Chapter 12

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 ‘Lady Fallon you have a visitor,’ Louis announced, walking into Fallon’s chamber.

Fallon had been lying on her stomach, engrossed in the forbidden gothic romance of Emily St. Aubert of the famous Ann Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho.  Fallon had read the book numerous times.  She was fascinated with the brooding haughty Italian brigand Count Montoni.  Would she have liked him if she met the cold, ruminating, dubious nobleman?   She was intrigued by the infamous character.  Fallon also seemed to think she had much in common with the heroine in the Radcliffe novel.  Emily St. Aubert was portrayed as beautiful, self-reliant, resourceful, and brave, a lover of poetry, books, nature and music…just like Fallon was.    She could just hear her father’s reproachful voice, gentle ladies should read poetry and books on home-making, not romance.

Fallon looked up at her maid and sighed.  ‘He has come?’ she asked despondently.  She knew it was the duke.  He had arranged the previous day to call on Fallon the following morning.  It was afternoon now.  She guessed the lazy oaf had not been able to wake up earlier and probably only managed to drag himself out of his chamber after the luncheon hour.  Because he was a gentleman of high rank, she was expected to bow, smile politely and show gratitude for the esteemed guest as a gentle lady should. 

‘Shall you wear the yellow afternoon dress my lady?’

‘No,’ Fallon answered.  ‘I will wear the brown riding dress, thank you.’  The duke had suggested they go riding.  Perhaps some fresh air would do her good.

Louis brushed her hair and suggested Fallon leave it open and just wear a riding bonnet.

‘No.  I want it braided,’ she instructed. 

She saw no reason to go to any trouble for the duke.  He had already stated his desire for her to be his duchess, so why go to any trouble to try and impress him, especially when she had no interest whatsoever to wed the ugly toad.

 Fallon’s surprise was evident when she came downstairs and it was not the duke in conversation with her parents and Emma, but rather the object of her constant wayward thoughts.  Braeden!  What is he doing here?  Fallon could hardly contain her pleasure.  She cursed herself silently, for not listening to her maid.  She should have put a prettier dress on and left her hair opened.  She tried with great difficulty to school the expression on her face.  She stopped at the entrance to the drawing room, one eyebrow raised questioningly at Braeden.  As far as she knew they did not have an arrangement for todayHer mother received all the invitation cards and would know the earl had not extended an invitation to take her riding.  Whatever would her mother say?  Would she decline his request?

‘Good day Lady Fallon?’  He rose and greeted her with a polite smile, his expression unreadable. 

So he is in good spirits this afternoon?  ‘Good day my lord,’ Fallon walked towards Braeden.  She extended her hand.  He lifted it and lightly brushed it to his lips, releasing it after due courtesy.

‘Fallon, Lord Hampton informs us, he invited you to go riding.’

Fallon’s eyes met Braeden’s challengingly.   He smiled confidently as if he knew she would not betray his lie.  Just as she was about to expose his lie; the butler hastily interrupted, announcing the Duke of Baxendale.

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