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The Earl of Langdon needed a quiet place to think and pray,  His office in the upper ward was too noisy.  The Chapel was also the place that he had told Susan Herbert that he might meet her.

He had returned from town after a disaster of a meeting with Catriona.  It had shaken him to his core that she was so outraged by his actions.  Had she not thought that Fiona had likely fornicated with many others?  The young lady was saucy.  Still, it was a betrayal of trust he had to acknowledge while sitting in the pew quietly.

Glad he was no Catholic whereby he would need to confess individual transgressions to some priest who likely swapped tall tales with the rest of the priesthood.  Anglicans were far more pragmatic.  One could confess to God directly and quietly.

He prayed to God for guidance.  He had wrongly Davina, disappointed Darlene, upset Catherine's father and Susan's family needlessly.  While Fiona, Davina, Catherine and Susan still bore him good will, their families were aggrieved.  He could not promise to abstain from womanly company in the future, but he prayed God would show him the path to be a better person.  

It came to him as he sat in silence that perhaps he might use his access to the King to seek his own counsel.  The King seemed to take great interest in the matches of the young lords around him.  He might even find it amusing to aid him.

The minutes ticked away.  There was no certainty that Susan would appear at all.  If not, he would leave in ten minutes.  

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  • 2 weeks later...

In order that her requests to go to the chapel on Saturdays would not seem suspicious, Susan had asked for some time off to pray today as well. She still wasn’t certain that the Maid of Honor she shared a room with was not her eldest brother’s spy, though she as yet had no proof. Any  of the Queen’s ladies might notice her new ‘piety’ as well, so it was better to set things up in advance.


As she stepped inside, she saw Lord Langdon sitting in a pew. Perhaps he was doing the same thing she was.  She was not supposed to meet him until tomorrow. He looked as if he was really praying. Perhaps she should not disturb him. She could, however, let him know that she was here in case he wanted to speak to her now. Unfortunately, she had not yet discovered the location of the Swan’s childhood home. She’d had no time to visit the library yet.


Like he had done yesterday, Susan slid into the pew in front of him, folded her hands, and pretended to pray.


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And there she was.  He had hoped she would stop by the chapel.   There was the urge to mention how glad he was to see her back, but this was not a time for humor.  He was supposed to be avoiding her.

"I have but a moment my lady, and I beseech you to hear me out.  Last night I met with your brother.  He criticized my reputation because of my affair with Miss Sedley.  He said that I risked sullying your reputation by meeting with you outside his presence.  I said I would not meet with you again without him or your mother.  I must cancel our Saturday meetings."  Charles was apprehensive that they might be watched and that he needed to keep his words to a minimum.

"But, I refuse to give up on you.  I asked to speak with you in the presence of your mother after church on Sunday.  I plan to consult the King himself and others, but it is my intention to ask your mother permission to court you.  I think we make a grand team and are well-suited.  I hope you know that I hold you in the highest regard.  If you do not feel likewise, then you will never be alone with me again, ever."  He was fairly sure that Susan liked him and would entertain being courted.  She did not seem uncomfortable at the brief kisses or the reading of love letters together. 

"I have power over men, but you have power over your family.  They want what is best for you.  I too want what is best for you.  Together we can overcome any objection, even from Pembroke."  Though he had no sisters, he could imagine the power that an only sister might have to insist upon her wishes for a match.

"You must not reveal that we have spoken or know what Thomas said.  Someone might be watching us now.  Pretend you know nothing of our meeting on Sunday.  We must play by their rules.  We must not meet alone.  I view this as a chance encounter, not a meeting."  He was trying to explain why this meeting did not violate his pledge to her brother.  Perhaps there was a future for Langdon in the law.  "Now I must go, to protect any hope of a future we might have together. "  



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Susan wasn’t surprised that Charles didn’t have much time to speak with her. They had planned to meet tomorrow, not today. She wondered if he had come to the chapel hoping she would be there or, considering what he told her, she had actually interrupted his prayers.


Her heart fell to the pit of her stomach when he related his conversation with Thomas. Had they met accidentally or had Charles sought him out?  Susan had hoped that he would avoid both of her brothers so that they would not tell him to stay away from her. But now their meetings were at an end. How would she be able to get the location of the Swan’s home … assuming she found it … to him now?


She was aware of his affair with Mistress Sedley. It wasn’t as if neither of them had tried to hide their relationship. Mistress Sedley had been pregnant last season and she assumed that Charles was the father. She had probably had the baby by now. Susan didn’t blame her brother for not wanting her to associate with a gentleman who consorted with libertines. It was true that her reputation could be harmed. But the two of them were rarely seen together in public. Their adventures took place in areas not frequented often by courtiers. Thomas, however, didn’t know that and it was fortunate that he didn’t.


What Charles said next shocked her to the core of her being and her heart leapt from the pit of her stomach and flew up to the stars. He wanted to court her? Susan was glad he couldn’t see the myriad emotions play across her face … surprise, amazement, and elation. With her hands clasped in front of her, he couldn’t see her pinch her palm with one of her fingers to make certain she wasn’t dreaming.


She could hardly believe what she was hearing but she memorized every word he said.  If he could gain the King's approval, that should convince her mother to allow the union.  Philip would likely disapprove but he had been sent away from court.  If he had his way, she would likely never marry at all because he wouldn't believe any gentleman who asked for her hand was good enough for her.


When Charles finished, it took Susan a moment to find her voice. “I hold you in high esteem as well, my lord, and I, too, think a match between us would be advantageous. I shall do everything I can to convince my family that you are the the only gentleman who will make me happy. That we both serve the royals is a definite point in our favor as well. And I will keep this conversation to myself.” He might be able to hear her smile in her voice. “It was a chance encounter. Neither of us knew that the other would be here.”


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When Charles finished the brief summary of his intentions, he grew silent and awaited a response.  Originally he had thought to not wait for a reply so as to strengthen the argument that there had been no real meeting between them.  Yet, curiosity got the better of him.  He needed assurance that he had judged her feelings for him correctly.

She replied properly as he too was memorizing her every word for a sign of whether there was something more than an advantageous match in her mind.  I shall do everything I can to convince my family that you are the the only gentleman who will make me happy. 

His spirits leapt at that.  Was it true or just a ruse she planned to employ on her family?  If true, it meant that she more than liked him.  For someone as desirable as Susan Herbert to insinuate that she could not be happier with another gentleman, was a heady thing for a young man that feared he had made a mess of every lady he had touched.  His vanity interpreted her statement, rightly or wrongly, that she might secretly love him.  

"My heart is gladdened to hear your words.  Your family shall stand no chance," he found himself laughing with glee.  The moment called for him to turn, take her hands in his and say something romantic or flattering, but words escaped him, as did the few moments he could afford to spend in her company without risk of detection.

He stood from the pew, leaving his back to hers as he tucked his hat under his arm.  "Had this been a meeting, I would have more words for you; but, since this is but a chance encounter," he chuckled "I can only say that Sunday cannot come soon enough."  He paused a moment to hear her own parting words before turning to exit the chapel pretending that he had not noticed her, though the smile he gave her briefly likely betrayed the subterfuge. 


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Charles’ laughter sent lovely little thrills shimmering through Susan’s small form. He seemed as pleased with her response and she was with his intention to court her. She laughed as well. Never had she been as happy as she was in this single moment, and she didn’t think anything could make her happier until they stood in the chapel and said their vows.


“Together,” she whispered, “nothing can stand in our way.” She had always feared that she would marry a man who cared more for her family’s wealth and connections than he did for her, but she knew that Charles truly enjoyed her company. He was right when he said they made a good team.


Susan heard him stand up and wished that they didn’t have to part so soon. “I shall count the hours … no, I shall count the seconds until Sunday.” How she would sit through the usual lengthy sermon knowing what was to come, she did not know.


Listening to him slide out of the pew and walk to the door of the chapel, she turned around just in time to see him smile at her. She returned it and then prayed for a few minutes … thanking God for her good fortune … before leaving the chapel. That smile remained on her face all day and she hummed as she went about her duties, perplexing the other maids of honor and causing them to wonder why she seemed more cheerful than usual.

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