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Miss Pendleton

Miss Pendleton

Romance

Yu Hyemin

COMPLETED
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Twenty-nine-year-old spinster Laura Pendleton is known to be a talented matchmaker in London society. When she’s asked to find a wife for the eligible bachelor Ian Dalton, she believes it will be an easy task—until she meets the gorgeous yet blunt and aloof Mr. Dalton in person. Although Miss Pendleton introduces him to several beautiful young ladies, the cynical Mr. Dalton appears to have eyes only for his matchmaker. But Miss Pendleton has no interest in marriage, especially not to such a wealthy nobleman, due to her shameful past. Instead, Miss Pendleton makes arrangements to become a governess and thereby escape her abusive uncle on her own. But Mr. Dalton is nothing if not persistent. When Miss Pendleton faces unexpected troubles, he offers her the governess position for his young nephews in order to get closer to her. Mr. Dalton’s love, bordering obsession, for Miss Pendleton means that he won’t give up until he can convince her to become his—despite all that is at stake.

Historical Romance

Chapter 1

Part 1. London

It was the wedding day of Miss Elizabeth Dayer and Mr. Edward Morton.

Since the engagement, their marriage had been the subject of much speculation. Elizabeth was the only daughter of Viscount Dayer, a very active member of Parliament, and Edward was the eldest son of Admiral Morton, who had spent the last thirty years at sea, fighting valiantly in dozens of naval battles. The union of these two prestigious families was one of the most highly anticipated, even in the small circle of London society.

Even London’s aristocrats, who loved to gossip about other people and were just as eager to badmouth them, found little fault with this particular couple. All they could talk about was the designer of Elizabeth’s wedding gown and the wood used to build the furniture for the mansion Mr. Morton had prepared for his new bride.

On the day of the wedding, a steady stream of people on fancy two-wheeled carriages and fine horses arrived at the church.

The guest list was impressive—a real who’s who of renowned aristocrats, politicians, and soldiers. Once all the distinguished guests were seated, Reverend Lloyds, who was to officiate the wedding, stood at the pulpit in his white robes.

The room fell utterly silent, nary a whisper to be heard.

Reverend Lloyds scanned the room, and after speaking a few words as convention dictated about how God was watching over today’s union, he invited the groom to enter.

The groom, Edward Morton, appeared at the entrance and marched down the aisle with the orderly controlled gait of a soldier. He was a capable young man who had followed in his father’s footsteps by joining the navy and had been deployed to all sorts of far-flung places, where he had led several successful naval campaigns, rising to the rank of captain at the age of twenty-nine.

However, it was not his military prowess or his family’s influence that had made him famous in London, but his demeanor. He always had a stony, terse expression on his face, and his attitude was perennially cold and taciturn.

Such a demeanor was only appropriate when commanding a fleet, yet he maintained the same at all manner of social events—walking through Hyde Park on his way to church, being introduced to a lady at a ball, receiving an invite to a dinner hosted by a duke. Because of his attitude, many people who cared about Edward had to go to great lengths to convince others that he was not behaving in such a way out of malice.

Even on his wedding day, Edward wore his usual expression—a firmly closed mouth and blue eyes wholly devoid of emotion. There wasn’t even a hint of nervousness, let alone joy. Astonished by his attitude, the guests all thought, What an insufferable man!

Soon all eyes, which had been focused on the groom, turned to the entrance of the church. There stood Miss Elizabeth Dayer, dressed in a pure white gown and a sheer shawl draped around her shoulders. She was on the arm of Viscount Dayer, who stood by her side, holding a bouquet in one hand. The bouquet was made up of the freshest and most beautiful blooms out of the thousands of flowers that decorated the church, but it could not hold a candle to the beauty of its owner, Miss Dayer.

Miss Dayer had attracted countless admirers since her debut in London high society two years ago, but today, she was different from her usual self, not merely due to the beauty that radiated from her dazzling features, blonde hair, and lovely olive green eyes. Her face was radiating with joy—love had made her blossom like a rose.

As she walked down the aisle, mesmerized stares followed her every step of the way. At that moment, the much-talked-about French wedding gown and the Italian wedding veil that the Viscount had specially ordered were completely forgotten. All that mattered was the way she walked, the look on her face, the smile on her face.

The guests followed her every move with bated breath until she stood in front of the altar, next to the man who would soon be her husband. The viscount handed his precious daughter to him and stepped away.

Two people now stood at the altar. One was smiling brilliantly, but the other’s face still appeared as though it were encased in ice.

Everyone was filled with pity. Edward Morton has been blessed with such a beautiful wife, yet he did not seem the least bit happy about it. Many men of marriageable age became bitter at the sight.

The reverend gave a short, straightforward sermon on the importance of fidelity and chastity between wife and husband. As a parish priest in London, he knew full well what little patience the guests sitting in front of him had for long sermons.

Soon after, the couple exchanged rings, and Reverend Lloyds gave them permission to seal their vows with a kiss. Edward slowly lowered his head and lightly pressed his lips to Elizabeth’s.

Just as an applause was about to break out, there was a low intake of breath from those seated closest to the altar. They quickly looked to their neighbors to confirm what they had seen and saw the same look of surprise on their faces.

Edward’s lips had barely left Elizabeth’s when a single tear fell from his eye. My goodness! He quickly wiped it away with a hand, but the act clued in even the guests sitting at a distance who hadn’t actually seen his tear to the fact that he had cried.

Those who had actually witnessed the tear roll down his face gave the newlyweds a thunderous round of applause as they walked down the aisle, delighted at the idea of being able to boast that they had actually seen Edward Morton’s tears, which would undoubtedly be a hot topic at the tea parties for some time.

After the ceremony, the guests moved to the reception hall near the church. The reception was exceptionally lavish and surely would not disappoint any of the guests. Atop the many tables in the hall were silverware and plates imported from India, a buffet laden high with delicious fare cooked by chefs who had been brought—no, escorted—from France, and a wine fountain. And last but not least, an orchestra skilled enough to rival any opera company. It was the result of Viscount Dayer, who lived an unusually frugal life for a man of his station, spending practically every single pound he had accumulated over the years.

As the guests dined at their respective tables, Elizabeth and Edward, who had respectively changed into a reception dress and a bright-colored suit, made their way around the room, thanking each and every one of the influential guests who had attended their wedding.

Between the members of Viscount Dayer’s party and Admiral Morton’s military colleagues, there were dozens of tables for them to visit. Elizabeth, however, did not show any signs of fatigue, the hem of her lilac gown fluttering as she greeted everyone with a smile. The guests couldn’t help but be in a good mood at seeing the bride, who had been the center of attention at the wedding, smile at them so prettily.

Unlike the rest of the guests, however, the naval generals—Admiral Morton’s friends—were coarse, gregarious, and had partaken of too much wine. They were drunk beyond reason and would not let the bride and groom leave their table for more than twenty minutes.

Elizabeth, who had been listening to the generals’ drunken ramblings with an amiable expression on her face, clutched her husband’s arm with a vice-like grip that was almost strong enough to be a pinch. Edward tilted his head slightly toward Elizabeth, just enough to be discreet.

A smile still pasted on her face, she whispered in his ear, “Darling, if we don’t get away from this table right now, I’m going to throw those respectable gentlemen into the wine fountain.”

Edward gave a small nod. He then casually mentioned to the generals the location of the smoking room in the building and the box of expensive cigars sitting in the inner drawer of the table. Of course, the finest brandy and sherry would also be available in the room.

The men quickly made their way to the smoking room, abandoning their wives, and the ladies, whose faces had turned crimson from their husbands’ drunken antics, soon let the young couple go.

Elizabeth slumped into an empty seat away from the guests, her face pale beyond comparison to what it was like during the ceremony.

Edward headed straight to the buffet table and returned with a slice of cake and a cup of coffee. He passed the coffee to Elizabeth, then used a fork to scoop up a piece of cake and place it in her mouth. She meekly accepted the bites of cake until the entire slice was gone from the plate.

Those who saw the scene from afar doubted their eyes. My word, Edward Morton is playing mother hen to his wife!

Once Elizabeth had cleared the plate, Edward knelt down in front of her, one knee propped up, and began to stroke her swollen calves through the hem of her skirt. She blushed and looked around, then grabbed his hand.

“Stop. I’m all right.”

“Are you certain?”

“Yes.”

He released her leg and clasped her hand, which was resting on her knee. “You can relax now. I think we’ve pretty much greeted everyone we needed to.”

“Good. I’m so tired. Even more so than I was after dancing quadrilles until dawn.”

Edward fiddled with Elizabeth’s left hand, on which she wore her wedding ring, then smiled faintly. “At this rate, I fear you may end up falling into my arms again.”

Elizabeth’s eyes widened. “What on earth do you mean?”

“Don’t you remember? The day we first met, on the steps of the ball hosted by Mrs. Jensen. You tripped and fell into my arms.”

Elizabeth let out a quiet exclamation, then laughed. “Rather than fall, I’d say I bumped into you. Hard.”

“Indeed, very hard. So hard that your nose began to bleed and my white shirt became soaked with blood. I feared you might faint and was going to call a doctor, but you just plugged your nose with cotton balls and kept on dancing.”

Elizabeth giggled. “How could I just walk away when my favorite song was playing? Besides, my gown was the color of the leaves in autumn, so no one could even really tell I’d bled. By the way, why did you leave so quickly that day? I was so sure that you were going to ask me to dance.”

“Because I couldn’t stay in that shirt. If anyone saw me, they would’ve thought I’d been shot, and I also thought you’d feel embarrassed when you spotted me. Although, of course, you weren’t embarrassed in the least.”

Elizabeth smirked as though it were obvious that she wouldn’t be. When Edward saw that smile on her face, he couldn’t help but smile along with her. Anyone who was familiar with Edward knew just how hard it was to coax a smile out of him. But Elizabeth was one of the few people who could always make him smile.

“Don’t think I wasn’t embarrassed at all, though. The next time I saw you, you looked at me so coldly, I felt discouraged. In fact, I thought you were angry with me.”

“Is that why you left so quickly that day?”

“I couldn’t even manage to keep the food down. You were looking at me icily with those blue eyes of yours, as if you were saying, ‘You foolhardy woman. Can you really eat at a time like this?’”

“Well, I look at my mother and grandmother that way, too.”

“And if you’re ever granted an audience with Her Majesty the Queen, will you be looking at her like that?”

“I suppose so.”

“Then please don’t make eye contact with Her Majesty. Because if she keeps looking at you, she won’t manage to live long.”

Chuckling, Edward stroked Elizabeth’s chin with his fingertips. “I think it’s nothing short of a miracle that you accepted my hand in marriage after what’s happened.”

“Me too. If someone had told me three months ago that I would be Mrs. Morton someday, I wouldn’t have believed it, even if it were Laura telling me so— Oh!” Elizabeth suddenly jumped to her feet as though she had just remembered something important. “Laura! I haven’t seen Laura all day! My goodness, how could I have forgotten about her?!”

Edward stood along with her and asked, “Do you mean Miss Pendleton?”

“Yes! Edward, darling, you must find Laura at once! If I don’t see her today, I won’t be able to until after our honeymoon!”