Chapter 17

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CHAPTER 17

‘Lady Fallon!’  The dowager smiled with pleasurable surprise.  If she thought the visit at such an early hour inappropriate, her face or manner did not reflect it.   ‘Why ___ how lovely ___.’

‘Lady Fallon has come to visit, grandmère,’ Braeden intervened, his eyes locking meaningfully on Fallon’s, not to reveal the true nature of her visit. 

He was attempting damage control before Fallon could discover that his very fit and able grandmère was not sick at all.  Fallon seemed to have grasped the silent meaning in his eyes.  She presumed the dowager was going to play down whatever ailment was troubling her.

‘I can see Lady Fallon has come to visit Hampton.  I might be on with age but I am not blind!’

‘No you’re not grandmère,’ he conceded, lowering his eyes awkwardly when he caught Fallon smirking behind her gloves.

‘Well, do not keep Lady Fallon standing.  Show her to a seat and ring for refreshments.  I am sure she is thirsty.’

‘Yes, I am ___ thirsty,’ Fallon thought to add salt to the wound.

‘Yes ma’am,’ Braeden acknowledged his grandmère and tugged on the bell pull.

A maid soon appeared with a tray of drinks and sweetmeats for the dowager and her guest.

‘Is this why you’ve cancelled your trip?’ The dowager questioned her grandson.

‘Whatever do you mean grandmère?’ Braeden continued stirring his tea not looking at either of the ladies, so he could not see Fallon’s eyes narrowing at him accusingly.

‘Last night you informed me you were taking a trip to Devon very early this morning; yet here you still are, even though half the morning is over.’

Braeden continued stirring his tea, with his head lowered.  ‘Two of my grooms are sick as cushions,’  he murmured, so I have postponed the trip.’

‘There seems to be a serious case of illness on the Hampton estate,’ Fallon taunted curiously.

Braeden was forced to meet her cold suspicious eyes.   

 ‘Best you take measures to ensure it does not ensnare you as well my lord,’ Fallon smile acidly.

‘Who else is ill?’  The dowager questioned.

Braeden quickly rose to his feet, abandoning his tea without taking a sip.  ‘Lady Fallon would you care to walk in the garden?’ He offered her his arm invitingly.

‘I am here to see your grandmother, not you,’ Fallon arched her eyebrows at him questioningly.

They were gazing into each other’s eyes, neither giving way when the dowager’s soft laughter rung in the air, bringing them back to reality.  Fallon looked away uncomfortably. 

‘Grandmère’ would you mind terribly if I steal Lady Fallon into the gardens?’  Braeden tucked Fallon’s arm in his and smiled charmingly at his grandparent, knowing she would not deny him.

‘I don’t have a problem, unless Lady Fallon expressly does not wish for your company Hampton,’ she stated ‘and I forbid your escort against her will.’

Braeden’s arm fell.  He remembered all too clearly how that savage duke, Baxendale had tried to force his way with Fallon…His Fallon.  Braeden would never do anything so despicable as to hold a lady against her will.  That was unthinkable.  He could be accused of much, but he had never needed to force himself on a lady, not ever previously and neither would he start now.

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