“Perhaps that is a good idea,” she said. “Cat will want her own clothing back when she returns from her honeymoon. But you don’t need to send for a seamstress. I can make my own clothing.”
“When? You are going to be busy with rebuilding the church.” He glanced at the desk. “This is only the beginning of the process. We will need plans and supplies and skilled laborers and someone to oversee those laborers. Each of those steps will require time. A lot of time, and I assume you want to be involved in each step.”
“Yes. I am looking forward to seeing every bit of the progress, and I feel blessed that we have your knowledge to guide us.” Her smile returned, sweeping away the lost expression she had been wearing as she started to rush out of the room. It was as if spring had come to banish the winter cold.
He wanted to bask in that warmth which promised everything was possible. Everything? Even him being able to make a decision? A good decision? As he gazed at her glowing eyes, he wanted to be the man she believed him to be.
That thought startled him. When had Miss Fenwick’s opinion of him become so important? That was easy to answer. From the moment they had stood by the ruins of the church and she had asked him to play an instrumental part in bringing it back. She had so much faith in him that she dared him to have faith in himself. Too bad he was doomed to disappoint her and the rest of the parish.
“Thank you, my lord,” Miss Fenwick said, her soft voice slipping through his dreary thoughts.
“Anticipating both my and your cousin’s needs.” She glanced down at her gown.
“As I said, it was Lady Meriweather’s idea.”
“Which you agreed with, which is why I am thanking you now. I will thank the baroness, as well.”
“When you do, she said she had some fabric that would be available for your use.”
“That is wonderful.” She took a step back. “If Mme. Dupont is coming soon, I should speak to Lady Meriweather straightaway.”
“And pick which fabrics you want for your gowns.”
Her smile widened. “I trust none of them are smuggled silk.”
Edmund laughed at her saucy comment. He really laughed, as he had not in longer than he wished to remember. It was a remarkable release of the tension that he had been amassing since the night his worst decision almost cost him his sanity. He did not dwell on that, instead enjoying his amusement and the scintillating good humor in her eyes. Her agile and unexpected wit kept him off balance, for he realized he had his own assumptions about her.
As she gave him a wave and hurried out of the room, he kept chuckling. He walked over to the desk and picked up the pages Miss Fenwick had brought him. He sat to read them. Soon, he discovered that her wit was not the only aspect of her that would keep him on his toes. Her ideas for rebuilding the church were precise and insightful. She knew exactly what her brother and the parishioners would want.
He lowered the pages to his lap. There clearly was much more to Miss Fenwick than he had guessed. He looked forward to learning more about her.
Vera rushed down the stairs, glad to have escaped yet another session with the chatty Mme. Dupont. Her ears rang with the seamstress’s fractured French. Now, after her third session with Mme. Dupont, she understood Cat’s complaints about the woman, who pretended she was French because she seemed to think that would make her work more desirable. Vera was tempted to tell her that such efforts were wasted on her, for she had never understood the ton’s fascination with French fashions and customs while England was at war with Napoleon.
She bumped into someone and almost dropped to sit on a riser. Strong hands grasping her elbows kept her on her feet.
“Lord Meriweather!” she gasped, knowing instantly he was the one holding her because of how her heart beat faster. “Excuse me. I wasn’t watching where I was going.”
“You looked as if you were the fox fleeing the hounds.”
“Only from Mme. Dupont.”
He laughed, the sound ringing through the stairwell. In the past few days since she had teased him in the book room when she had brought him her ideas for the new church, she had heard his hearty laugh often. But she must be cautious. Why had she let herself get caught up in the silliness that day? She had wanted to bring a smile to his face, but again she had spoken before she had thought. She had accused him of being the leader of the smugglers. He had treated her words as a jest at first, but then he had said, You have a rare skill of following a bizarre thought to its most illogical conclusion in an effort to prove I am the smugglers’ leader.
Hadn’t she learned her lesson about controlling her emotions around the peerage? Apparently not. She could not imagine Lord Meriweather taking Gregory’s living away as Lord Hedgcoe had, but she had thought their lives secure then, too. She was relieved that Lord Meriweather had laughed at her sallies that day. Lord Hedgcoe would not have found such a jest amusing. If Lord Meriweather had not, either, she could have ruined everything for Gregory...again.