A Spring Deception (Seasons Book 2)(5)

By: Jess Michaels

“Ah,” Gray said as he stepped away from Rosalinde and toward Celia. He held out a hand and she took it. “What can I do to help?”

Celia stared up into his face and smiled. It was strange that such a short time ago she had despised this man. He had been working to break up her engagement to his brother—he had thought her nothing more than a title-grabber. But since he had married Rosalinde, Gray had been very kind to Celia. They had developed a budding friendship, in fact. One she could tell would grow and deepen over the years. She never would have guessed that could happen, even in her wildest dreams.

“Nothing, Gray,” she said softly. “Thank you, though. Your being there will be comfort enough.”

At that sentence, Gray’s hand dropped away from hers and his smile fell. “I’m not certain I am there enough, for either of you. I have something to tell you both.”

Rosalinde moved forward and wrapped an arm around Celia. Celia felt her tremble slightly and she couldn’t help but do the same.

“Is it about our father?” Celia asked.

Gray’s face told the story even before he said a word. Since their marriage, he had been searching out information about Celia and Rosalinde’s father, a servant who had lost them when their powerful grandfather snatched them away after their mother’s death. The two women had been lied to their whole lives about his identity, his whereabouts. Only when their wicked grandfather had wanted to blackmail Celia into marrying a title to satisfy his ambition had he dangled the truth of the man before them.

And Celia did so desperately want to know who he was. She’d been ready to go through with a loveless marriage for that information. To bargain with her grandfather, a man who had once tried to kill Rosalinde.

“Please tell us,” she whispered, her voice breaking.

Gray dropped his chin. “I’m sorry. I thought I had a promising clue, but it has led to nothing yet again.”

Rosalinde pulled from Celia’s arms and Celia watched as she went to Gray for comfort. Alone, she moved to the window and stood to look into the dark with unseeing eyes.

Her father was a missing piece in her life. Unlike Rosalinde, she had nothing else to fill that hole. Celia wanted to know him so very much. To have the whole truth of who she was.

She turned back and could hear Rosalinde’s soft whispers to Gray, his murmurs of comfort and apology. She flinched at the intimacy of that moment and forced a serene expression on her face.

“Thank you for trying, Gray,” she said.

He looked at her at last. “I won’t give up,” he vowed. “I will continue to search with all my resources.”

But she could see that those resources were wearing thin. Gray didn’t think he would ever find the answers she needed. Which meant the only person with any information was her grandfather. The man she had not seen since he tried to choke the life out of her sister in a parlor months before. A man who wanted her to marry a title in order to share the particulars of her family.

She pressed her lips together. “Come, we should go. I don’t want to be more than fashionably late.”

“Yes,” Rosalinde said, linking arms with Gray. “We should forget our troubles for now. You never know what the night will bring.”

Celia smiled for the sake of Rosalinde, but as the couple exited the room, that smile fell. It seemed whatever the night would bring would not be enough. But she would put on a falsely happy face regardless and see if any opportunity might present itself.

Celia sighed as she looked out over the dance floor and watched Gray and Rosalinde swirl by in the crowd. Gray’s hand was firmly pressed into Rosalinde’s hip and their gazes were locked on each other, proof once again of their loving bond.

“She does look happy.”

Celia started and looked at the two young women who had stepped up beside her. She’d known Miss Tabitha Thornton and Lady Honora for as long as she could remember. They were old friends and ones who had stood staunchly beside her before, during and after her ill-fated engagement. She appreciated that beyond measure.

“She does,” Celia said, addressing Honora, for it was she who had made the statement. “She is. Lucky her.”

“Indeed, for Mr. Danford cuts a fine figure,” Tabitha sighed. “And I’ve heard he’s worth a fortune, even if Father does turn up his nose that he made it all by work and not inheritance.”

Celia shrugged. “I don’t care what he does to earn his keep, as long as he takes care of my sister. Which he does in spades.”

“So you don’t regret breaking your engagement to Stenfax at all?” Tabitha asked, curling a loose blonde lock around her finger.

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