MİSS KATHERİNE BLACKMORE was in possession of a great many secrets. After all, that was very much expected in her work as a matchmaker. She became friends with her clients, even confidantes. She had to establish a certain level of trust with them so she could help them secure a match. And not just any match. No. She worked hard to ensure that she found each and every one of her clients a love match, because she refused to let anyone marry for convenience, especially if she had a choice in the matter. “Kate,” her younger sister, Hannah, leaned closer to her on the pew and whispered, “where do you suppose Lucy is?” “I don’t rightly know,” Katherine replied as she looked around the room while attempting to appear unconcerned. Her other sister spoke up as she glanced down at her father’s old gold pocket watch. “The ceremony was supposed to start nearly thirty minutes ago,” Amelia murmured. “This is the first time we have attended a wedding in this parish,” Hannah remarked. “Perhaps this is a regular occurrence.” Katherine turned her attention towards the front of the chapel and saw the blondhaired groom, Lord Hampton, standing next to the short, aging vicar. His brow was furrowed, and he had a worried expression on his face that spoke volumes as he conversed with the vicar in hushed tones. It was evident that this was anything but ordinary.
“Do you suppose they were in a carriage accident?” Hannah asked. “Should we see if they need assistance?” Glancing down at their pristine white gowns, Katherine replied, “I doubt we could render them any assistance in our current attire.” Amelia slipped the pocket watch back into her reticule. “How long are we expected to wait then?” “I have no doubt that Lucy will come,” Katherine responded matter-of-factly. “We just need to give her more time.” “Could we have been wrong about this match, Kate?” Hannah asked, her brows drawn together. Katherine shook her head, causing the dark brown curls that framed her face to sway back and forth. “That is utter rubbish. Lord Hampton and Lucy are a love match. I’m sure of it.
” “If that is the case, then where is she?” Amelia questioned. Katherine attempted to keep her face expressionless. “I don’t know, but I am not ready to give up on Lucy. Are you?” she asked, trying to allay the growing tension. “You always have been the optimist,” Amelia muttered, leaning back against the pew. The door to the chapel opened, and Lucy’s mother, Lady Henry, walked in with a deep frown marring her features. Her eyes scanned the room until they landed on Katherine, and relief flickered in them. Lady Henry quickly closed the distance in a few strides and said in a hushed but urgent voice, “May I speak to you for a moment, Miss Blackmore?” “Of course.” Katherine rose from the pew gracefully, feeling everyone’s eyes upon her. They didn’t speak as she followed Lady Henry out of the small chapel.
But once the doors closed behind them, the bride’s mother spun back around and revealed, “Lucy refuses to exit the coach.” “Does she state a reason?” Lady Henry pressed her thin lips together. “No, but she has determined that she doesn’t want to marry Lord Hampton anymore.” “That is rather disconcerting,” Katherine murmured. “Lord Henry is beside himself,” Lady Henry explained, her voice shrill with agitation. “He has been yelling at Lucy for nearly thirty minutes, but she refuses to leave the coach.” “Perhaps I should speak to her.” Lady Henry let out a deep, relieved sigh. “Would you mind?” “Not at all.” Spinning on her heel, Lady Henry walked the short distance to where a black coach sat alongside the dirt road.
Lord Henry was standing next to the coach looking aggravated. He was speaking through the open window in a low, irritated tone, but Katherine was far enough away that she could only make out snippets of the conversation. As they neared the coach, she heard Lord Henry saying, “Don’t make me count again, Lucy! I will do it.” “Henry,” Lady Henry interjected, “look who I brought to help.” Lord Henry turned his tired eyes towards her. “Oh, thank heavens. I will pay you handsomely if you talk some sense into this insipid girl.” “No payment is necessary, Lord Henry,” Katherine assured him. “It would be my pleasure to speak to Lucy.” “I wish you luck,” Lord Henry muttered as he stepped away from the coach.
Katherine came to stand next to the coach’s window. “Lucy, it’s Katherine,” she said. “May I come in to speak to you?” A pause. “Yes, you may,” Lucy replied, “but don’t expect me to change my mind.” Katherine placed her gloved hand on the handle, opened the door and stepped inside. As she went to sit across from Lucy, she remarked in a cordial voice, “It is a fine day we are having, is it not?” Lucy stared at her hands which she was wringing together in her lap. “It is a fine day. Most fine, indeed,” she acknowledged in a low voice. “A perfect day for a wedding.” Lucy’s hands stilled.
“You should know that I have no intention of marrying James,” she stated in a weak, unconvincing voice. “I have decided that we do not suit after all.” “Then I support your decision.” “You do?” Lucy questioned, her eyes wide. Katherine nodded. “I do,” she replied. “I have only ever just wanted you to be happy.” “Will my father make you return the money he paid you?” Lucy asked in a worried tone. Katherine shook her head. “Your father paid me once you accepted Lord Hampton’s courtship.
The payment was not contingent on you marrying, but on you picking a suitor.” Lowering her gaze to her lap again, Lucy responded, “You must think me foolish for backing out of the wedding.” “I must admit that I am surprised,” Katherine acknowledged. “I thought you and Lord Hampton suited admirably.” “We do,” Lucy agreed. “Then may I ask what the problem is?” Lucy’s eyes darted towards the open window as she lowered her voice. “I’m scared.” “Ah,” Katherine replied, nodding sagely. “That is a perfectly normal reaction to marrying.” “Is it?” Lucy asked.
“My hands are sweaty, and my heart is beating really fast. At times, I feel like I can’t catch my breath.” Katherine gave her a reassuring smile. “That is all completely normal,” she shared. “But, if I may, can I ask you a few questions?” Lucy nodded her permission. “I want you to imagine that you were at a ball and the waltz was just announced,” Katherine said. “If you could dance with anyone in the room, who would be your dance partner?” A smile came to Lucy’s lips. “James.” “And when you hear the freshest piece of gossip,” she began,” who do you want to tell?” Lucy’s shoulders slumped slightly. “James.
” “Lastly, and most importantly, do you love Lord Hampton?” With tears in her eyes, Lucy bobbed her head. “I do, with all my heart.” Katherine leaned forward. “Love is a scary thing,” she said, “but once you find it, you can’t deny the power it holds over you.” Tears rolled down Lucy’s cheeks. “But what if James tires of me?” “And what if you two are deliriously happy for the remainder of your days?” Katherine countered. “You must trust Lord Hampton’s intentions.” “Why do I have to give up everything to marry him?” “You must look at it differently, Lucy,” Katherine answered. “He is offering you the one thing that no one else can.” “Which is?” “His heart.
” Lucy wiped the tears from her cheeks as she remained silent for a long moment. When she did finally speak, she asked hesitantly, “Do you suppose he will be cross with me for delaying the wedding?” “No,” Katherine replied with a shake of her head, “because you are worth the wait.” Lucy’s expression turned determined. “I think I would like to marry James now.” “Are you sure?” Lord Henry’s stern voice came from outside of the coach. “Don’t try to talk her out of it, Miss Blackmore.” Katherine laughed. “It would appear that your father is rather eager for you to marry today.” “Yes, he is,” Lucy replied. Placing her hand on the handle, Katherine asked, “Shall we?” “You go on ahead,” Lucy encouraged, “allow me to freshen up for a minute.
I don’t want James to see me like this.” Katherine perused Lucy’s silver gown. “You look lovely.” “Thank you,” Lucy said. “My mother had this dress made specifically for the wedding.” “How thoughtful.” “It was.” Katherine exited the coach and closed the door behind her. “Lucy will be along shortly,” she said. “She just wants a moment to herself.
” “Or she is just delaying the inevitable again,” Lord Henry mumbled. “I don’t believe that to be the case,” Katherine rushed to reassure him. “Your daughter loves Lord Hampton, but she was feeling frightened, which is not uncommon amongst brides on their wedding day.” “What could she possibly be frightened about?” Lord Henry huffed. “Lord Hampton is rich and will be able to provide for her quite nicely.” Lady Henry swatted at the sleeve of his black jacket. “That was rather an insensitive thing to say, Henry.” “It is true, isn’t it?” Lord Henry defended. “I just want to ensure that my daughter is well provided for.” “As do I, but I want Lucy to be happy with her choice,” Lady Henry asserted.
The door to the coach opened, and Lucy exited with her head held high. “I am ready to marry James now, assuming he will still have me.” Katherine smiled encouragingly at her friend. “I have no doubt that you two will have a life filled with happiness.” “I hope so,” Lucy responded, her eyes shifting towards the chapel. Unexpectedly, the door to the chapel was flung open, and Lord Hampton ran out. He didn’t stop running until he came to a stop in front of Lucy. “I cannot wait any longer, my love,” Lord Hampton declared, his breathing labored. “Please say that you have not changed your mind about marrying me. I don’t think my heart could stand it.
” “I’m sorry that I took so long…” Lucy started. He cut her off as he cupped her right cheek. “I love you,” he declared. Tears pooled in Lucy’s eyes. “I love you too, James. And I am ready to marry you.” “I am so relieved to hear you say that,” Lord Hampton murmured before he pressed his lips against hers. Lord Henry cleared his throat. “Unhand my daughter,” he ordered. “She is not your wife… yet.
” Stepping back, Lord Hampton reached for Lucy’s hand. “We shall have to rectify that situation immediately.” As Katherine watched Lord Hampton and Lucy walk swiftly towards the chapel, a bright smile came to her face. This is why she loved being a matchmaker. There was no greater feeling than watching two people fall hopelessly in love. “Hallelujah!” Hannah exclaimed as the rhythmic sound of horse hooves on the cobblestone drifted through the open window. “We are almost home.” Amelia glanced up from her needlework only long enough to smile. “I find it fascinating that you hate riding in coaches.” “Only long distances,” Hannah corrected, shifting her gaze away from the window.
“I have no problem riding in them around Town, I just don’t care for travelling very far in them.” Katherine lowered her book to her lap and suggested, “You could always read.” Hannah shook her head. “And risk the chance of getting sick? I think not.” “That only happened one time,” Katherine remarked, smiling. “Besides, you were only a young girl at the time.” Hannah reached up and tucked the tendrils that had escaped her elaborate chignon behind her ears. “It is better to be safe than sorry,” she responded. “Besides, I cannot wait to return home and have a long soak.” “That does sound heavenly,” Amelia murmured, lowering her needlework to her lap.
“But we have work to do,” Katherine reminded them. “Now that Lucy is married, we have the opportunity to take on a new client.” Amelia let out a loud, unladylike groan. “Can’t we just take the afternoon off?” Hannah bobbed her head in agreement. “I must side with Amelia on this one,” she said, “and I rarely do.” “That is true,” Amelia replied. “I can’t remember the last time Hannah and I agreed on something.” “That is because you always come up with the most outlandish ideas,” Hannah countered, giving her a pointed look. Amelia laughed. “I merely suggested that we start taking boxing lessons and you nearly fainted.
” “I did not nearly faint,” Hannah remarked, frowning. “I just don’t think it is an appropriate pastime for women.” “I disagree,” Amelia argued. “It would keep us nimble and healthy. Furthermore, it is all the rage amongst the ton right now.” “If you want to stay healthy, then take a turn around the gardens,” Hannah suggested. “The fresh air will rejuvenate you.” “But that is so boring.” Hannah shifted in her seat to face her sister. “We could always take a stroll through Hyde Park during the fashionable hour.
” “It is so crowded during that time,” Amelia complained. “Perhaps we could go early in the morning before everyone is awake.” “You know I like to sleep in,” Hannah responded. “And I like to wake up early.” Katherine laughed at her sisters’ squabble. “I find it fascinating that two sisters could be so incredibly different,” she commented. “It is true,” Hannah said, smoothing back her blonde hair. “We don’t even look like siblings. I have blonde hair and fair skin, whereas Amelia has olive skin and brown hair.” “You take after Mother, and Amelia takes after Father,” Katherine observed, “and I am a mixture of them.
” “That you are,” Hannah agreed. “You have father’s dark brown hair but mother’s fair skin.” A pensive look came over Amelia’s face as she admitted, “I miss them dreadfully.” “As do I,” Katherine agreed. Hannah lowered her gaze to her lap and remained silent. Whenever they spoke about their parents, Hannah always retreated into her own thoughts, refusing to participate in the conversation. Their coach came to a stop in front of their three-level, whitewashed townhouse on Grosvenor Street. A black iron fence lined their property, and through the gate, three steps led up to the main door. A moment later, the coach door was opened, and a footman extended his gloved hand to assist them. As they approached, their heavy set, good-natured butler opened the main door and stood to the side to allow them entry.
“Good afternoon, ladies,” Cooper greeted, his booming voice echoing throughout the tiled entry hall. “How was the wedding?” Katherine removed her gloves and extended them towards the butler. “It was… eventful.” “Eventful?” Cooper asked, lifting his brow. Hannah interjected, “The bride almost didn’t go through with it.” “But she changed her mind?” the butler questioned. Amelia unpinned her straw hat and placed it on the table. “Yes, but only after Katherine spoke to her.”