The Marchioness’ Alluring Touch by Lorena Owen

Chapter One

Scarlett sat down on the sofa after greeting her friends. As soon as she sat down, she hunched her shoulders a little, as was her habit. It was something she had learned to do as a child, for she was taller than most girls. At least this way, her height appeared to be shorter than it really was.

She smiled at her guests and greeted them with as much civility as she could conquer. There was no doubt in her mind that the topic of the today’s gathering would shift to the upcoming London Season.

For Scarlett, it was a topic that she heartily wished to avoid, much to the dismay of her mother, who smiled at her knowingly.

“How are you, Mrs. Weston? I heard you caught a cold last week. I called on you once, but the butler told me that you were resting, and I did not want to disturb you.” Scarlett addressed her guests.

“Oh dear, yes, I was informed later that day. It was very kind of you, I must say.” Mrs. Weston replied with a smile. “Dear Scarlett, are you excited about the Season?”

The maid served them with tea as she considered how to reply. Scarlett Peyton was a girl of twenty and one, with two failed seasons behind her, and there was not a worse comment that could be made to her.

Her guest was the widower of late, Mr. Weston. The family in question was a friend of the Peyton’s for many years now and calling at each other houses was to be expected once every week. It was more so Mrs. Weston who visited them.

But she was now prepared for it. After her failures — which were due to no faults of her own and only of her exceptionally tall figure — she knew that this was bound to happen sooner or later. Mrs. Weston was one of many women who were more than eager to pass on such comments.

Mrs. Weston lived a few miles away from the Peridgedale Manor, and she was a close friend to Lady Peyton. The friendship between the two families dated back to when Mr. Weston and Mr. Peyton had both been bachelors. With each respective marriage, the former decided to buy the nearest state to Peridgedale, in hopes that his son and any daughter of Mr. Peyton would form an engagement.

This, however, could not be achieved, must to the dismay of Mr. Weston for his wife could not bear him any son —and only a few years after his marriage, when Scarlett had been only ten, he fell sick to an uncurable disease.

She was a woman much like all others and only now lived with the purpose to seeing Scarlett marry into a respectable family.

She only had one daughter, and she was already engaged to a fine man, as the gossip was about these days. Mrs. Weston was in the habit of visiting them quite often, sometimes even more than once a week. She was often lonely in her own home and quite enjoyed the company of Scarlett and her mother.

There was no relation between them except for them being neighbors, and it was a fact that Mrs. Weston exploited most.

Scarlett was not troubled by the statement. It was understandable, but her mother Letitia Peyton was, and it showed in her appearance. The Countess of Peridgeralde, who until this very moment was more than happy to attend to her guests for the evening, was beginning to lose her countenance, and Scarlett could sense the uneasiness in her mother. It was for this reason, perhaps, that the mother chose to answer for her daughter.

“Yes, my dear Scarlett is more than excited, and we have every reason to believe her to be successful this Season. We have our Lord Peyton’s old acquaintances coming to London. You might have heard of the Mountbatten’s, I presume?” And the whole conversation took to the direction of the aforementioned family, and the connections and scandals, if any, were thought to have occurred.

The women went on and on, and soon the whole attention, which was previously on Scarlett, was not diverted. She was, in that moment, very thankful to her mother for decorum dictated that she be polite and kind to her guest, and Scarlett wished only to tell them the truth.

The truth, which would not be taken very likely and in the best of light, was that Scarlett Peyton was not in the least interested in the upcoming Season and was waiting for the right moment to tell her parents of her plan.

Being the only child and, too, a daughter to the Earl and Countess of Peridgeralde had not been in her favor. All her life, Scarlett had been blessed with the best that money could buy and was in the light of many of the most accomplished ladies l in all of London — of her age.

Scarlett had been unfortunate as her two prior Seasons were fruitless. She had not been able to procure any match or form any courtship by any of the fine gentlemen who were more than eager to find their future wives. Scarlett knew that she was handsome — yes, she was not one of the prettiest ladies of her acquaintance but was still considered being beautiful. She had sharp features and a kind face. Her disposition was also gentle. It was also in her favor that she had a large fortune in her name, but her height hindered her and her potential matrimonial matches.

In each ball that she had made an appearance, Scarlett was taller than her partners, and it served as the most awkward moment of the evening. To save themselves the embarrassment, the gentleman began to stop asking her for the dances, and Scarlett was to be found alone for most of the evening.

Her parents knew this and understood the dilemma they now faced, but there was nothing they could do about it. It was a wish to have their only daughter marry a suitable gentleman belonging to a noble family. It is what society demanded of them, as it required Scarlett to abide by her parents' wishes.

The conversation in the room was beginning to take the turn of the much-awaited ball of Lady Mabelle when Letitia turned to her daughter and asked for her to play them all a piece on the pianoforte.

Scarlett obliged and went in the direction of the instrument. A part of her wished that her mother would stop boasting her skills as much, for she was not much in favor of playing in front of large audiences or people, for that matter, whom she knew only listened to find fault in her.

She began to play her favorite piece, the Moonlight Sonata, and soon she was lost in the melody. For Scarlett, this particular piece held a lot of importance because it gave her a sense of liberty, which she would not feel otherwise.

Or perhaps it had to do with the fact that she knew this by heart and knew that her audience would not be able to find faults in it — no matter how much they tried. It gave her a sense of confidence, one that indicated that she could win the hearts of others.

Once she had finished, she looked up and saw her mother clapping for her with tears in her eyes. The others, too, clapped and, with a blush on her face, Scarlett thanked them all. It was then Mrs. Weston's niece’s turn to play, and Scarlett stayed on the bench, assisting her.

Mrs. Weston's niece was certainly a lucky woman, for she had found what it seemed the love of her life in her very first Season, and was now awaiting the days for her married life to begin. Scarlett knew that their acquaintances and most of the London Society would be waiting to scrutinize her and her parents about the failure of their daughter.

Scarlett finished, and everyone cheered on for her. It was soon afterward that the women left, and Scarlett excused herself, wanting to be alone. She took to the gardens and strolled down the path, knowing her mother was watching her from a distance.

It was not that Scarlett pitied herself, for she had learned that her height would be of a certain disadvantage to her at an early age. She also did not care much about what people thought of her.

But her parents, as often parents are often like, wanted nothing more than for their daughter to be happy.

It was her parent‘s anxiousness that troubled Scarlett and it was because of their desire that she wished to marry. But the upcoming Season would be a disaster once again. She had no doubt about it.

In order to save herself and her parents from the embarrassment of another failed Season, Scarlett had decided to avoid it altogether. She was planning on going to the prestigious ladies' seminary school in Bath for the term of the Season. She would only return when all the fine gentlemen went to the countryside to enjoy the hunting period.

This had been her plan for some time now, and she was bidding time, looking for the right time to tell her parents of her upcoming travel. If only her mother had been able to bear more children.

Scarlett knew that they would not deny her this wish of going to Bath for school, but in their hearts, they just wanted to see their daughter settled.

As much as she tried to be civil at balls, they had no suitors for her. Many of the gentlemen had not even asked her for a dance because they did not favor her height. The events of the evening had hurt Scarlett, but not as much as she knew they had hurt her parents.

Scarlett only wished to find a gentleman who would love her for who she was, but with each passing day, her hope was diminishing, and she feared she just might end up alone forever.