Shh, dear guests! I’m eavesdropping on a scene in the ballroom and I don’t want anyone to see me. I asked Lady B to invite a fabulous new author and her characters to the ball today, but it’s not going off as planned. Erin Knightley, you see, is not only a delightful person, but she’s written a deliciously wonderful novel that was nominated for a Golden Heart Award and will be out in mere days, and she keeps a yummy blog too. So I expected her visit today to go without a hitch. But I may have been wickedly misled to believe this. I’ll just duck behind this potted palm (oh, hello, Sabrina!) and watch from between the fronds.
Dear Lady B.,
We regret to inform you that, though we are honored at the invitation, we will be unable to attend
Erin: Benedict! <tugging a quill from the fingers of the remarkably handsome Benedict Hastings, the hero of More Than a Stranger> What are you doing? You can’t decline an invitation to a ball you have already arrived at. Good heavens, Lady B would never allow me live it down.
Benedict: I assure you, I was prepared to provide her with a perfectly valid excuse.
Lady Evelyn Moore bustles in, adjusting the skirts of her pale blue gown.
Evie: All right, I’m here, though for the life of me I don’t know why they can’t make a ball gown that is as comfortable as a riding habit. <She pauses, looking from Benedict to Erin and back.> Uh oh. What did I miss?
Smiling innocently, Benedict lifts her hand to his lips and presses a kiss to the inside of her wrist.
Benedict: Nothing, my love. It is I who missed you.
Evie shivers but apparently refuses to be distracted by this adonis. (Ed. Note: She is clearly a stronger woman than I.)
Evie: How very eloquent, Benedict. However, that only tells me that I definitively missed something.
Instead of releasing his hold, Benedict tugs her closer still.
Benedict: I know how much you abhor balls. I was merely attempting to provide us with an acceptable excuse to leave.
<Squawk> Excuse to leave. Looking for an excuse to leave! <Squawk>
Horror now writ across her pretty face, Erin realizes Lady B is standing at her side.
Lady B: Albert, what a dreadful thing to say. Who here could possibly… <pausing and narrowing her eyes>
Erin: (swallowing) Er, good evening Lady B.
Lady B: Miss Knightley, what is this nonsense about leaving? Surely you cannot have somewhere better to be than here in my ballroom?
Erin: No, of course not! I’m delighted-nay, honored to be here! I took ballroom dancing lessons and everything. <smiles hugely and drops into a curtsey.>
Lady B lifts a single eyebrow in a gesture that has sent lords to the gallows–metaphorically speaking, that is.
Lady B: Hmph. So you say. Albert, however, says otherwise. Need I elucidate which of the two of you I am inclined to believe?
Benedict steps forward.
Me: (whispering) Wow, in person he really is incredibly handsome.
Sabrina: (whispering) S’truth.
Me: (whispering) He’s got that thick dark hair and chocolately eyes drop dead manly thing going on.
Sabrina: (whispering) I’d like to see him with his shirt off.
Me: (heart fluttering as I recall a particular scene in Erin’s book) I have. It’s… (taking a deep breath)… very nice.
As Sabrina and I drool onto the greenery, Benedict bows to Lady B.
Benedict: I assure you, my lady, Miss Knightley speaks the truth. If there is any blame to be had, then it is mine and mine alone. I was just writing you a letter—
Lady B: A letter?
Erin blinks in astonishment. I’m a little flabbergasted myself. For… Lady B just blushed!
Benedict: <He offers Lady B a small, collusive smile.> Indeed.
She tilts her head, I’m guessing in an attempt to have the feathers in her turban cover up her red cheeks.
Sabrina (whispering): Lord B used to write Lady B love letters. Way back when.
Me (nodding): Must’ve been some pretty nifty letters.
Sabrina: Based on that blush, “nifty” might be an understatement.
Lady B: I’ve heard quite a bit about your letter writing skills, Mr. Hastings.
Evie snorts, then immediately begins to cough to cover it up. She and Erin exchange glances.
Benedict: Be that as it may, my lady, while I am eternally grateful for the invitation to one of your legendary balls, I’m afraid Lady Evelyn and I must decline.
Lady B: But you are already here, young man. Who has ever heard of such a thing?
<Squawk> Doesn’t happen! <Squawk>
Benedict: Yes, I realize. But the thing is— <leaning in close to his hostess> —I’ve only just rediscovered the woman who has held my heart for nearly a decade. I find that I am indecently reluctant to share her.
Dreamy sighs simultaneously erupt from Erin, Evie, Sabrina and me. Erin’s head whips around and she spots me and Sabrina spying from behind the fronds. She flashes us her signature sparkling smile then returns her attention to her companions.
Evie: Thank goodness I’m not the only one who felt that way, Benedict. Honestly, if I had to see you dance with another woman, I’m not entirely certain I wouldn’t say something that I might quickly regret.
They grin at each other, and one gets the feeling that they are sharing a private joke.
Lady B: (clearing her throat, a smile lurking beneath her pursed lips) Clearly the two of you feel you have much better things to do than attend my ball.
Sabrina: (whispering) And she quite condones it.
Me: (whispering) Quite.
Benedict bows again, pressing a kiss to Lady B’s gloved hand.
Benedict: You, my lady, are a treasure. I do hope you’ll forgive us. We’d very much love to return to your ballroom once we’ve had our fill of each other—perhaps in twenty years or so?
Lady B: (chuckling fondly now) See that you do, young man. See that you do.
Sabrina: (whispering) The old softie.
Me: (whispering) Quite.
What a pleasure it’s been to have Erin, Benedict and Evie visit today! I adored Benedict and Evie in More Than a Stranger and can’t wait for you lovelies to read it. For a chance to enter Erin’s fantastic “Sealed With a Kiss” blog tour giveaway, tell us: Do you like writing and receiving handwritten letters? Have you ever had a pen pal? (For the details of Erin’s big giveaway, click HERE.)