Chapter 4

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Standing upon a stool, watching the seamstress embellishing the hem of her dress, Evelyn trembled with nervous energy. She had attended celebrations before, but none so grand as the one her father had planned to welcome his grandson. All of high or low estate would be there, but more importantly, this would be her first introduction to her future husband.

Guy had sent word to his old friend, the Duke of Larouque, inviting him to attend the party. And in the correspondence he had suggested using the occasion to let their children be introduced. They would arrive in only a few days time, and Evelyn's imagination was on fire with curiosity.

What would he be like? Not even Guy had met him, despite being very old friends with his father. When pressed for information of the father's appearance, in order to conjure an image of the son, Guy did not give much detail. All he said was that the Duke was tall and fair-haired, but he could not recall much more than that. It had been too long since they'd seen one another, and his memory wasn't so clear.

For Evelyn, the vague description made her mind come to life with imaginings of a sly, fine-looking fellow...one with a wicked smile and brilliant green eyes.

Stop that this instant, she told herself. Such imaginings will lead to no good.

Now would be the cruelest of times to stage an act of rebellion...even if it was only in thought. Life was so sweet at this moment. The house was filled with such good tidings, and it would be wrong to destroy the peace.

Looking over to the window seat, she watched a ritual being played out that had become quite familiar of late. Thea was there, with their mother beside her. Cassia was reaching for the baby, and Thea was fretting about it.

"Mind his head," she told her mother. To which she received a reproachful look.

"My darling girl, I have mothered four children and I will soon nurse a fifth. I am quite adept at handling babies with care. Now away with you. You will be of great interest tonight and you must make yourself ready."

To her mother's urging she gave a slight pout, but Cassia gave the command a second time, her voice more stern. Reluctantly, Thea went from the room, leaving Cassia wagging her head.

Evelyn smiled at their interaction. It was clear how enamored Thea was of her child. But everyone agreed that she was overly nervous when it came to him. She could hardly bear to give him up to others, even members of the family.

It was all the talk around the shire that Lucien had fathered a fine child, and despite her motherly concerns, Thea was eager to have the local nobility admiring her son. The celebration of his birth was to be a splendid event. It would be a nine day event of tournaments and feasting...of merriment and great exchange between important people. Politics were a matter nearly as anticipated as any leisure activity. Talk of Gabriel's birth would lead to discussions of proposals and marriages...the joining of families, the gaining of properties and the acquisition of inheritances. Evelyn knew that her own dowry would be the subject of some interest. And her future husband would certainly be at the center of such a meeting. And she wondered...

Would Simon of Larouqe find her pleasing?

She lowered her head, losing herself in deep thought. Her mother and sister had found absolute happiness in their husbands. There seemed to be no reason to think that she should not find the same joy in marriage. But nothing in life was certain. If only she could know something of her future mate. What was his temperament? What were his tastes and pursuits? But more importantly, would he be happy with his betrothed?

"Evelyn, what troubles your mind?"

The suddenness of her mother's question brought her back to herself. She lifted her head, smiling sheepishly.

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