My Lovely Moonlight Bride: Episode 9
Ariana had decided to take a walk one sunny afternoon two years back; she had bumped into a horse rider. The young man had fine brown skin, tanned by the mercilessness of the sun. His golden locks were wild and free, and they fell to his back. And his eyes were the perfect image of the sea; turquoise and alluring. His name was Heif. And their eyes had locked instantly. They fell in love with each other, and they secretly met whenever her mother wasn’t in the castlette.
Ariana envied the freedom that Lucy had. Her parents were both dead, so there wasn’t anyone that would dictate for her, whom she should marry. If the Duke loved her, then she had no problem with them getting married. She only feared her fate. Heif had waited long enough for her. It was time to stand up to her greedy mother, who was bent on selling her happiness.
“Ariana? Please say something to me. Your silence is killing me.” Lucy couldn’t take it anymore.
Ariana smiled and looked into her friend’s eyes.
“Do you think my silence means anger? Then you do not know me at all Lucy Wesley. I weep silently for my own destiny. You have found a man who loves you; one that the society adores. You both would get married and have many children…”she paused
Lucy’s bushy brows came together. She didn’t understand the sadness and the weariness in Ariana’s voice. What was her friend talking about?
“I am very sorry Ariana. Your mother intends for you to marry the Duke, and I kissed him. That is betrayal.”
Ariana shook her head, “you are wrong my friend. You haven’t betrayed me in anyway. I trust you with my life, Lucy. I have already stated in clear terms, that the Duke does not impress me. I do not want him.”
Lucy was shocked. At first when her friend made mention of the Duke, she had imagined a mediocre man with a powerful name and good deeds. But her encounter with Aldrich showed her something she had never known. How could any woman not like him?
“Most women would kill to have him kiss them, and you lie that you aren’t interested. If you are upset with me, come clean.” Lucy snapped at her. She was getting tired of Ariana’s pretence.
Ariana chuckled softly, “I know I should have told you this; but I decided to keep it to myself. I thought you will judge me.”
“What is that?” Lucy wondered.
Ariana shrugged, “I am in love with another. His name is Heif. But my mother would never agree to our union. I will need help in convincing her to sanction our union.”
Lucy was greatly surprised. She had never heard of this secret before. She realized that her friend was in love with another man, who wasn’t a highborn. This explained why she wasn’t interested in the Duke. Lucy pitied her friend. Her mother, the Marquees wasn’t a woman whose mind was easily swayed.
For this reason, Ariana would be scared to go against the woman’s wishes.
“What will you do now?” Lucy asked in a soft voice. She now understood why Ariana had been quiet all along.
Ariana brushed the tears that gathered in her eyes away.
“I have to tell my mother about Heif. It is not going to be easy, but I will try.”
“I don’t know what to say Ariana…I am lost for words.”
“You don’t need to say anything. The Duke is a responsible man. He doesn’t go around kissing women. I think he desires you. I give you my blessing Lucy.” Ariana gave Lucy’s small hands a squeeze.
This made Lucy feel better, but she still wouldn’t be with the Duke. Though her brother was a Baron, it didn’t mean his noble status extended to her. The Duke deserved a woman from a high class. Her brother’s wasteful life had lowered her status in the society. She was ashamed of him, and for herself. A man like Aldrich Clairbone could never love a lady like her. His only purpose was to have her in his bed.
“I do not want the Duke either.”
Ariana scoffed, “Don’t be silly. From the stories I have heard about Aldrich, he doesn’t give up on people easily.”
The Duke had not slept this peacefully in a long while. His thoughts were focused on the Baron’s sister. He was troubled. Only a few women would run away from such a passionate kiss. Yes, Aldrich knew that he was one of the most wanted bachelors in the society. He had finally found a woman he liked, and he would settle down with her.
He needed to see Lucy again; even if it meant going to Ox-Dale. A devious idea came to his mind as he thought about her brother who was indebted to him. Maybe he could use this opportunity to visit Ox-Dale, so he could see Lucy another time.
“I just have to see you, beautiful one.”
As he rose to his feet, the door to his bedroom flew wide open and his mother stormed in. Her entrance surprised him, because she hardly came to his room. Her eyes flamed with anger and a touch of worry. Aldrich sensed that something had gone wrong.
“Good morning Mother,” Aldrich greeted.
The Duchess waved his greetings aside with a hand, “the noble men from this Dukedom plot your downfall.” She bit her lip in annoyance. Never in history, had mere men tried to overthrow their Duke.
“How so?” Aldrich raised a brow, he was learning of this for the first time.
The Duchess shrugged, “they insist that you get married within two months, or your position would be claimed by another house.”
“You need a bride Aldrich. You need a woman from a powerful house to match ours. You do not have to worry about this, son. I have found you a woman.”
“Who?” Aldrich studied her carefully.
“Ariana Beldon of course; we have discussed this before.” The Duchess grimaced. How could her son forget so quickly?
Aldrich knew Ariana, she was very beautiful, but he wasn’t interested in her. They had never spoken at social functions before. He liked someone else, and he had to let his mother know.
“There’s no need for that. I have found a bride for myself and I shall pursue her.”
The news came as a surprise to the Duchess. Ariana’s mother was her friend, and they had planned this together. Aldrich couldn’t put her to shame. For all she cared, Ariana was the best woman for her son.
“That cannot happen, son; I have already found a woman for you. You will grow to love Ariana. She is a woman of class and nobility. She is perfect.”
He didn’t like the tone in her voice. The Duchess was trying too hard to force someone that he had no desire for upon him.
“I am the Duke of Wandsworth and I shall not take orders from my subjects!” He snapped at her.
“I am your mother Aldrich. I know what is best for you!” She scowled.
“You may be my mother, but I am still your Duke.”
Angrily, he strolled out of the room without looking back; leaving her alone in his bedroom.
The Duchess was afraid by the turnout of things. She hadn’t expected him to react this way. In most cases, the bride was chosen by the family. Why was Aldrich so irked about this?
“Whoever he has in mind must be really special,” the Duchess caressed her chin.
If she was able to lay her hand on the profile of the bride-to-be, then she could change her mind about Ariana. Though she wanted to be in-laws with the Marquees, her son’s happiness was paramount. The most important thing was for him to marry a woman from their class.
She decided to give Aldrich some space. The only person that could give her the answers that she sought was Beau. She w0uld find time and meet with him.
Whenever he was in a foul mood, Aldrich would take a horse and ride into the loneliest Woods in Wandsworth. Riding a horse distracted him from his thoughts. It made him relaxed. As he marched through the dim hallway that led to the throne room, he bumped into his cousin, Beau.
“You look very angry, what it is?” Beau quickly noticed the frown on his face.
“Get out of my way Beauregard. This is not the time for questions and observations. I have a lot of work on my hands.” Aldrich replied. One of the things he would think about while in the woods, were the men that were interested in his position. He had to find a suitable way to punish them. They didn’t deserve mercy. Plotting against a just Duke was a great crime, punishable by death. But Aldrich was not a tyrant. He would give them one more chance.
Beau had come to tell Aldrich about Lady Lucy Wesley. He had come to sow a seed of discord. He was certain that his plans would work.
“You don’t just wake up angry Aldrich, something or someone got you upset?” Beau lingered in his way.
This action got Aldrich more irritated, “get out of my way Beau. I want to get out of this castle. He was tired of everyone being in his business.