Chapter Twenty-Two

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We laughed hard, and I had to take ahold of his shoulder to keep upright.

Nineteenth century parties were fun. Or was it more the company I was enjoying?

The evening was going well; the rest of the guests had arrived, music and dancing had started, and thankfully no more surprise guests.

I hadn't seen Constable Doyle for a while and was glad of it, but was also a little suspicious of what he was up to.

Pushing Constable Doyle out of my mind, I was determined to enjoy myself, and Nicholas and I were having a great time.

"Ahem," a male voice cleared his throat beside us to get our attention.

Wiping a tear from the corner of my eye, I looked in the direction of the voice and found Mr. Valentine, mouth pursed and an eyebrow raised.

It seemed as though he disapproved of us having fun.

"Sir?" Nicholas asked him. "Is something the matter?"

"I believe you promised my daughter a Waltz."

"That is correct, sir. I have not forgotten."

"Well, it seems that you have. The Waltz is about to start and you're here while Isabella is over there," he stated, glancing over in the direction of Isabella and Robbie. "Talking to the stable boy! What's he- He's supposed to be outside to greet any late arrivals!"

Mr. Valentine stormed off in their direction, and we couldn't help but snicker at his outburst.

"Does Mr. Valentine seem more stressed tonight? He's usually so calm," I asked.

Nicholas nodded. "He prefers these events to go as smooth as possible, that's all. Doesn't want to be the talk of the town. Unless it's positive talk, of course." I nodded in understanding. "I'm sorry, but I have to-"

"It's all right," I interrupted. "You promised her a Waltz. We didn't do all that practising for nothing. Now go. I'll be fine." I faked a smile, a little disappointed he had to leave. But it was just one dance and we had all night.

"I hope you left a space on your card for my name," he casually said, resulting in me smiling for real.

"Of course."

Before he turned to leave, he added, "Remember what I said about being alone."

I nodded, and hoped Constable Doyle had taken Nicholas' advice about staying away from us.

He hesitated for a second before finally walking away, striding over to Isabella, who was now standing awkwardly by herself after her father had shooed Robbie away like some stray animal.

Her face lit up as he approached her, and she linked her arm with his as they made their way onto the dance floor.

As I watched them from afar, I tried to imagine them as husband and wife. Sure, Nicholas would have no problem supporting her and her children financially, but they were so different from each other. Being an arranged marriage, would they ever love each other deep down the way a husband and wife should love each other? Nicholas seemed open to it, but what about Isabella? She claimed she loved her first husband, so perhaps...

My thoughts were interrupted when I overheard Desmond talking rather loudly to some other guests behind me. Obviously on purpose so I would hear.

I continued to watch the dance, all ears on them.

"Well, look at that," I heard him say. "Clay finally managed to drag himself out from his cave. Living like a hermit since mummy and daddy kicked the bucket."

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