Chapter 9, Part 1

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 Simon said nothing as he watched Evelyn leave his side in the chapel. But his eyes followed her as she came to stand beside her father...and he carefully observed their conversation. Evelyn looked to the departure of the Viscount and the Baroness, and her expression grew morose.

 She mourns his loss.

 He knew her preference for the company of the Viscount.  He had observed it last night, seeing the soft looks she granted Rene. Those fond glances had made him uneasy enough. But why did these sullen expressions...full of trouble and sadness...seem to strike deeper offense in his heart than the ones before? Why did he find himself wondering if his threat to Rene had been harsh enough? He inhaled deeply, forcing himself to be calm. Whether or not the Viscount had heeded his warning, it now seemed to not matter. It was obvious that both the Viscount and his Baroness were soon to be on their way, and he told himself to be grateful for small miracles.

 Be pleased that the rogue is departing, he thought. Once he has gone, her favor will turn to you, as it should.

 He wanted to be pleased. And for a moment, he was satisfied with the thought that he would be rid of his rival.

 But why did he feel an overwhelming need to be certain of it? Why did he have the compulsion to follow Rene and force him to speed his departure?

 Because of Evelyn, he realized. It was quite possible that she would attempt to stall Rene's leaving. Clearly, she did not want him to go. And the thought of it nearly made him angry. She was young and impressionable...but the time had come to cease such naïve behavior. She was to be his wife, and he would remind her to whom her loyalty was bound.

 The meeting with Sir Guy's men would wait. A meeting with Evelyn was of greater importance.

 After we have broken fast, he said to himself. Then we shall speak...

*****

Something was wrong.

 Simon had seen Evelyn rise quietly and quit the room. And he had seen Sir Guy follow soon after. It had taken much discipline to remain where he sat, half-heartedly giving his meal attention, while he wondered at the absence of father and daughter. For some time, he listened to the conversation around him...trying to ebb his curiosity. But as the space of time became larger, he found he could not help himself.

 I will be idle no longer, he thought. He moved to rise from his chair...but the Countess rose first. The guests quieted as they listened to her.

 "My lords and ladies, my husband has sought the pleasure of the morning air and I must join him. Please, continue to partake of our hospitality."

She smiled, and a moment later she quietly departed. The guests returned to their meal and conversations, content in their doings. But Simon was intent on solving this growing mystery. With a brief word of explanation to his father, he rose to his feet...quietly following the Countess out of the hall.

*****

The sudden departure of the Viscount and the Baroness. Evelyn's displeasure. And now the Earl and Countess were exchanging words in private. It was not difficult to conclude that all of these matters were intertwined in some way. And somehow, Simon deduced that Rene was responsible for all of it. But what offense had he committed?

 As he paused at the entrance to the garden...the place where the Countess had found her husband...Simon wondered if he'd made a mistake in allowing Rene to remain unscathed. A good pummeling might have humbled him. And as he listened to the conversation between the Earl and Countess, he cursed himself for not having made the proper correction.

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