My Lord Balhannah, Drew… I write to you today from necessity and desperation, and I hope you shall heed my words and help me due to our friendship. There is no doubt in my mind that in the coming days your father shall demand that our marriage takes place forthwith. In fact, as I write this, my father is readying the coaches to travel two days hence. I assume a marriage license has already been procured and contracts signed, unbeknown to us of course…until today. Know that as much as I admire and care for you as a friend, I do not love, nor do I wish to marry you, as I’m sure you do not want to marry me. You see, my heart has long been given elsewhere, and I will not, not even on pain of disinheritance, give up the man I love. When we arrive at Sotherton, please do not be there, unless you wish to break my heart and give yourself to me before God, when you know that I shall never love you how a wife should love a husband. If you can provide me with time, my love has promised to come and collect me at Sotherton, where we shall run away to Scotland and be married. I’m sorry to be so frank with my words, but I’m desperate to get this letter to you and, with it, stress how much I do not want such a union. Please do whatever you can to dissuade this marriage from going ahead. Forever your friend, Myrtle rew placed the missive from Myrtle into the fire in his room and went to the window. He pulled back the heavy brocade velvet curtains to gauge the weather. A perfect spring day, and from his window, he could see the sea and the cove where his small sailing raft was kept. Absently he listened to his valet, Jeffries behind him go about his duties in his room. He could not stay here.
Not with Myrtle so heartsick over their impending marriage. With his decision made, he turned and faced his servant. “I’m going sailing and may even travel down the coast to visit Sir Percival’s at Castle Clair in Kent. I will meet you there. Please pack me a small bag to get me through until we meet again. Nothing too fancy, mind you, we’ll be mostly hunting or taking our leisure about the estate. Maybe only two dinner jackets.” Jeffries stared at him, his eyes wide with this change of plans. Drew raised one brow, waiting for him to comprehend he was serious with his demand. “Of course, my lord.
” Jeffries started for the chest of drawers, pulling out cravats and buckskin breeches before walking into Drew’s dressing room to collect a trunk. “Will His Grace be aware of your travels, my lord, or are we keeping this excursion a secret?” Jeffries asked, from the small room. Drew went to his chest of drawers and pulled out the oldest buckskin breeches he owned. He stripped his perfectly tied cravat from his throat, along with his waistcoat. Rummaging through his cupboard, he couldn’t find his old woolen waistcoat that was warm and what he liked to use for sailing. “I cannot locate my…” Drew smiled when Jeffries passed it to him, a small smile on the man’s face. “Thank you,” he said, slipping it on, along with his coat. Drew walked over to his desk and scribbled a short note to his father. Folding it, he handed it to his manservant. “Have this sent from London when you move through there.
The duke may travel to town and demand answers, he will try to find me, but he will not succeed. Under no circumstances are you to tell him where I’ve gone. I will send a word in a week notifying you, God willing, of my safe arrival.” His father was ruthless when it came to having his way, the marriage to Myrtle no different. He would lose his allowance, Drew had little doubt, but what of it? It would not be forever. Myrtle would run away and marry, and then Drew could return home. Thank heavens Miss Landers was also against the union and only needed time to ensure their marriage would never happen. And time is what he was buying now. Jeffries handed him a small black valise. “Yes, my lord.
” Drew pocketed some blunt and left, leaving via the servant’s stairs and the back door, two places his father’s shadow never darkened. He ran a hand through his short locks, pulling on a cap to disguise himself further. The brisk, salty tang of sea air hit him and invigorated his stride. Drew walked through the abundance of gardens his mother had so painstakingly cared for before passing last year. Memories of running about the garden bombarded his mind. Of hidden vistas and large oaks that any young boy enjoyed frolicking around whenever he could. His mother had designed the garden to incorporate hidden vistas perfect for children. Plants that camouflaged the old Roman ruins on the south side of the park, so it wasn’t until you were almost upon them did the ruins reveal themselves, the long-lost castle of the Sotherton dukes who came before them. Drew had spent hours playing on his own within the walls of this green sanctuary. As much as he disliked having the idea of a wife at this very moment, he couldn’t help but look forward to the day his children would run about the beautiful grounds and enjoy what he always had.
The crashing of the waves echoed through the trees. Stepping free of the manicured grounds, Drew stood at the top of the small cliff and looked down on the beach’s golden sands below. Many years ago, he’d had a small boathouse built to house his sailboat, and as the tide was high, it would be no problem pulling it out and dragging it the short distance to the water. Taking the winding path down to the shore, it didn’t take him long to haul the boat into the shallows and throw his bag under the little compartment that would keep it dry. The sky remained clear, with only the slightest sea breeze. It would help him travel down the coast to where his friend and closest confidant Sir Percival lived. The trip should only take a few days, and he couldn’t get far enough away from this estate. To be forced into a union, not of his choice, or Miss Lander’s, was reprehensible. The year was 1805, for heaven’s sake. His father really ought to get up with the times.
Step into the nineteenth century and embrace the new era. He was a grown gentleman, fully capable of making his own decisions. For his father to demand he marry, simply because he’d stumbled across an heiress, was offensive. Drew pushed off from the shore, releasing the sail. The wind caught the sheet and pulled him out to sea at a clipping pace. He steered south and smiled. His father would forgive him in time, he was sure of it. The duke was never one to hold a grudge for long, and no matter how mad he’d be at finding out Drew left, he would get over it in time.