magazines in Italy.Oh Mama it’s beautiful,it’s as though it’s been designed for an Italian princess.No ruffles or what not,I forbid to look like a swan.The embroidery and craftsmenship is absolutely breathtaking.’
‘I hope it’s not white,of the virginal kind.’ mocked Louisa.
‘I shall ignore that snide remark Lady Rickman,jealously gets you absolutely no were in life.The difference between your definition of exquisite taste and mine is the gown shall be full of elegance,beauty vigour and class.A cream choice of colour is after all you are no longer a shy and retiring blushing bride.’
‘Thanks for that Mama.’
‘It shall be complimented with a beautiful pearl necklace.A precious heirloom.’
‘I’m speechless.’
‘That’s if you’re to be trusted with you’re Gran’Mama the late Lady Reinette Delessop’s pearl necklace.’
‘It’s overwhelming,that’s such a touching gesture Mama.’
‘Lady Gisele,will glide towards Lord Henry,as the gown flows freely.Complimenting her figure with dignity.I mean have you put on a few pounds Gisele? Italy hasn’t been kind to your body?’
‘Standing before you will be your misunderstood angel Lord Henry.The virgin Mary herself will smile upon you fondly.As for Gisele adorable sweet soul,embraces modern fashion.I have visions Benjamin of my daughter,meeting you down the aisle on the happiest days of your life with a cheeky glint in her eye,and an impish smile painted upon her face.Accompanied with a knee length gown ensemble with a nymph slit to the side.All on display,nothing left to the imagination.
‘Lady Antoinette,I can safely say you’re Gisele’s taste is nothing to fear.I mean she would look breath taking in a brown paper bag.I wouldn’t take a blind bit of notice.For my eyes,would be drawn to my wife’s true beauty and good heart.’
‘Lord Henry,I am offended by your choice of words.As well as caring for Esme and Ava I have spent endless sleepless nights squinting my candle…dedicating my time scaling my special day down.So I will not be a mockery,I’m still trying to regain my position in society once more.Ensure that I will be a vision of beauty and perfection as a wife.Making sure I don’t have an accident with my brand new painted shoes.My choice of table decorations aught it compliment my gown or will it clash? Hair style,will be up in spirals,french plait,curled and simple.Or should I be dramatic and cut it all off into a bob!’
‘No daughter of mine is to have her hair cut you’ll be mistaken for a gentleman?’
‘It didn’t do Louisa any harm,it’s the height of sophistication.I have a fever thinking about it all.I mean gentlemen you have it so easy,all you do is turn up.You just sit there and have a nerve to say that you would look perfect in a bag? It’s an insult to feminine kind.Remind me why I’m even considering marrying you Lord Henry,you are starting to give me the impression that you’ll almost settle for second best?’
‘I know,I shall walk down in my own under garments? Grace you at the alter with merely my corset and stockings? I mean after all you wouldn’t take a blind bit of notice.How would that make you feel?’
‘I wouldn’t complain Gisele.’
‘My point exactly.’
‘Please do not portray me in a bad light Gisele.’
‘I think you’ve already did that yourself?’ said Holly.
‘Lady Delessop,I merely protect.I only said those words in order for you to feel better.I don’t want you to feel under pressure?’
‘Underpressure? My my,that’s an understatement?’
‘I was trying to…’
‘Lord Henry,I advice you to stop right there.Stop digging,there’s no reasoning with my sister.’ smiled Marianna.
‘Sorry child,but I shall be the judge of that? I shall arrange a meeting that is suitable for the both of us.To scrutinise every little detail and it’s not up to my satisfaction then it’s back to the planning board I’m afraid.’
I feel this small,so humiliated.Lord Rickman just sitting there like a pathetic little dormouse.I mean really what is he still doing here? I realise he is the father to my daughter’s,but he no longer has a connection to my Mama.Is Mama deliberately keeping him here to defy me.As for her meddling,this is my special day.It’s slowly slipping away from my grasp.Lady Antoinette,don’t you realise you’re stealing everything away from me.Undoing all of my hard work,dismissing my dreams,all a long it’s only been about your pride,rearranging my marriage.So you can come out smelling of roses? Why can’t you allow me to make my own decisions? You have no idea how much you are suffocating me.At times like this I miss my Carl’s cool and calming influence.
‘Sir Casey may have settled for second best…ever so sorry to shatter you’re illusions but he isn’t the man you’re about to marry.You had an escape from marrying him,it would have been a sorry affair.You’re marriage to Lord Henry,I picture the day a beautiful and serene scene.Not a single dove or swan in sight! I have visions of them escaping into the house and staff trying to pick up after them.Ghastly creatures! As for your daughter’s selection of gown.Darling,I respect your value of opinion on many things,this is a different matter.Lord Henry I admire your boldness to say so,but she is the object of my affection.It’s your duty as a husband to compliment your dear true.Gisele is my daughter,brave she may be but I shall not be humiliated.Dressed like one of those women of society secretly pity,but refuse to stop and give them the time of day.There merely whispers in corners,and dare I say gentlemen’s fifteen seconds of delight over a conversation of brandy and cloud of cigar smoke.’
‘I shall not speak of those fallen women.’
‘If you excuse me?’

The words echoed around my head like a constant throbbing pain. ‘Brave as she may be?’ and ‘I shall not speak on behalf of these fallen women.’ I was indeed once a woman my Mama so coldly made reference to.As for my darling Carl,how dare she speak so ill of him.Carl would have provided for me,protected me,over all made me happy.He worshipped and idolised me,why he would walk over hot coals in order to be part of my life.Her kindness is beginning to suffocate and choke the essence of my very soul.I slowly turned my head towards the mirror.Even in the flicker of hope through the darkness,I no longer recognise the face staring right back at me or the woman I had become?
‘Who is this vision of sublime beauty?’
‘Flattery will get you no were?’
I slowly turned,I was angry but quietly relieved to see Lord Henry.
‘Why did you run?’
‘I don’t have to justify myself to you Lord Henry?’
‘Gis nothing,how could she just sit there and say those vile things.Dismissing Carl as though he were a joke? Speaking ill of a dead person.He can not stand up to her,Carl he may have appeared shy and retiring to outsiders.But not to me,he allowed me in.I was his Gisele,he told me of his hopes and fears.Carl had his dreams…’
‘I know that Sir Carl meant a grave deal to you? Making a mockery of your romance is low even for your Mama?’
‘It’s as though they treated him with no respect,that he appeared to be inferior to me.There were times I may have taken his feelings for granted.Dragged his heart and emotions through the dirt.’
‘I humiliated him,I saw Carl as a brother despite our history.I took advantage of his sweet nature and genorisity towards me.Leading him into temptation,allow him to believe that I would become his wife.I’m such an awful person,I realise that I still loved him and contemplating a future when he was engaged to Lady Rose Keating.I left it too late.’
‘No,do not fret or beat yourself up over it Gisele.You promised him tomorrow and not to give up hope.Held onto him till life drained out of him,you were his guardian angel.Showed grace and love.Lady Delessop you’re love for him was sweet and pure.’
‘Our wedding,it would have been such a simple affair.My hair down free flowing in the wind.A garland of daisies or red ribbons,depending upon my mood symbolising innocence and purity.The sun would always be shining,I had a perfect dress in mind simple in every detail.Beautiful all the same.’
‘Quite right.’
‘The birds would be singing their heavenly song.We would be close to tears,as though we had only just met.Just like Romeo and Juliet,a butterfly would fly upon the end of my nose.All of it’s beauty upon display.We wouldn’t have been able to afford all of the trimmings like my wedding day to his brother.A meadow wouldn’t have mattered,I loved him.’ I took a deep breath. ‘And the way she spoke of those women? As though they were dirt she had just trampled on a poor defenceless butterfly.I didn’t chose that lifestyle,circumstances led them to chose the darkest path.In fact…’
I took hold of Lord Henry’s hand. ‘Darling,I need to be completely honest with you.Even my former husband isn’t aware of this lie.Whilst Lord Rickman and I were in Versailles,I befriended a ‘Lady of the night.’ The French has their choice of words,labelling these poor women as whores,courtesans.Christine-Mia,beautiful red hair,crimson lips.Skin paler than mine.So sweet natured,eighteen years of age.Such a tragic past,sent to work in the work house at a tender age,then both of her parents Phillipe and Amelie had died.Lost her job,so she was left with nothing but the clothes she wore this led her to selling her body.One day,I caught her begging in the Parisian streets,I placed a coin into her tatty old hat.I looked up and there Christine stood,she was all skin and bone hands and finger nails looked so grubby.Hair all tangled,body odour would put any passer by off.I couldn’t abandon this girl,how would I feel if Ava and Esme had fallen upon hard times.The prospect of this tore me apart,all this girl needs is love and I aught to give her this.My penance,to undo all of my wrong things in my life.I picked the fragile girl off guard,slowly took her by the hand.Back in the chateu,I led her through the servants quarters whilst I relieved the girls nanny of her duties.I lay my girls down to bed,giving Christine the opportunity to get back to normality.Being in a house must have been such a culture shock to her.Allowing her to bathe in luxury,offered her a change of dress.A while later,when she felt brave enough to face we sat by candle light.Poor girl opened up to me,exchanged her life story.How offering her body to willing rich gentlemen was her only way of true survival.Her empty dreams touched my heart.Imagining a man of a good heart would take her away from this torrid life.I took her under my wing,called her my ward in my care.I tried to make her feel worthy again.Providing warmth,shelter.A place to rest her head and a friendly ear.

The night was ever so gloomy,I led Christine to her chamber.
‘Won’t Lord Rickman mind?’
‘Whay my husband won’t know won’t hurt him? This is were you shall stay.’
‘No Lady Rickman,you are far too kind.I truly do not deserve this.’
‘I have no desire to throw you out into the cold Christine.’
‘It would be a relief not to be afraid of the shadows.A place to call your own.’
‘I hope you don’t mind Christine,forgive me but you remind me of my sister Lucille.’
‘What happened to her?’
‘She tragically died in a riding accident.’
‘Oh I’m ever so sorry my lady.’
‘She was full of ideas,a lively spirit and I abandoned her.I am not prepared to make that mistake again Christine.You’re welcome to stay for as long as you need me.’
‘Thank you.’

‘Unbeknown to my husband,I had deceived him once more.Christine’s sparkle and hunger and life was restored.She was ever so grateful for my kindness.I took her to dinners and dances in order for her to raise her self-esteem.Christine was broken the poor child and for a time in Louisa’s absence sh was my only true close companion.Sadly I couldn’t save her for a few months later,the date of her nineteenth birthday she lost her fight in life.Cholera stole her precious life away.’
‘I’m sorry.’
‘I barely knew her?’
‘You provided love and support till her end of days.’
‘Mama has no right,to judge something she knows nothing of.The life they lead,Chearine taught me that valuable life lesson.She was a beautiful person,crying for help…reaching out but no one could hear her voice.She longed to be a dancer,so unafraid to chase it.’
‘You have such a beautiful soul Gisele.’
‘No one would catch her,I had to reach out to her Benjamin.A part of me felt connected to her,I’ve been there desperate,scrabbling around in the dirt.Not a single penny to my name.Fighting for what little respect I could grasp onto Lord Henry.I had to teach her that she was worth more,her taste was not just a forbidden object.Only for gentlemen to have their grubby palms all over her body.That she is beautiful and worthy of being called a lady.No longer hiding in the fringes of society.Lord Henry,I think I owe you an apology.I was ever so beastly to you.I know how you felt when Louisa became over zealous when you were getting married,how trapped you feel.Promise me that you find comfort in the arms of a younger and far more beautiful woman?’
‘You have my word Lady Delessop.’
‘I had no right to take my frustration with Sophia and Mama out on you.It was unforgivable of me.’
‘You have no reason to apologise my Lady.’

A little while later,it was raining,I ventured out.For I needed time away from my girls,I love them with my whole heart but a piece of me yearns for a healthy reminder of merely reminiscing to behave like a child,young at heart.Forget about all of my troubles and dance around in the rain.Splash around,I didn’t care if my hair was all over the place and my daydress was soaking through.I looked up at the sky and sensed that it was Carl,just knew that he wasn’t best pleased of my engagement to Benjamin.Looking skywards I sensed that it was Carl,my sweet love.Oh I owe it all to him to open up to my former lover after all I knew his deepest darkest secret.
‘Oh Carl,I know you haven’t forgiven me for disclosing my deepest darkest secret of you killing your brother in cold blood.Do not be disappointed in me Carl,he had to know the truth I am about to become his wife.Husband’s and Wive’s do not and can not afford to conceal secret’s from one another.I lay in his arms night after night,the guilt just ate away at me.Making me ill! You have no idea the power struggle I endured torn between betraying my childhood sweetheart and my fiance’.I know you do not approve of him! I should be preparing for my engagement ball,not stood here trying to justify myself to you.Oh Carl,please leave me be! I know you loved me,I’m no longer that fifteen year old girl.Sir Casey never came across as the jealous and possessive type.I’m sorry if this is going to be personal,my heart will forever be bound to you…oh do not give me that look? I know what you must be thinking,when? Soon,you and I will be lovers once more.When we are reunited in heaven,it’s time to be a big girl now and forget about you.Forgive me if I’m about to embarrass you,I have no intention to bite my tongue.Why do I always act like this? Even when you’re six feet under? I merely refuse to lower the tone but I can’t help feeling this way even for you know.I know we never consummated our love for one another.Oh how I blush,those piercing blue eyes making my heart go all of a quiver.If you were standing here how you’d mock me? And I’d playfully twist my hair in order to gain your attention.But my feelings for you still remains the same,the biggest regret of all isn’t laying down beside you.Gazing into one another’s eyes.Or watching the dawn I never thought you and I would end this way? You took a bullet for me,and I would do the same for you.But answer me truthfully Carl,if you where in my shoes and I had tragically died in your arms….the power of my precious life draining away from my body,every second counted.My heart slowly beating it’s last drum as though I’m a butterfly spanning it’s wings out for the last time.Blood upon your hands,you cradling my head,sweat dripping from my brow.You’re sweet essence willing me to continue to wake from my deepened sleep.You kiss my lips as my porcelain skin turns ashen grey lips slowly transforming to blue.My pulse weakening,tell me Sir Casey am I painting an accurate enough picture for you? Would I ask for you to fall upon my grave,grief stricken clutching to my coffin you throw a single red rose to state such love.A declaration,Howl in such pain,my poor wounded Romeo Montague.Grief will become the end of my days? No I’d say Carl,have courage remain ever so strong and steadfast.Love again,marry bare beautiful children.I’d remain in here deep down in your heart,God knows I’m trying,I can not sleep in a dark cold and empty bed.When the wind is ever so cold,howling through the window pane.I need to be held by someone to keep me safe and calm.A father to my children,Benjamin can do that,he’s a good person Carl.You know me,I can never say goodbye.Remember the time I thought you were running out on me,leaving as I had just got engaged to Lord Rickman well I never confessed to say that I’m exactly the same running away from my true emotions because I am scared of the consequences I must go,for I’m dripping wet and I need to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for the engagement gala of a life time.Good bye.’

I was ready to face society,I stood before the mirror in my childhood room once more.Wearing a beautiful and yet so bold looking red gown.I couldn’t help feeling anxious the prospect of what I was about to face.Marianna kindly fastened my corset,every ribbon she pulled I felt a tiny bit more suffocated.I know I mentioned previously of the newly founded corsets being designed for sophistication and comfort.I beg to differ,I breathed in deeper as it got tighter and tighter.Letitia boldly brushed my hair.
‘Ow! That hurt!’
‘That’ll teach you to venture out into the rain!’ hissed Letitia.
‘I wish you’d stop with the tedious talking!’
‘Stop behaving as though you’re a child and I shall.Gisele Tara Anastacia whatever possessed you?’
‘I wanted to be one with nature.’ I sighed.
‘You miss Quinn I realise that?’
‘Letty,I feel as though Carl is pulling me in.’
‘Keep still your hair is tangled!’
‘I’m ever so sorry,but did I ask you? I’m perfectly capable of brushing my hair.’
‘I thought that I was doing you a favour? Obviously not?’
‘Sorry Letitia,my nerves are all over the place.Carl casts a shadow over this engagement.He disapproves of my relationship to Lord Henry? I hear whispers inside of my mind?’
‘For heaven’s sake girl,if you say that out louad,you will be sent to the asylum.Being confined in to a small space,your past dredged up and analysed.And as for Mama you’re state of mind will end her life for sure.Have you considered your daughters?’
‘Maybe I haven’t been of sound mind since William died?’
‘Leave me be!’
‘Do you wish for Esme and Ava’s reputation to be tainted.To be known as the daughter’s of the lunatic?’
‘Did Carl ever approve of any of your relationships Lord Rickman? Sir Holmes? Earl Merrells? Need I continue,pardon me if I may speak out of turn but the amount of times we’ve been here?’
‘I’m only speaking of what other’s are speaking of?’
‘I’ve replayed this moment in my head,as though it’s my own personal tragedy.Entering the ball room,head poised.The masked swan,once so serene and white as the driven snow.Hiding any emotion,will I receive the standing ovation as I take the long walk to the high table.Having visions of hallucinations seeing Carl at the table.’
‘Oh please this isn’t Macbeth!’ squealed Holly. ‘You shall not be harmed by Carl’s ghost haunting you?’
‘Wash your mouth out Holly Delessop,you shall be cursed till the end of days.You do not address the cursed play in that kind of fashion! It’s only to be referred to as the Scottish play.’
‘Oh please,the only witch paying you a visit from the blasted heath.Is Mother dear true? And you are not a lady of the stage?’
‘I have no intention too…The small talk with the ugly gentleman folk that I don’t know from Adam? Acting all sickly sweet,eating out of the palm of their hands.Doting on their every word,taking a glass of wine into my hand.Holding it ever so gently using the correct wine drinking etiquette to act merely polite.I mean how do I know that they have laced it with deadly poison? Word is Jack has gentleman friends in the darkest places.Not even Mama is aware of them.I collapse on to the floor,Benjamin ripping my dress,the corset that I’m imprisoned in crushing my ribs.Constantly digging into my breast.He manages to open my corset with a steak knife my corpse is free.I can not wait until I have danced my last dance.Take my last bow and retire to my quarters,my sanctuary.I wish I never returned to London,it still gives me the chills.

I walked through the corridors,history filled the walls.The Delessop dynasty hung in it’s pride of place just gathering dust.Gran Mama Reinette and Gran Papa Phillipe.Oh I wish I had the chance to meet Gran Mama.
‘Gisele,your Gran’Mama was just like you so beautiful at an impressionable age.A free spirit,heart bursting full of fire and passion.She had a few dalliances in the past before she wed Lord Phillipe,my dear Papa.’
I walked across and there stood a beautiful picture of Mama and Papa taken on their wedding day.Mama looked ever so beautiful,such a lovely and simple dress,no lace or sequins.Papa smiling ever so proud,he looked so handsome in his wedding suit.In his prime so gallant and handsome.Raven black hair,I’m paralysed with fear over the prospect of tonight.After all I’ve been in this position before,previously visiting my so called happiness with Lord Rickman when all of the while I was playing a dangerous game.There was a picture of all five of us Delessop girls,dressed in beautiful bonnets and matching lemon summer dresses.Lucille how she detested looking the same,she craved for individuality even at a young age.Such beautiful piercing blue eyes and brunette hair.She had such an angelic smile.The final picture was a portrait of Lord Rickman and I on our wedding day.I was transported back to the day,the familiar smells of the flowers.The fake smiles pretending that my whole undivided love and attention was for my new husband.The look of betrayal whenever I saw Sir Declan after that day.I truly tried,I really did.I carefully studied the picture,looks can be deceptive.I may have looked beautiful and appeared to my wedding guests looking into my Oliver’s eyes acting as though I adored him.Deep down I held a dark secret,painful to think of it now.For my affair was truly the death of my dear Papa.I see that girl look into her piercing eyes and I look so lost,longing to be found.I never felt so alienated from my family.Maybe if I hadn’t shielded the pain then I could have prevented hurting Oliver.Despite it all Oliver has came out of barely scathed.He’s such a good man,ever so noble standing aside,allowing me to Lord Benjamin.Revisting the ghosts I craved for a time of reflection.I made my drawing room,walking into their once more transported me back to happy times.The room was once so full,full of laughter and cigar smoke piano playing and laughter.Now all remains now is silence,there stood in it’s pride of place willing for me to play it was my beautiful black grande piano.It looked truly neglected hasn’t been played since I was last here.I boldy sat down and started to play my favourite piece Fur Elise.I immersed myself in each individual notes.As my fingers nimbly ran across the keys.

I was seven years of age,my Mama was ever so strict in my piano tuition.Endless hours I spent practicing until my fingers bled.
‘That wasn’t good enough petit Gisele!’
‘Mama,my fingers hurt.’
‘You will not stop until we’ve reached full perfection child.’
‘I long to play out with Mari and Letty.’
‘Playing hide and seek will never get you anywhere in life.When you’re a young lady you will grow to learn in order to attract a gentleman to marry you will have to be able to play the piano.’
‘I don’t think I shall like boys that much,they are awful.’
‘That’s just Daniel he’s a mean little boy you aught to know better.Carl for instance he’s a lovely young boy.’
‘Carl he smells awfully funny he spends all of his time catching frogs and putting them in my petticoat.’
‘Less of this talk Gisele,now back to practicing.’

Smiling ever so fondly at the memory,oh how I was greatful for Mama being strict.Playing this now I was transported back to the beautiful Italy,how I miss it so.Maybe Lord Henry was perfectly right in saying we would never have returned to London.

I walked into the ballroom once more,hand in hand with my beloved Lord Henry.
‘Lady Delessop,you’re beauty takes my breathe away.’ says Lord Henry.
‘Speak low if you speak of love.’ I lowered my voice to a whisper.
‘Ah Anthony and Cleopatra my Lady?’
‘Well well well,you have been studying.I am silently impressed.’
‘Well then hear this Lady Delessop…for I am about to dazzle you?’
‘Indulge me with your spoken words.’
‘Forgive me if I may appear bold,but ever since our first encounter.I’ve had this back from you…For I am about to speak my chosen words from the dear bard himself.’
‘Did my heart love till now? For swear it sight!’
For I never saw true beauty till this night.’
‘Back then I was feeling ever so lost with no were to turn.I had lost my grip one what was right and wrong.You were indeed my enemy and deep down.I loved you,but scared to say the words out loud.’
‘My only love sprung from my only hate.’ ‘Like Juliet herself I was torn in trying to do what was right…For I was saving myself from you.In order to do right by my husband.But the closer you got to Louisa,devoting your time and affection the grande gestures.I felt pending jealously.I truly detested you forced myself to have a reguard for your feelings.My coldness forced you into an awkward marriage.Your mother and father should be here toasting your happiness.Not even a note from Ana,because of my love for you you’re whole family was ripped to the seams.’
Lord Henry reassuringly squeezed my hand.
‘Here come’s trouble.’
‘I thought that…’
Lady Ana came over and greeted us in an ever so soul-warmingly way.’
‘Gisele darling?’ She gently kissed my cheek.
‘Yes,that’s my name don’t wear it out.’
‘Sorry,what a pleasant surprise! I’m kind of overwhelmed.’
‘Please do not weep over me.I wouldn’t miss this for the world.Arthur,he couldn’t make the engagement gala sadly.He had a prior engagement,sends his best wishes…Truth be told,I detect that he’s trying to avoid meek and mild Evangaline.’
‘I don’t think Evan has completely got over the way it ended between them.She’s fragile soul,desperately clinging to Louisa as though her life depended upon it.I think it’s best Ana,if you’re dear brother kept his distance.’
‘What of Mama and Papa?’
‘Still not budging I’m afraid?’
‘They can take it out on me Ana,but surely they could have swallowed their pride.Showed their loved and support towards their son.I always thought your mother and father were strong and steadfast.Stand by Benjamin despite us falling in love? How wrong was I?’
‘It came as a shock to us all.Word in Versailles is the constant talk of who this girl that’s bewitched my dear brother? I mean you took your devoted sister-in-law under her wing.Vowing to protect her from the world,then some how you end up betraying her.It’s an awful lot for my Mama to take in.Forgive me,but you have always found you ever so mysterious as though you’re not real?’

‘Antoinette,may I say what a beautiful fine woman you’re Gisele has blossomed into?’
‘Thank you sister Grace.’
‘Dare I say that she has her Papa’s eyes?’
‘Behind the smiles,I detect Gisele is struggling today without her Papa.Truth is she still blames herself for William’s death.’
‘A horrific thing to witness.’ sighed Grace. ‘And for it to happen to poor Carl too.I was awfully fond of him.’
I thought I aught to go and circulate I gave Lord Henry a kiss.
‘…And for it to happen to poor Carl too? I was awfully fond of him.’
‘Sir Casey,Grace is what I call a coward never staying true to his word.If he had boldly spoke of his intentions towards my daughter.Then she wouldn’t be constantly looking over her shoulder.Why she’s scared of her own shadow,since her involvement with that frightful Sir Holmes.’
Completely oblivious of my whereabouts,I caught Mama completely off guard.
‘You always go out of your way to humiliate me in front of society?’
‘Gisele,I barely call this a public flogging.I was merely passing comment with your dear Aunt.’
‘It’s true Gisele.’
‘For your information Mama,you are fully aware of my proposal from Sir Casey on the eve of my twenty first birthday.I thought it would be improper to accept it.You spoke of your ill feelings for him of the past?’
‘You were just a child.’
‘That I was,out of duty I pushed my feelings aside.For I didn’t want to abuse my position,how dare you stand there and speak of Sir Casey in that fashion? A coward was he not? Carl,he loved me a great deal and I admit I was merely flattered.He proved that the very night he died.I deeply regret,I acknowledged my inner most feelings for him.When it was too late,forgive me.’ I curtsied out of politeness. ‘I must circulate,before I say something I frightfully regret.Lady Grace.’ I curtsied out of politeness. ‘It’s been a pleasure as always.’
Shame I can’t say the same of my Mama,Esme and Ava where with Marianna.It must be so tough to be with them especially knowing that shes unable to bare children.I felt some cold hands touch my face,playfully abstructing my view.
‘Guess who?’
I turned around. ‘Tom?’
‘I believe congratulations is in order Lady Delessop?’
‘It’s ever so good to see you.’
‘Gisele,you look positively glowing.You look ever so well?’
‘That’s because I feel it,inside my heart Tom.’
Tom kissed my hand. ‘My lady,Reinette and I beseech you most humbly with a gift?’
‘Oh really you shouldn’t have?’ I blushed.
‘It’s nothing exciting,merely decor for your new home in Italy?’ smiled Reinette.
‘Cushions? You have quite the feminine touch Tom?’ I teased.
‘It was merely an idea of Reinette’s.’
‘Oh don’t be so bashful Tom.It’s ever so thoughtful of you.Thank you.’
‘Well well well,this is quite a turn out?’
‘All thanks to Mama.’
‘Where are your delightful children?’
‘Mari,has been an angel and taken charge of them for the evening.Ever so sweet of her,she’s such a darling to them both.’
‘And what of the high and mighty Lady Antoinette a la the devoting Gran’Mama?’
‘Do not speak a word of her.’
‘I do not understand,and I thought you and your Mama that had forgiven one another?’
‘She called Carl a coward,for not acting like a gentleman and acknowledging his feelings for me.Therefore blaming her own daughter’s downfall,because he wasn’t manly enough to save me! That he hadn’t enough backbone-‘
‘He sacrificed his love and future happiness with Lady Rose Keating to save you.Surely that mean something to Lady Antoinette?’
‘Laying down one’s life isn’t enough for my precious little Mama.Her saying those words has truly hurt me so.Knowing she was the one who jeopardised our happiness by arranging an unwanted marriage to her vile and disrespectful brother.’
If only she was aware of the full extent of Carl murdering her brother in cold blood.Would she still call him a coward? No she would confess all in order to keep Carl and I apart.’
‘I shall act the dutiful daughter for the sake of my children.Smiling in the correct places,give her the perfect and yet so false impression that I am trying in order to please her.But as soon as the wedding is over and my gown is removed.I shall return to Italy….Lady Antoinette is dead to me.’


Chapter 9

‘Mama,you gave me a fright?’
I clutched my chest,my heavy heart was beating ever so fast.How did she find me? No don’t tell me after all that was said,my husband has betrayed my trust before I even got the chance to confront her.
‘How did you know that I was here?’
‘I had my sources.’
‘I know it,don’t tell me my husband squealed on me? How typical of Lord Rickman?’
‘It merely slipped off my tongue child.’
‘More like you forced it out of him,you’re extremely good in the art of interrogating people? What did you do force feed him with olives in order to extract information?’
‘You look as though you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards?’ She held her nose in the air. ‘And what is that stench?you’re clothes so bedraggled.Where have you been to get yourself in that state of undress?’
‘I went to visit Papa and Carl’s grave.’
‘If Lord William could see you know.He wouldn’t be able to look you in the eye.Stinking to high heaven,dripping wet.Whatever possessed you to venture out into the treacherous storm?’
‘I’ve had my reasons…I feel close to my Carl in the stormiest of weathers.’
‘You’re such a deluded child!’
‘That may be,but I speak of the truth Lady Delessop.’
‘What they say of saying in the West Wing is it true?’
‘It is my Lady.’
‘I felt there was a time that I had to let him go.Return the engagement ring he gave to me when I was fifteen years old.’
‘Naïve to keep hold of a piece of tin for so long.’
‘It was sweet of him,it’s not a piece of tin.It symbolises how he felt at that time.Carl was the first person to ever love and respect me for who I truly am.He wasn’t like any of the other shallow gentleman not at all like Daniel.I blame you for preventing our marriage to go ahead.’
‘You were fifteen years old Gisele,I was saving you from a lifetime of misery and regret…Your way of dealing with this,by arranging an unwanted marriage to his eldest brother Duke Matthew Casey.He has nothing like his brother,Carl was sweet and kind and would never hurt a fly.Matthew,he was nothing but a snake in the grass.All of the women,he was sly but you could never see all of this could you? That night of my twenty first you behaving as though you had only just met him.My own mother,a hypercrite.All you could see was my daughter’s marrying a Duke,what will I benefit from this wonderful marriage? Imagine Gisele,a Duchess? You have no kind reguard for how I truly felt.I was seveneteen and all alone that’s why I left him at the alter.Papa was right,money was as always your one true God.’
‘Have you finished child?’
‘No I haven’t,my happiness ripped right from underneath me.But ever the dutiful daughter,I was powerless to stop you,I learnt for ever so long to put up,stay stumn or face the consequences.’
‘I was your Mama,I thought Duke Matthew was an ideal match?’
‘Don’t you listen to a single word I am saying,because of you’re meddling,your wife has collided from one disaster to another.I only agreed to a marriage to Lord Rickman,just to satisfy your hunger and greed in order for far greater wealth.Fine,the Delessop’s fortune was dwindling,but why pile all of the pressure on me? I mean tell me Mama,did I deserve any of that.I grew scared of you…I no longer reguarded you as my Mama.’
‘Lord Rickman spoke extremely highly of you.The poor sap that he is,stood up for your honour.’
‘Mama,your empty and cruel words can bring me down.You have never been here for your daughters,not really.Brought up,by endless nanny’s.’
‘You found most of them disagreeable? The countless screams we heard from the nursery?’
‘That’s our code of crying for help Mama.We wanted our Mama in our lives,not to be cast aside.Once upon a time,there lived six girls craving to be held by their Mama.You never came?’
‘Your Papa and I only wanted what was truly best for you girls.I thought that sending you to endless parties and balls was how a Mama should behave?’
‘Because of you,I’m damaged goods.’
‘Gisele,I have watched you from a far,blossom into a vibrant and beautiful young woman.You didn’t need your Mama holding you back.You are many things Gisele,selfish.So self-absorbed in your own looks,weak at a gentleman’s touch.Courtesan of London’s society,whoring yourself to all and sundry.’
‘I think I’ve heard enough!’
‘But on the other hand.you’re sweet natured,full of warmth and kind hearted.A good Mother to your children.Something I could never be.’
‘You could always change things? Esme and Ava are up in the west wing.Waiting and longing for kisses and cuddles from their Gran’Mama.My return to London hasn’t turned out as perfect as I intended.You can hate me all you like Mama,but it will only turn you into a bitter and twisted woman.Keep driving everyone you love away and you will spend your dying days alone.When you could be spending your finest moments with your family.Life’s too short to hold a grudge,I’m not the perfect daughter.Far from it,not asking for your forgiveness.All I ask is for your blessing,so we can get together as a family.Sit down at meal times,when we’ve returned to Italy.Exchange smiles and small conversation,punish me Mama for I truly deserve it.Don’t punish Ava and Esme,it’s your choice?’

I left Mama and returned to the west wing.
‘There you are!’
‘I’m so sorry.’
‘Have you been crying?’
‘It’s been a trying day,I returned to engagement ring to Carl.’
‘I don’t understand I thought that you had made arrangements to visit your Papa?’
‘The truth is I took a slight de tour…call it a spare of the moment kind of thing.’
‘I had no idea that you were engaged to Carl?’
‘There’s nothing tobe jealous of Ben,it was nothing really.’
‘You don’t have to pretend anymore Gisele.’
‘I know how much you loved him?’
‘Thank you for being so understanding.’
‘Talk to me Gis.’
‘Letting go was one of the hardest things.’
Lord Henry embraced me gently by the shoulders,he gazed into my eyes.He brushed a stray strand of hair from my face and tucked it behind my ear.
‘Look at you,you’re freezing.Your hair?’
‘None of that matters.’
‘You’ll get pneumonia.’
‘Don’t be so dramatic Ben.’
‘Nurse you from your sick bed and mop your wet brow is one thing Gis,but I can not imagine my life without you?’
‘Is everything all right?
‘The truth is,it’s been quite an overwhelming day for me too.Ava called me Papa.’
‘Don’t look so surprised Ben,she adores you.In fact they both do.’
‘I’m not ashamed to admit that I expressed true emotion for the first time…shedding tears contemplating our future.I imagined the day you would bare my beautiful child.May it be a son or a daughter,you placed the precious little mite into my arms.The child would cry,but I would look into your eyes and they would be filled with hope.’
‘Oh Ben.’
I bent forward to kiss Lord Henry,I have never hear him speak words so sentimental before.He has pictured our children but after William my confidence of baring a healthy son or daughter was now shattered.But how could I tell him,I don’t want to let him down especially when he is so blissfully happy.Mama made a bold entrance,which broke me out of my trance.I jumped out of Lord Henry’s sweet embrace.
‘Oh do no stop on my account.Lord Henry?’
‘Lady Delessop.’
Lord Henry attempted to brow,Lady Antoinette placed her hand in the air to put a stop to this.Quite right too,Mama is certainly no royal far from it.
‘Do not bow Lord Henry.’
‘What a pleasant surprise,Lord Henry and I weren’t expecting anyone?’
‘Lady Rickman,Lord Henry I was wondering if you would like to join us for evening dinner?’
‘There’s no need to address me formally Mama.Is dinner your way of apologising?’
‘Someone told me that life’s too short… let us throw caution to the wind,and by gones be by gones….’
‘If you think that champagne and fine food,is going to win Gisele over? Then you’ve underestimated her good will,she’s not one to be bought.’
‘Benjamin,I can handle this.’
‘Gisele please,let us put this silly little matter behind us.’
‘I should despise you for what you did to me?’
‘You have a good heart petit Gisele.We have so much hatred and bad blood in this family and I detest it so.I see how I’ve missed a big gap in Esme and Ava’s childhood,I see how much they’ve changed in my absence.I know I can’t undo any past regrets.I am not proud of what I did to you girls.But I am determined to make it up to you.I refuse to abuse the time we have left together,the prospect of this brings a lump to my throat.But no matter,when do you return to Italy?’
‘I have no idea,the truth is we plan to marry here.But Lord Henry’s separation to Louisa needs to be resolved.We are here for as long as you’ll have us?’
‘What of Lord Henry’s family?’
‘Ever since I walked out on my family,Lord and Lady Henry put their pride before the love of their own son and has simply turned their back on their heir once and for all.The devastating truth is we only have Ana’s blessing.I am entirely to blame for falling in love with your daughter.In their eyes I have broken my holy vows….I’m dead to mother and father as far as their concerned.’
‘Their loss,well that is settled all is well in the world once more.Gisele I suggest indulge yourself in the finest things.Take a nice hot bath surround yourself with beautiful candles.’
‘Is that really necassary?’
‘Mother knows best Gisele,put your best gown on.I want your essence to be sweet smelling once more.I refuse to allow Lady Henry to believe that their husband’s mistress has lost their touch.’
‘Yes Mama.’
‘As for you Lord Henry,you have my permission to marry my daughter.It’s obvious,I can see the twinkles returned to her eyes once more.She finds you respectable enough to marry and I find you tolerable.Once she has her heart set on something,there’s no changing her mind.’
‘I shall not let you down Lady Delessop…I shall treasure your daughters heart,and consider her feelings always.’
‘Enough of the sentiments Lord Henry,in my experience actions speak louder than words.First of all why hasn’t she got a ring upon her finger?’
‘Please do not be late.’

A little while later,we where all sat at the dining table in the main hall.Wearing my ivy coloured gown and a white flower in my hair,fastened tightly into a respectable bun.I left two kiss curls on either side of my head as I knew it would drive Lord Henry wild.I felt a tad awkward sitting at the same table as Louisa.Perhaps a little dutch courage is perhaps what I need,in order to get through the dinner.Our paths hadn’t crossed since the infamous incident in the ballroom.Lord Henry ran his hand down my back for reassurance,my skin turned a little crimson.
‘Are you blushing Lady Gisele?’
‘Now’s not the right time my Lord,please will you ease off a bit?’
I turned to Holly,she clutched onto my hand for dear life.
‘Careful,you’ll squeeze me to death Holl.’
‘Sorry Gis,it’s just that I’m ever so pleased to see you back home.’
‘Thank you Holly.’
‘Louisa and Evangaline have become extremely close and thick with one another in your absense? I can not help but feel a tad jealous of the friendship they have formed?’
‘Louisa is nothing to worry about,she is quite the fickle one where it comes to making friends.’
‘I beg to differ.’
‘You know what you’re trouble is Holly? Sometimes you can be you’re own worst enemy.Please,do yourself a favour and stop isolating yourself?’
I looked once more and Benjamin had discreetly moved from my side.What is something I had said,he was now sat alongside Esme and Ava.Maybe I was a little harsh on,but there’s a time and a place.Mama’s peace dinner isn’t one of them.The act of passion,is the last thing on my mind.Esme was so sweet,trying to act ever so lady like,but she was struggling with the table etiquette.Overwhelmed by the various utensils that were set before her,reminds me of the time I was faced with the various spoons,knives and having no inclination of what I was meant to be doing.What my steak knife was? So it’s quite a daunting experience for a small child.
‘This Es…is your dessert spoon,that is your soup spoon.’
‘Will Gran Mama be having chocolate cake and icecream?’
‘You take after your sister,you have quite the sweet tooth?’
‘It’s not a party without cake?’ She looked at him longingly.
‘I have no idea,why don’t you ask her?’
‘Princess’s never have to ask.’ giggled Ava.
‘We shall have carrot soup,our main course.’
‘Why do rich people eat so much? I’ll be happy with cheese and crackers….I’ve only a tiny little belly.’
‘Ava eats like a pig!’ laughs Esme.
‘Say you’re sorry Es.’
‘Sorry Ava.’
‘Ava once you’re older,you will grow accustomed to the finest things in life.Like your Mama,she likes nothing more than indulging in caviar,quails eggs,croissants,truffles and tine finest sparkly champagne.’
‘With bubbles?’ said Esme.
‘The bubblier the better.’ laughed Lord Henry. ‘Whatever is it Ava?’
‘Quails eggs! That’s disgusting!’ said Ava. Screwing her face up in disgust.
‘Miss Delessop,do not knock it until you’ve tried it!’ smiled Lord Henry. ‘Now come closer,I would like to tell you something….In order to catch a gentleman’s eye,you have sit up straight at all times?’
‘Like this?’ said Esme.
‘Invite him in with your beautiful smile.’
‘No Esme it looks like you’ve got wind.’
‘A warm heavenly smile,just like your Mama did,to capture this gentleman’s heart and let’s this be between you and I…Don’t I repeat do not slurp your soup,gentlemen do not take kind to women who abuse the art of etiquette.’
‘Unlike Holly,she sucks it through her teeth,poor dear.’ giggled Evangaline.
‘It’s showing my appreciation.’ sighed Holly.
‘Do not take it to heart.’ I whispered. ‘She’s merely showing off to her shiny new toy.’
‘Oh poor Holly,it’s true she eats like a dog at the dinner table.Skye had better manner’s than she ever did.No wonder she can’t get a man to fall for her so called charm?’
‘Don’t bite back Holly.’ I whispered. ‘Listen to me,do not give her the satisfaction to know that she’s hurt you’re feelings.Count to three,one two three,deep breathes and allow the words to wash over you.’
‘You’re so good at this.’
‘You need to pick the pieces up and start once more and try not take everything to heart.Deep down you’re quite the sensitive soul?’
‘Just like you did,pick up the pieces time and time again? I’ve watched you struggle to smile? How do you manage to keep your spirit alive?
‘There are times I’ve appeared battered and bruised like a wondered gazelle but I had to keep up appearances.When Carl slipped through my fingers,fading away from my life.There where times when I thought I could no longer continue,for there was nothing left.A piece of me died that day,Carl was my kindred spirit.Our romance was jeopardised with Mama’s heavy handed way of my arranged marriage to Duke Matthew.All of my life I’ve fought back against selfish men.I never thought that I would ever escape from Jack,he may have appeared all sweetness and light to society.But I knew of the truth,all of the secret beatings I took from him.Little excuses he did this because he loved me,his act of love.But he had got it into my knife,manipulating me.Said that he was all I had and I should be greatful that I had him in my life.Constantly pulling my strings,I was convinced that I loved him.He was clever with the bruises,hurt me where I could secretly conceal it…there was a time when he forgot himself he bruised my face badly.I had to say I stumbled over in the hallway.The servants were all aware of my clumsiness and they bought this idea.They never once bat an eyelid,and I allowed them to think that their lady of the manor wasn’t under threat.’
‘It doesn’t stop the whispers,you and I both know that.’
‘This was my way of punishment,I didn’t love him I despised him but I was scared of bringing up Ava alone.He took advantage of my vulnerability,invited himself into my life and bed.Then along came Es,I wouldn’t change her for the world.But there was no escape,scared that next time I would’nt be so lucky.Lesson learnt never trust a stranger again.My view changed when Lord Henry came along,he was different to Lord Rickman.Open minded,sweet kind generous and…’
‘Good in the bedroom department?’
‘Holly Delessop,you make me blush.’
‘Is that a yes?’
‘A lady never tells,all I can say is Benjamin he showed patience,proved to me that it wasn’t just about lust.Beautiful intimacy,take heed do not make the same mistakes that I did Holly.Trust me.’
‘Did you ever love Oliver Gisele?’
‘There was a time when I could have sacrificed my life for him,not anymore.If you feel like you’re drowning and unable to gasp for air.Don’t swallow your pride and feel you can manage.I’m always here for you.’
‘Don’t promise things you are unable to keep?’
‘I’m sorry but it’s true you’re never here.You’ll be returning to Italy soon?’
‘One simple letter and I shall drop everything at a moments notice.Or you can stay in Italy for as long as you like.You never know a fine specimen gentleman may sweep you off your feet.How I long to see you smile again.You’re beautiful Holly don’t allow anyone else to tell you different.’
‘Cross my heart.’
I casually placed my elbow upon the table and longingly watched Lord Henry.Oh he has no idea how much he sends shivers down my spine even know with Esme and Ava.He is so good with the pair of them,treating them like his own little princess’s.Amusing them with their silly little traits.From that moment on,it made me feel as though I can’t wait to have children of our own.I then looked at Lord Rickman,my heart sank,it must have taken a lot of pride to sit here.How he must feel excluded in his little girls upbringing.How it must kill him witnessing another gentleman play Papa.
‘You look perfect. ‘smiled Oliver.
‘It’s just an old gown I found in my case,nothing special.’
‘Come on Gisele don’t act so modest,you can at least take a compiment off your husband?’
‘Former husband?’
‘You’re an unwritten song written by the Goddess’s in the stars above.Your porcelain skin are like wings of a dove.’
‘If this is your idea of composing a sonnet then it’s little too late Oliver.’

Louisa cleared her throat boldly to engage polite conversation with her Benjy.Oh what is the matter Louisa can’t you bare to see your husband’s finally happy.Always craving to be centre of attention,it pains me to say this but Louisa is still his wife and I’m only his live in mistress.That means nothing in the eyes of the law and London society.She could have the power,using the art of seduction.Leading him in with her beautiful alluring eyes.Letting him think that her life’s oh so tragic.Leading him a merry dance,snare him with her toxic paws until he’s tangled in her web.I am powerless only to look on in hope,that an old flame will not reignite itself once more.He loved me but I’m not sure whether he will be tempted towards the forbidden fruit,once bitten twice shy and this lady clear has revenge on her mind.’
‘Louisa? It may appear that you have a frog in your throat?’
‘Don’t be so absurd,it was merely to gain your attention to prevent you from making moon eyes towards her.’
‘My fiancee’ has a name?’
‘It’s ever so good to see you Benjamin,since our parting.I realised how much I’ve missed you.You’re looking ever so handsome?’
‘I realise I behaved appallingly towards Gisele?’
‘That you did?’ sighed Lord Henry.
‘I’m sorry Benjy,it’s just that I can not help but feel territorial…seeing you with Esme and Ava made me realise what I could have had and lost.A hint of jealously and rage has sent me over the edge.I’m better now,I no longer have to deal with those demons.’
‘It’s a pity you put your pride before your love? The way you spoke to me the day we returned after our beautiful honeymoon was unforgivable?’
‘I was afraid I wouldn’t be accepted.’
‘Lord and Henry bent over backwards in accepting you into their family.Ana adored you,Arthur showered you with gifts.You Louisa you’re your own worst enemy,you were transforming into someone I no longer recognised?’
‘I was scared,I felt insecure count me lucky stars that I could be married to such a gentle and generous man.It never once occurred to me that you would end up with my sister in law?’
‘Your new hair and clothes does not work with me.You may appear confident on the outside,but I can see right through you.The truth is,it was you that was the death of our marriage.Gisele,just helped it along.’
‘Those cruel words are not of you,she’s poisoned you’re mind against me?’
‘No,you’re sheer desperation and clingyness was the final straw.Forgive me if I may appear out of line Lady Henry,but no matter the amount of champagne you ply me with.You can no longer control me. You’re fake femme fatale masked with your words of understanding is not going to allow me to see you differently. Fall back into bed with you once more,I love Gisele,I’ve never loved you.I only married you out of frustration and boredom,you were there at the right time.I still want,no I demand for a seperation,and I’m not leaving until I get it.’
‘Is that a threat Lord Henry?’
‘No it’s not a threat it’s a promise Lady Henry.’
‘A toast to my daughter Gisele,she was lost now she is found.To Gisele and Lord Henry.’
‘Gisele and Lord Henry.’
Lord Rickman and Louisa reluctantly raised their glass.

A little while later,Lord Henry were in the comfort of a warm bed in the guest room.We lay there unable to move.
‘To be in your arms once more,in warm silk covers again.I’m sorry about earlier at the dinner table.I merely gave you the brush off.I wanted to prove to Louisa that we’re strong and not just about you know? Sometimes you take advantage of the little things comfort and love.I saw you earlier with Esme and Ava at the dinner table.You’re teaching them the perfect dinner etiquette.’
‘You don’t mind did you?’
‘Mind…my sweet Lord Henry,it was a beautiful moment.How strong a bond you have quickly formed.It brought a lump to my throat.Do you think we will get a chance of becoming parents.You will never grow bored of me will you?’
‘No,I am crazy about you.’
‘I was saw you with Louisa,it was pretty intense between you two earlier?’
‘I demanded for a divorce.’
‘I hope you weren’t two heavy handed with her?’
‘Louisa is highly aware of my intentions towards her,it’s not her love.Sometimes she needs things spelt out to her.I may have appeared brutal to her,so be it.I realise she was your friend in the past but sometimes she can have a head full of air.It might take time,but this I promise you.Hold onto our memories,as this is what enables me to live.I remember the first moment in Versailles,I wanted you then.’
‘I never doubted that for a minute Lord Henry.’
‘How you boldly approached me.’
‘You can talk,I was a married lady.’
All of the sneaking around in the early stages of our blossoming romance?’
‘I advice you to choose your words wisely my lord.Blossoming romance? I would refer to it as a mere complication.’
‘You almost broke me?’
‘We had to fight to get where we are now,my faith was certainly tested.But I wouldn’t change a single second of it.Whatever is it?’
‘I can not get my head around,that your Mama has finally accepted us.’
‘I would hardly call it that?’
‘You and I will be gracing one’s balls,before you know it? This I promise you Lady Rickman.’
‘I know I aught to be patient,oh how I detest being your mistress.I so long to be your bride,your wife.I know I’m not in my right after all I drove you into marrying her.’
‘I shall never give up,I shall act the noble gentleman and wait for the divorce.I refuse my name to be dragged through the dirt.For I can not be compared that to that vile gentleman Duke Matthew,I will not hound Louisa,until she gives me what is rightfully mine.’
‘Thank you.’
‘I recall every flower it took for me to win you over? Every single stolen moment we had to grab is now a thing of the past? I know you don’t appreciate the trysts in the darkened corridors? But waking up besides you,holding you for hours.Doesn’t it taste so sweet? Making it all worth the while…The scent of your perfume,you left upon my pillow.When you walked out of my life,every word was always full of intelligence.Bringing much needed poetry to my ears.’
‘I kept all of my letters Ben.’
‘As did I…The first time we kissed at Lady Chadwick’s you little minx?’
‘Reluctantly on my part…Reflecting upon it now such a special milestone in my life,completely taken in by you.I know at that point you and I would eventually be together.’All of those darkened nights we talked of our escape?’
‘Don’t ever change.’

I know it may appear a boat of the blue,but I feel I aught to write to Sophia,there’s a little bit of faith within me that makes me feel that I would like her back in my life.More than ever.

I know this letter may appear as a shock to you.
But Mama and I have made our peace,and once
our seperations have been resolved.Lord Henry and
I plan to marry in London.It would mean so much if
you and our can put aside our differences and go back
to the way our friendship was before.Of course I’ve
asked Reinette to become my bridesmaid.But I need
you too,you and Daniel are so important to me.
I know I’ve said many unforgiveable things,I refuse
to give up on us.
Gisele x

A few days later,I received a letter that was an answer to all of my prayers.

Well it is a shock to hear from you,after all of this time.
I am aware of you’re stay in London.I had heard through
endless whispers and I refused to believe it.
I am so pleased that you and Mama had made your
peace,despite your stormy relationship.You and
Antoinette need one another.Life’s too short my
Gisele,I am overwhelmed by your kind gesture
of offering your hand of friendship.I was torn in
whether to make the first move.
I feel that where almost as stubborn as one another.
After all we have been through,I can not for certain
give you a simple yes.
I love you so,but we have said so many hurtful things
to one another.Can we put it behind us? Yes we’ve
lost Carl and since then we have slowly drifted apart.
I think I need some time to make this decision.
Do not judge me.

I folded the letter,and sunk on to the ground.
‘Gisele whatever is it?’
‘Ben,Sophia has given up on us.She’s abandoned me.What am I to do?’
‘Perhaps it’s the shock Gisele,give her time…she loves you.Do not rush her,she will see your way in the end.’
‘I hope you’re right?’
‘Believe me,she’d be a fool to turn down the opportunity of making my beautiful Gis proud.If she doesn’t then you are not abandoned.You have me,and the girls you will no longer be alone.When we are married,it will be tough we all have our faults and I am fully aware of your insecurities and there may be times when I can not trust you,because of your history.But please do not detest me.I will never turn my back on you,or recoil in disgust over your feelings.Once that ring is placed upon your finger,then that will seal our love for keeps.Be our future in London or Italy.I can not wait for the day to call you Lady Gisele Henry.’
He gently nuzzled my neck.
‘Now get thee to bed and rest my Lady.’

Lord Henry was right Sophia did see it my way.She had returned to Mama’s estate where we wined and dined and set our feelings aside.
‘Am I dreaming?’ I gushed.
‘No it’s your Sophia.’ she smiled.
I warmly embraced my beautiful friend.
‘No Daniel?’
‘Nicole has pneumonia.’
‘You should have written?’
‘No matter,Daniel has everything under control.All she needs is bed rest and she’s under Doctor Bryanys orders.There’s nothing more I can do.’
‘Your daughter needs you? I would understand?’
‘I couldn’t possibly keep my closest friend hanging onto my word without a reply.’
‘I see.’
‘I thought that I should like to tell you in person,Gisele is this what you truly want? Pardon me but haven’t we been here before?’
‘I understand you have my best wishes at heart.But I couldn’t be more happier.’
‘Then how could I possibly refuse.Lady Rickman.I shall be honoured in becoming your brides maid.’
‘Sophia,you have no idea how much this means to me? I’ve been dreaming of this day,you and I sitting down to afternoon tea for ever so long.’
‘What does Lord Rickman think of this?’
‘He’s handling it in his own unique way.’
‘Don’t you find it odd that he still lives here?’
‘I’ve grown accustomed to it now?’
‘But what of Serenity and New Dawn? Such a waste?’
‘I feel it’s not my place to ask.’
‘Oh Gisele what am I going to do with you?’

I was afraid to admit it back then,but Lord Henry was right.Again true to his word we where back in circulation.For a few months later,Mama was hosting a welcome home ball to be held in honour for her dutiful daughter.Which soon turned out to be an engagement ball.After my shocking announcement.
‘It’s a letter from Lord Rickman’s solicitor.I can not believe this my seperation has finally been resolved.’
‘Is this true child?’
‘See for yourself Mama.It’s all their in black and white.’
I passed my parchement to Mama.
‘My my,it is true?’
‘That explains Oliver and Louisa’s absence at the breakfast table.How will you cope without your shadow clinging to your side?’
‘Holly,now is not the time!’
Lord Henry took hold of my hand. ‘Is something bothering you my love?’
‘I don’t know whether I aught to laugh or cry?’ I sighed.
‘Isn’t this what you’re always dreamt of?’
‘Yes Ben,we’ve spoke of it so many times.But I never have dreamt…I feel sick to the pit of my stomach.It all seems so final?’
‘You need to stop wallowing in self pity and blame.Your marriage of yours was dead from the moment you said ‘I do.”
‘Thank you ever so much for your vote in confidence Mama.’
‘It’s true,you’ve grieved for your marriage.It’s time Lord Henry made an honest woman out of you.No time but the present.You’ve played you’re part and went on bended knee.Tonight won’t be your welcome home ball.When it shall be the right opportunity to celebrate yours and Lord Henry’s engagement.’
At that point Louisa and Oliver walked in.
‘Mama isn’t that improper I mean?’
I stood up out of politeness and addressed Lord Rickman.I curtsied ‘Lord Rickman.’
‘Do not stop on my account.’
‘And do not feel you need to curtsy my brother out of pity Gisele.I know what you’re about to say.Benjamin and I are still married.But Indeed it is right rather improper.The inks barely run down and you’re already announcing your engagement to the world.Sorry I’m late my Lady,Oliver and I took a long walk in the grounds.We lost track of time.’
Louisa sat down at the table.
‘Oliver and I’d known you were standing there? I would have put a stop to Mama’s nonsense?’
‘Lady Delessop,may I be the first to offer my congratulations.I hope that you and Lord Henry will have a long and prosperous life together.Is there still tea on offer Lady Antoinette?’
‘I shall get one of the maids to fetch a fresh pot at once.’
‘Do not put yourself out on my account?’
Louisa struck a chord with Evangaline.As she quietly wept,she placed her hand into hers.
‘Whatevers the matter?’
‘I fear ever since my brother and sister are no longer married.We shall be packed off to live a new life in New Dawn Estate.I can not bare to see the look of pity upon the maids faces.Poor little rich girl,and this could effect us that you and I could no longer be friends?’
I turned to Sophia ‘Louisa is quite a fine actress don’t you think?’
‘Her tears we’re not genuine?’
‘Forgive me if I may appear harsh? But do not allow yourself to be taken in by Lady Henry.Her crocodile tears will not work.She feels if she portrays herself as the wronged wife we would react…Lord Henry will take her back once more then all will be right in her own little fairytale marriage.’
‘I fear Lady Henry is ill? She’s looking awfully pale don’t you think?’
‘This Lady certainly isn’t ill,she’s deluded Sophia.’
‘Since when did your heart become so hollow and motionless? What happend to Gisele? Carl’s Gisele? One who was fair and true,her heart was once full of compassion? She would never say a bad word against anyone? Even Lady Isabelle,it just wasn’t in her nature?’
‘There was a time when I thought exactly the same concept Sophia.The whole prospect of speaking ill towards another human being,would not only send a pit to my stomach..But would also bring shame to my family. ‘Treat others as you expect yourself Gisele.Respect Gisele it gets you where you aught to go to climb the cruel ladder and society.Goodness got me no where Sophia.I have to be cold and ruthless and have a hard look in life in order to be taken serious.Italy surely opened my eyes,through all of the colours,sheer beauty and glamour of it all.You know what they say of me? Little whispers,oh poor innocent Gisele.So devastingly sweet and naive even in her tender years.Will she ever learn? No fight within her tiny little finger.Only has her bewitching looks,no intellect what so ever.Louisa needs to wake up Sophia,she imagine her life living inside chapters of a book.Dreaming of seasons,the beautiful spring time admiring flowers,lying in the fresh green smelling meadows.With her love,trying to recapture her youth.Summer fetes of strawberries,Benjamin serenading her at the annual Delessop recital.Autumn leaves,the beautiful crisp snow,snow flakes falling upon her nose.Beside a log fire,huddling together for warmth.Seasons change and fade,lovers grow apart.’


Chapter 8

Lord Rickman cleared his throat,I quickly composed myself as he began to address me.
‘Lady Gisele?’
‘Lady Antoinette will be expecting my prescence for luncheon.I can not possibly be late…’
‘Oh stop your bumbling around Oliver,you no longer have to impress my Mama.’
‘Gisele,despite you and I going our different ways,Lady Antoinette has been awfully good to me.She didn’t have to,she is such a dear.Picked me up when I was falling to pieces,it’s my simple way of repaying her kindness,I simply refuse to get into her bad books.’
‘Quite right too.’ I smiled. ‘Ever the gentleman.even in these dark times.’
‘Do you recall the time of our engagement dinner?’

Lady Antoinette was making such a fuss,she had beckoned all of the maid servants and footmen of the house.They were quietly gathering in the dining room.Marching up and down as though she were a Colonel dictating orders to her regiment,treating my dinner as though it were a royal engagement.I love,admire and respect Mama but there are times were their actions can be almost suffocating.I couldn’t get a word in edgeways.Lord Olvier was in the shadows.
‘This needs to be perfect.’
‘Not now child.’
‘The staff curtsied and bowed in the appropriate places. ‘Yes Lady Antoinette.’
She circled around the dining room table,picking up the various knives and forks.
‘Is this where a steak knife belongs Emma? Hmm?’
‘No my Lady.’
‘Carelessness will not do Emma,and these two finger marks?’
‘Mama is this Spanish inquisition really necessary?’
‘All cutlery will be polished precisely to my highest standards.I want those glasses gleaming.I wish to see my reflection in them once you have finished.Whatever is it Gisele?’
‘Mama,Lord Rickman isn’t royalty you know.Next you’ll be instructing the napkins to be made into swans.’
‘Why didn’t I consider that? My Gisele what a splendid idea.What would you like them in the pink or the gold?’
‘You are not listening to a single word I’m saying? I am merely being polite by saying that Oliver and I are perfectly happy with keeping things to a small scale.We do not need any of this unnecessary fuss.’
‘We shall have champagne,and you shall play the piano.It will be perfect trust me child.’
‘That is what I am afraid of,as for the engagement gala…things are moving too fast.’
I looked over in Lord Rickman’s direction.
‘Oliver Rickman and I would like to get to know one another first? Don’t we Olly?’
‘I’m staying out of this.’
‘Gisele.I do not want Lord Rickman think that we have fallen into new money.Us Delessops are proud.’

And with that she disappeared,I walked over to Lord Rickman’s side.
‘How could you?’ I lowered my tone,I refuse to make a scene in front of staff.
‘And spoil all of the fun?’

I looked at Lord Rickman.
‘I thought that you were backing out on me?’
‘I could have saved us.That day I was ever so nervous Mama was determined in making an good impression on you.’
‘And that she did?’
‘You didn’t defend me?’
‘I thought it wasn’t my place to come between a mother and daughter conflict?’
‘I was scared you might change your mind? And call the engagement off there and then?’
‘I would never do that.’
‘You and I we could have prevented all of this heartache and pain…I did love you know?’
‘I know.’
I composed myself. ‘Mama she had such a unique and some may call it an obsession of taking over.Heaven help Evangaline and Holly if they ever marry? Forever meddling in my life.Feeling that you would think that the Delessop’s were inferior to the Rickman dynasty? Masquarading as rich people,and that were really peasant’s.Poor Papa,what he had to put up with in his life time?’
‘He did dote on her.I could tell the way he looked at her…God rest Lord William’s soul.
‘You did?’
‘We once had that special bond?’
‘Despite what you may think Gisele,none of that ever mattered to me? Even if you were of new money.I wouldn’t give a jot.I couldn’t help falling in love with you there and then.’
‘I shouldn’t be here.Benjamin?’
‘Never mind Lord Henry.The truth is I loved you Gisele,and that’s all that mattered.
‘Please I do not deserve your kindness.’
‘The smile on your face was enough,knowing you needed me.The first time we lay together,feeling your heart beating ever so heavily against mine.Your face lit up the night sky.But you knowing you really hurt me…Knowing what I know now.I should have treasured every single breathing moment and not priortised my love of the business.Over the love of my wife.My beautiful complicated,kind and sweet natured angel.And now.’
‘What became of us Oliver? You were always forgiving,to catch me whenever I fell from grace?’
‘Now’s not the time of regrets.You have Lord Henry for all of that now.To kiss your tear stained cheeks.Don’t cry over me Gisele.’
He kissed my cheek.
‘Be happy Gisele.’ With that he disappeared.

Papa once taught me as a little girl when I had grazed my knee.He gently placed me upon his knee.I must have been a sweet and tender six year old girl.All blonde curls and piercing blue eyes. He would look at me,looking ever so wise and say ‘Listen petit Gisele,you are young and so full of life.You will endure many moments of joy and heartache.But what doesn’t kill you my child makes you strong,like an ox so to speak.You will grow into a vibrant beautiful woman and all of this .All you need to do is smile and all of the pain will be a distant memory,it’ll fade away in a heart beat.Trust me.’
Those words shall forever remain with me until my dying day.I feel I aught to brush myself off and start again.Feel happy that Lord Rickman has finally agreed to setting me free.But I can’t help feeling crushed,I should be making plans for the future.Finally getting my true heart’s desire.Marrying Lord Henry is all I’ve ever wanted and I’ve caused a lot of pain in reaching that stage in my life.But I can’t help but quietly grieve for the love I’ve lost.Wherever I shall go,a piece of his heart shall always remain with me.I owe so much to him,deep down I can’t help feeling he has kissed his children goodbye for the final time.

Lady Antoinette was sat at the head of the table.She casually looked over at the old grandfather clock.
‘Oliver is late.’She tutted to herself.
‘So unlike him?’ sighed Louisa.
‘You have a nerve sitting as though butter wouldn’t melt…You’re certainly no Lady of the manor? Lord Henry saw through your little facade.You’re nothing but a she devil in disguise.’ scowled Holly.’Now run along back under the rock you scuttled from.’
‘Pardon me?’
‘Mama was forgiving until you came along? It should be Gisele sat in your place. ‘muttered Holly under her breathe.
‘Your sister the ever so sweet Gisele…she only has herself to blame.Destroying my own chance of happiness.Gisele stole the love of my life and the father of my unborn child away.’
‘Don’t tell me he left you with child?’
‘Don’t be so absurd we spoke of the prospect of children in the future…What goes around comes around so to speak?’ Smiles Louisa,admiring her nails.
‘I shall like to go for a walk after luncheon.Would you care to join me Evangaline?’
‘I shall be honoured Lady Henry.’ smiled Evangaline.
Holly kicked Evangaline under the table.
‘Ow that hurt.’
‘It was meant to Evangaline.How could you?’ whispered Holly.
‘I was merely being polite.’
‘You are too nice for your own good Evangaline Delessop,no wonder Lord Arthur took advantage of you.He dropped you as soon as he had his way? I wish Louisa would just drop down dead.’
‘Holly that’s an awful thing to say.’ snapped Marianna.
‘Is Lady Henry feeling better today after her little outburst?’
‘Feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed so to speak.I mean much better thanks.’
‘I was about to introduce you as one of my delightful daughters.The daughter I’ve never had.
‘I’m sorry Letitia,but you’ve got to admit it I’ve never had an easy time with you girls.’
‘How dare she? She palmed us off to nanny’s!’
‘Hold your tongue Holly.’ said Letitia.
‘I painted a picture of you Louisa,being ever so elegant and graceful.You’re etitquette used to be so prim and proper,society admired you and pitied you for falling in love with the wrong gentleman and for my daughter’s ill treatment towards you.’
‘Forgive me Antoinette,I behaved out of character.If I could turn back time,believe you I would.’
Lord Rickman slowly walked into the main dining hall,all attention suddenly diverted to him.
‘Lord Rickman?’
Lord Rickman bowed. ‘Please don’t stand on my account.Forgive me for my lateness.’
‘It is so unlike you Lord Rickman?’
‘I have my reasons your ladyship.I stumbled across something that I simply couldn’t avoid.’
‘Well you’re here now that’s all that matters?’
‘Oliver? Whatever is the matter?’ whispered Louisa.
‘I shall explain all later sister of mine.’
‘Is everything all right my dear? You look awfully pale.As though you’ve seen a ghost?’

I stood there frozen to the spot,I was simply lost for words.I had kissed my husband goodbye.I felt a gentle kiss bestowed upon my neck.No,don’t tell me Lord Rickman has finally rediscovered his hidden unbridled passion for me.Like that day in Serenity Estate,well I’m sorry Oliver but it’s little too late.Memories of where we couldn’t get enough of one another.I was so young,headstrong full of nonsense and empty impossible dreams.I had to speak up find my inner courage.Reach out for all of woman kind and say no.That is one thing I regret not standing up to Duke Matthew, on that fateful Christmas night.When he raped me,even now I can’t discuss it with Benjamin.I couldn’t put up a resistance barrier between us.I felt ever so helpless,begging for mercy in the snow.I refused to be the victim anymore,Iwas just about to turn around and scream no.When I discovered who my mysterious admirer was? I breathed a quiet sigh of relief.For it was only Lord Henry,seeing his face once more caught my breath.He looked ever so rugged and handsome in the dim light,and may I say quite the doting father with my beautiful angels.
‘What kept you so long?’
‘I’m sorry.’
‘It’s ever so freezing up inside that wretched west wing.’
‘Marianna and I always classed it as an icy fortress home of the white witch.Sorry.’
‘The truth is I missed you,I was just about to send out a search party to look for you?’
‘I was going to find you,I simply lost track of time.’
‘Was Lady Antoinette beastly towards you?’
‘It’s not Mama who has upset,oh it;s nothing Ben.’
‘Tell me who did this to you?’
‘Must you forever be protective over me?’
‘I have my reasons.’
‘I know you mean well but really Ben,if you think that you’re going to wrap me up in cotton wool for the rest of my days? Then you’re gravely mistaken.The truth is I came into the drawing room,because I was scared beyond words…I didn’t want to appear a coward,I mean how absurd scared of my own Mother.Yes I should have been honest with you but I can not hide behind your shadow…I needed some dutch courage,so I was about to seek solace in a glass of my Papa’s secret casket of whiskey.Also to make myself look respectable.I refuse to let Lady Henry to look down at me as though I was some common street urchin.I came in here,only to stumble across Lord Rickman.’
‘Did he harm you any any way Gisele?’
‘Oh please Ben,you know Oliver he would never lay a finger upon me.’
‘Not even in a fit of fury?’
‘No never,he handed me this parchment.The contents is too much to bare.’
‘What does he speak of?’
‘I know that it should remain private between Oliver and I.But we’re engaged and I shouldn’t conceal any secrets from you,I know you have hidden depths and yet to explore them…The letter,it explains his reasons behind it all.All of the women,what drove him to drink.How he despises himself for it.Twas I,his sweet and tragic little wifey Juliet.’
‘Surely not?’
‘Believe what you want to believe,but I drove him to the brink of it.He was so full of regret over the way he had handled his son’s death.We still don’t know the full extent or cause of his death.Dr Bryany,the family physician said it’s common in young infancy.Oliver felt cheated,and spoke venomous words towards me.His heir and one true child worthy of his birth right.Snatched away from him in an instant.He believed I could have prevented it.Society once taught my Oliver keep your enemies close.Never to appear to be weak,stiff upper lip,you know grieve in silence.He was brought up under a cloud of anger and torture.Losing both his parent’s at such a young age.You and I we’re lucky and should be greatful for what we have.’
‘That we may be Gisele,but are you justifying his appalling behaviour towards you?’
‘I’m not saying what he said was right he hurt me more than you’ll ever realise.Today he stood before me,like the tragic Hamlet.Eyes full of fire and fury.Word’s poison,speaking of pure hatred and loss.This is consuming his whole body,I was his wife and I failed to fulfil my duties as a wife.I was so self-absorbed in all of my insecurities and consealing our love affair.That I failed to read the signs that inside my husband was dying too.’
‘Poppy cock! You’re pure as the driven snow?’
‘Oh contrary,there’s nothing pure about me.I’m self-centred,ever choosing the easy way out.Running into your arms time and time again.I could have saved us?’
‘Oh come off it,this isn’t the first time,you’ve strayed from his side? Sir Holmes springs to mind?’
‘Hasn’t it occured to you Lord Henry? That I’ve suffered enough because of that man? I admit that I hadn’t the faintest idea about marriage.I met Lord Rickman and I agreed to a marriage to simply please Mama.I’ve heard so many horror stories of arranged marriages,I didn’t want to be one of those poor ladies I pitied,drinking champagne alone whilst their husband’s waltzed with their mistress’s right under their nose.Lady Antoinette she had a hidden agenda of marrying young,of being blessed with grandchildren.Something Marianna was unable to bare them and Letitia simply had no desire to.I had no idea of what marriage was.I had no idea I would feel as though I was trapped in a prison.At first I had this inkling that it was this unspoilt fairytale.Two strangers falling in love under the moonlight.Cure this restless heart and I had to be ever Olivers Juliet,faithfully bound to him by a precious ring till death.According to my sister’s I was the flighty one out of the six of us.Every evening by candlelight I sought after my sister’s advise,for I could no longer rely on my own suspisions of how to attract a gentleman. ‘Use your eyes to your advantage young Gisele.’ said Marianna. ‘They are a window to a gentleman’s soul..
‘You are beautiful,make every opportunity count.’ stated Letitia.
‘The ball is your stage,you are the star allow the music to take action.Dance with,and kiss as many gentleman you chose.Do not settle or fall for the first frog you kiss.’ said Lucille. ‘And also ensure you play a damn good hand at poker.’ I smiled at this memory,how I miss her naivety.Because of all these statements I was torn,intitally thought in order to be the perfect lady of London society,you had to merely wine and dine people you may or may not like? Whilst holding onto your beloveds hand,gazing into their eyes for moral support.Maybe hold the occasional ball in our beautiful manor house,so all of society can be full of envy and for once of my life to be centre of attention for the right reasons.All wrong I realise that now,I had no ideaa how hard married life would entail.That in order for it to work,it had to be based upon a foundation of trust.No reccollection of what true love was? I only had shakespeare as my reference of text,and my crazy butterfly kind of love.All innocent,and absurd looking back now.Sir Holmes for a time,cured my my boredom,easy on the eye and pleased me in ways my husband couldn’t.As for you Ben,your love took me completely by surprise.All of that unwanted attention you paid,this Lady simply couldn’t refuse.’ I pouted in his direction. ‘You and I we ventured where angels feared to tread.On reflection with Oliver,I had no idea of how I would eventually grow to love,depend,trust another human being.Despite all of this,he looked me in the eye and told me that he still loved me.I admit there was a split second I’d gladly return.’
‘I can’t believe I’m hearing this?’
‘Lord Henry you haven’t allowed me to finish…’
‘Lady Gisele,I do feel I’ve heard quite enough for one day…After walking out on my first wife,my whole family.To embark on a new life in Italy with my mistress to end up returning to London? Are you suggesting that you are going back to him! If you do you will force my hand,god damn it!’
‘No of course not,I love you and if I did return to London with my girls to be with my husband once more.I’d only be lying to myself and it wouldn’t be fair on Oliver nor my daughters.A small part of me,wished that I could take Oliver back into my loving arms,as though he were my lover.Pray that you never existed,to kiss all of his fears away.Be the wife,he’s truly longed for me to be.But I can not go back…not anymore,and as thankfully in the first time in his life he’s finally seeing this too and setting his sweet tragic Juliet free.His words,not mine.’
Lord Henry went to touch my hand.’I’m sorry.’
I pulled away from him. ‘No.’
‘You doubted me…don’t you realise what this means for us? You and I can finally move forward and start making arrangements to be married? That’s if you’re still willing to have me Lord Henry?’
‘Correct answer,you have that look in your eye? I know where this is heading? The look of doubt upon your face says it all?’
‘There’s still the question of Lady Henry?’
‘I’m sure Louisa she’ll find someone perfectly agreeable? She needs to finally realise in her heart of hearts.It’s time to let go? I admit I’m scared and vulnerable to finish what I have started.There’s something I need…But there’s one request I ask of you.You remain in the west wing and I shall call upon you on my return?’
‘But nothing,I wish to visit Papa’s grave alone.’
‘I never for once in my life considered you as a domineering type Lady Delessop?’
I kissed Lord Henry firmly upon the lips.There’s no reasoning with me on this matter.I need my Papa’s blessing,I owe him.’

‘Oliver what’s on your heart?
‘Louisa I wish you wouldn’t fuss over your old brother.’
‘Enough of the old Lord Rickman? I detest what the gentleman you’ve turned into and it’s because of her?’
‘Please Louisa,not now.’
I can see that you’re upset? And why do you still keep your ring?’
‘I have my reasons.’
‘It’s like you’re grieving for your dead wife Oliver.For heaven’s sake grow a back bone and look forward to the future?’
‘Just like you’re holding onto your husband?’
‘I’m trying.’ Louisa vacated the table.
‘Excuse me Lady Antoinette,my brother’s dark mood grows ever so tiresome.Lady Evangaline will you join me for a walk in the grounds?’
‘Yes of course Lady Henry.’

Evangaline and Louisa are alone walking in the grounds.
‘It’s such a beautiful day?’ smiled Louisa.Peace and tranquility were their only friends, trying to spare one another’s feelings.Louisa bravely made the first move in order to break the deadly silence.
‘My it’s such a beautiful day?’ smiled Louisa.
‘Isn’t it just?’ sighed Evangaline.
‘What a perfect opportunity to take in nature’s true beauty…blow all of the cob webs away so to speak.’
‘You’re dress looks simply sublime Evangaline, beautiful spring colours.How it makes me crave for the summer.’
‘Thank you,I have a bonnet to compliment the colours.’
‘Evangaline,let’s stop all of this small talk.Truth be told I’m growing frightfully bored of it.’
‘I’m sorry if you feel this way Lady Henry?’
‘It’s not your company I grow bored of,in fact quite the opposite.I do believe you’re the only one who hasn’t gave me the reason to make me feel unwelcome into your home? No,you’re nothing like you.You’re so beautiful,gentle and full of warmth Evan.But I fear that I put in quite an awkward position with your young sister Holly?’
‘I think you’re eyes are deceiving you?’
‘Please Lady Delessop,do not feel you need to protect me.If that is the case,I would like to offer my sincere apologies.’
‘Really Lady Henry an apology isn’t at all necessary….’
‘Please,allow me to finish.I didn’t intend it to be this way? If I have offended Holly or any of your sisters in any way…I would like to know the truth? All of my married life I have been like I’ve been used,all of my confidence has been removed from my body.Now I’m this empty shell,I feel so battered and bruised.Betrayed by my one true friend.Evangaline,I know I shouldn’t say this as we barely know one another but you are my only confidante.Does she find me superficial? I know that I reguard my looks extremely highly.I try one’s best.I refuse to become Plain jane of london sociey once more.It’s no good to have a reputation,as the one who drove her husband away…Especially the one’s as extremely bewitching and fair as your sister? One can grow to feel paranoid in the world around her?’
‘Holly,despite being the youngest sibling,can not help but feel protective over Gisele.She is quite the feisty one of the Delessop’s…she has fought to have her voice heard.Can not help but feel a tad envious over the way you married the gentleman she stated her intentions towards.’
‘The underline truth is my little Holly,I detect she had a slight crush on him.’
‘I had no idea.’
‘I hate betraying my sister’s name in this way.Speaking ill of her,but she resents any beautiful Lady of society.Who may appear to be a threat to her finding her true love…London is her territory.Mama has tried ever so hard in trying to find her ideal match.But there either ‘too tall,too clean,too rugged,too dull,not enough money’ When she finally finds her perfect match.They always make a bee line,for the opposite direction.Because of all of these reasons she’s against the rest of the world.
Louisa linked arms with Evangaline. ‘When Lord Henry left me,the truth be told I wasn’t well.I kept it to myself until now.I was so lost,my heart crippled,felt nothing but pain and torture.Thanks to you,I feel almost myself again.Last night in the ball room was an exception,despite my disagreement with your sister Lady Rickman.’
‘Gisele never intended to break your heart,she reguarded you as a sister and trusted ally she never meant to jeopardise her position.’
‘Spare me the details,she stabbed me in the back Evangaline! I doubt that I shall ever forgive her any time soon.She twisted all of her words like I didn’t know her anymore.I was so blinded by my feelings for Benjamin.I thought it was love,I didn’t see Gisele twist the knife in my side.I do hope that my feud with your sister,will not affect our friendship.’
‘No not at all.’

Before visiting Papa’s grave,I thought that I was time that I swallowed my pride and paid a visit to my first and only true love Carl’s grave.Despite Lord Henry’s protests of travelling alone.I lied and said I needed Papa,I didn’t tell him of my intentions of longing to be with Carl one final time.I braved the treacherous storm,I slowly walked towards the gravestone and took a deep breath.
‘Hello Carl,it’s your Gis.I’m ever so sorry for staying away for so long.I’ve just been summoning up to courage to see you again.Oh my goodness,I promised that I would no longer shed a tear in front of you.But I miss you,your smile your face the whisper in my ear.The soft touch upon my skin.Living is torture,standing before you I’m no longer beautiful.I feel so cold and fragile.I haven’t the strength left within me to fight.Perhaps if I had accepted your proposal,you would be still alive? It kills me now,that you’re no longer around.Lord Henry and I are planning to marry.I’m so happy,but there are times that the scars within my hearr haven’t yet healed.I wish I could have been the wife you longed for.I would have kept my vows and treasured the ring upon my finger.I’m a tortured soul,suffering in silence.For Benjamin has sacrificed ever so much in life.In order to be by my side.I should have the empowerment to let you go.I have something that I should like to give you.The ring you used to propose to me,when I was fifteen years of age.
‘Carl,I can’t accept this.’
‘Gisele,this ring proves that I will always love you.’
‘I’m merely fifteen just a child.Mama and Papa would never stand for this?’
‘I will wait for you.No matter how long it will take for us to be together.You’re the girl I’m meant to be with.’
He kissed my lips.
‘I think I love you too.’
‘You can say it and mean it Gisele?’
‘All of our secret meetings?’
‘It’s because I want you all to myself.’
I wrapped my arms around him.
‘You’re constantly looking over your shoulder? Are you ashamed of to be associated with me Lady Delessop?’
‘No of course not.’

‘Looking back I wasn’t ashamed,I was worried about Mama and Papa’s reaction.I put my pride before the path of true love.I mean how could I ever be proud of you? Carl you were my one true best friend you never once judged me.I never got the chance to say it to your face,but my darling I would have been honoured for you to become my husband.But this ring I hold in my hand,it’s been ever so precious to me for so long but the truth is….Oh Carl,I can not keep it it’s no use to me now.I shall hold onto the hope and happy and tender moments.But the image of holding you in my arms,your beautiful life fading…Slipping from my fingers,haunts me even now.I need to stop running and not look back.Carl,truth is I wasn’t worthy of your love.I’ve got to go and see my Papa I have put it off long enough.Sleep soundly my precious.I’ll always love you.’

Lord Henry is bracing himself in the West Wing.
‘Mama will be back soon,I promise you.’ he sighed.
‘It’s so cold.’ said Esme.
‘It’s all right.Mama will make it right in the end? Won’t she Papa?’ said Ava.
‘You’ve never called me that before Ava? Do you see me as your father?’
‘You can if you want to,you make Mama smile.Are you still married to Auntie Louisa?’ asked Esme looking at Lord Henry longingly.
‘It’s complicated,but I do love you Mama with all of my heart.’
‘Is she your princess?’ asked Esme.
‘Yes she is my beautiful princess.’
‘And Daddy is the big fire breathing dragon.Mama is sad when she was with him.’ said Ava. ‘Not anymore,you’re her knight in shining armour here to sprinkle you’re fairy dust and make it all better again.’
‘Ava I think I’ve ran out of the old pixie dust,perhaps I could use some of yours?’
Lord Henry warmly embraced Ava and Esme,he tenderly kissed both of their foreheads in turn.

A little while later,I was finally at Papa’s grave.Hair dripping wet and shivering from the cold.I knew I shouldn’t have worn my white lace gloves.I bent down beside the headstone and placed a single red rose alongside.
‘No storm or hail would prevent from seeing you.So sorry,it’s been a while since my last visit.Dear Papa,it’s your petit Gisele.My have I a tale to tell you.I finally summoned up for the courage to visit Carl.I still can’t believe he’s no longer with us.I heard from Marianna how you fight to get Mama to approve of my love for Carl.Oh if only she allowed me to have my wish of marrying.Then I wouldn’t be where I am now.I tried with Lord Rickman,you aught to believe me.I tried to find it once more to love him once more and I failed.I failed my daughters,there has come to point in our marriage where jealously and feeling the urge to breathe drove a wedge between us.My heart has gravitated to another,why is this whenever I see you.I lose the power of speech.Even now why am I ever scared of your diapproval? The man in question,to whom I intend my marriage to be for keeps is Lord Henry.Yes indeed Louisa’s precious little Benny,has declared his love and we plan to marry.I refuse his hand,until I get my Papa’s blessing.You may feel this act of marriage is rash,rushed even? I sometimes question this my self but this love was blossoming at a distance,powerless to stop it.Yes I may have changed in appearance.But I’m still the frightened girl,fighting to gain her Daddy’s approval.I wish you where here to see how happy I am in my new life in Italy.Benjamin is a respectable,sweet and caring gentleman.As for Ava and Esme,despite never been given the opportunity of not meeting you,they’ve heard grande tales and saw many pictures.Oh how they simply adore you,but as the pictures fade.I shall treasure those memories we share.’
I stood up and left the grave yard once more.I shall visit William’s grave another day.There’s been too much heartbreak in one day,he knows I’m still think about him.’

Lord Rickman is alone in the drawing room,an ambience of cigar smoke and smell of brandy circling around the room.
‘Ashamed of our company Lord Rickman?’
‘No,not at all Lady Antoinette.’
‘I was hoping that I would get an opportunity of engaging a conversation alone.As you can see it’s virtually impossible with Evan and Holly ever in my prescence.Is everything ok my Lord.’
‘Yes I am perfectly well my Lady.’
‘Only forgive me I beg to differ,you didn’t seem yourself at luncheon? I know you can not always get a word in edgeways with my girls.But you would tell me if there was something mithering you?’
‘It’s not my place to say Lady Antoinette.My wife…’
‘Gisele is no longer a part of this family and you’re still protecting my harlot of a daughter? Ever the noble man? You do realise my daughter only thinks of herself ever the shallow and centred one there’s no point trying to change her now.
‘Intelligent and beautiful woman maybe? Shallow and self-centred she is not.’
‘You obviously don’t know my daughter well enough?’
‘I can not believe how hateful you are towards your daughter,I would never dream of calling my Esme or Ava a harlot….’
‘You fool,don’t tell me you’re still in love with her?’
‘After our encounter,my opinion has certainly changed,I’m no longer that foolish man and why should I feel ashamed to express my true feelings.Indeed I still love your daughter…’
‘Sorry Antoinette.’
‘Speak now Lord Rickman,or forever face the consequences.’
‘I fear I’ve spoken too much?’
‘Your Gisele,alongside Lord Henry and her daughters have been hiding in the west wing.’
‘Don’t be absurd I watched her vacate the ballroom that like a wounded cat,she wouldn’t have the nerve to defy me.’
‘Sadly it’s true my lady,ever since you’re incident at your birthday.Marianna,took pity upon her sister.She couldn’t bare to see her sister and niece’s thrown out into the cold,so as darkness fell upon the house,she took the servant’s entrance and….this morning I was surprised to find her in the drawing room.She looked as beautiful as the day we met.Gisele was preparing herself to have a confrontation with you,she needed time to prepare her.Asshe was frightened of you.I mean how can a girl become frightened of her own Mama?’
‘She brought this all upon herself Lord Rickman,she treated you appallingly and still you go back for more.Being bought by her stories?’
‘Words were exchanged for quite some time,I fear your daughter and I are alas parting ways.In order for her to marry Lord Henry.’
‘Don’t tell me you’re surrendering?’
‘Who am I to prevent her from getting her heart’s desire?’
‘I underestimated your intentions towards my daughter?’
‘It’s time Antoinette,that I grew to realise your daughter loves another and it’s my duty to set her free.’
‘Duty it’s a gentleman’s duty to love his wife until their dying day.Didn’t your wedding day teach you that? My Lord William will be turning in his grave.’
‘I understand why you must feel that I aught to despise her.After all she put me through hell covorting with other gentlemen while still being bound to me in only but name.I’m certainly no innocent? The women? Countess Aleksandrov,Duchess Olivia,Lady Viola…the sneaking around,different woman in my bed every night.The drinking.’
‘That’s because she drove you to it my Lord….’
‘I should have spat upon her when she begged for a divorce,cast her out back out into the fringes of society where she belongs.Keep her in an unwanted marriage as punishment for breaking my heart and stealing my daughters away.But I’m sorry I’m a weak man Antoinette for deep down I secretly desire her and want my Juliet to love and want me back.The whole prospect of her marrying another and my girls gaining another father is killing me.I can no longer tell her that,as your daughter no longer loves me.I will have to learn to live with that.We’ve grown to mutually respect one another.Doesn’t everybody deserve to have a second chance?’
‘Over my dead body! Lord Rickman you a nothing but a coward.Lord Rickman you are dismissed!’
With that she left the room.

The journey to my Mama’s estate,seemed so endless.Times like these when I wish I had Quinn for company,I miss my girl.I couldn’t wait to see Esme,Ava and Benjamin once more.I can see it now,being back here in London.Lord Henry was truly born to make me happy.I can not wait to give him everything that he has truly desired a child of his own and I will offer him my world.I realise that Louisa will not surrender without a fair fight,but no matter I shall wait an age if that’s how long it will take to be his girl.
I quietly slipped through the archway leading to the estate,hoping to become unnoticed.Only to be confronted by Mama.
‘Alone at last Gisele.’


Chapter 7

Chapter 7
Louisa and I were sat in the library it was right after we had just got engaged.For a moment or two I had escaped the sheer madness of Lady Antoinette.
‘Lady Antoinette has gone into sheer overdrive since my engagement has been announced.She’s developed ideas way above her station.Pressurising into announcing a date.Why can’t I enjoy the moment Louisa?’
‘This is Lady Antoinette’s way of showing how happy and proud she is of her daughter.Do forgive me Gisele,for I can not contain my excitement no longer.I am so happy that you are to marry my dear sweet brother.’
‘I’d hardly refer to him as sweet? Dark and brooding maybe? Once we are married,I do hope he will allow me into his world? His deep thoughts make him a closed book? Of all the women in London? I simply can not contain it all.Imagine Louisa how scared I am,twenty one and about to marry Lord Rickman? He may just be your brother,but to Lady Antoinette he is London’s most eligible bachelor.If I revealed the true Gisele the one who is clumsy and fragile Lord Oliver may no longer love me?’
‘Don’t be silly he adores you.’
‘I have butterflies thinking about it.’
‘Oliver may love you,but do you recrupriate his feelings?
‘You know I do Louisa.’
‘I never say this often,but I have never approved of my brother’s past loves…but you Lady Delessop are so worthy of his love.I do hope I shall follow in your footsteps and marry an incredible gentleman like the fictional heroes you read of in your plays?’
‘Sadly men like that don’t exist Louisa,they’re only the stuff of dreams.Romeo?’
‘No not the troubled Romeo Montague,the gallant young Paris who is fair of love and so misunderstood.’
‘Paris,oh Louisa he’s frightfully dull..I shall die of boredom if I were with a man like he.Don’t you crave for excitement?’
‘Paris may appear to be dull to you Gisele,but he would make me feel safe and loved.Will things change once you’re married?’
‘If you’re suggesting Louisa that once Oliver has placed a ring upon my finger.I will discard you out Louisa? Well you are gravely mistaken? I reguard you as a sister and close confidante.Serenity Estate is much your home as it is ours.’
I was doing my favourite past time sewing.
‘My Mama always said that if you are able to read literature and offer your opinion,play the piano and ride a horse just as good as a gentleman can? Well that’s perfectly acceptable and may be appealing to a potential suitor?’
‘Well if I could ride as good as you Gisele.Then I shall be blissfully happy.’
‘You’re easily pleased Louisa.’
‘May I plait you’re hair?’
‘You may.’I smiled.

The memory vanished,she was so sweet and serene attending to my needs.She once had such beautiful hair,always kept it so well.Now look at it to be cut in such a forbidden bob that Mama would disapprove of.This is Lady Henry’s way of merely rebelling.Now look at her acting the she devil brawling in the ball room.Who is she trying to impress?

Time went on and as the music faded,I feared we had no where to lay our head.Evangaline and Marianna took pity on us and in the dead of the night.Guided only by candle light.Lord Henry,the children and I were lead to the west wing of the house.I see that this part of the house had been greatly neglected,cob webs hung everywhere but who was I to complain? She closed the door behind us.
‘The West Wing?’ I whispered to Lord Henry.
‘I thought the way you spoke of this place,I thought it was forbidden?’
Marianna to face us once more.
‘You may stay here until you make further arrangements.’
‘I don’t know how I shall ever repay you?’ I embraced Marianna,. ‘Thank you Mari.’
‘Don’t say another word Gisele,I’m not doing this for you.It devastated me of the prospect of my two niece’s traipsing the streets at night?’
And with that she left,gently closing the door behind her.
‘Well this is us.’ I sighed.
‘And you thanked her for this?’ asked Lord Henry.
‘Beggers can’t be chosers Ben.’
‘We are not beggars Gis,don’t you understand? We left our perfect world in Italy behind? For what begging for scraps in this god forsaken place!It’s not even fit for the servants to sleep in?’
‘It’s only a few cobwebs Lord Henry.’
I like to see trying to remain positive? What if Mama discovers us in here?’
‘Well that’s the risk I’m prepared to take.Secrets and lies have destroyed this family once too often Gisele.Why don’t you swallow your pride and admit defeat?’
‘Never,I’m not resting until Oliver has what’s coming to him Benjamin.’
‘Revenge has never been a friend of mine Gisele,for it only destroys lives.’
Esme and Ava were running around the room.
‘You can’t catch me Ava!’ squealed Esme.
‘Es you sound like a mouse!’ giggled Ava.
‘Children,do you wish for Gran Mama to find us?’
‘Sorry Mama.’ said Esme.
‘Yes Mama.I don’t want us to sleep with the spiders.’ cried Esme.
‘There’s no spider’s Esme.’ I reassured the children.
‘We can not live like this?’
‘Shh Benjamin,I hear voices.’
He was perfectly within his rights to question this,we have left a perfectly nice house behind for what to live in squalor like a peasant in the west wing? This is no environment to bring my girls up in.I look at them now and I can not believe how much they’ve grown.Ava is almost five years of age and Esme is three.
But I have no choice,I am determined to remain here until I’m reunited once more with my Mama.
Holly and Evangaline were skulking near the door.
‘I can not believe Marianna put Gisele and the children in the west wing.It’s frightfully cold and I shudder at the prospect of the cob webs!’
‘Shh keep your voice down Holly,do you wish for us to get caught.Mari meant well.’said Evangaline.
They tiptoed towards the west wing.
‘Keep the candles still.’whispered Holly.
There was a quiet knock at the door.
‘Keep calm.’ suggested Lord Henry.
‘Who is it?’ I whispered.
‘Its Evangaline and Holly’s with me,please can you open the door?’
I took a deep breath and walked towards the door.
‘You took your time?’ said Holly.
‘Didn’t Mama tell you never to skulk outside bedchambers in the middle of the night?’
‘Gisele’s right,shouldn’t you girl’s be in bed?’
‘Since when did you take on the role of our papa?’ teased Holly.
‘Holly leave poor Benjamin be.Now what brings you here? And this is me you’re talking to?’
‘Holly and I we felt terrible seeing the way Louisa acted towards you.’
‘Thank you for your kindness Evan,although I do deserve the treatment after all I stole what was hers away and claimed him as my own.’
‘As for staying here,it breaks my heart as the prospect of you in the cold and cobwebs everywhere!’ sobbed Holly.
‘I deserved to punished not pitied.How is Oliver?’
‘I’m sorry?’
‘I may put up my defensives and act the ice maiden,but he is the father of my children.I shall never stop caring for him.’
‘It’s not my place to say.’
‘I’m his wife,maybe in name only but I’m within my rights to know if Lord Rickman is struggling.Be brutally honest if you must?’
‘He’s changed Gisele.’
‘How so?’
‘I don’t know if I should tell you?’
‘Come on Evan.I may have left Lord Rickmam but I have a right to know.’
‘Recently Lord Rickman has been behaving completely out of character,drinking heavily
bringing home,a different woman every night to his bed , yes Gisele the maid servants do talk.There perfectly right they say walls are pretty thin in this place..’
I blushed a little,I shudder to think the secrets the maids have kept beyond Serenity Estate,Lady Rickman has once again taken another lover.
‘I refuse to hear you speak ill of my husband?’ I protested.
I know I shouldn’t let it effect me but Lord Rickman does not deserve to get his good name dragged through the dirt.Despite everything,he respected me.Oliver would never take his holy vows lightly.
‘On Papa and Lucille’s life.I am telling you the truth.’ whispered Evangaline.
‘No,he swore blind at Mama’s birthday gala that there was never another?’
‘He probably said those words to spare your feelings.I do not know what has got into your husband? He made a play for the delighful Lady Rosaline?’
‘He detests Rosaline?’
‘Much to the delight of Lady Isabelle,she thought all of her christmas’s came at once?’ giggled Holly.
‘I do not understand he said so himself that the very prospect of her makes his skin crawl?’
‘That’s not all.The Countess Aleksandrov power of seduction,well let’s just say her little plan worked.Lord Oliver’s downfall worked purely in her favour.’
The words rang around my ears? Countess Aleksandrov? No he wouldn’t would he? If he loved me then he knew he would never embark on a passionate affair with the woman his wife loathed? Or had Oliver’s drinking caused him so vulnerable he played into the Countess’s hand.It’s awfully hot in here,I can not breathe I’m a prisoner in my childhood home.An endless torture,I wish I could open my eyes and to find myself in peaceful Italy once more.I should be happy and making preparations for wedding setting a date,not hankering for a seperation off Lord Rickman.My heart is completely broken,it’s finally happened I am jealous of Lord Rickman’s liasions.Come on snap out of it,you were the root cause of your family splitting up.These experiences are only meant to make me feel stronger,I can not help feeling weak and feeble.
‘I can not believe Oliver lied to me? The hypercrite,laying down the law and acting the martyr when all the while he’s cavorting with all and sundry.’
and to find myself in the beautiful Italy once more.
you leaving him so cruely he completely took it heart.He feels unworthy and undeserving of a woman’s love.This is his way of coping with your hurt,acting cold and callice is his mask of shielding his true pain.’ reassured Evangaline.
‘I had no idea he was feeling this way?’
‘He only held onto Serenity and New Dawn Estate,in the hope you would return? Then days,months went on he slowly started to fall apart.As for Louisa,as soon as you left London she started losing her grip on reality outbursts in public.No that wasn’t the first time.Mama simply allowed Lord Rickman into our home and took Louisa under her wing.They were two lost souls,he lost his respect for life and as for your return looking ever so happy with Lord Henry it merely pushed Louisa over the edge.We must go if Mama caught us she’d….’
‘Thank you for caring girls.’
I embraced them both in turn,I can not believe how much Evangaline has grown I’m so used to giving her the wise,when did she become so wise in her ways? They left the west wing,I looked at Lord Henry once more.
‘I can not believe he has deceived me once more first the horses and Skye and now this.’
‘I’m not following?’
‘I’m simply devastated Benjamin he has sold our precious horses and destroyed Skye!’ I whispered.
‘Is this true?’
‘I looked him in the eye and asked him out right…no I demanded for them back.He told me how he sold the horses as they were a constant reminder and destroyed Skye…the truth was Skye died as her health declined,and now this he said that how could he love another? That he could never get over me…I felt awful for being the cause of his downfall.’
‘Tell me honestly Gisele but how does it effect you?’
‘I’m still married to him Lord Henry.’
‘You’re with me? Are you suggesting that you’re still in love with Lord Rickman?’
‘No of course not,I’m with you.I am just finding it extremely difficult hearing those words.My husband isn’t who I first thought he was.I should feel angry,wish ill of him….that he should be lying in a ditch somewhere suffering.But I can’t help but pity him.’
‘You’re not suggesting of returning to him?’
‘After everything we’ve been through ripping our lives apart.Dividing two families,you barely on speaking terms with your parents? Mama forever wishing I was six feet under.’
I took hold of his hand and kissed it to reassure him.
‘We have a beautiful house awaiting us in Italy,although it is still in it’s early stages.I’m not the most patient lady,for I like everything to be perfect and happen instantly as soon as I snap my fingers.I learnt from the very best Lady Antoinette,but I’m trying.With your help I am able to achieve this.I simply can not get my head around how he lied and deceived me about the women and Countess Aleksandrov? I know Benjamin,I’m one to talk and not entirely innocent for I lied throughout the majority of my four year marriage.I can not believe he can still manage to get into my head,and I’m allowing it to happen….how I almost bought this.’
‘Five minutes,five little minutes Gisele.You’ve been in London and already you’re falling for his sob story?’
‘I didn’t mean to.’
‘Don’t tell me you’re falling for him once again?’
‘No…Despite everything they say deep down I still care for him Ben.I’m sorry that you have to hear this.I was married to him for ever so long.But I love you,and respect your feelings.No one is going to come between us.Not even this cold and good forsaken west wing! With every breath of my body I will fight against my feelings for him.I will go to the ends of the earth in order to get my seperation.Don’t you trust me?’
Lord Henry kissed me. ‘I trust you,it’s just I may have won you but Lord Rickman still manages to get under my skin.’
‘You have me my love,that’s all that matters.’
‘Now sleep my precious.’

The next day,Evangaline and Holly were sat silently at the breakfast table.
‘I’m sorry Marianna,but Gisele has played with fire once too often.She sacrificed her love of her family for that man.’
‘I was merely saying Mama.that it was harsh to give Gisele the cold shoulder…she only thought what was best.I mean it must have taken great courage to return to London and inpolite to turn her away in such a fashion?’
‘Marianna are you under mining my opinion?’
‘Hush child.’ snapped Lady Antoinette.
‘I tried.’ Marianna whispered to Letitia,she reassuringly touched my hand.
‘Letitia,do you have anything to say on this matter?’
‘No Mama.’ she smiled politely.
‘Good,Holly for heaven’s sake eat…I don’t want my daughter being all skin and bone.No potential husband will ever take your hand…’
Evangaline looked at Holly. ‘There’s nothing more we can do.’ sighed Evangaline.
‘I can’t bare the thought of her being alone,no food or water.Perhaps we can negotiate with Tabitha and fetch her some bread and cheese?’
‘She’s not a mouse Holly.’ said Evangaline. ‘Besides she’s not alone,she has Benjamin to snuggle up to even though its on a stone cold floor,can’t believe Mama got rid of all the furniture? Mari tried and look what’s happend? Do you wish to have a scolding off Mama too?’
‘Look at what Gisele did for us in the past,she brought us back to the family.I’m not defeated at the first hurdle,she needs us now more than ever.’

The sudden light,awoke me from me from my sleep.I found myself on the stone cold floor,with Lord Henry laying beside me, I was feeling aching and bruised.What I would give for Lord Henry to give me a nice back rub.But not in front of the children,I winced a little,Benjamin sensed my tension and started to massage my shoulders.
‘Not in front of the children.’ I whispered.
This is how servant’s must feel except they have a bed and surrounded by their home comforts.Lord Henry read my mind.
‘Morning my Lord.’ I smiled sweetly.
‘So this is how lowly maid servant’s must feel sleeping in squalor?’
‘Don’t exaggurate Lord Henry,it isn’t all that bad?’ I laughed.
I looked over towards the scene to where Ava and Esme were playing.My heart broke into a thousand pieces,those girls have had a lot to endure. I’m surprised all of the pain and suffering I’ve brought to them.I haven’t completely broken their spirit thank goodness.Despite everything their still my pretty bright young things dreaming of a better future.
‘Look at me on my horse! Watch me go!’ squealed Ava.
‘So what’s the plan?’ whispered Lord Henry.
I humoured him edger closer my tone reduced to a soft whisper. ‘Well Lord Henry,I shall dose the servants who walk back and forth the hall ways with sleeping pills,then return to the gallows,plan firmly in place.We shall here in wait,I’ll have persuaded Holly and Evangaline that in order to have freedom.They need to kill their dragon of a mother,once they have carried out the deadly deed.The plot gets much darker we shall convince Letitia and Marianna that Mama simply took her own life by lacing her drink with cyanide or rat poison…she simply couldn’t bare the thought of life without her petit Gisele,we shall then claim this estate as our own and sell it to wealthy owners returning to Italy happy and fulfilled.’
‘Are you merely humouring me Lady Rickman,sounds awfully Shakespearean doesn’t it?’
‘I despise Mama,but give me some credit I would never do that to her.The truth is Lord Henry I am frightened at what the future may hold? Is Louisa prepared to give up on the one man that I truly love,there’s one thing I know for sure.’
I stood up and started to dance around the room in a circular motion.I refuse to be a prisoner in my childhood home,I aught to sing and shout and dance around. ‘I long to be amongst the stars once more,do you remember that night?’
‘You know I do,it’s of your own free will that we’re in here Gisele.’
‘Maybe I’m scared to finish what I’ve started…I’m not prepared to throw down the gauntlet and surrender to my Mama.She’s made it perfectly clear I’m no daughter of hers.I shall address her as Lady Antoinette state my true intentions that I shall marry you my Lord and I do not need any of the Delessop fortune to achieve any of this.’

Lord Rickman walked down the main stairs and headed towards the drawing room.He slowly twisted the door knob.There he found Louisa lying down on the chair,nursing her head.He threw the curtains open with one swift movement.
‘Oh my eyes!’ Louisa growled.
‘Don’t be such a drama queen Lou.’
‘And a good day to you?’ sighed Louisa.
‘Aw what a beautiful day Louisa,look at the sky,so perfect.A time for walking in the grounds,basking in the sunlight,being one with nature….you should be out there in the fresh air,making the most of it.Not hiding in here? Lady Antoinette called you in for your breakfast over an hour ago?’
‘I can not bare to be seen in public.’
‘More fool you.’
‘Oh Olly,I can not bare to be seen in public…Lady Antoinette last night she was ever so beastly to me.?’ Louisa burst into tears.
‘The puppy dog eyes don’t work with me,.Lady Antoinette she merely took you under her wing,welcomed you into her home.When you were broken and fragile,and this is how you repay her?’
‘I’m sorry.’
‘It should be Lady Antoinette you should be saving your apologies for,causing such a scene at her birthday ball.Screaming at the top of your lungs like a banshee in polite society? You may shrug you’re shoulders Louisa….’
‘Please stop treating me as though I’m a child!’
‘Well start behaving dear girl and I shall…’
‘I’m not one of your maid servants that will obey at your every commands.Look around you what have you got left? Two empty properties and an empty heart!’
‘You have no ides of the whispers do you? Lady Henry has been driven to sheer madness,no wonder her husband left her.You have simply disgraced yourself.I am so ashamed to reguard you as my sister Lady Henry.’
‘Really Oliver,it should be your wife that you should be angry with? I’m innocent in all of this…I have had my heart broken,and I hate what she’s brought you to? You’re own self-destruction?’
‘I only speak the truth Lord Rickman,more fool you if you don’t believe me.If you excuse me brother dear.I’m retiring to my bed for I’m feeling ever so delicate and I simply can not stomach the conversation.’

A few moments later.
I kissed Lord Henry,I had made my mind up,I’m not prepared to waste my life in the west wing a moment longer.I had prepared myself for a public thrashing from the Dowager and I wasn’t prepared to back down and give in to her demands.
‘I’m so proud of you Lady Rickman.’
‘I’m doing this out of principle Lord Henry.’
‘Are you sure you don’t need me to accompany you for moral support?’
‘Ever so sweet of you my Lord,but I should prefer you to take care of Esme and Ava in case it gets complicated?’
I slowly walked down the familiar staircase,so many ghosts amongst these corridors.I have ventured up and down these stairs so many occasions.Whether it was sheer joy or everlasting heartache.Every step holds an individual story.Before I was about to address Mama,I thought that I aught to see if I looked presentable after all I had been in the west wing over night accidentally left my bags in the carriage.I slipped into the drawing room,I was wearing my olive day dress,my hair worn in a lose ponytail.I recall the view of the grounds look breathtaking in this room,I should like to walk in the grounds with Lord Benjamin,kiss beneath the archway where I had my secret rendevous with Sir Holmes once upon a time.
and not feel ashamed of our engagement.A part of me wish I had taken Benjamin up on his offer to accompany me.He must feel as though I am ashamed of him but its my unique way of protecting him.Like I should have with Carl,if I hadn’t allowed him into my affairs then he would be married by now to that vile Lady Rose Keating or maybe he might have thrown her off and fallen in love with a beautiful young lady.A woman that truly deserves Carl’s love,maybe he might have found the fairytale ending with Louisa,they would have been perfect for one another.Both have a thing in common unrequited love for the wrong person.
I was just about to gaze into the mirror,when out of the corner of my eye.I noticed Lord Rickman’s figure,he had his back towards me.Oliver was too preoccupied admiring the view,completely obvious to his former wive’s prescence in the room.
‘The grounds always looked beautiful this time of year doesn’t it?’
Oliver slowly turned towards me.
‘Ever so sorry did I startle you?’
‘I didn’t realise I had company?’
‘Hello Oliver.’ I smiled.
‘How long have you been standing there for?’
‘Oh not very long five minutes.’
‘What are you doing here?’
‘I have a right to be here Oliver,this is my childhood home after all,I feel closer to my Papa here.’
‘I don’t understand I thought you left under a dark cloud…after your Mama so cruelly cast you out of the ballroom?’
Oliver gave my downtrodden appearance the once over.Maybe my appearance was much to be desired.I squirmed at the thought of Lord Oliver’s fingers running through my hair,I edged away from him.
‘What are you frightened for?’
‘I perfectly understand why you should act like a petrified dormouse? The ill treatment gentlemen have brought to your door? Jack almost killing you,Duke Matthew raping you the images of his grubby hands all over my wife’s body…it plagues me so.But you’d think I would hurt you? Once upon a time I loved you….God you look freezing take my coat.’
‘I’m ok thank you.But I would rather die than take hand outs from you.’
‘Oh I beg to differ,you’ll soon be back begging for my forgiveness?’
‘In your dreams Oliver.’
‘Where have you been staying,you look ghastly?’
‘Mari took pity on me.’
‘I hardly believe it.’
‘I am telling you the truth Oliver?’
‘So the whiter than white daughter’s defying Lady Antoinette.’
‘Believe what you like,I only speak the truth.’
Lord Rickman raised his eye brows.’
‘There have been times when I have deceived you and I am so ashamed but I have paid the price.I no longer have to prove anything to you? Haven’t I suffered enough? I seek refuge in the west wing.’
‘Are my daughter’s here?’
‘In the west wing they remain with Benjamin…I may be a few things Oliver,heart breaker,whore or courtesan wherever you’re from? But I certainly wouldn’t abandon my daughters.’
‘Never stopped you before?’
‘I’ve changed.’
‘You look different my love,the colour drained from your porcelain cheeks? All skin and bone…Where has my wife gone?’
‘I’m not your wife Oliver.’
He attempted to touch my face.
‘You are still rightfully mine Gisele,don’t you ever forget that?’
‘How can I forget with you constantly breathing down my neck?’
‘I never summoned you in…you came of your own accord? Tell me truthfully Gisele,Why are you here? Did you return to London to seek for my forgiveness or merely to rub my nose in your new found happiness?’
‘I have my reasons,but none of them concern you.’
‘Lord Rickman I am not in the mood for your silly little mind games?’
‘Oh how you break my heart.’
‘You’ll survive,you men always end up coming up smelling of roses…I had an interesting conversation with my dearest Mari.My she painted quite an tragic picture? And to think I almost pitied you? Having to seek solitude in my Mama’s home? And the many women…I never once had my husband down as a filander?’
‘I think it’s my wife with the wandering eye?’
‘You never know what you’re missing until it’s gone…I was ashamed to say it then after our son’s death.’
‘You still think you can tug at my heart strings by using my son’s death? You can still say his name you know?’
‘After William Tristan’s tragic demise I realise now that I aught to have given you the love and affection that that you so craved for.Held you and all the words you longed to hear.That you weren’t to blame,my coldness was a shield to hide my true emotions.’
‘You could have have told me?’
‘I was afraid to cry.’
‘I’m your wife Oliver,I wouldn’t have minded.’
‘You might have thought of me as a coward?’
‘Never.I wouldn’t have judged you?’
‘I was so beastly to you sweet pea…I choked back the tears used the stiff upper lip as I thought it was for the best.’
Why didn’t he say any of this before? But it’s to late,empty words.Finally unearthing the truth.How my husband truly felt over the loss of our son.This revelation has surely opened my eyes,taught me a valuable lesson.Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.He was afraid to cry,he’s always been protective of his sister,bringing her up when his beloved parent’s past away.He was forced to mature as a man quickly.

‘When my parent’s died,I realised my childhood had vanished…I was the heir of my father’s estate.I had to behave like a man.I was all Louisa had.’
Oliver and I were in the drawing room.
‘I have my reasons of why I backed out on you when your Papa died.’
‘Oh my darling…I was so beastly to you.
‘You needed me and I let you down,this I deeply regret.Gisele you seem so distant? I feel as though your slipping through my fingers.’
‘You have me my love.’

I shed a tear at the memory.
I would never have felt less of you my love? I should have known by now that feelings run skin deep where Lord Rickman is concerned.At the time I was so blinded by my own grief,losing Carl at the same time.I thought he only spoke out of anger and resentment,leading me to the blame.The truth was he was lost without hope too.Perhaps if he found his inner courage to open up to his wife,and not leave his deprived wife falling apart at the seams.Then maybe he could have saved us.All of these secrets and lies drove me into the arms of Lord Henry.All of those secret rendevous could have avoided.I took a deep breath,this time I could have been different resisted temptation.I looked into Lord Rickman’s eyes.This I promise you,I did love you once upon a time.But your coldness and lack of passion truly lost me.The intimacy and spark for him is no longer there.
‘Say something my Lady,your silence scares me?’
I swallowed my pride,I have to be honest with him.He can not say all of these words and I will forget of my new life in Italy with Lord Henry.
‘You’ve lost me Oliver,the passion’s faded away.’
‘We can get it back?’
‘The love and intimacy,I once shared with you on our first encounter is dead.I was so desperately in love with you,I’m sadly no longer that girl.You can no longer call me your sweet pea.’
‘You can get down upon your knees and plead for mercy.I’m no longer your petit Gisele.’
‘Those women,they were to mask my true emotions…Show that Lord Rickman hasn’t completely lost his touch.The drink,I can justify my reasons.It was a sweet taste at first.Be not afraid I’m not a danger to you or the children.I would never harm a head on your hair.’
‘You keep saying that?’
‘My greatest fear has finally become my reality.Losing my wife,to whom I’d grown to love…I had no many hopes and ambitions for the future.I could have made you happy,if you allowed me to? Facing up to the fact that I wasn’t the one you truly wanted?’
‘What of Countess Aleksandrov? I need to know.’
‘Countess Alexandra Aleksandrov was lust on both parts.She was lonely as of I she was there at the right time.She meant nothing to me….just another notch on my bedpost if you pardon the expression.’
‘Lord Oliver you disgust me! ‘
‘The times I’ve forgiven you…allowed you back into my heart after Jack and Declan?’
It’s bad enough of hearing of the women,I know I deserve a taste of my own medicine…But what I can’t forgive is you deceived me…There’s many ways you could have hurt me but selling the one and only thing I truly loved Quinn? She was my missing piece after Cossack died…how could you? Tell me when you where sealing the deal did my feelings ever cross your mind?’
‘Despite all of that,I’ve missed you,I’ve written you a letter.’
‘I can’t accept this.’
‘Please as a duty of being my wife.I long for you to accept it.’
‘If I must?’
Avoiding his powerful gaze,I reluctantly took the piece of parchment from my husband’s hand.
‘It says everything I needed to sa,Benjamin may not be able to give you what I can.

My hands were trembling,heart beating faster and faster.Oblivious to the content I was about to read.What does this letter hold that he’s ashamed to say to my face? I opened it.

My darling Gisele,
Seeing you at Lady Antoinette ball after all of this time.
I shall put it bluntly to you,that night I experienced a range of
emotions flowing through my body.
Anger,resentment,heartbreak,betrayal.Shall I continue? You ripped
my heart out Gisele.
I keep playing in my head what if? Maybe If I discovered you
together in a state of undress,it could have perhaps soften the blow?
Perhaps found it in my heart to forgiven you?
I am full of regrets,ever calling that fateful night when you best
friend died in your arms? I heard you declared your love is that

‘You know I loved him Oliver.’
‘So what they speak of is true?’
‘I was ready to leave everything in order for him to love…he needed something to hold on to.Of course I was in love with him.’

…Maybe I should have accompanied you to Lady Chadwick’s?
I was so set in my ways,to think of you all black and blue on
that cold floor?
So many things I can not say to your face,I’m afraid of
confrontation.I admit I felt cheated when my whole dreams
were shattered when my only son and heir to my estate died.
I initially thought you abandoned him? If you could have
perhaps contacted Doctor Bryany,maybe he could have
brought him back to life?
But you had to find him,so broken pleading for mercy.
I had no idea,I’m so sorry my love.It was Mari that told me of
I let you down,and your affair to Lord Henry was your final act
of revenge.Repaying the ill treatment and doubt that filled your
head? Broke my heart once more,by disappearing into the night
with my two daughters.
I had my reasons for selling Quinn and Misty don’t you
understand Gis? They were your heartbeat.
I couldnt bare to have them around,I prayed every day that
you would walk back through that door.Admit that you were
wrong and I would take you back again.
How I longed to hold you once more,kiss your sweet
smelling hair.Your fragance still haunts my soul.Seeing what
Lord Henry truly means to you? Realises what I have lost,you
are the only only exceptional woman I’ve ever known and lost.
I’ve fought to keep you as mine.But I know that if I keep you
against your own free will…it’s crushing your beautiful free
Up until now,I swore to myself I wanted to make you suffer.
But I still love you,always will.
But I have learnt I will never be enough for you?
With deepest regret,I shall agree to a seperation Lady Rickman.
Yours Oliver.

I closed the letter.

‘Thank you.’
‘It’s about time,I set this little song bird free.’
I embraced him one more time.
‘Despite what they say,you’re nothing like the others? You have a good heart.Full of truth and virtue.’
‘Be happy Lady Delessop.’
‘And you my Lord.’