Chapter 17, Part 2

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As morning sunshine filled her room, Evelyn blinked and yawned, stretching her arms above her head. But rather than getting up, she pulled the covers to her chin, enjoying the warmth she felt...both inside and out.

Thoughts of Simon had filled her sleep. She blushed at the remembrance of his kiss, which had found its way into her dreams...and once there, it had manifested itself into imaginings she dared not speak of to anyone. Not even Thea. Oh, what pleasurable imaginings they were. And wicked. For a moment, she pondered the notion of rushing to seek forgiveness for such sinful thoughts.

But was there truly a need for that? She sat up, hugging her knees to her chest as she thought.

Simon would soon be her husband. What shame was there in her feelings for him? It seemed right, somehow, that she might long for him this way. A union without mutual affection was no union at all. If such jubilant feelings were wrong, why did she have such trust in them? Why did she have such a buoyant flow of joy in her heart?

Having complete faith in the conviction of her feelings, she threw back the covers and hurried from the bed. As Violette came to assist her, she chose clothing to match her sunny mood...a bliaut of apricot color, and a white under gown to wear with it. She asked Violette to carry the garments to the bathing chamber, and to prepare a hot bath with rose petals. It was her wish not only to look her best, but to feel clean and refreshed as she started the day. Simon would certainly enjoy the scent of least, that was her hope.

Wrapping herself in her robe, she stepped into the hallway...and heard voices. Looking towards the end of the corridor, she saw her mother speaking to Owen. Their voices were low, but Evelyn could see there was a scolding in progress. She stepped slowly forward, listening. Her mother was speaking softly but angrily.

"I care not for your opinion of her. When one day you are lord of your own manor, then you may determine who remains under your roof. But until that time, you will treat Isabella as you would treat any guest."

Evelyn came near, curious. She knew it was not her business to interrupt, but she was intrigued.

"Mama," she asked, "Is anything the matter?"

Cassia did not take her eyes from Owen as she replied. "Your brother sees fit to insult our guest."

His voice became hateful. "I do not wish to reside in the same house as a whore."

Cassia snatched him by his ear, pulling it viciously so that Owen cried out in pain.

"You will not speak of anyone with such a vile tongue," she said, "And certainly not a friend who is dear to me. Spit another ounce of venom and I shall have you whipped. Do I make myself clear?"

He had little choice but to grumble in obedience. "Yes, Mama."

When she released him, he said nothing...just rubbing his ear. Cassia gave him a slap to the back of the head.

"Be gone," she told him. "And do not let me see you unless you can speak in a civil manner."

As he went, Guy appeared in the hallway behind Cassia. He looked at the departing Owen, and then at Evelyn. Before he could say anything, Cassia spoke. She kissed Evelyn's cheek.

"Go and get yourself dressed, Evie. It will not do to wander the halls in your nightdress."

Evelyn nodded, giving her a little smile. As she passed her father, she stood on tiptoe and gave him a peck on the cheek, bidding him good morning. She noticed that the darkness seemed to be gone from his expression. In the doorway to the bathing chamber, she paused, looking back at her mother and father. Guy stood with his arms crossed...and Cassia had placed a hand on his sleeve.

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