The Shadow 26
Isle of Wight, The Needles
The preparations took most of a day but Simon’s search for the appropriate house took much longer. It was near the end of the week when he finally announced he had secured the perfect location. He was determined to escort her on her journey and she hesitantly agreed. The following day Simon brought his extravagant carriage and oversaw the servants as they loaded Marissa’s belongings.
They had decided that Sarah would also accompany her, continuing her pose as Catherine Lawrence. The two ladies dressed for a long day of travel and Simon handed them into the carriage with all the gentility and grandeur he could show. The drive to the train station passed quickly and they repeated the process until they were all settled in the private car Simon had requested.
Marissa settled back against her seat hoping for a quiet ride and some time to think about what they would have to do once they reached the house. Simon had other ideas.
“Miss Lawrence, Marissa has not told me much about you. How did you two become friends?” he asked Sarah.
Sarah looked over at Marissa nervously. “Lady Edgington assisted me several years ago and we became friends,” she replied.
“Where did you two meet?” Simon pressed.
“Catherine’s family owns a small estate in Canterbury,” Marissa said, joining the conversation. “We met on one of my excursions to the country.”
“I came to town to visit with my dear Marissa,” Sarah interjected. “She has changed my life.”
Marissa smiled. Indeed Sarah’s life would be very different from now on, Marissa would definitely see to that.
“I don’t think I’ve heard of the Lawrence family,” Simon said curiously.
“My father wasn’t a very wealthy man and my mother and I were left with a very small income, Mr. Anderson. We don’t come into town very often, but after Marissa’s intervention I felt it necessary to share my gratitude in person. My mother and I felt the expense would be worth the trouble,” Sarah explained.
“Lady Edgington is an impressive woman,” Simon exclaimed.
Marissa blushed. “Please, I simply did what needed to be done. I consider Catherine to be a dear friend now. I’m delighted she is able to accompany me to the Isle.”
“It’s my pleasure, Marissa.”
“There’s quite a difference in your ages,” Simon said slowly.
“Mr. Anderson, you certainly don’t expect us to admit our age in public?” Sarah said in a shocked voice.
Marissa was surprised at the intrusiveness of his comment. It was almost like he was digging for information. “I would certainly never admit my age to any gentleman except my husband and since I have none I admit my age to none.”
Simon smiled. “That was quite impertinent of me. I apologize to you both.”
Marissa leaned her head back. They still had several hours to go and she was already regretting the decision to tell Simon about the excursion instead of sending him a letter. Simon and Sarah chatted for several minutes before both falling silent. Marissa watched the scenery outside the window change with each passing kilometer.
As she stared she turned her thoughts to what she had discovered and tried unsuccessfully to piece everything together. When they arrived at the station in Portsmouth she was happy to leave the train and feel the cool sea air. Marissa let Simon oversee the transferring of their luggage to the ferry that would take them across to the Isle of Wight.
“He’s awfully curious about me, isn’t he,” Sarah said, coming up next to her.
“More curious than I am comfortable with, but I’m certain his motives are for my safety,” Marissa replied, dismissing Simon’s behavior.
“We will have to be extra careful around him.”
“Hopefully he won’t stay too long after we arrive at the house.”
“I think he’s planning to stay longer than you think, Marissa. He wants your undivided attention and this is the perfect opportunity for him to have it,” Sarah warned.
Marissa let out an explosive breath. “I miss Sean,” she murmured.
Sarah put a comforting hand on her arm.
“Everything is ready to go, Marissa darling,” Simon said, interrupting their moment. “I’m certain you will love the house I chose.”
Marissa groaned inwardly and cursed herself for giving him the reins. She pasted a smile on her face and took his outstretched arm, allowing him to guide her and Sarah to the dock. The ferry ride was short and as soon as they arrived they were bustled into a waiting carriage. When they pulled up to the house Marissa looked out the window with trepidation.
To her surprise she liked the house Simon had chosen. It was in a quiet part of East Cowes attached to a secluded park. The house, though much larger than she would have chosen, was perfect for her taste and close enough to Osborne to make the journey much easier than her usual routes across London.
While Simon directed the servants she and Sarah toured the establishment with the excitement of young girls. Simon joined them in the sitting room adjoining the library.
“Everything is settled, Ladies. Shall we take a ride to the shore?” he asked cheerfully.
Marissa agreed. They might as well enjoy the countryside while they were here. Perhaps Simon would tire of the quiet scene more quickly and return to London. They headed out and spent the afternoon walking the northern beaches. That evening Simon joined them for a quiet dinner at the house.
“Well, Lady Edgington, Miss Clarence,” Simon began after dinner, “I will not trespass on your hospitality any longer. I will retire to my own establishment, but I hope to see you again tomorrow. Perhaps we could explore more of the island.”
Marissa’s eyes widened at his comment. “You’ve taken an establishment on the Isle?”
Simon nodded. “I decided a holiday from my business in London was just what I needed and of course I’d hoped to spend more time in your gracious presence.”
Marissa blushed. “Mr. Anderson, you are too generous in your speech. I never would have dreamed of coming out here if it was to take you away from your business. I only sought a refuge from my extreme circumstances.”
“Marissa you must realize that I would be completely lost without you. There is no ball or social that would tempt me while you are gone,” he declared.
“Mr. Anderson,” Marissa said, holding up a hand. “You give me more credit than I deserve. There is surely nothing in my behavior toward you that could merit such feelings on your part.”
“Ah, but love is not meted out by behavior. The heart makes its own decisions,” he said, taking her hand and kissing it.
“I am not one to give my heart so easily,” Marissa said gently.
“Then I shall simply have to work harder to win it,” he replied. “I bid you good night, my darling Marissa.”
He turned and left the room. Marissa slumped into the nearest chair with a groan.
“It looks like we are stuck with him, dear,” Sarah said from across the room. “He isn’t going to give up any time soon.”
“I know, that’s what worries me,” Marissa replied wryly.
“He is going to fill up your days with all sorts of activities and we have work to do before the seventeenth.”
“I will deal with Simon. I just need your help figuring out what to do about our invisible friend.”
“You realize he will probably come looking for you here, Marissa. You didn’t exactly make it a secret where you were going and he was probably headed here anyways. Now that I have failed to show up at Jarvis’ house twice, they won’t hesitate to try you again,” Sarah said, her voice filled with worry.
“Hopefully your performance in London will be enough to deter him. Even if he thinks you are Sarah, you aren’t invisible and can’t help them any longer.”
“Unfortunately we look enough alike that Jarvis will probably know it’s me just from a description. He did see me when we first met.”
Marissa hadn’t thought of that. If the man knew Catherine was really Sarah the danger to them both was high. She dropped her head into her hands. Everything was a bigger mess now than before. She suddenly wished she had listened to Sean when she had first gotten sick from John’s potion and given up the whole thing.