Once a Wallflower, At Last His Love

By: Christi Caldwell

(Scandalous Seasons Book 6)


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cknowledgements


When my son was born and the doctors presented their suspicions that he had Down syndrome, I was in a haze of shock. The doctor that delivered him, also happened to be the younger sister of a sibling with special needs. Her words stayed with me. She told me the reason she’d become a doctor and the person that she was and is today, was because of her sibling with special needs. It took me a little bit of time to fully understand, connect with, and appreciate those words.

This story came to be for all the courageous, supportive, and loving siblings who have a brother or sister with special needs and become a protector, a defender, and more importantly…a friend.





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rologue

Surrey, England

1808

Hermione Rogers sat atop a boulder. The canopy of trees rustled overhead and a gentle breeze stirred the calm surface of the river. She stared at the completed sketch in her hands. With a growl, she crumpled the page and hurled it toward the water.

“Whyever would you do that, silly?”

Hermione stared forlornly out at the scrap of paper just at the edge of the shore. The wind gusted and blew the page back to her feet. Humph. She couldn’t even do that right. “Because,” she murmured, not bothering to turn and look at her elder sister, Elizabeth. Elizabeth knew everything and fixed everything and was perfect and Hermione was not perfect.

At anything.

A small shadow blocked out the warm summer sun. “May I?”

Hermione gave an angry shrug of her shoulders. Elizabeth would sit anyway. That was what elder sisters did—anything and everything they wanted. Such was their right.

Elizabeth sank down onto the enormous boulder. “Nasty Mrs. McGrasty?” she asked, using the familiar moniker for their horrid governess.

Not wanting to talk about Nasty Mrs. McGrasty and her horrible opinion, Hermione tightened her mouth. With no more than a raised eyebrow, Elizabeth bent and scooped up the forgotten sketchpad.

Hermione stiffened. “It’s silly, anyway. Ladies don’t paint or sketch or write.” Or do anything that was interesting anyway, according to Nasty Mrs. McGrasty. No, ladies married proper, powerful gentleman, of which she was certain Hermione would never accomplish. Not that Hermione much cared. She quite detested boys. They seemed like horrid creatures, always thinking they knew better than girls. When she was older, she wouldn’t need any help; especially from a boy.

Her sister caught her hand. “Of course ladies paint and sketch. Mrs. McGrasty only says that because she has no talent herself.” Hermione tugged it back but Elizabeth held firm.

Hermione sighed. Big sisters.

“Look at me, Hermie.”

“I hate that name,” she mumbled.

“I know.” Elizabeth ruffled Hermione’s dark brown hair. Gentlemen never wed ladies with brown hair, Mrs. McGrasty was forever saying. All the better, so she didn’t have to wed one of those miserable boys. “That is why I use it.” Her sister grinned. “Hermie.”

“Thank you,” she muttered. She really was not interested in laughing or smiling or her sister’s teasing this day.

A somberness drove back Elizabeth’s earlier mirth. Uncomfortable with any seriousness from her usually teasing sister, Hermione glanced out at the river. “Look at me, Hermione.”

She scuffed the tip of her mud-splattered boot in the moist soil, hating being forced to do and be…and never just be Hermione. Then, she met her sister’s beautiful blue-eyed stare, not because anyone demanded it, but because she wanted to. For no matter how beautiful and infuriating and big sisterly Elizabeth was, she loved her more than anyone else in the world. Something she could never, ever, ever admit to her mother or father or younger siblings. Ever. She couldn’t hurt them with that truth. But Elizabeth was simply her best friend.

And the gentle smile bestowed by Elizabeth said she knew as much. “Do not listen to Mrs. McGrasty. You are beautiful and intelligent and you sketch pieces that touch my soul.”

“You have to say that. You’re my big sister,” she mumbled. Life really was quite trying for a girl of eleven.

“I don’t have to say that because I’m your big sister.” Elizabeth nudged her in the side and tickled her there.

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