Chapter 9

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'Fallon, I demand to know what is going on?' Lady Carissa sat down next to her friend in the Sunflower Room. The room was bathed in the glowing warm morning sun, enhancing it to a bright yellow, hence it's flowery name.
'Whatever do you mean?' Fallon avoided meeting Carissa's eyes.
'Last night, you hardly danced.  You looked pensive, and I have to say, you looked as if something was troubling you,' Carissa took Fallon's hand.
'I had a good time last night,' Fallon lied.
' You hardly danced! You spent more of the evening, with your mother.'
'I danced with Lord Dunbar.'
'That hardly counts.'
'Why?' Fallon laughed.
'Drew, is more your friend than I am,' Carissa accused.
Fallon smiled fondly. 'When are you two going to wed?'
'I do believe you are changing the subject.'
Fallon breathed heavily, though she did observe the hint of pleasure in her friend’s eyes at the mention of her and Drew marrying.  ' Look, I danced once with Viscount Thumpston.'
'He belongs to your sister.'
'He does?'
'Not officially,' Carissa laughed softly.  'But it is obvious even to a bat that those two are in love.'

Fallon hid her surprise.  She had been so caught up in her own emotional battle, she had not realized  her own sister was in love.  And why hadn't Emma said anything?  Fallon made a mental note to question her sister at a later stage when they were alone.
'Um... Yes?'
'Please tell me you have not set your cap on Arthur Burward.'
'What!  No!  Of course not.'
'Good.' Carissa let out a sigh of relief.
'Why ever would you think, it was Burward, I had an interest in?'
'So there is somebody?'
'No!’  Fallon lied and quickly stood up.  'I was just shocked that of all the gentlemen, you would think of Burward.'
Carissa laughed. 'Well, I know it is not my Drew,' she whispered, ' so it only leaves Braeden Kerrich the twelfth earl of Hampton; Chilton Wenthworth, the Duke of Baxedale or young Sir Neels Orway,’ she listed dramatically.  ‘You could not be interested in any of those three, could you?'

Fallon hoped her face did not betray her true feelings.  ‘I refuse to engage in a process of elimination with you,’ her face coloured lightly.

Carissa laughed affectionately.  ‘You are far too secretive Fallon dear.’

In the days that followed, Fallon’s mood did not lift.  She stubbornly refused to respond to all the invitations that arrived, resulting in Emma and her mother attending without her.

She spent each morning in the garden, reading and enjoying the sun and the rest of the day cooped up in her chamber.  She could not stop thinking about Braeden or their intimate and passionate encounter in the barn.  Did every lady feel that way after the first time with a man?  Why was it so emotionally draining? Why did it affect a lady that way, as if a part of your life was taken away?  Did men feel the same?  Certainly not Braeden, he seemed totally unaffected.  So much so, that he had scorned at her eagerness at them meeting again.  How presumptuous and foolish she had been?  

Each evening Fallon had to suffer listening to Emma’s overly zealous recounting of the day’s social events and the enthusiastic reports, of who all was and was not in attendance.   And most noteworthy as far as Emma was concerned, was that though the Earl of Hampton had also been invited, many in the ton were disappointed at his unusual absence at two or three of the prominent socials they had attended. 

It was as if Braeden had suspected Fallon would be there and added further insult to injury, by deliberately keeping away ensuring he avoided any opportunity to clash with her.  Perhaps it was time to put an end to this self-banishment and rejoin the social circles.  How much longer was she going to hide in her chamber? 

 ‘Mama, I do not want to attend the Countess’s Spring Ball.’

Though Fallon had mentally made the decision to socialize again, she had not contemplated the very first function she would be forced to attend, would be at Braeden’s home.  How could she make her parent understand that that; was like a slap to her face?

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