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15 Eventful Drama

    One evening, that proved particularly eventful, Kateri, her uncle Andrew, and Lady Norwen entered a ball being given by Lady Bethford, whom Kateri had first met at the Amberley's. Lady Norwen was soon ensconced on a comfortable seat and deeply engaged in a conversation with another of her elderly card-playing friends.

    Kateri caught sight of Sir Blackwell and the Contessa DiPasquale and waved. The Contessa, despite holding court among a small collection of admirers, caught Kateri's wave and waved back. Sir Blackwell didn't notice, being occupied in a minor argument with the fellow beside him.

    Andrew located the Amberleys and wandered off to greet them, without saying anything to Kateri. Lord Amberley watched with some amusement as Captain Matheson cordially greeted his daughter who blushed at his touch and coaxed him gently, but firmly into offering to dance with her. Andrew turned to Sam's parents and asked, "With your permission?"

    Sam's father said with a wicked grin, "Certainly, you may have my permission to court my daughter," and he greatly enjoyed Andrew's startled expression.

    Andrew replied hesitantly, "Thank you?" And Sam quickly pulled him out onto the dance floor before he could say anything else. Andrew gazed at her consideringly and diffidently enquired, "Should I take this sudden offer of permission to mean that you have spoken to your father in my place?"

    As Sam had spoken to her father many weeks ago now, she was tempted to reply "Not lately." But instead she said honestly, "Yes Andrew, though I didn't ask my father to say such a thing to you, I did ask my parents permission before I set out to gain your interest." Andrew flushed, but didn't reply immediately. Rather wistfully she asked, "Have I succeeded in gaining any of your interest?"

    Andrew gave her such a serious expression that she was afraid to hear his answer. Her heart pounded and she wanted to withdraw the question. Her hands felt sweaty, and she shifted her fingers within his grip. But Captain Andrew Matheson simply and calmly replied, "Yes Sam."

    Kateri unfortunately missed this small drama, apart from noting that her uncle Andrew was dancing for the first time since he'd been injured, that she could recall. She thought it was going quite well, his limp was somewhat disguised by the rhythm of the steps, and if he and Sam were dancing in a somewhat restrained fashion, at least Sam had managed to coax her uncle into dancing at all.

    During a lull in Lady Norwen's conversation, Kateri asked if she might go and greet the Contessa and Sir Blackwell. Lady Norwen comfortably gave her permission, for it was a regular request. Kateri made her way across, and the Contessa's suitors reluctantly made room for her.

    Sir Blackwell was startled by her appearance, and greeted her rather casually. The Contessa greeted her more warmly and asked if she were enjoying the ball.

    "It's quite impressive," Kateri said honestly. "I think it's truly astounding how Lady Bethford managed to decorate her dance hall with nearly as many ruffles as she usually wears herself!"

    An amused chuckle at her back startled her and she turned to find Lord Waverly regarding her with a delighted grin. He squeezed into the company surrounding the Contessa next to Kateri, and was welcomed with a disapproving frown from Sir Blackwell.

    One of the Contessa's beaux offered a speculative figure for the number of yards of fabric swathing the hall, and everyone cheerfully joined in the discussion. Kateri watched quietly until she realized that the Marques Waverly was making a concerted effort to flirt with the Contessa everytime she let her attention fall on Sir Blackwell. Sir Blackwell didn't seem to be taking offense, merely watching with amusement as Lord Waverly successfully distracted her and even occasionally got the Contessa to blush at his phrases.

    Kateri grabbed Lord Waverly's sleeve and asked him quietly if she might have a word with him. Startled, Lord Waverly agreed, for she'd been so quiet he'd half forgotten her presence at his side. Under Sir Blackwell's darkly disapproving glare, Kateri dragged the Marques determinedly away from the group, pulling him through a doorway half obscured by draperies.

    The Contessa teased Sir Blackwell about his interest in Kateri's affairs, and was unsurprised when he replied without thinking, "Of course I'm interested," without diminishing his glare in their direction.

    Kateri turned to Lord Waverly once through the door and asked, "What are you doing?"

    Lord Waverly frowned at Kateri, and said after a moment, "My dear, if you are asking because you are in love with me, and don't like me flirting with other women," Kateri gazed up at him in shock, "then I will willingly throw myself at your feet, beg your pardon, and ask you to marry me." Kateri stood frozen, and he continued, "For while I am not so fond of you that I would offer otherwise, I am truly fond of you, and I've never meant to play with your emotions."

    He looked down into her face and his expression hardened, "However, if you are asking because you are afraid that my flirtations may interfere with Sir Blackwell's chances with the Lady, then I submit to you, that you have the wrong man alone in a room with you." Tears began to roll down Kateri's cheeks and his expression softened again, he reached out and laid his hand on her arm.

    Kateri sobbed and said, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," her tears flooded in a cascade, "You are right, I'm so sorry, and thank you, but I'm so sorry." Her apologies flooded as quickly as her tears.

    He regarded her a little wryly, and said, "I will go, before enough time has passed for more than a whisper of rumor to have started, I think you should stay here until you've finished crying."

    She nodded, her tears flowing unabated, and repeated, "I'm sorry." He patted her arm and left the room.

    Sir Blackwell watched as the Marques returned to the group surrounding the Contessa and asked, "Miss Norwen?"

    Lord Waverly replied after a brief consideration, "I was obliged to inform her that she had mistaken the depth of my interest in her. She will emerge no doubt, once she has finished crying."

    Sir Blackwell cursed and demanded harshly, "How could you?" He strode off toward the doorway that Kateri had led the Marques through.

    The Marques commented lightly to no one in particular, "Well, that was easy." And to the Contessa who had watched Sir Blackwell leave with mixed feelings he said, "I'm sorry my dear, I believe I've just permanently cost you one of your suitors. I don't suppose you'd care to console yourself by conducting an affair with a Marques?" He offered her a grin.

    The Contessa, outraged, replied, "You have mistaken me for a very different sort of woman!" And she flounced off, trailing her admirers, some of whom simply retired from the field for the evening.

    The Marques Waverly took a nearby chair and told himself that he should be grateful none of her beaux had decided to call him out for his suggestion. And observed to himself that he had managed to denude himself of female companionship quite thoroughly tonight.

    Sir Blackwell entered the room and Kateri turned at the noise, tears still pouring down her face. Sir Blackwell stepped toward her and gathered her up in his arms. Kateri sobbed into his chest, "Sir Blackwell, Everard, I think I've just done something awful to Lord Waverly." She cried without restraint.

    He froze, for this was not what he'd expected to hear. Sir Everard Blackwell looked down at the top of Miss Kateri Norwen's head and enquired uncertainly, "Lord Waverley said he told you that you had mistaken his intentions?"

    She nodded, and looked up at him through her tears, "It's true. He said that if I would say I loved him," she sniffled, large tears rolling from the corners of her eyes, "that he would ask me to marry him." She buried her face against his chest again and sobbed, "But I couldn't."

    Everard hugged her against him gently. "You don't love him then?" he asked to be certain.

    She shook her head and said shakily, "I'm sorry." When she looked up at him again she met his quizzical expression, "I'm sorry, and you probably don't want to hear it," she gulped,"but I love you."

    She was surprised when he caressed her cheek and replied matter of factually, "I expect you had better marry me then."

    She flung her arms about his waist and said, "I would love that," anxiously asking, "but would it really be alright for me to marry you?"

    He hugged her and said, "It seems that I cannot let you cry without needing to hold you, and I'm fairly certain that I'm currently compromising your honor. Also, I love you, and I think you should marry me." He said quietly but ruefully, "We'll manage it somehow. You may have to sew your own dresses."

    Kateri looked up at him, her tears abated and said fiercely, "I don't care, I won't mind at all."

    He bent and kissed her, she wrapped her arms around his neck and he lifted her in his arms and kissed her some more.

    After a little while Kateri asked him, "Are you going to ravish me now?"

    Everard glanced around the room and replied with amusement, "Not yet, not somewhere like this where anyone could walk in on us."

    Kateri said a little sadly, "I expect that we should go back then."

    He agreed, and they exited the room hand in hand. Kateri caught sight of Lord Waverly, seated alone at the edge of the dance floor and made a beeline for him.
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