The Scholar (Emerson Pass Historicals 3) - Page 88

“I can understand it might be strange for you to think of me as anything but Miss Cooper,” Quinn said. “But you’re part of the family now, and I’d love it if you’d either call me by my first name or as the others do, Mama.”

Touched, I thanked her again. “You don’t mind about the ceremony being here?” I asked. “Rather than the church?” Quinn and Alexander had offered up their yard for the ceremony as well as the party. Rather than go to the courthouse and come back for the party, we’d gratefully agreed.

“I understand why you’d be uncomfortable having it at the church,” Quinn said. “I’m thankful the judge agreed to come here to conduct the ceremony.”

Cymbeline snorted. “That old man can’t wait to get into the booze after the ceremony. He was only too happy to come out here.”

Quinn artfully avoided commenting on what we all knew was true but were too polite to say by changing the subject. “I only wish your father could be here to marry you and Theo. He married Alexander and me as well as Jo and Phillip and Flynn and Shannon.” She touched the corners of her eyes with a lacy handkerchief. “We miss him very much.”

“I do too,” I said. “He would have been so happy to know I was marrying Theo.”

“He’s smiling from heaven,” Quinn said. “Theo’s already down in the parlor. Guests will begin arriving any moment now.”

Fiona gasped as she realized the time. “I have to finish getting ready. I’m supposed to be playing as guests arrive.” She sat at the dressing table and powdered her face. “I’ll only be a moment, Mama, and then I’ll come down to star

t the music. Is Li already there?”

“Yes, I believe so,” Mama said from the doorway. “I heard him warming up earlier. I’ll see you all downstairs.”

After Quinn left, Cymbeline went to the mirror. She smoothed the skirt of her light blue dress while scrutinizing her appearance. “Next to you two beauties, I look a fright.”

“You don’t.” Fiona rubbed a bit of rouge on her cheeks.

“My hair is unruly. I can’t get the curls to behave.” Cymbeline’s brown waves hung attractively around her face, secured in place with a ribbon that matched her dress. She grabbed a lipstick from the table and made up her mouth.

“I think your hair looks lovely,” I said.

She turned to me. “I took special care today. For you and Theo.”

“And Viktor?” Fiona asked sweetly as she got up from the dressing table and lifted a beaded necklace over her hair.

“Traitor,” Cymbeline said under her breath.

There was a knock on the door, then Jo poked her head inside the room. “Hello, girls. May I join you?”

“Jo!” Cymbeline said. “When did you get here?”

“Just now. I’ve left the babies at home with our housekeeper.” Jo fluttered her hands. “It’s making me terribly nervous, but Phillip said it would be nice for me to have an evening without them. Two babies are much harder than one.” Despite her obvious anxiety about leaving the children, she looked her typical tidy self in a cream dress.

Jo clutched a small purse in one of her hands. “I’ve got something for you all and wanted to make sure I gave it to you before the ceremony.” She unclasped the bag and came out with three small packages wrapped in tissue paper. “I had them made by a jeweler in Denver. They’re matching sister rings. I have one for Shannon and one for the little girls, but they’ll have to wait until they’re a bit bigger.”

The rings were simple silver bands. Etched on the inside read: Louisa Barnes, our seventh sister. “This is special. Thank you.” I choked up and dipped my head, shy.

“I love it, Jo,” Fiona said as she held out her arms to me. “Louisa, welcome to our sisterhood. We take it very seriously.”

“Are there initiation rituals?” I asked, laughing as we embraced.

“You’ve already been through those,” Cymbeline said. “That’s what the last few weeks have been.”

“I don’t really know how to be in a family with so many siblings,” I said. “I hope I won’t make mistakes.”

“The rules are the same as what Mama taught us all those years ago in school,” Cymbeline said.

In tandem, we all recited them. “Be curious. Be kind. Protect one another.”

We laughed when we finished. Both Jo and Cymbeline gave me a hug.

“I must get downstairs to do my duty,” Fiona said. “Good luck, Louisa.”

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