Author's Notes: I am so sorry everyone for the incredibly late update. Life got in they way of things. I had my 2nd baby after my last post, and had to adjust to life with 2 kids. I haven't forgotten the story but it definitely has taken a back seat to kids, work and what not. Its been so long I had to do some catching up on my own story to figure out where I had left off! For those who have stuck with it and written reviews, thank you. For those just discovering it; you are lucky to have not had to deal with my sporadic updates. Thanks again for reading.

CHAPTER 6: REGRETS

The next morning Roger found it incredibly difficult to rise and go about his usual routine. He had a terrible night with very little sleep. His mind would not stop thinking about Molly and Mr. Montgomery. About how he was possibly doomed to lose the woman he loved just when he realized he loved her. He would question whether or not he was being silly in even thinking he deserved Molly considering what superficiality and lack of interest he had shown in the years of their acquaintance. But the more he thought about her, the more he was sure that she, and she alone, was in possession of the traits that he would desire in a wife. She would be the standard to which he would hold all other women and he was very certain most if not all would fall very, very short of that standard. Molly was a treasure, one in a million, and he had failed to see it.

He finally made it down to breakfast and spent a lot of time lost in thought. Osborne found him in the dining room sitting alone sliding an egg back and forth across his plate. "Roger. Have you seen mother?" When Roger failed to respond and continued pushing the egg around, Osborne immediately knew something was up. His brother was hardly a daydreamer, and the look of depression on his face was one Osborne may have never seen on Roger's face before in his life. Concern suddenly filled Osborne's face.

"I say, Roger, are you okay?" This time he put a hand on his brother's shoulder to alert him to his presence and took a seat next to him while doing so. He look directly at Roger, studying his face and manner. Roger finally snapped out of his thoughts looked up at Osborne and tried to return to his normal state of cheerfulness.

"Osborne, sorry I didn't hear you come in." Osborne was not convinced.

"Didn't hear me? I'd say; with that thousand yard stare you had on, you'd think your mind was still in Africa." Osborne looked at him closely again. "Is it still in Africa? What's going on with you today?" Roger was about to put on a fake smile when Osborne immediately called him out on it. "And there's no sense in trying to lie about it to me, as your brother, you know very well I'd know if you were even trying."

Roger looked at his brother tight lipped, but gave an exasperated sigh at the matter of fact expression his older brother was giving him. He knew Osborne was telling the truth, and he knew his brother would get it out of him one way or another. There were no secrets between them, they were more than just brothers, they were also each others close confidants and best friends. Roger looked around the room to make sure there was no one around. Osborne immediately knew what he was about.

"Don't worry father's gone out to inspect the tenants. Mother is no where around, I suspect she's fallen asleep in the garden as she often does at this time of morning, and Aimee and Ossie are back in the cottage preparing for an outing. You can tell me." He said giving his younger brother a reassuring smile. "What is it that is troubling you?"

Roger looked at Osborne for a long while before finally letting out in a tone louder than even he expected, "Oh Osborne, I've been such a fool, such a damned fool!" Roger brought a fist down on the table causing the dishes and silverware to clatter in response. "I've made such a mess of things and now it might actually cost me the woman I love." He let out a groan and brought his hand up to his head, running it through his hair obviously frustrated.

Osborne started at him completely puzzled at this exclamation. His younger brother had always been the level headed and logical one, while he himself was the expressive and emotional poet. He'd never seen Roger so troubled and especially not so much that it would drive him to such an outburst. It was a side of Roger he'd never seen before.

Roger now had his head down with his hand still resting a top it. Osborne carefully reached a hand out to place on his brother's back, while saying carefully. "Come now Roger. I've never seen you like this. What has happened, what is it that you've done?"

"Cynthia..." Roger started and at once Osborne felt he understood.

"Roger forget her, she's not worth.."

"No," Roger interceded. "No it's not that. I proposed to Cynthia, and I regret it. But not because she's gone and married someone else..." He let out another groan. It was obvious he was struggling to get to the truth of the matter.

"Roger." Osborne said softly and once his brother had met eyes with him he gave him his most reassuring smile. "Roger, it's me. We can tell each other anything. We'll work it out together. Brothers and beyond remember?"

Roger let out a slight chuckle at Osborne pulling up the silly motto they had come up with as children. He knew Osborne would never betray his secret and Osborne had been willing to tell Roger about his secret love for the Frenchwoman who was now his wife. He let out a sigh before finally leaning back in his chair and letting out. "I think, no; I am pretty sure that I am in love with Molly."

He watched carefully as Osborne processed the information. He held up a hand defeated. "There you have it. Do with it what you will."

"Molly." Osborne said again. "And you are sure?"

"Yes." Roger replied.

"Well I'm not entirely sure I see the problem. So what are you waiting for, tell her, not me." Osborne a laughing smile took over the serious expression on Osborne's handsome features. "What are you trying to find the most romantic way to go about it? I can definitely help you there."

"What? No. I mean, yes and no... Oh Osborne, you don't think that's weird considering I was engaged to her sister?"

Osborne pulled his hand off his brother's chair and grabbed a slice of toast, spreading some butter on it. Obviously he didn't think the crisis was nearly as dire as Roger did. "Plenty of people have been engaged, and if they aren't married it doesn't mean anything. Why should it, besides Cynthia is married to someone else now, and that was years ago."

"You truly think so?" Roger looked at him, his spirits lifting a little. "Well does it seem too sudden? I've only just returned from nearly four years abroad, and now after seeing her for just a day I want to marry her. It sounds ridiculous to me. Desperate even."

"Roger, Roger. You are overthinking it. You've known Molly for much longer than a day. Why she's like a part of the family. It makes sense that you're feelings for her might have changed over the years." He buttered his toast and took a bite waving the toast around as he spoke. "Why I must admit, and I've said it before mind you, that that Molly wasn't quite done growing. She has grown quite lovely and graceful in the time you've been gone. She may have been a bit gawky as a child, but now she's a beautiful woman. Very picturesque I'd say." He said chewing, his gaze and words drifting, until Roger cleared his throat.

He snapped back to see a look on Roger's face. He hadn't realized how dead serious his brother was. He had been infatuated with Cynthia but his eyes now betrayed a deeper feeling. Osborne threw up his hands defensively. "Come now, I'm happily married. Just an observation, and only made because you brought her up."

"Yes well, she is beautiful, but she's also intelligent! And bright and inquisitive! She's kind and funny, thoughtful and sweet. She speaks intelligently and reads, and can keep conversation.." Roger saw the silly smile on Osborne's face and knew that his brother knew that he was in love.

"Oh, do go on," Osborne said the large smile never leaving his face.

"Sorry," Roger said apologetically a blush sweeping across his cheeks. "I'm just so upset with myself that never noticed before. I mean she's always been this way and somehow I am only now observing it. And to add to this shamefulness I had gone and proposed to her step-sister instead." He cringed again.

Osborne finished another bite and placed his toast down. "Look I've told you that's long past. Cynthia is blindingly beautiful you can't beat yourself up for having fallen for her. Most men would, she was very pleasant, and amiable too. Why if I had not already been in love with and secretly married to Aimee, I would probably have been vying for the former Miss Kirkpatrick's hand as well."

"Then there's the issue of Mr. Montgomery." Roger said retreating back into his seat and his sour mood. "Do you know this gentleman?"

"Oh?" Osborne said, then his mind made the connection. "Oh." he said in a lower tone. Just as Osborne had earlier boasted of being able to read Roger, Roger was capable of the same with his brother. He immediately could tell Osborne knew of the fellow.

"You do know him! What can you tell me about him. Is there any danger of an engagement between him and Molly?! Mother seemed quite certain about it yesterday."

"I haven't met him but once. There was a ball thrown by the Lucas' in the spring. I think he was down from London. It seems he's come to Hollingford on a few occasions."

"What business does he have in Hollingford?"

"Well, I'm not quite sure. He's a doctor of some sort. I thought it was to study with Mr. Gibson, though he still lives in London, and is not staying in Hollingford, so perhaps not."

"Do you think he's come to visit Molly?" Roger looked at his brother and once again his brother's face betrayed his thoughts. "Is he courting Molly?"

"I'm not entirely sure.."

"Osborne." Roger gave his brother a stare that spoke volumes.

Osborne let out a sigh. "I think so yes." He watched Roger's face fall. "He's been down on a few occasions but I only met him the once, and he was in the company of the Gibsons. Molly in particular. I was introduced to him through her."

"Are they engaged?" Roger inquired. "Is she fond of him?"

"Molly?" Osborne shook his head. "I don't think they are engaged, there has been no announcement and I'm certain she would have told us if they were. As to her regards towards him that is something I honestly cannot answer for I do not know. You might have better luck asking Aimee. I think she and Molly discuss such things now and then."

Roger let out another depressing sigh. "I don't want to ask Aimee such a question. Let's not drag her into this as well. Especially if it's all for nothing."

"But Roger I've told you, they aren't engaged. So there IS still hope!" He reached out and put a hand on his brother's shoulder, "Just talk to Molly. Tell her how you feel."

Roger leaned back again thinking. He was risking making a fool of himself if she was interested in this Mr. Montgomery. He was worried and he definitely didn't want to make it awkward between them. "You really think I should do that? What if she's in love with him?"

"I think you cannot give up. If you truly do feel the way you do, you can't just let it go without letting her know. Especially if there's the possibility she would end up with someone else."

Roger looked at his older brother. Maybe Osborne was right. His mind was racing with thoughts; playing out scenarios and trying to imagine what or how he would even begin to talk to Molly on the subject. He had even more to think about now and was trying to make up his mind about what to do next. "Yes I suppose you are right." He nodded in concession to his brother's advice. "Excuse me and thank you Osborne," Roger said standing he was still a little disheveled, he gave his brother a curt smile. "Now I really should go get cleaned up." As he walked toward the door it was obvious he was still mulling over their talk.

Osborne gave him a slightly skeptical look. He wasn't bounding off in excitement the way he had been when he had proposed to Miss Kirkpatrick, and Osborne was wondering if Roger really was going to take his advice or not. Whether or not Roger wanted it. Osborne decided he was going to ask Aimee what she knew about the situation as soon as he next saw his wife.