A Conspiratorial Courting
A Conspiratorial Courting
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- Fake Engagement
- Enemies to Lovers
Can a ruse turn to romance?
No one stands in doubt of Edith Donne's opinion on marriage—or of her ability to ward it off using nothing but her stinging wit. With the fortune her aunt has left her, Edith has no reason to marry and certainly no intention of it. When she inadvertently overhears that her lifelong archrival is in love with her, she is stunned, but she has no compunction in setting him straight.
Elias Abram trusts no woman, but he can bandy words with the best of them—and Edith Donne is undoubtedly the best. Her razor-sharp tongue has been a constant companion and a welcome challenge since their prank-filled childhood days. But when Elias is given to believe that Edith is secretly in love with him, his world is flipped on its head, forcing him to reconsider everything he thought he knew.
Soon realizing they have been duped by their conspiring friends, Edith and Elias resolve to turn the tables on them in the most shocking manner they can concoct—the ultimate revenge. But what's to be done when the lines between charade and reality begin to blur?
Intro to Chapter 1
Intro to Chapter 1
No doubt, the best thing to do was to ignore her cousins. But Edith Donne had never been good at holding her tongue, and certainly not when the topic of conversation was love and marriage.
“Edith thinks herself quite above falling in love.” Her cousin, Mercy Kennett, shot Edith a provoking glance, eyebrow tipped up and a hint of mischief in her eye. “But that was also the case for Sarah Brailey, and look at her now.”
Edith satisfied herself with a slight roll of the eyes, letting the periodical in her hand fall open and tipping it so that the candlelight fell upon it. She knew Sarah Brailey—or rather Sarah Pickard since her surrender—and knew her well enough to take issue with the comparison. She kept her eyes on the periodical as she responded with a bite to her tone, “Yes, Sarah was very vocal in her supposed protestations against love.”
“Supposed protestations?” Mercy said with a laugh.
Edith looked up, meeting her cousin’s skepticism with a clear gaze. “Certainly.”
“They sounded very convincing to me.” Edith’s cousin, Viola Pawnce, was curled up in the window seat, the customary book open in her lap. Her finger was poised on the page, keeping her place. The curtains were pulled back from the window behind her, revealing an evening landscape washed in twilight’s soft blues and the deeper shades of rainclouds.
Edith let out a little scoff, nodding at the book in Viola’s lap. “You are reading Hamlet, are you not? Can you not tell an Osric when you see one, then? All affectation and pretense? Sarah’s act was nothing but ill-disguised despair of ever finding love. Those protestations were a manipulative way to garner attention—they were a cry for love, not a determination against it. Only look how quickly she submitted to Mr. Pickard’s attentions and with what haste she agreed to marry him once he began fawning over her.”
She returned to her perusal of the periodical, content that she had made her point. How her cousins managed to doubt her sincerity—comparing her even to Sarah Pickard, of all people—was beyond Edith’s understanding. No matter how firm and steady she was in her opinions, they seemed to think she simply hadn’t yet found the right gentleman to pique her interest.
With time, they would know better, but Edith couldn’t help wishing that they would simply believe her.
The two men were lingering over their port, and Edith would have been content for them to do so for some time yet. She had nothing against Mercy’s husband Solomon—indeed, she liked him very well—but she preferred spending time with Mercy without the displays of mutual affection that the couple was wont to engage in. In a few short weeks, Mercy and Solomon would sail for Jamaica, and Edith didn’t know when she would see her cousin again.
“But you have truly never fallen in love?” Viola looked puzzled as she asked the question.
Edith smiled widely and shook her head. “Terribly provoking of me, isn’t it?” She came up beside Viola, a hand on the curtain as she watched raindrops speckling the window.
“Provoking? No.” Viola’s frown deepened. “It is just that…”
“It offends your sensibilities. I quite understand.” Edith gave Viola a teasing pat on the shoulder. “But don’t let it trouble you, love. I am an anomaly, you know.”
“Only because you choose to be.” Mercy perused the music sheets on top of the piano.
“What’s this now?” Edith said in a rallying tone, folding her arms. “I had thought that at least you understood me.”
Mercy smiled and set down the page she held, tilting her head to the side in thought. “Yes, well, that was before I was married. Now I know what you are missing by holding so tightly to your cynicism.”
Edith didn’t respond. She couldn’t deny that Mercy was at her happiest since marrying. And Edith wasn’t so steeped in her cynicism, so determined to make others miserable, that she had any intention of saying what dissatisfaction she foresaw. Indeed, she hoped for Mercy’s sake that she would be proven wrong. But she had watched it happen too many times to believe that even two such decent people as Mercy and Solomon would be immune to it. Edith lived in a house where it was evidenced daily in the interactions of her own parents.
Even those marriages that started out happily—and Edith suspected there were fewer of them than people wished her to believe—invariably became less so with time. She had come to the conclusion that this was a result of people misunderstanding their own motivations in marrying. Marriage in the name of love sounded much more noble than marriage in the name of convenience, but the truth was, they were both selfish—both an act of union between two people hopeful of extracting every last ounce of happiness from one another.
The initial haze of novelty and excitement invariably wore off in time—Edith had seen it happen shockingly fast—leaving the two souls to reflect upon the truth of the phrase that William Congreve had so aptly coined: “Married in haste, we may repent at leisure.”
Edith did not take for granted how fortunate she was in having no obligation to marry. Her aunt’s deathbed bequest could certainly not have been bestowed upon someone more grateful. The bequest was poetic—from a confirmed spinster to one in the making. It made Edith smile.
But Viola was not satisfied. “Perhaps you need only find someone who shares your—your—your—”
“Pessimism?” Edith offered. “Skepticism? Misanthropy?” She well knew how she was viewed by others.
Viola’s brows came together. “I was going to say your wit.”
Mercy let out a laugh as she seated herself on the piano bench. “What? And have them at each other’s throats all night and day? What a frightening prospect you paint.”
“Then perhaps someone more docile? Quiet and meek?” Viola sounded skeptical of her own idea.
“A church mouse, perhaps?” Edith suggested, feigning interest.
“And have her frighten the poor man to death?” Mercy said with a grin.
Viola let out a disappointed sigh. “No, it wouldn’t do, would it? But then who?”