The man stood somewhat stunned before her and Annabelle knew she ought to feel afraid standing here, alone with a complete stranger but there was something about his eyes that kept her locked in place. It seemed odd to admit but they almost seemed familiar.
"Pardon?" Annabelle asked, shyly. Had he really just called her beautiful?
"The painting? Is it yours?" Cyril asked, and then before she could answer had admonished mumbling, "Of course, it is yours. Whom else could it possibly belong?" He felt like such fool.
"And you are?" Annabelle prodded; this was all highly untoward, her being here alone with this man. Her eyes glanced at the doorway to see if perhaps someone else was coming but she saw no one.
"Oh, yes." Cyril fumbled, "I beg your pardon. I am Mr. Cyril Kane. I am here with Mr. Harris, on business with your Aunt. She had invited us to tea and I was asked to wait here for they had a few more things to discuss. I..um...I did not mean to startle you. I had not expected to find someone here."
Annabelle smiled at him. "Of course. I am Lady Annabelle Bentley. Lady Cantrell is my Aunt. I am staying with her during the Season."
With the worrisome look now completely erased from her features, Cyril could not believe she looked even more stunning. She was positively angelic. "Of course, she had mentioned you."
"Do you really like what you see, Mr. Kane?"
Cyril was taken aback by her bold question until he realized she meant the painting, but since the answer fit either way he said, "Most definitely."
"What first caught your eye?" Annabelle inquired.
"Oh, hmmm..." Cyril lips pressed together, he was not a lover of art by any means, he however was grateful the painting was there as he felt mortified that such an exclamation had leapt from his lips upon seeing Lady Bentley standing there looking so radiant.
He walked closer to her, on the pretense of getting a better look at the painting. Upon further inspection he had to admit it really was quite good. She had a real talent for art. "I must admit it was just a reaction to your painting overall. It's stunning."
Annabelle could not be more pleased by his words, and it showed in her face.
"I did not intend to interrupt you," Cyril said, noting the letter she held in her hand.
"Oh," Annabelle stashed the letter behind her back. She had completely forgotten the letter she held and found it odd to have met Cyril while reading it. Why she even kept it upon her person was quite foolish. She knew what her Aunt advised but she still found it difficult to discard such sentiment.
"It is just a...well you see...it um...it is just a letter."
She looked suddenly nervous and Cyril wondered what he said or done to cause such a reaction.
"I should probably..." she looked around for a safe place to put it when her Aunt and Mr. Harris came out to join them. Startled by their entrance Annabelle dropped the letter and Cyril picked it up for her.
"Here you are Annabelle? I had the servants looking everywhere for you," Lady Cantrell said. "I see you have met Mr. Kane. He works with Mr. Harris my lawyer. What is that you have there?" Lady Cantrell asked Cyril as it was evident she and Mr. Harris had stumbled upon an awkward moment.
"I'm not certain," Cyril had begun to explain when to his surprise, Annabelle had interjected with, "Mr. Kane just dropped it."
Cyril looked at Annabelle shocked by the blatant lie, but when he looked her, her eyes were positively begging him to go along with it. Uncertain as to what was the best course of action he briefly looked at the letter, words like love, passion, and ecstasy leapt out at him. He pocketed the letter immediately.
"Just a list of some items I expected to pick up on my way back to the office, Lady Bentley, must have jumped from my pocket when I reached for my handkerchief," Cyril admitted to, not believing he had done so. He was a lawyer, did he really just lie to his client. What has this girl done to him?
Annabelle was grateful that he did not say the letter was hers but now she found she had an even greater dilemma to figure out. How ever was she to get the letter back from Mr. Kane? And did he actually read it. Heaven forbid, what would he think of her?
"I swear that boy has lists for his lists," Mr. Harris jested leading Lady Cantrell to the table to be seated for tea and holding the chair out for her. "Are you not joining us?" he asked Annabelle and Cyril who looked frozen to their spots.
"Yes, may I?" Cyril said looking at Annabelle and offering an arm, which she gratefully took as she was now so nervous she didn't trust her limbs to work as they should.
"Thank you, Mr. Kane," Annabelle said with all sincerity as he ushered her to her chair.
"So, Lady Bentley are you excited for your first season?" Mr. Harris inquired.
"I must admit I am terrified. I am in uncharted waters, Mr. Harris and I dearly hope I do not make an utter fool of myself," Annabelle confessed, much to Mr. Harris delight and her Aunt's horror.
"Annabelle how could you say such a thing. Even if it is true you must never admit to such a weakness, it would leave you prey to the wrong sort of man."
Cyril did not miss Lady Cantrell side-glance at him when she said the words, "wrong sort of man." Wonderful, now that he knew of her dowry and inheritance Lady Cantrell thought he was making a play for her niece.