At the Chestertons' Ball

When the three of us made our entrance, my eyes seemed to develop a life of their own. They scanned the ballroom until they found a pair of dark eyes. Despite myself, a sigh escaped my lips.

De Grave was at Isabella’s side within moments of our arrival. Louisa accepted Izzie’s reticule with a fond smile and they swept away, joining in the throng of couples whirling across the ballroom floor.

“Shall we?” Louisa asked, inclining her head to the row of chairs against the far wall.

“Yes, let’s,” I said, trying in vain not to look in Lord Windham’s direction. To my consternation I found him looking my way. I quickly averted my gaze, feeling the tell-tale warmth of a blush creeping up my throat. My guardian looked at me curiously.

“Whatever is wrong with you, child, you’re turning beet red! I can have the carriage take you home if you’re still feeling unwell.”

“No!” I said a bit too forcefully. I cleared my throat and willed my face to appear composed. “That is to say, no, Louisa. I’ve been cooped up for a week, I couldn’t bear to go back home. I just felt very hot all of a sudden, is all.”

“Maybe the cool night air will restore you.”

I turned to find Lord Windham suddenly standing next to me.

“That sounds like a capital idea, Lord Windham. Don’t overexert yourself, my dear, remember you were ill.” And with a last stern look at Lord Windham, Lady Huxtable left to go join the row of matrons seated against the wall.

“The Dragon is in fine form tonight,” Lord Windham said sotto voce as he escorted me onto the terrace. He firmly but gently took my hand and tucked it under his arm.

“Yes, I’m surprised she let me come out here with you at all, given the circumstances under which we last met.”

I was referring to Lord Windham’s surprising (and extremely mortifying, at least to me) visit earlier that week. I still couldn’t believe he had been in my bedchamber.

The End

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