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Cyril sat at his desk staring at the letter that was written to the woman that he loved. There was no use in denying the feeling. Only love could make a man feel this miserable. He read the words so many times that he knew them by heart, and knew that they described his feelings for her perfectly. Especially the part that said "To be apart from you is torture to the highest degree."
Today, she will be presented to the Queen and by the Season's end he had no doubt she will have made a brilliant match. He wondered if Lord Foxcroft was the man who wrote her the letter. "Perhaps, she is exactly where she belongs."
Cyril looked up. He had thought he was alone. "I am in no mood, Mr. Harris," Cyril warned.
Mr. Harris leaned on Cyril's desk. "You LOVE her."
"Yes, but she does not return the sentiment. She has another. And I wish her and Lord Foxcroft every happiness."
"Lord Foxcroft?!" Mr. Harris exclaimed. "What nonsense are you babbling? There is no possibility that girl could ever love a selfish, contemptible rake, like Lord Foxcroft!"
Cyril's head shot up. "You know him?"
"Yes," Mr. Harris said, standing up erect again. "There wasn't a woman left in England that he did not sleep with or try to. That is why his parents had to exile him abroad. He was going to be the death of them. I know because I am their lawyer. I had to arrange several pay-offs to hush scandals and salvage broken relationships. He had nearly bankrupted them."
Cyril's eyes looked wild. "She was with him the last time I had seen her."
"Are you certain you saw what you think you seen?" Mr. Harris questioned.
"Spoken like a true lawyer," Cyril said, and he could not deny the sense of Mr. Harris' words. Just because he had seen them together did not mean there was more behind it. She did after all leave the shop without him.
"His family is still desperate for funds. It is the only reason they would risk calling him back to England. They need him to marry to become solvent again and what better prize than Lady Bentley."
"How would he even become aware?" Cyril questioned, he did not like where this was going.
"Lady Cantrell is a friend of Lord Foxcroft's Aunt. She may have mentioned something. You know how these events go. Not much stays undisclosed in these circles. Even if Lady Cantrell did not say something directly to Lady Foxcroft, does not mean it did not get back to her."
Cyril knew there was truth to that statement. "She is to be presented today."
Mr. Harris folded his arms. "So, what now? Is there any hope? Her ball is tonight."
"Only a fool's hope," Cyril stated.
"A fool's hope is sometimes all that's needed," Mr. Harris said. "You have a plan?"
"Whether or not I have a good legal council?"
Mr. Harris, chuckled, shaking his head saying, "The things we do for love."
"But first," Cyril said, standing up and grabbing his coat. "I need a hat!"
- - - - - - - - -
Annabelle sat at the vanity staring at her reflection. The rest had done her good. Her outward appearance showed nothing of the turmoil she was experiencing inside. It had taken Ms. Pratt quite some time to dress her in her presentation gown again as now the train had to bustled so that she may dance.
Since her Aunt had strictly chosen the guest list. She would be expected to dance with any man that asked, as a guest of her Aunt any man she invited would already be considered introduced. However, her Aunt warned her not to dance with any of them more than once unless she wished to make him an acquaintance and definitely not more than twice as it would a detriment to her reputation.
So, many rules to remember, it made her head ache. She would be expected to lead the first dance. It would begin with a minuet, which of course would happen sometime after supper. As she caught a glance of her face in the mirror, she could see a desperate desire to escape in her eyes. "Oh, Mr. Kane. Why couldn't it have been you? Why didn't you choose me and save me from all of this?"
"Miss?" Ms. Pratt said as she knocked on the door. "They are ready for you Miss. Almost all of the guests have arrived."
"Thank you, Ms. Pratt," Annabelle said, and rose to greet her future.
She was announced before she descended the elegant staircase. She was very careful with her steps, yet wondered 'If I take a tumble and sprain my an ankle, would they all be sent home until I have healed?...If only.'
She courteously welcomed her guests, and had received many compliments on her beauty or her dress. She thanked them all and patiently waited for when they would be called for supper. At least then she'd only have to carry on one or two conversations, as she'd be more isolated when seated. At the moment she felt overwhelmed by all the attention.
She had seen from across the room that Lord Foxcroft was headed her way. As she was currently engaged in conversation she could not just leave and walk away without appearing rude but thankfully her Aunt interceded on her behalf.
"Annabelle, I wish you to meet Sir Thomas Lawrence. He is Painter-in-Ordinary to his Majesty. I had told him of your conversation with the Queen and thought perhaps he may have some pointers for you which you may like to discuss during dinner."
"Lady Bentley," Sir Lawrence said, bowing slightly.