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 The Marques watched their approach with an amused expression, and when they'd drew close enough asked, "May I be the first to wish you happy?" And then added, "If not, I'm afraid I may have to do something drastic."

"You may," said Kateri, and hesitated for a moment.

Lord Waverly said kindly, "I hope you will be very happy."

"Please," asked Kateri, placing her free hand against Lord Waverly's chest, "will you remain friends with me?"

Lord Waverly replied warily, with a glance at Sir Blackwell, "I would be delighted, but are you certain? For simply being married may not be enough to protect you from rumors, as I have had an affair with a married woman before."

Kateri stared at him, shocked by this blunt confession, but replied, "I know you well enough, I'm not worried, and I don't really care what people say."

Lord Waverly added, "And don't you think you ought to ask your future husband's opinion?"

But Sir Blackwell surprised him by saying, "You should remain friends with both of us I think, for I also know you well enough that I should not have so easily taken your statement at face value."

Lord Waverly shook both their hands and promised that he would be delighted to continue their acquaintance. "Shouldn't you go inform your grandmama?" He asked when the couple lingered beside him. Kateri nodded and led Everard away.

Sam had watched some of their interaction, and approached Lord Waverly. "Miss Amberley," he greeted her, "have you come to offer me comfort?"

"The comfort of a friend," she replied warily.

"I seem to suddenly have a great many more friends than I realized," he said thoughtfully.

Sam gave him a wry glance, and replied, "Had you not realised? I would probably start with Bernie, if I were listing your friends."

"Bernie is a treasure above rubies," replied Lord Waverly.

"I meant it," said Sam.

Lord Waverly glanced at her and raised an eyebrow.

"The comfort of a friend," said Sam, "I will stay and talk awhile if you would like my company."

"Thank you Miss Amberley," said Lord Waverly gravely, "but I think I've had all the excitement I can take this evening, and will wander off to my club for the remainder." He flashed her a brilliant smile and stood to bow over her hand, departing swiftly. And perhaps coincidentally, before his old friend Captain Andrew Matheson had reached their side.

Kateri and Everard approached Lady Norwen and informed her of their understanding. She smiled at them, not terribly surprised, and warned Kateri that she was still limited to two dances at most with Sir Blackwell. Kateri was disappointed to have it confirmed, but already aware of this tradition.

Sir Blackwell looked around and said I suppose I ought to ask your uncle's permission next. Kateri gazed up at him and said, "oh no Everard, I mean, I hope uncle Andrew will approve, but it is Richard's permission that we need."

--

Eventually Richard's permission was obtained. And Everard asked Kateri after, in a pained tone, "why didn't you ever tell me that you had twenty thousand pounds?" Kateri, who hadn't regarded this as much after hearing that a single London season for her was expected to cost Richard at least three thousand pounds, did not have to sew all of her dresses herself after all.

Sam and Andrew took their time.

Lord Waverly danced with Lady Blackwell one evening. "You seem unusually happy tonight," he said looking down into her pretty face.

"I am very happy," she replied, twirling in step. When the dance ended she showed him why. "Look," she said, flattening the front of her dress to show the small but distinctive slope to her belly, "I'm beginning to show!"

Amused he asked, "To be so far along already, are you sure you didn't anticipate your wedding?" Kateri flushed scarlet, and he laughed and said, "Dear God, we might have suited better than I'd thought."

Kateri looked at him anxiously and said, "Don't think that, please draw those invisible lines in your head around that thought. For if you let yourself think things like that, it will be more painful for us to be friends."

He raised her hand to his lips and said, "Don't worry, I treasure your friendship. I'm very happy for you my dear."

Kateri smiled up at him and he delivered her safely into the arms of her waiting husband.

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