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2.22% An Unexpected Kiss / Chapter 1: Regency - Chapter 1
An Unexpected Kiss An Unexpected Kiss original

An Unexpected Kiss

Author: Acton_Bell

© WebNovel

Chapter 1: Regency - Chapter 1

Elizabeth Anne Hartford, daughter of the Marquess of Hartford, was quite eaten up with nerves for the first time since her first season. She had been out for three years already, but tonight was special. Tonight, Alexander Tufton, son of the Earl of Kingsford and her dearest friend, would be here. She would get to see him, finally get to tell him of her feelings.

Beth and Alex grew up at their father's country estates, which were nowhere near one another. But Alex's father had a hunting lodge in the neighborhood near Widwood, the country seat of the Marquess of Hartford.

Alex accompanied his father to the hunting lodge every summer for the best part of the hunting season. He was thirteen and Beth only eleven when they first met.

Beth smiled as she remembered the day. It had started out sunny and pleasant, so she had escaped from her governess to go exploring in the woods that bordered the estate. She rarely lost her way in those days, having explored the woods many times. But on that day, she had somehow wandered into an unfamiliar part of the woods.

Shortly after realizing she was lost, the sky had opened up and rain had quickly drenched her. Alone and disoriented, she had tried to find her way to somewhere familiar, but soon succumbed to the cold rain. She had curled up at the base of a tree in a small, sad, shivering ball.

It was there that Alex had found her. He had quickly taken charge of the poor, lost little girl, draping his coat over her shivering form and helping her onto his horse. He had listened to her timid description of her home and had quickly found his way there, where he had delivered her to a small group of anxious servants.

After a warm bath and a good night's rest, Beth had regained her usual cheerful, adventurous demeanor. She had met Alex in the woods again a couple days later. After she had shown him the best spot in the stream to fish, he had agreed to let her tag along with him, so long as she kept out of trouble.

That set the pattern for every summer. By the time she was fourteen, she knew that she was quite in love with her handsome, funny, bold best friend. He always knew how to tease her out of the sulks. He told the best stories and always listened when she had something to tell him. He let her tag along on all his adventures.

When he left for school, she was heartbroken. When first school, then his abbreviated grand tour kept him from her come-out and the two seasons thereafter, she was disappointed, but she quickly learned patience.

Knowing that she would attract many men simply from her connection to a marquess and her large dowry, Beth did what she could to depress the hopes of her many hopeful suitors. She had always been quiet, but she became more withdrawn.

By the end of her second season, she had been dubbed "the ice queen". Her mother despaired of ever marrying her off, but Beth could only be grateful that she had been successful at keeping herself unattached. For now, at the beginning of her fourth season, Alex was finally in town.

Mother was busy attending to Arella, Beth's younger sister, who was enjoying her first season. She was short, curvy, blond, and vivacious. Beth, the tall, unfashionably slim, dark-haired, quiet sister was completely outshone.

But it didn't matter. Beth had never enjoyed the scrutiny of men that her sister craved. She was grateful rather than resentful of her sister's success and the attention that she was drawing. It meant that Beth was allowed to pass unnoticed. Even more so than usual.

Alex had arrived just as the season was getting into full swing. His mother had told Beth, Mother, and Arella of his arrival just the other day when she called for her usual Wednesday morning visit.

She had mentioned that his first event in society would be this ball and Beth was not going to waste the opportunity. She had sent a note with a trustworthy maid to Alex. It was a simple request to meet her in the library after the second waltz.

For the first time in years, Beth had taken great pains with her appearance. Even Mother had been satisfied with her ice blue ball gown that brought out the blue tint in her pale gray eyes. Her dark hair had been braided and twisted into an elegant up-do with a strand of pearls woven in to match the pearl necklace Father gave her for her come-out.

Beth had chosen the library because she was achingly familiar with the libraries of all the great houses in town, having retreated to them often either to escape erstwhile suitors early on, and as she faded to the background, to avoid the tedium of being a wallflower.

Now, as the dance before the second waltz began to play, she ducked through one of the doors out of the ballroom and followed the small hallway to the library door. It was closed and Beth paused for a moment, praying that she was not about to interrupt something scandalous. She had, unfortunately, come across a fair number of questionable scenes in her years of dodging suitors and haunting libraries.

Pushing the door open, she found the library empty. Nearly empty, she corrected her thoughts as a large, masculine figure rose from the settee near the fire and turned to see who had entered.

Beth had been prepared for many things, but she hadn't even considered that Alex might beat her there. Now what was she supposed to say? How did one go about declaring their feelings for the one they loved?

Throwing caution to the wind, she acted on the first impulse that came to her. Running, she threw herself into Alex's arms and wrapped him in a tight hug.

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