Chapter 21

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Soundly asleep, Fallon stirred when she was disturbed by a noise in the room. A chamber maid entered, noisily drawing the curtains apart, unsettling Fallon's sleep. Thinking it was Braeden, her face broke into a smile, but when she saw the sour looking maid tugging at the curtains, Fallon pulled up the sheets to her chin.

'What are you doing?' Fallon questioned, her voice fused with sleep.

Unsmilingly, the maid answered. 'The morning is almost over. I'm letting in some fresh air and sun.'

Fallon noted the maid did not even bother with a greeting. Neither did she address Fallon by her title, as was expected of the servants.

Her husband was out again obviously. Judging by the cold empty spot next to her, Braeden had awoken a long time ago. Fallon was still tired. Her husband had kept her awake till early in the morning hours. She smiled inwardly. In no mood for the standoffish servants, the empty mansion, or breakfast all alone again, she saw no need to rise early. Neither did she have any engagements this morning.

'Please close the curtains,' Fallon instructed. 'Return when I am downstairs having breakfast.'

Fallon turned her back and closed her eyes again. She did not wait for the maid to respond and so did not see the cold, hostile expression on the maid's face.

After breakfast, she was totally bored and in need of something to do. She thought the layout of the drawing room was in dire need of reorganizing. Certain that the servants would be uncooperative, she mentally shrugged that thought away and soldiered on anyway. Much to the consternation of the servants, Fallon issued the instruction for the furniture to be rearranged in the drawing room. She ignored their disapproving glances and exercised her authority as the lady of the manor. She thought it ghastly the way the huge dividers took up so much space, obscuring the sunlight from entering the room. It gave the drawing room, a dark, unwelcoming, morbid look. The dividers were moved to the windowless wall of the room. The sofas were invitingly spread about around the fireplace. Fallon ordered a pedestal be found to hold a vase and a bouquet of daffodils be placed on the pedestal. When they were done, Fallon could have sworn there was respectful approval in the eyes of the servants at how much more spacious, airy and attractive the room looked.

'Ah, this is most refreshing,' Braeden walked in smilingly, laying a hand gently on Fallon's shoulder to acknowledge her.

'It looked very unwelcoming before,' Fallon laughed, looking up at Braeden. She observed the servants were suddenly fully of energy, deferential towards their master, whose eyes stayed trained on his gorgeous wife.

'Did you have a good morning?' She smiled, unable to hide her pleasure at the sight of Braeden, her hand instinctively rested on his chest indifferent to the presence of the insolent servants.

'I went to inspect some of the agriculture on one of our farms,' he smiled, readily including Fallon as co-owner of his portfolio of assets.

If he was offering her a plausible explanation for his absence, Fallon knew he was being truthful. It was when he remained silent or not forthcoming with information that confirmed her suspicions of her husband's clandestine whereabouts. Fallon smiled at him again.

'It is a beautiful day, my lady. Let us go riding,' he invited.

Joy surged through her. 'I'd love that,' she answered. 'Shall I change into my riding habit?' She silently hoped he was not going to use a carriage.

'Yes,' he nodded. 'Nothing like riding a mount in open spaces and fresh air hitting against one's face,' he smiled.

She clutched his arm with her two hands. 'I won't be long,' she promised.

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