My Lovely Moonlight Bride: Episode 1
Elena Clairborne stared in shock as her son trudged into the snow. Her heart leapt in fear as she imagined that his deep sorrow had made him lose his mind. How could a Duke do something like that? She hadn’t recovered from her shock, when she noticed his exchange with the little red haired girl. Elena pulled the curtains and sank into a cushion chair next to her window.
Since the death of her husband, she had noticed a lot of changes in Aldrich; negative changes. He had withdrawn into a shell. He was no longer her sweet son, who shared all his problems with her. He’d built a wall and locked himself in. Aldrich still grieved for his father, this she knew. The death of Ander had come hard on everyone; but she hadn’t expected Aldrich to be this soft, this weak.
“I have to do something,” she pressed a shaky hand against her chest.
She had noticed Aldrich’s absence from the palace for five nights, consecutively. Whenever she asked his guards where their Duke was, they had no answer for her. Aldrich was leading a secret life, and she had to be part of it. Did he have a paid mistress? Or did he have a love interest that he secretly met?
“Come right in, the door is open!” Elena bellowed.
She had sent for Beauregard who was like a second son to her. He was closest to the Duke, and would know all of Aldrich’s secret.
“My lady, you sent for me.” Beauregard bowed before her.
“Sit,” she pointed at a chair next to hers.
Beauregard was still in the dark about this sudden meeting. The Duchess had a worried look in her eyes, even the heavy adornment of her eyes couldn’t hide the pain. She was troubled. She was in sorrow.
“Your cousin has not been himself for a while now. I am starting to think that what my friends say is true.” She started.
“What do your friends say?” Beau raised a brow.
The Duchess had a circle of friends; rich women and of noble blood. The one she liked especially was the Marquees of Islington. Lydia Beldon was one of her best friends, and she had been particularly happy when Aldrich took the Dukedom after his father’s death.
“A young man needs a woman by his side. When he is troubled, she could look after his heart and guard his broken spirit.” Those were the exact words that the Marquees had spoken to her, and she would take it.
Beauregard scoffed, he couldn’t believe his ears.
“You want Aldrich to get a wife?”
“Yes, is there anything wrong with that?” Elena asked.
Now that she thought about it, she realized that her friend was right. All Aldrich needed to bounce back to his normal self was a fine woman of class and pedigree. Elena couldn’t wait to speak to Aldrich about it.
“Do you have a woman in mind? Or would you rather, Aldrich search for his bride?” Beau asked.
Elena ran her slender fingers through her mass of black hair. The only young woman that came into her mind was her friend’s daughter. They would make a perfect pair. Noble blood and noble blood, nothing could separate them.
“I think Ariana Beldon may be the woman for the Duke.” A devious smile danced on her lips.
Beauregard’s face paled. If his cousin got married, that would secure his position as the Duke forever. He couldn’t let this happen. He had to buy himself time.
“Aldrich is not ready for marriage.”
“You know this how?” Elena caressed her brows.
“The Duke has been absent from this castle for some reasons. I believe you had called me for this.”
Beauregard had an opportunity to dissuade the woman from finding her son, a worthy bride. He would expose Aldrich’s entire secret before his mother. This would distract them for some time.
“Is there something I should know?” Elena lifted a brow.
“My Lady, I do not mean to snitch or cause you heartbreak…”
“Is my son seeing women from the brothel? Does he have a paid mistress?” Elena thundered. Her voice rose with her breathing. She was shaken and afraid. She knew what that would mean. The last noble man to exhibit such irresponsibility was later stripped off his title. She didn’t want that for her son. She didn’t want a scandal on the Clairbone name.
Beauregard sucked in some air and clasped his hands together.
“You must never tell him that I told you about his secret deeds.”
The Duchess nodded in agreement, “Tell me now.”
Lucy had nothing doing in her brother’s empty castle, so she had decided to pay a visit to her friend, Ariana Beldon; the daughter of the Marquees of Islington. Lucy couldn’t stand the pain of watching her brother drown himself in liquor. Elan was a failing Baron, and he had lost a lot of money while gambling at a game house. It wasn’t a secret in the Barony of Ox-dale, that her brother was losing his wealth on a daily basis.
Their father had left them a lot of money, but Elan had hoarded it all. He was a ruthless spender, and wasted their fortune on unfruitful ventures. If he wasn’t whoring, he was at a gaming house. The Baron only returned to the castle whenever he was sober. And it was in his moments of grief and remorse, that Elan would write the finest of poems. Yes, the Baron’s artistic side was well known. If not for anything, it was his mastery at poetry that still earned him some respect in the society.
“You do not want to stay with me,” Elan groaned.
“You are not a child, Elan!” Lucy gritted her teeth and gathered her skirts. She missed her best friend, and she couldn’t wait to reach Islington.
“I am not a failure! I will rise again, and this Baron house will rise with me.” Elan poured more wine into his glass.
Lucy’s eyes welled up with tears. She wished her parents, especially her mother was still alive. Maybe, she would’ve talked some sense into her brother’s head. Elan was older than she was, but he never acted it. She was the one that ran the Barony in his absence. Sometimes, he would take a trip to France with his paid companions. Elan never ceased to amaze her. In his drunkenness, he had almost injured her some weeks back.
“You are not a failure brother, but your actions contradict your words.” She quickly moved away from him.
Elan sipped from his glass and glared at his younger sister. Lucy had grown into a very beautiful woman. She always reminded him of her.
“Where are you going?” He asked.
“To see a friend,” she answered.
“Be careful out there sister, you know how much I care.”
Lucy sighed, she was touched by his kind words.
“I want to see Ariana, the Marquees daughter. You know her, she is my friend.”
At the mention of the Marquees of Islington, Elan scoffed. He tossed the glass that contained rum, and fetched another with water. He had a game to play later tonight, he had to do it sober. He stood a chance of winning a great fortune from one of his old friends who was a Duke.
On such gaming nights, matters of society were discussed. Currently, Lydia Beldon, Marquees of Islington was an interesting topic. It was rumoured that she had killed her husband, Sebastian Beldon, so she could run his estates. Now, she was losing a lot of money, power and relevance in the society.
“You shouldn’t be in the company of losers.”
Lucy thought him drunk, “I must go now. We shall speak when you are better.”
“I am not drunk. The Marquees is fast fading. Don’t you think you should add richer and more influential friends to your circle?”
His words infuriated her, “I wouldn’t think of hanging out with the people you ask of me. You stole my fortune, and you gambled it away. I could never trust you.”