Dominique slowed the horse to a leisurely pace as she neared the gardener’s cottage. Finally
reaching her destination, she dismounted the gentle beast and tied the rope to a tree. Her movements
were slow, jumbled thoughts streaming through her head. She felt forlorn, all but resigning herself to
the fact that the brief period in her life that had been filled with Lord Derek Montford was about to
come to a close. Permanently and irrevocably.
His wedding was only two days away. The society pages were filled with details of the impending
nuptials. It would be an event to remember. Allison’s family was well connected and every blueblood of
importance in England would be attending. Dominique had learned more about Derek from the
newspapers in the past week than she’d gathered from every moment ever spent with him.
He was a powerful wealthy lord who was reputed to be a shrewd but fair businessman. His shipping
company was rumored to have been plagued of late by smugglers whose contacts’ pockets had no
doubt been generously lined. Derek decreed the lowlifes would be dealt with once determined and
captured, guaranteeing his own personal participation in their punishment.
The wedding ceremony would be second only to that of royalty. No expense would be spared, no
detail overlooked. The bride was purported to be the most beautiful woman in all of England, the
groom, a gorgeous heartbreaker of countless young ladies and their aspiring mamas. The beautiful
couple’s life together would be that of fairy tales. Poets would write of their blissful romance, history
would celebrate them as the couple.
What Dominique didn’t realize was that Allison was responsible for most of what was being
printed. Derek neither read the society pages nor cared to know what was being written about the
wedding ceremony. He was ready to be over and done with the whole blasted thing.
Dominique walked amid the vast flower garden, occasionally bending down to inhale the aroma of
the lovely array. The garden would only improve with each passing week as winter strove to fade into
distance until its next season. She walked around the cottage lost in her thoughts, her hands slowly
running across the uneven stones. Reaching the red wooden door, she morosely leaned against it.
The door to her heart. The entranceway to a surreal bit of time spent in the arms of her dream
lover. Dominique’s teary eyes closed as she recalled in detail, to her own detriment, remembrances of
her afternoon spent inside with Derek. His endearing smile, rare and sweet. His strong hands gently
stroking her body with such care. His urgent lovemaking that had branded her heart irreversibly.
Was it only her naiveté that had convinced her of Derek’s transition from rutting beast their first
encounter to that of tender lover only weeks later? She was surely deluded to have ever believed Derek
could feel about her the way she felt about him.
Their imaginary whirlwind romance was in actuality nothing more than an engaged man sowing his
last wild oats with a pathetic unschooled-at-love girl who’d done the unforgivable by falling for him, and
falling hard, though she still fought it on a daily basis.