Chapter Fifteen

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Beau cursed as he watched his best friend return all too soon from the balcony

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Beau cursed as he watched his best friend return all too soon from the balcony. He left the ballroom and caught up with him just short of Benjamin retrieving his hat.

"Where are you going?" Beau asked alarmed.

"I am leaving. There is NOTHING to keep me here," Benjamin replied. He placed his hat upon his head and walked out the door.

Beau could not understand it. He could have sworn Lady Bentley held feelings for him. Was he wrong to encourage? He strode back to ballroom and was immediately accosted by Banks.

"Where did McAllister run off to? I would have thought he would wish to congratulate Lady Bentley on her recent engagement?" Banks stated, all too smugly.

So, Banks got to her first. That explained everything.

"Mr. Banks, I understand this is all a game to you, but a word of advice. Do not take for granted what you have miraculously managed to attain. For someday someone will come along and appreciate what you do not."

Banks looked visibly angered by his comment but Beau could care less. Although he had already danced two songs with Lady Bentley he would bide his time and wait, knowing the last dance of the evening was now left empty.

He stuck close knowing that Banks would be eager to fill that vacancy on her dance card but he got to her first, much to Lady Cantrell's and Mr. Banks' annoyance.

He knew it would be cause for discussion that he took her out for a third time. Such actions were saved for couples that were more familiar but Lady Bentley did not decline and graciously took his hand as he led her out onto the dance floor.

Once the distance had closed between them and the waltz started, Beau whispered, "You have injured someone I love most grievously."

"And I am... I am so very sorry for having done so," Clara stumbled, trying hard to keep the tears back that were burning her eyes. "Had I known..."

"How could you not?" Beau continued to reprimand.

"The head tends to deny what the heart may know to be true," Clara countered.

"Then you lack faith, Madam."

She knew he was correct. She did lack faith. She scarcely dared to believe even now that Benjamin loved her, was about to make a declaration of that love. One moment, and all was lost. If only...

"Do you love him?"

"Mr. Banks? No, of course not. How could I," Clara declared.

"Not Mr. Banks. Do you love him?"

"Yes." 

It was a crushing blow to admit aloud. There was no hiding from the desolation it caused her heart to feel. Knowing she ruined everything. Her only chance at happiness, for them both, she crushed it into the dust.

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