Upon a Midnight Dream (London Fairy Tales #1)(8)

“Rose!” Mary’s high voice pierced the once silent afternoon. “Rose! I know you are hiding! Come here at once!”

Hide? From her godmother? Rosalind laughed. That was impossible, for Mary was everywhere every second, constantly watching Rosalind as if she were breakable. It was irritating to say the least.

“Here, I’m in here!” Rosalind yelled back, snapping the book in her lap closed. She straightened her shoulders and waited for the little woman’s entrance.

Within minutes, Mary stomped into the room, face flushed with exertion. “Child! You simply cannot give me such a scare as to disappear for a few hours without a peep!”

“Peep,” Rosalind offered with a devious smile.

Ignoring her, Mary marched towards the window where Rosalind sat. “Have you nothing better to do the day before your birthday than read?”

Rosalind stretched her hands over her head. “What would you have me do, Mary? It is snowing, after all. Would you like me to go for a ride out in the snow?”

“What a lovely idea! I’ll tell the groom at once!”

With that Mary ran out of the room, yelling at the top of her lungs to ready Rosalind’s horse.

She should have known better than suggest anything to Mary, the godmother who thought idle hands were the devil’s playground. And that any person with enough time on their hands to sulk had adequate time to do something about it.

Legs heavy with sleep, she made her way up to her rooms to don a warm riding habit lined with fur and a muff. The last thing she wanted was to meet her death in the freezing snow the day before her nineteenth birthday. Her last one, according to all the best doctors in London.

Rosalind took her time descending the stairs, careful as she added weight to each step. She must be mad to go riding in such a condition, but part of her wondered if Mary wasn’t just eager to get her out of the house. After all, she had been spending a record-breaking amount of time reading and gazing out the window. But her muscles were more fatigued now than ever. The woman, who was once fearless, was now full of fear. It seemed to choke the very life out of her.

The crisp winter air burned her nose. Though not extremely cold, it would most definitely be a frigid jaunt. Her legs continued to work properly as she made her way to the stables.

“And how is Duke today?” The smell of horses and sweat welcomed her as she noticed Duke already saddled and ready to go.

Hubert, her groom, laughed. “Aye, Miss, he’s as feisty as ever. Careful out there, Miss. Duke is itching to go for a long run.”

“We’ll do fine, I’m sure.” Closing her eyes, she ran her hand over his beautiful black coat, relishing in the warmth of his fur. Without assistance, she mounted and took off in a short trot.

Although she hated to admit it, Mary was right. The cool air invigorated her as the snow lightly fell around her, and absolute silence was her company—well, silence and the sound of birds singing and flying through the sky. How could everything around her seem so peaceful when war raged within her and her family?

The curse—it had caused all of this. And there was no way out, at least not according to her mother and two sisters.

So, she was not sent to Sussex for holiday. She was sent here to die. Away from her family, in hopes that the spell would lift once Rosalind paid the price of denying the demands of the family curse. Her sisters had argued against it, but it seemed her mother was slowly going mad since her father’s death. In a way, Rosalind was the sacrifice her mother was all too willing to make in order to rid the family of the generational hex.

Was it really so wrong of her to want to marry for love? Had she known that decision would have cost her father his life, she would have run down the aisle, dragging that Nordic god kicking and screaming if need be.

But all hope was lost. It was the beginning of December, and if her mother’s madness were any indication, the curse would lift only if Rosalind married before the end of the year. And not just to anyone. No, it had to be one of the late duke’s sons. Last she heard, the youngest was ill with some sort of deadly disease, and the second oldest was utterly ruined. Rosalind’s own mother wouldn’t let her speak of him, let alone marry him, even if it meant the end of the curse. According to her mother, it would be better to die than be tied to such a man.

Leaving only the current Duke of Montmouth, Stefan. The rogue. If she closed her eyes she could still feel the warmth of his skin, and smell the spices on his jacket as he carried her through the thick night air.

Shuddering, she pushed the thought away. Surely, he had already found a more suitable bride. Looking around, she let out a large sigh. Nobody in sight.

It was safe to say that any sort of marriage for Rosalind was an impossibility. Not that it mattered, for the tonics had stopped working, her sickness was getting worse. Though nobody could explain it, the spells were less frequent but when they happened Rosalind had little control over her body in those times. What man would want to marry someone who was struck with sleeping spells? It seemed the only time she could sleep was when the spells hit her. To make matters worse, she had started to become somewhat of an insomniac at night, finally resorting to a family recipe for tea that was said to help her relax, though for some reason the recipe was safeguarded by the staff in London. She had sent a missive earlier in the week to obtain the recipe.

Lost in thought, she kicked her heels into Duke who bolted forward, sending her hat flying. Her hair, now released from the confines of its pins, spread wildly about her shoulders. Long locks of red whipped down her back as she galloped, small tendrils brushed across her cheek as the cold air stung her face. Laughter bubbled out of her as she urged Duke to go faster and faster.

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