“Enlisting was my idea,” Flynn said.
“We’ve been over this. You’re not to blame for my reactions to the war. And anyway, I’m much better now.”
“You found Mother,” Josephine said. “You’ve never been the same since that. Are you attracted to Louisa because she’s a lost soul too?” She clapped her hand over her mouth. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.”
I laughed at the look of horror and remorse in her eyes. “It’s all right. All of this is going to be fine in the end. Yes, Louisa and I have tender souls that have been hurt before. There’s a sadness in her that I understand. Things from her past have made her particularly vulnerable in the world, just as they have for me.” I looked from one to the other once more. “Listen to me, you’re going to have to trust me that I know what I’m doing. I believe in my heart that she and I are fated to be together.”
“What happened to her that we don’t already know about?” Jo narrowed her eyes. “What are you not telling us?”
“A man hurt her when she was a child.” I left it at that, knowing my brother and sister would understand what I meant.
“Oh, no. That’s awful,” Jo said.
Flynn cursed under his breath.
“She’s not like other women because of it. I’ll need to treat her carefully and be very patient.”
“Why would you want that?” Flynn asked. “Sharing a bed is one of the best aspects of married life.”
“Flynn,” Jo said, obviously mortified at his reference to intimacy between a husband and wife.
“What? It’s true. At least for Shannon and me.” Flynn looked over at me. “Trust me, you want that part of marriage.”
“What makes you think this would work?” Jo asked.
“It’ll sound arrogant if I say it out loud.”
“Do it,” Flynn said. “Say it.”
“I think I’m the only man on earth that will bring her out the hole she hides herself in. I’m the only one for her.”
Flynn removed his hat and scratched his neck. “I hope you’re right about this. I’ll not be able to bear seeing you wreck your life by marrying a woman with so many problems.”
“Everyone has problems,” I said. “Your wife, for example, came with a financial burden as well. And Phillip, Jo, wasn’t exactly a lord like our father.”
“No, more a pauper,” Jo said, wistfully. “But the best man in the world. Besides you two and Papa, of course.”
“Somehow this feels different,” Flynn said.
“The fact is—it’s not different. My situation is exactly the same. I’m marrying someone without the means that I have, which is just what yo
u two did. I love you both for caring about me. When we were kids, I was always the fragile one. The one everyone was afraid would be like Mother. However, I’ve proven to myself and hopefully to all of you that I’m strong. This marriage to Louisa is what I want. You’re going to have to give your blessing or risk everything that’s between us.”
Josephine’s eyes filled. “Are you saying it’s her or us?”
“I’d hope you’d never let it get to that,” I said. “But we both know that a marriage won’t work if the husband or wife doesn’t take a stand for their spouse. This is me taking a stand.”
Flynn cursed under his breath. “Fine.”
“Fine what?” I asked.
“You have my support,” Flynn said.
“If you get hurt, so help me,” Jo said. “But you have mine too.”
I held out my arms and my sister hugged me, followed by Flynn shaking my hand.
“Oh, Theo, I do hope you know what you’re doing,” Josephine said.