As they left the room, Elodie began to question Lord Caisters sanity. People didn speak to strangers like that. Surely Clara would have some advice on how to handle such situation with courtesy. Elodie glanced at the clock, it was about time the visit came to an end but thanks to her lateness and (mildly put) Lord Caisters idiosyncrasies, it would have to be prolonged. Clara would be here any minute for their usual lessons, though Elodie knew she wouldn mind waiting, she wasn about to prolong her torture with Izzys cousin.

The duo re-entered the room after a while. Before now, she hadn noticed just how tall and broad Lord Caister was. He was quite dashing. In fact, he was as handsome as he was discourteous. They were all seated silently regarding each other, until Xavier took the initiative to stir up some kind of
easonable conversation.

”Lady Clermont, allow me to tender my most sincere apologies for my inconsiderate behavior this afternoon, especially to a most considerate host as yourself. ”

Only a simpleton would believe that his apology was anywhere near sincere. Apart from the sarcasm that punctuated his statements, he didn look the least bit remorseful. Well, it takes two to play this game.

”You needn apologize my Lord. I am most appreciative of your caustic sense of humor, it is quite… refreshing ” She returned with her cheekiest grin.

”I must say, I admire your fortitude Lady Clermont ” he said with no admiration whatsoever, ”you are a very lovely young lady. ”

”As is your cousin ” Elodie said trying to engage Izzy in the discussion, though she seemed to have taken interest in the copy of Much ado about nothing that was sitting on the side table.

”Indeed. ” He said grinning at Izzy, Elodie smiled in response.

”I don think she can hear us, ” Elodie said trying not to laugh.

”She can . ” Xavier replied as he picked up a bowl of cherries and started tossing them in Isabellas direction. Elodie tired very hard to conceal her laughter. Izzy was still engrossed in a book she had undoubtedly seen before and was ignorant of his mischief.

”Lady Clermont, are your brothers at home today? ”

She was put off by the way he spoke to her, as if they were friends, nevertheless she replied

”Lord Clermont is out on official business, Matthew doesn live here. ”

”I see, ” Xavier said after a deliberate pause ”your brother and I were friends in school. ”

”That is very unlikely, ” Elodie muttered.

”What? ”

”Nothing my Lord. ”

Xavier tossed a cherry squarely on her forehead, but Izzy still didn move and all she said was,

”Stop that Xavier ” without much conviction.

”Say please, ” he replied.

”Please ” she said without giving it much thought, he stopped immediately.

They heard a knock at the door and without waiting for a reply, Lady Bentley peered into the room.

”Oh Im sorry, ” She exclaimed ”I didn know we had company. ”

”You didn interrupt anything, my Lady ” Izzy said for the first time.

”Clara, you are early today ” Elodie remarked.

”Well you see… ” Clara started to explain but was interrupting buy a small yet profound noise of someone trying to clear his throat. She moved a little to the side to reveal a little boy about three years old, with blonde hair and blue eyes much like her own grinning from ear to ear. ”My son, Louis. ”

The little boy made a disapproving sound as if he expected something more detailed.

”May I introduce my son, Lord Louis Andrea Bentley, the 7th Marquis of Danford ” Clara said louder than before, ”will that suffice? ” she asked with a smile on her face. The boy nodded satisfactorily.

”It is an honour to finally met you, Lord Danford. ” Elodie said to Louis, ”And where may I ask has he been all this time? ”

”He was in Yorkshire, visiting his grandparents. ” Clara then summoned a maid to take her son upstairs while she conversed.

”Im sure youve met Lord Caister, Earl of Darrington and his cousin Lady Isabella Anson. ”

”Indeed I have met Lord Caister, ” Clara replied ”but not Lady Isabella, Im pleased to finally meet you. ”

”As am I, Lady Bentley ” Izzy replied with the same type of admiration Elodie had shown the first time she met Clara.

”Lord Caister, its good to have you back in London. How long will you be staying this time? A month or two I imagine ” Clara inquired.

”Not this time my Lady, ” Xavier replied with a lopsided grin ”I plan on staying a little longer than usual. ”

”Would I be privileged to know why? ” she asked, her eyes bright with curiosity.

”You will get your answer very soon, ” he answered.

”Lord Caister, you just made me all the more curious, ” Clara said with a frown.

”The reason for his visit is nothing out of the ordinary Lady Bentley, that I can assure you ” Izzy said gravely.

”Very well, ” She replied ”I am quite shocked to see you at the Clermont house though. ”

”I invited them, Clara ” Elodie responded

”Did you now? ” Clara inquired giving her a look which meant your brother is going to kill you if he finds out.

”Obviously, ” everyone turned to the door to see that Michael had joined them ”and you didn think it right to tell me that we would be having guests over ” he finished in a deceptively lazy tone. His eyes looked hard, his jaw was clenched so hard she thought his teeth would break. Oh dear God he is upset she prayed silently, he is more than upset, he is enraged. Lord please help me avoid his anger, if you do, I will never sleep during sermons again.

”Lord Clermont, ” Xavier said without enthusiasm ”its been too long. ”

”Indeed, ” Michael said curtly ”how was your trip? I hope its not too late to welcome you back. ”

”Ive hardly been in London for a week, ” Xavier replied with the same tone as Michael.

The room grew colder and deadly silent, a contrast to the warm weather and lovely spring day. The two seemed to be communicating without words.

Izzy got up instantly ”well, ” she said jovially ”we must be on our way. ”

”Please allow me escort you to the door. ” Elodie said as she, Izzy, Xavier and Clara made their way to the door.

As she walked by her brother, he held her upper arm in a tight grip and said in a dreadfully low whisper ”meet me in the library, you have some explaining to do ” then he left all of a sudden.

After they left, Elodie made her way to her brothers library. If only he knew what bad memories he evoked by moving their discussion (or whatever it was) to the library. He should have moved it to the gardens or somewhere more cozy. She entered the library, very dark, intimidating and forbearing much like her fathers office with its heavy Oak furnishings.

”Sit ” Michael said impolitely.

She did as he asked.

”I heard someone broke into our stables, ” she gulped ”and tried to ride one of our horses. Do you happen to know who it was? ”

”I don know what you are talking about. ” Elodie said without breaking a sweat.

”I hope not, ” Michael said with a caustic smile ”because if I see you near those stables again, you will be in real trouble. ”

”I was only trying to feed her. ”

”With a saddle on her… Nevermind that, why on earth was Lord Caister in our house? ”

At that exact moment, her knight in shining armor in the form of Matthew entered the room.

”Hello, ” he said cheerfully ”good news Elodie, I am taking you… ” he stopped to read the room , ”you two look ready to kill each other, whats the matter? ”

”Elodie invited Lord Caister to the manor when neither of us were present. ” Michael said refusing to look at either of them.

”What? ” Matthew replied in shock ”Have you taken leave of your senses? ”

”Matthew, do try to be polite ” Michael said before turning to Elodie ”you must be very foolish to invite him without telling one of us. ”

”Wow, thank you Michael you took the polite words right out of my mouth, ” Matthew said sarcastically.

”Can I explain? ” she entreated.

”No, ” Michael said at the same time Matthew said ”Yes ”.

”I didn know he was Izzys cousin ” She said shortly, another lie help me Lord.

”Even if you did, you still would have invited him ” Matthew replied.

”I did not even invite him, ” Elodie said feeling wronged

”Of course you didn ” Michael said mockingly.

The trio started arguing uncontrollably, no one willing to listen to the others. Clara walked into the room and was quite aghast by the cacophony that had erupted amongst three usually very sensible people.

”Pardon me, ” she started but they carried on not seeming to have heard her ”Excuse me… if I may intrude… ” she gave up and shouted ”Shut up! ” finally the room fell silent.

”Clara, no need to yell we can hear you loud and clear ” Matthew said.

”Yes Clara, ” Michael agreed ”you were shouting loud enough to wake the dead. ”

”Sadly, your ears were dead ” Clara muttered.

”Did you say something? ” Elodie asked this time around.

”Nothing worth repeating, ” she said pasting a bland smile on her face ”I have a letter addressed to you, Michael. A footman was coming to deliver it but was too frightened to enter the room and frankly I don blame him. ”

”Leave it on the table Clara, ” Matthew said calmly ”we are in the middle of a family meeting. ”

”I think your family meeting just got extended, ” Clara countered acerbically ”its from your father. ”

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