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Discovering Grace

Discovering Grace

Narrated by Marian Hussey

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When Grace Everly is to be sent away on an adventure she doesn't desire, she proposes a plan: to switch places with her twin sister. However, complications arise when the man who has captured Grace's heart discovers their secret. Jacob Barnes, a soon-to-be vicar, has longed to court Hope, but now he finds himself helping with the twins' charade and fighting his growing feelings for Grace. As their relationship is tested by deception, they must confront their emotions and the consequences when the truth is eventually revealed.

Main Tropes

  • Friends-to-Lovers
  • Twin Switch
  • Love Triangle (Gentle)


Grace Everly has no desire to set sail for the Caribbean, unlike her adventurous twin sister, Hope. Thanks to her sister’s irresponsible behavior and subsequent banning from the journey, Grace’s father decides to send her in Hope’s place. Desperate to remain where things are familiar, Grace proposes an unthinkable plan: that she and Hope switch places. They only have to keep up the act long enough for Hope to board a ship in London. When the man who has stolen Grace’s heart learns of their secret, things get more complicated.

Jacob Barnes, soon to be ordained a vicar, has known Grace and Hope his whole life. Though close to both sisters, he’s dreamed of courting Hope for months. When he realizes his friends have switched places, putting the woman he admires out of his reach, he agrees to help with the subterfuge despite his bruised heart. As he watches Grace stumble in her acting abilities, attempting to change who she is, he realizes how much she means to him. But how does he tell her, without risking their friendship?

The deception puts their relationship to the test. As Grace hides her heart and her identity, Jacob examines his feelings, and no one in their community will be happy when the truth is discovered.

Intro to Chapter One

Somewhere in the house a door slammed. Grace winced but otherwise did not react to the evidence of her twin sister’s displeasure. She kept her hands busy embroidering a blue silk shawl. 

Soon enough, Hope would come barreling into the morning room to interrupt Grace’s peaceful occupation. The Everly twins, known throughout the neighborhood for their opposing temperaments despite their identical appearance, had developed something of a pattern when it came to Hope’s rather outrageous conduct. 

Hope would come up with a scheme, tell Grace all about it, then enact her plan. Sometimes it would be something as simple as arranging a picnic or musical recital for their friends, at other times it would involve somewhat more scandalous behavior. Most recently, Hope had taken to racing her phaeton against others with similar carriages pulled by ponies, often with Grace clinging to her bonnet with one hand and her seat with the other. Inevitably, when Hope did something that the local matrons frowned upon, news of it soon came to their parents. 

“I did warn her this time,” she whispered into the quiet of the room, breaking the silence before her sister could. 

The rumors of the races had evidently reached Papa, given the raised voices heard moments ago. The door slamming meant the conversation had ended, not in Hope’s favor, and she would appear at any moment to bemoan whatever punishment she had been given, while Grace listened.

Grace found her scissors and snipped the pink thread, completing the rosebud. She put her needles back in their box and tucked everything into her sewing basket. Then she folded her hands in her lap and waited. 

She did not have to wait long. 

The door to the morning room slammed open as though propelled by an explosion. Hope stormed in directly and banged the door shut again, her blue eyes flashing. “I cannot understand why Papa must be so sensitive to Mrs. Keyes’s opinions. I know perfectly well that other young ladies race their ponies. It is not as though I am stampeding about on a great big hunter.”

As usual, it fell to Grace to placate her twin. “Yes, but it is a matter of propriety. Simply because other young ladies do such things does not mean Papa wants his daughters to do the same.”

Upon first meeting the sisters, people often expected them to be as similar in personality as appearance. They both had the same black hair, even if Grace preferred more mature styles over the enormous curls her sister favored, and the same deep blue eyes. Yet Hope’s eyes were more likely to flash with passion while Grace’s remained as tranquil as forest pools. Even their figures had remained mostly the same as they matured. 

If one looked carefully, one might note the slightest difference in height. Hope was a quarter of an inch taller, and three quarters of an hour older. Both facts she had used in the past to get her way when they entered into one of their rare disputes. 

Hope snorted in a most unladylike manner. “It is astoundingly boring to limit myself to what Papa and Mama think are appropriate activities. It is all very well and good for you to sit here and practice domesticity, but I wish for something more stimulating. We are twenty-four years old this summer and nothing of interest has ever happened to us.” 

Domestic. That was an apt word for Grace, and one she would happily wear with pride. Not that it did her any good when it came to finding a gentleman who might appreciate such a quality. Hope’s firm rejection of marrying “too early” had come to include Grace through association alone, and Grace worried they had waited until “too late.” Given that her thoughts naturally turned to one man when she considered the subject of matrimony, and that man showed no romantic interest in her, Grace put it from her mind.

There was no use examining such thoughts at the moment. Not with Hope’s state of agitation.

“What is it that would suit your desire for excitement?” Grace knew the answers, of course. “There are no highwaymen to stop your carriage, no pirates to come ashore and rob you, and no hidden treasure for you to stumble upon in the woods. You must learn, dearest sister, that most people have ordinary lives.”

“I hardly wish for anything so drastic.” Though Hope spoke with a wrinkled nose, her tone was more weary than scornful. “But why can we not go to London for the rest of the Season? Or Bath to take in the waters. Or to the Continent now that the war has ended.”

Mama did not like to travel, and Papa had no desire to go anywhere without her. They had spent most of their lives in their village of Aldersy. As Mama and Papa were considered to be pillars of the community, and their friendships included such people as the Earl of Inglewood, the Barnes Family, Sir Isaac Fox, and every member of the gentry within fifteen miles, they were quite content that neither themselves nor their children go wandering. 

Grace did not bother pointing all of this out to Hope, as her sister knew it all well enough. But she did offer a commiserating grimace. “You need not go too far afield for adventure. You have proven that time and again.”

“And suffered rather severely for it,” Hope muttered. She went to the window and stood there, chin jutting out and brows drawn down into a scowl. “I cannot understand why you are like them rather than like me. Why do you not want to experience something more grand? Or different.

Oddly, that was not a question Hope had ever tossed at her before. They had always accepted their disparity in personality, without complaint or judgment. Perhaps in part because they tired of everyone else around them asking inane questions about their twinship. 

Grace considered her answer before giving it. 

“I do not think I am necessarily like them. I am only myself. I enjoy our village, though I know it to be small. I find no lack of entertainment in our life here in the country. I have never thought to want more than what I am presently grateful for.” 

Except for one thing. There was one single thing that Grace had wanted, and even wished for, but it was not something she could discuss with Hope. 

“You are as good as your name.” Hope flicked the gauzy white curtain away from the window, peering down the lane. “Someone is coming to visit. I cannot tell who…”

Grateful for the change in subject, Grace rose to peer out the window as well. Hope stepped aside, pulling the curtain open wider. 

When they stood next to each other, as they did to study the approaching gig, people had an easier time telling them apart. Grace wore subdued blues and greens, sometimes lavenders. Hope put on brighter colors, in yellows, peach-like pinks, and occasionally a daring shade of red. When they were younger, their mother had dressed them alike until they were old enough to settle on their preferences. Even in their sense of fashion, they diverged most naturally. 

“I think it is the Carlburys.” Grace pointed at the distinctive dappled gray horse. “See, that is their horse.” 

“Oh, lovely! And two women in the gig. Mrs. Carlbury must have Irene with her.” Hope bounced up and down, her earlier scowl no longer in evidence. “Come, let us go down and meet them.”

Miss Irene Carlbury and her family had settled in the neighborhood half a dozen years before and had almost immediately found favor in the Everly household. Though three years younger than the Everly twins, they formed a fast friendship with the newcomer. Irene’s family had lived in the Caribbean, on an island called St. Kitt’s by those who knew it best, and that exotic previous residence immediately endeared Irene to Hope. Miss Carlbury had come to England with the hopes of becoming refined and genteel, which endeared Grace to her just as quickly. 

Several times a week, the three could be found together with their heads bent over ladies’ magazines or else walking along the beach, speaking of the doings in the neighborhood. 

Grace followed her sister down the steps and to the small hall near the main set of doors. While Grace enjoyed the quiet of the house, having her younger siblings away at school did leave things a little too peaceful at times. They were not too far, but at enough of a distance that they boarded and came home to visit once a month. 

Garrett, their butler, was opening the door when Hope and Grace stepped off the stairway. 

“Mrs. Carlbury, Irene, how good to see you both.” Hope offered her curtsy and Grace followed with her own. “I am very glad you have come to call.”

“Ah, but I think you shall be even gladder when you have learned the reason.” Irene appeared barely able to keep her grin from bursting onto her cherubic face. She was built taller than the Everlys and had a bright exuberance for life that Grace admired. Where Hope was wild and passionate, Irene was much more measured in the ways she found entertainment. 

“Hush now, my dear. We must share our news with Mr. and Mrs. Everly as well.” Mrs. Carlbury had caught her daughter’s infectious grin but worked harder to keep it at bay. “Where might we find your parents this afternoon?”

“Father is in his study,” Grace answered, eyeing their guests with good-humored suspicion. “Mother might be in her garden, given the mild weather.” The Carlbury ladies exchanged a meaningful glance.

“I will fetch Mama.” Hope turned to go without a thought for properly seeing to the guests first. 

“And I will show you both to Papa,” Grace added, making up for her sister’s forgetfulness. She did not mind. It had become something of a habit over the years for her to smooth over the ripples caused by her sister’s propensity to hurry about. 

She went before her guests, who were still exchanging their secretive smiles, and led them to her father’s study. She knocked politely on his door and waited for permission to enter before stepping inside. “Papa, Mrs. Carlbury is here, and she would like to have a word with you and Mother.” 

Papa sat behind his desk, his spectacles perched precariously on the bridge of his nose. He held a book in one hand and a sheet of paper in the other. He laid both items down and stood. 

“Please, show them in.” His study doubled as the family library. Their collection was not large, but it consisted of volumes dear to the whole family. Because the room was used for reading as well as business, there was more than enough furniture to hold everyone. 

Papa stepped forward to bow to their guests, then kindly led Mrs. Carlbury to the most comfortable of the chairs. He was always thoughtful; even in the smallest details, Grace saw evidence of his kindness. Once their guests were seated, Papa removed his spectacles and tucked them into his coat pocket. Grace made note of it, as her father often lost his reading glasses, even upon his very person. 

“Hope has gone for your mother?” he asked, his graying eyebrows raised. Grace knew her father well enough that she saw the question he would ask if the two of them had been alone. Is your sister still upset? 

Grace shook her head slightly to answer the silent inquiry, while aloud she said, “Yes, they will be with us momentarily. Shall I send for refreshment?” 

“No need.” Mama’s rich alto filled the room, her beautiful voice bringing a smile to Papa’s gentle face. He loved her voice. Loved when she sang. Grace had not inherited that ability from her parents. They were both quite musical. Hope, on the other hand, could sing the birds from the trees if she wished too. But she was contrary enough to dislike singing. Likely because she had been forced into any number of duets with Grace when they were younger.

Hope never liked being made to do anything. 

“Oh, I am glad to see you, Mrs. Carlbury. It has been too long since we last visited. Has your husband’s business in London concluded at last?” Mama asked, coming into the room to sit near her friend. 

“Nearly. Mr. Carlbury is still in Town.” Though near the same age as their mother, Mrs. Carlbury always seemed several years younger, given her excitable nature. She continued to stare at them all quite as if she had a secret ready to erupt from her at any moment. “He is finalizing our removal to Saint Christopher’s Island.” 

Grace reached for her sister’s hand, as they sat in chairs next to one another, her stomach tightening with disappointment. Most likely, Hope’s disappointment at such an announcement would be the same. 

“Oh my,” their mother breathed. 

Their father leaned forward in his chair, scrutinizing the women before him. “I did not think you wished to return to the West Indies. I thought your family had finished with the place.”

“We do not go back to take up permanent residence,” Mrs. Carlbury said. She continued beaming, as though she had announced plans for a party rather than a removal. “We escort one of Mr. Carlbury’s friends, a member of Parliament, to look into the conditions of the plantations and the workers. He is a man with an eye for reform. An associate of Mr. Wilberforce, if you can believe it. Our trip is somewhat diplomatic in nature.” 

“How long will you be away?” Hope asked, her voice quavering. “We shall miss you so much.”

“Perhaps a little under a year.” Irene moved closer to the end of her chair. “But I hope you shall not all have cause to miss us, as I have asked Mama for permission to bring a friend for companionship.”

Grace’s discomfort increased. Irene meant to take one of the two sisters to visit the Caribbean with her. With her throat constricting, Grace did not see how that would be of benefit to anyone. No matter which sister was chosen, the other would be left behind, disappointed and alone. 

Rarely did Hope and Grace part with one another for more than a few days. If Hope went away, Grace would not be nearby to smooth her sister’s path. If the invitation was extended to Grace, she would have to decline. Her, set sail for such a faraway place? Never. The prospect made her heart shudder and her lungs close up. 

“If your family is amenable to the idea,” Mrs. Carlbury said in a hasty manner. “We have secured three berths. One for myself and Mr. Carlbury, another for our eldest son, and one for Irene. Albert will find amusement enough for himself, but we should like Irene to have a companion for the voyage as well as our time touring the islands. Our youngest, Richard, is busy with his studies and will not accompany us.” 

“Dear me. This is quite the adventure for your family.” Mama tucked her hands in her lap and looked to Papa, tiny wrinkles at her brow giving away her concern. “And such a long way to travel, so soon after the war’s end. Do you not fear privateers?”

“Not in the least.” Mrs. Carlbury waved her hand before her as though she could brush the idea of sailing thieves away as one might a gnat. “Our navy has cleared the seas and, as you said, the war is over.”

Hope moved to the edge of her chair and leaned forward, as though she could not get close enough to the conversation. “Which of us do you wish to accompany you on your journey?” 

Grace’s eyes darted to her sister’s, and she barely stifled a gasp at the naked longing in her sister’s eyes. Did Hope not understand what it would mean to go on such a journey? To be away for nearly a year, whatever the adventure might be, with the uncertainty of traveling over an entire ocean in a small boat—No. Even Hope could not be so reckless a spirit as that. 

“I thought it best to let your family talk it over amongst yourselves,” Mrs. Carlbury said, turning to look from Mama to Papa. “You know your daughters best, and surely Irene ought not be pressed to decide between her two closest friends.”

“It would truly prove too difficult a task,” Irene insisted, lowering her eyes momentarily. “You have both been so kind to me since we came to the neighborhood. I love you equally, as I must, and I would be grateful to have either of you on this adventure. I wish I could bring you both.”

Her mother patted her daughter’s hand in a soothing manner. “We did discuss the possibility of such, but the expense and strain of travel is not to be taken on lightly. I could not possibly deprive you of both your daughters, either.” 

“A wise thought.” Papa met Grace’s eyes and she saw his lips turn downward, then he looked to Hope, and the frown deepened. He saw the light of adventure in her sister’s eyes too, it would seem. Given he had recently lectured Hope on improper conduct, the prospect of letting her out of his sight could not be a happy one. “We shall discuss it as a family. When do you need a decision?”

“The sooner, the better. We leave in a fortnight, after packing and securing the house. Then we shall go to London to buy up what we need for the journey. As I have made the voyage there and back before, you can be certain I know exactly what is needed.” Mrs. Carlbury stood. “You must remember that I am happy to answer any questions you may have about the voyage. I assure you, whichever of the Miss Everlys makes the journey, I will look after her as if she is my very own.”

Papa and Mama had risen, as had Hope and Grace. With the alarming nature of the visit shared, their guests had nothing further to discuss. Sinking her hands into her skirts at her side, Grace clutched at the cloth as though it were an anchor keeping her firmly at home and away from the sea. 

Why did either of them need to go? Perhaps once she reasoned with Papa, Mama, and Hope, they could reject the idea altogether. As much as she enjoyed Irene’s company, Grace had no desire to part with home and family for a foreign land. 

“Thank you, Mrs. Carlbury. I do not doubt you on that account one whit.” Mama, ever the gracious lady, did not betray what she felt to their neighbor. In fact, she sounded grateful for the extension of the invitation. 

Grace followed as they all walked to the front door again, no longer paying attention to Mrs. Carlbury’s words as she discussed plans for closing up her house. Instead she watched her sister, sensing the building happiness in her sister through the air between them. Her heart ached at the idea of parting from Hope for so long. 

Neither of them would go. Surely Papa and Mama would make certain of that. 

After their guests drove away, Papa closed the door. He turned toward Grace, Hope, and Mama, his intelligent eyes taking them in. Grace bit her bottom lip, waiting for him to pronounce the very idea of one of them going a ridiculous scheme. Instead, he sighed and offered them a chagrined expression.

“Do we even need to discuss who will go?” 

Hope stood on her toes, her hands raising to cover her heart. “Oh, Papa, really? You will allow it?”

Mama stepped to his side, sliding her arm through his in an easy manner born from many years of practice. Grace’s heart sunk when she saw no evidence of hesitation upon her mother’s face. “We know our girls,” she said. “Hope has always wanted an adventure.”

Grace’s stomach dropped all the way to her toes, and she took a step back from her family. “No, Mama. You cannot mean it—”

Hope’s squeal of delight drowned out Grace’s whispered plea. She covered her mouth, as shocked at her outburst as she was by Hope’s clear delight in the decision. Had her sister not thought of what it would mean? 

“Thank you,” Hope sang out, her voice echoing through the hallway. Grace winced, wondering if the whole county might hear her sister’s happiness “At last, something marvelous has finally happened.” She leaped forward and embraced first Mama, then Papa, laughing all the while. At last she turned to Grace, her pleasure undimmed when she took up her hands. “Grace, I am so happy. I wish you could come too.”

Was that to be her only regret expressed on the matter? Grace ought to point out all the dangers ahead, all the drawbacks of leaving a settled and civilized country for the wildness of an ocean voyage and a visit to untamed islands. Months aboard a ship, even longer in the tropical climate, with foreign people and no family nearby for support. What about privateers? What of hurricanes? 

When she hesitated to answer, Hope’s excited grin started to fade. All the elder twin had ever wanted, ever dreamed of, was to experience wild and exciting exploits. 

The Carlburys had been and come back again from the West Indies. They were experienced travelers. They had given Hope the very thing her heart most desired. 

Grace affected a pleasant expression. “We both know I could not enjoy it half so much as you. Congratulations.” Those simple words, which Grace had to force from her tongue, were enough to brighten Hope’s mood again. 

“Come, let us find our atlas. We must plot the voyage.” Hope took up Grace’s hand and tugged her along, as she had all through their childhood, determined to make Grace enjoy the very things that made her most uncomfortable. 

Whatever would Grace do without her sister?

* * *

As always when he visited the Everly family, Jacob Barnes knocked smartly at the front door and preemptively removed his hat and gloves. The Barnes and Everly families had been on intimate terms since before Jacob’s birth, and the few formalities he adhered to when visiting were still bent from time to time. 

Their butler, Mr. Garrett, answered with his usual stiff decorum. “Good afternoon, Mr. Barnes.” He stepped aside for Jacob to enter, accepted the articles handed to him, and then bowed. “The ladies are upstairs in the west parlor, sir.” Garrett’s eyebrow twitched to one side and the servant frowned. 

“Should I wait to be accepted up?” Jacob asked, adjusting his cuffs. 

“Not at all, Mr. Barnes.” The butler’s eyebrow twitched again. “The ladies will be pleased for the distraction your visit will bring.”

“Distraction? What am I walking into, Garrett?” Jacob did not bother hiding his amusement. Something had annoyed the butler and it obviously had to do with one particular miss in the house. Everyone knew that when there was an upset or uproar, Hope most likely sat at the center of it. 

“Effusions of joy and a confusion of packing,” the butler said, then snapped his mouth shut. His eyes widened as though he could not believe his own audacity to speak of any matter pertaining to the family with an outsider, no matter how well he knew Jacob. 

Jacob chuckled and pushed his blond hair back away from his forehead. “Never fear, old fellow. I will not breathe a word of your clever quip to anyone.” Garrett had been a butler in the household for ten years and was perhaps only fifteen years Jacob’s senior. He had been an upper footman who had dared to take Jacob to task once for encouraging “the young misses’ misbehavior.” 

“Thank you, Mr. Barnes.” Garrett gestured to the stairway. “Allow me to show you upstairs.” The stiff primness returned, and with it the eyebrow twitch. For something to rattle the butler, there must be an interesting state of affairs in that sitting room. 

Jacob did not allow himself to worry, knowing that all would be revealed soon enough. Whatever new trick Hope had got herself up to, or misadventure she had dragged her poor sister into, could not be so terrible as the time she decided to dress the sheep in every bonnet and shawl her family possessed. Or the time Hope had sent anonymous letters to all of their neighbors pretending she had spied upon them and discovered their deepest secrets. That had been a true mischief and she had been sentenced to her room for an entire month when it was discovered. 

With that memory still fresh in his mind, Jacob entered the sitting room and delivered his customary bow. “Good afternoon, Mrs. Everly, Hope, and Grace.” No one even batted an eye at their using Christian names with one another. How could they? Jacob, Hope, and Grace had shared nursery games almost as soon as the girls knew how to walk. He was only two years their senior, and quite a fixture in their home. 

Even as they had all aged, adding new friends to their acquaintances, the three of them had remained close. 

He took in the attitudes of the women in the room, sensing some sort of anticipation in the atmosphere. Mrs. Everly rose from her favorite chair, but she held a scrap of paper in her hand rather than her customary sewing. “Dear Jacob, how good it is to see you today.”

Hope stood in the middle of the room and offered her curtsy, which was abbreviated in order for her to quickly take up pacing, which must have been her activity of choice before he entered. She moved rapidly, her eyebrows drawn down, but a wide smile turned up her lips. She said nothing to him, though her lips moved silently as though rehearsing something to herself. Jacob followed her progress across the room with his gaze before turning to Grace’s customary place. 

But her chair was empty. 

Where was Grace? 

“Good afternoon, Jacob,” she said at last, giving away her position at the window, nearly tucked behind a curtain. “How is your family?” That was always Grace’s way. She did not stand upon ceremony, but she always looked after the social niceties. 

“They are quite well, thank you. Anticipating a visit from my Aunt Barnes, actually. I am come to visit and to ask your family to a card party while my aunt is here.” 

“How thoughtful of you,” Mrs. Everly said, somewhat distractedly. Returned to her chair, she now scrutinized the paper in her hands and barely glanced up at him. “But some of us may have to decline the invitation, depending upon the date. We are all rather distracted at the moment, you see.” 

“Ah, are you?” Jacob came further into the room, standing nearly directly in Hope’s way when she turned and retraced her steps. They must have been out of sorts, given that no one had even asked him to sit down yet. 

Hope nearly ran into him but stopped muttering to herself long enough to realize he stood directly in the middle of her path. “Jacob,” she said, nearly gasping out his name. “You do not know.” She looked from him to her mother, then to where Grace stood. 

Jacob, though he would much rather study Hope’s curls brushing across her neck, or the way her lips parted when she said his name, decided to glance in Grace’s direction as well. 

“I do not know what, exactly?” He offered Grace a teasing grin, thinking she would share with him their customary expression whenever Hope ran away with her thoughts. 

But Grace’s lips remained pressed together in a grimace and she turned away. Odd. 

A melodious laugh turned his attention back to Hope and her face beamed. “My incredible news, of course.” She reached out and took both of his hands in hers, leaning forward in a conspiratorial manner. Jacob’s heart barely had time to adjust its speed from the excitement of her nearness when she made her announcement, causing it to stop. “I am to go to the West Indies.”

The room changed from warm and bright to cold and cramped. No, he must not have heard her correctly. Forcing a smile, Jacob managed to utter a one-syllable plea for the misunderstanding to be cleared up. “What?” He did not release her hands, squeezing them gently instead. She was real. The room was real. This was not a dream. Nor a nightmare. And Hope could not go anywhere—

“The West Indies,” she said again, shaking his hands in her enthusiasm before she pulled away, executing an excitable spin. “Across the Atlantic Ocean, to the beautiful island of St. Kitt’s. An adventure, Jacob. At last! 

Jacob stared after her, his hands still hanging pathetically in the air as if to urge her back. He numbly turned to Mrs. Everly, who still studied her paper, then looked to Grace. He needed confirmation, unable to trust Hope’s own words. 

Grace turned just enough to glance over her shoulder at him, her eyebrows drawn down and her lips a straight line. She nodded once, correctly interpreting his unasked question. 

“With the Carlbury family,” Grace said, her voice barely loud enough to carry to where he stood. “They are going back for a visit, and Hope is to accompany Miss Carlbury.” Though he could tell from the way she stood, stiff with her arms wrapped about herself, that this news was as poorly received by Grace as it was by him, she managed to keep her tone quite neutral. 

He supposed he ought to follow her lead. Swallowing past a tight knot in his throat, Jacob tried to focus on Hope’s joy. In all the time he had known her, Hope had been as daring as any boy who crossed his path. Her fearlessness, her desire for daring exploits, had landed even him in trouble a time or two. A trip such as this one would be something out of her dreams. 

“That is wonderful,” he managed to say at last, surprising himself with how cheerful he sounded. “You have always wanted to travel.” He forced his mouth to form some semblance of a smile, but the facade was weak at best. Jacob stepped further into the room, determining that no one would remember to ask him to sit. “How do you fare, Mrs. Everly, knowing your eldest daughter is going on such a journey?” 

Hope’s parents could not be happy to have her out of their sight, could they?

“I would be a good deal happier about it if we could finish the packing list,” Mrs. Everly said with a sigh. “Hope, darling, do you think you ought to take an umbrella or purchase one upon arrival? And ought you to bring one for the sun and another for rain? I should hate for you to take up too much space in a trunk with umbrellas. Do you suppose they have umbrellas for purchase in the St. Kitt’s markets?” 

Umbrellas. All his concern over Hope’s safety and her own mother was fretting over mere accessories. When Hope flounced over to take a seat next to her mother to discuss the subject in greater detail, Jacob fled the seating area and went to the window to stand near Grace. 

Always the levelheaded member of their little group, Grace would be able to tell him what was going on and why. She had turned back to the window, so he faced the same way, tucking his hands behind his back. 

Quietly, he asked, “When does she leave?” Perhaps, if he had a few weeks, he might talk her out of going. Or at least give her a reason to stay. 

“They go to Town next week,” Grace answered, resignation in her tone. “They are finalizing her purchases in London, and then they will set sail.” Shaking her head, Grace released a quiet sigh. “Her trunks are already packed. Mama is just worrying over final details now. The Carlburys will visit this evening and, I am certain, will put her mind at ease regarding the umbrella situation.” The tiniest note of humor crept into the last of Grace’s words. 

He appreciated her efforts on his behalf, for she obviously saw his distress. But had anyone taken notice of hers?

Jacob took a step to the side, so their arms nearly brushed. “Are you going to be all right? You two have never been apart. Hope will be gone for—”

“A year,” she supplied the term with reluctance. “Perhaps a little less.” Grace released a shallow sigh and tipped her head to the side, regarding him with heavy eyes. “I cannot quite believe it, yet with Hope speaking of nothing else for the past two days, I have little choice in the matter.” 

Had they been alone, Jacob would have reached for her hand or put his arm around her shoulder. They were old friends, after all, and the ache in her eyes matched what he felt in his heart. 

“I am sorry, Grace,” he whispered, then turned his eyes back to the window. He did not truly see beyond the glass. “Sorry for us both.” 

How could Hope leave them like this?

“Jacob,” Hope said, pulling his attention around to the woman causing his distress. His heart thumped sorrowfully as he compelled his features into another pleasant expression. “What should I bring on the journey? I wonder if you might think of something we have not. You are always so practical.”

Was that how she saw him? Merely as practical? The word sounded so entirely her opposite at the moment. But then, she was right. A third son from a large family, he had learned to be practical and to make the best of things from a young age. Stepping away from the window and Grace, likely the only person as saddened by Hope’s good fortune as he, Jacob endeavored to make himself useful by speaking of voyages, packing lists, and the sort of things a lady might expect to do while visiting the islands of the Caribbean Sea. 

His visits normally took up a half hour or more of time, but with Hope fluttering about the room in her preoccupied state, he barely managed to remain a quarter of an hour. When he took his leave, Hope gave him a brief curtsy, her mother a quick nod, and it was Grace who followed him from the room and down the stairs. 

When they came to the entry, where his gloves and hat rested on a table near the door, Grace broke into his thoughts with her hesitant words. “This has come as a shock to you. I am sorry, Jacob.” She reached her hand toward him, as though to place it on his arm, but then raised it instead to tuck a stray lock of hair behind her ear. Grace had always been less demonstrative than Hope, but just as compassionate. 

He took it upon himself to lay his hand upon her shoulder, offering a gentle squeeze of comfort. “It is a shock. But given what we know of Hope, we can only be happy for her. Everyone in the neighborhood will miss her.” He cleared his throat and stepped away, averting his eyes. He had no wish for Grace to see how much her sister’s announcement affected him. 

“Good day, Grace.” He bowed and hastily exited, pulling on his gloves as he practically leaped down the stairs. His horse remained waiting for him, and that made it an easy matter to mount and hurry on his way. The future had seemed perfect that morning, ready as he was to take on a living that would at last allow him to also take a wife. 

Kindly Mr. Spratt, who was aged two and seventy, was finally stepping away from the living and the parish. The vicarage would be Jacob’s in June. Mr. Spratt had been an attentive spiritual leader for decades, never even entrusting his parish to a curate. His wife had passed two years previous, leaving the old man alone with a handful of servants to look after him. Ready to retire at last, the vicar planned to move away to live with a grown daughter.

The bright May morning sun hid itself behind clouds, much like his hopes and plans had hidden away behind the shock of losing Hope. She would not be gone forever, but a year was a long time. Especially when he had plans he had hoped to put in motion more immediately. 

The living was the Earl of Inglewood’s to give to whom he wished. The church and vicarage stood at the edge of the earl’s property, near the village. When Silas, the current earl and a friend from Jacob’s childhood, learned of his friend’s decision to take orders he had immediately promised him the position. 

Once established, Jacob could obtain a respectable situation in society and afford to marry. Which was why Hope’s adventure struck him as horribly ill-timed. 

He clenched his hands around the reins and his horse, a spirited creature belonging to his eldest brother, protested with a toss of its head. Forcing his hands to relax and willing the tension from the rest of his body, Jacob attempted to find the equanimity he depended upon. 

By the time he arrived home, two miles from the Everlys’ estate, he had managed to stuff most of his emotions back into his heart where they belonged. He had waited this long to tell Hope of his admiration for her; he could wait a little longer. 

Perhaps when she returned, her thirst for adventure would be sated at last. Not that he wished for that part of her character to change, but he would have a better chance of securing more than friendly affection if her eyes were not always directed toward the horizon and away from Aldersy.

Jacob left his horse in the stables with the grooms, too agitated to take the time to soothe the animal himself. Notwithstanding his outward calm, his mind had not stopped racing. 

Hope, gone for a year. Too far for letters to even reach her regularly. 

Inside the house, an airy 18th century construction his father had inherited from an uncle, Jacob went in search of the one person who might be able to calm him. 

He passed his eldest brother on the staircase. “Matthew,” he said, “have you seen Mother?”

“In the music room,” Matthew answered without stopping in his descent, hat tucked beneath his arm and gloves in his hand. Perhaps he was going to pay a call on the lady he had been courting. Jacob shook his head, wondering how his brother had waited until the age of thirty-two to begin looking in earnest for a bride. 

Turning around, Jacob went down the stairs to the music room, ignoring his brother’s departure from the house. The music room was at the rear of the house, facing eastward, where there was a fair prospect of a dip in the land, full of long grasses and sheep. A few miles further than the eye could reach stretched the North Sea. 

The gentle strains of a melody seeped through the door, his mother’s talent with the harp easy to appreciate. For a moment, Jacob stood there, allowing the rich notes to wrap around him in a familiar and comforting embrace. His mother played a bright tune, reminding him of flowers and fairies more than the storm clouds gathering outside. 

When the song drew to a close, Jacob pushed the door open and entered. “Mother, you play like an angel.” 

His mother, tall for a woman and as elegant as any duchess, cast him an affectionate glance from where she sat beside the window. The room was dim, thanks to the weather, and she had not lit any candles. 

“You are a sweet flatterer, Jacob.” She stilled the remainder of the vibrating strings, their almost inaudible humming stopped. “Why are you back so soon? Given when you left, I did not expect to see you until dinner.” 

Even with having six children to keep after, his mother always seemed to know where they were and what they were about. As a child, he had wondered if she possessed some sort of supernatural ability to track them. 

“I was met with some unexpected news when I arrived at the Everlys’.” He came into the room, his hands tucked behind his back. “And they were too busy to keep company today. Actually, I am surprised we did not hear of their news until now.” 

Arching an eyebrow at him, his mother folded her hands in her lap. “What news is this? You certainly are not pleased by it.”

“Have you heard the Carlburys are to go back to the West Indies?” he asked, stopping a few feet from where she sat. Her deep brown eyes searched his, her blonde eyebrows drawn down. He had inherited his coloring from his mother, as had most of her children. 

“I had not. I suppose that would send the Everly girls into something of a fit. They rather dote on Miss Carlbury.” His mother seemed puzzled, obviously aware such news would not be the reason he had cut his visit short. 

“The Carlburys are taking Hope with them,” he said, the words escaping from him in a horrid rush. He looked away before he saw his mother’s reaction, anticipating pity though he hoped for something more comforting. 

She remained silent for a long moment before she stood, the swish of her skirts against her stool bringing his eyes back to her. Mother reached out a hand to him, laying it on his cheek. “I can see this is a blow to you, dear boy. You have not told Hope a word of what you feel for her?” 

He shook his head slowly, not wishing to dislodge his mother’s reassuring touch. “I have not dared. I wanted to secure the living first. She hasn’t any idea—” He closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. At least he wasn’t crying. As upsetting as the news was to him, it had not broken him. More than anything, he was overwhelmed by a sense of disappointment. “I will not say anything now. It would not be fair to her, for many reasons, to burden her with my feelings before she goes away on a grand adventure.” 

“Usually one does not view affection as a burden,” his mother said, giving his cheek a gentle pat. When he opened his eyes and met hers again, she offered him a gentle smile. “But you are right. Telling her now would put you both under an obligation until she returned, to at least think on the possibilities of what could be. Perhaps it is best that she goes, and you take time to accustom yourself to your position as a vicar. Your calling is a demanding one, my dear.” 

His hopes further deflated, leaving Jacob nothing but weariness and disappointment. “You may be correct.” 

“I usually am.” She reached out to offer him an embrace, which he readily returned. “You are a good man, Jacob. Any woman would do well to have your heart. Take this time to learn more about yourself and your duties. It might be that when Miss Everly returns you will both be ready for a conversation on the matter of marriage and love.” 

Though it was not what he wanted to hear, Jacob accepted his mother’s words. She knew him better than anyone, and she knew Hope quite well, too. The fact that she did not encourage him to try and speak to Hope right away, perhaps even try to talk her out of leaving with the Carlburys, showed that she had judged the situation as he had. Hope Everly would never give up the chance at a true adventure, no matter who asked or what they offered. 

When his mother released him, she kept her arm around his waist, and he put his around her shoulders. “When will Hope leave?”

“Next week,” he answered, his mother walking in the direction of the door. 

“So soon.” She shook her head, a blonde curl dislodging itself from the lace cap she wore. Though fifty years old, his mother appeared as elegant now as she did in the wedding portrait hanging in his father’s library. “I am certain she will have a marvelous time. What I wonder,” she added, her voice lowering, “is how Grace will do with the departure. Those two have ever and always been at each other’s side. Grace will have to stand on her own.”

“I worry for her.” It was a relief to say so. The vision of Hope and Mrs. Everly consumed with Hope’s journey, practically ignoring Grace’s obvious upset, disturbed him. “They have always been different, and expressed themselves differently, but there was a balance with the two of them together.”

His mother’s lips pressed together, and her eyes narrowed. “You mean that Grace kept Hope in check, while Hope dragged Grace into all manner of trouble.” 

Although Jacob had not thought exactly that, he nodded. “Sometimes, yes. They are the best of friends.”

“You know,” she added as they went down the hall, “Some say the reason neither of them has married is because they will not be parted.”

Jacob barked a laugh at that. “I think no man has been brave enough to attempt dividing them.” 

Releasing her hold on him, Jacob’s mother went to the library door and paused. For a moment, she regarded him in a most puzzling manner, as though she debated with herself what her next words would be. “Now circumstances will prove they survive well enough apart. I wonder if any gentleman in the county will take notice of Grace?” Then she shrugged the matter away and opened the library door. “Come, I wish to show you a new ladies journal I have received.”

Jacob, somewhat amused by her thoughts on Grace’s status as a single young woman, followed with steps less heavy than when he had entered his family’s home.

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