Rescue Her Heart

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Chapter Eight

Trying to Heal...

Jessie observed them from the sunroom as they rode up together on one horse. She noticed immediately how Aniela leaned back, resting her head on Jaylon’s chest. Her heartfelt heavy and an overwhelming pressure and weariness took hold of her insides. The baby kicked as if sensing her anxiety and she patted her belly, attempting to soothe them both.

She watched them disappear into the stables and she turned, heading to the kitchen preparing to greet them when they came in.

“Good morning Nettie,” she said, as she stepped through the swinging doors.

Nettie turned and gave her the customary pleasant smile. “Good morning, Miss. Are you and the babe hungry? I will fix you something to eat.” Without waiting for an answer, she busied herself preparing a combination of bread and applesauce.

“Thank you Nettie,” she sighed, pulling out a chair at the counter to sit down.

Sensing her mood, Nettie paused. “Is something wrong Miss?”

“Aniela and Jaylon just rode into the stables,” she said, wrenching her hands before her. “I’m glad they found shelter from the storm, but... I am troubled by the fact they spent the night together with simply a fireplace or each other to maintain warmth. Nothing good comes from a man and woman spending the night together alone.”

“Oh,” Nettie said, following her meaning. “Would that be so bad Miss Jessie? Maybe Lord Jaylon is what Miss Aniela needs to regain...”

“He’s married,” Jessie blurted, cutting her off. “He is absolutely not what she needs right now.” Hearing the door open, she turned in her seat just as Jaylon carried Aniela over the threshold. She rose and rushed over to them.

Jaylon set Aniela down onto her feet and Jessie folded her arms around her. “I am so elated you made it back home safely,” she said, pressing her cheek to Aniela’s. “What were you thinking riding off like that?”

Aniela gladly hugged her back. “I’m sorry for causing you to worry,” she acknowledged. “Thank goodness Jaylon followed me and rescued me from my own foolishness. The outcome could have been much worse.”

Jessie pulled away from her and glanced at Jaylon. “What do you mean?”

He was shaking off his jacket when he responded. “Her horse threw her,” he said, draping his sodden clothing on a chair. “She was down at the bottom of a ravine lying unconscious in a stream when I found her. If I sought to head home, she would have most likely frozen to death. I recalled crossing a small cottage in my search, so we hauled up there for the night.” He rubbed Aniela’s arm in a tender gesture. “It had a fireplace and dry wood. I recognized I would be able to warm her up there.”

Jessie caught the modest blush sweep over her sister’s pale face. She turned Aniela around to scrutinize her. “Are you okay,” Jessie asked, concerned. “Were you injured at all?”

“No,” Aniela answered, giving Jaylon a sudden glance. “I-I am fine. No bumps and no bruises,” she laughed nervously and spun around. “I almost froze to death, but Jaylon...”

He stepped between them cutting her off. “The cottage was incredibly small,” he interjected, glancing at them all. “It warmed up quickly once I got the fire going.”

“The cabin close to the sharp bend of the ravine,” Nettie added, nodding her head. “It’s a skillfully built small dwelling. Thank goodness it was close.”

They all stood for a moment, shaking their heads in awkward silence. “I am going to go change,” Aniela announced suddenly, squirming from one foot to the other.

“I’ll come with you,” Jessie proclaimed, as she gripped her sister’s hand to draw her from the room. She peered over her shoulder at Nettie. “Please have a hot bath sent to her room.” She advanced towards the door, pulling Aniela with her.

Once in the foyer, she pulled her hand free of Jessie’s grasp. “I don’t require you to go with me,” she said hesitating. “I swear I am okay and I am exhausted. I just wish to soak in a tub and go to bed.”

Jessie turned around. “I desire to speak with you,” she said, eyeing her up and down. “Privately.” Then she turned and commenced walking towards the great hall to the stairway.

Watching her go, Aniela bit her lip in apprehension. She didn’t wish to argue with Jessie, so she followed her to her bed-chamber. When the door shut behind her, Jessie started her interrogation.

“What were you thinking to ride off like that in the midst of a snowstorm,” she blurted, pacing in front of the window. “Do you comprehend what could have transpired?”

Aniela wrung her hands in front of her. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I realize it was senseless of me.”

“Senseless of you,” Jessie exclaimed, hearing her voice suddenly crack. “I thought I lost you again. You’ve hardly been home for two days and suddenly you were gone.” Tears pooled in her eyes and she had to look away from her. She felt Aniela’s arms fold around her and she settled her head on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, this pregnancy makes me overly emotional,” she sniffed.

Aniela rubbed her back, attempting to console her. “Forgive me, Jessie, I didn’t mean to create you needless worry and concern,” she sighed. “But I am home now and I am not going anywhere for a very long time.”

“Good,” Jessie chortled, wiping her tears and feeling silly. She pulled away from her. “Let me help you undress. This coat and dress look like they have seen better days.”

Aniela laughed looking down at her muffed appearance. “I’m pretty sure both are ruined. When I dressed this morning, they were stiff and terribly troublesome to put on. I will have to seek out Miss Carolyn and Miss Tamara to make me another.”

Jessie’s hand rose to her temple, and she closed her eyes as the anxiety flowed through her bones. “When you dressed this morning?” she questioned, her voice laced with the uneasiness she felt.

Pausing at the buttons on the front of her dress, Aniela realized her mistake and her face turned crimson. “Yes, we...Jaylon and I had to remove our clothes because they were soaked clean through,” she admitted shyly. “I remained in my shift and Jaylon kept his breeches on.” Unable to meet Jessie’s eyes she looked down and fidgeted from one foot to the other.

Jessie went to her and put her hands on her shoulders. “Please tell me you didn’t...”

Aniela turned away from her, causing her to terminate her words. “Jaylon was a complete gentleman if that’s what you are asking,” she declared. “His sole motive was to protect us both from the cold. I am here now because of him. I owe my life to him. More than once he has saved me.” She turned back towards Jessie, her eyes remained on the floor at her feet. Then she lifted them, biting her lower lip. “He loves me... and he declares he hasn’t stopped loving me after all the time that has passed.”

With wide eyes, Jessie walked to her and clasped both her hands. “Aniela, you need to know...”

A knock on the chamber door interrupted her charge and Aniela welcomed the diversion, pulling away to step towards the door. Two men hauled in the huge copper tub while four housemaids filled it with steaming water.

Still feeling the chill in her bones, Aniela walked to Jessie, offering her a tender embrace. “I’m fine. Really I am,” she said against her hair. “I just wish to lie in this tub and get warm. We will finish this conversation after I finish...I swear.”

Jessie hesitated eyeing her up and down once more. “You swear?” she asked, lifting her hand to settle on her cheek.

Aniela shook her head and walked her to the door. Once the door closed, Aniela leaned on it and released a heavy sigh. Why did she just feel like she dodged a bullet?

~~~

The hot water settled over her chilled body and she sighed, loving how it soothed her weary bones. She recognized how Nettie always made certain the tub was placed facing the large windows and the drapes were pulled back, granting her a beautiful view of the outside. At present, it was snowing big flakes again, and she watched them with a hypnotic stare until her eyes became heavy. Leaning her head back, she let herself succumb to the tranquil illusion of her life being unpolluted with frenzied chaos.

She heard the faint noise of the door clicking behind her. Her heavy eyes opened and a long sigh flowed from her lips. Exhausted, she couldn’t imagine what anyone would need from her at this very moment to be disturbing her bath. “Please, Nettie... Jessie,” she begged with a sleepy laden voice. “Come back later. I merely wish to soak in the warm water for a while. I promise we will talk later.” Her voice faded, and she closed her eyes again. Not really listening if whoever it was, moved on.

“I don’t blame you for yearning to be alone, the water does look quite tempting,” Jaylon whispered close to her ear, then leaned down and placed his hand below the surface. “Although, I do prefer no lavender. It’s not really a manly scent.”

Aniela’s eyes shot open. “Jaylon,” she gasped, drawing her arms across her breast and splashing water over the sides. “What-what are you doing here?” She twisted and glanced at the chamber door.

He smiled and stood up. Reaching for the buttons on his shirt and started undoing them, one by one. “Don’t concern yourself Aniela, I bolted the door. No one can enter in.”

She sat up, her back rigid and tense. “You need to leave. If Jessie knew you were...”

He chuckled at her naiveté. “Jessie will never know. Besides, I am doing your household servants a favor. Now they won’t have the back-breaking task at hauling another tub all the way to my chamber.” He smiled wickedly as his eyes roamed over her exposed flesh. “I have found that sharing a bath can be quite pleasurable. Besides, ever since Jessie ordered your bath to be sent up; my mind could think of nothing else but you soaking in this tub. The last thirty minutes or so, have been quite torturous for me.”

Her eyes grew wide as she observed him discharging the buttons on his shirt. “W-What do you think you’re doing?” she stammered, watching him throw his shirt to the floor. When he moved to loosen the button on his breeches, her head jerked to stare straight ahead. “Surely you don’t intend...” Her words suspended in her throat when he slipped into the tub behind her. She peeked over her shoulder at him and her mouth went dry as her eyes raked over his naked chest.

Modesty went out the door and she clutched the sides of the tub in an attempt to rise. “I am... I’ve finished anyway,” she announced, struggling to catch her breath and sloshing water onto the floor. “You can have the tub all to yourself.”

But Jaylon ignored her and placed his hands on her hips, drawing her back down into the water in front of him. “Don’t be absurd Aniela,” he murmured close to her ear. “The water is yet very warm, so I know you haven’t been bathing long.” He moved for the lavender soap and pressed it to her back. “I’ll wash you, then you can wash me. Sounds like a proper trade don’t you think?”

She closed her eyes when she felt his hands glide over her skin and she battled with the emotions he aroused deep in her belly.

He could feel her trembling at his touch and he wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her to rest against his chest. “Please hear me, Aniela... I will never harm you and I will never demand anything from you,” he whispered against her flesh while starting a trail of kisses along her neck. “Feel and see only me Aniela, not the man who scarred and hurt your body.” His soapy hands drifted across her skin, pausing at each scar and placing his lips there. “I am traveling back home later today and I wished to hold you in my arms one more time before I leave.” His hands slid around her waist settling on her firm breast. “But if you desire, I will leave this room right now. All you have to do is order me... and I will go.”

Her mind reeled with disquiet and turmoil. She didn’t want him to go, but she was terrified for him to stay. “We shouldn’t be doing this Jaylon,” she sighed, leaning her head back and allowing him complete access to her bare neck. “What took place between us in the cottage was a mistake and improper.” His lips seared a trail on her flesh and a moan spilled from her parted lips.

He adamantly disagreed, lifting her in his arms, he turned her until she straddled his hips permitting his desire to press firmly against her. “Lift your hips for me Aniela,” he whispered, verging on her lips. When she followed his command, he slid her down onto his full desire until he was fully embedded inside her.

Her arms wrapped around his neck and she claimed his lips hungrily with her own.

He guided her hips, ushering a gradual rhythmic pace until she established her own tempo. Suddenly he wasn’t the teacher anymore as she forced his mouth open with her own, inserting her tongue. He moaned into her mouth, sending pulsations of desire coursing through her veins. Her thighs clamped around him as her body quaked and her muscles contracted. “Jaylon,” she cried, helpless to catch her breath reeling from this unfamiliar passion he unleashed in her body.

An abrupt tap on the door halted them both, and she lifted her head, staring at the door.

Jaylon put a finger to his lips, then wrapped a hand through her hair, pulling her to him. “Let whoever it is believe you are asleep,” he whispered, against her ear.

“Aniela,” Jessie called from the other side of the door. “Are you finished with your bath?”

Closing her eyes, she wrapped her arms around him. “I should acknowledge her,” she sighed, holding her cheek against his. “There are keys to all the rooms. What is she possesses one?” She shuddered at feeling him still deep inside her and commenced to move her hips slowly against him.

“Aniela?” Jessie’s muffled voice called again.

“I’m-I’m still in- “she sought to answer but was halted by Jaylon’s lips covering hers. She opened her mouth to him, granting his tongue to enter and taste her. But she knew she had to answer her sister, so she lifted her head and shouted towards the door. “I will be a while longer Jessie. We can talk later.” Then she resumed her position, granting his mouth full access to her own and at the same time stifling any cries of desire drifting from her lips.

His hands gripped her hips pressing her down harder onto him; forcing him deeper into her womb. Her thighs clamped tighter to him and they shuddered together in a crowning climax.

Suddenly, the world didn’t seem so awful anymore.

~~~

Jessie had entered the hallway, just as Jaylon placed his foot on the final step coming down the stairs. She regarded him adjusting his clothes and a look of mortification crossed her pale features. She peered up the steps, then back at him. “Where is Aniela?” she inquired, with eyebrows drawn.

His mouth drew into a thin line. “She is sleeping.”

Her eyes traveled the length of him, skeptically. “And you would know that how?” she interrogated, cocking her head to the side. “Why does your hair appear wet? Were you in her bed-chamber?”

“Jessie, please,” he responded, not desiring to quarrel with her.

She took a few steps towards him. “Were you?” she repeated, her voice rising an octave.

His eyes went to the stairs, then he grasped her arm and steered her into the Library under considerable protest. “Jessie, don’t cause a scene. Please for Aniela’s sake.”

Her eyes grew wide and she could feel the heat rising to her face. “For Aniela’s sake,” she repeated sharply, spinning to look up at him. “Answer me Jaylon, why were you in her bed-chamber?”

His non-answer was answer enough, and he walked away from her. “I gave her a choice Jessie,” he declared, rubbing his tired shoulders. “It turns out, she wanted me as much as I wanted her.”

She seized his arm, demanding him to face her. “What are you implying Jaylon? Did you sleep with her here in our home? How could you?”

Lifting his chin, his eyes lifted to the ceiling releasing a long sigh of frustration. “You know Jessie, I remember where you came from,” he charged angrily. “How can you of all people judge me or Aniela?”

She paled at what he was suggesting. “What are you trying to say Jaylon?” she asked, her voice flat. “That I’m not worthy of caring for my sister?”

“Don’t twist my words, Jessie,” he bit back. “I know you and Lucian had intimate relations before you wed. That is the only point I am trying to make.”

Her hands clenched into a fist. “You are married,” she blurted, rushing to stand before him. “That is the entire point I am trying to make.”

He glared at her. “Thank you so much for reminding me,” he retorted with sarcasm. “I might have overlooked that snippet of information.”

Jessie didn’t appreciate his smart comment, and she reached up, slapping him across the face.

Lucian had stepped into the library just as her palm connected with Jaylon’s cheek. He rushed to Jessie’s side, placing himself between the two of them. “What is going on?” He demanded, holding his hand up to push Jaylon farther away. He looked at Jessie and forced her to the other side of the room, seeking to defuse the situation. Her breathing was labored and could feel her trembling. “Jessie please calm down,” he said, making an attempt to appease her. He looked between the two of them. “What transpired here? I have had the displeasure of being on the wrong end of your wrath,” he continued. “And I likewise recognize it takes a considerable amount of irritation to provoke you into slapping someone.” He drew his gaze to Jaylon.

She was amazed by how Lucian was always able to calm her. “I’m sorry I lost my temper Jaylon,” she mumbled, setting her hand on Lucian’s arm, not desiring him to take action against Jaylon.

Jaylon nodded his understanding. “I am sorry too, Jessie,” he said. “I honestly didn’t mean to imply anything. I was merely seeking to make a point.”

Again Lucian looked between the two of them and his eyes drew together. “Ok, now that we have accomplished that you both are sorry,” Lucian added with displeasure. “Would one of you mind explaining what prompted to this little scuffle?”

Jessie fiddled with her dress, not choosing to repeat the words out loud.

Jaylon turned away for a moment, then drew a slow heavy breath gathering his courage. “Aniela and I slept together,” he admitted in a low tortured tone. “First when we became snowed in at the cottage.” He hesitated to rake his fingers through his hair. “Then once more here this morning in her bed-chamber.”

Lucian rubbed his chin and shifted to study Jessie. “May I talk to Jaylon, alone?” he urged, reaching for her hand and raising it to his lips. “Go check on Aniela and I will join you in our bed chamber later.”

Tentative, she did what Lucian asked.

Lucian watched her until the door closed behind her. Once they were alone, Lucian turned to his friend. “Have you gone completely mad? You are a married man now for Christ’s sake,” he proclaimed, incredulously.

Jaylon shook his head and a deep stress-filled sigh flowed from his lips. “I’m not letting Aniela go again,” Jaylon professed. “You and Jessie need to acknowledge that fact. I am going to employ a solicitor to get out of my marriage with Lizy.”

Lucian shook his head and looked down at his feet contemplating. “Listen to me Jaylon. I don’t want you to give up on Aniela and I’m sure Jessie doesn’t want you to either.” Lucian conceded. “But the fact remains, you have slept with her twice.” When Jaylon looked away, Lucian’s face fell. “It has been only twice, right?”

“Does it truly matter?” Jaylon countered, rolling his eyes and walking away.

“No, I presume it doesn’t,” Lucian smirked, stunned by his friend’s silent confession. “And as for you getting out of your marriage, that is not always a simple task.”

Jaylon walked to the couch and sat down hard. “I need to try,” he said, exasperated. “How long have Lizy and I been married? Over a year and we haven’t consummated our marriage yet. I would maintain that’s grounds for an annulment.”

Lucian stared at him in disbelief. “You honestly believe Elizabeth will let you go so easily?”

Sitting up to lean on his knees, Jaylon said, “I will do what it takes. I crossed oceans for Aniela. Applying for an annulment to the courts can’t be so hard... can it?”

“And what if Elizabeth refuses?” Lucian asked. “She can you know. She can challenge your union has been consummated, it’s her word against yours.”

Jaylon rubbed his chin in thought. “She wouldn’t do that to me.”

Lucian went to the liquor cabinet and set two glasses on the bar. “Are you going to disclose why Jessie felt the need to slap you?” he asked as he poured them half full. “You must have said something dreadful to provoke her.” He lifted the glasses and turned, holding it out for Jaylon to come and get it.

Jaylon rose and stepped towards his friend. He accepted the drink, lifting the dark liquid to his lips, Jaylon paused. “I brought up how you two shared a bed before wedded bliss. She didn’t take it too kindly.”

Shaking his head, Lucian laughed in disbelief. “You can’t be serious. Do you honestly think our two relationships can be compared to each other?”

“Why not?” Jaylon rebutted, shrugging his shoulders.

“Why not!” Lucian asked incredulously. “There is one very acceptable reason why not... You are married!”

Jaylon groaned, then drained his glass. “I am going to rectify that.”

“It could take years,” Lucian argued. “I am pretty sure Aniela will not wait years for you.”

“Why?” Jaylon disputed. “I did for her.”

“Touché,” Lucian said, lifting the glass.

They stared at each other in silence for a moment. “When are you leaving to go home?”

“Today,” Jaylon answered, with a heavy sigh. “I was on my way down the stairs to leave when I ran into Jessie.” He fixed his hand on Lucian’s shoulder, clutching it firmly. “Promise to keep Aniela safe for me Lucian.”

His mouth drew into a thin line. “I promise to do my best,” Lucian said.

~~~

Jessie balanced the narrow tray in her arms struggling to open and close Aniela’s bed-chamber door. Once inside, she stepped quietly to the nightstand and set it down; hoping not to make too much noise. She turned and followed the slow rise and fall of her sister’s chest; then she cautiously sat down on the bed beside her. She lifted her hand and let it drift up Aniela’s arm, settling to give her a slight shake.

Aniela’s eyes drifted open, and she stretched out her tired muscles. Lifting herself up onto one elbow, she studied Jessie’s melancholy face. “Is something wrong?”

“No,” Jessie answered, keeping her eyes lowered. “I-I just wished to speak with you.” She leaned over lifting the small teapot and poured steaming water into a waiting porcelain cup. The liquid turned dark brown and Jessie picked up a spoon to add a minuscule amount of sugar. She stirred the contents, then lifted the teacup for Aniela to take it. “Here, I need you to drink this,” Jessie said, waiting for her to take the cup from her waiting hands.

Aniela sat up and lifted the cup to her nose. “What is this?”

Jessie cleared her throat. “I had Nettie mix it up for you,” she answered hesitantly. “It’s black root tea... it is an old herbal remedy to prevent...”

“I know what black-root tea does,” Aniela whispered, cutting her off. Shaking her head, she turned and closed her eyes.

Jessie looked at her for a moment not sure how to proceed or what else to say.

Aniela turned back towards her giving her a blank stare. “Ask me how I know Jessie,” she urged as tears pooled in her eyes. “Aren’t you curious how a well-bred girl like myself knows what black-root tea is used for?”

Jessie dropped her gaze and attempted to swallow her anxiety. “Aniela, you don’t need to..”

“H-He made me drink it after he-” Aniela faltered, not able to finish her admission.

Jessie felt her stomach muscles tighten. “I’m sorry for everything you have been through,” she murmured, feeling sick inside. “But if you and Jaylon... if you two should happen to have a child.

“Who told you about Jaylon and me?” Aniela asked, feeling the heat rise to her face.

“I met Jaylon at the bottom of the stairs after he left your chamber this morning,” Jessie divulged.

“I am not ashamed of what Jaylon and I shared,” She immediately lifted the cup to her lips again and drained its contents. Her nose scrunched, and she gagged a little, but at least it was done. She handed the cup back to Jessie. “Is that all you came for?” she said, not trying to conceal her indignation.

“Please don’t be mad,” Jessie begged. “A baby is not what you need at this time and I know Jaylon would agree.”

Aniela laid down on her back and stared at the ceiling. “Jaylon states that he still loves me,” she confessed with a sigh. “So I am not ashamed of what we shared and I would not be upset about having a child with him.”

“I believe he does care a great deal for you,” Jessie agreed with a cautious smile.

Aniela rolled onto her side and propped her head in her hand. “But you don’t trust him for some reason. I can see it in your eyes.”

Biting her tongue, Jessie knew she had to place her words properly. “It’s not that I don’t trust him,” she countered. “You were gone for so long Aniela and there are matters you don’t understand...”

“Jaylon told me your story and explained how you and Lucian met,” she suddenly blurted, dropping her eyes and allowing her hand to trace the design in the silk blanket she laid on. “I believe it was fate that brought you two together and I believe the same for Jaylon and me.”

Jessie pondered her words for a moment. “Lucian and I had a turbulent start to our relationship,” she affirmed with a half crooked smile. “But it all worked out in the end.”

“You didn’t give up on him,” Aniela added, lifting her eyes to study at her sister. “You disappeared, and he went searching for you. So, why would you expect me to give up on Jaylon? Aren’t you being a little hypocritical? He truly wishes for us to be together?”

Her face fell, and she sighed, wishing more than anything she could explain. “I don’t want you to give up on Jaylon,” Jessie confessed. “But there are complexities that are hindering your...”

“I can’t help what happened to me,” Aniela blurted, sitting up in bed, she pulled her knee’s up to her chest. “But it did happen. Do you not understand that I genuinely believed I would never take pleasure again in a man’s touch or caress? But Jaylon proved this to be wrong.”

Jessie sighed, again reaching for her hand offering a tender squeeze. “I think you should take time to heal,” she murmured. “You have been through so much trauma. What would it harm to give yourself a little time?”

Aniela bit her lower lip thinking about Jessie’s words, not positive what to say. “Jaylon also explained to me about your dreams of drowning the day the Ocean Monarch sank,” she said, folding her arms around herself. “I believe I too had dreams of you, or rather I had nightmares. At one time, they were coming to me nightly, and they were always the same. If I closed my eyes right now, I could even still conjure up the face of the horrid man chasing me. Sometimes I would wake up on the floor, with bruises on my arms and legs.”

Remembering, Jessie sucked in her breath in disbelief. “I did have those dreams. They were so real and I was positive I was drowning.” A solitary tear slid down her cheek.

“And, I prayed every night in my dreams, that this awful man wouldn’t capture me,” Aniela whispered.

“Me too,” Jessie sniffed, thus reaching for her sister and pulled her into her arms. “It’s so bizarre, but I regularly spoke to you in my dreams.”

“Even when I didn’t know you existed,” they said simultaneously, suddenly laughing as they wiped their tears.

They remained silent for a few minutes, both tangled in their thoughts. “You know if it hadn’t been for these two men in our lives,” Aniela whispered, drawing from her embrace. “We might never have found each other.”

“I know,” Jessie agreed. “But...”

Aniela slid from the bed, not letting Jessie finish. “He gave me his mother’s ring,” she announced, purposely stopping her words. “When I walked off his ship that fateful day, I left it behind and today he gave it back to me.” She held up her hand providing the proof.

Jessie grasped her sister’s hand and scrutinized the ring. “It’s a lovely ring Aniela,” she said, as her heart overflowed with dread. “I know Jaylon cares for you a great deal.”

“But...” Aniela said with a crooked apprehensive smile.

Looking down at her feet, Jessie’s mouth formed a thin line. Her gut was advising her not to mention Jaylon’s marriage, but she knew Aniela deserved to know.

It will devastate her.

“He loves me,” Aniela reiterated, trying to make her understand. “And we will be married.”

Jessie’s head spun around to stare at her with eyebrows raised. “Did Jaylon tell you that?”

“No, but when he gave me his mother’s ring before, he explained it was to be given to his prospective bride.”

Lowering her head into her hands, Jessie shook her head. “That does not suggest a marriage proposal.”

Aniela chewed on her lower lip. “When Jaylon comes back, you will see.”

Jessie caught the slight falter in Aniela’s voice and she decided right then, she couldn’t tell her the truth. At least not yet anyway. Her only hope was Jaylon would remain elsewhere for a while. This would give them time to evaluate Aniela’s condition and state of mind. If all agreed she needed to know the truth, then they would divulge it to her, but if there were any apprehensions; they most definitely would have to wait.


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