Scandal of Love

By: Janelle Daniels

Aubrey shook her head slightly. “Not at all. I’ve heard rumors of him, but have never met him myself.”

“What kind of rumors?” Sera asked, her curiosity piqued.

“Well,” Aubrey said in a hushed voice, leaning closer to Sera. “It’s well known that he has been traveling the continent for the last several years. But what isn’t known is why he left in the first place. Several years back, he was one of the most sought after bachelors. Not only did his black hair and green eyes cause women to swoon at the sight of him, but he had a very respectable fortune.”

“Had wealth? You mean he doesn’t anymore?” Sera asked, confusion tingeing her voice.

Aubrey’s mouth fell open. “You mean you don’t know?”

“Know what?”

“His money is gone.”

“All of it?” Sera asked, shocked by the information.

Aubrey nodded. “Yes. In the last few years his father squandered almost everything they had.”

“How is that even possible? With such a fortune I would think it would be difficult to spend it all in a few years.”

“He gambled it away. Some of the gentlemen’s clubs have very high limits, and after several bad bets, it was easy to lose it all.”

“Who would do such a thing?”

Aubrey just shook her head as they sat there in silence, contemplating Sera’s future.

“I know how you feel about love, but are you considering buying a marriage now?”

Sera sighed. “I know that the chances of a good match based on love are now non-existent. I just can’t reconcile myself to that kind of life. I want a family of my own, but I’m torn over if having children to love will be worth having them with a man I don’t love.”

Aubrey squeezed her hand sympathetically before letting go.

“It’s not right. One vicious lie and my life is ruined. I’m sure Lord Devericks will suffer little over this scandal. Men always seem to suffer much less of the repercussions.” She shrugged. “But I know life isn’t fair.”

“I’m so sorry. I wish there were something that could be done to save you from this. I can’t bear to see you hurt,” Aubrey said, a honeyed curl coming loose from her coiffure as she leaned in to hug Sera.

“I know. I do too.” Resigned, Sera stood and walked over to her writing desk. She gathered two sheets of foolscap, a quill, and ink before returning to her seat. “We might as well make a list of eligible fortune hunters.” She paused a moment before they both started laughing. “I know this isn’t a time to laugh, but I can’t help myself. ‘Eligible fortune hunters,’ as if they were desirable.”

“It’s ok. We’ll get through this. Just because we make the list doesn’t mean you need to act upon it.”

Sera nodded a bit numbly. “You’re right. So, where to begin?”

“Lord Nimbly?”

“No.” Sera said, shaking her head firmly. “Not only is he a fortune hunter but he is a rakehell. He would never be faithful to me.”

Aubrey was quiet for a moment.

“I know, I may be expecting too much from a loveless marriage but I won’t have my husband with other women. He is getting my money and in return I will ask for his fidelity.”

“All right. Let’s see… how about Lord Fosterson?”

“He’s a bit on the older side, but that isn’t something I can be picky about,” Sera conceded.

“Perhaps that might be a good thing. You might become a wealthy widow sooner than you expect.”

Forcing a smile, Sera appreciated her friend’s attempt to raise her spirits. “One could only hope.” Writing down Lord Fosterson’s name, she said, “I think Lord Stanton should be included. Not only would his children be beautiful, he seems rather gentlemanly.”

“Agreed. He would be an excellent choice,” Aubrey said, hesitating before she continued. “Have you considered Lord Devericks?”

Sera’s quill paused halfway through writing Lord Stanton’s name. “Actually, no. I hadn’t really thought about it.”

“Any particular reason?”

Sera set the quill down. “No. I guess I didn’t think of it because we have never met. I do not know his character, and if I must tie myself to someone I don’t love, I want to know that he is someone I could at least like and respect.”

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