Chapter 10, Part 1

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Guy took a ragged breath, looking at the manor looming before him. It had always been such a welcome sight...the only true home he'd ever known. The gravel drive, edged with primrose, had always held special meaning for him...a path leading to a loving sanctuary. Even through times of turbulence, joy abounded within the manor's stone walls.

 But now, trouble pressed heavily upon him. Scandalous whispers would soon flourish because of Rene and Baroness LaCroix, but they were the least of his concerns. Evelyn would be most distressed to learn of this news, and with a heart already wounded, how would she bear it?

He felt a sharp pain, born of guilt, lodged in his breast...and he did not know how to ease it.

 Cassia was right, of course. His treatment of Evie had not been just. His youngest daughter had always been so devoted, so adoring of him, even long after her childhood. Thea had clung to him as a little girl, but she had grown independent, even distant, as the years went by. But Evelyn had been ever faithful and true, always attempting to please him as best she could...and at her first error in judgment, he had treated her with utmost cruelty. His anger over Rene's disgraceful behavior had rendered him blind, not letting him see that his daughter was merely a pawn in a cruel game. He gave another deep sigh at the thought of it. And the sound drew Simon's notice.

 "My lord, are you well?"

 Frustration tinted Guy's response. "No. I assure you I am not."

 "But the treachery has made itself known. The revelation to Evelyn will be difficult, but it must be done."

 Given with an outlet of breath, the reply was bitter. "You know not the impediments, your grace. Fatherhood and marriage carry complexities you have yet to understand."

Evie would not be the only female in need of conciliation. Until he made amends with his daughter, Cassia would not be pleased. And if there was an aspect of his life he wished to do without, it was the prospect of an unhappy wife. It was not often that she was truly angry with him, but when such unpleasantness unfolded, all of life seemed unbalanced. Though she was more capable of controlling her temper than he was, she could be just as passionate. There seemed to be progressions of her dark moods, one usually proceeding the next. He thought of her warning expression...used mostly on the children. Her right eyebrow would lift slightly. Her hands would settle on her hips, or her arms would cross. Such a warning was usually enough to discourage bad behavior, and as effective though it was, he could not help being amused by it at times. Less amusing were her bursts of outrage when the offense was more serious. He had committed such errors only rarely...the household objects launched in his direction being more than enough to keep him from such foolishness.

Then there was the silent treatment. He shuddered at the thought of that brutal hush she could inflict on him. Only twice could he recall her being so incensed as to stop speaking to him, and the remembrance of it was deeply painful.

He shook his head. Giving his horse his heel, he advanced forward up the walk, intent on seeing to the matter of peacemaking. Rene was gone, and God willing, he would be forgotten quickly. But even with that burden behind him, there was still the matter of Evelyn. He was not certain how he would set things right with her. In all of his years as a parent, he had never sought forgiveness from one of his children. What father on earth would be brought so low as to admit being in the wrong?

 I shall admit to it, he decided. I do not lack the courage to acknowledge my errors, and they shall know it.

As he dismounted, he gathered his nerve with the setting of his shoulders and a deep intake of breath. He would seek Cassia's advice on the matter. In witnessing his attempt to do what was right, she would be happy with him once again. She would comfort him. She would bolster his courage, and then, she would counsel him in his effort to heal his bond with Evie. As he crossed the threshold, with Simon in step behind him, he felt almost hopeful...until Thea came hurrying to him. Both her look, and her words, were fearful.

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