Chapter 4- Horses

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Eliza took a deep breath.

Countess Cecilia Browning was one of the most beautiful women in existence. She didn't look real in some respects, with her almost marble skin and perfect posture. With her ash blonde hair and dull blue, almost grey, eyes, she looked rather cold. Everything about her bearing was flawless. It was at though she was a statue come to life.

Eliza wanted to at least introduce herself. Cecilia had been reportedly rather angry that Eliza got the first dance and had glared at her whenever they crossed paths. It didn't need to be a war, thought Eliza, she didn't want enemies.

All she needed to do was be polite.

The Countess sat watching some of the other ladies croquet, her servants seated around her in identical clothing so that she could stand out.

"Lady Cecilia."

Cecilia looked up sharply, her face cold and regarding.

"Yes?"

"I wanted to introduce myself, I am Lady Elizabeth Greystone. It's a pleasure to meet you."

Cecilia continued to glare.

"You're really as attractive as they say, my lady, you were beautiful at the ball."

At the mention of the ball, Cecilia's eyes flashed dangerously.

"Hmm, yes, thank you. You just returned from finishing school, yes?"

"Indeed."

"My father always said school was for girls with no immediate prospects."

It took everything in Eliza not to drop her mouth open in shock.

"At least you're back now, not too late for you, though I suppose you have to contend with your sister being a spinster. It must be embarrassing for you, having an elder sister not yet wed. You're not unattractive at the very least."

Eliza was gobsmacked.

"I could never be embarrassed by my sister."

Cecilia smirked slightly, "How quaint. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to watch this."

Eliza could do nothing but curtesy politely, rushing away quickly. She felt so angry. A real lady never showed anger but she could not help going red as a tomato. Cecilia had no right to comment on her sister's marital prospects, no right at all. Eliza had been raised not to insult one's family so boldly. It was rude.

She needed to cool off, she knew it. The stables were not far away.

Horse riding had always been a pleasure for her, one of the acceptable outdoor activities for ladies. Eliza was deeply fond of horses, such noble and intuitive. They always calmed her.

Greeting the stable master, she lifted her skirts slightly to avoid the mud and hay on the floors. As she walked, a handsome horse caught her eye.

He (or she) was huge, jet black with warm eyes. Eliza had never seen such a huge, stocky animal before in her life. It was a magnificent creature that seemed to still itself as she approached.

"Hello there," Eliza held out a hand for it to sniff. She wasn't about to pet a horse that didn't want it.

The horse sniffed at her, before its giant tongue started licking her hand. She laughed as she stroked its mane, its hair tickling her palm.

"Aren't you a sweetheart, hmm?"

"He's a good horse."

Eliza jumped, turning pink as Alex stood beside her, laughing heartily.

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