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Chapter 2

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"Never look back unless you are planning to go that way." Henry David Thoreau

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Chapter Two

Annaliese watched as the blood drained from both of her sisters' faces. They looked positively ashen. She was sure that she looked quite the same.

Annaliese could not quite believe the news herself. She had never been a big believer in true love, or rather, being able to marry one's true love. It simply did not work that way among the English aristocracy. She had been under the impression that her parents would do their best to attach her to a wealthy man in London. But even then Annaliese would have three months to get to know the man, and then an extended engagement. She would never have guessed that she would be engaged to a man that she had not yet met.

Annaliese quickly went over the facts that she knew about this Matthew Cassidy. The first was that he was a widower. That was tragic news. She could not know what it was like to lose someone that close to her. The Dawson family had been fortunate in that respect. Poor Matthew Cassidy had to be a very sad man indeed, particularly if he did not want to endure a season to find a wife. This told her that he was not interested in romance whatsoever. She did not know how she felt about that. But then again, all strong marriages began with mutual respect. She hoped that he would respect her, and Annaliese was sure that Matthew was a respectable man if he had been raised by such as woman as Lady Cassidy.

The fact that he had three children was what really frightened her. He desired a mother for them. She was not a mother.

"Forgive me," Isabella said, holding her hand up, "for you will have to say that again. I am not sure that I heard you correctly."

"You heard me correctly," Annaliese replied quietly. "I am engaged."

"To whom?" exclaimed Eleanor.

"Lord Matthew Cassidy, baronet," replied Annaliese sadly. She did feel incredibly sad telling her sisters this news. She would be leaving them soon.

"But why?" cried Isabella. "Have you been courting him in secret?"

Annaliese shook her head. "Of course not. Mama is a friend of Lord Cassidy's mother," she murmured.

"You do know that a baronet is a 'sir'," Eleanor reminded Annaliese.

Annaliese slapped her hand to her forehead and moaned. She did not even know how to address the man! What was she to do? Not that she had much of a choice in the matter. If she did not marry this man then her family would be ruined, destitute by summer's end. Her parents would then do anything and everything to attach Isabella to a gentleman with even a penny to his name. She was not mature enough to be married.

"Mama and Papa require this from me," Annaliese whispered after a moment of internal turmoil. That was all this was. Her parents needed this from her. They had not always been the most loving and warm parents, but they were still her mother and father. Annaliese had never gone hungry, she had always had a warm bed to sleep in, and she had always had clean clothing to wear. She had a lot to be grateful for.

It was time for her to repay them for the most basic things that she had needed growing up. She needed to stay quiet and she needed to be compliant.

Annaliese obediently wrote to Lady Cassidy and informed the kind woman that she would be happy to marry her son. She also wrote that the Dawsons would be travelling to their Somerset residence in a week's time.

***

"What?" Matthew Cassidy grunted as he was disturbed by a knock on the door of his study. He immediately closed his leather-bound ledger and looked up to see whoever had disturbed him.

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