Forging Forever

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Chapter 40

Cameron entered Annie’s room around five-thirty. He was not surprised to see her passed out in exhaustion on the bed. A small smile came to his lips when he saw that she was clutching his pillow to her. He glanced down at the folded note in his hand and frowned. It was an invitation from the Carter’s to a ‘small get together’ as Madison had called it. It had been delivered to him just before he had left the office. Cameron had been tempted to reject the invitation, but Annie needed to get as much information as she could. It pained him to wake her up, but it had to be done. He gently shook her shoulder, “Annie, wake up.” She mumbled something indistinguishable in reply then rolled over to the opposite side. Cameron chuckled then nudged her shoulder a bit harder. “Sweetheart, I know you’re tired but you have to wake up. We have to get ready for dinner.” Finally, Annie pushed herself up from the bed. Her hair tumbled wildly about her shoulders. It was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen.

“Dinner won’t be ready for an hour,” she grumbled. “Besides, Mary doesn’t care what we look like for dinner. We eat in the kitchen most nights anyways.”

“I understand that love, and if we were eating dinner here I would gladly let you rest awhile longer. Unfortunately we are expected elsewhere tonight.”

Annie’s eyebrows lifted quizzically, “What?”

Cameron handed her the note. “Madison has invited us to dinner.”

“Oh,” she replied without looking at the note. “Both of us?”

“Yes.”

“Good. I’m glad I’ll have you by my side tonight,” she smiled. “What time are we supposed to be there?”

“Seven. That leaves us just enough time to get dressed and go over. Can you manage or do you require assistance?”

“Cameron, you should know by now that I am completely capable of putting on my own clothes,” she rolled her eyes. She was fully awake now. “Just give me a few minutes then we can be on our way.”

Cameron nodded then left the room. It took him only a few minutes to change into his evening clothes. Once he was done he went down to the sitting room and indulged in a pre-dinner brandy with a few of the other boarders.

“You look dashing tonight Mr. Evans,” an elderly man named Shaun Stevenson said.

“Thank you Mr. Stevenson.”

“I take it you have dinner plans elsewhere this evening.”

“Yes. I am escorting Miss Johnson to dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Carter.”

“Well lucky you,” another man remarked. His name was Eric MacNamara. Cameron did not much care for him. He was always eyeing Annie like a wolf ready to pounce on his prey.

“Yes. I feel very fortunate,” he replied with a warning glint in his eye.

“I always wondered who she would move onto after Major Andre was out of the picture. I had hoped to get to know her better, but it appears you beat me to the chase.” Eric’s tone was cruel and judgmental. “She certainly doesn’t waste time.”

Cameron was about to lunge for the insolent man, but was stopped when Annie entered the sitting room, “Mr. Evans, I am ready to leave when you are,” she said sweetly. The tension between the two men did not escape her notice.

“Of course Miss Johnson,” Cameron replied then turned. She looked stunning in a midnight blue gown and matching slippers. Her hair was pinned loosely which highlighted the soft, wavy texture. It took all the strength he had not to reach out and touch it. Instead he offered his arm and they walked out the door to the waiting carriage.

“Cameron, don’t worry about what he says. You know my heart belongs to you,” Annie assured him once the carriage door was closed.

“That wasn’t what I was angry about,” he replied flatly. “It was what he implied about your character that angered me.”

“Well, I appreciate your defense, but you don’t have to worry. Soon these people will be just a fading blip on our radar.”

Cameron gave her a confused look. “Radar?”

“You should know what that is. You saw one on Spaceballs,” Annie chuckled.

Cameron thought for a moment then smiled as he recognized what she was talking about. “I remember,” he smiled. “I didn’t think those were actually real.”

“Oh, they are very real.”

Cameron smiled then changed the subject. “You look beautiful tonight.”

“Thank you. I’ve wanted to wear this dress for a while now. Unfortunately, Major Andre...” Annie’s voice trailed off.

“I know sweetheart,” Cameron replied, then pulled both her hands into his. “I’m certainly glad he will never have the opportunity to see you as I see you.”

Annie nodded and swallowed back a tear. His statement was true. Major Andre may have seen her virtually naked, but he had never seen her in the way Cameron had. He had never seen her willing or even eager. “Enough about that,” Annie said with a wave of her hand. “We have to make a plan for tonight.”

“What kind of plan? Annie, I don’t want you to sneak off and wander the house by yourself. Your dress will never allow you the speed or flexibility of your other clothes. Besides, you’ll get far more information from listening to the conversations.”

“Quit your worrying. That’s not what I meant,” she soothed. “I meant about how to best approach our relationship. We need to make people believe that we’re beginning to care for each other as more than friends.”

Cameron was about to reply when the carriage stopped. “Just follow my lead,” he whispered right before the door was pulled open.

Madison’s ‘small get together’ consisted of about twenty people, most of whom were close friends of Major Andre; close friends that Annie had never met. Annie was thankfully seated across from Cameron, although she would have preferred to be seated next to him. At least he wasn’t down at the opposite end of the table. Over the course of dinner she accepted and responded to countless condolences from each of the party’s attendees. The rest of the evening was spent reminiscing about the admirable qualities of the dearly departed major. Every time someone mentioned Major Andre’s ‘exceptional sense of honor,’ Annie’s stomach turned; if only they knew his true nature. Throughout the evening Cameron would glance at her and give her a reassuring smile, she would smile back.

After several hours and just as many courses, the group moved from the dining room to the sitting room. It was when they were walking down the hallway that Madison approached her, “Annie, would you mind taking a walk with me in the garden for a few minutes.”

“I would love to,” she replied. Annie managed to give Cameron a reassuring nod before she and Madison left the house. Once they were out of earshot of the house Annie spoke. “Is there any news yet?” She did not need to clarify her question.

“No. General Washington is keeping his plans very secretive. However, my sources did say that he is planning to make camp for the winter very soon, they just do not know where yet. Once they do, they’ll inform me,” she whispered. “But that’s not what I wanted to speak to you about.”

“Oh,” Annie replied. “What is it you wish to discuss?”

“You know that my greatest wish is to see you happy, especially after all that has happened to you,” Madison declared.

“I thank you for that.”

“Tell me, is there anything going on between you and Mr. Evan’s?” Madison blurted out the question.

Annie had not anticipated this and therefore had no time to prepare a more convincing answer. “He has been very kind to me since I came to the city. We are good friends,” Annie whispered.

“I’m glad you and he are good friends, but I think there is more to it than that,” she stated. “Please Annie, you do not have to hide anything from me.”

Annie blushed. She so wanted to share her feelings with this Madison, her friend. For a moment she let her guard down just a bit. “I must admit, my feelings have grown for him. I tried to prevent it, especially with the situation with Major Andre. Unfortunately the heart rarely listens to the head.”

Madison gave her hand a gentle pat, “How true that is.”

“I am so confused right now,” Annie said, trying to convince Madison that her heart was in turmoil. “I miss Major Andre. I cared for him deeply. But, well, with Major Andre everything was so fast and intense. In all honesty it scared me sometimes. Cameron on the other hand has been a constant. He is undemanding and patient. I know he cares for me as much as I care for him. I just feel like giving into my feelings for Cameron would be a betrayal to John’s memory.”

“I understand Annie. I knew Major Andre very well and I know he would want you to be happy. So, please, do not feel guilty about your feelings for Mr. Evan’s. It is obvious, at least to me that you two care for each other. If he makes you happy you should not deny that happiness. Just see where it goes.”

“Thank you for your counsel Madison. It has alleviated my stress greatly,” Annie smiled.

“You are welcome. You know I am always here if you need me,” she assured her.

“Thank you. You truly are a great friend.”

“As are you. Now, let’s get inside before we are missed.” Madison took Annie’s hand and led her inside. The sitting room was filled to capacity. The occupants were enjoying a variety of refreshments that included brandy, coffee, and various types of wine. Annie’s stomach lurched. All she craved right now was a large glass of water. Unfortunately, that was not available so she chose the lesser of the various evils and sipped at a small cup of coffee while she sat in a chair in the corner of the room.

“How did the conversation go?” Annie had not heard Cameron approach.

“Just fine,” she replied.

“What exactly did you speak about, if you don’t mind me asking,” he whispered.

“Of course not. We were talking about you,” she whispered back.

“Oh.”

“We can talk more on the way home.”

Cameron nodded then rejoined the group he had been speaking to. Eventually Annie rose from her seat and joined a group of ladies chatting in a corner of the room. The conversation was dull for the most part. They discussed trivial things such as the latest fashion trends and local gossip. Annie could feel herself grow more and more tired and disinterested by the minute. Still, she put on an interested face until finally, at one in the morning, Cameron claimed her from the group and took her home. Annie dozed off the minute they got into the carriage. Cameron woke her only long enough to lead her upstairs and get her ready for bed. She was fast asleep the moment her head hit the pillow.

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