Chapter 21

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Morning came, as the sun rays pierced softly through the transparent curtains of the guest room at The Brockenhurst estate in Portsmouth. Diana lay in her bed, as she lifted her hand and touched the rays that fell right over her towards the wall, having them light up the tips of her fingers. The sun rays were more orange than they were yellow, but then again, it was too early, the sun hadn't regained its true color yet, it would do that once it was confidently up in the sky where it belonged.

Her mind kept replaying the conversation she had had with Lord Buxton last night. She felt different; guilty of her prejudice, yes, but there was something else. Something she hadn't ever felt before, there was this pull between them. A pull of intrigue and desire. He was every inch a gentlemen, even more so than she had thought a normal gentleman could be, and Diana was drawn to him in a way she hadn't ever felt with Frank, Oscar or even any other man for that matter. Suddenly, a small click forced her attention towards the door as it opened slowly ajar. Immediately, she clutched the covers tighter to herself. After all, she wasn't at Bellevue Hall, where the only person who entered her room in the early hour of the morning was her maid. But her maid was back in Southampton, and Diana was sure that the ladies maid Aunt Agnes assigned for her was supposed to knock like every other maid did before entering the room just like that.

As the door fully opened, Alicia's figure emerged and Diana relaxed. Alicia was in her dressing gown, locks of her hair secured with tiny white linen pieces for curls when the maid would unwind them. Alicia always preferred tight curls for her ladies maid to work with, Diana on her other hand, preferred loose ones, so she'd always braid her hair before bed.

"Its me," Alicia further confirmed quietly, before she closed the door behind her and approached Diana on the bed, "My, it took all of my energy to leave my room undressed for the day."

"What if someone had seen?" Diana gasped, before letting a chuckle escape her as she thought of what Alicia's mother, Aunt Hyacinth would think, "You do know that Aunt Agnes asks her butler to take a round of the estate to make sure everything is in order before her guests wake, right?"

"I admit I may not have thought this endeavour through," Alicia pursed her lips, refusing to let her mind wander to the idea of being caught in her indisposed state by a butler. "But I wanted to talk to you before everyone awoke and we hardly get private time together."

Diana smiled and with a nod, sat straighter up on her bed. She'd wanted to talk to her cousin too, and they had so much to talk about. Last night, Lord Buxton was the last person she had spoken to after she had tucked Theodore in again. In her want for a discussion with Alicia, she hadn't clearly thought where she'd begin or how she'd end.

"Lord Buxton, he told me everything last night," Diana began, and her cousin nodded.

"So did Lord Algernon."

"How blind we've been," Diana sighed, her heart feeling heavy again.

"Judging so harshly without even knowing their side," Alicia reciprocated.

"I think Uncle knew, or had the idea," Diana shot her a cousin a thoughtful glance, "He seemed different these past days, more obliging to work, and had nothing but praise for Lord Buxton."

"Do you gather Lord Buxton told Uncle of the misfortunes the business faced himself? That day when he called him to his office? Uncle seemed to be holding back some parts of the conversation they shared," Alicia pressed, as she put two and two together.

"Uncle has a whole criterion of conversational topics that are to be refrained from family dinners," Diana mused, "So it is likely."

As she ran her hands on the bed, smoothing the sheets, Alicia spoke, "He could've erased our prejudice against the gentlemen if he had chosen to tell us."

"He could've saved us a lot of, indifference towards them. Lord Algernon is a very honest man, Diana; I could see that last night. For a moment I realized that he was truly the same person we had met in Southampton, it was only that I had clouded my eyes from seeing it," she continued, her tone a daze.

Nodding slowly, Diana could not help but feel her feelings mirrored in Alicia's predicament. But she sensed more in her cousin's words, something more that even Diana felt reluctant to admit to her. Removing the covers off of her, she got up and walked over to the vanity, "I feel as though we have to make up for our brash judgement. As you know, Frank plans to invest in the gentlemen's business and they need the investment."

"So all we have to do this weekend is to convince Frank Templemore to invest," Alicia chided, determination in her tone.

"Exactly," Diana nodded at her cousin, "How hard can it be? Frank does want to invest, or he wouldn't have invited Lord Buxton and Lord Algernon this weekend."

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