Chapter 23, Part 2

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Within the manor walls, a flow of energy was growing. The sun had only just begun to cast her light on the world, but already the house was roused in preparation for a grand event. At the center of the activity, watched by her mother and tended to by her sister and two maids, was the bride-to-be. Already wearing her wedding dress, she stood in the center of the room, under the hands of Violette. With an expression of concentration, she braided two small sections of hair meant to circle the crown of Evelyn’s head, while the rest of her lustrous black locks would fall down her back. Orange blossoms would be entwined in the wrapping of braids. To adorn the creation, there would be a gold circlet with a pearl pendent. And from that gold circlet, there would be a veil made of delicate silken threads. Evelyn took a deep breath, feeling a heaviness that had little to do with the volume of material she was adorned with.

“Look at how my hands are trembling.” She held her hands out for her mother and sister’s examination, showing how they shook with nervous energy. Thea, who was carefully observing the work being done, gave a little scoff at her sister’s anxiety...even while there was amusement in her tone.

“Dearest Evie. It is I, your matron of honor, who should be nervous, as well as your ten bridesmaids. Should evil spirits come to call, it is we who are meant to serve as fodder.”

Cassia, who sat only a small space away on the edge of the bed, smiled at her older daughter’s wisdom. Then, she reached out to gently squeeze Evelyn’s hand, offering her comfort.

“My darling girl, the condition of uneasiness is merely a bridal custom. I trembled quite badly when I was presented to your father. But once the vows are spoken, your tremors of fear will ease. I am certain of it.”

Evelyn returned her mother’s affection, giving her a little smile. She was so glad that her mother was well and would be attending the ceremony. Phillip’s birth had been such a quick and uncomplicated event. She had spent several days resting afterwards, and was still being cautious in her activities. But she had insisted on being a part of the wedding plans, and there was nothing that would change her mind, as they all knew. Thinking of her mother, she also thought of her father, and her smile waned. These last several days, he had been so quiet and gloomy, and she was quite aware of the reason for it. It troubled her to think that he was suffering in any way.

“How is Papa?” she asked, concern in her tone.

Cassia sighed. “He is well enough, in spite of the circumstances. He did not sleep well last night, but that is to be expected.”

At the mention of their father, Thea smiled, recalling her own days as an anxious bride.

“You are fortunate, dear sister. If you recall, only two days before Lucien and I were wed, Papa disappeared. He played at falconry, swearing before his departure that he would not return unless I gave up my ambitions of being married.”

Evelyn could not help but smile at the memory. Thea, of course, had been beside herself with fear and anger, worried that their father would refuse to do his rightful duty and give her to Sir Lucien. But in the end he had returned, and what might have been a calamity had turned into a beautiful occasion. Now, they all smiled at the memory of it. But Cassia was quick to temper their joy, not wishing to make a mockery of Guy’s feelings.

“He is much calmer on this occasion. But do not be mistaken, Evie. This is a very trying time for your father. For us, the smiles and tears we shed today will be expressions of hope and joy. For your father, it will be a difficult day. But know this. Behind every scowl, there is love.”

Evelyn smiled, even as a tender feeling pulled at her heart. A new world was set to open before her, but the old would always be there to welcome her back. Yes, she would soon be Simon’s wife...Lady Evelyn Jeanne-Carre, Marquess of LaRoque.

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