It was time. The Duchess knocked on the door and smiled as she entered, lending an extra set of hands to Lena as she readied her mistress for the presentation. She had been coaching Rorie for two weeks on how she would complete the presentation. The Duchess, of course, was her sponsor and explained that Rorie would approach the Queen and kneel before the throne. The Queen would greet her and once dismissed, she would pick up her train over her arm, lower her eyes, and back out of the room. Under no circumstances was she allowed to turn her back on the Queen.
Rorie was going over the rules in her head and did not know how she would back from the room without tripping. She was dreadfully clumsy. She wished Colt was still at home but he had left Kingston House hours ago to have meetings with members of Parliament. She had been to many drawing rooms in the last weeks at Kingston House and almost all of the drawing rooms in Hanover Square but nothing prepared her for the Queen's drawing room.
Rorie was dressed, wrapped in her ermine cloak, and bundled into the carriage for the short drive to Buckingham Palace. Once inside, Rorie saw a few girls her age that she knew. She was steered to a room set aside for freshening up and lady Veronica stood her in front of the mirror. Lena accompanied them for this occasion and came up behind Rorie and untied her cloak and carefully lifted it away from her shoulders. Rorie sucked in a breath when she saw herself. What she saw was not herself. It was an elegant picture, a vision in white satin and lace, with an innocence about her. She could not believe it was her that looked back in the mirror.
The Duchess saw when she recognized herself and what she was capable of. She stood smiling at Aurora marveling at her reflection in the mirror. Lena smoothed the last hairs into place and smoothed a light balm over Aurora's lips and declared her ready for Queen Charlotte. As Lady Veronica and Rorie stepped into the main room waiting to be introduced, a lone male figure strolled up the hall and into the sea of white dressed maidens. It was her son! What was Colt doing here? It was no place for a man, not even the Duke of Kingston. She stood back and watched him gaze at Aurora with naked longing on his face and admiration. She was a vision indeed and it was clear he was completely smitten with her. Chuckling under her breath, she wondered how he was going to take it when everyone started talking about his presence and why...no male had ever attended or visited the Queen's drawing room during the presentation of young ladies at court, it simply was not done. This would start the rumor mills for sure, the Duchess thought gleefully.
Rorie caught sight of Colt in the hall and when he smiled at her, she returned his smile and went to him.
"What are you doing here? I thought you left hours ago for a meeting."
"I did leave but I wanted to see you before you went in to see the Queen. I've brought you something." He drew 3 exquisite white feathers from inside his waistcoat, bound with a silver comb encrusted with diamonds. It matched her earrings, necklace, and bracelet.
"Oh Colt, it is beautiful! Can you put it in for me?"
Rorie presented her back and Colt carefully placed the comb into the side of her hair, perfectly complimenting her coronet and cascading curls, while the long, plush feathers curled over her head in a perfect arch, setting off the magnificent white and lace of her dress. It could be her wedding day, she looked so perfect. He wanted her to wear this outfit when he married her. He startled himself with his thoughts. Yes, he said to himself. You are going to marry her. After two weeks ago when he'd taken her pleasure for the first time, he had decided, deep down, back then that he would have her for himself. She would get her season, just like he promised, under his watchful eye, but when it was over, he would marry her. She was precious and he had never met a girl like her and never would again, and he was not going to let her go. Colt became painfully aware of the eyes on him and he struggled to keep from making eye contact with the many mothers in the room desperate to trap him into meeting their daughters. He wanted none of the simpering girls in the room. He wanted the one standing quiet and elegantly, waiting her turn to meet the Queen. The girl with no urge to titter away in the corner and spread gossip like the many harpies in this room. He wanted her like he never wanted anything in his life...and he would have her.
Colt bent and kissed her hand. "Good luck, my sweet, You will knock Queen Charlotte off her throne." Rising, Colt exited through the door he entered and he spoke to no one else in the room besides Aurora, not even his mother.
Once in the hall empty of society, Colt strode down a different hall in Buckingham Palace and the footmen recognized him immediately and Colt was certain that they were surprised. While he had never graced the hall before in his life, the footmen knew why he was there and motioned him to the appropriate room that provided a discreet and perfect view of the Queen's drawing room. Colt knew the room was there as his father had spoken of it and so had many other men of their class in the ton. Only the wealthiest girls were presented to the Queen because it takes a great deal of money to comply with the requirements of being presented at court and many ton men that were ready to take a wife would attend the Queen's drawing rooms to view the girls being presented without them knowing. It was a way to screen the wealthiest and most beautiful girls and decide who they wanted to meet and possibly court. The Prince Regent offers invitations to use the viewing room during the presentations and only those of noble and aristocratic blood were invited.
Today, Colt was not alone. While he stood ready to watch, another man entered the room. Colt groaned inwardly, it was Charles Townsend, Viscount Vandelay...of course it was. Charles came up to him and clapped him on the shoulder like they were old comrades. They were not. Colt smiled stiffly and gave him a nod and turned back to view the drawing room.
Charles paid his demeanor no heed and continued to talk to Colt. He was asking Colt why he was there and who he was hoping to watch. "The ladies of the ton this season will be all over you if you are looking for a wife."
"I certainly am not looking for a wife." Colt said coldly. The nerve of that fop, Colt thought. He was the Duke of Kingston and he had no right to ask or insinuate what he might be doing. It was none of his business. Colt's gaze never waivered from watching the proceedings and he began to ignore the Viscount's presence.
Viscount Vandelay glanced sideways at Colt, considering his attitude. He seemed like a cold man and unfriendly. He wondered at his interest in his ward and if it was there. He wondered if he were there to watch her be presented or if he was there for a more personal interest. He was very interested in Aurora and wanted her for himself but after the attitude of the Duke, he would bide his time and try to get him to warm up to him first. Maybe there was a girl being presented that caught his eye.
Colt was annoyed at Vandelay's presence to say the least. He knew after the neighborhood Christmas celebration that he wanted her. Aurora called him a fop and he was. Vandalay was dressed in a coral waistcoat, a full and lacy cravat, and breeches with white hose and delicate shoes with fancy buckles. Vandalay was very rich and his clothes were very expensive but they made Colt almost sick to look at him. He had more ruffles on his cravat than a woman had in her skirts. It looked ridiculous. Aurora wouldn't give him a second glance. He was sure of it.
Mediocre girl after mediocre girl, in mediocre gowns that all looked the same came out and knelt to the Queen who barely acknowledged the girls. Queen Charlotte was a very kind woman it was said and she gave each girl a genuine smile and nod but said very little other than to ask a young girl if she was alright after she tripped and fell trying to back from the room. Colt felt sorry for the girl. Backing away from the Queen is a stupid idea anyway.
Colt heard Rorie's name announced and saw his mother in the doorway watching her progress across the golden carpet. Rorie's youth was apparent as she moved across the room and her beauty took his breath away. The feathers had been the perfect touch and Queen Charlotte dearly loved feathers. Many girls were adorned with feathers today but he had purchased the feathers and had the comb crafted by the very same that had crafted the Queen's. The feathers were large and plush and out-shone all the other girl's feathers. It was a lovely addition. Colt watched her in awe. She was a picture of grace and beauty. The lace train trailed behind her and the delicate satin of the dress sparkled in the light. Her crown of golden curls set off the gown and her shoulders were covered in a lace wrap that matched the train that was at once, modest and modern. No one was doing it, but Colt was now certain that everyone would. Rorie was going to be all the rage this season, he was sure of it.
Colt glanced at the Queen and smiled at what he saw. Rorie had made her way to the Queen and knelt before her with her eyes lowered. Queen Charlotte had risen from her throne and stepped in front of Rorie and reached out and laid one hand on her golden curls. The Queen said, "Stand up child, let me look at you."
Rorie rose from her knee and stood, albeit small but proud and looked the Queen in the eyes. "Your Majesty," Aurora murmured and lowered her eyes while she curtsied deeply.
The Queen stated, "You are beautiful, my dear. Tell me who you are and where you belong."
Rorie answered her with the truth. "My mother and the Duchess of Kingston were best friends from girlhood. When the Duchess realized my mother had passed away and no close family asked for me, she petitioned her son, the Duke, to gain me as his ward so that she could see to my safety. The Duchess has taken me under her wing and they are set on launching me into society."
Queen Charlotte smiled delightedly at her story. No girl had ever thus told her the truth in such an entertaining fashion without a bit of nervousness or hesitancy. Queen Charlotte said, "I can see why they would, my dear girl, you will doubtless make a splash this season. I am glad to meet you and you will certainly hear from me in the future." Queen Charlotte curtsied and smiled with a nod and turned back to her throne. Rorie gracefully picked up the train of her gown, curtsied to the Queen, and backed from the room.
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