‘Carissa is still available on the marriage mart,’ Fallon smiled. ‘We have a box at the opera on Friday night,’ she suggested. ‘You must attend. I shall send an invitation to Carissa to even the numbers. Neels is escorting me and I will arrange for somebody to escort my sister if she has not acquired a partner by tomorrow.’ Fallon was certain she would need to extend some invitations on her elder sister’s behalf. She was just too insecure. Fallon could not understand it when her sister was so fair and attractive.

‘Count me in,’ Drew smiled happily. ‘I had plans, but I shall cancel them.’

‘Indeed you should ___.’ Fallon stopped abruptly, hearing a familiar lady’s laugh. Surely that was Emma.

Fallon’s countenance changed when a furtive glance confirmed it was her sister on the arm of the powerful and magnificent Earl Hampton! He cut a swathe of arresting ensemble in his fine tail coast, gleaning hessians, and elegant waistcoat. The man was a fashion statement in the beau monde.

I thought he was playing cards. How the bloody ___.

Indeed what?’ Drew enquired, touching her shoulders, as he cut across her nefarious thoughts.

Fallon watched as Braeden gazed into Emma’s eyes. She was smiling happily. His eyes seemed to be burning with the attraction a gentleman has only for that special lady that captures his heart.

I guess Emma has her partner for the opera, Friday evening.

‘Indeed, you must ensure, your carriage can accommodate Lady Carissa and I,’ Fallon amended. She would not be travelling with the earl and Emma.

The third set commenced. The couples gathered again on the dance floor, the ladies resplendent in a rainbow display of fashionable evening gowns. The gentlemen suitably attired, dressed to the nines. Fallon was surprised Emma was dancing the waltz with Thumpston. She would have bet it was with Hampton, Emma would be conducting the opening measure of the third waltz, after her clandestine encounter with the libertine in the garden.

‘Might I have the honour of this dance Lady Fallon,’ Earl Hampton bowed graciously.

Clearly, she was promised to nobody as the opening note had begun and she was standing there next to her mother looking unperturbed that no dance partner was at her arm. She looked delightful in her cream coloured gown and dove grey sash.

Her eyelids shuttered, a courteous smile displayed on her face Fallon placed her hand into his extended one. ‘Thank you my lord,’ she followed him onto the dance floor. Privately she may have crossed the earl of her list of would be suitors, actually most suitable she corrected, but she was too well bred to publically exhibit her new found disregard for the most eligible peer of the ton.

Now why does the young lady look so detached? Is it not the rumour in the ton that Kerrich is the most prized catch in the beau monde, not that I concur with that, the earl permitted himself a lazy smile. I was of the opinion Lady Fallon was supposed to fall over herself being nice to every peer in the hope of acquiring one to take to husband.

Fallon looked up in the eyes of her dance partner. He had the look of one pre-occupied with his own private thoughts. Was he thinking about Emma? Could he be wishing that it was my fair sister he was holding in his arms?

‘You have found your countess then?’ The words slipped out of her mouth before Fallon realized she’d spoken aloud.

‘I beg your pardon!’ The earl had been so taken aback. In a most unusual display of in-adeptness, his feet stumbled, but he quickly righted himself and prayed nobody had observed his faux pax.

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