the man who took advantage of me?”
Her Majesty nodded, and Lisa struggled to maintain a respectful tone.
“While Lord Marsden sincerely regrets his actions, his intention was to protect me.
He treated me with kindness and respect. I wouldn’t be marrying him otherwise.”
“Wouldn’t you?” The Queen arched a brow. “Beware of indulging in excessive wilfulness,
my dear. It has been many a maiden’s downfall, and I fear you are highly prone. His
Majesty harbours similar concerns.”
“I regret having to disappoint His Majesty, but in my heart, I feel I am married to
Lord Marsden already.”
“The justification of many a mistress,” the Queen said flatly, and Lisa winced. “I
wouldn’t worry, if I were you.” Her Majesty’s expression softened. “I’m sure His Majesty’s
pique will be forgotten . . . eventually. Just don’t forget to call one of your sons
Lisa looked forward to bearing Nathaniel’s children, but her smile faded when she
saw the sadness in the older woman’s eyes. Despite being chosen for the purpose of
providing her husband with an heir, Queen Adelaide had been tragically unable to do
so. Her first babe, a daughter, had arrived prematurely, two more girls died during
their first years of life, and the twin boys she had delivered eight years prior to
her husband’s coronation had been stillborn. At forty, and with the King now sixty-seven,
the likelihood of her bearing him an heir seemed slim.
“I will pray our Heavenly Father blesses Lord Marsden and your union with healthy
The Queen’s tone was without rancour, and Lisa thanked her for her kindness. She almost
blurted they would probably wait a while, as Nathaniel had said he was keen for them
to enjoy some time together before starting a family. But the comment would have been
insensitive and raised questions as to how a deliberate ordering of events was possible.
Gentlemen were not supposed to deny their wives the opportunity to become with child,
and young ladies were most certainly not supposed to be aware of methods that put
the timing of their confinements into their own hands.
“Typically, I would consider it my duty to instruct you in the behaviour expected
of a young bride by her husband on their wedding night.” The Queen raised the topic
Lisa had suspected might be on the agenda, and her shoulders hunched. “But I gather
it’s more than a little late for that particular conversation?”
“I’m afraid so, Your Majesty.”
“In that case, I shall dispense with the advice I usually impart—that if one finds
one’s husband disagreeable or the execution of one’s duty unpleasant, one should lie
back and think of England.” The queen’s tone was exceedingly dry, and Lisa’s gaze
shot to her face. “Considering Lord Marsden’s undeniable appeal, not to mention the
previous nature of your association, I don’t believe focusing on your duty to king
and country will be necessary. In fact, I imagine you shall much prefer to lie back
and think of your husband.”
Lisa’s smile when she left the palace was bittersweet. While she was looking forward
to doing exactly what the great lady had suggested, she would actually prefer taking
a less passive role.
“Any word of Edgeley?”
Nathaniel drew Hugh aside, not wanting his father or Sir George to overhear the conversation.
“Not yet, but he must have seen the papers. He’s made himself scarce, but whether
that’s due to your threats or because he’s avoiding his creditors . . .” Hugh shrugged.
“One thing is certain, his gambling is getting out of hand. Not unlike someone else
The two men exchanged looks.
“Do you think Edgeley’s in contact with Copeland?”
“I doubt it. The consensus is Copeland’s long gone. America, Australia, the West Indies.
He’d be a fool to remain in England.”
Charles E. Gannon, Steve White