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To Love A Scoundrel (London Season Matchmaker 5) Lucy Adams 2022/7/22 11:45:20

“I hide a good many things away,” he finished, shrugging. “Even from myself, I think. I like to ignore my idiocy, my mistakes, and my wrongdoings.”

“That is something I believe we all do,” she replied with no hint of malice in her voice. “And it may come as a surprise to you, Whitehaven, but I do, in fact, appreciate your apology. It has been very difficult to endure the loss of my dear mother and father, whilst attempting to appreciate all that has been given to me thereafter.” She swallowed, her eyes glistening with tears as she looked away from him.

“How was it you came to England?” he asked softly, not wanting to push her to answer more than she wished. “Who was left to take care of you?”

There was a short pause, and then Dinah let out a long breath, carried away by the small gust of wind. “My father had a steward within the house,” she replied, sorrowfully. “He was not killed. Nor were any of the other household staff, and together, they came to care for me until it was time for me to leave them.” A sob caught in her throat, but she did not stop, only hesitating for a moment until she could capture her breath again. “My parents were the only ones taken.”

Grayson’s heart began to ache for her, his compassion growing into something so large that it seemed to explode from his chest. Without a moment of hesitation, he linked arms with her, putting his hand on her arm and pressing it gently. This did not seem to surprise Dinah—for instead of gasping and pulling away, she simply looked up at him with a small, grateful smile.

“I do not know how the thieves managed to get into our house,” she continued, her voice hoarse and yet pulsing with a hidden strength. “The servants were all gone out for the evening, for there was to be some sort of soiree of sorts within our small community and my father did not want a single one of our staff to miss it.”

“A kind gentleman,” Grayson commented, thinking that he would never have thought to even consider such a thing.

“The kindest you would ever meet,” Dinah agreed, closing her eyes for a moment as they continued to meander slowly through the gardens. “My mother was thrilled that the staff would be able to attend. We had been for a short time but had then returned home earlier than expected.” Tears began to stream from her eyes. “If we had remained a little longer, then mayhap we would have returned only after the thieves had gone.”

Grayson’s heart ached all the more at the sorrow in her eyes and the pain in her voice. “If this is too difficult, Dinah, then–”

She shook her head. “No. I want you to know this.” Taking in a shaking breath, she half clung to him as she continued, her fingers tight on his arm. “I went to my room to change, only to hear my mother’s scream. I wanted to go to her, wanted to help with whatever was wrong, but I soon heard another voice, another exclamation.”

“Where did you go?” Grayson asked, as quietly as he could. “You were kept safe from them, were you not?”

“I hid under my bed,” Dinah whispered, tears still falling like the rain. “They did not enter my bedchamber for some reason, although I could not say why. Perhaps they had already robbed it.” She sucked in another ragged breath, wiping her cheeks with her other hand. “I did not discover my parents, however. It was one of the servants as they returned from the soiree. They made certain I did not see them until they had been laid out, with only their pale faces revealed.” She came to a stop, her breathing coming in short, sharp gasps as she let go of the pain that had been in her heart for so long. “And then I was sent here. My father’s steward arranged it all, and I am grateful to you for being so willing to have me reside in the estate.”

He wanted to remind her that it had not been his choice, given that Lady Whitehaven had overruled each and every objection that had come from anyone’s lips, but instead he stayed silent. Turning towards her and looking down at her tear-streaked face, Grayson closed his eyes and felt his own mortification stab him like a knife. He had never once heard her speak so, had never thought to enquire. Instead, he had simply presumed that she was managing with her grief and had never once even asked about the details of her parents death. It was utterly horrific what had occurred, and he could not imagine what terror she must have felt on that dark night.

“I am sorry, Dinah.” His words were broken with emotion as he opened his eyes and looked down at her, seeing her nod gently and yet still her tears fell. She was so willing to accept his apologies without any question, without any difficulties when it came to forgiveness. She was pure of spirit, and he so broken. “I should have considered your pain long before this moment,” he muttered, shaking his head. “You have endured so very much and yet have remained so strong.”

“I have had your family to depend on,” she answered him, although Grayson knew all too well that he was not included in such a statement. “And God has helped me through it.”

“I am here to aid you now,” he told her, not knowing what it was he meant by such a statement and certainly having very little idea as to what he could do in particular but nevertheless wanting her to understand that he was no longer going to be entirely dismissive of her pain. “If there is ever anything I can do to help you, Dinah, then you need only ask.”

She did not say anything but looked up into his eyes, her tears beginning to dry on her cheeks. And then, much to his astonishment, she leaned forward and r

ested her head on his shoulder, his hands dropping from her arm.

Grayson went hot all over, looking down at Dinah’s blonde head as it rested on his shoulder and feeling himself entirely inadequate. He had no other choice but to put his arms about her, holding her close to him and aware of just how quickly his heart began to beat at the sheer joy that came from having her in his arms. He did not deserve this, of course, for he was nothing more than a selfish, arrogant cad who made foolish choices and still continued along his chosen path regardless of what it would bring. The vowels and the threatening letter were on his desk as evidence of that.

Closing his eyes, Grayson sighed heavily, keeping his arms about Dinah and telling himself that, even though he knew there could be nothing between them, even though he would never even consider saddling her with someone such as he, he would merely enjoy this moment for what it was. The sensation of having her in his arms, of knowing that she had willingly gone to him for comfort wrapped itself around his heart, squeezing it gently and pushing away some of his own distress. At least now he knew Dinah better. He understood her pain, could know of her struggles and could attempt, in his own way, to comfort her in them.

That was all he was doing at the present, he told himself. Comforting her. Sharing her grief and allowing her to share it with him. After how he had treated her these last few years, it was the very least he could do.

“I thank you, Grayson.”

Dinah’s words were muffled as she remained in his arms, sniffing once or twice as she attempted to get ahold of her emotions.

“You are more than welcome, my dear lady,” he murmured, his gentle words bringing a peace to his own soul as well as to Dinah’s. “Whenever you wish to speak of it, know that I am now, finally, more than willing to listen to you. Even though it is, of course, much too late.”

Her head lifted, and she looked up into his eyes. “It is not too late,” she answered softly. “At least, I do not think so.”

Grayson’s mouth filled with sand as he gazed down into her eyes and thought her one of the most beautiful young ladies he had ever had the chance to meet. Wanting to say something, wanting to say more to her, he struggled to find anything of comprehension to say until, finally, he managed to come up with something.

“Thank you, Dinah,” he muttered, as she rested her head on his shoulder again. “You take after your father, I think, for you have the kindest heart I think I have ever seen. You are a credit to your parents. They would be very proud of you.”

Dinah’s hand pressed lightly against his chest, her body trembling for a moment as she battled more tears. Grayson held her tightly, knowing that he had meant every word. The air grew thick about him, sweat began to run down his back and still, he held her. He would not let her go until she stepped back out of his arms, wanting to reassure her that he would, as he had said, always be there for her to turn to when the pain became too great or her mind became too heavy.

Until she finds a husband, he thought, his eyes closing with the pain that washed over him, making him buckle for a moment. And then you will no longer be required. You will be left behind whilst she turns to her husband instead of to you.

What would he do then?