“Suicide? How absurd. Why would a woman kill herself on her wedding night?”
“Perhaps he’d discovered her little secret.”
“Hardly a secret! My cousin claimed to be one of her lovers.”
“I can’t imagine marrying a man accused of murder!”
“Ah, but they never charged him. And she’s his former bride’s best friend; the only one to stand by him through all the trouble.”
“Personally, I think it’s brilliant of him to marry the last person to see Arianne alive. Makes me wonder if one, or both, knows more than they are telling.”
Genevieve moved to stand next to her husband. Let the gossips’ tongues wag. She’d heard it all before. Next she’d hear the unsavory comparisons of Arianne’s heavenly beauty over her own plainness. She’d suffered from that comparison all through her childhood; she barely felt the sting anymore. Besides, not one person at the reception could possibly feel as sublimely happy as she did in that moment. She had married Alfred at last.
She dared a girlish glance up at him. He had to be one of the most respected men of business in London. It had perhaps been that very reputation that saved him from a murder charge those five years ago. No one believed he could have harmed Arianne, especially in light of how her death had devastated him.
Together they moved through the few well wishers, family and close friends who genuinely wished them happiness. Genevieve hung on Alfred’s arm, a blissful smile on her face. She’d waited so long for this day. The dismal, gray of winter had finally given way to spring. Flowers and trees blossomed; the gentle breeze carried their scents through the air. She wanted to laugh, and cry, with sheer delight. She may not have Arianne’s delicate features, or long, flowing hair—but she did have Alfred.
The petty geese of society probably couldn’t help but wonder why a rich and powerful man like Alfred had chosen the dark, mouse-haired Genevieve, but she knew. They did not understand how Alfred valued loyalty. When all his friends had abandoned him in the wake of Arianne’s suspicious death, Genevieve stood by him. She supported him through his difficulties, offering only a kind word and a soft shoulder to lean on. She may not be as beautiful as other women, but she would always remain by his side.