I didn’t think it would be a good idea to point out those exact desires. I set the pen down and rubbed my temples. Hopeless. I was utterly hopeless in matters of the heart. I needed assistance. I picked my pen back up and quickly scratched out another note, much easier to write.
I wish to ask for Audrey Rose’s hand and fear putting a foot in my mouth instead. The taste of leather soles doesn’t suit me. You know what I think of fools, and I’m the worst sort. Please help.
Your massively intelligent yet moronic brother,
There. If only all letter writing could be so simple and direct. I shook fear and doubt out of myself. I thought about how Audrey Rose and I felt about each other—how strong our bond had become. I pictured growing old together, sitting in the gardens of a country home, the salty sea air crisp and soothing while a cadaver waited for us in our own personal morgue.
Perhaps one day there would be children, if Audrey Rose wished for them. Or perhaps we’d have a pack of cats and dogs to spoil. Whatever path we chose, we’d do it together. Our future belonged only to us. Our pasts might have shaped us, but we were the masters of how they’d continue to do so in our present. I would only be a monster if I allowed myself to be one. I was also free to choose another path. One that was filled with love and laughter and light.
Dreams. I would always choose dreams over nightmares. Light over darkness, and love over hate. And I would continue to make that choice forever. Each of us held the power to decide our own destiny.
I was no longer in danger of becoming the dark prince—the threat my father enjoyed taunting me with. I was Thomas Cresswell, and I was more than good enough to ask for Audrey Rose’s hand. She and I would travel the world together, as equals, and while there might be another one day who’d willingly permit her that freedom, she needed no permission from me.
I grinned down at the parchment, unsure no longer. I brought my pen to the page and began to write. The words poured out of me, quick and true. I was no longer hiding who I was and what I longed for. I knew before I finished the last stroke of the pen how I’d sign the letter. I’d hold nothing back and own each aspect of who I was.
Dear Lord Wadsworth,
I am writing to you today to formally request an audience at your earliest convenience. I wish to discuss the important matter of the possible courtship and betrothal of your daughter. It’s a bit unconventional, so I beg your forgiveness in being so bold, but I’ve already asked Audrey Rose if she’d permit my request. I realize you know as well as I do that she would tolerate no less from a potential partner. Equality is something we all ought to be given freely. Or at least I firmly believe so.
I hope it pleases you—as much as it has me—that she encouraged me to send this letter to you at once. I want you to know I am wholly in love with your daughter, sir. Her admirable qualities run much deeper than beauty, though I could certainly pen a thousand sonnets to that. Her mind and soul hold me captive—and I am all too willing to stay imprisoned for the remainder of my life.
I would like nothing more than to have Audrey Rose as my partner in life forever, should you offer us your blessing.
Thomas James Dorin Cresswell, son of His Grace, Lord Richard Abbott Cresswell, Heir of Dracula
I am enclosing two first-class tickets for you to cross the Atlantic on the next ship, should you like to speak in person, though I wish you a more enjoyable voyage than we recently experienced. We eagerly await your arrival at your mother-in-law’s home here in New York.