Life Intrudes

Alec was halfway through the locket explanation when there was a knock on the door. He stole another quick kiss and went to open it.

Lady Aurelia stood on the other side, eyes twinkling, “All well then?”

“I believe I’m temporarily forgiven.”

He stood back and she entered the room, moving to sit beside Mellisande.

“Don’t scowl Alec, you can have her back later. We need to discuss clothes, court and suitable attendants. That Rosalind girl is sweet but can’t keep a secret to save herself.”

Alec acknowledged defeat. “You may as well add a wedding to your list. Mellisande wants a proper one.”

Mellisande hurried in, “Nothing big, I don’t want a fuss. Just, something.”

Alec smiled ruefully and turned to leave. “I’ll see you at dinner.”

Mellisande flew to catch him winding her hands into his tunic again. “You didn’t finish explaining about the locket.”

“Later. Her Grace is right, we both need to get ready for the summons to court.”

A final quick kiss and he was gone.

**

Lady Aurelia laughed. “Oh the two of you! I never would have thought it a match, but you’re perfect together.”

“So you knew?”

“Oh, I knew about the marriage obviously, but only found out what your doddle-headed husband had been up to when he notified me of your visit. He managed to get himself into a right tangle I must say.”

A maid appeared at the door with a tray.

“Ah, lovely, tea! Just what we need for a proper planning session.”

**

Alec strode down the corridor, winding his way toward the barracks.

Nathan hailed him as he entered the common room, where the Wolfgrove squad were relaxing.

“Well you took your time Captain, what have you been up to?”

“Clearing up a couple of misunderstandings.”

“So Her Ladyship is talking to you again?”

“For now.”

He turned the scowl that had so little effect on Lady Aurelia on his second in command and the rest of the troop. “Where is Kid?”

“Rosalind let the puppy out of the bag so to speak, and he’s been hauled off to the healer, the kitchens and the tailor. Nora is with him and I believe she’s towing Miss Chatty along with her.”

“Ahh, so that’s what Her Grace was referring to. She’s right, Rosalind would be a disaster at court.”

Jase spoke up. “She’s alright.”

Alec took in his mullish expression. “She’s a lovely girl Jase, but doesn’t think before she talks and court would make her miserable. Her Ladyship willing, Rosalind will be going home to Wolfgrove with you.”

Jase subsided, bashfully pleased and Alec, after checking on the welfare of the other members of the squad, moved to leave, gesturing for Nathan to join him.

“I want to check on Kid. Any ideas on where to start?”

They eventually tracked Kid, Nora and Rosalind down to the castle tailor. Both Kid and Rosalind had been measured for clothes and they were sitting with a plate of biscuits as Nora took her turn – the tailor was a great believer in ‘just in case’ and made a strong argument.

Kid bolted across the room, thudding into Alec.

“You’ve been gone such a long time. Is the Lady alright? Rosalind told on me so they made me go to all sorts of places and they wanted me to go away from Nora but she wouldn’t let them and now I’ve had pins stuck in me because I wiggle but it’s okay as the Mister Tailor is nice and has a boy the same age as me.”

Kid grabbed Alec’s hand and, still talking, towed him across the room. “You can have a biscuit. The people in the kitchen said I needed lots of feeding up and let me fill my food bag and I’m getting a special shelf that’s all mine for whenever I want and then they gave me these as well.”

He looked up, his eyes wide and hopeful. “This place is nice. It feels safe and happy. Can we stay here?”

Alec sat on one of the sofas and plopped Kid on the seat beside him.

“We can stay for a while, but sooner or later well need to go to King’s Circle, so make sure you enjoy yourself properly now.”

The tailor had finished with Nora by this stage and was looking quizzically at the two men, who he knew from previous occasions. Before he could ask, Nathan jumped in.

“So, Captain, do we need any clothes or are we just here for Kid?”

Alec nodded respectfully to the tailor, “Just here for Kid, although your advice on where we can find company for him a bit nearer his own age would be most welcome.”

“I don’t have to be a secret?”

“Not here. The whole estate is heavily warded, well guarded and people here know how to be discreet.”

Rosalind winced at the last, Alec had got the strong impression in the common room that she had been thoroughly told off by every member of the Wolfgrove party.

The tailor, diplomatically ignoring the byplay, suggested the east courtyard and, thanking him, the group left.

Nathan helpfully engaged Rosalind in conversation, giving Alec time to confer with Nora. Kid had been distressed at his exposure but the calm response of the Lilyfeld steward had calmed him down in turn. He hadn’t liked the healer, loved the kitchen staff and had the Master Tailor wrapped around his little finger.

Kid danced around the group like a balloon on an invisible string. Always moving but always close. He slowed alongside Alec for a moment, taking his hand.

“Why do I need company my age?”

“Because adults can be very boring if you’re around them all the time and the other children here will know interesting things.”

Kid gave this some thought, then bounced off again.

As they rounded the corner into the colonnade surrounding the east courtyard, Alec again acquired a small, pale burr.

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