Before the meal began, Guy stood with his goblet lifted.

"Before we break our fast, I would ask all to raise their cups to my honored guest, the good Viscount of Bergeron."

The guests lifted their glasses high and gave a merry cheer. René smiled, nodding his head in acceptance.

"As he is our honored guest, I will allow him the pleasure of choosing today's sport."

Rene smiled, thinking which to choose. "My lord," he said, "On this fine day, I would take great pleasure in following the falcon."

The guests applauded his choice, and a murmur of excitement rose among them. Guy nodded.

"Well then, the choice is made. A day of falconry it shall be. But first, let us appease our hunger with this fine meal."

The feast began. And while he partook of the tangy ale and the fine meal...one of the best he'd had in a long time...he found could hardly take his eyes off of Evelyn. It seemed the interest was mutual, for every now and then, he caught her sending glances his way.

He wanted a few moments alone with her. Last night, their meeting had been rudely interrupted. But perhaps that was for the best, because now...if he was wise about it...he could meet with her in the light of day, in some location that would not provoke scandal.

As the meal ended, the guests stood and gathered in small groups of conversation, deciding who would partake in the hunt and who would remain behind to engage in other activates. While Isabelle was engaged in conversation, he stepped away from her for a moment, approaching Sir Guy. He spoke in a casual tone.

"My lord, before we commence with the hunt, I would very much like to look at your gardens. My dear Mama was partial to all matter of flora and fauna and she bred that same fondness in me."

"If it pleases you, then by all means, explore as you wish."

Giving a respectful bow, René strolled towards the side door...and as he went, he turned to catch a glance at Evelyn. Her eyes met his. And he knew that it wouldn't be long before she followed.

*****

In the garden, he plucked a red rose from a trellis vine. Lifting it to his nose, he inhaled its spicy scent, thinking that its beauty and color would suit Evelyn very well.

He heard a step on the gravel behind him, and he smiled as he turned. In the morning sunshine she was radiant, and with her gaze lowered in shyness, it only enhanced her charms.

Still, he didn't want to foster improper thoughts. And he would begin by keeping their greeting formal. Rather than taking her hand, he bowed courteously.

"Bonjour, mademoiselle."

She lifted her head long enough to give him a tiny smile. She curtseyed. "Bonjour, my lord. I trust you slept well last night?"

"Quite," he replied. "But let us disregard titles. I would much prefer to be given my name. Will you do me the honor?"

He offered her the flower. As she timidly accepted it, her reply was softly spoken.

"I shall try...René."

She said it with a bashfulness that amused him. He felt an odd sensation of feeling for her...a strong desire to set her mind at rest, and he spoke gently.

"Do not fear such an informality. After all, friendships should begin with first names. Do you not think so?"

When she gave no reply, he sighed deeply.

"Perhaps I might earn your confidence in another way, my lady...by allowing you to share in mine."

Without waiting for her, he began a leisurely walk, certain that she would fall in step with him, which she did almost instantly. To put her further at ease, he clasped his hands behind his back, keeping them there as they strolled along.

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