Lady Katherine Adamson discovered very early on that all bad ideas began with her twin sister.
Far too many erroneously assumed because Katherine was a whole six minutes and seventeen seconds younger than her sister, that she must aspire to the model of ladylike decorum and beauty as evinced by her twin.
Only Katherine, however, seemed to realize Anne had proven a rather poor influence over the years.
She sighed. And yet, for all the years of bad decisions, she continued to follow along with her sister’s madcap schemes. After all, that is what you did when you were a sister, a twin sister, no less.
“It is not here, Anne,” Katherine said gently. Her breath stirred a puff of white, cold winter air.
Her sister, spun around so fast the bonnet atop her golden crop of curls tipped over her brow. She shoved it back and glared at Katherine. “Of course it is here. I have it on good authority the gypsy woman passed along the pendant to a vendor who would be at the fair upon the Thames River.” She looked pointedly at Katherine. “Surely she spoke of the Frost Fair. Now, we merely need to find the vendor, and…” She prattled on, and continued tugging Katherine along.
Katherine fell into step beside her sister. For the better part of a fortnight, she’d tried to convince Anne of the foolishness in hunting around for the small heart pendant their sister Aldora had once worn around her neck. The pendant had been fashioned as a kind of talisman by Aldora and her four friends. They’d sworn the trinket would lead them to the heart of a duke. In the end, all the ladies had found love. Only one had landed a duke. Which in itself should disprove the validity of the claim, and yet…
“Ah, it is there, I know it,” Anne exclaimed, drawing to an abrupt stop. She stared victoriously out at the bustling Frost Fair upon the frozen Thames River.
Katherine stumbled against her side. “Of course it is,” she said dryly.
Her sister either failed to hear or failed to care about the sarcastic twist to those four words. She spun to face Katherine, her hands clasped close to her emerald green cloak. “I feel it is here. And as soon as we find the merchant, who will sell us the pendant, then I…er, we can claim the heart of a duke.”
Katherine’s lips twitched with wry mirth. “Does the pendant stipulate as to the qualities of the duke? Must he be handsome? Or can he be a doddering, old letch?”
Anne wrinkled her nose. “Whyever would any young lady desire a doddering, old letch?”
“Why, indeed? So then, it is the heart that is more important? Or the ducal title?”
Anne angled her head, and again the bonnet pitched lower over her eyes. She nibbled at her lower lip, and then said, “Why, I rather think they are of equal importance.”
Katherine took a deep breath and forced herself to count to ten before speaking. “Anne, there is not an overabundance of eligible young dukes in the market for a wife.”
Her sister held up a finger encased in the white kidskin glove. “Ahh, but we do not need an overabundance of dukes, Katherine. We merely require two.”
Anne planted her arms akimbo. “If it is all the same to you, then you can marry the old, doddering letch. I, well, I shall have the heart of a handsome, young, affable duke. Now, come.” She reached for Katherine’s hand.
But Katherine withdrew, and took a hasty step backwards. She eyed the frozen expanse of the Thames, filled with tents and carts and skaters, it seemed entirely safe. And yet…
“Never tell me you are still afraid of the water,” Anne said with a touch of impatience in her voice. She stomped her boot in apparent frustration.
Katherine swallowed, not caring to admit to the shameful weakness. And yet, for all the great logic and reason she prided herself upon, she’d never been able to overcome the gripping terror of the day she’d fallen into the river of her father’s Hertfordshire cottage. She’d been nearly seven years old, and the horror of that moment, the water filling her throat, burning her lungs, stinging her eyes, still gripped her.
It had been the last time she’d entered the water.
“Katherine?” Her sister prodded.
Katherine drew in a steadying breath. “Go ahead without me. I’ll wait here.”
The loud squealing laughter of ladies, blended with the rumbling chuckles of their gentlemen; the sounds of merriment upon the ice filtered around them.
Her sister frowned. “You know I cannot attend the Frost Fair without you.” She glanced around. “We are unchaperoned.”
Yes, that had been the second foolish part to her sister’s madcap scheme to hunt down a gypsy’s bauble. Anne had a remarkable ability to lose her, and subsequently their, chaperone.