Chapter 22, Part One

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Hello Everyone! This installment is just a romantic little interlude. Nothing too serious. The more serious plot points will be in the next installment. And then, the wedding day will arrive at last. For now, enjoy!

The housekeeper called out to Evelyn, who was just coming in from the garden.

“My lady, you must come and see!”

 Evelyn handed her basket of freshly clipped red roses to a passing servant, who curtseyed and carried them away. Evelyn followed Marie up the stairs, asking no questions. These many days past, they had all been running about so hurriedly that there was little time for hesitation.

 The entire estate was alive with activity, more so than usual. Additional servants had been brought in to help with tasks. They were kept busy making grapevine wreaths, into which they wove ivy and rosemary. Baskets were woven for centerpieces and filled with wildflowers, as well as herbs to ward off evil spirits. The floral arrangements were bright and bold, with flowers chosen for their striking colors. Bright blue irises, blood red roses, orange tiger lilies, and numerous other flowers were gathered in spectacular arrangements.

 But grandest of all was the clothing being tailored for the occasion...brocades and velvets in bright, jewel-tones colors. Evelyn had not seen her wedding gown yet. It was to be a surprise gift from her mother and father. Thea had been handed down their mother’s wedding dress, and Evelyn had decided long ago that she wasn’t jealous in the least. She looked forward to having a new wedding gown that she could give to her own daughter one day. As she came up the stairs with Marie, she felt a sudden giddiness and anticipation, sensing that she was about to experience one of the greatest moments of her life.

 In the doorway of her bedchamber, she stopped suddenly. With a gasp, she pressed her hands to her mouth. The sight of her wedding gown, newly arrived and laid out on her bed, made her tremble with awe and excitement, and she rushed forward to examine it. The bliaut was sapphire blue silk with gold accents and trim, so beautiful that she was almost afraid to touch it. The under gown was purest white, with roses embroidered in pale pink, and the sleeve hangings were made of delicate white lace. With her hand she covered her heart, feeling its excited beats.

 “Oh, Mama,” she said. “I knew that it would be lovely. But I never imagined it would be as beautiful as this.”

 Cassia, who sat in the window seat, brought a handkerchief to her eye. She dabbed away a tear, trying to smile.

 “You will be a most beautiful bride,” she said.

 As she wiped her eye a second time, Evelyn went to her. Her mother had been very emotional of late. Cassia kept insisting that it was merely a part of her condition...that she had been prone to tears during all of her pregnancies. But Evelyn was certain there was more to it than that. She took her mother’s hand.

 “Do not cry, Mama. This is to be a happy occasion.”

 With a soft sigh, Cassia kissed Evelyn’s hand. “I am very happy, my darling. Do not mind the foolishness of an elderly expectant mother.”

 Evelyn smiled. She started to say something, but a knock on the door...and a baritone voice...kept her from it. Guy came into the room, holding a small wooden box in his hand.

 “Under the current circumstances, emotions are expected to run rampant, are they not?”

 Coming to his side, Evelyn leaned against him. She felt his arm around her and a kiss on the top of her head. These last several days, she hadn’t seen much of him. They had all been so busy with the wedding preparations, there had hardly been time to think, much less share quiet moments together.

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