By the time the carriage arrived outside Countess Novia’s smart townhouse, Adrianna was ready to get out of the confined space she had been stuck in with the Duke. But she waited for him to exit first and took the hand of the footman waiting to help her from the carriage.
Although Count and Countess Novia’s house was very impressive, it wasn’t half the size of the Giordano mansion. But Adrianna didn’t pay attention to the building, walking straight in through the tall door and into the house. The entrance hall was a lot smaller than the one in Adrianna was used to, the staircase slightly less grand and the ceilings lower. She allowed a manservant to take the cloak from her shoulders and followed her father up the stairs and through the doors at the top of them.
“Duke Giordano and his daughter Lady Adrianna,” the servant on the other side of the door announced as they entered a large ballroom.
“Your Grace,” a woman dressed elegantly in green said, stepping forward to curtsy to Duke Marco. “What a pleasure it is for you to be here, and to meet your daughter.” She turned to Adrianna, placing a hand on either shoulder and kissing both her cheeks. “You are so like your mother and have turned into such a beautiful young lady. I can remember when you were born, your parents were so proud. I’m sure your father still is very proud of you.”
“Of course I am,” the Duke said. “I couldn’t be prouder.”
“It’s wonderful to see you. I’ll speak to you later.”
The Duke carefully steered Adrianna away from Countess Novia and into the crowd of people gathered in the ballroom.
“I didn’t know Countess Novia knew my mother.”
“It was a long time ago. They fell out of touch after you were born, I don’t know why.”
“Where is Count Novia?” Adrianna asked her father once they were a safe distance away from the Countess. “Shouldn’t he be here?”
“Will you stop asking so many questions,” the Duke replied touchily. “I don’t know where the Count is but I’m sure he has a perfectly valid reason for not being here tonight.”
“Adrianna, you’re here!” Lady Lagana saved Adrianna from another awkward moment with her father by deciding to appear at that moment, hugging the young woman tightly. “I was wondering when you were going to arrive. Your Grace.” She curtsied formally to the Duke.
“Lady Lagana,” he replied coldly. “If you’ll excuse me.”
“Thank you so much for being here,” Adrianna said once her father had walked away. “I wasn’t sure if you would be here.”
“I never turn down an invite. It helps that my brother is such a good friend of the Prince, so we get lots of invitations to all sorts of parties. He’s a little more selective about which ones he accepts.”
“Is his Lordship here tonight?”
“He had another engagement with Count Alberto.”
“That’s a shame, I’ve been hoping to see him again. It’s been such a long time.”
“I’m sure I’ll be able to arrange a time when you two can get acquainted again. He hasn’t seen you since you were eleven or twelve I think. He’ll get such a shock.”
“Has it really been that long?” Adrianna exclaimed. “I was sure it wasn’t so long ago.”
The two women walked arm in arm around the room, reminiscing about times gone by when Adrianna was small. It seemed so long ago to Adrianna, but to Lady Lagana it was almost like yesterday. She couldn’t believe how this little girl had grown up so quickly.
“Is Miss Manera not here with you tonight,” Adrianna asked when she noticed the absence of the young woman she had met the evening before.
“Dialta had to stay at home with her parents tonight or I would have brought her. She was very impressed by you.”
“She was a lovely girl, I’m sad I haven’t been able to spend some more time with her.”
“I am going to have a party at my house soon. You’ll have to come and catch up with my brother and Dialta then.”
“I don’t know if my father will let me. He doesn’t seem to approve of your friendship with me. He thinks you are a bad influence or something like that.”
“Well we’ll have to persuade him that it’s a good idea.”
“Lady Lagana,” Adrianna asked, “do you know that man over there?”
Lady Lagana turned to look in the same direction as Adrianna. Her eyes rested on a smartly dressed young man in a tailcoat, with curly caramel blonde hair and brooding dark eyes that were fixed on Adrianna, his lips turned upwards in a thoughtful smile.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him before,” Lady Lagana replied. “He can’t be part of a significant noble family or I would have recognised him. The Countess will know.”
“I shall ask her,” Adrianna resolved.