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Authors: Michelle Madow

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BOOK: Timeless
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CHAPTER 31

 

 

The days leading up to the celebration were rather dull. The family would awaken around eight, and we would read books and write letters until breakfast at ten. I learned that the “morning hours” were defined differently from what I was accustomed to in modern times. In the Regency Era, “morning” was the time until dinner, which was served around five.

Dinner was the longest meal of the day, consisting of two to three courses. It could last for two to three hours. We would always dress for the meal, even though we were only dining with family.

I spent most of my free time reading, sketching, doing needlework, and practicing the pianoforte. The most exciting thing that happened was going into town with my mother to shop for ribbons to update my dresses.

Country living was peaceful, but I felt disconnected from the world. I missed the convenience of my computer and cell phone. It was also hard to relax knowing that on Saturday night I would have to work with Drew and Chelsea to figure out who was after me once and for all.

The repairs on the family coach were finished on Friday, so my parents returned the chaise to the Givens’ and got the coach back in our possession. The Givens’ invited us to dinner, and while my parents went, I refused the invitation, claiming I wasn’t feeling well and wanted to make sure I was in peak condition for the ball tomorrow night. In truth, I was so stressed over what I had to do at the ball that I doubted I would be agreeable company.

Finally, Saturday arrived. It took longer than usual for my maid to get me ready, since I was the guest of honor. I wore my nicest white dress, and Taylor did my hair in a braided, elaborate up-do, adding a headpiece of interspersed pearls.

I wished I could recreate the look once I got home, but I doubted I could do it justice.

“You’re going to have a marvelous time tonight,” Taylor said once she finished getting me ready. “I can’t wait to hear all about it.”

My hands shook, and I wished she was right—that tonight would be the kind of wonderful that happened in fairy tales. My life recently
had
felt like a fairy tale, but at the same time, it also felt like the opposite. How was I supposed to stop someone who wanted me out of the picture? How did I get in so over my head?

“Are you all right, Miss Elizabeth?” Taylor asked.

“I’m fine,” I said, regaining my composure. “I suppose the excitement is getting to me.”

I wanted to confide in her about my secret engagement to Drew and breaking the engagement with James, but I knew better than that. The maids gossiped, especially Taylor, even though she was a sweetheart. Sharing a big secret with her would ensure that everyone in Hampshire County knew the news within a week.

“You’re going to be the most beautiful lady there,” she said. “No one will be able to take their eyes off you all night.”

“Thank you,” I said, although there was only one person there who I hoped to impress, and his name was Andrew Carmichael.

 

* * *

 

My parents complimented me on my choice of dress for the evening (although Taylor was the one who decided it was perfect for the event), and we boarded the coach. It was eerie being inside of there, knowing that if we hadn’t succeeded in going back in time, the coach would be shattered beyond repair, and instead of going to a party tonight, everyone would have been attending my funeral.

I tried to stay positive, though. Being here was proof that I had the power to control my destiny. I could make it so my past self lived out the life she deserved, and then go back home and live the life I deserved, too.

Maybe I would get my fairy tale ending, after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 32

 

 

The ball was a splendid affair. The Williams’ home wasn’t as extravagant as the Givens’, but they had a large ballroom, and they went all out with getting an orchestra and hiring extra staff to make sure the attendees had a drink in their hand whenever they weren’t on the dance floor.

As expected, James and I began the starting dance. It was a lively country dance, as most of them were, and we had fun, in a friends way. That was how my relationship with James felt—like we were friends, and nothing more.

Just as Jeremy was able to get over our relationship quickly, I had a feeling that James would be the same way once I broke the engagement. At least I hoped so, knowing what was about to happen tonight.

The dance ended, and I thanked James, telling him I would be right back. Really, I searched the crowd for Drew and Chelsea. My heart was beating so fast that if I didn’t know any better, I would think everyone in the room could hear it. They would all know I was about to do something crazy that went against the social rules of Regency Era, England.

But while I had a past life here, I was from the twenty-first century. If my past self needed some modernity to make her life the way it should be, then that was exactly what was going to happen.

I was going to get that happily ever after—in both my past life
and
my present.

I found Drew and Chelsea standing by the interior wall of the ballroom, where they had promised they would be waiting.

“Are you ready?” Drew asked, holding his arm out for me to take.

I put my arm through his, trying to stop from shaking. “As I’ll ever be.”

“Relax.” He leaned closer so his lips touched my ear. “I love you, always and forever. This will work, and you’ll be safe once and for all. Then we’ll go back home, and our lives can return to normal.”

“Normal.” I laughed. “I feel like I don’t know what that is anymore.”

“It’ll be the two of us, together,” he said. “Like it was meant to be.”

“I love you,” I said, soft enough so only he could hear. “Always and forever.” I surveyed the crowd once more, and my confidence grew. It was now or never. “Okay. I’m ready.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 33

 

 

The first step of the plan was easily completed—Drew and I danced four dances together, in a row. It was wonderful dancing with him, but by the end of the third dance, when we started the fourth, the whispers began.

People were wondering what we were doing, spending the amount of time together that one should only spend with the person they are engaged to marry. I caught looks of disapproval from the corner of my eye, but I didn’t care. Drew was the one I loved and wanted to be with. Who I
would
be with.

This wasn’t the most proper way to announce it, but it was certainly getting the attention we desired.

By the end of the fourth dance, my mother approached us. She looked regal and stoic, but a storm brewed in her eyes. Clearly she was not about to allow Drew and I to spend a fifth dance together.

I hoped that four dances gave Chelsea enough time to complete her part of the plan.

“What are the two of you doing?” my mother sternly asked Drew and me.

By this point, nearly everyone who had been on the dance floor was staring at us, and the dancing had come to a halt.

“I would like to make an announcement,” Drew said, since he had the attention of nearly everyone attending the party. Those who were not watching before turned to listen. “As many of you are aware, I recently broke my engagement with the Lady Catherine Givens.” The crowd gave a collective gasp, and he continued, “I did not break the engagement because of anything done wrong on her behalf—Lady Catherine is a lovely person—but I could not marry her because I do not love her. I could not marry her because I am in love with Miss Elizabeth Davenport.”

This declaration was met with dropped jaws and complete silence. Now he really had the crowd’s attention.

I met their eyes with confidence, prepared for what Drew was going to say next, but he was interrupted before he had a chance.

“What is the meaning of this?” Mrs. Williams’ asked, stomping onto the dance floor. She held her dress in her hands, her expression twisted into horror. “You know very well that Miss Davenport is promised to my son, Mr. James Williams. This party is to honor their engagement, for Heavens sake!”

James rushed to my side, although the defeated look in his eyes showed me that he knew this battle was lost. But that didn’t stop him from trying.

“Mr. Carmichael, you need to leave this party at once,” James commanded.

“But they have already danced four dances together!” Mrs. Williams cried. “This is disastrous.” Then she turned to me. “Miss Davenport, you do intend to marry my son, correct?”

I wished things could be different and I could say what she wanted to hear to put her at ease, but I had my future happiness to consider.

“I’m sorry, but I cannot,” I said, turning to James. “I hope you understand that I value your friendship greatly, but I do not love you. I’ve loved Mr. Carmichael since the night I met him, and for that reason, I fear I cannot marry you.” I stepped away from James, and closer to Drew. “Please believe me when I tell you that I trust this will make us both happier in the end,” I told James. Hopefully he would forgive me in time. I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t—I hated that it had to come to this, and especially that we had to do this so publicly.

It had to be done, though. We didn’t have endless time on our hands, and a dramatic revealing of my relationship with Drew seemed the best bet to evoke strong emotions from whoever wanted me dead. And it seemed like we had succeeded. Everyone was speechless—clearly this wasn’t the sort of entertainment they saw every day.

James didn’t look too upset, however, and Mrs. Williams ushered him away.

My father pushed to the front of the crowd before this could continue. I hadn’t searched for him until now, because I was terrified of his reaction. I feared he would be livid. But to my surprise, I didn’t find anger on his aging features. Instead, he seemed amused by the situation.

“Mr. Carmichael,” my father said with a hint of a smile. “Before this proceeds any further, I believe there’s something you would like to ask me?”

“Of course.” Drew stood straighter and cleared his throat. Then he looked my father in the eyes and said, “I’ve loved your daughter since the moment I saw her, and the love I feel for her has only grown since. There’s no one else I could foresee spending the rest of my life with, and for that reason, I would like to respectfully ask for your consent in my requesting her hand in marriage.”

“Very well.” My father nodded, and turned to me. “Do you love Mr. Carmichael?”

“Yes.” I didn’t have to think about my answer. “I do. Very much so.”

“Well, I do wish this had been done more discreetly,” my father began. “Although I must say, I haven’t had such an entertaining evening in years. Since it seems obvious that the two of you love each other, I suppose I don’t have much of a choice but to grant my permission.”

“You’re not mad?” I couldn’t believe my luck. Even though this man was Elizabeth Davenport of the past’s father and I didn’t know him as well as my own, I was glad he wasn’t furious at the turn of events of the evening. In fact, he seemed pleased that marrying Drew would make me happy.

“I do wish you had explained your feelings sooner, and more privately,” he said. “Perhaps this could have been resolved in a cleaner manner. But I do believe Mr. Carmichael loves you, and if you promise that this is truly what you want, then I am most definitely happy for you.”

“As I am, as well,” my mother chimed in.

Then Drew did something that was unheard of for this time period—he kissed me in public, for everyone to see. The kiss was short, but it took my breath away just the same.

“We’ve really changed the past, haven’t we?” I asked once the kiss ended.

“We have,” Drew said. “But it’s not over yet.”

“No,” I said, not wanting to put a damper on the moment, but knowing I had to. I lowered my voice before continuing, “Whoever’s after me is probably a hundred times angrier after witnessing what just happened.”

This was where things were going to get tricky. The entire party had been arranged to celebrate my and James’ engagement, and we had to ensure the party continued now that the engagement was cancelled and everyone knew I was engaged to Drew.

It came down to if Chelsea had succeeded with her part of the plan.

“Let’s find Mrs. Williams,” Drew said.

 

* * *

 

Mrs. Williams wasn’t a scary woman by any means, but I was afraid to confront her. After all, I had just humiliated her son in public by announcing that I was in love with someone else during our engagement. She would have every right to hate me and cancel the party on the spot.

Drew must have noticed I was nervous, because he took my hand and squeezed it. “It’s going to be okay,” he said. “Tomorrow we’ll be home, and this will all be in the past.”

“I hope so,” I said.

It wasn’t hard to find Mrs. Williams. She stood near the entrance to the ballroom, frantically fanning herself while talking with the circle of supporters surrounding her. She looked stressed, but I suspected she thrived on this kind of drama.

Drew and I approached, and everyone talking with her quieted.

“Would it be all right for Miss Davenport and I to speak with Mrs. Williams?” Drew asked.

The question was met with nods and mutterings of “of course,” before everyone scurried in different directions. The three of us stepped into the hall for privacy.

“Mrs. Williams,” I said, feeling a rush of guilt just from looking at her. I may not know her personally, but she was close to my past self. “I’m sorry for the turn of events tonight. I wish things could have been different. I understand if you want us to leave, or if you want to end the party entirely.”

“No, no, my dear,” she said, shushing me and shaking her head. “I mean, yes, at first that was what I thought I would have to do. But then I saw James dancing with Miss Kate Duncan, and they were having such a splendid time together that I wouldn’t dream of calling off the party!”

I smiled, because if what she was saying was true, then Chelsea had succeeded. I also wasn’t surprised that Mrs. Williams was pleased—Kate Duncan came from a wealthier, more respected family than my past self did, which was important to people in this time-period.

Actually, I supposed it was important to people in modern times as well, although not nearly as intensely so.

“Please believe me when I say I’m sincerely happy for him,” I said. “I think Miss Duncan will be a wonderful match for him.”

“Me too, me too,” Mrs. Williams said. “And congratulations to the both of you!” She smiled at me, and then turned to Drew. “Please don’t repeat this, but once you get past titles, I can happily vouch for Miss Davenport’s character over Lady Catherine’s any day.”

“I agree with you, and I’ll be certain to not say a word,” Drew said, his eyes twinkling in amusement.

“If you’ll excuse me, I have to check on my guests, but I hope the two of you have a lovely time tonight,” Mrs. Williams said. Then she leaned forward and lowered her voice. “I’m looking forward to the wedding. I’m sure it will be more lavish than anything this town has seen in years!”

With that, she left and met up with the group she had been gossiping with before Drew and I approached her.

Chelsea must have been watching us talking, because it wasn’t long until she joined us in the hall.

“You did it?” I asked.

“Yep,” she said proudly. “It wasn’t hard. I was able to recreate the potion Alistair showed me how to make that we gave to our parents to convince them to let us come to England—the one that opens people’s minds. Once I put some in James’ drink, he was completely open to the idea that Kate was a better match for him than you. He had apparently been interested in her for the past few weeks, just as Jeremy was interested in Keelie, but didn’t say anything until you broke up with him. I found him in the middle of the first dance you and Drew shared, and by the time everything was revealed, he seemed
happy
that the engagement was off so he could pursue Kate!”

“I’m glad that worked out,” I said, although my stomach fluttered at the knowledge of what I had to do next. I could be putting my life on the line—again.

I wasn’t sure I was ready for this.

“Everything will be fine,” Drew said. “Remember that I’ll be right behind you, so if anything dangerous happens I can stop it.”

“I trust you,” I said. “Let’s do this.”

I might have sounded prepared, but I didn’t feel that way at all.

BOOK: Timeless
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