Her Heart’s Choice, Prologue

January 9, 1812

Alexander Madoch tossed the newspaper on the table and tapped the section he wished his friend Jonathan Lester to read before picking up a hunk of cheese and popping it into his mouth.  He rose from his chair and walked to the window that overlooked the street.  Two horses, wearing the colours of his uncle’s stable, carried a pair of finely dressed women toward the beach.  The ladies were not alone, however, as a group of young men followed close behind.  He smiled as he watched the positioning of the gentlemen shift, one nudging the other out of the way to get closer to one or the other of the ladies.

“So the little termagant has decided to marry,” said Jonathan, drawing Alex’s attention back to the room.  “I feel sorry for the chap that has to put up with her.”

Alex turned from the window.  “That chap shall be me.  It seems we must make a trip to London.”

“You?  After the way she turned you out?”  Jonathan shook his head and scowled. “I’d not be chasing after the likes of her again.  Be gone and good riddance, I would say.”

Alex turned back to the window.  A young man was finally riding next to one of the young ladies.  They were a good distance off, but still Alex could see how the young woman turned to the gentleman and slowed to allow him to ride more fully at her side.  Alex bit his lip and tilted his head as he watched the pair ride away.  That was what he had wanted those many years ago.  A lady, a particular lady, to ride away with him.  “She was not wrong in her refusal,” he said without turning toward his friend.

Jonathan huffed his disagreement.

“The risk truly was too great.  I had no guarantee of success.”

“You also had no guarantee of failure.”  Jonathan pushed the paper away from where it lay in front of him.  “As I see it, you had only to increase in your standing.  Anyone admitted to your confidence knows how hard you work and how you do not venture unless there is a very promising chance of success.”

Alex remained looking out the window.  It would do no good to argue the point with his friend, for he had wholeheartedly agreed with such a sentiment at first.  In fact, if he allowed himself to consider it, he still felt somewhat bitter over the fact that she had not believed enough in his success to accept him.  “I did fall into some wonderful chances that I did not expect.”  He chuckled slightly as he turned toward his friend.  “Wouldn’t she be surprised to learn of my connection to Prinny?”  He had not expected his uncle to have been the one to help Prince George find his Brighton retreat, nor had he expected his uncle to recommend him as manager of the Prince Regent’s riding school and stables. His friend had also benefitted as Alex has engaged him as a man of business and assistant in his duties to the prince.

“That would put an end to her argument of your lack of connections,” Jonathan agreed.

Alex began to nod his agreement but then shifted it to a shake of his head.  “No.”  His head shook from side to side with more determination.  “She is not to know of my connections.  Not a one of them beyond those I have through my uncle.”

Jonathan’s countenance told of his lack of understanding.

“I need her to accept me.  Not my money and not my connections.  I will have her as a wife, but only if she accepts me without all of those accouterments.” His right hand circled in the air as if fluffing something.

Jonathan pulled the paper back to him.  “Did you read this?  She has required that all potential suitors have, and I quote ‘in their possession a title as well as solvent and accurate financial reports’ and…” He held up a finger to emphasize his point.  “‘Please be advised that references and documentation showing adherence to the above criteria will be required.’ Exactly how to you propose to gain an audience with her majesty when you do not have a title and are unwilling to mention your connections.”

Alex crossed the room and opened the door to call to the butler, giving him instructions to see that all was made ready for his trip.  Then, with a smile, he turned to his friend.  “How have I always gained an audience where none was extended?”

Jonathan groaned.  “Who am I to write about soirees?”

“Do you still correspond with Brownlow?”

“On occasion, but that is a business matter and this…” he waved at the paper as he rose to follow his friend from the room.

“Is a business matter,” said Alex.  “Your job is to see that I make all the proper connections, that all the required meetings are arranged so that I might be able to be successful in my ventures, is it not?”

His friend sighed and shook his head.  “This is not a business venture, but I shall give you every opportunity I can arrange.  However, I am still not in favour of the idea.”

Alex clapped his friend on the shoulder.  “As far as I am concerned, my friend, this is the most important business venture in which you will ever take part.  That is, of course, until you find yourself a woman to pursue in earnest.”

Jonathan groaned once again as they left the dining room.

Alex stopped abruptly and turned to face his friend.  “We must not fail in this venture.”  He placed a hand on each of Jonathan’s shoulders.  “We simply cannot fail.”

His friend sighed.  “Very well.  I can see the importance, and I will do my best to help secure her.  Though I question your sanity, I will do it for you.”

“Thank you.  That is all that I ask.”  A smile lit his face.  “Now, to tell my uncle that I shall be leaving for town in two days.”  He let out a great breath as if being relieved of some great burden as he exited the house.  Indeed, he had not felt such welcome vigor in some time.  He had no doubt that the challenge that lay before him would tax him to the end of his patience.  She always had. But, he drew a deep, satisfying breath as he walked toward the stables, the prize ─ ah, the prize for endurance would be satisfying indeed.  Finally, his heart would feel whole.

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