Ally signed off from her call with a wave at the people on-screen and looked through her list of things to do as a result of the discussion.
She fired off a couple of quick emails to get some tasks moving and flagged the rest for follow-up from home later, where she had the advantage of a second screen.
Urgent items underway and standard ones ticking over in the back of her mind, she packed up and went in search of the others.
She found most of them in the library; Chris with his head bent over a pile of old books and the rest sitting chatting. She joined the main group via a quick peck on the cheek for an abstracted but appreciative Chris.
Simon had rolled to his feet at her entrance and gone to make tea. As she joined the other two women, she glanced around for Lexi and Paul.
“They’re finishing up a final shoot in the front sitting room”, Cesca grinned, “It’s taking quite a while.”
Chris looked up, “They’ll be along soon, the light’s at the wrong angle now.”
Sure enough, when Simon returned with the tea tray, Paul and Lexi preceded him into the room, holding the door open for him.
Paul nodded to the group, “That’s us done for the day, thanks for your help.”
Lady Louise waved him to a seat near her, “It went well then?”
“Very well. I expect the pictures to come out very nicely. I’ll send you some of the basic shots in the next couple of days and should have the first pass of the ghost ones in about a week’s time.”
He kept glancing at Lexi while talking. She was still standing near the door, assessing the room, then rather clearly came to a decision. She followed the path Paul had taken across the room and returned to her earlier position curled next to him.
His surprise melted into a warm smile and he wrapped an arm around her.
Cesca grinned and nudged Simon, who rolled his eyes and continued handing out cups of tea.
Ally grinned in turn and turned to Lady Louisa, “How did you manage to teach a mile-a-minute little boy to serve tea?”
“If he wanted stories, he got me tea. Besides, he wanted to learn etiquette and it’s the best way to start.”
Simon offered Ally a cup, “Who do you think taught me to negotiate? My parents couldn’t drive a bargain to save themselves.”
Chris finally abandoned his books, returning them carefully to the shelves and the conversation moved to everyday matters, pointedly avoiding the interesting development sitting in front of them.
Finally, Simon had enough and glared at the pair, “So are you going to give us any clues on what brought this on or are you going to leave us to make things up?”
Lexi smirked at him, “I’ve a good mind to let you stew and see what you come up with.”
Paul was a little kinder, “The photography scene involved the return of a lost love. Playing Lady Louisa’s grandmother somehow got rid of a few prickles.”
“Look who’s talking Mr Hedgehog.”
Simon’s glare slid sidelong to Cesca, who shook her head, “I swear I said nothing.”
Ally and Chris were trying to contain laughter, which bubbled over when Lexi’s exasperated look moved past Simon to them.
Chris wiped his eyes, “Ally’s been referring to the pair of you as ‘The Tiggywinkles’ for more than a week now.”
Simon collapsed, howling with laughter, joined by Cesca. Even Lady Louisa sputtered through her tea.
Paul looked glum, “That’s going to stick isn’t it.”
Ally, regaining some composure, reassured him, “Only among us, it goes no further.”
Lexi’s stare hardened, “Promise. Not even Grandma.”
Lady Louisa protested, “Now Alexandra, I cannot keep this from my closest friend.”
“Okay, fine, but no one else and definitely not the parents. And make sure Grandma promises too. This is private.”
Everyone calmed down enough to solemnly and sincerely promise, and the party broke up shortly afterwards.
Driving back from the station, after dropping Lexi for the train to London, Chris had questions.
“Were we promising to tell no one about the nickname, or the relationship?”
Ally sighed, “Both.”
“Is it related to her opting to not drive back with Paul?”
“I think that had more to do with the complete lack of room in his car. There was a lot of camera gear.”