Chapter 13- A Walk on the Tame Side

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Courting was more than just dances at a ball.

There'd be walks in the gardens, trips to the theatre and dinners. Families would size each other up, furiously checking that the other had the right titles and money, with no scandals on top. Perhaps someone would sneak a kiss, but that was only if an engagement was sure to happen. Once everything was settled, there'd be a ring and a proposal.

For every eligible young man and woman in the kingdom, courtship was the most important thing in the world.

Eliza was going to push those feelings for Alex aside. She'd received a respectable number of suitors, all good men who would be fine husbands. It was time to continue, to be proactive in finding a match. Things were still awkward with Alex, but there was nothing much more that could be done about that.

Henry, Earl Cotillard, was one such man. The son and heir of a Duke, his position in society could only be higher if he were a royal. Eliza had always liked him- he was proper, kind, good-humoured and well-mannered. Any girl would be lucky to have him and they all knew it.

When Henry has asked Eliza to take a walk with him, she accepted. She stood outside the meeting point, wearing a pretty pink winter dress and cloak. There was no reason to be nervous. Henry was nice, they got along just fine.

"Lady Elizabeth!"

"Your Grace," Eliza curtsied to his bow.

"A pleasure as always," Henry kissed Eliza's glove, "You look wonderful."

"You flatter me."

"Shall we?" Henry offered his arm to Eliza, who accepted it.

His arm was buff, Eliza noticed.

"I must admit that I was rather thrilled when you accepted my invitation."

"Oh, really?"

"Yes, well, I've always thought quite highly of you see, I think everyone does really. You're always so nice to everyone, I like that, you're really kind. I admired what you did with Miss. Yellen. It'll be nice getting to know you better."

"I would like the same," Eliza smiled.

"Did your brother tell you that we played tennis together as teenagers?"

"Yes, he also said you beat him handily each time."

Henry chuckled, "Yes, tennis is one of my main interests. I like to be out on the court whenever I can. My father started teaching me when I was little and well, he's one of the best I've ever seen. You should see him play, he's still got it, fastest serves one can imagine. I can't keep up with him. Heck, when he hunts, he always gets them. He's got a keen eye."

"Ah yes, I remember the hunt at the Yellen house a few years ago. He made all the men terribly jealous."

"Father is rather humble about it though, he never brags. He is the most honourable and best man on the planet. Nobody could ever beat him in my opinion. I just hope that I shall make him proud."

"You already do, Your Grace, for you are what every good man should wish to be."

"I'm not sure about that, but thank you," Henry dipped his head, his cheeks turning as pink as Eliza's gown, "How is your family?"

"They are well, thank you for asking. Rose is doing well in lessons, Eddie is in the same boat as me when it comes to being in society and Hannah...Hannah will always be Hannah."

"She's an interesting woman."

"You can say that again," Eliza laughed, "Are you close to your siblings?"

"Yes, definitely. Being the eldest of six can be a challenge, but they are dear to me even when they're driving my crazy. Maria is catching up to mother in terms of how many languages she speaks. I'm just impressed that my parents and the servants could keep up with us all. We were terrors. Well, I was not, it was my dastardly siblings."

"Sure it was," Eliza giggled, "I bet you were perfect."

"Absolutely, as perfect as any child could be. Never a cross word to be had about me. Ask my mother, I was born with a halo."

"Not a little devil tail between your legs?"

"Hmm," Henry made a show of trying to look behind him, "It must have fallen off in the bath. Darn, I shouldn't have admitted that."

All the while, as they walked, Eliza felt a tinge of guilt. Henry was kind, funny and warm. She enjoyed his company, who wouldn't? Still, she just didn't feel right. Henry was great, but he just wasn't Alex. Alex made her heart flutter and sing, made her pulse a little faster. He made her feel things she'd never felt before. Henry, he'd made her very happy, but she wouldn't have what she had with Alex.

She knew deep down that she wasn't supposed to want anything more than companionship with a husband, something that Henry would give her. Alex, Alex would give her that something more.

The prince didn't matter right now. Eliza had to marry and getting all smitten about Alex wasn't going to help. He wasn't an option. His duty was to marry who had been decided for him. Eliza couldn't intervene in social matters like that.

Henry made her happy.

Alex made her happier.

Stop it, Eliza. Henry is the loveliest man. Pay attention to him.

"I assume you'll be attending the sculpture gala?"

Eliza would be, but she also knew Alex would be there. She wasn't sure he'd want to speak to her anyway, she felt bad about being so ambiguous towards him. Still, the world couldn't stop for her. Eliza would keep attending these events.

"Yes. Do you like sculpting?"

Across the gardens, Alex was practicing his archery. Though he perfectly hit the target as always, he still has his mind on Eliza.

That's when he heard a gentle giggle that was oh so Eliza. He looked up to see her walking arm in army with the Earl Cotillard. They looked as though they were both enjoying themselves.

That made Alex lose his concentration for a second long enough for his arrow to go flying past the target. It whizzed over a poor servant's head before landing in a tree.

He missed her. He has to make things right- but how?

Bit if a filler chapter there, sorry.

Next Time: Alex and Eliza seek to make amends.

Thanks again and don't forget to like/comment.

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