a/n I hope you all enjoyed the previous chapter, I figured it was time to have the story picking up a bit more :)

Chapter Seven

The next morning I woke with a cough and running nose. My throat was sore and I had a slight headache as well.

“You’re still abed?” asked Lottie, entering the room where I was. “Oh my, Emma, your nose is quite red.”

“Oh Lottie,” I said groggily. “If I am not well by this afternoon, I shall have to miss your party.”

“You poor soul, how can I help?”

“Call my mother, and bid Thomas a good morning on my behalf.”

Lottie nodded and left the room. A short while later my mother entered.

“You have got a fever,” she said as she felt my forehead. “If it does not turn by noon, you must not attend the ball.”

“And miss the enjoyment of dancing with Thomas,” I added, “without Eliza Bennett glaring at us.”

“There will be other balls, now, rest easy. I will bring up a hot broth.”

Mama kissed my forehead and left, leaving the door cracked open. Thomas poked his head in, with a smile that lit up the room.

“Staying in bed, my dear Emma?” he asked, remaining in the doorway.

“Not voluntarily,” I replied; I had the need to close my eyes, due to the light bothering my headache. “There is a grave possibility that I shall be absent at the ball this evening.”

“Yes, that would suggest problematic. I was planning on speaking with your father.”

I opened my eyes, sitting straight abruptly. A smile spread across my face, a smile that could not be restrained. Thomas smiled timidly, nodding his head.

“But you must promise to act surprised,” he said, “that is, if I do ask tonight.”

“What changed your mind?” I asked as he came to sit on the bed. “You said you did not think you were ready?”

“I was talking with Mrs. Steiner,” Thomas replied, “but all I could do was thinking about you. When Mrs. Steiner saw that I was distracted, she did not me walk away until I answered her question. She said it would be best if I claimed you now, before other suitors come about.”

“Then you had better speak to Papa soon. However, I did mention to Mr. Steiner that I would marry he whom has won my heart.”

Thomas’ smile did not waver, nor did he appear discouraged. I supposed he knew I spoke of him.

“My dear Emma,” Thomas said, “There will be many suitors working for you special attention, but I shall be working the hardest to keep you for myself.”

“I do not doubt it,” I said, “You have never mistreated me.”

I smiled; Mama returned with a bowl of steaming broth on a tray.

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news,” she said, placing the tray on the nightstand.

“What?” I asked, fearing the worst.

“A young lady has arrived, b the name of Miss Eliza Bennett.”

“Mama invited the Bennetts,” Lottie announced, entering the room with a look of despair. “Tonight will result in disaster.”

“On the contrary,” said Thomas, his expression thoughtful. “Perhaps we can use Miss Bennett’s presence to our advantage. However, this cannot be accomplished without Doctor Watson’s assistance, and yours, Mrs. Watson.”

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