Arrival

Alec gave an internal sigh of relief as the towers of Lilyfeld Hall came into view over the trees.

In hindsight (always helpful), he should have had it out with Mellisande before they left her father’s keep. The events of the past two days had made any sort of conversation impossible, let alone one likely to generate ‘loud’ feelings and leave Kid jittery and upset.

As the morning progressed along busy roads with nothing out of the ordinary, most of the travellers relaxed into their normal demeanours and Mellisande remembered all her previous upsets and concerns. By the time they got to their destination, she was fairly stewing, exacerbated by reaction to the ordeal of of the previous night.

He had sent Jase ahead with a report of the events, so they were expected, security would be in place and rooms prepared, so Kid could be more easily smuggled in. He was thankfully calm enough now that he could be cared for by Nathan and Nora, at least for a little while.

He, on the other hand, needed to provide escort for Her Ladyship right to her godmother. Only then would he be free of the Wolfgrove obligation and able to move on to other matters.

Matters such as surviving the consequences of admitting his full identity to his neglected wife.

They were met by Her Grace’s intimidatingly efficient steward, who had the benefit of additional information sent ahead some time before. Mellisande wasn’t the only one with a letter box. The pre-arrangements ensured correct allocation of rooms and additional provision made for ‘the puppy’.

All excuses and distractions gone, Alec accompanied Her Ladyship into a comfortable sitting room, where Her Grace was ensconced.

Lady Aurelia rose, embraced her god-daughter and waved her to a chair. She raised an eyebrow at Alec, who’s responding eye-roll was thankfully unseen by Mellisande.

“Thank you, Captain, for bringing my god-daughter to me. I hope you’ll be satisfied with the provisions made for you and your men.”

Mellisande shrugged an irritated shoulder, “His men are no longer his concern. He’s abandoning them for more interesting work.”

“Your Grace, I apologise for the incivility but I would greatly appreciate a private word with Her Ladyship.”

“That is not necessary, I have nothing to discuss with him.”

“I think a clearing of the air would be best my dear. I’ll go and acquaint myself with that terribly interesting-sounding healer of yours.”

Alec bowed her out of the room, closed the door and turned to find Mellisande on her feet again, glares fully renewed.

He had to tell her the truth, he had to do it now, he had no idea how to start.

He moved toward her, pausing as her chin came up.

“I have nothing to say to you.”

“Actually, you have plenty, you just don’t know it yet.”

She snorted, then frowned as he started to unbuckle his bracer.

“One thing I’m curious about Your Ladyship. If your husband walked into this room right now, would you recognise him?”

“In his letters, he describes a tattoo on his right forearm and Godmother confirmed it for me.”

“Trust but verify. Very good. Was this the tattoo described?”

Alec displayed the intricate design chasing up his forearm.

Mellisande stared, dumbstruck, as he moved within touching distance, then burst into hysterical tears.

Alec froze. This wasn’t good, he could handle arrogant, he could handle angry, he could handle calm competence, this was new territory and he wasn’t sure how to navigate it.

He gingerly edged his arms around her. He was in so much trouble.

She gripped handfuls of his tunic and tried to shake him. He tightened his hold on her.

“I HATE YOU.”

This was more familiar ground, but he was getting very distracted by the fact he finally had her in his arms and that the phrase was muffled by his shoulder where Mellisande’s head was buried as her whole being shook with the force of her sobs.

He pulled her closer still and brushed his lips over her hair, then down to her temple. She noticed. The sobs eased, but the shaking continued and Alec realised he was the only reason she was still standing.

He stooped and swept her into his arms, took two steps to the sofa, and sat, with Mellisande firmly beside him.

He waited a moment to check her reaction, and when it appeared to be nothing more than silent astonishment and a decrease in the worrying tremors, he tilted her chin up and carefully kissed her. Caution lasted all of two seconds. Cupping the back of her head, he cradled her as he gave in to the overwhelming need to explore the mouth beneath his.

He had to come up for air long before he wanted to, and gazed down at the drowsy face at his shoulder, “I’ve been wanting to do that for months.”

“Me too.”

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