Chapter 6, Part 1

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The stables came into sight...and Evelyn wished they could turn back. She had only just begun to enjoy René's company, and now she would be forced to share him with others. It seemed terribly unfair. After all, the two of them had a special connection, more now than before. She knew it was an unseemly feeling to have, but she felt that he was her friend now, and that others had not earned the right to be close to him. They did not know him as she did. And more importantly, no one else shared a secret as they did. Not even his cousin, the Baroness, knew what had happened with Adele.

And yet, the Baroness was his one remaining relation...or so it seemed. As Isabella saw them and made her way in their direction, Evelyn felt a pain of sadness in her heart. No matter what confidence he shared with her, it could not compare to the intimacy shared by blood. The Baroness was permitted to be near him for good lengths of time...to talk to him as she pleased...even to place her hand upon his arm when they were together. Evelyn knew it was wrong, but she could not help feeling the sting of envy when, upon seeing René, Isabella smiled warmly and hurried to his side.

"There you are, cousin. We were all beginning to wonder at your disappearance."

Evelyn met Isabella's eye. They both exchanged polite smiles and curtsies, and then Isabella touched René's arm. As they walked together, Evelyn fell in slight step behind them. She tried to tell herself not to feel what she was feeling...a terrible, gnawing pang of jealousy. She wished at that moment for a measure of Thea's bold nature. Her sister would have had something daring to say...something that asserted her control over the situation.

As her eyes followed the ground in front of her, Evelyn spotted a lizard crawling along the pebbles of the walk. She knelt down, scooping up the little beast. She'd never been afraid of creeping creatures. Most ladies ran in fright from them.

Her gaze rose, looking over the Baroness' proud stance. What would it be like to see her squirm and squeal in fright? For a moment she shut her eyes, seeking forgiveness for her wicked intentions. Looking down at her closed hand, she contemplated the naughty trick she thought to play.

I shall open my hand, she thought, And perhaps he will make his escape. Where he chooses to land is no fault of mine.

The creature did make his escape...leaping right onto Isabella's shoulder. The Baroness didn't notice it, of course. But Evelyn could not contain her smirk, knowing it was only a matter of time until the discovery was made. And it came much sooner than Evelyn expected.

The lizard crawled from silk to bare skin, and Isabella shrieked.

"What is it? What is it! Help! Something attacks me!"

René spotted the lizard and snatched it off...but Isabella's reaction to seeing the creature was more crazed than having it on her person. She screamed and dashed away, flailing her arms in disgust and horror. As René tossed the lizard aside and came to her aid, trying his best to console her, Evelyn at first felt a bubble of laughter rising inside of her. But it was tamed when Isabella started to cry. Her hysterics brought on the attention of those awaiting the hunt, and soon they were all surrounded by curious guests. Guy stepped to the front of the crowd. His brow was crinkled in frustration, brought on by the possibility of yet another crisis.

"What calamity befalls us now?" he demanded.

René stepped away from Isabella as several ladies took over the task of consoling her. He smirked as he looked at Guy.

"A moment of feminine hysteria, my lord. Brought about by a very dangerous and evil lizard."

Most of the men chuckled, shaking their heads, while the women clucked their tongues and fussed over Isabella's frazzled state.

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