Mrs. Cassandra Vaughn lounged comfortably in an overstuffed chair within her salon. Her friend, Mrs. Patience Moore, was in the process of pouring them both a cup of tea. If someone had told her four years ago she would have two women living under her roof who had fallen on hard times, she would have laughed. Lucky for her, the Earl of Drayton knew how to settle his accounts. When they had ended their association, he had gifted her with a substantial amount; a vast sum that allowed her the luxury of not having to take another lover in order to keep herself in the manner to which she had become accustomed. The divine man… too bad he was now so happily married.
“However shall we tell her?” Patience chewed on her lower lip before she realized what she was doing. She poured another serving of tea. “The poor dear will be devastated.”
How indeed? Cassandra pondered accepting the china cup from Patience. “I will handle the situation as delicately as possible. If I can survive having my name splattered across that rag of a newspaper, then she shall survive too.”
A snort came from Patience. “If you had had better sense all those years ago, you would have never been following Lord Drayton in the park in the first place. I ruined a good pair of shoes scampering to keep up with you.”
“Leave it be, Patience,” Cassandra warned whilst images of Neville carrying Lady Gwendolyn Sandhurst flashed through her mind. Odd how all these years later the scene still hurt. But this… her eyes went to the open paper on a nearby table. Such news would be devastating to anyone. It was one thing to be labeled mistress. It was entirely another to be labeled a woman of the streets as the article all but implied.
Any further thoughts on how to explain the unfortunate incident plaguing her this morning came to an abrupt end with the sound of a soft knock upon the door. With the call to enter, the door squeaked open on its hinges.
Mrs. Moriah Hernshaw entered the room clutching a shawl around her morning gown. Her eyes were red-rimmed giving testament to her lack of sleep. A shaky hand ran up to her dark black hair in an attempt to tame the unruly tresses. She failed.
“Come sit with us,” Cassandra prompted pointing to the vacant chair.
“You are too kind, Mrs. Vaughn. How will I ever repay your generosity at taking a total stranger into your home?” Moriah asked as she all but fell into her seat.
“You may start by calling me Cassandra,” she answered holding up her hand to put an end to any argument on the subject. “Since you shall be staying with me for an undetermined amount of time, I must insist.”
“Very well,” Moriah replied.
“I just know we shall become the best of friends,” Patience declared holding out another cup of tea. Cassandra peered at the woman who looked as though there was nothing wrong and this was just a friendly tea party.
The silence stretched between the women for several minutes as they became lost in their own thoughts and drank their tea. Moriah began to fidget in her seat as though she was uncomfortable sitting down. It dawned on Cassandra that the woman may be concealing injuries she dared not tell her when she showed up on her doorstep in broad daylight.
“It is none of my business what that brute did to you but I do worry he caused you more pain than you are letting on,” Cassandra prompted.
Moriah paled, turning as white as the china cup that rattled in the saucer she held. She set the cup down on the table. “I will mend.”
“You must be more selective in the future about whom you take to your bed, my dear. I know you have fallen on hard times, but I was most concerned for your well-being when Lord Drayton discreetly asked if I would take you in. Are you perhaps friends with his wife,” Cassandra asked taking hold of the woman’s hand.
“I believe his wife is acquainted with my dear friend, Lady Grace Lacey.”
“I see,” Cassandra replied.
“Is it not a small world,” Patience said brightly.
Cassandra rolled her eyes giving Patience a look to remain silent. The woman was so trying at times.
“I do not want you to think less of me, Cassandra, but the gentleman in question forced himself upon me. He did not like my refusal when I told him I would not take him as my lover,” Moriah continued on.
“The swine,” Cassandra hissed. “That would explain much I fear.”
“I do not understand. Has something happened?” Moriah inquired. Her brow furrowed with worry.
Cassandra rose and went to pick up the latest edition of the Teatime Tattler. “The good news is that the article is buried on the fifth page. The bad news is this bit of gossip will spread throughout the ton by mid-day.
Moriah took the paper and began to read aloud.
This just in…
A certain Mrs. M.H. has recently been spotted having a bit of sport in nearby Hyde park, if the leaves stuck in her hair and dress are any indication as to how she spent the afternoon. She was also seen sneaking into the house of Mrs. C.V. and we all know this woman’s reputation, despite the fact no one has noticed her becoming any man’s mistress recently. Perhaps the two women have now become partners in their quest to find wealthy benefactors or will head to the cheaper side of town and take a shilling or two for payment for their wares. Curious minds want to know what will become of these willing widows.
Moriah gasped. “I am ruined.”
“I have no doubt your gentleman friend, and I use that term loosely, gave them such rubbish to print.” Cassandra took the paper from Moriah’s hands and tossed it aside. “But we shall survive such drivel.”
“I will never be able to hold my head up and face Society. And Grace,” she cried out. “What will she think of me when she see’s the latest edition?”
Cassandra went over to the sideboard and poured a draught of sherry. She handed the drink to Moriah. “If she is your friend, she all ready knows this is but a bunch of lies. You have nothing to be ashamed of. The lady will understand.”
“I hope so. I would hate to lose her friendship over something I had no control over,” Moriah replied downing the drink in two gulps.
Patience came over to give Moriah a hug. “We could look at the bright side of this,” she declared with a laugh.
Cassandra scowled. “I hardly find this situation humorous, Patience.”
“Can you not see it now, Cassie,” Patience purred. “Why they will be saying we belong to the Willing Widow’s Club. Why gentlemen will be lining up at your door just to get a look at us!”
Cassandra and Moriah both stared at the woman as though she had lost her mind. Moments later the three women broke out into laughter.
“Well, I suppose they cannot think any worse of us than how the article portrayed us,” Moriah chuckled.
“We might as well give them something more to talk about. Let’s go shopping,” Cassandra said. “Any bad situation I have ever been involved in always looks better after I’ve bought a new bonnet.
Laughter echoed in the air as the three women went to ready themselves.
This is an original piece with secondary characters from two of Sherry Ewing’s stories. Cassandra Vaughn can be found in Sherry’s new Regency series, Nothing But Time: A Family of Worth, Book One. Moriah Hernshaw can be found in A Kiss For Charity which first appeared in the Bluestocking Belles’ 2016 box set, Holly and Hopeful Hearts and is now available for individual sale.
Sherry Ewing picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. A bestselling author, she writes historical and time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time. You can find all of Sherry’s books on the tab above or on her website at www.SherryEwing.com.