"The Earl of Lenister, Eloise," said Mrs. Gunton, Lady Beatrice Marichone, whispering in the ear of the willowy figure standing next to her.
"And pray, dear Cousin Beatrice, that is supposed to mean what to me?" Lady Eloise Granville smiled dutifully at the matron of her family.
"Do not play those games with me this night, Eloise. You know full well what I mean. Why, Lady Breck was the third one to tell me that he has asked about you! Now, come, let us go back into the ballroom. We need to be somewhere where he can find you."
"And where do you want me to perch so that I will not be overlooked?"
“Why do you always make things more difficult than they have to be?” Cousin Beatrice replied under her breath. She turned a corner and observed a group of noblemen. Not finding who she sought, she frowned and set off back toward the ballroom. Pausing, she glanced at Eloise in a manner that suggested she approved of her appearance. Her face softened. "You won't be overlooked tonight, I assure you. You look beautiful. I'm so happy you took the time..."
"Don't," Eloise protested. "Please don't harp on me tonight. I have complied with your wishes. I have danced and smiled. Why, I even let your maid set my hair.”
"Heddy’s work is most becoming this night, I might add. Adding the rosebuds was a nice touch with your gown."
Eloise had certainly glanced in the mirror before she left her chamber. Of course, she had taken care with her appearance this day. She wanted no one's pity, no, not at her younger sister’s celebration ball. She wore an extravagant light rose color gown, which accented her dark, almost raven, hair and pale white skin. Though most would comment first upon her eyes; she had heard it many times. Cousin Beatrice said she had never seen such large, telling blue eyes.
Entering into the ballroom, Eloise's eyes swept over the merry crowd. Her brother, His Grace, Edmund, the sixth Duke of Rotheward, had spared no expense this night for their sister's celebration. His London home was exquisitely decorated with exotic plants and flowers. Every room seemed to overflow with the most elegant of guests. The orchestra's minuet accompanied a gay chatter. She caught sight of Susanna. Never had her sister been considered a beauty, not in the classic sense. Tonight, though, Susanna gleamed with her groom, Sir Joseph, Baron of Waverly, on her arm.
“She looks so happy,” Eloise uttered under her breath. Despite herself, she felt tightness in the back of her throat that signaled tears she had sworn not to cry.
“It should have been you,” Cousin Beatrice said, straightening out the back of Eloise’s gown. “You should never have released him. It had been your father’s wish. Why? Why would you have done so? What on earth are you going to do now? If you think for one moment another proposal will come your way…and Sir Joseph had been willing to hold to the agreement.”
“His father was not. The elder Lord Wessex made all perfectly clear to me. How could you even consider that I would want such a marriage? They are ashamed of me.”
“You would have been well cared for. My head aches with thinking of who…”
“Do not concern yourself, Cousin Beatrice. In a few months, I will have my inheritance and will not be a burden upon you anymore. If it is too much to bear until then, I will go and live with Edmund and Julia and become a thorn in Her Grace, the Dowager’s side…”
“You should well call her Momma,” Cousin Beatrice corrected Eloise.
“She was only my father’s wife. She was never Momma to me.” Eloise grinned at the humor of it. “She wished only I stayed across the Channel. She left me there long enough. It was only after…”
“Please, Eloise,” Cousin Beatrice implored. “There you go again. Do I have to remind you again not to talk like that? If you didn’t keep reminding everyone about your birth, one might overlook the slight oversight of your father.”
“You talk as if I’m a bastard, Cousin Beatrice. I do believe Father married my mama much to the chagrin of all.”
“I should wash my hands clean of you with that tongue of yours.”
“But you can’t.”
“No, my child, I can’t.”
“Don’t worry about me, Cousin Beatrice,” Eloise said, albeit a bit more quietly. “But I have no desire to talk of it here.”
“When, Eloise? I have not pressed you. Not when you released Sir Joseph. Not when you refused a season. Is it your desire to become an irritable old maid, destined to travel from one relative home to another? To have no children or husband of your own?”
Genre - Historical Romance
Rating – R
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