Charles couldn’t believe his own eyesight. Every opportunity he gained to see his breathtaking fiancé, he swore she was more beautiful than the time before. There she was, right next to the baker and his wife, spinning like a vision of gold thread about the dance floor. Charles was sure he was not the only soul enthralled by Eliza, as the whole town - including the Judge – seemed to have their eyes magnetically glued to the dancing beauty. Honestly, it was no wonder, really, that every person in attendance had fallen under Eliza’s spell. Who wouldn’t? Her gleaming dark espresso mane was cascading down her back - curl after curl - sparkled like a gemstone. The cut of her gold hued gown was stitched with an ivory lace overlay that made her thin body even more curvaceous than he personally thought was necessary - what, with so many men in attendance – and her porcelain skin was practically glowing with the laughter on her lips. Her constant enjoyment of the evening left a faint trace of light pink across her high cheekbones and a twinkle of delight in her eyes. She was every bit the Belle of the ball, no doubt about that. And she’s going to marry me, a lowly pub owner, Charles thought.
The house on High Street was being built to satisfy her father. Eliza had told him repeatedly she didn’t care if they lived in a broom closet, as long as they were incandescently in love and blissfully married. Charles loved her all the more for the fact that Eliza didn’t care about societal formalities. The Judge wanted her to stay high in the ranks of wealth and class, and it wasn’t that Charles was un-wealthy; he just wasn’t rich in her father’s eyes. As it was, liquor wealth was not considered old family money, but the Judge respected that it was hard earned money.
So Charles designed the house with Eliza’s details, and assisted in the construction of the architecture, splitting his time between the pub and the development. His good friend Andrew was the helping to manage the pub when Charles couldn’t be there. With the exterior nearly finished, Charles thought the rooms would be fully furnished by the time of their wedding. Eliza was sure to love every area of the dwelling, as she selected all the furnishings.
Snapping out of his musings, Charles shook his head with laughter as he saw Mrs. Williams scolding Jakob, who had now spilled chocolate pudding down his junior tux and her skirt. He wasn’t sure he had ever been around the boy when he hadn’t attracted some sort of accident. He and Eliza had even placed bets before on what could happen and when. She typically found herself on the winner’s side as it was intuition for her. ‘It’s a feeling I have,’ she would state, and she was usually right. As his eyes drifted back to her, he thought about how it was quirky, in the best way, and only added to her charming existence. Really, too bad women aren’t allowed to gamble.
“She’s absolutely amazing. Are you sure I’m not supposed to be the one marrying her?”
His thoughts now interrupted once more, Charles rolled his eyes at his good mate Andrew. “I find it difficult to believe I let you talk me into closing Scottie’s down for an evening just so you could attend the ball and stare at my fiancé.”
“I’m still finding it difficult to believe she chose you, when she could’ve chosen me.” Andrew mocked his charismatically good looks, showing the truth of his ever-teasing nature, by batting his eyelashes over his emerald eyes at Charles.
In truth, Andrew was typically the more handsome of the two ever-so striking gentlemen. He was the tall, dark and handsome variety, the Mayor’s son, and packaged with a rakish smile combined with a devil-may-care attitude. Though Charles was tall, he was much leaner in muscle, had the palest ice blue eyes anybody has ever seen, ginger hair that glowed with a bronze tint in the sunlight and not a single freckle on his tanned Scottish body. Charles acknowledged his looks were more unique in interest.
“You’ll just have to settle for Annabelle mate,” Charles acquiesced, referring to Andrew’s own affianced. “It’s not like you don’t have an angel of your own.”
A roguish grin immediately plastered across Andrew’s face with the picture Annabelle Cooper in his mind. Annabelle was the town physician’s daughter and Eliza’s dearest friend. She was on the floor engaged in a dance of her own with her older and much more serious-toned brother Edward. As greatly as she loved and desired amusement in her daily life, he wanted a no-nonsense nature in his own. Her father was elderly and Edward had taken it upon himself to be a very protective sibling. He had given Andrew - a vastly skilled pugilist – an honest run for his money once or twice in several rounds of fisticuffs, and that was after Andrew obtained permission for Annabelle’s hand in marriage, though it was to be a long engagement.
“Annabelle is quite something,” Andrew smirked at Charles. Annabelle was smiling towards the two of them with a dazzling expression. Her honey blonde hair swept high off her neck in a mess of ringlets and Annabelle’s big sapphire eyes sparkled against her silver and ocean blue gown. Though her hair was fair, her skin had much more of a tan than Sasha’s, meaning her cheeks didn’t show blushes quite as well. This was something Charles surely wouldn’t like. The beautiful friend of Eliza’s had never known her mother, as she had died in child birth, and Charles was positive the reason Edward was so protective of her was that Annabelle must strongly resemble the late Mrs. Cooper. He was also certain that it was the same reasoning that Mr. Cooper never attended the balls as Annabelle’s escort, as it must be too painful for him, too much of a memory.
“I believe this dance is yours, Sir.”
Looking into his fiancés smiling eyes, Charles met them with his own eager anticipation. “I believe your dance card is mine for the rest of our lives.” Looping her arms through his, Charles led her back the way in which she had weaved herself through the dance floor mere moments earlier, stopping close to the open floor length glass doors. “You know, our wedding ball will be the crème de la crème of the county in just a few months time. Then I will be dancing with my wife,” he smiled as he gazed adoringly into her chocolate eyes.
Sighing with blissful contentment as she fit into his arms like a glove, they stepped exquisitely into a waltz. Charles never pulled his gaze from her eyes. She was so content to just be with him. Every time they danced or would stroll through the local park, she just appeared to be in a heavenly dream. Twirling her intentionally towards the open doorway, Charles took their waltz onto the balcony like it was part of a brilliantly choreographed routine. The two continued to twirl to the far side of the terrace, to the place where any window no longer invaded their privacy, and his supportive arms now wrapped more tightly around her waist. Drawing her close, he leaned his upper body down so she could wrap her dainty hands around his neck, helping her pull herself up on her tip toes.
“You’re a devilish rake, Charles.”
“Oh you love me though, my darling. Would you ever have me any other way?”
Eliza paused to think about it, as if she seriously needed time to ponder the question, and smirking as she giggled the words “of course not!”
It was during these moments - when they kissed under the twinkling light of the stars, under their own veil of privacy, with music setting the mood in the background and shivers of electricity running through their veins – in which Charles wished they could just cross two county lines and elope.
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