Josephine returned home hours later. After all, she had to wait until after Will had washed and dressed in his best clothing. And it had taken some time before he even started on that process. A wonderfully wicked amount of time, and she had loved every second of it.
So tea was cleared by the time they walked into the house. She’d barely opened the front door when Megan came at her, squealing in delight as she threw herself into Josephine’s arms. Jo would have fallen from the impact, but Will was there steadying her against the onslaught.
“Megan! What are you—”
“I’m so happy for you! Engaged to Will! You two are going to be so happy!”
She dropped out of Josephine’s arms only to turn and embrace Will. “I shall simply adore having you as a brother. Welcome, welcome to the family!” Then she dropped back and grabbed Josephine’s hand. “Come on. We have to plan the wedding. Mama has already decided it’s going to be a grand affair in London. Doesn’t want people to think we’re ashamed—which we aren’t!” She shot a brilliant smile at Will who appeared about as dazed as Josephine felt.
Fortunately, Josephine had more practice quieting her sister. The woman was normally completely composed but when she was exuberantly happy, she tended to make up for lost time.
“Megan! Megan, stop! What happened?”
Her sister frowned, looking oddly back and forth between them. “Mr. Montgomery packed up and left a few hours ago. Told Papa that Yorkshire didn’t agree with him and that you had cried off.”
“I did, but—”
“Papa was right furious at you, but then who should appear but Lady Crowle.”
Will’s mother had been here?
“Yes,” answered Megan though Josephine hadn’t asked the question. “Stomped right in and demanded to speak with Papa.” She leaned in, her eyes flashing with delight. “She told Papa a thing or two, I shall tell you! Really, Will, you should have mentioned that you’re descended from William the Conqueror. Anyway, it might not have worked except for Mama. She has that way of speaking without even saying a word. Your mother has it too, Will, because I saw the two of them look at each other. Not a word exchanged, but then Mama—our mama—nodded. She declared herself in favor of the union and Papa had no choice but to agree.”
“Mama came out in our favor?” Josephine asked, her voice a bare whisper.
“Well, of course she did. You’ve been happier these last weeks than we’ve ever seen you. And it’s not like we didn’t know you were sneaking out.” She dropped her voice to a very low whisper. “You’re not nearly as crafty as you think.”
Josephine gasped. They knew what she’d been doing? They knew? She glanced at Will and saw equal horror on his face.
“Shhh!” Megan hissed. “I said we knew. As in Mama and me. We just didn’t know who you’d been spending time with. And really Will, did you have to wait five years to declare yourself? Why do men always leave things until the last moment? But never mind that now,” she said waving her hands. “Will, you and Josephine need to go see Papa right away. Declare your intentions and all that. Salvage his pride while Josephine looks radiantly happy. There’s nothing Papa can say against it now. And then the men will share cigars while we…” She grabbed her sister’s hand and gave a little hop. “We can start planning the wedding!”
Josephine looked at Will, who simply shrugged.
“Are you ready then?” she asked him.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m ready,” he answered. “Whether your father likes it or not, I will marry you. After all, Gretna Green is not that far away, and I have already arranged for the horses.”
She blinked. Horses, the contract with Alastair, even the stillroom that he’d cleared for her—he’d had it all prepared.
“I love you,” she said.
“Hsss!” Megan interrupted, waving her hands. “Yes, yes, you’re in love. We know! Now go in there and make it all official, so we can start planning!”
And so they did.