Evan went to his mother as soon as she walked within the doors. “I made quite the spectacle of myself, believe me.”
His mother flinched when she saw his face.
Pursing his lips, he turned to Serena, “I came to the wedding to keep Miss Landon from marrying the Earl and had hoped she would marry me instead. The fact that I had not realized my love for her until today makes me feel awful because I have hurt you. In spite of all this, she decided to marry him before all of you came inside.”
Glancing at Lydia, then back at him, his mother blinked. “May I ask why?”
Lydia answered, “My lady…”
Claire stared at her directly. “Yes?”
Her body deflating, she said, “Because I have no choice.”
Claire glared at Wesley. “No choice, my lord?”
Wesley’s face turned beet red. “Yes, my lady. My solicitor finalized the settlement documents between us a few days past. They have been filed which makes near impossible to break. Even if I wished to set her free, the situation would take months to resolve. I do not have the freedom of waiting that long. And, Miss Landon knows why.”
Lydia nodded dejectedly toward his mother. “I learned today that he needs to wed me in order to gain his estate. His father drew up a will to attest to this.”
Wesley gazed at Lydia with guilt within his eyes. “I am truly sorry for lying all these months. To prove this to you, I will be further honest. I borrowed an extravagant amount of funds from my father before he died. And, that is why I am in financial straits.”
Again, everyone gasped his newest admission.
Her eyes widened, fury on her face “So, you are not only a liar but a thief as well?”
Evan could not believe what he was hearing. But, he kept listening wondering what the man would say or do next.
His lips trembled. “I admit that anything I wanted, whether it is a new wardrobe, furniture and such, I bought it because I have been such a shallow person.”
Evan sighed as he gazed at his mother. “What can be done about this, do you have any idea?”
Claire pinched her lips. “I do not know.”
Serena went to him grasping his arm. “This is awful. I wish I could do something for you.”
He laughed shortly. “You are dreadfully good to me Miss Staten, thinking of others before yourself. Even after I made us both appear so foolish.”
She smiled fondly at him. “Your feelings are not foolish. I knew from the beginning that we were not a love match. You were honest about needing my purse strings.”
Wesley turned away when she said that, his face pained.
He squeezed her hand briefly. “I have probably ruined you. And yet you are you still being good to me.”
Serena said, “Do not worry about my reputation my lord. But, since I must be ruined, I might as well make things worse…”
She walked up to the front, standing before Wesley. He turned to her, his brows rising in question. “Does your father’s will say you can marry anyone you wish?”
He rolled his eyes at her. “It does not specifically state that I must wed an heiress or anything.”
She cleared her throat. “If I say I will take her place, will you marry me instead?”
More gasps went through the air, everyone totally shocked by the next turn of events. Evan shrugged to himself, wondering how things could get even odder than they already were. He glanced at Lydia and she sighed loudly.
Wesley groaned. “I gave my creditors word that their payments would be coming within the next few days. Dissolving my agreement with Miss Landon would take too long. And, you are promised to the Duke over there. What do you suggest be done about that?”
Serena blinked, not saying a word. Hugging herself, she shrugged. Evan glanced at his mother, she shook her head.
The priest cleared his throat, his face wreathed with anger. “Will you make up your minds already? My feet are getting sore from standing here.”
Lydia closed her eyes with weary defeat before saying, “How can I do anything else than marry the Earl?”
She would have wrapped his hands within her own, and married him, if her father would not have said, “No, you are not marrying him. And, I will tell you why.”
Wesley stiffened, beginning to speak, “My lord, surely you will not keep her from fulfilling…”
Her father stomped over to the Earl hitting him in the eye that had not been bruised by his own hand. Wesley groaned, clutching his wound. Evan could only stare in shock at his brutal actions.
“You have admitted in front of dozen of witnesses that you lied to both me and my daughter for months. I will not let you dishonor either of us again. Do you not understand what fraud means, my lord? I will sue your estate for every penny you own if you persist in trying to get my daughter to marry you.”
His mother nodded. “I do believe what you have said is a rather brilliant assessment, I wish I had thought of that tact.”
Lydia’s father cleared his throat, looking a bit embarrassed. He bowed her way. “Thank you, my lady.”
Wesley kept a hold of his eye as he said, “What of the documents, my lord? Surely your suit will take as long as go through as it would if you were to dissolve our marriage instead.”
Her father glared at him. “You are a scoundrel, my lord, and if I were you, I would keep your trap shut!”
Lydia’s mouth dropped opened. And, his eyes widened. They were both witnesses now, not having much to add to the unfolding events. He would bet though, they were both eager to hear what Wesley had to say next.
Wesley frowned, letting go of his eye. “I had thought only to bring up a point that would settle things a bit more civilly, begging your pardon, my lord.”
When he said that, Lydia’s father went to her side, kissing her cheek. “You are not to marry him. Stay right there, in that very spot till I come back.”
She nodded, doing as he said. Wesley frowned, but he did not move, probably curious as to what her father could possibly do. He, along with the other guests waited for two whole hours for him to return. Despite the priest’s declaration of his feet hurting, the older man sat down upon the floor, whistling to himself.
Lydia’s father soon returned with the local magistrate. When Wesley turned to run, the priest held out his foot, tripping him. The man simply shrugged and said, “It was an accident.”
Evan almost laughed; instead he clamped his lips shut. It would not do to betray his actions as anything other than the accident he claimed them to be. He watched as the magistrate, who was a rather trim but strong, older gentleman, pick the Earl off the floor, twisting his hands behind his back, placing him in a pair of shackles.
Wesley’s head bowed, he said not another word. Lydia surprised everyone, including him when she went forward and tugged at the Earl’s sleeve. His head rose when she did.
“Even though I am angry, I do not wish for you to go prison.”
His brows rose in consternation. Lord, what was she thinking?
Her father stared at her with horror. “What are you doing?”
She shrugged, only gazing at Wesley now. “I saw within your eyes that you are sorry about what you have done. And, I do not blame you for trying to run. I would not wish to be in prison either. I want you to know that your lies do not make me feel sorry for you, because they do not…”
Evan smiled at her continued courage, watching her speak her mind.
Tears came to Wesley’s eyes; he listened to every word.
“My sense of decency will not allow me to let things end this way. I do not like what you have done, but I am willing to forgive you.”
Uneasiness washed over him, he stalked forward, taking her by the arm with a scowl on his face. “You are forgiving him, why?”
Lydia kissed his cheek, his face turned pink. “Because, I would hate myself if I did this to him. And, because there is a better solution to all of this.”
He still did not understand, yet he asked, “And, that would be?”
She caused another stir when she said, “I will go through with marrying him.”
If you missed the story from the beginning, here are the links:
Part One: AMostDistractingDamselPartOne
Part Two: AMostDistractingDamselPartTwo
Part Four: AMostDistractingDamselPartFour
Part Five: AMostDistractingDamselPartFive
Part Six: AMostDistracingDamselPartSix (This Part is flagged for Mature Audiences Only)
Part Seven: AMostDistractingDamselPartSeven
Part Eight: AMostDistractingDamselPartEight
Part Nine: AMostDistractingDamselPartNine
Part Ten: AMostDistractingDamselPartTen (This Part is flagged for Mature Audiences Only)
Part Eleven: AMostDistractingDamselPartEleven
Part Twelve: AMostDistractingDamselPartTwelve
Part Thirteen: AMostDistractingDamselPartThirteen
Part Fourteen: AMostDistractingDamselPartFourteen
Part Fifteen: AMostDistractingDamselPartFifteen (This Part is flagged for Crude and Indecent language)