Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Baron's Lady - Chapter 7, Part 1

Hello, everyone! Sorry it's been a while. Not only have I moved, but I also managed to catch a cold recently. But I'm back, and I should be posting more often. This post is short, but the next one will be longer. AND there will be a major turning point coming next.

Thanks for being patient...


Under the night sky, the courtyard was illuminated by torches…those that stood to ease the darkness, and those that were tossed and retrieved by the fire artist doing tricks. Isabella, standing beside Rene, tried to find interest in the performance, as well as anything else that could prove a distraction. Her eye caught sight of Lady Evelyn’s newly arrived fiancĂ©. If ever there was a distraction for one to have, it was he. Although her interest in him was not overwhelming…for there was another who held her thoughts captive…she could not help taking notice of him. He was, indeed, a fine specimen of a man. Tall, broad-shouldered, sinfully handsome. And what a warrior he was. Clearly, he was a knight of great skill and daring, and he walked with the prowess of a man who knew his own worth and was proud of it. But more important to Isabella was the fact that the marquis's arrival had caused Rene to turn a perpetual shade of envious green.

She knew it was wrong to take some pleasure in his unhappiness. But she could not help it. It was, in a certain way, her just reward for the hurt he had caused her. Her tone was smooth and cool, the corner of her mouth slightly up as she commented on Simon of Laroque.

“He is a handsome one. Is he not?”

Rene snorted, a sound of contempt. “I see no particular attractiveness in him. He seems to me a cold and stone-faced brute.”

“Do I detect a note of jealousy?” she asked.

His reply was another snort. “What have I to be jealous of?”

“It seems you are no longer the favorite topic of conversation. That must be quite bothersome to you.”

With a slight lift of his chin, he attempted a careless reply. “Certainly not.”

Clearly, he was overcome with envy. But just like any man, he was refusing to admit what he felt. She shook her head, sighing, thinking what a foolish creature he was. It seemed to her that with each passing day she spent in his company, his charms were fading more and more. If only he would have shown the fervor he had once had for her, perhaps her feelings would have been stronger. But he was making little attempt at hiding his desire for Lady Evelyn. Such boldness was well enough in the boudoir, but to be so openly bold, and right before the eyes of men who could destroy him…Lord, he was the greatest of fools.

And yet, she knew she was no innocent herself.

Even now, her traitorous mind was urging her to look for the baron. She managed to keep her head from turning. But even without looking, she could sense his presence. He was standing only a few feet away, and it seemed he was looking at her. And the reason for his examination seemed obvious enough to her.

She had promised to support him at the archery tournament that afternoon. But in the end, she had quietly avoided the event. How could she be so unwise as to publicly display, even by the smallest measure, her growing fondness for him? It was enough that she had taken the risk of making Rene her companion, and that blunder was now weighing heavily on her. To take the chance of making another mistake was too dangerous. When and where she could, she had to avoid him.

Even now, they were too close in proximity. And the way he was looking at her, she sensed that he sought an explanation for her absence at the games. But what reason could she give? Certainly not an honest one. He could not be made aware of her feelings, and to avoid such a conflict, she knew she needed to put distance between them. But it required a certain subtlety. She could not bolt suddenly from the gathering without attracting attention, particularly from him. Whispering an excuse to Rene, who gave only a slight nod in reply…and she was certain he had only half-listened…she very quietly and slowly slipped away from the crowd.

Except for a few servants, and the mastiff dogs that were chewing on bones under the tables, the hall was empty and quiet. Feeling calmer now that she had managed to escape the excitement of the crowd…and with it, Owen…she hoped to escape to the chamber she was sharing with several other ladies. They would not be there for some time, of course. It would be a good oppourtunity to think and reflect. Lord knew, she had much on her mind at that moment.

A sudden voice broke the silence. A voice that struck her with dread.

Good heavens, she thought. Should I stay and face him? Or should I flee?

“Lady Isabella?” he called out.

She had but a moment to make her choice, and she intended to flee. But her feet were not swift enough. Before she could dash away, he was there, at the bottom of the steps. With the calming aid of a slow, deep breath, she turned to him, offering a polite smile. But his expression was not so genial. In truth, it seemed quite dark, and if his tone was any indication, he was not at all pleased. It was proved by his absence of an introduction, and his choice to come directly to a blunt point.

“I did not see you at the archery tournament. I was not pleased to find that you had broken your promise to me.”

What a stern and powerful expression there was on his face. There was such intensity behind his eyes. Somehow, that fierceness became him. More than she wanted it to. She was glad to have enough management of her senses to form an answer.

“Forgive me, my lord. The sun was too hot for me.”

In a moment, the fierceness suddenly changed. His expression became softer, more gentle. Looking in his eyes, she wondered if she was going mad at seeing what she felt was real concern.

“That is unfortunate,” he asked, his harsh tone becoming more subdued. “Are you recovered?”

What tenderness there was in his voice. And it did not seem to be the false gentleness that she had heard in Rene’s voice at times. Yet, she reminded herself that she could not be lured into intimacy with him, however small and innocent it might be.

“I am quite well. Thank you for your concern, baron. If you will forgive me, I must go to my chamber.”

His response, given rather quickly, was uttered before she could turn away.

“Will you not rejoin the party?”

The tone of his voice struck her in a strange way. Was he displeased with her leaving? For a moment she considered it, wondering why it would matter to him if she stayed or went. But she shook her head, refusing to let herself be drawn in by the possibility of such sentiment.

“I am quite tired,” she said. “Please make my apologies to your dear mother and father.” Before he could detain her longer, she turned away, moving up the stairs.

“Good night,” she heard him say. And a moment later, she paused when she heard her name given. Not her title. But her given name, never spoken by him before. The surprise of it…the soft sound of it from his lips, made her pause and turn. But he had already turned away, even as a soft reply fell from her own lips.

“Good night, my lord.”


  1. I'm sorry to know about your cold. Maybe this is an adaptation of your body to the changing of climate?

    Get well soon and thank you for this lovely scene and dialogue!

  2. Hi Sarah,
    This is a lovely offering to tide us over until the eagerly awaited next installment.
    I'm glad that you're on the mend now.
    Cheers! Grati ;->