Perfection in my Eyes
by Cindy W.

Prologue: The Letter

-----1802,

Dearest Leigha,

I don't know how to say this in anyway that would make it
easier~Archie is dead.

I thought I should write you and tell you of everything myself, before
news reaches England and you hear an unfavorable accounting. Be prepared
Leigha, for they will be saying Archie was the worst kind of coward~a
traitor. It will not be an easy time for you and young William. You two will
receive the backlash and ostracism for being his widow and child: tainted by
association.

But what I tell you now, will give you cause to hold your to hold your
head up proudly in the most trying of times, for you will know in your heart
that Archie died a hero. Yes, Leigha, he was a hero.

He sacrificed himself to save me. He took the blame for events that
spiraled out of control aboard the Renown. His choice and sacrifice were not
given lightly. he knew he had a lot to live for-you, William, and the unborn
child. There was nothing that could have been done, my dear, he was dying
anyway. He had taken a bullet in the lung and his time on earth was limited.
I would have kept him from throwing his name away, if I knew what he
intended. Better that I had swung from the gallows than to have you and
William left without a husband and father and the benefits of his good name.
I don't think he was thinking to far beyond the moment than to rescue me, or
he would have realized what his noble intention really cost and how it would
affect you.

His last thoughts were of you and the children. He entreated me to
write you of his love and to say that even in death he would always be near.
I don't blame you if you hate me. After all, I have been the cause of
all the problems that will soon attach itself to your family and I have
profited from it by my own promotion to Commander. Know that I would give all
up if it could bring Archie back! I want you to know that I will do
everything in my power to help you and the children. Do not, I beg of you,
consider it charity. Know that I am doing this out of love for my dearest
friends and to repay with heartfelt sincerity a life which can never be
measured in monetary value.

If you need anything, dearest Mrs. Kennedy, do not hesitate to ask.

Yours in friendship and affection,
H. Hornblower

I felt my world spinning precariously and I gripped the windowsill to
gain balance. I slowly made my way to a chair and sat down. I was stunned.
No, this couldn't be right, I read it wrong. Archie was *not* dead. It is a
dreadful joke, Horatio, and I hate you for it!

No, I am being unfair. I know Horatio almost as well as my husband. He
would never be so cruel. I reread the letter, it must be true or I'm
dreaming. Yes, that must be it! I will soon wake up and find my beloved's
warm body next to me, his arms holding me tenderly and close.
Come on, Leigha, wake up! Leigha Kennedy, for once in your life do as
you are told! I pinch myself and the pain is sharp.

"Damn!" I cry out, "No, I am not dreaming, this is true! This waking
nightmare is true!"

Archie, no! He's dead. I will never hear his voice and his boyishly
unrepentant grin as he gently but mercilessly teases me. Never again will I
see the desire light up his blue eyes after he returns from a stay at sea.
Never to feel him next to me or taste his kisses, and never to hear his laugh
or his sighs. I'll even miss his voice when it's raised in anger towards me.
Oh, how I loved to provoke him! And how I loved to make up afterwards.
I laid my head on my arms and wept bitterly. I could not control the
tidal wave of tears that washed over me. I felt a soft, tiny hand touch my
hair, "Mama? Mama, why do you cry?"

I raised my head and looked into eyes as blue as a midnight sky. I
pulled the little body onto my lap and laid my cheek upon soft blonde hair.
"Papa's gone, William." I say softly, bracing myself for his tears and
questions.

He looks at me, scrunches his nose up thoughtfully, then puts his hand
against my wet cheek and says with a dimpled grin, "Papa's at sea, silly."
His countenance, at that moment, is so like his father, I cannot help
but to laugh. No, I was wrong, Archie wasn't gone. He lived right here in
this little boy who looked so much like him, and in the child who nestled in
my womb.

"Yes, William, Papa's at sea." I kissed his warm cheek and held him
closer. Time enough later to tell William that his father was never coming
home. Right now, I will just hold onto my love and the memory of Archie's
living warmth...just a little longer.

*********************************************

Chapter 1- The Meeting

-----1797

There was something about Leigha Sommes. She wasn't beautiful, she
wasn't even remotely pretty, but there was something about her face that made
people notice her. It might have been the sweetness that shined from within,
or it could have been the humor and playfulness that reflected in her brown
eyes. It also might have been the determined tilt to her chin that declared,"
Despite the sweetness of my features, I am no milk and water miss."

She wasn't tall and willowy, but petite in stature and rather plump,
not fat, just voluptuous. She had the sort of figure that made men,
unfavorably in her opinion, think of their mothers-pleasingly round and
cuddly. Her hair was her crowning glory. Deep, rich brown that danced with
mahogany highlights. It was long and curly and tonight she wore it down, held
loosely off her face with a green ribbon headband that matched her gown. It
danced around her shoulders and caressed her waist with every movement of her
head.

Archie could admit an attraction towards her, he usually went for the
popular beauties who fit the mode of fashion, but there was something about
*this* lady that kept drawing his gaze and attention. Perhaps it was the low,
sweet purr of her voice and the shy, pretty smile that she greeted him with
as he entered the house. Mayhap, it might have been the merry twinkle he had
seen in her eyes when she caught him sidling into a corner of the ballroom
where he could go unnoticed for a while. Whatever it was, he was completely
fascinated.

He watched her make the rounds of the room, stopping here and there
with a kind smile and imparting something to the groups she joined that had
them laughing. The more he watched the more enthralled he became. What was it
about her? What made him admire her?

He glanced over at the lovely young creature holding court to his
right. She was what he usually found himself attracted to. She was tall,
blonde, and willowy. She had the perfection of features that he enjoyed, but
his eyes kept being drawn to the elfin figure in green.

"Elf?" he thought to himself and once more glanced at Leigha,"yes,
exactly, she reminds me of an elf."

She moved through the room shimmering with energy, a joy of life in
every movement of her body. Her eyes sparkled with vivacity and her cheeks
were attractively flushed. She reached his side and tapped his arm lightly
with her fan to get his attention.

"Good evening, Lt. Kennedy," she said softly with a slight curtsey.

"Evening, Miss Sommes," re replied with a bow and a smile of his own.

"I hope you intend on joining us, and not stay in this corner all
night," she teased gently.

He grinned at her and then remarked,"Well, Miss Sommes, my first
attempt to join in the festivities will be to ask you if I might have the
next set of dances?"

"With me, Mr. Kennedy?" she asked with some surprise," I'm sure I
could introduce you to a much more delightful partner."

"I doubt it, Miss Sommes, I do not think there is anyone here more
delightful than you."

Leigha blushed scarlet at this,"really, Mr. Kennedy, I..."

Archie cut her off, " Miss Sommes, I will not take no for an
answer...unless you find something disagreeable with me?"

Leigha was backed into a corner and she knew Archie was aware of it,
to refuse him now would be to insult him," Oh no, Mr. Kennedy, it's not you.
I...oh, very well, I shall dance with you."

"Thank you, I shall come to collect you when it's time."

She left him with a quick curtsey.

*******************************************

Leigha was still flushed, her heart was beating quickly, "What a
handsome man," she mused, thinking about his sapphire eyes and dimpled
grin,"and he wishes to dance with *me*. Of course, he's only being kind. He
does seem like a very kind man."

She risked a second look in his direction and nearly died of
embarrassment and pleasure when he winked at her. She composed herself
admirably, and stole looks at him from beneath her lashes. She admired his
trim figure, flattered by his naval uniform. The way it emphasized his broad
shoulders and trim waist. She liked the way his hair shone gold in the light
from the candles and thought it adorable the way his nose crinkled when he
was deep in thought; but most of all she liked the way he looked at her~as if
*she* were the only women in the room.

At that moment, she noticed Genevieve D'Armond make her way to him, "
Well," said Leigha crossly to herself, " there goes any more notice of me.
Genevieve is probably in a tiff because there is one handsome man in the room
not orbiting around her."

"Leigha? Leigha, paid heed, child." Said an arch voice beside her.
Leigha turned and looked into the beautiful features of her stepmother.

"I apologize, Leona," she said pretending meekness, knowing the
humiliation that would come if Leona's authority was not recognized," what is
it you need?"

"I don't believe we have enough fois gras," she complained," see if we
have any reserves in the kitchen. Ah, I see Genny is doing splendidly.
Really, child, you are never going to be like her, but you could put more
effort into looking attractive. And do stay away from the sweetmeats, I do
swear you are getting fatter before my very eyes."

"Yes, Leona," Leigha said ducking her head so her stepmother wouldn't
see how much the remark wounded.

"I will not cry," she said as she walked away," I will NOT."

***********************************************

An angel, in a blue gown that matched her eyes, walked up before him
and smiled in a come hither fashion, Archie smiled back politely as he
recognized this as the lovely blonde who had caught his attention earlier.

She was glorious, with gilt hair that was arranged in seductively
tousled ringlets and cornflower blue eyes. She had pale skin that glistened
like satin and her symmetrical features were highlighted by a light touch of
rouge on lips and cheeks. Her figure was expertly swathed in a shimmering
gown of silk that showed off her shoulders and bosom to perfection. Oddly
enough, Archie only felt a momentary twinge of desire before his attention
was once again caught by his elf.

"My word," he thought in some alarm," I have been nearly 8 months at
sea, without a woman and all I fell is twinge for this goddess; yet, one
elfin creature has my undivided attention."

"Sir?" the vision spoke in a voice affectated by a lisp, "I do not
believe we have meet, sir?"

"Why in the world do women beleive that talking like a child is
charming?" Archie thought, but said aloud," No, Madame, I do not believe we
have been. I'm Lt. Archibald Kennedy of the ship Indefatigable."

"Genevieve D'Armond, daughter of the Earl of Polistan," she said
importantly and held out her hand to be kissed. Archie bowed politely over
the proffered limb and placed a quick kiss upon it.

"Are you by any chance related to Sir Henry Kennedy of Kennedy Hall in
Dorset?"

"Yes, Miss D'Armond, I'm his youngest son."

"Oh, I'm an acquaintance of your two younger sisters, Annalise and
Avery. Wonderful girls."

Archie smiled fondly, if he could stomache anyone in his family, it
was the twins," Yes, they are wonderful girls, though I haven't seen them in
a quite a few years. I hear they are accomplished and beautiful young ladies
now."

"Yes," said Genevieve dully, quite bored by the talk of anything or
anyone that wasn't her,"thay are very pretty, compared to some."

Just then Leigha came into her view and needing to vent her spleen,
she pointed maliciously in her direction,"Take Leigha, for example, your
sisters quite outshine her. As a matter of fact, I believe the Prince of
Wales would even put her in the pale if he were to put on a dress. And he'd
cut a slimmer figure."

Leigha stiffened as she overheard the insult and the snickers that
followed. Archie watched with barely suppressed anger, as her shoulders
slumped and a look of pain and embarrassment wiped the sparkle from her eyes.

"Excuse me," Archie said tightly," but I have promised a certain
lovely young *lady* the next dances."

Genevieve simpered and said," Well, Mr. Kennedy, if that is your
charming way of asking me, I can free myself to accompany you."

Archie gave her a look of contained annoyance and said," I meant Miss
Sommes. She has graciously deigned to honor my humble self with her company
and I do not wish to be late. Pardon me, Miss D'Armond."

Genevieve's beautiful, perfect mouth fell open in beautiful, perfect
astonishment.

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