Here's the next episode of our Christmas story. This one was written by Marjorie Vawter
. Marjorie also is a professional editor. Contact her for freelance editing and writing services at http://www.shevetwritingservices.com. And now, enjoy the story.
Griffin watched Marguerite disappear with his daughter, then turned to Alicia. “Charles did this to her?”
She merely nodded, keeping her eyes focused outdoors.
“Then I welcome his visit. I shall talk sense into the man.”
“Too late.” Alicia turned from the window and slipped her hand through Griffin’s. “He married less than a month after declaring Marguerite unfit to be his bride.”
The door to the drawing room opened and the butler announced, “The Duke and Duchess of Fennley.”
So Charles now held the title. Griffin wasn’t too surprised by that. The old duke had never been well, at least in his memory. But he was surprised at the plain, rail-thin woman who entered the room at his friend’s side. If he chose her over Marguerite, the man was a fool.
“Griffin!” Charles strode across the room to grasp Griffin’s hand. “I saw your father when he was riding this afternoon. He told me you’d come home.”
Griffin spared a quick glance at his father, wondering at the hint of welcome suggested by his spreading the news of his return. He returned the handclasp with enthusiasm. They had been too close as boys to shun him over his choice of a bride.
“Welcome, Charles. Alicia and—” He couldn’t bring Marguerite into the conversation. She’d been so distressed to see Charles drive up. “Well, I’ve just heard of your recent marriage.”
Charles frowned slightly, then looked over his shoulder at his bride standing quietly by the door. “Ah, yes. You must meet Belinda.” He motioned her closer, then smiled. “My dear, this is my long-lost friend, Griffin Tirach.”
Before Griffin could speak, he felt Alicia’s hand tighten on his arm. The room went silent as the door from the hallway opened once again and an older woman, leaning heavily on a maid’s arm, entered.
Mama? Despite Emory’s warning, Griffin wasn’t prepared for the emaciated, gray-skinned woman before him. A mere shadow of the strong, vibrant woman he remembered.
Her gaze slowly, almost vacantly, scanned the silent room until it landed on Griffin. Her eyes widened in recognition. “Griffin?”
She swayed, and Griffin strode quickly to her side to aid the maid in supporting her. “Yes, Mama.”
“No one told me.” With an effort his mother straightened. “It’s been so long.”
“I’m sorry.” Words were inadequate. It had been too long. “I’m here now. Come, you must sit. There’s an empty chair by the fire, next to Father.”
She leaned on his arm and dismissed the maid before allowing him to guide her across the room. The others cleared the way and conversation started up again.
“Papa!” Verity popped into the room. “I saw the little dog again. Come, you must—”
Griffin shushed her. “Verity, come meet your grandmother, sweetheart.”
Disha moved behind Verity, placing a hand on her shoulder, as the girl came to stand by her father.
Griffin felt his mother stiffen. “You married? A foreigner?” She removed her hand from his arm. “Oh, Griffin, how could you?”
Griffin watched the joy drain away from his daughter as bewilderment clouded her eyes. He’d hoped his mother of all people would understand.
“Mama, I can explain.” How many times had that phrase come out of his mouth over the years?
But with a sigh his mother crumpled to the floor, leaving him grasping at air.
“Now look what you’ve done!” his father roared as he came out of his chair and faced Griffin over his mother’s limp form. “I should have booted you out as soon as you came into the house with a half-breed brat.”
Before Griffin could respond, a woman’s sharp gasp echoed around the room. “Stop it!”
A flash of blue, and then Marguerite knelt at his mother’s side, waving a small vial of smelling salts beneath her nostrils and glaring up at the two men.