It was mid-afternoon and Dominique was about to head home. She had finished working for the
day and shared a chat with Joel’s mother for a few moments about Christmas plans. Before she could
head out, Dominique was nearly run over by Fiona’s rambunctious children. They’d grown very fond of
Dominique in the short time since they had come to stay, and she was likewise charmed by their sweet
“Don’t go, Dominique, come play with us!” Josephine pleaded, Jamison tugging on her skirts as he
chimed in. Fiona told the children to stop their badgering, but Dominique laughingly obliged their
“I would love to play with them for a bit before I leave for home,” Dominique said, much to the
children’s delight. Fiona thanked her and asked Dominique to just send them back inside once they were
done. Just after the trio headed out toward the back grounds, there was a knock at the front door.
“Oh dear,” Fiona cried. “I nearly forgot about our little get together!”
“Not to worry,” Mary reassured her daughter. “Everything is set.”
Fiona and Mary had invited Allison and her mother over for afternoon tea. Fiona was a few years
older than Allison and they’d known each other most of their lives. It wasn’t an extremely close
friendship, for Fiona had always found Allison rather vain and arrogant, but still, it had been a long time
since they had gotten to sit and catch up on things.
The butler had just opened the door when the ladies came to greet their company, and were
surprised to find Derek standing there with Allison and his future mother-in-law. Allison had asked him
to come although Derek’s acquiescence had more to do with his desire to set things straight with Joel
than joining in on a female soiree.
Half an hour later the women were busy chatting and discussing the latest goings on in London.
Mary nearly laughed aloud at the sight of the too-small teacup in Derek’s large hand. He looked quite
uncomfortable seated between Allison and her mother. It was shortly thereafter that Derek stood to
“Lady Hampton, do you know where I might find Joel?”
“Certainly, Derek. I believe he is out in the stables. Perhaps the two of you might wish to take the
horses for a ride.”
“Perhaps. Thank you for the tea.” Derek’s steps took him quickly from the room and he ignored the
pouting remark from his fiancée.
“Relax, Allison,” Fiona laughed, “you have the rest of your life to boss him around.”
“Hmmph,” was the only reply, as Allison feared Derek would be anything but a manageable
Derek headed toward the stables, his steps slowing now that he had escaped the tedious tea party.
The air was brisk and cold, and it might even start snowing again before the day was over. Suddenly a