Rose opened her window to the first rain of autumn. She breathed deeply through her nose, enjoying the softness of the air. “Rain makes the world feel new, if only for a moment,” she murmured. Constance accepted the day’s correspondence from the runner and offered it to Rose with exquisite patience. Rose tilted her chin down. “A few hours of damp won’t damage anything, Constance.”
“Of course, milady.”
Rose accepted the post and sat down at her desk to inspect it.
Her governess settled into the chair near the window and resumed her embroidery. The rustling of paper and quiet scratching of Rose’s pen marked time in the morning room. Birds chirped and rain shushed gently on the roof.
When Rose’s pen stayed silent, Constance looked up from her needle. Rose read the unexpected letter and invitation through a second time before placing it in the center of the blotter. She kept hold of her pen and ran her index finger along it while she thought. “Apparently the story of my escape is credible enough for some of society,” she said at last.
Constance clasped her hands in her lap and turned her full attention to Rose. Rose’s lips twitched in a wry smile. “Lord Ashlock has returned to the county and his sister has invited me to their estate for tea this Thursday.”
It was not the rain that chilled the room. Rose knew it was the slight thinning of Constance’s lips. “Precisely,” Rose said. She placed her pen on the desk and rose.
“You do not believe he wishes to break the engagement.” Constance watched Rose as she walked to the window and looked out over the dew bedecked garden.
“His sister would not have invited me to tea if the betrothal was in question.” Rose rested her hands on the windowsill. “A social connection to the Ashlocks would be advantageous.”
“Perhaps,” Constance allowed. Her fingers resumed their embroidery, but she only glanced at the work. “I do not believe it prudent.”
Rose refused to look away from the soft silver of the rain. Lost herself among the climbing wisteria, the tangles of dormant roses, and the greenness of a late spring garden. “I’m accepting the tea invitation,” she said at last. “Do make the arrangements, Constance. I’d like them settled by the time I finish my letter.”
Constance nodded, set her embroidery aside, and took polite leave of her charge. Rose watched her go for a moment, then picked up the embroidery. Minute stitches and not a single one out of place. She set it down with the ghost of a smile and went to pen her reply.