Elisabeth Fairchild
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Love Will Find the Way


Signet Books
ISBN #0-451-20036-5
June 2002

Meet me at the Grand Regent Hotel, her last letter had ended. So, here he was, Lieutenant James Forrester, lately of his majesty's 18th brigade Hussar, in London, striding up Bayswater Road, dodging scaffolding, piles of brick, and bricklayers with their buckets and trowels. The box in his arms grew heavier with every step. The saddlebag banged his knee. He was looking for Leinster Terrace, on his way to meet Miss Annabelle Grant.

He was in love with her, and they had never met, never spoken, not face to face. He had no idea how her voice sounded--only the cadence of her sentence structure, the careful loops and curves of her lettering, the turn of a phrase. These were as familiar to him as his own. James had read her letters time and again, night after night, a box full of them.

Annabelle, a name like music. She had been prolific in her correspondence, each folded sheet of crossed and recrossed paper a gift to him, through Archie, who could not see. He deciphered each one first for his friend, later for himself, because they were so full of life in the midst of death and the dying, so gently funny in a rough and unamusing world, so affectionate amid the anger and hatred of war.

Of course Archie talked of his Belle. Hours of ramblings, about their childhoods together, the trees they had climbed, the ponies they had ridden. James knew her hair was flaxen fair, her eyes the color of blue spruce, not quite blue, or green, or gray, but a dark blend of all of these. She had a beauty mark beside her mouth, another high on her left shoulder. Archie had wanted to discuss little else in the end.

James had no choice but to fall in love with her--the illusion of her anyway. She had been beauty in the midst of everything grim. She had been England, an icon of all that the lads yearned to live for, to return to.

And now he was returned to a city unfamiliar, quiet, and clean. It smelled of cabbage, coal dust, sausage, fresh horse dung, and, of course, the humid sewer of the Thames, fine perfume compared to the stench of gunpowder, and rotting horseflesh and septic wounds that had too long soured his nostrils.

He was, himself, unfamiliar, out of uniform, his clothes too crisp, smelling of dye, soap and starch, not sweat, horses and fear. No clink of Marmaluke sword at his hip. No spur at his heel. He still wore his Hessians, silver tassels swinging, and chalk white breeches, but no weight of silver lacing weighed upon his chest, and his hat was that of a gentleman, not a heavy fur shako with aigrette feather cockade. His stride made no music, other than a steady tapping. No jingle of silver spurs to remind him who he was. He was, in fact, a stranger to himself when he caught sight of his reflection in the windows he passed. The space he occupied, the very placement of his feet felt off balance, all wrong, foreign.

Who was he, if not a Lieutenant for the 18th Brigade? What goal had he now that his fighting days were done? He had only one thought in mind at present, that of finally meeting Annabelle Grant, his reason for staying alive.

He had imagined many times their meeting. He had dreamt of it, of a shadowy, fair haired figure with a beauty mark beside her mouth, who fell upon his chest and wept upon his shoulder. He had held countless imagined conversations with Annabelle Grant.

Meet me at the Grand Regent, her last letter had ended. How those words had made his heart leap! But now that he was here, standing in the shadow of the bow fronted house across the street from the hotel, it struck him that he was in love with illusion, an illusion he had clung to too desperately, an illusion that was about to be shattered.

He took a deep breath, ready for the plunge, and hitching the saddlebag a little tighter stepped across the street.

The doors of the hotel opened, as if to welcome him, but no, a calvacade of people were leaving: a gentleman on a stretcher, a woman at his side, grasping his hand as they went, mumuring something comforting.

At the bottom of the steps, right there on the walkway, the gentleman proved himself not completely disabled in pulling the woman closer. He kissed her, much to the amusement of his stretcher bearers, who made noises of mock disapproval and ribald remarks.

"Nah, nah, now Mr. Mortimer. Plenty of time for that once you are married," someone said.

James smiled. Lucky fellow. Was this how it would have been for Archie?


Annabelle stood at the window of her room examining the raw, new, ever expanding London before her, the bundle of letters from Archie, in Mr. Forrester's handwriting, clasped to her breast.

Below her in the street, a cluster of people poured from the hotel. A gentleman on a stretcher, four men carrying him, another hailing a passing hack. A woman clung to the man's hand. She would have liked to cling to Archie's hand in just such a way, one last time.

The man pulled the woman close, kissing the woman, right there in the street, turning heads, giving pause to a passing horseman. Archie would have tsk tsked. He had not believed in public displays of affection.

"Too maudlin." He would have said. "Best left to a private moment."

She had never agreed. Still did not. The woman looked happy. Her face glowed with it.

She thought about the day they had parted. He had kissed her that morning in bed, but not on parting. His hand on her cheek, a murmured "I love you."

No more than that. No more kisses, ever. More than two years ago, now. Could it really be so long?

She wondered briefly if Archie had found her daily letters too public a display of her affections. He had responded only once a week until he was injured. The letters had been more frequent then. Changed.

Nothing new there, she knew every word. Like the ache of an old wound.

The crackle of paper beneath her fingers was not new, the imprint of her husband's signet in the stiff, slightly greasy blob of wax beneath her thumb all too familiar to her touch. The faint whiff of gunpowder that ghosted up from the pages brought tears to her eyes. The horizon swam, a blur of grays and greens, an unfinished watercolor that threatened to run.

She sniffed, blinked, wiped a tear from her cheek and stiffened her back. She must not cry in front of the man. She must not go to the door teary eyed. She had cried enough surely, in the past year and a half, cried again the night before, letters spread upon the bed before her, each of them memorized, every last word.

No, she would not cry. Men, even the toughest of soldiers, became helpless in the face of a woman's tears. She would not waste Lieutenant Forester's time with an excess of emotion. She would not have him regret in any way his inclination to come to her today.

His task was not an easy one. She would not make it more difficult. She owed him that much. He had been kind, throughout the roughest patch of life she had ever traversed. Too kind.

And in meeting him she bridged past and present. She must begin anew, as new as the Grand Regent smelled: of paint, plaster, varnish and fabric dyes. It looked out over an area just as raw and new as it was, the painted faces of the houses and businesses fresh, the trees planted down the center of the boulevard before her no more than saplings. Beyond the edge of the bow windowed house across the street Kensington Park's recently planted trees waved tender green in the breeze.

She turned from the window as Hettie, her quiet little maid, the only one of her servants she could now afford to keep, drifted through the room, asking if she required anything from downstairs.

"A bite to eat, miss? I hear the French chef here is quite remarkable."

She was not hungry, never really hungry any more. Not for food at any rate. "Not right now, Hettie," she murmured. "I will wait and take a little tea with our guest."

"Yes, marm."

She turned to the window again, though it was ridiculous of her to watch the street. Even if she saw the Lieutenant she would not recognize him. She had no idea even as to how old he might be.

She had envisioned him. One could not help but speculate given the intimate nature of the correspondence that had passed between them. A bewhiskered, fatherly figure she imagined him, like her Uncle Grover, a gentleman of wisdom, years, and sensitivity. A face lined with a lifetimes' worth of experiences. Far more mature than Captain Archibald Grant had proven himself, this Lieutenant Forrester, despite the discrepancy of their ranks. He had known just what to say in his final letter, dreadful as it was. She must not think of it, or she would end up weeping again.

She concentrated on the room, instead. Very modern, the hotel, with the latest lighting fixtures, and a new sort of fireplace surround, all finished off in the faux Greko-Roman motif that was popular of late. Archie would have hated it, his tastes too staunchly English to appreciate foreign influences no matter how Classical. She smiled, the smile crumpling. It had been almost a year now--and still the stupidest things set her off.

Youth and promise and new beginnings surrounded her as she made a new beginning herself. She must grow, and flourish--be green again. And yet, she felt terribly old-- weary.

She did not care to be in London, certainly not for the reason that brought her, certainly not in the midst of a celebration that fired everyone she met with bright-eyed glee. The war had ended, Napoleon abdicated. All of London celebrated, but she.

The knock came upon the door in the middle of her musings, the sound of it freezing her, a rush of expectancy firing her veins. Eyes fixed nervously upon the door, she put the letters down on the secretary, glanced briefly in the mirror, fingered a stray lock of hair into place, pinched wan cheeks and smoothed the white lace at her throat.

Taking a deep breath, she opened the door.


It was not the rush of air that accompanied the opening of the cupid topped door that stole his breath away, it was sight of her--at last--his imagination given flesh. Annabelle Grant stood regarding him, just as Archie had described her, her complexion paler than he had imagined, perhaps it was the gray dress. Funny, he had never pictured her in mourning, even knowing what he knew. A form of denial, he supposed.

"Mrs. Grant?" he said.

"Yes?" Her voice was breathier than he had imagined, her tone one of surprise. "Are you Lieutenant Forrester?"

The beauty mark beside her mouth moved in an intriguing manner when she spoke.

"I am James Forrester," he said, trying to hold forth his hand without dropping the box or the saddlebags that grew heavier by the minute. "I bring you..."

A whey-faced, mob capped, maid stepped from the room across the hallway, and though she kept her head bowed subserviently and appeared to pay them no mind, something in her posture, and the tight-lipped set of her mouth gave him the feeling he said the words too loud. He lowered his voice and leaned forward to say quietly, "Your husband's effects."

Annabelle Grant eyed the box as if it contained a serpent, held the door wider, gestured him inside, and said, "How kind of you to come, Lieutenant. Will you be so good as to put those there, on the table?"

He strode into an elegant sitting room, saddlebag thumping his thigh. This was a far cry from the hospital tents and commandeered quarters he had known as home for so long--far nicer, too, than the room he had taken at the George Inn. But, of course Archie, first in line to inherit his father's fortune, had had money. His widow would be accustomed to fine surroundings.

The fire surround alone must have cost a fortune. It was white marble, and boasted carved stone inset intaglio medallions of Greek gods and goddesses, charioteers and archers. An annoyingly civilized and symbolic representation of conflict, of combat, heroic and bloodless. Fiction.

A breath of her perfume met his nose as he passed her, distracting him. He closed his eyes, the better to savor the familiar scent. Her letters had smelled the same. Lavender. The odor triggered memories of Archie, and the smell of sulphur and camphor, gunpowder and rotting canvas. For an instant he heard the shriek of cannonball, the shout and thunder of the charge, the pounding hail of gunfire, the scream of horses and men.

He took a deep breath, shook away the past, and concentrated on the present, on the surface on which he must place the box and saddlebag: white, smooth, cool, solid, untroubled by bad memories, the legs of the table black lacquered. Gold leafed caryatids stoically bore the weight of the marble.

His hands shook a little as he released his burden. His arms ached in letting go. Too long had he clutched the awkward shape.

Archie's Annabelle stood on the far side of the table, hands clenched at her sides, eyes on the box, as she caressed the leather of the saddlebag.

"Will you cut the cord?" she asked.

He would, and did, with the silver handled dirk he kept tucked in his boot, thinking as the twine was severed how wonderful it would be if he might so easily cut the cord to his past.


In no way did he match the picture she had formed in her mind. He was all wrong. No uniform, no fatherly wisdom staring back at her as he bent gracefully to slide the wicked little dirk from his boot. No whiskers to be seen. This brown-haired lad with satin fine locks that slid down into his eyes had not the look or manner of a man who had experienced tragedy, who had killed--and led others to kill. He looked younger than Archie, not much older than herself, surely.

Archie, fond of pranks and laughter, never without companions. She should have known it was a chum he would find rather than a father figure among the ranks. And yet, could it be true that this boyish imp had sat beside him throughout his illness, even as he died? It seemed highly improbable.

The cotton cord put up no resistance to the keen edged assault of the dirk. As the cord slid to the floor, the lieutenant bent to retrieve it, with long legged, coltish grace, and tucked away the blade again in one fluid motion, rising to look at her, hazel eyes warm, expectant. Deep in that golden darkness sorrow lurked, and concern, hiding behind the friendly twinkle, at odds with the hesitant smile.

Deep waters, she thought. There was more to Lieutenant Forrester than first met the eyes.

"Shall I leave you to go through his things in private?" he asked. "Or would you prefer company?"

"Company," she said, her voice an uneasy echo to his. And then, as if her request required further explanation, "You may know something of significance in connection with his things that I should know."


Her hands were pale, small, in undoing the clasps on the saddlebag. They trembled a little as she delved into the last earthly possessions of Captain Archibald Grant. He knew exactly what she would find there, having carefully packed the things himself.

The box held Archie's cape, wrapped carefully around his sword, pistol, boots and spurs. The saddlebags held a bit of horse tackle, shoes, stockings, leggings, trousers, breeches, and an article bag containing Archie's watch, his coin case, and rings. She lingered over these, chewing her lip a bit, setting them carefully down upon the marble topped table as if they were bird's eggs, an equal amount of white space around each treasured item. Archie, come home. He stood, unmoving, uncomfortable with his own presence in the room, unsure where to look, unwilling to draw attention to himself in clearing his throat, or shifting his weight. There was little he could say in connection with these ordinary things, other than that they had seen extraordinary violence. Archie would have begged him to hold tongue on that. He knew that for a certainty, and as he had thus far honored the dead man's every wish he saw no reason to open his mouth.

She came very close to tears in sliding the wedding band onto her thumb and off again. With a sigh, she placed it carefully on the table beside the engraved, gold watch that had timed many an advance into battle. It made a faint pinging sound when she lifted it and flipped open the cover.

"Love will find the way," she said.

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