Elvira looked down at her hands. Was that true? Did he honestly care about her or was he planning something more sinister? It was confusing and she wished she knew the answers.
Fanny took notice of the locket she was wearing and leaned in for a closer look. “How odd, my great grandmother had a locket like that. Its a real antique too. Said she got it from her great great grandmother. Where did you get it?”
“The Count said it was his most prized possession.” She opened the locket and showed the picture inside of it to Fanny. “It’s his first love. She died, killed, I think he said, and he kept this locket with her picture in it to remember her and their love by. He seems to think I look like her, which is silly, since I wasn’t born of this world. He gave it to me for some reason. I don’t know why he would part with it. It meant so much to him.”
Elvira was beginning to feel tired and her head was still slightly achy. She wanted to sleep. Sally stepped into the room with a tray and saw Elvira’s eyes starting to droop. “Elvira!” she exclaimed. Elvira’s eyes snapped open and she glared.
“The doctor said you had to stay awake for the next few hours to make sure the concussion wasn’t serious.” Sally stated, placing the tray in her lap. There was a bowl of broth and some peppermint tea. “The tea is for your stomach. Make sure you eat and drink everything, young lady or I will send Cook up here.” Sally turned and left the room once more. Elvira watched her go, amused.
“Devil take that woman. She vexes me something awful…but she good to me.” Elvira smiled before she could stop herself. She had been discovering that ever since her visit with The Count, she’d been smiling at the oddest times. It was baffling what 24 hours in his presence had done to her.
She had discovered she actually had a heart.
“I am in so much trouble.” she sighed, the words holding a wealth of meaning.
“Now what did you do? Refuse to eat your soup?” This was now a scrubbed up and respectable looking Bart re entering the room. He could see that Fanny had worked her magic on his sister, and he had to admit, he was relieved. Fanny smiled and rose from where she had been sitting, and sashayed up to Bart, wrapping her arms around him. She looked up at him adoringly and purred. “Daaahling. I missed you so.” she got on her tipe toes and nuzzled his cheek affectionately. All the earlier anger had now subsided. Bart melted almost immediately, and held onto her, keeping his arms around her waist. “I’m so sorry…I really am. Just…everything…Father…the meeting…Sissy…it was too much.”At least he was being honest about it. No sense trying to hide the truth of the fact of how much he was unprepared for the new role that was thrust upon him. “What hurts the most….I never got to say goodbye…” This was fact. Fanny could only console him by saying. “You will do that at the funeral. Though…going to be hard to have a showing with no body.” Fanny had a point. Normally, they let people come and view the corpse, before they are laid to rest. As it stood, there was no corpse.
“There might be a corpse.” Bart finally said with an evil grin. “Whose?” Fanny asked….
Taking a deep breath, Elvira set aside her tray and moved slowly to sit on the edge of the bed, staring at the lovebirds. “Barty…are you still angry with me?” Elvira wondered. She could take Juliette’s anger, it was a fact Elvira loathed the girl…but her brother, he was her best friend and she always felt guilty when he was upset with her and she tried to avoid it at all costs.
She sat there and waited for him to answer.
“Kitten…did you tell them the news?” Course, she hadn’t, since they had all been at each other’s throats. “Oh blimey! Elly…Bart asked me to marry him….and I said yes!she said bouncing and then flashed her engagement ring. Bart was beaming and then chuckled saying. “And I get the key to her chastity belt. Wohooo!” Fanny started to giggle snort and slap him silly, and the two started having a fake slapping war, before starting to kiss like fiends. They really were a pair.
If a month ago anyone had told Elvira she’d be happy about something, she would have torn their throat out and enjoyed every minute of it.
But now, watching her brother and her soon-to-be-sister-in-law reaffirm their love for one another…
She wanted that for herself…
So thinking, she got to her feet, fighting the slight dizziness she felt and went to her writing table. She scratched out a quick note before ringing for Sally.
“Yes, Miss Elvira? And I must say it’s nice to see you up and about.”
“Thank you, Sally. Could you please see that this message gets to Count Marulo, please?” she asked, passing over the sealed envelope before she could change her mind. Sally’s eyes couldn’t have gone any wider if they’d been attached to springs.
“I’ll see to it personally.” Sally bobbed a curtsey and quickly left. Needing some air, she ignored Bart and Fanny and stepped out onto her balcony, taking in the scents of the gardens below.
Would he accept?
Elvira stood watching Sally and the other servants preparing an area in the gardens for the dinner she was hosting with The Count. She was never more nervous in her life.
Sally walked past, patting her arm.
“You need to be calm down before you faint.” Sally warned. Elvira nodded and took several deep breaths.
“I don’t know why I’m so bloody nervous. It’s just dinner.” Elvira stated.
“But it’s dinner with a man that you do not plan on adding to the menu…” Sally told her. “…unless you want to.” she stated under her breath. Elvira heard it anyway and tried to fight the blush that stained her cheeks.
“Sally! It’s not like that at all. He’s…different.”
“Keep telling yourself that, lovey.” Sally snickered.
“One of these days I’m going to forget you’re a friend and not a servant.” Elvira scowled.
“We’ll see.” Sally giggled, turning to go inside.
Elvira began to pace, the swish of her gown sounding loud in her own ears.
The Count strolled through the sumptuous gardens that edged the Roxburg family estate, its small candle lit vases illuminating the way, creating a joyous effect under the canopy of large oaks, and smaller bushes of the darkest green. Hard to believe that this same household would soon be fare welling one of it’s own. Dressed immaculately in a black suit, with matching shirt tie and boots, he cut a debonair figure, his hands held behind him and he had that noble air about him. There was no smugness, nor smile upon his lips, though his eyes told a different story as they searched for Elvria.
He was of course to be rewarded, for his sensitive hearing picked up the sound of the swish of her skirt, and the scent of her delicate perfume was to him, overpowering. Personally, he preferred the scent of a woman’s own musk, as opposed to be treated to the floral oils of a summer’s bouquet.
“I believe you were expecting me, Lady Roxburg.” The Count said, in that deep baritone voice of his. He spied Sally, and then raised a curt eyebrow. “You have not introduced me to your sister. Charmed, Madame.” He said this with a light bow, unaware she was the Lady’s maid.
His voice, deep and richer than sin, caused her to jump in startlement. She whirled around, a hand over her heart. He was looking at Sally, an eyebrow raised.
“You have not introduced me to your sister. Charmed, Madame.”
Sally looked from him to Elvira and couldn’t supress the giggle. “Sister? My Lord, you wound me to the quick.” Sally grinned, executing a curtsey before him. “I am Sally Otterburn, Lady Elvira’s personal maid. And it is a pleasure to meet you.” She grinned. “Enjoy your meal.” And with that, she took her leave before Elvira could ask her to stay as a chaperone.
There was silence between them for a few moments as Elvira wondered what to do first. He simply stared at her as if he were memorizing her every feature. She did make a beautiful figure in the black and red dress.
She seemed to look everywhere but at him, her nerves wound so tight, she could probably fly to the moon.
Calm down! He’s not going to eat you! she berated herself. And would that be a bad thing if he did? her succubus snickered. Her cheeks heated as she began to imagine what he would be like in bed. She needed to shut that train of thought down now before she made a fool of herself again.
“Would you care for a drink?” she finally asked.
“A red wine, M’lady. If you have it.” He wondered if she would actually be so bold as to pour him a drink, as opposed to letting the help do it. Already he had made a gaffe, in his assumption that Sally was a sibling, and for this, he owed her for her favour.
She gulped, hard, sure as hell he could detect her nervousness. She needed to calm down. It was just a dinner after all.
She allowed the contact, inch by inch relaxing under his kind regard.
“A red wine, M’lady. If you have it.” he answered as he released her hand.
“That can be arranged.” she agreed, ringing a small bell that was resting on the table near her hand. Lurch lumbered into view.
“The Merlot Red, if you please.” she requested. He nodded and did as she asked. While they waited, she turned back to The Count. “Won’t you please have a seat?” She asked, pointing to one of the two chairs at the small dining table that had been set up for them.