Dinah sighed in contentment as
Lord Whitehaven threw the last of his vowels onto the fire, watching it burn up quickly as the flames consumed it. Lord Whitehaven watched the flames for a few moments, clearly thinking about what had occurred, before turning towards her and smiling warmly. She held out one hand to him, which he accepted at once, coming to sit down beside her. Nestling into his shoulder, she closed her eyes and felt a peace coming over her. It was a peace she had never experienced before, for it filled her with both joy and contentment, telling her that now, finally, they were to be freed from all shame, all fear, and all doubt.
“I could not believe it when I saw you step into Elders View,” Lord Whitehaven murmured, his lips close to her forehead. “You were quite determined that I should not be left to deal with my shame alone.”
She lifted her head and looked at him, seeing the way his eyes burned with love for her. “Lord Irving was cruel, Whitehaven. He tried to take your shame and multiply it so that you were forced to deal with something that ought not to have been yours. The punishment he wanted to inflict was for his own gratification so that he might feel powerful and victorious when, in truth, he was nothing but a cheater himself.” Smiling gently, she ran one hand down his cheek. “I will not pretend that I was fearful that I might lose the game and, in turn, lose you, but I had faith that all would turn out aright.”
“And it has,” he told her, the air growing thick with both desire and anticipation. “It has shown me clearly that I do not want to be without you, Dinah. I want you to be with me every moment of every day. I do not want to be parted from you.”
Dinah swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat at his words, feeling her heart quicken. “You know that I feel the very same, Whitehaven.”
He nodded but did not look away. “I have spent too long fighting my feelings,” he continued softly, his hand finding hers. “I should have confronted them long ago. But now, you know of them in all their entirety.”
“Yes,” she whispered, “I do.”
She nodded. “Of course. I do not doubt for a moment that you love me, Whitehaven.”
A smile lifted his lips, his eyes aglow. “As I can see in your every action, your every word, that you love me also,” he finished, reaching up to cup her face. “Say that you will marry me, Dinah. Say that you will be my wife.”
She did not need to answer, for reaching up to kiss him, she told him precisely what she wanted. Whitehaven held her as close as he could, his kisses making her heart burst with love within her chest, her hands going about his neck.
“You have made me the happiest gentleman in all of England this day, Dinah,” he whispered against her mouth. “And you shall go on to make me an ever better gentleman than you find me at present.”
“I have found my path,” Dinah whispered back, her eyes closing again as she rested her forehead lightly against his. “And it has led me to you.”
Smiling gently, Lord Whitehaven lowered his head again to kiss her – only for the sound of a door slamming open to take them both by surprise. Springing apart, Dinah stared up into the astonished face of Lady Whitehaven, who had only just returned from her evening engagement. She did not know what to say, for the lady appeared so astonished, so overcome, that Dinah almost wanted to laugh.
“Mother,” Lord Whitehaven said, a little awkwardly. “I have some news for you.”
Lady Whitehaven said nothing but dragged her eyes away from Dinah to fix them upon her son.
“I am engaged,” he said, gesturing towards Dinah, who smiled at Lady Whitehaven, seeing how her eyes lit up with evident happiness. “And I am certain that you will approve of my choice of bride, Mother, for you know her to be just as wonderful as I.”
Lady Whitehaven clasped her hands together and looked up at the ceiling for a moment, as though taking a second or two to send up a prayer of thankfulness to heaven.
“I do approve,” she said at last, reaching out to grasp Dinah’s hand. “I approve of the match entirely. How truly wonderful a day this is!”
“Indeed,” Dinah replied. Her eyes filled with the sight of the gentleman she loved, as he smiled back down at her with all the hope and the promise of the days that would come.