A half-hour after she'd finished dressing, Kyra was pacing nervously in front of the door. She couldn't bring herself to open the door, because she was uncertain when she should finally make an appearance downstairs. She had reached for the knob several times in the last few minutes, pulling back each time in panic.
At last she realized she should just ask Serena's opinion of the situation. Serena would probably know exactly what she was expected to do. At the very least, a visit with Serena might also help calm her frazzled nerves.
She determinedly left the room and knocked on the door across the hallway. Just as she lowered her hand from knocking, Serena approached her from behind.
With a delighted start, Serena's eyes widened in surprise. She was held speechless for a moment as she stared at Kyra's back.
"Is that you," she asked in amazement. Kyra turned around nervously. Her eyes held doubt as she saw Serena's reaction. "You look so... beautiful," Serena qualified. Her voice held true envy.
Serena knew it was an understatement, but she could find no better way to describe what she felt. If she was seeing Kyra for the first time, she might almost mistake her for royalty. Her tall and regal frame seemed so pronounced as she stood at the door. She was wearing the loveliest gown Serena had ever seen. Where had such a beautiful dress come from? She would not have imagined that seeing Kyra in such finery would change the way she viewed her. She almost felt required to curtsy out of respect!
Lowering her head in unaccustomed shyness over the compliment, Kyra dismissed the comment as she gestured to the door and asked for permission to enter the room.
"Oh, of course, let's go in," Serena laughed. Getting hold of herself, she asked, "Where in the world did you come across such a beautiful dress? I've never seen anything so attractive."
At that, Kyra looked up at Serena sharply. Confusion marred her face as she signed, "Didn't you give me this dress?"
"Give you it? What do you mean?"
Wary now, Kyra stood there silently regarding Serena for an endless moment. Frowning slightly, she asked, "Who provided me with this dress, if not you?" Her hands felt shaky as she asked the question.
"I am sure I don't know. But, I would say you must have found a great friend in the giver of this dress," she smiled. Unable to believe Kyra's good fortune, she wondered doubtfully, "You really don't know who gave it to you?"
Kyra shook her head quickly. Seeing Serena's questioning glance, she explained, "It was in my room when I awoke this morning. I thought it was from you."
Serena looked up in shock. She should have realized Kyra might need something a little more formal to wear than the clothes she owned.
"No," she shook her head. "You said nothing about needing one and I'm afraid I didn't give it a thought. I can see that it was a great idea though. You look fabulous!"
Smiling this time, Kyra lowered her eyes again, unable to believe it was true. Serena had never said anything like that to her before. "Who would give a dress like this to someone without leaving a note or asking for something in return?"
"Do you have any idea who it might have been," Serena returned thoughtfully.
"No one that I can think of. The only people who knew I needed a dress for this day were Jacob and Cassandra. I thought Jacob might have told you, so naturally I assumed this was your handiwork."
"Well, it's possible Jacob did it himself, although he didn't seem like he was in a very giving mood yesterday. As for Cassandra, I think she is a wonderful woman, but she didn't say a word to me about it and we spent most of the evening together last night."
"No," Kyra agreed. "Cassandra and I have only just met. It could not be from her. She doesn't even know who I am, really."
"Well then, perhaps you have an admirer," she suggested.
Kyra blushed profusely.
"Look," Serena shrugged, "why fret over the who or why of such a lovely gift? Just accept it and be thankful. Besides, with such beauty as I see in you today, that dress will surely attract the eye of some suitor. Perhaps even distract the man long enough that he will not notice your lack of conversation."
Kyra smiled devilishly for a moment, and then asked, 'Are you still getting ready for the party?
"I have been dressed for hours," she shrugged carelessly. She knew Kyra would wonder why she was back in her room instead of joining the festivities. "Well," she attempted to explain, "haven't you ever heard of being fashionably late? If you and I present ourselves after everyone has arrived, we may get the chance to catch the eye of some high class men."
"Serena!" Kyra gasped, "You are an engaged woman about to wed."
All innocence, Serena winked and replied, "I was only thinking of you..."
Kyra smiled too and let the subject drop.
Walking to the mirror, Serena tamped down a few loose strands of hair. She could see the smile on Kyra's face and knew she thought nothing of her desire to wait a little longer in her room. She refastened a pin that held the braided coronet atop of her head, wondering how long she should wait.
Kyra approached the mirror and watched Serena fussing over her hair. Kyra noticed that for the first time, she was actually comparing her appearance to Serena's.
Serena wore a dark forest green gown made of satin. It had puffy shoulders and full skirt that made a bold statement. When she had received it as a gift from her father, Kyra had felt a twinge of envy over it. At the time, she had nothing of her own to compare it with. Now, she much preferred what she'd been given today and she wasn't jealous at all.
The elegance of the blue cloth was not as prominent as Serena's green satin. It was subtler and she preferred that, just as she would prefer the gift of a carnation to that of a rose. A rose's magnificence was so blatant that it could be given to anyone. With a carnation you had to have a deeper sense of beauty and a more thoughtful nature. That was something she wanted. She wanted a man who could see beneath her outer layers. She wanted to meet a man who would care not if she had a voice or gorgeous face, but that she had a kind heart and loving spirit.
The sound of the approaching carriages broke through her contemplative thoughts. They could be heard traveling sown the long driveway. Serena ended her momentary primping and they turned together to run over to the window.
Both of them had known this would be a large affair, but they still gasped to see forty carriages traveling single file around the corner that led up to the manor. The driveway was easily a half-mile long, yet carriages continued pouring in from the road.
"My, it looks as if we are in for quite an event," Serena breathed. She was suddenly more excited than she could ever remember being. "Let me just fix a few loose ends," Serena shouted and dashed back to the vanity table to add some final accessories.
After tapping her on the shoulder, Kyra shook her head, "I must go down now, but I will meet you later." At Serena's questioning glance, Kyra explained, "As Lord Damon's ward, I believe I might be expected to greet the guests accordingly. The same as you do when Sherman expects company."
"Oh, I never thought of that. Yes, do go down. We would not want him to think you are remiss in your duties. But, don't hover too closely unless he specifically acknowledges you. It might be that he has not given the matter a second thought, any more than I."
Nodding, Kyra hurriedly curtsied and left the room. She would not want Caleb to be disappointed in her performance. That wouldn't do at all.
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