Okay, so I'm going to start with a bit of an author's note.
This story is the third (and likely last) of the Merry Comrades series, which includes Anyone But You,First Impressions and now, Someone Like You.
It's quite directly linked to First Impressions, and in case you don't remember that one, I'm going to give you a small re-cap.
Gerald, Harry, Marcus and Simon have been best friends for a really long time. In Anyone But You, Gerald marries this girl named Caroline and they are very happy together. Then a few years later, Simon found out he was the guardian of three young women, Emmy, Liz and Allie Salinger.
Liz and Harry fell in love, got married and left for their honeymoon. At the same time, Simon and Emmy (and everyone else) found out that Allie wasn't really Emmy and Liz's sisters, but rather their cousin. Allie's mother was their aunt, and her father was Simon's dad.
This sent Allie into quite a hissy fit, mostly because Simon and Emmy kept this information from her for a long time. Then, since Allie was all bummed and stuff, Marcus offered to take her with him once he returned to his state by the sea.
And that left Emmy and Simon quite alone And that's when this story starts.
With her sisters away, for the first time ever Emmy is left alone and she has no other option but to retreat to the country with her guardian Simon, Lord Dressden. Simon isn't happy about it, he's going Dressden Castle to be alone, drink and wallow in the misery of his first marriage and subsequent widowhood. But Emmy isn't going anywhere, and Simon soon has to admit that maybe all he needed was someone like Emmy. Set in the 1840ish.
Someone Like You
With one sister away on her honeymoon and the other away to spend a bit of time by the sea, Emily Salinger found herself alone for the first time since she was three years old and her sister Liz (the one on the honeymoon) had been born.
"I'm leaving tomorrow," Lord Simon Dressden – Emmy's host, guardian and pain in the behind – informed her as soon as the carriage bearing Allie disappeared from sight.
"Oh, I see." Emmy said.
"I'm – We are having dinner with Gerald and Caroline tonight since I won't be seeing them for a while. I already talked to them and they are happy to take you to Trevelyan Park with them. So they'll come pick you up when they leave in a couple of days, then the servants will close the house and join me in the country."
Emmy glared at the back of his head – by then they were going up the stairs to their respective bedrooms in the second floor – she really didn't like having her life managed. She truly liked Lady Caroline and her husband had been nothing but kind, but Emmy didn't like the fact that she was being packed up and placed where she wouldn't be a bother.
Not that she wanted to be a bother exactly, but she hated being dismissed just like that.
"Be ready at seven to leave," Simon called over his shoulder as he shuffled his way toward the master suite. "And you should start packing."
Emmy smiled and nodded and went to her room, she would pack, all right. But if Simon thought he was getting rid of her, he had another think coming.
Lady Caroline Kane, Viscountess of Trevelyan was as round as an orange and completely happy about it.
"The baby kicked for the first time last night." Caroline informed Emmy, rubbing her stomach proudly as they walked toward the drawing room for dessert and tea, after dinner.
"Congratulations," Emmy said with a bittersweet smile.
Once, Emmy had had dreams of having a baby and a husband of her own, but now she was 25, firmly on the shelf and with no prospects of ever marrying. Seeing Caroline, who was younger and prettier and so happy, made Emmy feel a little sad for all those things that could have been.
Caroline smiled dreamily, "Thank you," She said and her smile brightened a little more. "Oh, Simon told us you are coming to stay with us at Trevelyan Park, we'll have so much fun!"
"Actually, I'm not going." Emmy said and quickly whispered her plans to Caroline.
"He's not going to like it." Caro said softly, "But I'm glad you're not leaving him alone. I haven't known him for as long as Gerry, but I know that these are difficult times for him, I'm glad he won't be alone."
"What do you mean?" Emmy asked, she had only thought as far as annoying Simon.
"You'll see." Caro said and then became distracted when the maid brought the desserts out.
Next morning, Emmy was already sitting on the carriage when a couple of the footmen began to load Simon who was, as far as Emmy could tell, stinking drunk.
"Are you sure he's well enough to travel?" Emmy asked.
Mr. Verney, Simon's butler answered her. "Oh, yes Miss. Like I told you, happens every year."
Emmy nodded, the day before, when Simon had informed her he was leaving, Emmy had decided to go with him, so she asked Mr. Verney about Simon's travel arrangements, and Mr. Verney had told her how Lord Dressden usually traveled in an 'inconvenient' state, so he probably wouldn't be able to protest Emmy's coming along.
"All right, if you say so."
"He'll be like that's for a few more hours at least, don't worry. Mrs. Daniels is already at Dressden, and will help you in anything you need." Mr. Verney said reassuringly as he closed the carriage's doors.
Emmy nodded and settled on her side of the carriage, Dressden castle in Hampshire – located right by the Itchen River – was some eleven hours away so she better make herself comfortable.
Hours later, Emmy was half way through her book when Simon began to stir.
"Headache?" Emmy asked in a voice that was just a little bit too cheerful.
"What the devil are you doing here?" Simon asked as he sat up.
"Decided I wasn't going to let you shuffle me around at your convenience. I've have to bother someone with my presence it will be you. You're my guardian after all. And don't even think of sending me back, we are about three hours short of reaching your country home, I'm not turning back now."
"You have no idea-" Simon began but broke off. "Shouldn't you have a chaperon with you? I'm quite sure you had Allie take a chaperon with her for her trip with Marcus."
"Allie is 20, I'm halfway from 25 to 26 so I don't need a chaperone." Emmy said in a you-are-so-silly-voice.
"But somehow I'm still your guardian?" Simon asked.
"Until I marry, which is never happening so, like it or not, you're stuck with me." Emmy said and closed her book with a bit too much gusto, the noise making Simon wince.
"Lucky me." Simon said, collapsing, reaching for the small compartment that held a bottle of whiskey.
"If you're going to start with that, eat something first." Emmy said as she leafed through a fashion magazine.
Simon snorted, he didn't want food, he wished he could skip time ahead and it was a month down the road and he wasn't feeling like he always felt when this time of the year rolled around. In any case, since he couldn't time-leap he settled for drinking and covering everything with a blanket of drunken stupor.
As the Hampshire landscape rolled pass, Simon's mood turned darker, and it took a decisively sour turn when Dressden Castle came into view.
Dressden Castle was a beautiful estate, it had belonged to the Dressden family for at least 500 hundred years. It was on a choice bit of land, surrounded by rolling hills and with a forest behind the house; the house- or rather castle- itself was a communion of the good tastes of the last three earls of Dressden – Simon not included – and it was a sun washed construction of honey colored stone which had been renovated over the years to make it airy and full of light; perfect to display the Dressdens' art collection and heirlooms.
Simon hated it.
It could have been a pile of garbage for all Simon cared, every single one of the most horrible moments of his life, every single thing that had scarred his soul, had happened at Dressden Castle.
Yet, he kept going back, and every year was worse, but here he was, like clockwork. It was as if Dressden Castle and everything that had happened there had a claim over his soul and his will.
"It's beautiful," Emmy said as the carriage rolled down the long drive.
Simon grunted something in response but Emmy was quite sure it was nothing complementary.
Mrs. Daniels was waiting for them at the door as Simon jumped out of the carriage and actually paused long enough to help Emmy out as well – though his help consisted on grabbing her around the waist and swinging her down – before going up the stone steps with Emmy following him and muttering about how she was not a sack of potatoes to be hauled around as such.
"Welcome, my lord." Mrs. Daniels' said trying to hide her surprise at seeing Emmy. "We have been expecting you."
"Find a room to put her in," Simon said once they were inside the castle as he began to climb the stairs toward the upper floors.
"This is beautiful," Emmy said and he realized that she was right behind him by the time they reached the first landing, when Emmy saw the almost life-size portrait that hung there. "She's beautiful," Emmy said referring to the woman portrayed.
Simon didn't have to turn to look at the portrait to see the picture, it was of a blond woman wearing a white dress, her perfectly straight hair arranged in an intricate style, and she was, indeed, quite beautiful.
"Who is it?" Emmy asked.
Simon paused and half turned to look at Emmy and answered simply with two words.
End of Chapter One