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A Distant Rose Among Thorns

By FLRowe

Romance / Drama

Spring of 1860

The boy on the hill has a link to a legendary family, a lineage of wealth and great power, the crème of the crème, the Ardlay family of Chicago Illinois.

After many years of sworn privacy, their most treasured family secrets are unvaulted to discover a story filled with deep sentiments that will twist endearment to love, disillusion to betrayal, and sorrow to rage, with many surprising events that tangle the web-like knitted lives of every character belonging to this elite.  

  “Miss Cora, can you please pay attention to what I have been instructing you to play” said her piano instructor,

“I need your full attention, and certainly there could not be anything more important outside those windows than these ivory keys?” scolded her instructor of ten years, Mr. Milner.

 He was a tall, small framed middle aged man, well dressed always in dark colored suits. His posture was always erect and he constantly played with his mustache, twisting it as his apprentice played the piano. 

“Forgive me Mr. Milner, it will not happen again” Cora said embarrassed.

 “Well, I believe my time here has concluded.  I will see to it that you practice your piece, and have it ready to play by next week” said the instructor firmly as Cora nodded in acceptance. 

  It was a pleasant day with the sunshine beaming through the large window in the music room of the immense mansion.  Cora was a young lady of sixteen years of age, of medium built and curvaceous, in the right areas.  Cora’s hair, a chestnut’s brown with hazel-green eyes that were naturally lined with her beautiful long dark lashes.  She was a radiant young woman who enjoyed her mid-day strolls through the gardens of the mansion with her sister Janette, a svelte, tall strawberry blond girl, with flecked ivory skin and green eyes. The sisters were close emotionally, even though Cora was seven years younger; they shared every small detail of their lives, especially bad mouthing Mr. Milner

“Miss Cora, can you please pay attention, la, la, la! Miss Cora this, Miss Cora that, does he even know that his breath is atrocious? I believe I will faint the next time he comes near me with that mustache!” Cora exclaimed mimicking Mr. Milner.

“Oh Cora, I pity you dear, a whole hour with him is more than I could bear” replied Janette.

 “How about our lovely walk? Are you ready sister, I certainly am after exposing myself to that thin lipped gray mouse with the horrendous breath” Cora continued to say as they both begun their stroll through the garden.

 “Janette, do you remember the young fellow that was invited along with his family to the business dinner Papa held the previous month? The gentleman that kept his eye on me for most of the evening, and made me spill my glass with his piercing stare? ” Cora asked.

“Well, yes indeed, if I remember correctly his name is Edgar; he is a very handsome young lad, of nineteen years of age, with a penetrating glance, very beautiful eyes though, almost like the light blue from the sky. And not to ignore, such great smile.  Yes, do tell, what about him?”Janette replied.

 “Edgar has written me! And he wishes to see me and go for a walk in the park with me” Cora said excitedly.

“When do we get ready, we must present this to parents for approval first, I hope that they will see it fit and just allow me to chaperone you instead of Henry” Janette said with excitement and with concern.

 “Oh yes, I rather you be with me than brother, since he loves to talk business, he will take over the conversation and leave me just to sit” complaint Cora.

Henry was Janette and Cora’s oldest brother; he was twenty-eight years old, a tall handsome blond with gentle blue eyes, married to a noble young woman named Priscilla Wellington of nineteen years, a beautiful tall blond, green eyed woman of true kindness and a wealthy family background, he lived with his bride in the spacious mansion.  Henry worked for his father managing part of the family business, stocks and properties in the Chicago area.

  “Can you believe that today is the day that Edgar and I will go for our first walk in the park? I am leaping for joy!” said Cora happily. 

“Yes dearest, but it is not until after your piano performance for Mr. Milner” Janette reminded her. 

“Oh, how lovely, I believe I will be plugging my nostrils with some mint leaves to bear his breath today” said Cora sarcastically. 

“Maybe we should offer him some mint tea to cure him, instead of the glass of brandy, or sewer water he likes to take a sip of” said Janette laughingly. 

“Miss Cora, I am pleased to announce to you that I have taught you everything that I have possessed in the musical content, and that I am no longer required to assist you” said Mr. Milner filled with pleasure.

 Cora tenderly bowed down to her instructor as he kissed her hand in farewell.  As Mr. Milner walked away from the room, Cora jumped with a leap of excitement and leaned towards the window to wave at her sister Janette.

 “Janette, come help me get ready, I must look angelic for Edgar!” exclaimed Cora. 

  Once in the carriage Cora and Janette shared their excitement, making sure to go over the etiquette of courting.  Cora brought her fan to give her unspoken signals to her suitor.  The girls practiced with one another and each acted the role of the man, which caused them to laugh hysterically.  Janette held her fan and begun to fan fast.

“Cora what am I saying?” asked Janette. 

“You are independent” replied Cora. 

Now fanning slow, “Cora and now?” asked Janette.

“You are engaged” replied Cora.

 Now with the fan in her right hand in front of her face. “and now?” Janette asked.

“It means come on” said Cora.

 Fan in left hand in front of her face, “let’s see if you remember Cora”

“It means to leave you” said Cora. 

Fan opening and shutting “that’s easy, it means to kiss you” Cora replied giggling.

 Fan open wide “love!” exclaimed Cora.

 Fan half open “just friends” Cora said. 

Fan shut “oh, this is hate” Cora replied. 

“Ok here is the last one” swinging her fan.  “Can I see you Home?” Cora said with a sigh. 

Once the girls arrived they spotted a nice carriage with Edgar and his assistant inside.  The assistant escorts Edgar and politely introduces his master to the women.  Edgar gently bowed his head and reached for the outstretched hands to be kissed.  Edgar and Cora seemed to really enjoy each other’s company and Janette is thrilled with her sister’s new found happiness. 

Several more outings are planned, strolls, the theatre, and finally, Cora swung her fan, and Edgar is finally invited to her home.  Cora permitted Edgar to visit her more frequently.  Then, in the sun room Edgar noticed that Cora, while seated, was opening and closing her fan, he then approached her from behind to lightly kiss her cheek.  Cora was absent minded, since she had become comfortable being in his presence and did not notice her actions with the fan.  Suddenly she rose to her feet with her head down and blushing cheeks, as she left her fan on the chair Cora became speechless.  Edgar moved closely from besides her to caress the back of her neck as she was looking down at her hands.  Cora has never experienced a kiss from a gentleman before; she felt her heart beating faster in her chest, she could even hear the beating in her ears.  As Edgar continued to caress her neck slowly and softly, his hand continued to move towards her jaw line, gently and ever so softly towards her chin, then he slightly turned Cora’s chin to face him.  Cora then began to lift her eyes and stared at his chest.  As his hand held her chin, his thumb caressed her lower lip; she began to look into his blue eyes. 

Once their eyes locked, Edgar began to whisper “Have you any idea how much I have been longing to kiss your beautiful lips”

Cora’s perfect lips were full and naturally tinted pink.  He then got closer to Cora and gently asked “may I kiss you?” 

She was still speechless, but looking down again she nodded affirmatively.  Edgar then grabbed her face with both hands so tenderly.  He then caressed her cheeks with his thumbs; he began to lift her head closer to his face. Cora with eyes wide open accepted his lips touching hers then she begun to surrender by closing her eyes allowing him to lead.  Edgar continued to kiss her softly as he moved his hands over her shoulders and down her arms; he then grabbed both her hands and begun to kiss them.  He knew to be gentle and patient since all this was new to Cora.

 Edgar then glanced at her eyes through his lashes and said, “I want you to know that one day you will be my wife.”

Cora finally able to speak replied “Is that a promise you are going to keep?” Cora smiled timidly.

“I am the happiest when I am with you Cora, I wish you to be with me every day and every night” Edgar replied.   Then they embraced and held each other as Edgar kissed her again.

One month later, Edgar came to meet with his father Horace and their business partners in Chicago.  Very important announcements had to be made, gains and losses that have taken the company by surprise.  Unfortunately, the Muir’s stocks have dropped in value and everything that was wrapped around them was to be lost, this was devastating news to Mr. Horace and Edgar Muir, they will be forced to sell many properties at low costs.  On the other hand, the Ardlay, Elroy and the McDonnell’s had gained quadruple the amount and their businesses were secured with the purchase of many properties around the world.  Edgar thought about Cora and how their future plans might come to a halt. Both families had agreed with Edgar and Cora’s union, not because they were in love but to strengthen their families’ assets. 

“What is to come for my family, all our hard work? What about my Cora, I am afraid to lose her, I refuse to lose her” Edgar thought deeply.

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