A Bride for the Baron(84)

By: Jo Ann Brown

The tunnels’ sole purpose was carrying the waters of beck tumbling down to the sea. No smugglers used them to avoid detection. The entrances from cellars had been sealed closed, including the one in the public house. An iron-barred gate at the entrance kept people out of the tunnels, a precaution taken after a trio of young boys became lost while exploring.

At the same time, work had continued on the church. Vera visited the site almost every day, often to escape what seemed like endless fittings with Mme. Dupont for her wedding dress. The work went more slowly than they had hoped, but the new building would be strong enough to stand up to the most powerful winds blowing in off the sea. It was a labor of love for everyone involved, which was why she and Edmund had decided to be married in the Sanctuary Bay church, even though it wasn’t finished.

“The love of man for God,” Gregory continued, “the love of a congregation for its church, the love of a parent for a child or a brother for a sister, and the love of a man for a woman. All of these are gifts from God, gifts we share with one another.”

Vera snuck a glance over her shoulder as she savored her brother’s words of all the ways love had come into her life. On the front bench, Lady Meriweather sat with Sophia and Charles, as Lord Northbridge had reminded her that she should call him now that they were going to be cousins-in-law, and their three children. The newest child, another daughter with her mother’s green eyes, slept on Sophia’s lap, and Gemma and Michael, the older two, were trying without much success to sit still. Near them Cat, her stomach already growing round with her first child, rested her head on Jonathan’s shoulder. Lillian had arrived late, having come all the way from London where she had been feted by the ton as a heroine in halting the smugglers. She sat near the back because the other benches had been claimed by villagers and residents of Meriweather Hall. Those who had not found room inside looked through the glassless windows. Several youngsters sat on the sills. All the guests were smiling broadly, except Lord Ashland who shared a bench with Edmund’s Aunt Belinda. He was not smiling as she kept whispering to him.

Everyone she cared about was in the church on this special day. She wondered how much happiness her heart could hold.

She discovered it could hold even more when Edmund took her hand and offered her the special smile that was solely for her. Her brother turned to the wedding service and began, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today...”