Cadiz, March 1871
"How did my inquiry go?"
Lucas, Lord Evencort asked, his back turned to Mr. Alder-his man of affairs - looking out the window and into Plaza De San Antonio which was the vista from his office at his shipping company's office in Cadiz.
"Very well, my lord." Alder answered immediately. "We found Miss Covington, as expected, at Miss Ludlow's School for young girls in London. Her situation, however, is not one that can be called ideal. A few months ago, Mrs. Covington re-married and disappeared taking with her the little money that Mr. Covington left for his daughter as inheritance – including Miss Covington's dowry. Currently, Miss Covington has no means to support herself and will be expelled from her school at the end of the month…" Adler's voice trailed off.
"Well, yes. Apparently Miss Covington has received quite a few offers."
"A girl with no dowry? Hardly. Carte Blanche, that's what she has been offered by several well known young men, brothers of her schoolmates for the most part."
"I see." Luke said. He stood there, quiet, for a while then turned and started to scribble down something. "Take this to Miss Covington." He said, giving Alder a sealed note. "And if she says yes you're going to need this too."
Alder read the other paper that Luke gave him and let out a loud gasp and asked, "My lord?"
"See that the affair is conducted in the most discreet manner and that all of Miss Covington's needs are taken care of, no matter if she says yes or no."
"Yes, my lord." Alder was about to take his leave but he thought he was obliged to ask, after all, he had known the young lord for most of his 25 years of life. "Sir, if I may… why? You could make a much advantageous marriage than this one."
"I have my reasons to ask Miss Covington to marry me, Alder. But thank you for your concern." Luke answered in a detached voice, returning to stare out the window. The message was clear: This conversation is over.
Taciturn and lonely. Those were the two words most often used to describe young Lord Evencort. At twenty five he was a handsome young man, dark haired, tall and broad shouldered, his face stood out more for it's masculinity than for it's beauty – a square jaw, well shaped nose, sinner lips and golden brown eyes. Many women were known to think Luke was perfect, but he knew better… much, much better.
He was broken and bitter, and just about the biggest cynic in Europe. He knew he would never make a woman happy- not really- let alone Caitlyn Covington for the only clear image Luke had of Caitlyn was that of a skinny, flat-chested girl, waving him and her bother goodbye as they ventured away to seek fortune in foreign lands.
Her last words… "Promise me you'll come back for me!" She had yelled suddenly at her bother. Michael had smiled ruefully and did not dare to make such promise.
"Something tells me I won't see her again." Michael had murmured as the image of his sister grew smaller and father away. A cold chill ran down his back when Luke heard his friend utter those words.
"Don't worry, Michael. You worry too much, everything will be fine." Luke could almost see himself saying those words. The same words he had said countless times before. Everyone knew Luke was the believer, Michael was the worrywart but they had a balance between them and that balance had led them to 20 years of friendship.
"Of course." Michael had agreed with a sincere smile and for a second Luke thought everything was back to normal. "But," Michael hesitated, "If I can't make it back… you will take care of Cathy for me, right?"
"I promise." Luke had answered, believing he would never have to fulfill that particular promise.
Lately, each time he though about that day, Luke wondered if Michael had had some kind of internal clock telling him his days were numbered.
Without realizing, Luke had started to rub his left arm. Burn scars ran from his wrist, all along his inner arm, into his elbow. He had almost lost that arm to infection. Absently, Luke looked at the ugly scars. He remembered little of that day; neither Michael nor he needed to be at the mines that morning but they both were…. Luke remembered the explosion and the mine collapsing…
With his heart beating madly and a cold sweat breaking over him, Luke tried to push himself to remember more.
Michael had pushed him out of the way when the tunnel collapsed – that big brother complex of his that always made Michael see for other's safety before his own.
Then Luke's memory became blurry… screams, the fire, blood… a lot of blood…
Michael's last words: "Take care of Cathy."
Take care of Cathy. Take care of Cathy. Take care of Cathy…
Over and over, a thousand voices resounded on Luke's head… the plea of a dying man.
An unbearable pain…. That's what Luke had felt when the miners took him out from among the mine's ruins- his arm hurt so much that Luke had all but gone mad.
Then sweet oblition… until those words started to run through his mind again: "Take care of Cathy."