The window panes lit up like daylight and seconds later the thunder sounded. The storm was almost overhead. Mila pulled the windows shut as large drops pelted the outside shale and began to streak the glass with streaming rivulets. She lit candles around the big room and faced her guests.
“There. Let it rain. We are safe and sound inside and will not be interrupted.” A crack of light creased the sky its boom simultaneous this time. “I said. We will not be interrupted and besides, it’s supposed to be clear by midnight. We could take a stroll in the gardens and enjoy the full moon.” Elizabeth had been watching the storm from the window, at a safe distance, but close enough to see the blackened sky showed no sign of letting up.
“I would not count on that, by the looks of things outside.”
“Ah, well, we shall see later. Anyway, like I said we are safe and sound inside.” Mila touched her friend’s arm, inviting her to join the warmth of conversation at the fireside. Elizabeth did not move but remained focused on the outside blackness. She traced a raindrop on its course down the window pane. She smoothed her linen skirt and absentmindedly plucked at a loose thread on the hem of her cashmere sweater. Her reflection stared back at her from the night.
“Elizabeth?” “I feel out of place, Mila.”
“Aw, sweetie, no, you have a place here. Everyone adores you.”
“Thank you, for this Mila. I know I can be an old stick in the mud…” her hand smoothed a loose strand of hair and pushed it behind her ear before she continued. “No, I mean I really feel out of place. I should have dressed the part. Or, at least, some part.” She turned to faced Mila and looked over the group of guests milling about the ornately decorated sitting room. “Everyone is so… there.”
“Come with me. I have just the thing to make you feel right at home.”
“Come sit, beside me.” Mila patted the seat beside her.
A hush fell over the room as Elizabeth entered through the French doors. She paused, feeling a little self conscious, although, she should not have worried. Her trim body filled in the satin navy and cream striped skirt and bodice as if it were made for her. The short navy jacket covered her arms and shoulders stopping above the tightly draw waist. Cream colored lace as the end of the sleeves and the collar accentuated her own fair toned skin. She had taken her hair down from the tightly drawn ponytail and clipped it loosely at the back of her neck. She felt a warm blush creep up to her cheeks as she sensed the men’s approving looks.
Edmund moved toward her with his hand extended.
“Come, my dear.” He escorted her to Mila’s side. “You must sit here for now, but soon I want you by my side.” He bowed his head slightly, the knowing smile merely more than a curl at the corner of his lips.
“Are you there, now?” Mila leaned close and added. “Wow. I am so glad Rosalind couldn’t make it. That dress looks absolutely fab on you. It’s like it was made for you.”
Elizabeth smile was unsure, but she appreciated the compliment. She rested her hands in her lap, feeling a little more at ease.