Taboo 2016-



Tom Hardy 2016 Taboo 4



 Tom Hardy 2016 Taboo 3  Tom Hardy 2016 Taboo

Tom Hardy 2016 Taboo 2

James Keziah Delaney returns to 1814 London after 10 years in Africa to discover that he has been left a mysterious legacy by his father. Driven to wage war on those who have wronged him, Delaney finds himself in a face-off against the East India Company, whilst playing a dangerous game between two warring nations, Britain and America.

8 Part Series starring Tom Hardy.  No firm date of release is known at this time.





Taboo (2016)

The History Boys 2006



An unruly collection of clever but crass Thatcher-era English high-school students seek to earn the scores needed to enroll in Oxford and Cambridge in director Nicholas Hytner and screenwriter Alan Bennett’s screen adaptation of Bennett’s Tony-winning play. The History Boys focuses on a group of eight students, all of them deemed by their overeager headmaster (Clive Merrison) to be the best and the brightest. Though they’ve been coddled by their humanities-loving instructor, Hector (Richard Griffiths), and their acerbic history teacher, Mrs. Lintott (Frances de la Tour), the boys are deemed in need of additional tutoring; thus, the brash, young Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore) is recruited to challenge them further. The subtle power games the boys used to their advantage with their previous tutors are of no use with Irwin, whose wit borders on the callous. Meanwhile, Irwin’s presence — and a hush-hush scandal — forces all of the faculty members to reassess their position at the school.

Starring: Richard Griffiths, Clive Merrison, Frances de la Tour, Stephen Campbell Moore, Sacha Dhawan, Samuel Anderson, Dominic Cooper, Andrew Knott, Samuel Barnett, Russell Tovey, Jamie Parker, James Corden

A Promise (2013)

A Promise (2013)In 1912 Germany, a freshly graduated engineer with modest origins, Friedrich Zeitz, becomes the right hand of aging tycoon Karl Hoffmeister. When Hoffmeister’s degrading health condition starts to confine him permanently to his house, Friedrich has to visit him at home to get briefed. Thus Friedrich makes the acquaintance of Hoffmeister’s younger wife Charlotte, a beautiful and reserved woman in her early 30s. He immediately becomes enamored with her and struggles with his growing unrequited feelings for her, not realizing they are reciprocated. Just as they disclose their mutual attraction towards one another, Friedrich has to leave the country to represent Hoffmeister overseas. The outbreak of World War I keeps him away from Germany for a long time. Only after the end of the war and many years of separation are Friedrich and Charlotte able to reunite.

John Thornton’s Unfolding Dream – 20


Unfolding Dream scrollJohn Thornton’s Unfolding Dream


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Chapter 11 




John waited until she was inside and then returned to his carriage.

“Very nice lady,” Branson remarked.

“Yes, she is, Branson. I hope she will be my wife someday,” John said, somewhat in a daze, not realizing that he was speaking aloud.

“Right you are, Guv.”

John removed his top hat and slid inside on the leather seat. “Branson, I know it’s late but just ride around anywhere for a while. The house will seem too lonely going back. I need to think for a bit.”

“Yes, Guv.”


Margaret tiptoed into Megan’s house, being quiet until she found Megan, smiling, waiting up for her. “I was hoping you wouldn’t be back tonight,” Megan giggled.

“Shame on you, Megan, for such thoughts.” Margaret could not help the smile that formed on her face.

“Um . . . maybe you did stay long enough from that smile I see.”

“Megan, it’s not quite what you think. Yes, we did have a lovely evening. Level heads prevailed, to your utter disappointment, I am sure.” Margaret smiled.

“So . . . was there some romance?”

“I told you, he wants me in his life; what do you think?” Margaret said, feeling very mature that she was not telling Megan the more intimate details. Megan could think what she liked but the past couple of hours were going to be her private sanctuary.

“I think I can see that you have come home happy. I take it there has been no understanding or suit advanced?” Megan was keen to know only that, really.

“No, there is no understanding. Honesty is triumphing, not to either one’s liking, but how else are we to begin? That must come first. John understands that there is another suitor. He knows that we do not know each other but I must admit after tonight I have progressed in that direction. I have told him little of myself and he wants me the way I am regardless of what may be in my background. There is only one thing that is shielding me from giving my whole heart to him and that has he has not said the words, ‘I love you.’ He says everything around it but those words have not been said by him. I have already declared myself but he has not. How can I give myself for a lifetime to a man who shows he loves me or, at least, lusts for me but has not said the words ‘I love you’? I do love him but I have strong feelings for Kindle, too. I do not know if I love him, though. I have most enjoyed the Milton atmosphere. The hominess in your home and John’s is relaxing. I met his best friend and his wife tonight; they are a nice and loving couple. You can feel the warmth of a hearth in theirs and your presence. It is a mellowing feeling that is most pleasurable. I have so enjoyed my short stay here and will return more often because of you and because of John.”

Megan took Margaret’s hands in hers as they sat on the small cot that served as a couch.” Margaret, you must do what your heart tells you and I know you are intelligent enough to discover what is best for you. Well . . . not best for you but what will make you the happiest. Many men have a hard time saying the words ‘I love you.’ They will know deep in their heart that it is love but cannot or are too embarrassed to say the words straight out. I have heard that many will not say it first even if they know before the lady knows that they are in love with her. Men can be emotional but rarely sentimental. They can be lustful but not altogether romantic, at least not how we would wish them to be. I would not let the fact that Mr. Thornton has not spoken those exact words weigh too heavy on your selection for a mate. If you can feel it within him, I think that is a better testament to his true attentions to you.”

“But Megan, how does one tell the difference between a lustful man and a man in love? I am sure there is a big difference. I believe a man in love will most definitely be lustful as well, but when you sense lust, how can you tell there is love behind it?”

“Margaret, I do not have a good answer for that question. All I can say is, you just know. You have two men wanting your favors and you have seen other gentlemen before these two; you should be able to feel a difference in them. I have only had one man in my life, but still, I knew.”

“The few young gentlemen that wanted to court me were very amiable. It took me little time to discover they were unsuited for my outlook on society. They were firmly entrenched in the London cultural way of life. I was not disappointed to send them away. The feeling of hot passion had never stirred within me until Kindle and John. If I give of my innocence to either one, will they turn from me sometime in the future? Right now, I feel certain that John would never turn from me. Kindle will probably seem the same way when I return. Oh, this is maddening!” Margaret got up and paced the floor, looking at the ceiling. “Maybe I am making too much of this. If John had said he loved me, I think I would have married him tomorrow. Oh . . . look what he gave me.” Margaret returned to Megan’s side and showed her the cross pendant. “John’s grandmother gave this to his mother when he was born. It was to be worn by his mother to protect her son. He gave this to me and told me that I was his protector now and I was to guard his heart.” Margaret started to cry, remembering that very solemn moment.

“Oh Margaret, that was so romantic. You are such a fool if you walk away from him. He definitely loves you.”

“I think I know that. We have been together only a couple of days. How can we be so sure?”

“Margaret, you seem to be trying to talk yourself out of loving Mr. Thornton. Why is that?”

“I may sound that way but I am not. I guess it is this whole ‘vision’ gift. He may be in love with whom he perceives I am; which he sees in his dreams. Regardless, I have fallen in love with him. I do not know what I am up against in myself that he has seen. I could disappoint him. We never talked about that and I wish I had told him more about me. How do I know if I measure up to his vision?”

“Margaret, you are frustratingly hardheaded. Do you not think that six hours on a train where you spoke your minds and hearts, plus the two intimate hours that you spent together tonight – do you not think he has a good sense about you by now?”

“You’re probably right, Megan. I am making this far more difficult than it has to be. He has written me a nice long letter that I will read on the train going home. He took a lock of my hair.”

“Margaret, he sounds like a gem of a man. He has stayed single all these years even with the ladies hounding him all the time. He is picking you, dear. That must count for something other than those three words.”

“You’re right, Megan. That does say a lot about him that he would never tell me. He is very humble. I never even asked him about his prestige here and still he has said nothing remotely heroic about his achievements even though he is desperate to advance his suit. He is playing very fair. More fair than I seem to want to be. I am feeling very selfish all of a sudden.”

“Margaret, that is just nerves from falling in love. It will pass. You have never been this close to a lifelong commitment. It is a huge step. Certainly, you want the best for your own happiness. Yes, it’s selfish but it’s all right.”

“Thank you, Megan. You have helped me tremendously to see this situation from other angles. I needed this. I think I have been trying to construct walls ever since meeting Kindle. I felt a commitment was close and I did not feel I had enough . . . what . . . courage? . . to begin to make a decision. Now my heart is full and the fear is gone. I know I will devastate one of these men and I will hate doing that because I will still have strong feelings for the one that must walk away. I will pray there is something going forward that will help me make a resolute decision, one that I am solidly sure of in my heart.”

“Margaret. I know you, remember? I know you will make the best decision for your happiness and you will be steadfast and uncompromised.”

Margaret gave Megan a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you, dearest friend. It is very late and I still have packing to finish. I think we have settled my love life as much as we can,” Margaret smiled. “I think I will find my bed.”

“Please try to get some sleep tonight. I know it has been rough on you these past few nights. I will wake you if you sleep too late tomorrow. We would not miss your train. So sleep well this evening while you are in a homey household. Put all this out of your mind for one night. You can dwell on it for six hours tomorrow on your ride home.”

“Goodnight, Megan. Thank you for everything.”

“Goodnight, Margaret.”


It was well past midnight before John came up the stairs to his chair. He was exhausted from the stress, the thinking, the burning desire to be holding Margaret. He walked to his bar and poured himself a scotch. John thought scotch might allow him to sleep tonight. He was going on 60 hours with only brief one and two hour sleeping times interspersed. How could anyone sleep through the most important event in their entire life and on which their future happiness weighed completely? His only peace of mind came from the fact that he had done everything he could do without overstepping his own gentlemanly rules. Loving and charming her into making love would have been momentous but in the end, it might not be perceived as having been the right and proper act to do at this point. Suppose she did have deeper feelings for her other suitor and they find their way to each other, he would be a known as the biggest mistake she had ever made. He could not live with himself if she ever saw him and his love for her as a mistake. Still not sleepy, John found one of his books he had bought and brought it back to his chair. Reading often made him drowsy.


Kindle was still up when Gilbert came home late that evening.

“Gilbert, that smile of yours is almost a dead give-a-way, you know? Please do not tell me differently,” Kindle laughed.

“If you were right, which you are not, I would never have been home at all tonight – or – I would have my Eve with me here. I have decided all will wait until after I talk with Father the day after tomorrow. If I did as you thought and then found disinheritance staring at me as a way of life, I would feel very ashamed. I do not think there is much that could keep us apart but should Father disown me for wanting to marry Eve, I would have nothing to offer her. I could not take care of her properly. I have my military pay but I do not know if she would be happy with that. I have a lot more confidence in her love for me than that but she would have to know our new financial situation, not to even mention the embarrassment.”

“Her family can offer nothing? I mean . . . I know that means little difference to you or me but should my uncle kick you out, could her family step in at all?”

“They would probably offer us shelter in her home until I could save for a home but I think that is about the extent of it. There may be a small dowry, but I do not want it. Since it did not matter to me, I have delved very little into that subject. My answer only comes from seeing their surroundings and where she lives. Her father is a successful merchant, I believe, and the home and furnishings are above modest but they do not look or act from a high cultural level. My only interest in her family thus far is if they like me or not. You know, Kindle, being who we are, has its drawbacks as well.”

“I do not think I understand where you’re going with this,” Kindle responded with interest.

“You do know that a lot of the lower gentry think we squander away our life playing. We are lazy, we are shallow, and you know the reputations that run rampant among the arranged marriages. For who we are as nobility, we do not often embrace the best manners and are poor role models to some extent. I am seeing our friends and us in a completely new light since meeting Eve. Moreover, damn it, she is right. So maybe you can understand a loving father not wanting his daughter to be part of our world. When I ask for her hand, I am going to have a whole lot of promising to do to persuade him she will never live like that.”

“Yes, I can see your point. I will ponder your insight. I have had those thoughts many times but have never given it much thought from a parent’s view or the lower masses. I do not like it myself and try to stay far away from the pits they fall into but we are guilty by association. I did not think the lower gentry paid any attention to us. You seem to think I am fooling myself and you could very well be right.”

“Kindle, you will probably have less worry with her aunt coming from wealthy society ergo not nobility but surely it will help to some degree.”

“That may be so with her aunt, who I would ask for her hand but my problem is getting our reputations past Margaret first. If she permits me to be close after I have told her about me, we will need some time before marrying for her to feel assured that we, that is, you and I, are not like the others. This road that you and I follow is treacherous, to say the least. Moreover, I still have Lady Carter, who will outflank me somewhere along the way. Once Margaret is aware of my family heritage, she is going to know about Lady Carter so she will know that I am working through an issue with her. Gilbert, besides my dress sword that I wear when in uniform, I have started to put a couple of knives in my boots. My guards are more heavily armed and are on alert now. They have become more than just an escort. Their fighting instincts are surfacing.”

“Good. I am glad to hear it. She was there tonight but she did not bother me about you. However, I did find a gentleman that I remember seeing her with several years ago. I wandered over and struck up a conversation with him since he was alone. He never came out and said anything definite but indicated he was glad to get out of that relationship with his money and reputation still intact.”

“Coming back to that look you came home with tonight. Are you going to tell me about it?” Kindle asked with a smarmy grin.

“No. I am not telling you anything except it was a nice evening . . . very nice . . . almost too nice. There! You weaseled that much out of me. Not another word will I say.” Gilbert could not help but sport the smile he came home with.

“All right, have it your way. I would do the same thing myself. These ladies are different and are our private lives, never to be shared with anyone but them.” Kindle yawned. “I think I will head up to bed. Finally, my Margaret will be home tomorrow and if I have to wait through a couple train stops, I am going to be there when she arrives. I will tell her family in advance, too. Probably see you at noon or a little after tomorrow. Goodnight.”

“Sleep good for a change, Kindle. Goodnight.”

(continued next week)   John startled himself awake. He was still in his chair. He checked his pocket watch and saw that he had dozed off for another hour but something was nagging him this time. He felt that another vision was trying to emerge.

Hearts Adrift – Part Eleven


Chapter Eleven


Manon woke when Bessy knocked and entered the room with a tray of tea and toast.

“Sir Lucian’s compliments, miss; and would you join the gentlemen in the breakfast room when you are dressed?” the girl said in a cheerful voice.

“Thank you, Bessy,” Manon answered, glancing surreptitiously around the room. She was lying naked under her covers, and she was terrified the maid would find out.

He was not here. Understanding why did nothing to dampen down the wave of burning grief that washed over her as disappointment struck. He had left her after he lifted her up to the heavens and gave her the most exquisite pleasure in the world. It was done, over, gone, as he said it would be.

As soon as Bessy disappeared into the adjoining dressing room, Manon slipped out of bed and hurriedly donned her nightgown. It had been tucked under her pillow, no doubt by Richard before he stole out of her room in the dead of night.

While Bessy assisted her with her bath and toilette, Manon relived the pleasurable events of the previous night.

Richard had unselfishly disappointed her, she realised as she thought back over their night together. Even with her lack of experience, she knew there should have been more to their consummation than had taken place. He had denied himself and her of their ultimate closure. By bestowing infinite pleasure upon her but not asking that his needs be satisfied in return, he had indebted her to him. Manon had not been Richard’s equal during the most notable event in her life, her initiation into lovemaking. The guilt was overwhelming. He had said that he loved her, so why the incomplete act? She should have known there would be no further intimacies after he told her to sleep.  She was determined to experience love with the man she loved more than life itself, even if they were doomed to be apart.


Richard listened to Jéhan’s French-cum-English chatter with an absent mind, only partially engaged in the conversation between Lucian and the boy. Wide awake at six in the morning, he had gone out for a long ride on one of Lucian’s excellent horses in an attempt to shake off his black mood. Afterwards, he had come back exhausted, but not in the least relaxed. Even the hot bath and the excellent attentions of Lucian’s valet, Travers, who had groomed and dressed him in an impeccable manner, had not been adequate to restore his peace of mind.

It was all for naught. The previous night, he had not slept after he went back to his own room. The image of Manon’s sensuous body, the feel of her perfect femininity in his arms, the glory of her pleasure – it all played over and over in his head. Adding to that the frustration in his own lack of fulfilment, it was enough to put him thoroughly out of sorts. Leaving her after their joined experience had been the hardest thing he had ever done in his life.

He was a man in the prime of his life, and denying himself satisfaction had never been his strong point, especially when he had not been with a woman for a long time, as was the case now.

In addition to that, Richard had another, more poignant issue to come to terms with; he loved Manon, with a depth of feeling he had never experienced for any woman.

Manon’s youth, her innocence and her eagerness were extremely hard to resist. Despite her twenty years of age, Manon was still innocent, a matter that astonished him, given the fact that she had lived in Paris. In the minds of many young Englishmen, Paris was the city of freedom, of the mind and of the body. Richard had visited France and Paris only once before with his father, just after he had graduated from Cambridge, five years before. The impression the city had left on him had been one of sheer debauchery and gaiety, and the women had seemed to have no boundaries at all. Yet amidst all that sin, Manon had remained pure and untouched. That was remarkable enough in itself, he mused.

The door to the breakfast room opened to let his tormentor in. Merciful Lord! What an image she presented! Someone must have lent her some attire, for she was dressed exquisitely in a fresh morning gown of pale green muslin, sprigged with tiny moss green hearts. The neckline modestly revealed the onset of her breasts, not enough to be indecent, but sufficient to be utterly teasing. Her glorious auburn hair was swept into a heavy coil at the nape of her neck, held together by a silver filigree net, and strands of carefully arranged curls graced her face to perfection. That face, Richard noticed at once, though of a faultless porcelain complexion, was set in a solemn, almost grim expression. Manon’s chin was raised in defiance, and her green eyes were cool and detached. Her lips, usually rosy and full, were now a thin line of challenged rejection. But in the back of his mind, he could only remember her sounds of pleasure.

By Jove! She was not taking his approach towards the situation well at all. Richard stifled a sigh and braced himself for what was to come.


Manon barely had time to glance around the pretty, sunny room before her little whirlwind of a brother jumped up from his chair to throw himself into her arms.

“Manon! We are going to Brighton today, and Luke says I can pick a toy in the shops! Is that not grand?”

Jéhan’s speech was a confusing gibberish of French, laced with the occasional English word he had picked up randomly. He was overexcited, Manon noticed. Therefore, she gently admonished him in his native tongue.

Calme-toi, mon chou! You will injure yourself before long, and what would I do then, eh? Now, go finish your breakfast, and behave.”

While her brother darted back to his seat at the round breakfast table, the two men rose and bowed to Manon. She curtsied and addressed them in perfect English, with only the slightest accent.

“Good morning, gentlemen. I hear we are bound for Brighton. Might I ask, Uncle, what your plans are for today?” She smiled brightly at Lucian but did not look at Richard, lest her grief would show in her gaze.

Richard, to her disappointment, did not rise to the bait. He traversed the room in three strides of his long legs and offered her his hand. “Good morning, niece. May I escort you?”

Manon took in the magnificence of his appearance with a barely stifled gasp. He was clad in light grey silk breeches, with white silk stockings and black slippers. His shirt was of the finest white linen, and under his perfectly cut, dark blue frock coat, he wore a white silk waistcoat, plain and unembroidered. The whole was topped by the froth of lace on a white neck cloth, arranged in an intricate knot. He was neatly shaven, which brought out his clean-cut, granite jaw, and emphasized the strength of his features. His hair was brushed away from his brow and tied in a thick tail on his back. His sparkling blue eyes were eying her coolly. Manon had never seen his eyes take that deep blue colour before. It was most enticing, even with the brooding stare they gave her. She lowered her gaze to his mouth, which was pinched and colourless. And utterly forbidding.

He was doing exactly what he said he would do, and that was to treat her in an avuncular way. In a distant, cold way. Very well then; Richard had admonished her about their future behaviour, and she would play that game until she could speak to him alone. Knowing how much she loved him, she would hold her tongue and not embarrass him to another person present.

“Ah, my dear Manon!” Lucian hailed from his seat at the table. “I have saved you some toast and tea, and a chair at my side. Would you do me the honour of sharing my breakfast?”

“It would be my pleasure, Lucian,” Manon replied, inclining her head and ostentatiously ignoring Richard’s proffered hand. She inwardly grinned when she saw a flash of anger though instantly suppressed in his blue eyes. Gathering her skirts, she glided towards the table and sat down next to Lucian, whom she favoured with a genuine smile.

During breakfast, Manon and Lucian struck up a pleasant conversation between the two of them, leaving Richard to listen and respond to Jéhan’s many questions about England, and about Brighton in particular. Better that way, Richard told himself. Let her get better acquainted with a suitable man like Lucian.

The meal ended soon thereafter, and Lucian announced that he and Jéhan would go and see if their carriage was ready. “I promised Jéhan I would show him the litter of puppies one of my dogs  threw last week,” he apologized himself to Manon. She smiled at him.

“Jéhan, do be careful, mon chou. Do not disturb the mother too much, will you?”

“I will keep an eye on him,” Lucian winked.

The sudden silence took them both by surprise, so Manon asked her uncle if he cared for another cup of tea. Richard shook his head. “I would like to inform you, niece, about your prospects.”

Manon’s surprise showed, but she asked in a level voice, “Prospects, Uncle? I was not aware that I had them.”

“Your circumstances and Jéhan’s have changed in the last week, Manon. Since the death of your father, I have become your legal guardian, and, of course, Jéhan’s too.”

Manon hated the cold formality in Richard’s voice. She felt irritation growing but made an effort not to reveal it. “As you undoubtedly know, Uncle, I will reach my majority on the third of October. I have no means to support myself yet, so I am grateful that you are kind enough to provide for my brother and me until I find a new situation. In the weeks to come, I intend to search for a suitable position. I am sure that I could…”

Richard could not bear it any longer. After the first shock of hearing Manon’s suggestion that she would find paid work, he was so taken aback that he had not been able to react, but now he raised his hand to silence her.

“Manon, I fear you have no real grasp of who you are. You and Jéhan are members of the de Briers family, my dear. Lily de Briers, your mother, was my sister. She would have inherited her share of my father’s money, had she not died when Jéhan was born. In his will, my father bequeathed that share to you and Jéhan in equal parts. When you will reach your majority, you will have access to twenty thousand pounds, Manon, and the same goes for Jéhan when he turns twenty-one.”

Richard realised he had to give Manon time to absorb this, so he waited before going on. She seemed stunned and utterly shocked by what he just told her.

“I do not understand,” she finally said. “Why was that money not given to my father, as my mother’s husband, immediately after her death? He was her legal heir, at least, according to the French law.”

“I am afraid English law works quite differently, Manon. Unless your mother had made him her heir in a will, Thibaut nor you or Jéhan, for that matter would have inherited. I am fairly sure that Lily would not have made a will, since she would not have needed one in France. The only way that you or Jéhan could inherit money that came from my family is if my father, as head of the family, had bequeathed it to you. My father was an honourable man, Manon, and he did his duty towards Lily’s children because he loved his daughter.”

Richard paused and waited for Manon to nod her understanding. “Good,” he continued. “As I recently told you, I found the letters your father sent to mine over the years. In one of these, your father asks that the money be put into a trust fund. He deemed the situation in France too dangerous for him to have that money in a French bank. Remember that in 1788, when Jéhan was born, riots had already started over King Louis’s excessive spending. My father agreed but requested that he be kept informed about the situation in Paris. According to our solicitor, Mr Brownslow, my father begged yours to come back to England. The three of you would have been welcome at Bearsham manor. I read in your father’s letters that he was planning to do so, Manon, but unfortunately, he did not have a chance to carry out his plans.”

Manon’s head had begun to swim from what she heard. How had all this been going on without her knowledge? Why had her father not confided in her?

“He never said a word,” she whispered, in a small, pitiful voice that tore at Richard’s heart. He hastily continued. “Read his letters, Manon, and all will become more bearable. I will ask Mr Brownslow for my father’s letters, of which he has copies. I should have requested them after my father’s passing, but I was too anxious about you and Jéhan, and I wanted to ensure myself that you were safe. All these facts must make you realise that you are now a de Briers, Manon, and so is Jéhan. That brings on adjustments that you must be prepared to make. If you would consent to hear what I propose, I would be most grateful.”

Manon looked up into his face for the first time that morning, Richard realised and her eyes were large with apprehension. So he continued, “You will require a lady’s maid. Bessy Crampton has agreed to come with us and act as such until we find someone else. Her mother lives here in Romney, and Bessy does not wish to be separated for too long from her. I told her not to worry and promised her a large reward for her services. As I mentioned before, you will have need of a female companion. When we arrive at my Brighton townhouse, I will go to an agency that provides suitable candidates. In her capacity as a chaperone, this woman will then accompany you to social events and parties. She will also instruct you in the accomplishments that English society demands of a young, unmarried woman. I have no doubt that, by the time you reach majority, you will have become a perfect English lady. Smart and beautiful as you are, you will able to reach every goal you set for yourself, once you have access to your money.”

With a jolt of joy, Manon registered what Richard had just called her. She was half French after all, and she instantly picked up on it, smiling surreptitiously at him. “So you find me smart and beautiful, Uncle?”

Her smile broadened involuntarily when a deep blush crept over his cheeks.

“Damn it, Manon! Will you behave like the grown-up woman that you are and not like a schoolroom chit enamoured with her dance teacher? Matters are not going to be easy in the weeks to come, and I will not tolerate any inappropriate behaviour, do you understand?”

Manon fixed him with a serious gaze, but made her voice gentle when she replied, “What I feel for you is not some silly schoolgirl puppy love, Richard. It is a feeling that glows deep within me, a feeling of safety when you are near me. Of awareness when you enter a room, and all my senses acknowledge your presence. Of belonging together when I think of you. Of joy when you smile at me. It is love, Richard, pure and simple.”

She shook her head, smiling at him. “We do not choose whom we fall in love with, Richard. We do not choose love; it chooses us. I know that, whatever may yet come to happen in my life, or whomever I choose to be my husband, I will always love you. I might come to love my husband in time, and I hope I will, but I still will always love you.”

Looking directly into his eyes, she continued, “I know what you did last night, and why you did it. You wanted me to go to my husband untouched. Thank you for that, Richard. I am so sorry that I put you through this, that I put myself through it, too. Nevertheless, it has indeed happened, and I rejoice in it. It is a memory I shall cherish for the rest of my life. I am prepared to do as you have  asked, Richard. From this moment on, you are again my uncle, and I vow to behave in a manner that will make life easier for us. You have my word, Richard, the word of a de Briers.”

The only words Richard could utter, were a strangled “thank you”. They both rose simultaneously and left the room together, Richard to summon the footman to collect their travel bags and Manon to go to her room and find Bessy.