Blessed Offense (Sixteen Seasons)

Blessed Offense (Sixteen Seasons) by V.R. Christensen

Book: Blessed Offense (Sixteen Seasons) by V.R. Christensen Read Free Book Online
Authors: V.R. Christensen
    Blessed Offence

    WHEN I WAS thirteen, Lynford Townsend pushed me into the duck pond. I have never forgiven him.
    Perhaps that is why, at the age of three and twenty, I am less than thrilled at the announcement that he and my sister, Celia, are engaged to marry. I should be happy. Why am I not happy? It isn’t jealousy that keeps me from congratulating them wholeheartedly. Truly it isn’t. I could never think of marrying myself to a man who would purposefully push me into a body, however small, of stale and brackish water.
    The announcement has just been made, and well received. My smile is taught. I can feel it pulling at the corners of my eyes, willing them to cooperate in the gesture. A toast is offered. My sister blushes charmingly. Mr. Townsend is all pride and masculine conquest. Of course they have my blessing. I try harder to appear as sincerely happy for them as I know I ought to feel.
    In the drawing room, Mama embraces Celia and sheds tears upon her fair head.
    “Oh, Mama,” my sister chides. “You make too much of it. You always knew it would happen. Admit it.”
    Mama, for some reason I cannot comprehend, gives me a surreptitious, and rather pointed, look before turning back to my dear sister. “Of course we did, my darling. Though we had begun to wonder... But now it is at last decided upon, you must allow me to be happy. It is my right, after all.”
    Celia shakes her head, sending the curls that frame her face bouncing. She kisses Mama again and rises to sit next to me. She takes my hand in hers. “You are not disappointed?”
    “Don’t be silly. Mr. Townsend is one of the best men I know. You could not do better.”
    “That was my thinking,” she says and looks a trifle uncertain. If she is afraid I resent the fact that my little sister is to be married before me, I intend to put her at ease on the matter. “You know you’ve been in love with him since anyone can remember. Why shouldn’t you have your heart’s desire? You deserve to be happy.”
    “Yes,” she says, “but to own the truth, I had always thought he liked you better.”
    “Don’t be absurd. We can’t get on for five minutes together. And you know me. Being liked isn’t enough. I must be adored. And he adores you—it is quite plain to see.”
    “Do you really think so?” she asks and takes my hand.
    “Did you not see how proud of himself he is for catching you? You’ll make him very happy. And he you, I’m quite certain.”
    “I do hope so,” Celia answers, and looks, for just a moment, as if she might cry.
    “At least I doubt very much he will ever be tempted to throw you into the pond.”
    “What can you mean?” Celia says in apparent confusion. “Surely you can’t mean to say you are still angry about—”
    But before she can finish the question, which I’m not sure I would have answered in any event, the men enter.
    WHEN I WAS fifteen, Lynford Townsend killed my beloved terrier. I’ve never forgiven him. I don’t know that I ever shall.
    It is father who enters the drawing room first, Lynn following close behind. Papa is no doubt anxious to congratulate his soon-to-be-wed (and off-his-hands) daughter. He kisses both of her blushing cheeks. “My darling,” he says. “I am so proud.”
    “And I am so happy, Papa,” she says and glances at Mr. Townsend. But I am no longer certain she is. And to think I had convinced myself that the hesitation was all on his side. But why should she be reluctant? He has never once threatened her, or her cherished cat Tilly, any harm that I know of.
    Mama summons Celia to her side once more, anxious to have her near now she is so soon to leave home. Mr. Townsend takes a seat opposite me. Juniper II begs at his knee, and soon finds himself lifted onto the gentleman’s lap.
    “Put my dog down, if you please.”
    “Why should I? He wants me. And I gave him to you, if you recall.”
    “In replacement of the one you destroyed.”
    “Destroyed? That

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