Things are starting to heat up in Bourton-on-the-Water! Come find out what Kate and Lord Weston are up to.
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Saturday morning arrived with an abundance of English sunshine pouring through Kate’s bedroom windows. Outside, there was a bevvy of irrepressible activity in the garden as bees busily hummed from one bloom to another and butterflies danced gallantly. There wasn’t a rain cloud in the sky, perfect for an afternoon garden party.
Kate stretched languidly and smiled, thinking once again just how happy and content she was. Last night, she had placed a Skype call to her daughter and that had also allowed her to visit with her sweet little grandson, Tyson. Kate was always elated to see his precious smiling face. He was so much like Jillian, and luckily possessed her same sunny disposition. Kate and Jillian had enjoyed a nice mother-daughter conversation and had caught up on each other’s lives. The hardest part about being so far away from Charleston was not being able to see her children as often as she wanted. The time difference made Skyping more difficult and then there was the problem of the unreliable internet connection. The English countryside had a reputation for having slower internet service. It didn’t seem to bother anyone, you just adapted to it. Kate was thrilled to learn that Jillian’s husband was up for a job promotion. It made her extremely satisfied to know they were doing so well in life and she knew that her late husband, David, would have been so proud of his daughter. After their call, Kate enjoyed a long hot bath and used the Honey and Sea Salt Scrub she had purchased at the market. She could not believe how soft it made her skin feel afterwards and made a mental note to tell Andrew how much she loved the product. Perhaps she would package some of his merchandise together and send them home to her daughter and friends.
Kate carried her morning coffee out to her back garden and walked around the beds of flowers and herbs. She had already added several more varieties in the Mint Garden and was thrilled to see the recent plantings were thriving in their new home. Reaching down to rub several lavender blooms, she was immediately rewarded with a pleasing scent of the sweet purple buds wafting through the air. There were a few plants that Kate was not familiar with and she wanted to ask Imogen or Emma if they recognized them. The sounds of cars traveling across the cobblestone street in front of her home could be heard from her backyard. In the few weeks she had lived here, she could already hear a difference in the amount of traffic passing by her cottage. The little village would no longer be as quiet when the cooler temps gave way to beautiful sun-filled days. In many ways, Kate was still a tourist herself but she already felt an attachment to Bourton-on-the-Water. She would miss the calm of this sleepy little town, but how could she blame anyone for wanting to visit here? There was just something about the petite flowing river that ran through the middle of the village, filled with bathing ducks and geese, and the iconic stone bridges that crossed over. Kate realized that she felt this unexpected attachment because in some ways, Bourton-on-the-Water was starting to feel like home in just the short time she had lived here. She waved at her next door neighbor, whom she had introduced herself to shortly after moving in. They were a nice couple who had moved here from London after years of living in the city. An elderly gentleman, dressed in a stylish tweed suit walked by and tilted his hat to Kate in greeting. “Good morning, sir. What a beautiful morning,” she called out.
“Indeed, madame, indeed. Good day to you,” he returned. Kate finished the last of her coffee, and made her way back inside. She glanced at the small clock in the kitchen. There was plenty of time to get some work in before she started getting ready for the party. She was both excited and anxious at the thought of going, but didn’t know why. There was a strange feeling in her stomach that made her feel a bit fretful. Kate silently admonished herself for acting like a silly schoolgirl. It was just a simple garden party afterall. Hosted by a Lord.
Lady Caroline Easterly sipped her breakfast tea while sitting at her bedroom vanity. Her hairdresser and makeup artist would be arriving soon. She needed to take special care with her appearance today as there would be a lot of attention focused on her and Andrew. She pulled at the corners of her eyes, aware of the crows feet starting to show more and more. She needed to look into getting more botox as soon as she could. At thirty-nine, it was getting harder and harder to keep the effects of age from starting to show. Caroline spent a small fortune each year on her looks, and although she had yet to go under the knife, that option may be something she had to endure in the near future.
She picked up a silver cigarette case and lit one of the long thin smokes she withdrew. Nasty habit and she knew it. But they calmed her nerves and today of all days, she felt frazzled and edgy. Lord Weston had been irritatingly preoccupied these past few months and she was beginning to feel ignored. Being spurned by a man was not an emotion she dealt with kindly. Caroline looked at the unopened container of body scrub Lord Weston had given her and grimaced. Andrew was determined to make Rosethorne Estate some honey conglomerate known all over the world. To Caroline, it all seemed so mundane and unnecessary. Certainly, his inheritance would allow him to live a very comfortable life without having to work. She shrugged. It all sounded so common. He was an Earl for goodness sake. Why couldn’t he be like most other aristocrats she knew and live a lifestyle of polo-playing days and champagne-filled soirees at night? Most of all, Andrew was a single Earl. If she had anything to do with it, that problem would soon be rectified. Lady Caroline Weston, Countess of Gloucestershire. It had a definite ring to it that sounded exceptional to her ears. After that dreaded Baron Eli Crawford had dumped her for that young tart he met in London, she quickly set her stakes on Lord Weston after the news of his wife’s abominable affair and divorce. She had been in arduous pursuit ever since his insipid ex-wife had left him for a mere businessman. Her new lover was rich, but to give up a title as an Earl’s wife was beyond ludicrous to Caroline. In English society a title was everything. Just take a look at Lady Foxmore who had inherited a worthless and bankrupt estate and lived in a simple brownstone in London. Her name and title still allowed her entry into the best restaurants and she was invited to all of the aristocratic galas. If Lord Weston was truly determined to make his business an international venture then he not only needed a wife, he needed a beautiful one. She pulled at the corners of her eyes once again, stretching them tautly until there were no visible wrinkles. She moaned aloud and picked up a small bell on her vanity and gave it a sharp ring.
“Yes, Lady Caroline,” a young maid announced at the doorway.
“Agnes, remind me to get in touch with Doctor Barrows on Monday. I need to see him immediately.”
“Dr. Barrows? Are you ill, ma’am?” the maid asked concerned. “Do I need to call someone now?”
“Just do what I say, girl, and mind your own business. I don’t pay you to care, just to do what I tell you to do,” Caroline barked. “Now go, and make sure my outfit is laid out in my dressing room. I want my bath run promptly at eleven.”
The young maid nodded her head and backed out of the room. Her new job as lady’s maid to Lady Caroline Esterly had been secured only a few weeks earlier after the prior lady’s maid had suddenly been fired. The last thing she needed was to meet the same fate. Agnes Collins needed this job to help support her sick mother. She quickly went back to Caroline’s dressing room to make sure she had not overlooked any details of her outfit.
Kate slipped on her new white gloves, and clasped the tiny pearl button closed at the wrists. She had attended several society events in Charleston, so the attire was nothing new. In actuality, the ways of the South were similarly mirrored to those of English society; old money, exclusivity, rank. Even the fashion shared many of the same attributes. Kate adjusted her hat and used one of Imogen’s borrowed hat pins to hold it in place. After several attempts earlier this morning with various hairstyles, she had decided on a simple loose ponytail with flowing curls. Checking her purse to make sure she had the essentials she may need, Kate threw in an extra pink lip gloss and her cell phone and headed downstairs. About the same time, she heard the door knocker signaling the arrival of Lord Weston’s driver. Kate would much rather have driven herself. That way she would have her own means of transportation if she decided to leave early. Nevertheless, Andrew had insisted he send his driver and she hated to seem ungrateful for the kind offer. She opened the door to a smartly dressed middle-aged gentleman.
“Mrs. Parker, I presume?”
“Yes, I’m Kate Parker. You must be Jeffrey,” she smiled.
“Ma’am, I am here to take you to the Lord’s Garden Party. If you are ready, we can be on the way?”
Kate locked the door behind her and headed to the car parked at her front gate. Jeffrey opened the door to the back seat and Kate slid inside. Soon they were traveling out of Bourton-on-the-Water on their way to Rosethorne. Kate tried to will away the butterflies floating in her stomach as they made their way to the Party.
Rosethorne. Kate had seen the movie Pride and Prejudice at least a dozen times. Her favorite scene, which was most likely the favorite scene for every romantic Jane Austen fan, was when Elizabeth Bennett came riding down the road in her Aunt and Uncle’s carriage, and caught her first view of Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s home. For some reason, Kate felt as if she were playing out that very role in real life. As Jeffrey steered his car down the long drive leading to the estate, Kate felt her breath catch in her throat. Rosethorne was an indeed an English Estate, as she had well known, but somehow in her mind’s eye she had imagined a beautiful country house with a rambling garden. Presumably, on a larger scale than her own cottage in Bourton, but quaint and distinctly English all the same. How wrong she was. Was that a giggle that escaped her? Kate glanced up and saw Jeffrey staring at her in the rearview mirror.
“First time seeing Rosethorne, ma’am?”
“Um…yes. I guess I had something different in mind. It’s quite spectacular isn’t it?”
“Yes, ma’am. Quite. It’s okay. You’re having the same reaction most people have when seeing Rosethorne for the first time.”
Kate could only stare out the window, speechless. It was possibly one of the prettiest English Estate homes she had ever seen.
Rosethorne had been completely remodeled in the mid-1800’s and given a new facade of local gray quarry stone. A medieval moat had been filled in and in it’s place, a terraced stone garden wrapped around the house. A Victorian Conservatory had also been added, which was Lord Weston’s favorite place to have breakfast.
Large white tents dotted the surface of the perfectly manicured green lawn. Immense palms and pots of flowers were scattered around adding a full display of color. A large fountain, the centerpiece of the expansive front yard, featured floating gardenia blossoms bobbing amongst the koi who happily swam around, oblivious to their elaborate surroundings. Jeffrey stopped the car in front of the home, and the door was immediately opened by a young man wearing a full tuxedo. Kate thanked the driver, and he smiled kindly at her. “Enjoy yourself, ma’am. I will be waiting to return you home after the event.”
Kate adjusted her hat, wanting to make sure the shock at seeing this glorious estate had not thrown her askew. Her heels sunk into the gravel drive, and she had second thoughts about choosing the fashionable pumps. Too late now, she supposed. With a deep breath, she headed to where a large group of guests had already started gathering. She could not help but admire the fashionable women, with varying styles of hats that would make the society ladies of the Kentucky Derby look like amateurs. A five-piece musical ensemble was playing under a small tent, and the lilting sounds of the violin along with the gentle tumble of the water careening over the edge of the fountain created an almost magical serenade. Several waiters were strolling around, holding silver trays of fluted champagne glasses. Kate helped herself to one as a tray was held up to her. She had the feeling her nerves would require several glasses to quiet down.
“Kate, you look simply beautiful.” Imogen. Sweet Imogen. Kate turned and saw her friend. She had never seen her dressed in such a manner, in a crisp black dress and white starched apron.
“Oh, dear friend you are a sight for sore eyes. I am so happy to see a friendly face,” hugging her friend.
“Oh heavens, are you okay? You look all a twitter? What’s got your nerve?”
“I don’t know. I guess I feel out of my element a bit. Oh Imogen, this house! I had no clue.”
Imogen smiled knowingly. “I wanted to give you a warning, but I didn’t want to ruin it for you. I remember the first time I saw Rosethorne many years ago when I first married my Jasper. He worked here full time when we married. It was one of the prettiest estates I had ever seen, but you know I’m partial, I am.”
Kate stared around in wonder. “I may have to agree with you. Not that I have seen every estate in England, but this one certainly stands out. Have you seen Andrew, oh, I mean Lord Weston?”
“I saw him earlier before guests started arriving. He was with Lady Caroline but I’m sure he will be around shortly. I know he was thrilled you would be here today. I think he likes you, mum,” Imogen jested her friend.
“Stop teasing me, Imogen. You know we are just friends.”
“Well, you scurry along and have a lovely time. I have to get back and help Emma with the scones. They are particularly tasty this year. Kate, you look stunning, my dear.”
Kate leaned over and kissed her friend softly on the cheek. “Thank you for everything, Imogen. I will see you soon.”
The crowd was growing by the minute with more and more guests pouring onto the grounds. Kate wasn’t sure if she had ever attended an event where she knew absolutely no one. Of course she knew Andrew, but he would be busy greeting guests and playing host.
“Hello, aren’t you Katherine Parker, Andrew’s American friend?”
“Oh, hello, Sir William. How are you? It’s a pleasure to see you again.” Kate remembered meeting Sir William Wainhouse the night she and Lord Weston had enjoyed dinner together at the Rose and Crown.
“Andrew didn’t tell me you would be here. Fancy that. If I had known, I would have accompanied you here myself,” he flirted.
“That is sweet of you. Are you here alone then?” she asked.
“Well, I can be,” he winked. “I can ditch my date in a second if you give me the word.”
Kate looked at him, shocked. William laughed. “I’m jesting. I’m here with my mother. She’s head of the orphanage fundraising committee. I gave up a polo match today to escort her. I’d love for you to meet her.”
“That would be nice, Sir William. I have a donation to make to the fund.”
“Well, I am sure she will be more than happy to accept. Oh, I forgot to ask. Just how did you and Andrew meet? I got the feeling you’ve known each other for years but he’s never mentioned you. Has he been keeping you hidden so no other man could steal you away.”
Kate was quickly learning that Andrew’s friend was an indisputable flirt. Lucky for her, she had run across her fair share of more adept Lotharios and could easily handle herself. “Sir William, maybe after a few more of these,” indicating the champagne she held, “I will be tempted to tell you our story. Although I promise it’s not very electrifying. But, I am a fiction writer so I can bolster the truth a bit if you need me to.”
He laughed, “Mrs. Parker. I can’t wait until we meet again,” he bowed formally. “Now you watch out for yourself. There are some single men floating around here who are actively searching for a wife. This may be a fundraiser to many, but we all know it’s also a who’s who among the rich and single,” he winked, smiling.
Kate laughed, too. “Thanks for the warning.” Goodness, she was beginning to feel like she was back in Charleston. Were all society events the same? Be seen and be noticed and try to catch a rich husband or wife? She made her way over to one of the many food tables. Tall, elaborate floral arrangements anchored each end of the table. Silver platters were filled with small finger sandwiches of every flavor and mouth watering fresh fruit was ornately arranged in tiered stands. Kate knew she needed to eat something before she had more champagne. Bubbly always went straight to her head and the last thing she needed was to make a complete fool of herself because she had over imbibed. She grabbed a plate and selected two small sandwiches, one watercress and smoked salmon and the other ham on rye. It would have to hold her for now.
“Katharine, I found you.” Kate recognized his voice immediately and turned.
“Andrew, Lord Weston.” She wasn’t quite sure how she should refer to him in the company of his friends and his peers. Calling him Lord Weston seemed more appropriate for the time being. He leaned over and kissed her softly on the cheek.
“I’m so glad you came. I wasn’t sure you would, to be honest,” he admitted.
“Of course I was coming. Either that or I would have had Imogen coming to the cottage to drag me here. You look quite dapper, if I say so myself.”
“And you look beautiful. I am quite sure your oversized GAP sweatshirt would have also been charming, but somehow I think I prefer you in this dress. Stroll with me, I want you to meet some of my friends.”
“Oh, are you sure? I’m fine just taking it all in. I know you’re busy being host. Oh, Andrew, your house! I don’t know quite what to say.”
He stopped and looked up at the huge building he called home. “It’s a bit overwhelming, isn’t it? Don’t worry. I have lived here most of my life, with the exception of university, and it still has the same affect on me every time I come down that drive.”
“I can’t imagine growing up here. The stories you must have to tell.”
“Maybe one day I’ll show you the secret passageway that leads from one end of the house to the other. It’s rumored that Henry and Anne had a secret tryst in the passageway and was almost caught by Catherine when they were visiting here.”
“Henry? As in the Eighth? As in Anne Boleyn? They were here?” she asked in disbelief, looking at the house with new appreciation.
“He was. There is a lock on one of the second floor bedroom doors that was installed purposely for his visit as extra security. I used to try to pick it open with a hairpin when I was a little boy.”
“I can see you doing that,” she laughed. “This is quite a remarkable fundraiser event and quite a fete to pull off each year. There is no doubt a lot of work behind the scenes.”
“I have a lot of help, and besides it’s a great cause. My mother started hosting this event in the 70’s and it was one of the things she asked me to continue after her passing. It is a lot of work but well worth it. Shall I introduce you to some of my friends?”
Kate and Lord Weston gingerly strolled through the crowds with his hand lightly at her elbow. She was delighted to meet more of his friends and, as Sir William had joked, a few were quite eager to know more about Lord Weston’s new single female freind. With one exception.
“Lady Caroline. I would like for you to meet a friend of mine, Katharine Parker. Katharine, Caroline Easterly.”
Katharine held her hand out to Caroline, and in return received a cold stare. “I was wondering who was selfishly depriving us of your attentions, Andrew,” she joked. “An American? What exactly brings you to Lord Weston’s garden party, Mrs. Parker?”
“I invited her, Caroline. Just as I invited you and every guest here.” Andrew immediately caught the rudeness in Caroline’s voice. He had witnessed it before whenever he had shown the slightest attention to another woman. He would not abide it.
Kate looked at the tension between him and Caroline. Imogen’s warning about this woman came flooding back to her. “I am so happy to meet you, Caroline. I have heard all about you and you’re just as lovely as I was told.” Maybe a complimentary review of her would help break some of the rigidity of the moment.
Caroline smiled, albeit a bit perfidiously and fake. “Thank you, Mrs. Parker,” she responded, sliding closer to Andrew’s side. “I’m sure Andrew has told you how we have been such dear friends since childhood. In fact, did he tell you he was my first childhood crush, and kissed me right behind this house when we were just six years old.”
“Oh how sweet, no he didn’t. How wonderful you are still friends after all these years.”
“Yes, well, we English stick together, don’t we darling? Andrew, could I please implore you to grab me another glass of champagne. This one has lost all of its bubble, and you know how much I loathe flat champagne. Please, darling?”
“Okay, I’ll be right back.” He walked away and looked directly at Caroline. “Be nice.”
“Oh, don’t be silly. Me and Mrs. Parker are going to get to know each other better. Aren’t we, Mrs. Parker?”
“That would be lovely, I’m sure.”
Lord Weston looked at Katharine and smiled. “Don’t go too far away, okay?” Kate smiled in agreement.
He had barely taken a dozen steps away when Carolina wrapped her arm through Kate’s and started guiding her away towards the garden. “Let’s walk shall we?”
“Um, sure. If you want.”
“Let’s get something perfectly straight, shall we Mrs. Parker? I don’t believe in beating around the bush; being straight forward is more my style. So I’ll just come right out and say it. You’re no match for me.”
Kate stopped in her tracks. She could only stare at this woman, whom she had literally met mere minutes before. She thought she had detected a bit of bluntness in her voice previously, but now she knew she had not been hearing things.
“Excuse me,” Kate said, withdrawing her arm from Caroline’s. “I have no clue what you are talking about.”
“Oh really? Is that how we’re going to play this?”
“Caroline, I will be happy to use your title if and when I see actions befitting a true lady. I refuse to play any of your games concerning Lord Weston.”
“Well, how about we skip this most pleasant small talk and cut right to the chase, shall we?” Caroline stopped and looked behind her to make sure no one was around to hear their conversation. “Back away from Lord Weston. He’s not available. Not to you or any vixen who thinks she can swoop in and take what isn’t hers.”
Kate was appalled. Here she was, standing in the middle of this beautiful garden, having some absurd conversation with a woman who was obviously possessive of a man that Kate barely knew. She was reminded of the tenth grade when Jessica Howard verbally attacked her for trying to steal her Quarterback boyfriend when in fact, she had been tutoring him so he could pass French. Problem was, she wasn’t in high school any longer, although it felt very similar.
“Caroline, I refuse to stand here on this beautiful day, at such a significant event having this ridiculous and inappropriate conversation with you. I don’t know you. I have only known Lord Weston a very short time and we are nothing more than friends. I’m sorry you see me as an adversary to your romantic undertakings but I can assure you that your suspicions are far from the truth.”
“I don’t believe you. I heard he has taken a special interest in you.”
“You heard? Who would have told you that? Caroline I can assure you -“
“I don’t need your assurances. I am telling you here and now, you will not succeed. Andrew has had lots of other dalliances these past few years since his stupid wife left him, and he always comes back to me. He will never marry outside of his own class. My family has an aristocratic history. What is your family history? You’re a nobody. Do you think he would ever marry someone like you?”
“Good day, Caroline. If you will excuse me, I am going to go back up and enjoy the party. May I offer you some advice?”
Caroline stood and glared at Kate. “Sure, you can offer. Doubtful I will accept it.”
“If you truly care for Andrew, and I mean truly, and you care for the man more than you do the title, which I have my doubts, you will stop with the jealousy routine. If he cares for you as you say he does-“
“You doubt me? How dare you! Andrew loves me. We will be married soon I’m sure.”
“Then stop accosting any woman you see as an enemy. Trust me, Andrew sees through the act.”
“Andrew? You’re calling him Andrew? Most of his acquaintances call him Lord Weston.”
“Like I said….” Kate saw Andrew approaching, a look of concern on his face.
“Ladies, you disappeared on me. Caroline are you being nice to my friend?” He stopped and looked at each woman, trying to deduce the situation.
“Caroline has been an absolute dear, Lord Weston. She has been sharing with me several of her favorite shops in the area I simply must visit, haven’t you Caroline?”
“Yes, shops. Oh darling, did you see that Sir Basil is here? You remember him don’t you? He’s the Secretary to the Prime Minister. He was here last year when we entertained the Assistant Prime Minister. You simply must come and speak to him. I am sure Mrs. Parker will understand, won’t you? You know, duty calls.”
“Will you be okay, Katherine? I won’t be long. I want to give you something when I get back. I’ll come and find you.”
Caroline slid her arm through Lord Weston’s and steered him back towards the party, but not before she glanced back at Kate, giving her a look that clearly conveyed her feelings. Kate was the enemy. There was no doubt about that. Caroline had shown an alarming side of her personality. There was no way to avoid seeing it. Imogen had been correct, this one was indeed a snake. Kate downed the last of her now warm glass of champagne, her third. She had experienced quite enough of her first English Garden Party and she just wanted to get back to her cottage where she felt more comfortable. This was a glorious country estate, but it suddenly occurred to Kate she felt more at ease at the Rose and Crown pub. She made her way to find Imogen, thinking Jasper could give her a ride home. She did not want to ask Jeffrey as he would alert Lord Weston she was leaving early.
Imogen was standing at the back of one of the tents, refilling a silver platter with rosemary and pumpkin biscuits. She looked up and saw Kate approaching and Kate’s face must have bellied her feelings. Imogen’s cheerful smile upon seeing her friend suddenly turned into one of concern.
“Kate, what’s the matter, child? You look white as a ghost. Come here and sit a bit. Is it the weather? It is a touch warm out there.”
“I’m fine, really. I think I want to go home, though. Would you tell Lord Weston I said thank you and that I started getting a headache. Maybe it was from the champagne I drank too fast.”
“Let me get you some tea and I’m sure you will feel better after a little sit. I think he would be very disappointed if you left so soon.”
“No, no, really, I’ve got a horrible headache coming on. Do you think Jasper could give me a lift home? I really hate to ask him.” Kate was regretting not driving herself this afternoon.
“I’m sure he would be happy to, but I can get Jeffrey to take you. He is right behind the tent I just saw him.”
“No, no. I’d rather not bother him. Could you just ask Jasper, please?”
“Kate, are you ok? Did Lord Weston say anything to upset you? Something is the matter that you’re not telling me.”
“Imogen, I am fine, really. I just don’t think I should have come today.”
“Oh dear, someone has upset you. Who was it? Does Lord Weston know? I will find him-“
“Imogen, please. Can I just slip out and go home?”
Imogen could see her friend was stressed. She didn’t know who had upset her so, and what had been said, but she would find out. “Let me go find my Jasper, dear. He will have you home in no time.”
Once home, Kate immediately lit a fire and made some tea. Her hat and gloves still lay across the chintz chair where she had thrown them when she came in. Jasper had insisted on coming in and sitting with her, but she assured him she was fine and was going to go upstairs and go to bed with an icepack on her head. The headache was no lie. The three glasses of champagne and the run-in with Caroline on an empty stomach had really done a number on her. Her nerves had already been a tangled mess prior to arriving. The day had certainly not turned out like she had expected. Not at all. She just wanted to put it all behind her. The sun had just disappeared below the horizon and Kate realized her cottage was nearly dark. She started turning on a few lamps and decided to heat some soup for dinner. She had planned to work on her book tonight, but decided instead to watch some mindless TV.
Caroline had no doubt upset Kate and she was angry with herself for allowing another spiteful woman to get to her. She should not have left the event early, but she just didn’t want another run in with that horrendous woman. She would have to beg for Andrew’s forgiveness. The door knocker sounded, catching her off guard. She turned off the TV, fully expecting it to be Imogen checking up on her. She opened her front door.
“There was leftover champagne, and I never got to have a glass with you.” Lord Weston stood holding up a bottle of champagne and two flutes.
“Andrew, what are you doing here? Is your party over?”
“There’s a few lingering guests too inebriated to go home, but otherwise, yes, it’s over. Are you feeling better?”
“Yes, much. I’m so sorry I had to leave early. I should have eaten something before I quickly downed three glasses of champagne,” she tried to explain.
“Can I come in or are we going to drink this here in front of everyone who drives by?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Please come in. I owe you an apology for not saying good-bye, but you were busy and I hated to bother you.”
“You hated to bother me or you wanted to avoid Caroline?”
Kate looked at him knowingly. “Maybe both.”
“What exactly did she say to you? I want to know.”
“Andrew, can we just forget about it for tonight? It really isn’t a big deal. Hey, are you hungry? I was going to have some soup. Can I entice you with a bowl of perfectly delicious canned tomato soup? I heard it goes great with champagne,” she joked, trying to change the subject.
“Okay, you sold me. I’m starved. Finger sandwiches didn’t exactly fill me up.”
“Great, I’ll go in and make use of my limited culinary skills.”
“Hey Katherine, wait.”
Kate turned and looked at him expectedly. He took two steps closer and gently leaned in closer. “Did I tell you how beautiful you looked today?”
“You did, Andrew, thank you. Oh, what were you going to give me today? I left before you had a chance.”
“This.” His lips touched hers, softly. He pulled away and was inches away from her face. “And this.” He kissed her once again.