Part Fourteen

After dinner that evening, Barnabas went into this study to work. Angelique read for awhile, then went upstairs to her room. She blew out the candles, leaving only the fire in the grate to illuminate the room, and found herself unable to sleep. It was an hour later that the door was opened to admit Barnabas.
He had changed into a robe and after closing the door, just stood there, waiting, watching her. Angelique knew that this was the only level where her pride didn't matter -had never mattered. She not be able to TELL Barnabas how much she loved him, but shoud could SHOW him. Without a word, she moved to stand in front of her husband and untied the sheer penoir she wore, letting it slide to the floor, her satin gown following it moments later.
Even in the dimly lit room, she knew Barnabas' eyes had grown dark with passion. Her deft fingers untied the knot holding his quilted robe closed, then slid her hands up his chest, pushing it from his shoulders.
The only sound in the room was the crackle of the flames as Barnabas lifted her and carried her to the bed . . .

Julia watched as Roger paced across the terrace for the fourth time. When he had told her about David's visit, she had expected this to happen, but why was he so hesitant? "Roger, why don't you sit down and tell me what's wrong? You're exhausting me just watching you."
His smile was tender as he sat down beside her. "I could use your help," he admitted, taking her hands in his. "I want to ask a certain lady a very special question, and I want to make sure she responds with an affirmitve answer."
"What is the problem?" Julia asked, playing along, knowing that this was the best way to clear up any reservations either of them might have.
"I've known the lady in question for several years, and for much of that time she's been heavily - involved with another man. Emotionally involved," he clarified as she would have spoken. "I had begun to think that involvement was modifying itself, becoming less important, when the man's ex-wife and seriously ill daughter entered the picture. Since the lady is a doctor, she's treating the daughter, and - I'm afraid that she might become too deeply involved in this man's life again."
Julia gripped his hands tightly. "I think she will always be involved in his life. Very probably her feelings HAVE changed, she now thinks of him as a brother and best friend."
"Then - she's not in love with him?"
"No. For awhile, she confused being in love with loving, but she's not confused anymore. She loves this old friend, but she's IN love with someone else. She simply can't turn her back on her friend -"
"Do you mean that, Julia?" Roger asked, his eyes wide.
"That I can't turn my back on Barnabas? Of course, I -"
Roger shook his head. "No. Not about that. About -being in love with someone else."
"I meant it, Roger. I can't tell exactly when I realized how I felt -"
"I don't need to know that, my dearest. Knowing that you are in love with me is more than enough."
"And you understand about Barnabas?"
"I'll try to. As long as I know that I come first."
"Always, Roger. You mentioned a question?" she reminded him.
He brought her hands to his lips. "Will you do me the honor, Julia, of becoming my wife?"
"I'll answer that- after you tell me how David feels about this."
Roger's smile was a bit rueful. "My son is growing up, I think. He was delighted to hear my plans, and said he highly approved of my choice for his new stepmother."
"So do I," she told him. "And I do love you, Roger."
"And I love you. I just wish I knew why it took so long for use to find each other."
"Does it matter? We're together now."
"And we will always be together," Roger promised, lowering his lips to hers.

Elizabeth was crossing the foyer on her way upstairs when they entered the house. She read the news in their eyes. Roger seemed more relaxed and happier than she could remember seeing him in years. And Julia was the same. THe doctor was postively aglow with love. "If it wasn't so late," she told them, "I'd open some champagne. But sherry will do until tomorrow evening." The matron returned to the drawing room ahead of her brother and his fiance. "Would you mind pouring, Roger?"
As he filled the glasses, Roger asked, "How did you know, Liz?"
"The look on your faces. I've been watching for it for several weeks now. Thank you," she said, then lifted her glass. "To Roger and Julia." Once they all drank some of the wine, Elizabeth asked, "Now. Have you decided when you're getting married?"
Julia took a deep breath. "Saturday."
"But - that's not enough time. Three days. There are invitations -"
"We've discussed this, Liz, and we both prefer a small ceremony, with just the family in attendance." He saw her disappointment. "I told you, didn't I, Julia? Left to my sister's planning, she would invite half of the state and have me in a morning suit as well."
Elizabeth's smile was indulgent. "You're exaggerating, Roger. I'd only invite a quarter of the state. Oh, well. I suppose I'll just have to wait for David to marry." She finished her sherry. "I'll invite Barnabas and Angelique over for dinner tomorrow evening and we can have a family celebration. I assume you'll ask David to be your best man, Roger?"
"I did that this afternoon," he said.
"And I think I'll ask Angelique to stand with me," Julia told them. "Perhaps it will make her feel more a part of the family."

Angelique was making new entries in the household books the next morning when Willie knocked hesitantly on the study door. "Excuse me -"
"Yes, Willie?"
"Uh, there's a lady in the entry hall. Says she's supposed to interview to be Sarah's governess?"
Angelique had hoped that Barnabas had changed his mind on that subject, since he hadn't brought it up again. Apparently, he hadn't. Angelique rose from the chair. "I'll be right there, Willie. Where is Sarah?"
"In the playroom."

The woman was a pretty brunette, who looked very young to Angelique. Her smile was shy, and she was clearly awed by the house. "I'm Mrs. Collins," Angelique said, introducing herself.
"I'm Claire Maxwell, Mrs. Collins," the woman said. "Your husband asked the Bangor Employment Agency to send someone out -"
"Yes," Angelique said, indicating the chair behind the girl. "Do you have references, Miss Maxwell?"
"Right here," she said, holding out several papers. "The agency said your daughter is ten?"
As she looked over the glowing reference and a copy of her diploma, Angelique responded. "Yes. She's been in boarding school since she was six - except for this last year. I hired a tutor for her, but she's never had a full-time governess. Did Mr. Collins tell your agency that Sarah is ill?"
"It was mentioned."
"She's under a doctor's care for a viral infection. As a result of the infection, she tires easily and has to rest frequently. Beyond that, she's really a very normal little girl -a bit quiet, perhaps."
Claire Maxwell hesitated before asking her next question. "Is her illness - well -"
"She is NOT going to die, Miss Maxwell. The doctor is trying to find a cure for her condition."
"That's a relief. Would it be possible for me to meet Sarah, Mrs. Collins?"
Now it was Angelique who hesitated. She didn't like this woman, but wasn't sure why. As long as she was in the room with them, however. "I'll go and get her."

Sarah smiled sweetly at the young woman. "I'm very pleased to meet you, Miss Maxwell."
"Do you know why I'm here, Sarah?"
"Oh, yes. You want to be my governess."
"Do you want a governess?"
"Well, I don't want to leave Mother and Father and go to boarding school -even after I get well. Since I have to have a teacher, a governess is the only way."
"That's a very grown up thought," Claire Maxwell said.
Angelique watched them talking and all of her fears of losing Sarah returned to the fore. When Sarah turned to her, Angelique found she was glad that she would have a reprieve. "Are you going to hire Miss Maxwell, Mother?"
"Your father wants to make that decision, darling. If you will leave your papers with me, Miss Maxwell, I'll see that he looks at them."
"Very well." She rose. "I'll be going then. I can be reached through the agency. I enjoyed meeting you, Sarah. I hope I see you again."
"So do I," Sarah said with a smile as Willie appeared in the doorway.
"Willie will show you out," Angelique told Claire.
Sarah went to the window to watch the governess leave. "I liked her, Mother."
"So I gathered," Angelique said, sitting down. "I suppose you won't be needing me very much longer."
The little girl ran to sit on her lap and place her arms around Angelique's neck. "Oh, no. I'll ALWAYS need you, Mother. I love you."
Angelique buried her face in her daughter's hair. "Oh, Sarah."

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