7th May, 1837
I visited J. today. I talked to him and shared my news. More than anything I would wish to have his understanding of my regret, but I know it is out of the realm of possibilities until such a time as I meet my maker. Then I may know his feelings on the matter.
What shall be the price of Guilt? Just five letters in a word which buries me with its weight. I live, but yet I do not deserve the gift. I can go through the days, and the motions of daily life, but for what purpose? What good can I bring to those I love, and who would love me in return, if they should know my secret? I did not act with correctness when the ability was within my power to do so. I kept silent because I was afraid to curb the one whom I loved more than any other. My bitter regret now must always be born in an endless silence that has broken the hearts of all those I ever loved.
Today I also gave my agreement to marry a man who says he wants nothing more than to care for me and to allow him to cherish me. He looks into my eyes and touches a part of my soul in a way that terrifies me, yet at the same time draws me in deeper to understand his motivation. I believe he can see into part of my secret. He understands me, because his words cut right to the essence of my problem, leaving me no choice but to give in to his demands.
So I will go to live at Stonewell Court and make my life with him…but I am very afraid of what awaits me. How will I ever rise to the standard of what is expected of me? I am not worthy, and I fear my carefully guarded heart is in great danger of being shattered beyond the ability for it to continue to beat within my breast. Darius Rourke doesn’t yet understand that I do not deserve to be cherished by any man. I am torn, and yet he is persuasively persistent in continuing to assure me all will be well, and to trust in him.
I find myself unable to deny Darius in his wishes for me, just as I was unable to deny my beloved Jonathan…
So shine bright, tonight you and I
We’re beautiful like diamonds in the sky
Eye to eye, so alive
We’re beautiful like diamonds in the sky
“I can hear the ocean,” she said up against me, her hand on the back of my neck lightly caressing back and forth, the soft floral scent of her driving me crazy.
“Mmm hmm.” I stopped at what I felt was the perfect place for the unveiling. “We have arrived at our nuptial destination, Mrs. Blackstone. I’m going to set you down so you can get the full effect,” I warned, before tilting her down to stand on her own. I faced her toward the house and covered her eyes carefully with my hands.
“I want to look. Are we sleeping here?”
“Not sure how much sleeping we’ll be doing…but we will be here tonight.” I kissed her on the back of the head and took my hands away. “For you, my beauty. You can open your eyes now.”
“Stonewell Court,” she said softly as she took in the view of the great house all lit up from entryway to roof. “I thought this is where we were. I remember the smell of the sea and the sound of the gravel when we walked here that day. It’s so beautiful. I—I can’t believe we get to actually stay here.” She opened her arms wide. “Who did this, Ethan?”
She still doesn’t understand. I brought my hands to her shoulders from behind and kissed the side of her neck, my need to have my lips on her skin ruling me for the moment. “Hannah mostly,” I murmured. “She’s been trying to work a miracle for me long-distance. Thank Christ for virtual meetings and e-signatures on legal documents.”
“What?” she asked, turning to face me with a puzzled look breaking over her beautiful face. I loved surprising her, and so far this one seemed to be something she was going to be pleased about. Making Brynne happy made me happy. End of story. We’d both done the second and third shifts manning the check-in desk at Heartbreak Hotel in the last months, and anything that could ease some of that suffering, was long overdue. That’s how I rationalized it at least.
“The house is for us tonight,” I said, bringing a stray curl of her silky hair to tuck behind her ear as I inhaled some more of her intoxicating scent, and allowed myself the acceptance and contentment of knowing we’d really up and done it. We’d actually managed it. We’d survived and made it to this point right here, right now.
Married. Husband and wife. Baby on the way. Homeowners of a big f**king house in the country. Hard to believe all of those things could be written under my name, true, but I was standing here looking at the tangible proof of it.
One thing was for certain. I wanted it all. No doubts. Not a one.
Brynne pulled her bottom lip in between her white teeth and bit the side of it. I had to stifle a groan at the sight of her when she did it. That luscious mouth… I needed that mouth on me. Badly. As p**n ographic images rolled through my head for how the next hours would play out, she said softly, “Well, I think your sister has succeeded, and then some. It takes my breath away, Ethan. This is the perfect place for us to spend our wedding night…nothing could be more perfect to me.”
“You’re more perfect.” I took her face in my hands and leaned in, putting my lips on hers, pushing my way in for a sweet taste as we stood in front of the house surrounded by the glow of torches and the summer nighttime sea breeze. I coaxed her to open up for me, and of course she did. I took a good, long, and thorough taste of my girl, staking my claim of possession as I had always been driven to do with her from the very start. My wife.