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Realistic or Modern The Bronze Locket

Sub Genres
Adventure, Historical, Romance, Slice of Life


Junior Member
Lenora smiled brightly at Lydia and let herself fall silent as Hugh's words moved through her mind, she nibbled lightly on a pastry. Her mind jumped at Lydia's hesitation and she knew that certainly she could wedge herself in. When breakfast was finished Lenora left to change into some outside clothes and came down the stairs just as the two women from the estate knocked on the door. She stood back as the men were greeted first and then stepped forward to welcome Miss. Lovelocke and Miss. Ricci. Miss. Lovelocke seemed like a most fragile woman, however her words were kind and Lenora could sense their sincerity at her compliment.

"Miss. Lovelocke. Thank you. I find your necklace most.... pleasing." She said trying to find a kind thing to say about her rival. She moved her attention to Miss. Ricci and the woman cooly looked at one another and immediately Lenora was grateful she did not have to push that woman aside. To push Adelaide to the side seemed like childsplay after looking at Fausta. Lenora stepped back and let Hugh escort his partner out to the back yard, where tables were filled with pitchers of juice and plates of cookies. The lawn was set up with pins and balls ready for the game to begin. Already Lydia was sitting in the shade. Leonora poured herself a glass and sipped daintily, she wrinkled her nose at the sleeping dog under the table and decided to stay away.


Hugh shrugged off his jacket, and took in the cool air of the late morning. He stepped back and watched as Adelaide picked up a mallet, before he could grab the other Lenora stepped forward and grabbed the second one.

"Would you care to play Miss. Lovelocke?" Lenora asked, she moved the wood pole with expert hands and chose to go first, lining up with small ball on the ground she gave it a good smack and it went rolling towards an arch staked in the ground. Clearly she had done well and smiled brightly over at Hugh as she stepped aside to let Adelaide shoot, Hugh returned the smile.

"It seems you have quite the talent." He said to her.

"Well, how kind of you sir!. I do need to work on my grip however. Do you have any suggestions?" Lenora asked, stepped close to Hugh and offering her hand for him to show her the correct placement. Hugh hesitated a moment before relenting. He guided Lenora's hands to where he would have held the mallet and explained where to grip and where to hold lightly.


Duncan held tightly to his lover, despite the audience, he found he could not be parted from her. "<Hugh did well this morning. However Lydia seems to have her hesitations with the whole ordeal, and Miss. Green will be staying here despite her dashed hopes.>" He said. "<She seems kind enough.>" He said shrugging. Duncan watched as the games began and slipped his hand in Fausta's to take her over to Lydia.

"Auntie, this is the woman I have been devoting all my time to. Miss. Ricci. A fierce powerful woman is she not?" Duncan said proudly, he pulled out a seat for Fasuta and then sat next to her. "We were just visiting her family in Italy. We've actually chosen to do business with her father. The Montgomery shipping company is now expanding."


Junior Member
Adelaide found jealousy creep easily into her when Hugh become physical with Lenora. He touched her hands gently, their bodies almost touching as he explained to her the correct grip and way to swing. She remembered Hugh's own hesitation to get so close to herself and her cheeks colored pink with emotion. She sighed softly, trying to steady herself and focus on the game. Hugh had chosen her, Adelaide reminded herself. There was nothing to worry about. Adelaide took her time lining up her shot, and hit the ball through with a resounding crack of wood on wood. The shot was decent, it got through one arch and relatively close to the next one.

In her excitement she turned to speak, but found her lover still occupied. She put on a gentle smile, forcing the ugly feelings back down her throat as she coughed politely and said "Miss Green, you are up once again. I fear you'll outmatch me easily with such help from Mr. Montgomery." The jest was light and good-natured. It was easy to slip back into her old habits of locking herself up under a pleasant smile. Adelaide took a few steps back to give Miss Green room to play, giving Hugh a small wave and little smile as the other woman focused on her shot.

The pendant above Hugh's heart warmed slightly, as if it had been held up to a flame momentarily.

Fausta smiled as she settled in next to Duncan, taking wine from a servant and sipping it as the croquet game began to unfold. Immediately, she gave a small groan and muttered to him. "<Your brother is making a bad move, dearest.>" But Lydia spoke to her and she responded, noting the woman didn't seem to mind her still somewhat broken english. Lydia was a stalwart woman, and Fausta had the impression that she wouldn't mind her own family--after perhaps a day or two to get used to them.

"Duncan is being a wonderful partner." She assured the older woman. "Truly, I am not knowing how I would be without him, now." She gave a radiant smile.

Lydia huffed as Hugh began the match by helping Lenora, rolling her eyes heavenward. If he wished to take care of his affairs himself, she would stay away. See what good it did him.

"I'm glad to see you've taken initiative with your business, Duncan." She replied "Italy might prove very lucrative for you." She spoke with them a while, finding she enjoyed the company of his new woman. Together, they really did seem quite well matched, and she felt herself relax a little. Perhaps there was hope after all for him. A servant came forward and announced some mail. Lydia had a letter from her nurse in London, nothing urgent. Duncan had received a shipping label from Italy and a letter from an old war comrade. As he and Fausta began to speak in Italian to one another, she turned her eyes back to the game.

Miss Lovelocke was clearly bothered, and Lenora was continuing to ask for Hugh's attentions. She sighed. Lydia admired an ambitious woman. She settled down to watch how Hugh handled the women.


Junior Member
Duncan beamed brightly at Fausta overjoyed that she would say such praises in front of his rather impressive Aunt. He was used to women cowering away at Aunt Lydia, but it seemed the two were well matched with their power and personality. Fausta turned his attention away from his happy heart and he frowned at Hugh.

"<This may indeed prove to be a problem.>" He sighed. "<I'll keep my mind open for any ideas, we may need to send her away.>" Duncan thanked the servant that brought his mail and threw the business mail over his shoulder to be looked at later. He grinned at the familiar scrawl of his old war friend. "Ah Earnest old boy." He muttered to himself, flipping open the paper to read through the message. "Well now, an old friend may be visiting in the coming weeks. You'd like him, perhaps a bit like your Ezio; just crustier." Duncan said patting Fausta's knee through the fabric of her skirts.


Clueless as ever Hugh stepped back and let Lenora focus up on her next shot after Adelaide finished with hers, his chest warmed slightly and he glanced down at the string that held the pendant to his neck. His hand lifted thoughtfully to the warmed metal and his thoughts drifted back to Adelaide. He moved to stand next to her and nudged her shoulder with his.

"I would be happy to-" He was cut off by Miss. Green.

"Mr. Montgomery, perhaps you could show me again, I fear I've forgotten everything as soon as you told it to me." Lenora laughed a dainty laugh. Despite the polite nature of her words, there was no mistaking that they were not a suggestion, but an order. Blinking in surprise, Hugh gave Adelaide a look before stepping away to show Lenora once more the technique. When he was finished Hugh felt an overwhelming sense that perhaps he should take a step back from the match. He was blessedly saved with the arrival of mail, the servant placed a number of folded papers in his hands and Hugh moved by a rosebush, slowly wilting in the cool air.

The papers were mostly business, one from a neighboring estate, the Goldsmythe's. The older couple was hosting an event to celebrate their 30th anniversary and an invitation had been extended to the household to attend the events. Hugh wandered over to the table where the rest of the group sat and he gave them a look before reading from the paper.

"Celebrating marriage alone is rather a bore." Hugh paused letting Duncan snort of laughter move through the air. "The Goldsmythe's are most pleased to extend an invitation to the Montgomery household for this next Saturday at 5 o'clock for a ball held at Belleview estate." Hugh lifted his head and saw Duncan still processing the idea of how a couple would find celebrating marriage alone a bore with tears of laughter running down his cheeks. He raised a brow, a small quirk of a smile touching the corners of his lips. "Shall we send our acceptance?" He asked, directing the question to Aunt Lydia.


Lenora heard the roaring laughter of Duncan and raised her head to catch that Hugh's attentions were elsewhere. She scowled, realizing that the oaf of a man had missed her well placed shot and was clearly unnoticed. Letting the mallet drop to the ground she lifted her skirts and rushed over to the crowd leaving Adelaide alone on the field without another thought. She fixed her expression to a serene one and halted her rush just a few steps before she joined the group.

"What ever has Duncan in such an uproar?" She asked, smoothing a fold in her skirt away.


Junior Member
Hugh tried to start a conversation, but was called away again by his guest and then further by mail. Adelaide blinked rapidly as Miss Green made no effort at all to conceal her intentions towards him and that Hugh seemed not to notice--or not to mind. Lenora then rushed away from their match, leaving Adelaide alone in the grass. Adelaide sighed and began to clean up the game. As her skirts moved through the grass, she missed Lenora's ball, and tripped. With a sharp yelp, she stumbled, catching herself halfway with her croquet mallet. Pain shot through her ankle and she groaned softly as she stood again.

Damn. She cursed silently. Adelaide put a little weight on it and sucked in a breath as it protested. It was the ankle that Edward had broken some years ago, it never healed right. Luckily it felt like a sprain only. An Abbey rushed over and lent her shoulder to Adelaide as she began to halting hop back towards the table.

Fausta rolled her eyes and whacked Duncan lightly on the shoulder as he doubled over laughing for over a minute. "Amore," She chided "It is being really not so funny." Fausta forced her scowl at Miss Green's actions away from her face and took up an icy smile as the woman approached the table. So she was making no attempt to hide her actions. Fine. Fausta would make to attempt to hide her own.

"Oh, he is just being silly." She replied calmly, fixing the other woman with a piercing stare. Like a predator having locked onto prey. "Amore," She said again, her hand resting on Duncan's shoulder as he straightened, beginning to calm from his fit. "Perhaps Lenora will be having better luck pursuing your visiting friend than Hugh. What do you think, would they be a good match?" She bared her teeth in a smile that was clearly an act of war. Silently daring Lenora to challenge her on the insult of using her first name only.

Suddenly, Adelaide cried out from the lawn, and Fausta saw Hugh and a maid rush forward from the corner of her eye. She maintained her stare at Miss Green, however, waiting to see her response.

Lydia snorted as Hugh read out the invitation from the Goldsmythe's. "God, those people are horribly dull. The woman could find gossip on the Lord himself. And the man? Ha! About as interesting as a pine board." She sighed and lit up her pipe, taking a few deep puffs before responding to Hugh. It was good to hear Duncan's laughter, at least. Before she could voice her opinions further, there was a cry from the yard. Adelaide was alone there--how strange. Lydia could have sworn she and Lenora were playing croquet. Hugh and a servant went forward to help her, and Duncan's lover seemed to be considering the most polite way to kill Miss Green.

The old woman sighed heavily and pressed a finger to her temple. So much for an easy afternoon.


Junior Member
Hugh's head swiveled at the cry from Adelaide and he dropped the letter to the table and rushed forward along with a servant to see to Adelaide. His dear sweet woman was doing her best to return to the table and Hugh found himself a bit exasperated with the idea.

"Adelaide, stop." He said as he reached her. "Walking on it will only make it worse." Without asking for her permission he swept her up, her skirts settling over his arms as he carried her to the closest chair. Setting her down he bent and ordered the servant to grab a cool cloth and some other materials to see to her leg. Without regard for the others Hugh reached and began to asses the swollen ankle. "It doesn't look broken." Hugh said carefully, testing the movement of her foot with gentle hands, the pendant burned bright on his chest and Hugh felt his senses fall into place, he finally looked Adelaide in the eye and let the breath he didn't realize he had been holding. Frustration slipped away and his features became more gentle, "We must get you back into shape before the Goldsmythe's ball, I would be a shame if you and I could not dance. Is there anything I can do for you?" He asked just as a servant returned with some items to tend to her ankle.

Hugh got to work with wrapping an ice cold cloth around her ankle to try and ease the swelling, and made sure it stayed in place. He elevated her foot with his own legs, keeping her sore appendage gently cradled.


Lenora did her best to keep her eyes from rolling as Hugh rushed off to help Adelaide. He touched her like a lover might and she found her brow raising, what scandal, she thought to herself. Fausta's words were already setting her on edge and she gave her most brilliant smile.

"I don't believe I know what you mean Miss. Ricci." She said as pleasantly as she could. "However I am more than happy to make more friends." Lenora took an empty chair at the table and sat across from Fausta. Her back straight and eyes steeled on Fausta. "I was under the impression country living was quite quaint, but its lovely to hear of balls and societal events. I do hope we get to visit many of them. I certainly love to dance." Lenora said, steering the conversation away from Hugh and her pursuits. She would have to be more careful, find more ways to get herself and Hugh alone.


Duncan found himself quite in adoration of his lover. Here she was, ready to protect those dearest to her, no matter the cost. His eyes warmed and he looked over the note from Earnest again.

"I don't suppose Earnest would be interested. I've known him to appreciate a woman with a bit more substance." He said softly, but loud enough for the table to hear. He watched with interest as Lenora abruptly stood, her fan whipped out to cover her face. The woman turned on her heel and struggled to keep grace in her step as she fled inside. Duncan, not wanting to face Aunt Lydia's wrath stood and took Fausta's hand. "Perhaps we should take a turn around the gardens." He suggested, looking for escape.


Junior Member
Adelaide let out a squeak of surprise as Hugh bundled her into his arms. Naturally, she wrapped her arms around his neck, rose blush heavy on her cheeks as he carried her back to a chair. Hugh was consumed for some minutes in ordering servants to ready materials for healing. After tending to her ankle, Hugh finally, finally, looked at her. It had seemed an eternity. He sighed, his blue eyes softening as he cradled her ankle and spoke gently. Adelaide felt her heart skip as he looked at her, a smile spreading across her face despite herself.

Suddenly, they were alone in the garden, Lydia and Miss Green having gone inside and Duncan and Fausta gone to explore the gardens further. Sighing softly, Adelaide reached out her gloved hand and cupped his cheek. She dragged her thumb over the stubble'd skin there. "My angel..." She whispered, still unsure if they could be overhead by unkind ears. "I'll be fine with some rest, Hugh. Please do not worry yourself." Her smile turned sad, then. "I'm afraid I'd be quite unwelcome at the Godsmythe estate, you see. In no large part thanks to the disaster at your own ball." Adelaide's chest ached with the desire to kiss him, to take him in her arms right there. But she resisted, instead releasing his face and leaning back in the chair a little with a wince as her foot twitched.

In the sunlight he looked illuminated, as if all the kindness within him was shining outward for the world to see. The sight took her breath away. "I wouldn't wish for my absence to hinder you, though! Please, I hope you have a wonderful time, darling. As for assistance...?" She thought a moment, her whole body tinging from his fingers gentle ministrations on her swollen ankle. Adelaide smiled brightly as she replied. "Would you come visit me, then? Just one or two times this week if you're busy. I'd love to take tea with you again on the balcony."

Fausta took Duncan's hand as he offered it, flashing a wicked grin as Lenora fled and Lydia followed, throwing a scowl at her lover. "Amore, I would love it." She replied. "I was not being able to see too much last time, yes?" They quietly left the other couple to a tender moment as they vanished down a garden path. For a while she simply listened as he explained how each plant had come to live there, or recalled a fond memory of his boyhood with Hugh during their summer stays. Eventually, they reached a small, well groomed clearing just shy of the pavillion where Edward had held Adelaide hostage only two months before. They stopped, and Fausta hooked her finger into one of Duncan's lapels and drew him in for a kiss.

It began sweetly, but as it was with them, the fire returned. Fausta pulled away, her dark eyes shining as she sat down on the edge of a fountain. She tilted her head to look up at him, the dappled sunlight from the trees causing a cascade of shadows to dance across his skin. "I was thinking.." She began "Maybe I could be staying here tonight? Saving you the trouble of a trip, no?" She laughed.

Lydia scowled at Duncan's rudeness, and followed Lenora inside as she fled. She found the young woman in the parlor, looking frustrated and almost about to weep. She sighed heavily and bid a servant to bring them something strong to drink before entering the room with a strong knock. She sat beside Lenora on the sofa and placed a wrinkled hand on her shoulder.

"I am so sorry for my nephew's awful behavior, Miss Green. Rest assured he will receive the scolding he deserves. I'm afraid Duncan has always been temperamental." She sighed "I will not force you to stay if they are making you upset, dear. It is not fair to you."


Junior Member
Hugh considered Adelaide's denial to join him at the ball and a small crease appeared between his eyebrows as he thought back to the night. Passions had run so high that night, anger, lust and fear. Her hand was on his face, fingers moving over the line of his jaw, making him smile and ease. She asked for his company then, a few times over the week and Hugh nodded.

"I would be pleased to visit you. If my Aunt were not here, I do believe I my presence at your house hold would be much... more." He chuckled and moved gentle fingers over her ankle. She had let go of his face and leaned back in her chair. It was clear the movement caused a slight amount of pain and Hugh wished he could take it away for her. He wanted to remain alone with her for the rest of the day and found himself in no hurry to return to the others. It was then Tatiana and Oberon joined them, their snouts bring with them happy little sniffs seeking pets and scraps of food. Hugh was careful to protect Adelaide's ankle as the dogs settled around them. Oberon leaning his head in his mistresses lap, closing his eyes as she pet the spot between his ears. Tatiana gave Hugh's cheek a few licks making him laugh.

"I don't suppose there is anything I could say to convince you to come to the ball? I understand that the Goldsmythe's are certainly not the kindest company, but the idea of you staying home is rather sad. Especially when you don't deserve it, it is not you who should be shunned. I wonder if there was some way we could change their opinions, but it seems the ton wants to feel how it feels despite when evidence spits right in their faces." He sighed heavily lifting one hand to brush down Tatiana's side, quickly finding her special spot. Tatiana's tongue fell out and her leg lifted and began to scratch.


She made him burn for her, Duncan could not imagine the spark the two shared would ever fade. She was happy to listen to his stories and he was happy to listen to hers as well. It seemed as if the two of them would never run out of things to say to one another. The kissed passionately and he found himself nodding emphatically at her suggestion.

"I certainly would sleep most poorly witho-" He cut off, frowning at a bench under the pavilion. He took Fausta's hand and the two of them ventured closer to the bench. A bundle of flowers, with large blooming leaves were placed on the cool marble of the bench. They were twined together with a thin gold strand that kept the stalks together. Duncan tilted his head in confusion. "What on earth, who could have left these here?" He reached out picking them up, noting how warm the twine felt in his hands. He passed the bundle to Fausta who held them while he inspected the flowers. "These are begonia's, we don't have them in our garden..." Duncan trailed off looking around as if the owner of the bouquet would suddenly appear. An idea occurred to him then and with an intrigued flash of eyes he regarded his lover. "Begonia's are a warning if I recall correctly. But perhaps I should look for my mothers old book of flower meanings, just to confirm."


Lenora's mind raced, she would certainly need to catch Hugh alone, the fool was far too protected. He would be easier to mold and prod with only her influence. Duncan's words had certainly stung but perhaps it would serve her well for the older brother and his lover to think of her as weak willed. All these thoughts and more circled her mind, making her jump when Lydia's strong knock sounded in the room. The shocked look on her face masqueraded as hurt and Lenora willed her eyes to glass over, Lydia placed her hand on her shoulder and spoke words of comfort. Lenora's voice shook a little when she spoke.

"I- I think I would still like to stay. The ball sounds most enjoyable, and I feel as if I were to cut my stay short I might regret it. However I would appreciate a kinder Mr. Montgomery." Lenora said softly. She dabbed under her eye with her gloved hand and sighed a little. "I apologize for all of this ruckus my presence seems to have caused."


Junior Member
Adelaide laughed gently as Hugh entertained Tatiana. Obern rested his soft head in her lap, his dark eyes wide with worry. She scratched his head to console him, then sucked in a breath again as she accidentally moved her ankle. Adelaide stifled a groan, but smiled at Hugh in a sad way as he asked again about the party. She cupped his face again, hating to disappoint him so.

"Angel, you'll have to forgive me. I fear the Goldsmythes would be beside themselves for bringing me along uninvited. But, how about I make you a little promise?" Her olive eyes shone brightly in the afternoon sun. "The next night, bring Duncan and Fausta and we'll dress up for dinner. Duncan can play piano for us so we can dance, and I'll sing for you, too. How does that sound?" The breeze was warm despite it's slight chill underneath. Despite the circumstances, Adelaide was glad to be able to steal this little scrap of peace with him. She moved her hand across his cheek and down, under his chin. Gently, she titled his head up so that they were looking into each other's eyes. "I know I must send you home that evening, on account of your company, but perhaps we can steal a few moments alone together, hmm? I miss your touch most ardently." She blushed heavily at the last words, knowing how terribly bold it was to say them here, where they could be overheard.

Fausta followed Duncan curiously, and when he found the flowers there, her brows rose. At his words, she frowned, and took the bundle into her hands. The blooms were red like blood, and the golden chain binding them glittered almost forebodingly in the sunlight.

"Si, amore." She replied "They do mean to warn. This is a bad omen, Duncan. We must be careful now, yes?" Fausta thought a moment before replacing the bundle where he had found it. "Let us check back tomorrow and see if it is still here. And tell Joseph to check the house for missing things." She told him sternly. While leaning over the bench, Fausta spotted something in the grass behind it, and reached down. It was a thin strip of lace, with long white ribbon attached to either end. Though covered in dirt and wrinkled from the elements, she recognized it immediately.

Fausta turned with a grim expression on her face and presented it to her lover. It was the choker Adelaide had worn the night of the Montgomery's welcoming ball. Gooseflesh rose up on her skin, and the unsettled feeling in her stomach returned.

Lydia set her thin lips firmly in a hard line.

"No, no. Lenora! None of this is your fault, do you understand? My nephews are being childish. I would love for you to stay. We'll get them straightened out so you can really enjoy your time here, don't you worry." She helped the other woman up and they moved to a small table, where Lydia tried to distract her with chess and a strong drink.


Junior Member
Hugh could see from the determined glint in Adelaide's eyes that she would not be moved on the notion of the ball, not wanting to pressure her he gave her a soft smile. "I certainly enjoy that, a party of our own would be far more preferable to the Goldsmythes, but the thought of the next days events will certainly be enough to get me through it without you." He leaned into her touch and gazed deep into her olive eyes, the longing already there, even before she spoke the words. He breathed in deeply and turned his head to kiss her palm, then her wrist. "Were it not for our guests I would be taking you upstairs." He chuckled softly, "However given your current condition I suppose that would not be ideal for healing." Hugh relented, "Perhaps we should get you home and into bed, your colour is not returning dear and I fear you may need a long sleep." Hugh hated letting go of her, he wished he could just tend to her himself, but that was an act for husbands. The idea still brought a chill to his spine, even as his heart thrummed with excitement.


Duncan nodded as Fausta gave her orders, when Fausta noticed an item on the ground he followed her closely not wanting to miss a moment or an important detail. Fausta returned with a familiar item in her hands and placed it on his own. The white lace was crusted over by the earth but he knew it to be a choker that belonged to Adelaide. The light hit him then and he realized when the choker had been torn from her throat. He stepped closer to Fausta, wishing to comfort as well as needing to be comforted.

"<Do we bring this to the two of them, or wait?>" He asked softly, the choker moving between his fidgeting hands. "<I do not wish to scare her, but this cannot mean happy news.>" Duncan looked up wondering what his lover was thinking. Wanting to touch her he hooked an arm around her waist and leaned into her, their heads touching.


Lenora smiled thinly, the last thing she wanted was to play chess but she needed at least one person in the house to be on her side. The strong drinks helped and soon she felt her nerves come loose and she took the time to enjoy. When the two women parted both were well into a bottle of bourbon. Lenora made her way shakily up the stairs deciding to skip on dinner and tackle the next day with new strategies.


Junior Member
Adelaide's heart skipped as Hugh expressed his own desires, and she gave him a small smile. He spoke of sending her home, and she felt a pang of loneliness sweep through her like a dull ache. Fausta would be staying the night at the brothers' estate, and she did not look forward to returning to an empty house. With all that had happened in the last few months, being alone there was actually a rare occurrence. She had grown used to the energy others brought. Still, Adelaide smiled at Hugh, not wanting to distress him any further.

"Yes, I do suppose you are correct, love." She waived over an abbey and gave instructions for a carriage to be made ready. Once the servant had left, she returned her attention to him. "Don't you worry too much for me, Hugh." Adelaide assured him "Charles has been helping me with his injury for many years. I'll be up and about in no time at all." She bent over and captured his mouth in a soft, chaste kiss. When they pulled apart she giggled and wiped away the lipstick on him gently with her handkerchief. The abbey returned, and Adelaide's ankle was numb enough for her to walk on, finally. She linked arms with Hugh for balance and they made their way back through the house. Finding that both Lydia and Lenora had retired to their rooms, Adelaide asked Joseph to extend her apologies and thanks for the afternoon.

Out on the front steps, she turned to Hugh and slid her hand down his arm, gently, squeezing his hand as a small gesture of affection. "I'll see you tomorrow for tea, Mr. Montgomery." Adelaide murmured, looking into his blue, blue eyes with a smile. The dogs hopped gracefully into the carriage before her, and once she'd settled in, it began to take her back home.

Fausta buried her face into Duncan's neck, holding him flush to her in a tight hug. For some moments, they simply stood there in silence, holding each other as unease filled them both. Finally, she pulled away and spoke to him looking back into his unsure eyes with a collected calm.

"<I think we should wait to tell Addy. We can tell Hugh if you think that is best, but we must be careful.>" She looked at the slim strip of fabric twined between his fretting fingers to the blood red blooms on the bench beside them. "<If it is gone tomorrow, that means someone in the house is working with Edward. If it isn't... it might be a warning to you both. He may be trying to remove you from her life directly.>" Fausta broke away from him and paced back and forth for a moment, thinking. It would take too long for any of Duncan's regimen friends to come and stay with them, and the police were just as brainwashed about Redstone as the rest of the town. If the staff was involved, putting them on alert would only make things worse.

Fausta returned to her lover's arms, and kissed him tenderly to reassure him. She fingered the lapels on his vest and sighed. "Amore, I can call someone over from Ivydowns--we know that Addy's staff isn't involved, yes? We can be having them look for us. We will prevail. Do not be worrying too too much, together we can stop anything, yes?"


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The carriage moved away with the rattle of wheels and wood and Hugh found himself watching after Adelaide for a long while, even after the carriage disappeared from his view. For some reason this goodbye had felt different. The amulet pulsed warm on his chest and he lifted a hand to absently pat the trinket. Turning on his heel he went straight to his room and had supper ordered there. Hugh slept a long while, his body and mind tired.


Duncan nodded his agreement and placed the choker in his pocket. He took Fausta's hand and their fingers twined together, with a squeeze they made their way back into the quiet house. It seemed that household needed their space from one another and Duncan found the quiet brought both comfort any worry. They also called for supper to be brought up before retiring to Duncan's room. While Fausta wrote a letter sending for some extra help from Ivydowns, Duncan made himself more comfortable, removing most of the restrictive clothing he had been wearing. He settled on wearing only a robe and went over to his dresser. The unease of the day had him seeking out old comforts, he slipped out a wooden box and opened it to reveal a short pipe. With practiced motions he filled the base and retreated to the window sill. Cracking open the window he settled on the sill and with the pipe balanced between his teeth he lit a match and puffed away. Soon smoke rolled out of his mouth and nostrils and he breathed out to the evening air. The calming effect was almost instantaneous and he settled into the idea that perhaps Fausta and himself would have to meddle and not just for fun.

"An older brothers work is never done. Perhaps I understand Ezio a little better with recent events." He mused. "This Edward..." He breathed out another puff of smoke. "Fausta I need you to tell me everything you know about him. I'm afraid my knowledge is rather lacking when it comes to him. Hugh has not been the most vocal about it all." The role of protector slid easily around Duncan, scratching his chin thoughtfully he added, "Perhaps we should venture to town tomorrow as well, see if we can dig up any news on his whereabouts."


The plan was in motion, Lenora adjusted the teapot one last time making sure everything looked perfect. She had taken up space in a small room near the back of the house. It had been relatively empty save for a few furniture pieces and large windows that let in the morning light. She had requested a large red chair be brought in as well as her easel and painting supplies. A pot of tea and treats sat on a small table near her and she stepped back to take in the sight. Nodding with approval she exited the room and caught sight of herself in a hall mirror. A smile curved her full lips, she had taken great care with her appearance. Her red Irish hair had been swept up part way near the base of her head, tendrils came loose around her face framing her soft features. The soft spatter of freckles over her nose was accented with small touches of blush. She looked at herself and knew she was beautiful, often men had told her just so. He made sure to tell her all the time as well, Lenora's heart fluttered at the thought of her secret and she lifted a hand to the hemline of her dress. It sat delicately over her breast and she could feel her heart beating as the sound of footsteps on the stairs caught her attention.

Moving away from the mirror Lenora gracefully moved to see who it was and her eyes lit up at the sight of her prey.

"Good morning Mr. Montgomery." She said airily, she watched as Hugh's back straightened at the sudden sound of her voice and his head turned to her. It surprised her that he didn't seem to give her a second look, his eyes didn't even seem to travel down as she expected. Unperturbed she met him at the bottom of the stairs and dipped into a curtsy, He bowed in return.

"Ah good morning Miss. Green. I trust you slept well?" Hugh asked.

"It was a most wonderful sleep indeed. I had a dream about you." She said, giggling when his ears turned pink. "Don't worry sir, you were a perfect gentleman... mostly." Her arm caught his and he looked down in surprise as suddenly he was being led away from the front door.

"I actually was on my way out." He said, the uncertainty clear in his voice.

"I promise I shant keep you long, I just was wondering if perhaps you might help me a quick moment. I have had my painting supplies set up and I needed to make sure that the light was good for the model before I commit to the space. Would you be so kind?" Lenora asked walking with him down the hallway. She caught sight of the two of them together in the mirror and smiled cheekily at her own reflection.

"Well if it is only for a moment I don't mind." Hugh relented.


Hugh let himself be led into the room and took in the sight of the chair. "Seems a rather plain subject space." He commented.

"How perfectly astute of you sir." Lenora agreed, I shall have a few plants brought in perhaps. Please sit." She gestured to the chair and snapped her fingers at a servant who happened to be passing the room. After giving her command for greenery Lenora busied herself with the tea pot. Hugh couldn't see what she was doing as her back shielded him from the tea set so he turned his eyes to the outside, where a few servants were already hefting up pots to be brought in. His attention was drawn away when Lenora's footsteps approached, she offered him a cup of tea and he found no polite way to refuse immediately appeared in his head. Taking the cup he held it a moment in his hands and then sipped the warm liquid. The herbs were a blend he had never tried before, but he found the taste soothing and settled into taking another sip.

Lenora walked away and busied herself with the easel. "Thank you again Mr. Montgomery. I must say the light is quite perfect this morning." A brush and thumb were pointed in his direction as she measured out his proportions.

"Of course." Hugh said, taking another sip. His tongue felt heavy in his mouth and he blinked slowly.

"You look a bit like a Greek god presently." Her voice seemed so close, but also so far away in his mind. Another sip had the tea cup empty. He leaned to place the mug down on the ground and found the ground seemed to come up must faster than he expected. With a clatter the mug was on the ground and he was righted again. Lenora's voice came again, her Irish brogue soothing, calming. "Hercules, I think. So powerful and strong, his many tasks for done only for approval, for love." Hugh found that words failed him, his mind was heavy and he wondered if perhaps he was becoming sick, how was it that he felt so tired? Even after the long sleep he had gotten it seemed that Hugh might never feel awake again. Sinking into the red chair his eyes closed and sleep overtook him as Lenora's voice filled his dreams with hydra's, bulls and horses.


He fought gallantly against the sleep aid, Lenora mused, as she sketched out a quick design, still talking softly to him. Aunt Lydia had been quite informative with as she had shared over chess the boys love for mythology and stories, she had taken great care to borrow a few of the more well read copies from the library. When she was certain Hugh would not wake she stepped out of the room to find a servant.

"I am to inform you that Mr. Montgomery has left for a walk. He left through the garden door, I am not sure when he will return. As well please see that I am not disturbed during my painting. I really must have peace." When the servant nodded that he understood Lenora grinned and made her way back to the painting room, but not before stopping for a bottle of wine and two glasses. Her artistic spirit had always been served better with a nice glass of red at her side. Closing the door behind her Lenora studied Hugh a moment before deciding that she really wanted to practice her male figure drawing, standing behind the easel she picked up a piece of charcoal and got to work bringing the sleeping form of Hugh to life on her paper.


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Fausta finished her letter and found Joseph outside their room with dinner. He brought in the tray and she instructed him to deliver it personally to Charles at Ivydowns, posthaste. He understood her urgency and vanished down the corridor as she closed the room behind him. The heady scent of pipe tobacco drifted in and out of the room as she busied herself preparing the meal. She set the china down on the low coffee table and parsed out the food--a lovely thick stew that smelled divine. Fausta also poured them each a glass of wine, and handed her lover a napkin as he sat across from her to eat. She thought for a few moments before she spoke.

"Yes, we should do the looking around tomorrow. Though I am not being sure we will be finding much." They ate for a moment, both hungry from the stressful findings that afternoon. Fausta sat up and took her glass in her hand, swirling the white liquid as she spoke next. She told him all Adelaide had told her in their many letters. Edward's parents had been elderly and died during his teenage years. They had been friends of Lydia, so she introduced him to the Lovelocke household, where he was taken in as a ward. The late Mr. Lovelocke had always wished for a son, and so took a shine to the boy immediately. So much that he was able to ignore the abuse the boy inflicted on his own flesh and blood. Beatings resulting in broken limbs, constant threats, psychological manipulations. Anyone who tried to intervene was either baught off or vanished. The two were promised to be married, and eventually Adelaide snapped when it seemed that Edward had intended to invade her bedroom. Fausta told Duncan of their friend's desperate flight and begging of the townspeople, and how Edward had them all squarely fooled. Last, of course, she told him of the man's attempt on Adelaide's life, how it was framed as a suicide and kept a secret from the main Lovelocke family, and how she feared telling the truth, lest he should come back for her. They had finished the meal by the time her tale was over. Fausta began to clear the plates and observed Duncan evenly, waiting for his reaction.

Adelaide woke early the next morning, the dull aching in her ankle having caused terrible nightmares of when Edward ruled the house. Doing her best to push those aside, she got up and through her morning routine. After her bath and breakfast, she settled in the parlor. Her ankle was iced and elevated, and a good portion of the early afternoon was spent looking over business. She was unawares of Charles receiving Joseph and the letter, and Joseph returning to Westwoods with an Abbey and a young gardner.

As Charles prepared tea time, Adelaide gathered some papers and began penning a new song. No lyrics had come to her yet, but the music itself was manifesting in her mind's eye quite clearly. Oberon lay on the couch with her almost all day, his head on her lap as he slept. Tatiana had taken to pacing the house and seemed something restless. The afternoon came and went--and yet Hugh did not arrive. He hadn't even sent word of his delay or cancellation, which was very unlike him. Insecurities began to claw their way up into Adelaide's mind and she squeezed her eyes shut, trying to quiet them. Hugh had made his intentions very clear to his Aunt and Miss Green. He had announced their courtship firmly. It was silly, then, she reasoned, to be so fretful. Sighing, she sat up a little as the tea service was taken away. The rest of the day she spent fitfully, moving from writing her music to embroidery to reading. Unable to stand and too energetic to sit still, she eventually played fetch with the dogs from her spot on the sofa. Hearing the beasts yip and tumble over one another in their haste made her laugh a little.

Suppertime approached and before she moved into the dining room, she penned a letter to Hugh. She sent it on with Tatiana.


I'm simply writing to inquire if everything is alright in Westwood. I've heard naught from anyone today and it's made me a little nervous for you. Are your ships alright? Is Miss Lydia fairing well? I do hope that nothing serious has happened to trouble you. If you've simply been busy unexpectedly, please be at ease. I'm certainly not cross with you or anything so dramatic. I hope that when things calm down you can come over for tea together as planned. I'll be free almost every afternoon this week, save Thursday, as I have several business meetings then. I will happily await your arrival at any time most convenient for you.
I hope ardently to see your face soon, as I miss it more than I wish to admit.
Please give Fausta and Duncan my love.

All of my heart,


Lydia rose late in the morning, and settled in the drawing room to take her letters from London. In the early afternoon, fausta and Duncan departed for town on an errand, and it was nearly supper time before she saw Hugh or Lenora. Consequently, they both came out of the back of the house, Lenora dressed provocatively and blushing, and Hugh looking dazed. Lydia sipped at her tea and looked at the over her half moon spectacles, arching a thin, grey brow at them both. Perhaps Lenora's efforts were not in vain after all.

"It seems you had a pleasant day together." She commented dryly.


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Duncan listened to the tale of Adelaide and found his respect for the strong gentle creature was tenfold. With the story fully laid out before him he found himself even more eager to protect his friend and his brother. There was certainly something amiss and he was determined to get to the bottom of it. He took his lover to bed and the two promised the night and the stars they would do right by their companions.

The next morning Duncan and Fausta left the house without seeing anyone but the servants. They informed them of their plans and said that they would return later. The ride to the town was fairly uneventful and the two spent time going from the general store to a number of tea shops asking for information. There wasn't much to be found and most turned their noses up at the mention of any sort of scandal. Finding himself frustrated at the lack of gossip his eyes turned to the place where one was most certain to find a few juicy tidbits. The Twisted Rose, stood on the a street corner, its old sign waved gently in the fall breeze. On its stoop a gentleman leaned against a horse post, his morning drinking leaving him a little unsure of his feet.

"Shall we?" Duncan asked, offering his arm to Fausta. "Perhaps we might have some luck there, however I find myself tempted to join our friend here if we hit another dead end." The man gave out a belch and Duncan snorted. The doors opened to the local tavern and the day light spilling in caused the few patrons to blink their eyes away at the terrible sight.

"Shut the damn door!" A gruff voice called and Duncan quickly snapped the oak portal behind them.

"Apologies good sir, a drink on me to mend your poor eyes, friend." Duncan said walking with Fausta to the bar, lifting his hand to indicate another glass of amber liquid be placed in front of the man, who grunted with approval. "What would you like dearest?" Duncan asked turning to Fausta, keenly aware of the many sets of eyes on his goddess of a partner.


Lenora shook Hugh gently awake and he came to with a sharp intake of breath, she jumped back in surprise and Hugh immediately found himself looking apologetic for scaring the woman.

"Forgive me sir, you seemed quite tired, I did not wish to disturb you but it close to supper and I believe we are expected."

"Supper? I cannot be." Hugh's head turned to the window catching sight of the darkening sky and looked back to Lenora with a bewildered look in his eye. The pendant near his heart pulsed with heat and he let out a long breath. "I just remember this morning, you asking for my help..." He trailed off and stood. Lenora smiled sweetly at him and placed a hand on his arm, Hugh tensed at her touch and found the strain between his shoulders unbearable. He rolled out of her touch and moved to ease the tension.

"It seemed the chair I selected was most comfortable Mr. Montgomery. You were naught in the chair but a few moments before sleep took you. Perhaps you are catching a fever." She raised a hand to his brow and he felt the cool of her skin against his forehead. "You seem to be burning up Mr. Montgomery, perhaps we should ask the cook for some broth." Lenora didn't wait for his answer and she helped direct him to the dining room. Aunt Lydia took no time to comment on their current attire and Hugh made a noise but no words came to his mind. He felt so muddled and useless. His limbs were still heavy and he barely registered as Lenora guided him to sit.

"It seems Mr. Montgomery is perhaps with some sort of sickness." Lenora said calmly. "I think the gentleman could use some soup." She directed to a servant who nodded. Lenora took her seat next to Mr. Montgomery and pushed a glass of water into his hand. It took Hugh a moment to understand what he was supposed to do with it but finally he lifted it to his lips and found the cool water was the most wonderful thing on his dry lips and tongue. He gulped down the entire contents.

From outside the dining hall Hugh heard a bark and turned his head at the sound. Lenora's instincts were sharp and she pushed another glass into his hand and stood. "You best drink another glass, Mr. Montgomery." She directed and with his mind in a fog he turned and obeyed. Lenora curtsied to Aunt Lydia and left the room quickly to catch sight of Joseph letting in the horrible dog that belonged to Adelaide. Her nose wrinkled at the sight, but she caught sight of the message the dog carried.

"I can bring that to Mr. Montgomery." She said gesturing, when Joseph hesitated she raised a brow. "Come now sir, I would hate to bring up your lacking performance to your master." The butler's eyes darkened in her direction but he complied and soon the parchment was in her hand. "Send the beast home." She said turning on her heel away from the dog. There was a low growl from Tatiana, but soon Joseph had her outside and the door locked. Lenora slipped the message in her bodice and set a bright smile on her face before she re-entered.

"Who was it? Tatiana and Oberon?" Hugh asked, his hand weakly holding the spoon to the soup that now lay in front of him.

"No." Lenora said gently, sitting next to him again. "Just a stray dog, that seems to have made its way up from town. Nothing to worry about." She said, as she took the spoon from him and lifted the broth to his mouth. "There now." she said clucking at him as he sipped the soup. "How was your day Mrs. Montgomery? I do hope it is only Hugh that catches this and not the rest of the household as well."


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Their search through town proved to be about as fruitless as she had expected. No one had a bad word to say about their quarry--indeed, quite the opposite in fact. The couple heard many tales of Edward's childhood deeds throughout the town. Helping fishermen haul in heavy nets, fixing roofs, accounting work, even helping spinsters home with groceries in tow. The whole experience was both frustrating and mind numbing for her. Finally, they arrived at the tavern, and after a brief interaction with a sloshed gentleman at the door, they took seats at the bar.

Duncan must have sensed her unease, as he asked for her drink. Sighing, Fausta leaned over and kissed her lover's cheek and called to the bartender. "Signor, two whiskeys, neat, double pour. Grazie." Despite their current circumstances, Fausta could tell that Duncan quite enjoyed being the veny of many of the patrons. That alone made her smile, and she flipped open her fan to alleviate some of the oppressive heat within the dark establishment.

"<What do we do now, Amore? This is the last place we might get any information, and with our current luck...>" The tender came with their drinks, and Fausta took a sip, letting the cool liquid burn down her throat as she left a rouge lip print on the glass. "<I should have killed him where he stood at the party.>" She lamented, annoyed with herself for going against her hunter's instincts.

Supper finished before Tatiana returned, and by then Adelaide had returned to the drawing room. Her loyal companion came without a response, which made Adelaide's brow crease in worry. Hugh had always replied to her notes--even before they knew each other well. It was most unlike him to be so quiet. Was he ill? Hurt? Tatiana nuzzled her head into Adelaide's palm, as if asking for forgiveness. By the cold lingering from her white fur it seemed the dog had waisted quiet a while outside Westwood's doors. Adelaide leaned down and kissed the animal's head tenderly, then shooed her away to curl up by the fire with her counterpart. The autumn chill was seeping into the house again.

Adelaide hobbled across the room to the small pianoforte, and arranged the pages of her forming song on the sheet rest. Charles heard her moving and came in, exasperated. She bid him to fetch a pen and ink, and her choker from the bedroom. Once he re-situated her leg, he did so--though not without a good scolding to compensate. Finally, she was settled and with all she needed, including a thick blanket 'round her shoulders and a hot cup of tea.

Adelaide began to test out music, letting all her anxious thoughts become sound onto the page. It did little to calm her stormy heart. Tomorrow she would write again. The stone upon her pendant was warm to the touch, and though normally that warmth comforted her, it served now only to make her feel colder. The house once more began to feel like a cage. But she did her best to clear her mind and focus on the music.

Lydia watched with interest as Lenora tended to her nephew. He did seem ill--which was a tad concerning considering his health just a day prior. But under the woman's gentle ministrations, he ate two bowls of soup ad drank plenty. The barking was rather odd-as they were rather far from town. Lydia suspected that the other woman had sent away one of the neighbor's hounds, but kept her lips pursed at the thought. Hugh had wanted to deal with the situation in his way, so she would let him. Perhaps losing one lover would teach him not to be so naive. Lenora managed half a plate of her own food. They talked idly as dinner progressed.

Finally, Lenora declared it was time for Hugh to sleep, so she and some servants helped him to his rooms. A maid she had never seen before helped tidy up the dishes, but Lydia dismissed her surprise. It wouldn't be so strange for Hugh to hire some help of his own if he thought it was needed. Westwood was his now, after all. After dessert, which she ate alone, Lydia retired to the lounge to wait for Duncan and Ms. Ricci. They were terribly late for their trip to town. Perhaps, she mused, they had gotten a room at the local in. She snorted at the thought and challenged Joseph to a game of chess.


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Fausta's words settled in Duncan's mind and he regarded the glass of whiskey. He made a noise of agreement, frustration settling as a line between his brows. The glass lifted to his lips and the scent of the amber liquid had his mind buzzing, the drink was finished with a single swig and he gestured for another as a patron shuffled closer on his stool towards Fausta.

"What's that language now?" He asked gruffly, his tankard half full, however it was clearly not his first. His brown hair was matted and tangled around his face, hiding his eyes.

"Italian." Duncan supplied, giving the bar keep a nod as another glass was presented to him.

"Sure is pretty. Say some more dove." The man urged, his back straightening. "Does she sing?" He asked eager now. Duncan sighed and lifted the glass to drink it again when an idea occurred to him.

"Perhaps we might trade a song for some information good sir." His voice raising high enough for the entire establishment to hear.

"What sort of information?" Another voice asked, there was a flash of teeth from his victorious smile as Duncan turned to see a man seated in a corner table. Silver hair covered his head and his clothes were dirty with the sort debris that only a blacksmith could have.

"Edward Redstone, I want information of a more nefarious nature." Duncan said calmly, the cool tone of his voice sending the Twisted Rose into silence. All sets of eyes on were on him now and Duncan waited for anything, but only silence greeted him.

"Perhaps you better leave." The man behind the bar suggested, there was a strain in his voice and Duncan swiveled, his steps bringing him closer to Fausta. He got the sense that there would not be much else useful to gain here. His lip curled up in distaste and Duncan reached into his pocket, pulling out a number of coins to toss on the bar top.

"Shall we Love?" Duncan asked Fausta, his frustration clearly evident. Feeling petty Duncan reached over the back of the bar, and snatched a bottle of a fine red wine, and tucked it into his coat.


Lenora strutted like a peacock in her room, Her dress lay over the changing divider and she wore a robe knotted tightly around her waist. Hugh had gone to bed without much of a fuss and he seemed so weary. She knew the effects would likely last for another day and was ready to tend to his every need in the morning. With her ministrations and distractions the night of the ball would be soon upon them. Adelaide would be very much isolated and with a little more seduction she would have Hugh.

She regarded the room she was in now and wondered if she could convince Hugh to convert it to a closet with all the fine dresses she would need to wear, Hugh's money and status would prove most advantageous. Her thoughts grew dark then, promises made against orange candle light. How long would she have to wear black she wondered, he would guide her of course, as he always had. A smile cracked across her features and she fell on the bed a dark chuckle in her throat. The laugh was cut off short into a gasp when something pricked into her back. Sitting up quickly she looked down at the sheets and saw a blood red rose, wilted on the covers, its thorns caught in the material. Frowning at the sight Lenora reached out and with delicate fingers detached the single stem and with a roll of her eyes she threw it in a bin and climbed into bed without another worry.

She fell fast asleep, unaware of the cold gaze turned in her direction.


Hugh's dreams had him alone in the woods, the natural beauty of the woods lost to the shadows and the dark. The path he was on seemed to have reached a fork, a sign stood tall in the middle however the light was too low for Hugh to make any sense of the script on the wood. The two paths seemed lined with mushrooms and moss, truly he could find no indication of what his path should be, overwhelmed with the idea of making a wrong choice Hugh stayed in his place and sank to the ground his head in his hands. He wept as the forest grew darker around him.


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Fausta felt the hair on the back of her neck stand at attention as the atmosphere of the room shifted. Duncan's question had every patron's hackles raised in an instant. He sensed the danger as well and she took hold of his arm swiftly when he offered it. The added injury of the wine bottle made her laugh out loud as they made their swift retreat and regrouped at their carriage. They consoled each other for their defeat, and promised to drink the stole bottle once the chaos was over and they had figured out Edward's game.

They returned to Westwood tired and frustrated. Lydia informed them that HUgh had suddenly come down with a fever and that Lenora was tending to him. Fausta felt her anxiety grow as they retreated to his rooms. Was it a natural sickness? She asked herself dubiously. They began to settle in to discuss their next move when a knock came at the door and the abbey from Ivedowns entered. She gave a curtsey and began to report.

"Sir, Ma'am, much has happened today. Richard told me that the bouquet you saw was gone this morning at breakfast time, though he saw no signs of an intruder in the gardens. Master Hugh and Miss Green were shut up in the back room for most of the day, the other servants said she was painting. Master Hugh became ill shortly before dinner, but ate well and is sleeping now. Oh, and--" She sighed, looking hurt. "Miss Green apparently turned Taiana away before dinner. Joseph is racked with guilt sir, apparently the hound stayed outside for several hours waiting to be let in again."

Fausta and Duncan shared a look and the woman left. Fausta sighed and kicked off her shoes, beginning to undress from her lady's clothing. as she bustled around the room, she spoke.

"Amore, I do not like this. Tati come alone? That is how Addy sends notes. If there was no response, she'll be, how you say, all over with worry." She sighed, shedding her corset and dropped it on the floor. She pulled on a pair of loose pants from her trunk, and set about looking for a shirt to wear. "I should go to her. Will you be alright alone?" She was wary to leave him now that they knew that the conspirator was within the house.

Lydia found Duncan and Fausta returning late, and looking sorely disappointed. Duncan handed over a bottle of red wine to a maid, and both looked worried at her mention of Hugh falling ill.

"Don't worry so much there, you two." She scowled "He isn't that fragile, you know. A doctor will be here in the morning besides." They spoke briefly and then retired. Lydia followed, feeling another headache coming on.

Adelaide had fallen asleep at the pianoforte, the dogs curled around her feet. She dreamt of a melody--achingly sad and lonely--whispering through the fog choked trees. She was standing within the ruins of the witch's cabin in Westwoods. Only, this time were was no one else to hold onto. No sunlight to warm her bones. The place that had brought her comfort with Hugh, her hiding space... It seemed oddly cold. Empty. Adelaide huddled down in the grass, drawing her knees up to her chest and burying her face into the soft, damp fabric of her nightdress.

Suddenly, she was six years old again, and alone in the darkness. The sore, gaping hole in her heart was torn anew and she felt it as if it was a real wound. Pounding hard against her chest, her skin searing hot and cold as ice. She wept, holding herself tighter. No one was coming to save her this time. The loneliness would swallow her whole like the hungry jaws of the big bad wolf.


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The news delivered sent Duncan back to the pipe as his lover got dressed, she spoke quickly and with determination. He knew what she was doing what right and sighed lightly, the smoke puffing with his air.

"Yes, I would come with you normally, but I fear we may need a man in both corners." He set the pipe down and went to her when she was dressed, his hands clutched around her waist and he pulled her too him for a fiery kiss. He poured his love and faith in her into the moment and when he lifted away from her he grinned, pushing aside his worries, if only for a moment so he might ease her. "Go to our dear Adelaide. Give her my love. Soon we shall have this matter behind us." He kissed her nose then and stepped away, as she left the room and called a servant over to prepare her a horse to ride so that she may quickly reach her friend.

Duncan watched her ride away from his window, the embers of the pipe glowing hot in the evening air. When he was finished he set aside his pipe settled down for the evening, ready to keep a watchful eye the next morning.


Lenora woke with the sun, and got busy wearing another one of her finest gowns, after much preening she left the room and without much thought for propriety she walked straight to the room she knew would be Hugh's and opened the door. Her mark was asleep with on his stomach, his hair a tangle around his head, and mouth open snoring softly. She crinkled her nose and the horrific sound and made a note that she and Hugh would need separate sleeping arrangements if this was to be the norm. Lenora heard a quiet gasp behind her and turned to see a maid in the door way holding the morning breakfast.

"Ah perfect, I will take that." Lenora said straightening her back. Her voice left no opportunity for the maid to question her and soon she had relived the woman of her duty and closed the door smartly in her face. With the click of the door Hugh grunted and his eyes opened and took a moment to adjust to the sight of her.

"Miss Green?" He asked, his voice gruff with sleep. It then occurred to him he was in a state of undress in front of her and he quickly snapped to attention bringing the sheets up and hiding away from her. "Whatever are you doing?" The quick motion made his head pound and he closed his eyes against the pain.

"Careful now." She tutted, setting the breakfast platter on the nightstand next to him. Her cool hands found his head and while Hugh knew he did not want her touch, he found that the cool pressure did help. "You seem to have taken quite a turn of sickness sir. I merely wished to bring you food and make sure you were alright." Lenora bit her bottom lip as his eyes opened to focus on her face. "Forgive me but I feel perhaps responsible for you, I just want to take care of you. It pains me to see you hurting like this." She said softly. "Tabhair aire anois a chara, b’fhéidir gur thug mé an iomarca duit." Her Irish proved to be soothing as well.

"What does that mean?" Hugh asked as she began to pour him a cup of tea, her lips curved upwards and she only answered him after he had taken a sip of the tea and a bite of a scone.

"That I wish you only health and recovery Mr. Montgomery. I hope dearly that you will not have to miss the ball coming up." She pulled up a chair to sit next to him in bed and arranged herself so every pleasing feature of her was on display. Her eyes narrowed when Hugh did not seem to even react.

"I do not think it would be a terrible thing if I had to miss the ball." Hugh said finishing the scone, thinking of Adelaide, his brain jumped then that he had not given her word or shown up as he had promised. His body leapt to life and he made a move to get up. "I must leave."

"No!" Lenora cried, she was on him in a second, pushing him back. Hugh struggled but found that it was impossible to even resist. His body was not back to normal. "You must rest. If you need to send a correspondence I must demand that you send a letter." Hugh relented, knowing that if Miss. Green could keep him from standing she was likely right that he needed rest. She brought him some writing materials and Hugh penned a letter to Adelaide, when he was finished Lenora made sure it went right into the fire when he was not looking.


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Fausta's ride was short, and upon entering the house she found Adelaide asleep on the pianoforte, her face tearstained. The dogs woke and she gave them some attention before gently picking up her friend and carrying the woman to her room. Adelaide half-woke, and Fausta was able to get her changed into nightclothes and arrange her properly on the bed for her injury before she fell asleep again. She seemed tired in the way that sleep couldn't help. After Addy was put to bed, Fausta returned downstairs and spoke to Charles, who informed her of the note sent out with no response received.

Troubled, Fausta returned to the parlor and tidied up absentmindedly as she lost herself in her thoughts. She stopped when she found Addy's songs, two new pieces. Fausta sat on the bench and read through them, an idea coming to her mind.

Adelaide woke in her bed, wth the dogs settled about her. Her brain was foggy after the nightmares, and she rose, slowly. Adelaide put on a robe and found Charles outside the door. He helped her down to the breakfast table, where she found Fausta.

"Why, hello!" She said delightedly, perking up. "I wasn't expecting company, this is a most welcome surprise!" Fausta laughed as she sat back in her chair with the morning paper. Adelaide sat across from her as Charles poured tea.

"Amore, I couldn't be leaving you here by yourself!" Fausta replied with a smile. "I would not want you to be getting lonely." Adelaide smiled back, and the two chatted over breakfast. As the meal was coming to an end, Adelaide finally worked up the nerve to ask after Hugh. When Fausta informed her that he had suddenly fallen ill, she leapt up with a cry.

"What?? I must go to him! Oh, how terrible..." Adelaide winced as pain shot through her ankle, and found her dear friend looking at her sternly.

"Amore," She chided gently, standing to help her. "I am not thinking that is a good idea. You must heal, too. This injury could be getting worse if we do not care for it." Fausta helped Adelaide into the parlor and settled her onto the chaise. She then went to stoke the fire as the dogs came and snuggled up by the warmth. She returned to the chaise and gripped the other woman's hands. "There is a doctor coming today. He will be alright." She promised. Adelaide nodded uneasily, finally sitting back against the cushions.

Fausta wrote two letters and sent them out. One to Duncan and the other to the Goldsmythes. She sat, then, and began to discuss her idea with Adelaide.

Della sighed as the door was slammed in her face, and turned away. After retrieving another breakfast tray, she went up to master Duncan's room. Once he opened the door, she set the tray down and turned, her hands folded.

"Sir, Miss Green has the door to master Hugh's room locked. She won't allow any servants to come in and assist her, I'm a little worried she won't even let the doctor in at this rate." Della gnawed at her bottom lip. Westwood was a fine manor, but being sent to spy had her wishing for the quiet of Ivydowns most ardently. She didn't even get to see Richard all that often, as he was kept busy in the gardens. Della felt quite alone here, unsure of who was the real enemy.


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Duncan answered the door to a maid he did not recognize and knew immediately she was one of Adelaide's from Ivydowns. She looked as sweet as could be and it was clear from her worry that she did not wish to push further into the matter. He nodded as she relayed her news and gave her a reassuring smile.

"Thank you." He said lifting a hand to squeeze her upper arm in a friendly gesture. "I will see if I can insert myself into this situation." When the maid left his smile melted away to a grim expression. Walking slowly down the hall Duncan arrived at his brothers rooms and tried the door handle. He found it would not budge and frowned, with a sigh he reached up and gave the door a few smart raps. He could hear the creak of a chair as someone stood and walked to the door.

Lenora opened the door a small crack and frowned at the sight of Duncan.

"Your brother is quite unwell sir, perhaps you might come back later." She said in a curt voice.

"I would very much like to see him." Duncan said in a no nonsense tone, as he pushed the door open a little further. Lenora resisted only for a moment and the stepped away allowing the portal to swing wide open. Duncan saw Hugh laying restfully in his bed, a number of pillows had been arranged around him providing him with much comfort. His face was pale, but he looked peaceful with his eyes closed. Duncan took in the tea and other small bites to eat on the nightstand. "It is quite improper for a young unmarried woman to be alone with a man like this. You have your reputation to consider, should word get out you might find yourself ruined." Duncan said coldly, all joy draining from his voice.

He was going to speak again but found himself distracted by a cough from behind him. Joseph stood holding a platter filled with a number of letters.

"The mail sir." He said, holding the silver dish.

"Ah thank you Joseph." Duncan said stepping back into the hall, to receive them. The door to Hugh's room shut behind him and there was an audible click from the lock. Duncan and Joseph shared a glance for a moment before Duncan took all the letters. He recognized Fausta's writing and smiled, he walked down the stairs to the study, and settled back to sort through the mail and read Fausta's idea. He grinned at his lovers idea and found it quite brilliant.


The days passed and Hugh felt the strength to return to his body. Lenora tended to his every need and soon he was up and about again. However his heart was not quite the same, Adelaide had not come for him despite his letter. She had ignored him for a week not, despite it feeling like much longer in his mind. It was the morning of the ball and Lenora had sensed his sorrow, and convinced him that the Goldsmythe's ball would be a wonderful chance to take his mind off of his lost love. Duncan had remained rather quiet through his ordeal as well, staying mostly to the study claiming that there was much work to do with the ships and their new connection to Italy.

Hugh sat in the gardens, bundled up against the cool air as his suit for the evening was prepared upstairs. As he gazed into the forest he felt the pendant he had refused to take off even at Lenora's insistence thrum against this chest, a warm beat against his sad heart. What on earth had he done wrong? Should he go to her? Hugh saw the flicker of movement as a deer moved through the trees of the forest. While his heart longed to see her, his brain and conversations with Lenora had his mind doubting her love. Perhaps she realised that they were not meant to be, Lenora had suggested that women's hearts were rather fickle. It was quite common for women to fall in and out of love when they were disappointed by their partners. He felt his chest tighten with the knowledge that he had been a disappointment to her, why on earth had he let his feelings get in the way?

Hadn't he always known that it would end poorly? He had known that he would be a terrible husband and he had tried to reason with her, she had been so blind before, but now Lenora had made it clear for him that Adelaide wanted nothing more.

"Are you excited for the ball this evening?" Lenora asked him, her voice coming from behind. Her hands settled on his shoulders and Hugh stiffened against her touch. The pendant flashed hot as fire for a moment and he pulled away out of her grasp.

"I suppose." He said softly, standing and rubbing his cool hands together.

"Come then by the fire, we don't want you getting sick all over again." Lenora guided, her gentle voice convincing him to retreat back indoors.


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Fausta spent the rest of the week bouncing between the estates. She consoled and comforted Adelaide, then planned with Duncan. After a week of no word from her lover, Addy was a desperate mess, and Fausta was raging. All further contact with Hugh had been kept to a minimum thanks to Miss Green's efforts. She had even tried to reason with the matron, Lydia, but to no avail. It seems the woman thought that Hugh and Adelaide were a bad match and was quite pleased with the current outcome of things.

Fausta was currently pacing Duncan's room, all dressed up in a beautiful aquamarine evening gown, styled after the greek goddesses of old. Her hair was done up and had matching silk ribbons intertwined throughout. She was bedecked with pearls and light, shimmering makeup, almost as if she was Aphrodite herself stepping off the seafoam. But for all her trappings, her face was twisted into an unbecoming scowl that seems to burn through anything it touched. As Duncan changed behind the screen, she ranted at him.

"<I'll kill her, I swear it! That evil, scheming woman comes to ruin everything! After all that work, after so long... she ruins the happiness they've scrambled for! AAUGH!>" Fausta bellowed and swore, hurling her clutch across the room so hard that the metal lining dented the far wall. She sat down on the chaise with an aggravated noise. "<Won't let his brother see him, won't let the servants change the bedsheets for god's sake! UGH!" She took a few deep breaths, trying to think rationally through the haze of anger surging through her body.

"<The only way to show them that they've been toyed with is if we catch her with Edward. He'll be at the party for sure, the Goldsmythe's adore the bastard. Oh, my love... we have to save them. We simply must.>" There was a tinge of anguish to her voice. For the first time in her life, Fausta was unsure if she could get the outcome she wanted, and it scared her. Especially with so much on the line. Her dear friends.... She looked up at Duncan as he emerged, her face a storm of emotions.

Adelaide was nearly inconsolable by the weekend. Hugh had not answered any of her letters, and Fausta only had sparing details about his health. It seemed that the lovely Miss Green had been nurturing him back to health. She was beside herself with doubt and worry, and it took Charles almost an hour to talk her into coming to the party as she had agreed to. Fausta had arraigned for her to come towards the middle of the affair and sing a small set. She assured her that doing so would get Hugh's full attention, that way they could speak afterward.

That week had felt as an eternity to her. All the sweet dreams of Italy now haunted her mind like nightmares, taunting her. How dare she believe, even for a moment, that she could truly be happy. After all, who would want her? As broken as she was? Had Hugh finally come to his senses now that he had been presented with a proper woman? The thought crushed her heart beyond repair. Was she truly doomed to be alone in this house, forever?

Finally, she stopped crying and was able to get a hold of herself. If this is what Hugh wanted, then fine. But she would take Fausta's advice. She'd give him an evening he'd never forget. She'd show him beyond a shadow of a doubt that their love, the time they shared, was meaningful. Then, if it was what he wanted, Adelaide would leave and never bother him again. If that woman truly brought him the happiness he deserved, then she couldn't bring herself to hate either of them. Not truly.

With a solemn sort of determination, she began to prepare. Adelaide decided to wear something truly eye catching--the maroon and gold outfit from the night Hugh first supped within her home. With one very important addition.

Lydia disembarked the carriage first, sighing as she stretched her old bones. They were fifteen minutes late, just as she liked. It was good to make entitled people wait every once and awhile. It kept them human. As the others began to climb out, she thought of house awful the atmosphere on the ride over had been. Like a powder keg just waiting for a spark. She rolled her eyes and began to slowly climb the stairs up to the front door, waiving away offers of help with a sharp look.

Edward waited in the garden, a glass of wine in one hand and a rose in the other. He was groomed in his finest, all the ladies at the party were giving him eyes. He ignored them all, waiting on the appearance of a certain woman. The gardens were lit dimly, in a romantic way, and with the music spilling out of the open balcony, the evening was ripe for seduction. His plan was so achingly close to completion, now. Just a little longer and he would have all he desired.


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The week had certainly been an adventure. Duncan had not been lying when he said he had been holed up with business matters. Along with Fausta's letter had been a most enthusiastic letter from Rocco and company. They had set in motion a number of time sensitive projects that needed immediate attention. With Hugh out of commission and Lenora in the way the work took precedence and Duncan took care of affairs for the both of them. Fausta had taken the lead on their mission and with every passing day he could see the anger from her growing closer and closer to the surface.

He watched his lover's shadow move now as she paced, the anger coming out with excess energy. He saw the shadow of her arm lift and ducked as her clutched went hurtling next to the changing screen. There was a dull thud as it connected with the wall and fell to the floor. He straightened and adjusted his coat tails before stepping out to see Fausta. She looked like a goddess scorned and he gave a sympathetic noise of agreement with her final words. He was quiet a moment longer as he bent to retrieve her clutch and he walked over to her. He placed it in her hands and bent to kiss the top of a very flushed shoulder.

"I'm scared too..." He whispered, his head turning to rest his forehead against the spot he kissed. He leaned into her and closed his eyes. "To have Lenora as a step sister is a horrendous idea. Hugh may not be the smartest man in the world and her words may have set some terrible ideas in his head, but I feel very strongly that one look at our Adelaide will have the true story coming to light. However to find Edward is behind this most dark moment would certainly be the cherry on top of the cake." He let out a long breath and straightened. "We must not lose our nerve dearest, our family needs us in this moment, and we shall rise to the occasion." He brushed a strand of her hair back and sought the power within himself that he had seen Fausta display so many times.

"Let us not lose hope." He said as he offered his hand to her as the carriage waited down below.


Hugh was downstairs and waiting well before anyone else. He had dressed in silence and waited now in the same condition. He could not bring a smile even if he tried, something felt wrong, his pendant had been warm against his breast for so long, and he held tight to the warmth. A world without Adelaide seemed so empty, however it seemed that nothing could be done. He took comfort in knowing Adelaide would not be attending the party, with her injury and her relations with the Goldsmythes. He was not sure he could bare to look at her and know that he had failed her.


Lenora descended the stairs of Westwoods, her plum evening gown flared in the hips and hung low on her back revealing perfect smooth skin. She walked as gracefully as she could and yet his eyes still did not lift to her. Hugh Montgomery seemed lost in thought. What a terrible dull man, she thought as she finally reached the bottom of the stairs. Behind her Duncan and Fausta had begun their decent as well. Lenora walked quickly to Hugh and placed her hand on his arm, he jumped at the touch and blinked himself back to reality.

"Are you ready Mr. Montgomery?" Lenora asked cheerfully.
"Oh... Yes..." He said his words dull in the evening, his blue eyes were muted and he looked sorrowfully at her. It took every ounce of effort for Lenora to not roll her eyes in exasperation. With effort she plastered a smile to her face and looked to Fausta and Duncan, it irked her that the two were beautiful beyond compare. She had learned her lesson in speaking with the two of them, and instead led Hugh to the carriage, and settled in the corner of the carriage.


The ride to the Goldsmythe's took no time at all. Hugh lost in thought barely registered the change of scenery and jumped when Lenora directed him to step out of the carriage. He felt numb as he held his hand out for Miss. Green to step out. When they entered they were announced and the loud unmistakable voice of Mrs. Goldsmythe sounded.
"Why Mrs. Montgomery! We were starting to wonder if you were going to show up!"

A servant carrying a platter of drinks arrived just as the hostess did. Duncan took two drinks and offered one to his brother and then to Fausta, then took another two one which he gave to Aunt Lydia. There was one other glass left on the platter and Duncan took it and held both in his hands, refusing to look in the direction of the awaiting Miss. Green.

"So pleased you could come." Mrs Goldsmythe twittered. "We have such a night in store dears, a game with masks and finding one another in the gardens later tonight, and the finest music within miles! Please do come in." She ushered them forward and into the crowd.


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Fausta had loosened up some once they had gotten to the party. Mingling with others helped calm her. The bustle of the crowd was easy, familiar. The games were fun and the wine was flowing. It was almost easy to forget the things that gnawed at her stomach like hungry wolves.

She enjoyed being the center of attention again, all the envious stares made her proud to be on Duncan’s arm. They danced to a few songs and easily outstripped everyone else on the floor.

Halfway through the evening, she noticed the time, and Lenora talking to a man by the entrance to the gardens. She leaned close to Duncan, pressing her lips to his ear.

"Make sure Hugh keeps his eye on Addy, yes?" She kissed the soft skin just behind his ear with a passion more like herself than she had been in a week. Winking, she left him there with his brother and the crowd. Fausta danced through the bodies elegantly, sipping on her wine as if she was simply moving about. Eventually, she sidled up behind a pillar where the two were talking and settled in to listen.

Adelaide took a deep breath, her whole body tingling with nerves. But she was here, now, and there was no going back. The doors to the ballroom swept open and people murmured, stepping away from her. She kept her head high and mustered the brightest smile she could, even with her slight limp. She made her way to where the orchestra sat, and curtsied slightly as the Goldsmythe's introduced her. They promised that it would be quite a performance, and she smiled even more. They didn't know how right they were.

Her eyes moved through the crowd and found the one she was longing for. She felt tears begin to burn, but forced them back, and as the band struck up it's first song, she slowly untied the ribbon that held her choker in place. Taking it from her neck, she held the pulsing pink stone tightly in her gloved hands as people gasped in horror at her wounds. She closed her eyes and began to sing. It was a powerful song, full of anger and frustration, and refusal to be denied. the whole ballroom grew quiet. Adelaide felt the tension in the room and sang through it, clutching her hands to her chest at the crescendo of the song and summoning the prowess of her beloved Madonna.

As soon as the first song ended, she moved to the pianoforte, not giving the audience a chance to breathe before she started her second song. She looked up once, and met Hugh's eyes once more and did her best to say with her eyes This is for you, Angel. Looking down at her hands, she began to play. It was an achingly sweet melody, but no less powerful of a song. It was achingly sad and desperate, but full of devotion and hope. As the song progressed, she found herself unable to hold back tears. Thoughts of Hugh flooded over as she sang, her tears falling onto the keys like raindrops, glittering in the candlelight. It ended, and the room gave her some applause. She left her neck bare as she curtsied again, and automatically began to move towards her lover. Like she was being pulled by a force she couldn't see.

Finally, Edward was able to pull Lenora aside. He pressed a lingering kiss to her hand, his smile bright as she spoke softly to her. "Hello, poppet." He breathed seductively. He handed her the rose and moved closer--almost too close to be considered proper. "I've missed you, my lovely Lenora.." Edward murmured. He looked deeply into her eyes, willing her to obey him.

"How goes the plan?" He was careful to keep the eagerness from his tone. “I’m ready to have you beside me again. Thank you for suffering so much on my account.” He kissed her knuckles again, not breaking eye contact as he did.
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He was intoxicating, the voice, his smell, the rose. Lenora took the red flower and held it delicately in her hand and he held her hand and kissed it. With each press of his lips delicate shivers moved through her.

"Edward." Lenora breathed his name out softly. "I have missed you so." She murmured, wishing to capture his lips in a passionate kiss. She saw the flash of impatience in his eyes when she did not answer his question and quickly moved to answer him. "They are finished, the idiot man is convinced that Adelaide wants nothing more to do with him. I saw to that. Adelaide is more alone than ever now." She said excitedly, eager to please him. Her hand tightened around the rose, the pain of the thorns fueling her joy at her job well done.

In the distance Lenora faintly made out a voice singing but paid it no mind, she was entranced.


Her distinct voice filled his ears and Hugh felt his skin grow warm at the sound of it. His head shot up from contemplating his drink and then suddenly there she was. He could not ignore the hope blooming in his heart, despite the power, the emotion there behind every word. He could not say how long her song was, only that he had not looked away from her for a single moment. The pillar that he rested his back against began the sole reason he was still on his feet. He did not hear Duncan chuckling behind him or notice as his brother clinked his glass to his own.

The song changed, and Hugh felt the words wash over him. He knew instantly then, he would die for this woman without a second thought. She had filled up every part of him, and the knowledge that she had chosen to leave him ached, but with her in front of him he felt his broken heart dare to dream again. Her neck was bare, and she was everything. People around them shared look, however they remained quiet, listening to the talented woman who they had shunned for years. The respect the audience held was tangible, and Hugh felt it strongly with the rest of the crowd. She finished and Hugh knew she would venture to him next. THe look in her eyes, it was the same as before, filled with love and adoration. He could not comprehend it, her actions had proven so differently, and now here she stood close to him. Duncan quickly took the glass out of his hand and gave Hugh a nudge.

Hugh took his brothers lead and without a second thought, Adelaide's hand was in his own and they were rushing through the crowd, down the hall and into a darkened room, Duncan's laughter sounding behind them the entire way. Hugh closed the door against the parties noise and regarded his lover with an intense gaze.

"I confess I am not sure what is at all happening." He muttered, brushing his hand impatiently through his hair as he fought the urge to take her into his arms. "You have made it very clear this past week that you want nothing to do with me anymore, and yet..." He gestured franticly at her. "You look at me with those eyes. You sing for me. You share all of who you are with this party. Why Adelaide? Why are you pulling me back after you thrust me away?" He looked anguished with the memory of her absence and found his heart warmed by the pendant resting there.


Duncan peered down the hallway at the closed door with a smug smirk. Of course Fausta's plan had gone splendidly, with both champagne flutes in his hand he took a moment to finish the both of them before returning to the party to find Fausta. Perhaps he could persuade her to join him in the gardens for a moment to celebrate. She had been on fire with passion this evening, their dancing had clearly been the envy of all and he hoped to dance with her again quite soon in a more intimate way. With a devilish smile he wound his way through the crowd keeping his eyes peeled.


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Edward had only a moment to revel in her words. His hands ghosted up and down her arms, a proud smile on his features. "There's my girl." He purred sweetly, her attentions stroking his ego nicely. But a honeyed voice began to sweep through the hall and Edward's head snapped up, his eyes dilating. Adelaide stood in the center of the room, his marks displayed for all to see. She was smiling and crying all at once, glowing maroon and gold in the candlelight. The audience was enraptured, and Hugh seemed to come back to life at the sound.

"Damn it!" He swore, smashing his wine glass against the window pane so it shattered, glass raining down upon his hand and the hem of Lenora's dress. He turned on her, his eyes ablaze. "Nothing more to do with him, eh? Blast it, Lenora! Everything is ruined now!" Blood began to seep from his wound, aggravated by the fist he was making. He turned back to the party in time to see Hugh and Adelaide vanish into the crowd. He turned, spitting in anger as he moved further into the gardens. Now he'd only have one chance, if that.

Fausta grinned into her glass as she heard all the pieces fall into place. Edward was furious, and Lenora was lost trying to calm him. Duncan sidled up next to her in time to hear the end of the conversation, and they grinned at each other. Clinking their glasses in a silent toast, they then put them aside and ventured out onto the floor. Duncan took her into him as they began to sway to a slow waltz.

"Do you think it was enough?" She asked him, a small, hopeful smile playing across her lips. Fausta met his eyes and saw the spark behind them once amore, the tension leaving her shoulders at the sight. It was good to see him so alive again. The past week had taken quite a toll on both of them. The hem of her dress whispered upon the ground, gossip about the striking performance wound around them. Fausta let out a laugh, shaking her head. "Did you like her songs, amore? They were new. I think she chose the right time to show them off, no?"

Adelaide hand't even the time to laugh away her nerves before Hugh had whisked her away to some private room. Before she could speak, the words tumbled form his mouth in a desperate, frantic jumble. His blue, blue eyes were on her, then, and full of pain. Adelaide's brow furrowed as his words sunk in, her own eyes full of confusion and pain.

"W-what?" She asked, her hand coming up to grip her bare throat. The stone in her other hand pulse with a dull light, not that they noticed. "Hugh, what do you mean? Thrust you away? Never! Even if I wanted to, I couldn't. My heart would never let me." She shook her head, daring to step just a little closer. "I wrote you near every day this week. Tatiana caught a cold waiting for your replies, you know. She's been beside herself... as have I." She bit her painted lip, searching his face.

"Hugh..." She cast her gaze to the ground, her hand stopping just short of his face and coming back. She hugged herself as tears began to fall from her eyes again, and she took a halting step back, her limp making her unbalanced. When she spoke again, her voice warbled with emotion. "I love you. I told you so that second day we met, and I mean it, still. I have loved you every moment of every day I have known you. T-This past week hurt so much.... I thought it was you who was casting me aside, Hugh. I thought... after all, how could I compare to a real lady like Miss Green? I knew. I mean, I knew you could never really love me back. How could you? How could anyone? How could I ask for even more than the kindness you have gifted me?" She looked up at him once more, teary eyed.

Coming closer, she took his hands in her own, the stone giving off a steady warmth--like a heartbeat. She gripped his hands tightly in her own. "I cannot spend a day apart from you without my body aching from the emptiness of it. Hugh, please, believe me. I never stopped writing you. I would have come myself, but Charles insisted I stay off my ankle. I am sorry, my angel, that you doubted me. I'm so sorry I gave you reason to. But, please... allow me to stay by your side a little longer." She begged him "Allow me to make up for it, if I can. I love you, Hugh. I cannot live without you. Please..."


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Her words brought even more confusion, desperate to understand the situation he remained silent. Listening as Adelaide poured her soul out for him, there was no doubt that every word she spoke was the truth. Her hands were holding his own and her touch brought warmth to his very core. She proclaimed her love for him over and over and Hugh felt the world shift back to more hopeful settings. His own words had not found a way out of his throat, instead a small noise of relief came from him and he wrapped Adelaide tight in his embrace. Her form fitting perfectly against his, her sweet smell filling his senses. Finally after a long moment of silence he lifted his head and spotted a chaise nearby and guided them both to sit and broke his silence.

"Adelaide... this heart of mine was not the same without you, I am not sure why we were kept apart this week, but with each passing day the truth has settled in for me. I am not worthy of you, however that does not stop me from loving you with every fiber of my being." The words however heavy felt right. Hugh smiled at Adelaide and decided to whisper it to her, leaning forward his breath brushed hot against her neck.

"I love you."

The words hung in the air for a long moment and Hugh felt the sweet relief of being able to share them. However despite his words a realisation hit and he frowned at her. "I wrote to you everyday, and you did not receive my letters either?" She shook her head and he continued. "Not one of your letters reached my hands..."


Lenora stood like a deer caught in the crosshairs, fear trickled like ice through her veins. The crash of Edwards glass had sent her mind reeling. She failed him, had missed her purpose and now the man who made her feel worthwhile was raging mad. She did not notice the glass around her as party goers looked onwards in her direction in concern. Their whispers as they watched Edward stomp away. After he was gone Lenora finally found a small bit of sense. Her brow furrowed and she whirled around at the guests.

"Please continue." She snarled, frustrated that no one had come to her aid. She was clearly the most beautiful woman here, why were men not scrambling to help her. She stepped away from the glass and brushed off her skirts as quickly as she could. She left the scene with a determined look in her eye, blindly marching past Fausta and Duncan.


Duncan nodded at Fausta's words and thought fondly back to Adelaide's new music. "She certainly put her whole soul into the performance. I hope with their reunion her songs might be a bit happier." He chuckled and grabbed another set of drinks from a passing servant. He handed the glass to Fausta and Lenora stomped passed them. Duncan glanced back to his lover and quirked a brow, a silent question in his eyes.

What is she up to?

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