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7 First Dance

    About three weeks after her arrival in London, Kateri got to attend her first dance. "Sir Blackwell!" Kateri called out happily, and swiftly made her way to his side, partway across the room.

    He turned quickly toward her with an exasperated sigh and turned a dark frown upon her. "Why are you so completely determined to ruin your chances before you even start?!" he demanded quietly.

    She came to a halt in front of him, arm still outstretched in greeting, completely taken aback. "What?" she asked, startled and confused.

    "Where is your grandmama, who should be moderating your behavior?" he demanded, looking around.

    "We arrived late, and she said she must speak to our hostess first, and told me to wait and look for uncle Andrew," she said defensively.

    "And you didn't wait because?" he inquired with a sardonic look.

    "I haven't seen uncle Andrew yet, but I saw you!" she answered a little petulantly.

    He sighed again.

    "I don't understand, what is wrong with greeting you?" she asked unhappily.

    He stepped forward and drew her hand over his arm. Still frowning down at her he replied, "It's obvious that you don't understand. But if you rush over to me immediately upon your arrival, it will look to people as though we have some sort of understanding, or as if you are rather fast."

    "Oh," she said, subdued. "I'm sorry."

    "Well, aren't you going to introduce us to your friend?" asked a cheerful voice from behind Sir Blackwell.

    He drew her around, to greet the three men he'd been in conversation with. "Miss Kateri Norwen, youngest daughter of the late viscount Norwen," he introduced her. "This cheeky fellow is Mr. Simon Revell," he said, indicating the youthful brown haired man on the right, who grinned and nodded back to her. "My good friend, the Honorable Bernard Winton," he said indicating the sturdy, but slightly nervous looking man about his own age, in the center.

    "Bernie," insisted Bernie. "I prefer to be called Bernie."

    She glanced up at Sir Blackwell uncertainly. "Is it alright for me to call him so?" For as a rule, young ladies didn't call gentleman they'd just met by a such a familiar name. She'd allowed young Robbie the exception partly because his mother and sister had encouraged it.

    Sir Everard Blackwell considered it, then replied, "I think so. Certainly it won't cause any comment, for truly everyone does call him Bernie."

    "Alright," she said, "pleased to make your acquaintance Bernie." And gave a little curtsey.

    Bernie nodded happily.

    She looked inquiringly at the last man, who grinned back at her. He was of average height, very pretty, with his dark hair laced with a few threads of silver white. The man arched a delicate eyebrow at Sir Blackwell, who frowned back at him. "And Lord Waverly," he added shortly.

    Lord Waverly took her other hand briefly and bowed over it slightly. "I'm a Marques," he added to his own introduction. "Such a reluctant introduction," he chided Sir Blackwell.

    Bernie spoke up, "I'd be reluctant to introduce my sister to you too."

    Lord Waverly's lip twitched. "You don't have a sister Bernie, nor do I believe that Miss Norwen shares such a close relationship with Sir Blackwell."

    Bernie snapped back, "Well, if I did, wouldn't introduce you to her. Not with the reputation you've been building."

    Kateri stared at the Marques, wide eyed.

    The Marques frowned at his friend. "Perhaps. But if I were serious, I'd make an exemplary suitor," he said in protest.

    "However, being associated with you would make people suspect her as the target of your latest affair," said Sir Blackwell disapprovingly.

    Kateri gasped, and huddled closer to Sir Blackwell's side.

    Lord Waverly protested, "I've never had an affair with such a young lady."

    "People are bound to think there's a first time," said Bernie.

    The marques pursed his lips, and then offered, "If I agree to treat her with the utmost propriety, unless I decide to court her seriously, will that satisfy the pair of you?"

    Shocked, Kateri asked before either man could respond, "Does that mean if you decided to court me, you'd treat me improperly?"

    Lord Waverly favored her with a roguish grin, and replied with a twinkle, "My dear, if I were to fall for you, I'm certain I would find it exceedingly difficult to behave with full propriety. Why I might, for example, rush to your side immediately upon my arrival at any event I found you attending."

    Kateri felt her cheeks heating, and glanced up at Sir Blackwell contritely. "I'm so sorry," she said again.

    Sir Blackwell tried not to laugh.

    Bernie told the Marques, "I suppose it will serve, your word on it?"

    "You have my word," replied Lord Waverly.

    Mr. Revell pushed forward and asked Kateri if she had room for a dance on her card. She regarded him doubtfully, "I don't have a card, I hope it wasn't something I was supposed to bring with me?"

    Sir Blackwell reassured her, "No doubt that is why your grandmama sought out our hostess, it is something you receive at the door, generally."

    Kateri looked up at him anxiously. "As we arrived late, I hope I will still be allowed to dance."

    Lord Waverly said with amusement, "I have always felt it unfair that the ladies carry cards with each dance and partner noted, but the gentleman are expected to remember whom they've promised to dance with and when."

    "If it's allowable then, perhaps if I just remember it Mr. Revell?" Kateri said shyly.

    Mr. Revell proposed that he have the fifth dance of the evening, but Sir Blackwell interrupted and reminded Simon that the fifth was the supper dance, and no doubt Kateri's uncle would take that one. Kateri was doubtful that her uncle would dance, but reluctant to correct Sir Blackwell. So Mr. Revell changed his choice to the third dance and elbowed Bernie, who glared at him, but offered that if she would like, he wouldn't be too troubled to take the fourth.

    Kateri accepted this slightly reluctant offer with a curtsey.

    "Perhaps I might take the fifth dance after supper," suggested the Marques with a grin. Kateri accepted this also, after a glance up at Sir Blackwell, who frowned but made no objection.

    "Why were you late," inquired Sir Blackwell, "and why did your uncle not travel with you?"

    "He was going to," said Kateri, "and that's why we came late. He came to Grandmama's to travel with us, but there was a mistake and they sent us the gig instead of a chaise. And after some time spent consulting with the driver, he sent us ahead in the gig, saying he would grab a cab and meet us here." She stopped speaking and waved to someone. "Oh, there is Sam!" she exclaimed happily.

    Sir Blackwell frowned down at her and asked disapprovingly, "Sam?"

    "Miss Samantha Amberley," replied Kateri cheerfully. Sir Blackwell relaxed slightly and Kateri continued, "The girl in cream and white there, she's standing with her mamma and her brother Robbie."

    "Then that seems an excellent place for me to deliver you to," said Sir Blackwell suddenly.

    Kateri gazed up at him in confusion, but he drew her away from his friends and across the room toward Sam without explaining.

    When they were close, Sir Blackwell bowed to Sam's mother and asked, "May I leave Miss Norwen here with her friend until her grandmama comes to retrieve her Lady Amberley?"

    Lady Amberley curiously allowed that it would be fine. She was somewhat acquainted with Sir Blackwell through his sister's parties.

    Then Sir Blackwell bowed to Miss Amberley and asked if she had a dance free after supper, Sam replied shyly that she did, and Sir Blackwell wrote his name in for the second dance, frowning a little at the mostly empty card, but making no comment. He then took his leave of them and returned to his friends.

    Kateri gazed after him a little forlornly, for he hadn't offered to dance with her. "How are you acquainted with Sir Blackwell?" asked Lady Amberley of Kateri.

    "I accompanied grandmama to a card party and it was held at his house," explained Kateri. As Lady Amberley was already aware of that circumstance it hadn't been quite the answer she was looking for, but she simply nodded.
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