Chapter 11, Part 2

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 For quite some time, Evelyn sat quietly before the fire. She closed her eyes, pressing her fingers to her lips. They tingled so strangely...and yet, it wasn't unpleasant. It was wondrous and thrilling...and the sensation seemed not content to remain on her lips. Tingles traveled everywhere, into places she'd never felt such stirrings. She held herself tightly, trying to suppress the wild feelings. But the effort only heightened the sensation all the more. She recalled how it felt to be held in his arms. Good heavens, what would it be like to feel his kiss and warm embrace both at once?

She felt herself becoming both giddy and terrified. These feelings were like nothing she'd known before, and somewhere in her mind she knew they were just the start of something more. She thought of her sister and the conversation they'd once had. No wonder Thea seemed so intent on making her listen, despite her protests. There was a wild delight in learning of these feelings...as if she'd been granted knowledge of a very great secret. Was this was just a taste of things to come? Though her heart beat fast with anxiousness, she could not help but wonder when such a moment would come again.

Simon, she thought, as a soft sigh escaped her. Why had her feelings changed so suddenly? Perhaps this was how it was meant to be, after all. Perhaps she had been the greatest of fools not to see it from the first. Or perhaps, she had simply been outwitted by the most clever...nay, the most devious...of men.

Her delight faded as memories came fast upon her. From that moment when she'd first set eyes on Rene, her senses had flown. He'd openly declared himself to be a rogue...a skilled thief who stole hearts and coin in equal measure. And like a simpleton, she had allowed herself to be bewitched.

The squeaking of the door, coming from behind her, shook her from her thoughts. She turned to look, seeing William as he returned from church.

"Evie," he said. "The hour grows late. You should be abed." He handed his cloak to the housekeeper. "Where is the Marquis? Have you settled him in a chamber?"

The servant nodded. As she departed, he came to stand beside Evelyn. She stared into the fire, having barely heard him speaking. His entrance had roused her somewhat, but her thoughts quickly returned to all that had happened. It took William's hand on her shoulder, gently nudging her, before she found her voice.

"I have been blind, Will."

He reached out, offering her his hand, and she took it gladly.

"I defended a man who was not worthy of defending."

"You speak of Rene?" he asked.

She nodded. "I would not like to dwell on details, brother. I wish only to say that my eyes have been opened. I see his deception clearly now...and I see my duty before me. I will go home at first light. And I will see everything settled."

William leaned down, placing a gentle kiss on top of her head.

"My dear little sister...ever sensible and intelligent. I wondered where you had gone to. Mama and Papa will be most pleased to see you returned."

I hope so, She thought. I truly do hope so.

*****

The dawn had yet to break, but Simon rolled over and sat up, rubbing a hand over his face. The bed was too narrow for a man of his size. The floor would have been preferable, but at the risk of insulting his host, he had used the bed and rested himself as best he could.

But being a soldier, having been accustomed to rising at strange hours and surviving on little sleep, the few hours of rest he'd managed would suffice. He got up and went to the basin, where he doused his face with water. Running his hand over his jaw, he frowned at feeling the stubble already forming. He wasn't content with having his face unshaven. Even during times of war, he kept a grooming regimen. But there was little that could be done about it under these circumstances.

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