Owen knocked on the door of his parents’ bedchamber. The hour was late, but he was certain they would not be abed. His mother was overwhelmed with excitement about Thea’s announcement. His father too, although he was much calmer about it. No doubt, the entire household would be talking of little else for days to come. His mother and father were likely talking of it at this very moment, which was why he dared to disturb them. There was something on his mind, and he wished to address the issue before retiring to bed, so he could sleep without troubled thoughts.
The door opened, and his mother smiled at him. “Owen, my love. You should be asleep. Is something amiss?”
“No, Mama. All is well. I wished to speak to Papa.”
From his place on the bed, where he relaxed in breeches and a loose shirt, Guy answered.
“What is it, my son?”
He glanced between the two of them, and gave his mother a sheepish look. “It is a matter between men.” He gave her an apologetic expression. “Forgive me, Mama.”
Cassia gave him a sweet look, and glancing at Guy as she went into the next room, she allowed them their privacy. As Owen closed the door, Guy moved from the bed to his favorite chair near the window. He sat back and linked his fingers together, gathering them against his chest. Stretching out his legs, he looked at Owen.
“Well, son?” he said. “Crack open your head and share your thoughts.”
Moving forward, Owen came to stand in front of the window, clasping his hands behind his back. Despite the close relationship he had with his father, he often found himself feeling intimidated. It was a respectful fear, of course. But it sometimes made him uneasy when having a conversation. Still, he tried not to show what he felt, taking on a serious tone and expression.
“Papa, I have been doing much thinking today. I have come to the realization that my childhood has long since passed, as it has for all of my siblings. The news of Thea’s condition has only served to remind me that the passage of time is swift.”
“Owen,” Guy interjected, “Is there a point you intend to come to? It is late, and I am quite tired.”
Owen took in a calming breath. “Forgive me for prattling on, Papa.” He let out the breath he had taken in, and spoke. “I wish to choose a bride.”
Guy’s eyebrow rose in stunned curiosity. “A bride?”
With a nod, Owen replied. “Yes, a bride. I take pride in doing my duties, but I have been remiss in the one duty that is most important. I wish to choose a wife.”
Turning to see and judge his father’s reaction, he saw that Guy had risen from his chair. He walked slowly back and forth, an intrigued expression softening the fierceness of his face.
“Have you given thought to any woman in particular?”
Owen shrugged. “No. But I am certain there is a suitable female to be found who will please me. So long as she has beauty and rank, and will bear me sons. That is, after all, a wife’s purpose.”
To Owen’s surprise, Guy made a sound of amusement, giving a kind of small laugh.
“It seems you think of this matter as a mere business transaction.”
“Papa?” Owen inquired, wondering at his father’s reaction. Guy’s tone became quite fatherly.
“My son, I advise you not to be hasty in the matter of selecting a mate. The woman you choose is the one you will spend the rest of your life with. Be certain she is worthy.”
“I fully intend to find a woman of means, Papa. One with a healthy dowry.”
Guy came to a stop, looking at Owen directly. “I do not mean worth in that sense. A dowry is a fine enough thing. But do not think only of her looks or the heaviness of her purse. Many a woman has those qualities, but nothing else of substantiality. A wife must have sense enough to manage your home when you are absent, and she must be a companion for you when you require it. But most importantly, she must suit your character. I will not allow my son to make a poor choice that he will come to regret.”
Now it was Owen who folded his arms. Leaning against the window casing, he considered his father’s words.
“I had not thought of such things,” he said.
“Nor did I, when I first thought to have a bride. That was before your mother came along. I was fortunate that fate guided me in the right direction.”
Surprise came over Owen’s face. He knew something of his father’s past. It was no secret that Guy of Gisborne was devoted, body and soul, to the woman he loved. Owen had always thought of them as being each other’s first and only love.
“I did not know there was another,” he said, a note of awe in his voice. He watched as Guy took to pacing again, and Owen noted the change in his father’s demeanor. There seemed to be a shadow of darkness there, as if he now spoke of something that deeply troubled him. His tone became austere – almost bitter in its way.
“Regrettably, yes,” Guy replied. “There was another. A woman of beauty, rank, and intelligence. But she had no heart for me, and I was too blind to see that she was not meant to be mine. I was reckless in my pursuit of her. But I was fortunate that fate intervened. Had it not directed me on the proper path, this family would not exist. But let us turn away from such thoughts. They disquiet the mind.”
“Of course,” Owen said, clearly seeing that such talk was troubling. He sighed, taking in the new perspective that had been put before him. “You have given me much to consider, Papa.”
Coming forward, Guy clasped him on the shoulder. “Sleep on it, then. And tomorrow, we will consider this matter more carefully.”
Owen nodded, and as he stood, he saw his mother returning to the room. She came to him, smiling, and he smiled back, kissing her cheek. As he left the room, his mind was full of new thoughts.
Why had he not considered such matters before? In his hastiness to get past the initial decision of getting married, he had not considered the possible consequences of such a choice. What if a rash decision caused him to be chained to some brainless shrew? He did not intend to spend every moment with the woman he married. The knighthood, and the duties it entailed, were of greater importance to him. But he would have to spend some time with his wife…especially if he wanted heirs.
It was strange, but he suddenly thought of the Baroness LaCroix. He had tried not to think of her, but for some reason, she was often on his mind. He remembered the last time he had seen her, at Thea and Lucien’s wedding.
She was beautiful. But there was more to her than that. On the hunt, he had discovered what a fine horsewoman she was. And she was a creature of sharp wit and mind, judging from the brief conversation they had shared. How disappointing to remember that she was already married. She might have made the perfect bride. He could only hope that somewhere out there, a woman like her was waiting for him. He had only to seek her out.