Lilly could just imagine the nightmares Angelica Harrington had when it came to that investigator’s report being released to the public or the paparazzi.
And then to have Lilly herself projecting the very appearance of the wild, unconventional life she had lived those six years? No doubt her mother had been trying to convince Desmond that the south of France was the best place for Lilly right now.
Desmond and her father both had had a strong dislike for the Ridgemore facility, thank God. Unlike some families who sent their children for a stay there over the smallest of reasons, Lord Harrington and his brother had expressed their disapproval of it often. Several times they had stood by other fathers who had been forced to fight their wives over the tradition of using the facility as a form of punishment.
How many times had her mother threatened to send her there? Lilly knew there had been more times than she wanted to remember. As much as she was certain she had missed her family and her life here, wouldn’t there have also been a sense of relief at having to no longer live by the rigid guidelines her mother had set for the family?
Wouldn’t she had loved the adventure, the easing of the restlessness that had always filled her?
“There you are.” Her mother stepped into the kitchen, moving for the teapot at the side of the stove. “Would you like more tea, dear?”
Lilly lifted her cup. “It’s coffee, Mother.”
Angelica grimaced in distaste. “You were raised on tea, dear.”
“I enjoy the coffee.” Lilly sipped at the warm drink before setting the cup back on the table and crossing her arms on the table top as she watched her mother.
“Your manners have seriously deteriorated.” Angelica nodded to Lilly’s arms crossed on the top of the table.
“I know, Mother,” Lilly agreed as she left her arms in place. There was no polite company present, so there was no need to worry about it.
“Do you now make gross noises in public as well?” Distaste marred Angelica’s face.
“Not hardly, Mother.”
Silence fell as Angelica made her tea and moved to the table.
“Desmond and I are heading to D.C. for an early dinner with friends; would you like to join us?”
Lilly shook her head. “I might lie down for a while. I woke this morning with a headache.”
She might take the opportunity to snoop around Desmond’s office a bit. She hadn’t had a chance before now. It seemed either Desmond or her mother was constantly around her if she left her bedroom.
Her mother finished her tea, an uncomfortable silence falling between them.
“Lilly, you need to make a choice.” Her mother set her empty tea cup to its saucer and stared back at her coolly.
“What sort of choice, Mother?” she asked as she leaned back in her chair, laying her hands politely in her lap.
“Whether you’re Lady Victoria, or the hoodlum Lilly Belle.” Angelica rose to her feet, her eyes glittering damply though her expression was willfully set. “Both cannot coexist. You must be one or the other. Decide quickly which it will be.”
“Or what, Mother?”
“Or I’ll have to make the decision for you.”
With that, Angelica moved from the kitchen, her head held high, her shoulders straight.
Lilly sighed. It seemed her mother was perhaps a bit more irritated with the situation than Lilly had assumed.
Covering her face with her hands, she inhaled slowly and fought to bring her own emotions under control.
Once, she had fought daily to please her mother and to still live the life she had wanted to live. That had worked, to a point, until she had turned eighteen and her mother had introduced Lilly to the man she had expected her daughter to marry.
Hell, Lilly could barely remember him. She certainly couldn’t remember his name. Lilly had taken one look at him and escaped the room on a pretense that her father was expecting her in his study.
She had, as far as her mother had accused her, shown her contempt for her mother that day.
Lilly had, in her own estimation, showed her mother that she wasn’t a child who needed her friends, or in this case her husband, chosen for her.