Chapter 17 Part 1

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Evelyn gave a light rap on the chamber door next to her own...the one that Thea and Lucien were occupying during their stay. She found she could not sleep, even though her maidservant had already helped her prepare for bed. She needed company, and dressed in her nightgown and robe, she waited outside the bedchamber next door. At her knock, she heard Thea bid her to enter. She did so slowly and quietly. The hour was late, and she had no wish to disturb the baby should he be sleeping. As she slipped in, she found joy in the sight of Lucien and Thea standing over the cradle, admiring their son. Thea turned to see who had entered, and she gave her sister a welcoming look. Evelyn returned it, speaking softly as she took a step forward.

 "I came to bid you both good night. Is Gabriel asleep?"

 Lucien gave a sigh. It was a weary sound. "Our son is silent and content. If only we all knew such peace."

 He mentioned no one in particular, but Evelyn knew who he spoke of. Guy was somewhere in the house, undoubtedly still upset, and with good reason to be. Lucien, ever loyal to his lord and master, was not pleased at the upset that Isabella's presence had caused. But Thea did not share in his displeasure.

 "Mama will soothe his ill temper," she said. "I am certain of it." Carefully, she reached down to tuck the baby's quilt closer around him. Lucien gave her a curious look.

 "Do you ever doubt her powers of persuasion?

 Thea did not miss a beat. "No," she replied. Her mouth formed into a sly little curve. "Take care, husband, to never underestimate the influence of a Gisborne lady."

 He sighed...but now his look was one of amusement, even as he responded with a mocking reply. "Devil, thy name is woman." He leaned down, whispering to Gabriel. "My son, do not enter into marriage. Your life will be shortened by it."

 As Thea whispered a sharp reply to her husband, Evelyn watched the two of them together...and her imagination painted a picture that sprang to life before her. It was herself she witnessed, smiling down at a beautiful babe in a cradle. And Simon was there beside her, his face filled with an expression of love and pride.

 Thea's voice penetrated her musings. She shook her head, bringing herself back to the present. Her sister looked at her with a curious smile.

 "Evie? Are you in another world, perchance?"

 A blush colored Evelyn's cheeks. Her expression becoming sheepish as she sat on the edge of the bed.

 "Forgive me, sister. I was lost in thought." She knew her behavior seemed odd, but she could not help it. Thea and Lucien had such a loving relationship. How she longed for that kind of closeness...with Simon.

 But how did one achieve such a connection of the heart and soul?

 At times, her betrothed seemed so stirred, so eager to be near her and hold her in his arms. He had initiated the kisses they had shared, and each time had been more passionate than before. Then why did he seem so intent on escaping? It troubled her more and more, and her smile turned to a near frown as she thought of it. She sighed.

 As Thea whispered words to Lucien, he glanced back at Evelyn. The corner of his mouth turned up. Evelyn wondered at his strange look, and she watched with interest as he kissed Thea's cheek. He turned to leave the room, a little grin on his face as he passed by.

 "I believe I shall take a breath of the night air," he said. He looked between Thea and Evelyn, smirking. "Hens, you may commence clucking."

 The door closed. Thea came to sit beside Evelyn, who gave her sister a questioning look.

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