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Realistic or Modern The Bronze Locket

Sub Genres
Adventure, Historical, Romance, Slice of Life


Junior Member
Adelaide released a long sigh she didn't know she had been holding in when Hugh swept her up into his arms. For several heartbeats they merely held onto each other, as if making up for lost time. Finally, he released her and lead them to sit, where Hugh quietly told her the words she had been aching to hear. Adelaide could scarcely believe it, her heart nearly stopped when his warm breath danced upon the exposed skin of her neck. The man left her no time to reel with his new confession, instead diving right into their current dilemma. He asked after his own letters and she shook her head. When he said he'd never received any of her own, Adelaide's brow furrowed. Who would be stopping their communica--

"Miss Green." Adelaide said, her thoughts screeching to a halt. "She didn't give up on courting you, even after you said otherwise." Adelaide hated to accuse anyone of such a deed, but nothing else made sense. No one else would have motive to keep them apart, save one. And Edward had been silent for months now. She shook her head, holding onto Hugh's hands tightly. "Hugh.. Please, can you ask her to leave Westwood?" She looked into his eyes, anxiety clear on her face. "I don't mean to sound jealous, Angel!" She continued, quickly. "But, what else has she done this week? Left that croquet ball for me to trip on purpose? Somehow made you ill? What if she does something to dear Duncan next, or worse, Miss Lydia? I just, I want you all to be safe."

Even in the dim light, he seemed to glow. Despite the heavy conversation, Adelaide found herself desperately holding back from throwing herself into his arms. Her nerves and excitement were coursing through her veins like fire, making her so jittery she was shaking, slightly.

After Edward vanished into the dark of the gardens, Lenora stomped past them. Duncan gave Fausta a querying look, and the two linked arms to follow. The woman weaved her way through the crowd with seemingly no direction, brushing off all attempts to speak with others.

Fausta's brow creased and she exchanged another look with her lover. When Lenora stopped, she pulled him quickly behind a nearby pillar and made herself busy fixing his collar. "<What is she doing, love?>" She whispered, her eyes scanning the surroundings for any sign of danger.


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Adelaide's realization made Hugh's stomach grow cold. The gravity of her actions settled and everything suddenly began to make sense. Despite the new knowledge Hugh was with it enough to see Adelaide's for begin to shake as adrenaline coursed through her veins. He took a steadying breath squeezed her hands.

"We are safe now. Miss. Green will be sent from the home this evening." Hugh promised. "I do believe you are correct with all of your assumptions. There is no way I will be allowing her to stay with the damage she has done. Aunt Lydia's feelings be damned. " He grumbled, upset that he had not been careful enough. "Damned woman made you hurt yourself and poisoned me." Hugh's grip on Adelaide tightened. "Let's leave this party, I don't think I can spend a moment here any longer."

A movement near the entrance caught Hugh's eye and he stood suddenly at the sight of Lenora with a crazed look, he stepped in front of Adelaide and remained silent.


There was no sense to be had. Edward had thrown her to the side without a second thought, everything she had done for him had been dismissed. Lenora barely heard the multiple invitations to dance and rushed past the guests of the party. Mrs. Goldsmythe had even ventured forth to speak to her but Lenora left the woman gaping in surprise as she was roughly shoved to the side. As she moved away from the party only one thought moved through her head. Adelaide, the blasted trolop was in the way of her happiness, and she would see to it that herself and Edward would be happy. She could make this right.

Without even checking behind her Lenora slipped into the kitchens, they busy with staff as they hurried to feed and water the large crowd, curious eyes lifted as woman of her stature was never seen in this part of the house. Lenora ignored the group of servants and carefully selected a knife that had been laid out to chop some strawberries. The red juice still glistened on the edge and she promised herself to add even more to it. Without a word she took the knife and walked out the other entrance to the empty parts of the house. She was certain Hugh and Adelaide were tucked away in one of the rooms. The useless souls would pay for the damage they had done to her. She heard the quiet whispering of the servants behind her and looked back with wide eyes, the voices immediately died and she gestured that they return to work. Not willing to get in the way of her all eyes turned down to their work and the kitchen resumed their duties.

It did not take long for Lenora to find the couple. Their voices carried to her and sent her mind reeling all over again. Her ears begin to ring and she stepped into the doorway, a sickly sweet smile on her face, the knife glinting in the moonlight filtering in from the windows.

"Hello dearest." She said, laughing a little as Hugh stepped in front of Adelaide. "Come now Hugh. I don't want to hurt your pathetic face. If you step aside only one needs to get hurt this evening."


Duncan hid behind the pillar with Fausta and shook his head in confusion at her question. "<I am not sure. I did not take her to push the matter past this....>" All of the alarm bells were firing off in his body, and he peeked out of the pillar and swore when the sight of Lenora was nowhere to be found. "<We have to find her... Lydia!>" The realization hit that he had not seen his Aunt anywhere and he feared for her safety as well.


Junior Member
Adelaide couldn't even breathe a sigh of relief at his words before he stood, suddenly. He used his own body to shield hers, and she stood to peek around his shoulder. Lenora's cold, strange voice frightened her terribly. She began to rummage in her clutch, quickly, not taking her eyes off the woman before them. Lenora issued her threats with the same kind of calmness that the sky holds before a storm breaks loose. Adelaide tucked her choker into her purse and drew out a small knife with a golden hilt. Closing her clutch, Adelaide took a shaking breath and tried to speak calmly from behind the shelter of her lover's shoulders. She pressed the knife subtly into Hugh's palm, then grabbed onto the back of his suit jacket with one hand to steady herself. The pit of her stomach was hollowed out. Lenora seemed a woman unhinged.

"Miss Green, please, there is no need to hurt anyone.."

Fausta heard Duncan's cry and stiffened herself. Stepping away from him, she drew a small pistol out of her bodice and draped her shawl over it to keep the weapon out of sight from the crowd. The last thing they needed was a flock of panicked sheep scurrying about. "Go, find Lydia and put her in the carriage home, if you can. I'll get Addy and Hugh. I think it's past time we left this party, yes?" Her dark eyes flashed as they moved to seperate.

Fausta moved as fast as she could without arousing suspicion, carefully keeping her eyes moving from one end of the room to the other. She found Lydia sitting by one of the balconies smoking and speaking to a few other women and her heart eased, slightly. Kicking off her shoes with a clatter, she moved silently down the hallway where Duncan has seen the other couple migrate, and it was not difficult to find her target then. Fausta broke into a run, and soon was behind the crazed woman. She pressed the cold barrel of the filigreed pistol to the back of Lenora's neck.

"You are outnumbered now, Lenora." She said steadily, just managing keeping the anger from her voice. "The beast has abandoned you here and you are unwelcome. We know the mask is fake. Drop the knife." Fausta deliberately clicked off the safety, letting Lenora hear the small noise in perfect clarity.

"Are you both unharmed?" She directed the question to Hugh and Adelaide, not taking her eyes off of her prey.


Junior Member
Lenora felt the tip of the blade with her free hand and the silver point pricked her finger, causing a deep red to create a small drop. She lifted her finger to mouth and a metallic taste filled her mouth. Adelaide tried to reason with her and she let out a shrill high noise.

"I fear it's far too late for that dear Adelaide. You have made sure of that this evening. Edward-" Lenora cut at the cool press of the barrel against her neck. Her smile never wavered even when the safety was clicked off. When Fausta questioned if the two fools in front of her were alright she laughed again. "For now." She murmured. Her gaze flashing to find Adelaide behind the form of Hugh. "I'll take my leave then..." Her voice growing soft. Rage took over in the moment, she ducked moving swiftly out of the pistols range, and pushed the knife backward towards Fausta. The blade barreling through the fabric of her skirts and right toward the fleshy part of her thigh.


Hugh reacted in an instant, as soon as Lenora moved he brought the knife Adelaide had placed in his hand out and used his body to shield and push Adelaide farther away from the commotion. He would not leave Adelaide's side and swore no part of her would be exposed to a rouge bullet or knife blade.


Duncan searched the party and found his dear Aunt. She had found a secluded spot and was happily enjoying a swiped bottle and a large piece of cake. Humming to herself as she listened to Mrs. Goldsmythe lose her head over the state of the cake. She had specifically ordered a teal frosting and the servants had made it a sea foam. Frankly the way the woman was going on it sounded as if she had just been given the news that the Queen had passed. Duncan paused in his haste to evacuate Aunt Lydia and the two made eye contact as Duncan settled next to his Aunt.

"Everything is ruined! How on earth will I face the party with this disaster? Tell me?!" The woman screeched. Duncan accepted the piece of cake offered to him on the fork from his aunt and chewed throughtfully. "We must fix this! Scrape off the sea foam bits and just present it like that. I won't tolerate this again." Duncan washed down the cake with a swig from the bottle, and then offered his hand to Aunt Lydia.

"Sadly, we must leave. I shall explain in the carriage." He gave Aunt Lydia a winning smile and helped her to her feet.


Junior Member
There was a sudden flurry of motion, and Lenora whirled around, stabbing the kitchen knife down towards Fausta's leg. She could react in one of two ways--shoot the woman now or dodge the blade. Fausta gritted her teeth as the knife sliced through her dress and caught the inside of her left thigh. Now that the assaulting womans was close enough, Fausta grabbed a fistfull of Lenora's bright red curls and yanked, hard with her free hand. The weight threw Lenora towards the floor, and in that moment Fausta placed her pistol directly on the other woman's arse and fired straight through with a sickening, squishing sort of crack.

The wound certainly wouldn't kill her if the doctor's came in time--as she suspected they would--but it would keep her bedridden for some time and knock down her confidence, certainly. Lenora screeched murderously as she fell to the floor, and Fausta used her good leg to pin her down. She was quite a bit larger than Lenora, but with her wound it took almost all of her weight to keep the struggling woman down. She raised the pistol and whacked Lenora soundly round the head for good measure. Not hard enough to knock her out, but enough to disorient her thoroughly. Fausta was using all her willpower on restraint--she wasn't at all used to going easy on an attacker.

Party goers came running at the commotion, and Fausta's feral look managed to keep the crowd at bay. "Get the police, now!" She boomed. "And the doctors, too. Move!" Blood was gushing from her own wound as well as Lenora's.
The altercation was over in an instant. Suddenly there was blood everywhere--and Fausta had their attacker downed. Adelaide screamed in horror, clutching her throat, and hiding her face into Hugh's chest as he turned to enfoled her in his embrace. She couldn't bear to look at the carnegie. There was a scurry of people rushing about, and she murmured to him.

"T-tell me she's alright, Hugh." Adelaide begged. "Please. She has to be alright." Adelaide shook, slightly, her tears dampening Hugh's cravat.
The next few hours were a whirlwind of activity. The police came and questioned all of the guests, though very few were able to give good information. The Goldsmythes were beside themselves with the gossip that was brewing. Lenora was taken to the local doctor under guard, after Hugh, Adelaide, Fausta and Duncan told them of what happened and before the party as well. Luckily, Aunt Lydia had departed before the commotion, so she was not held up so late. Duncan accompanied a doctor and Fausta back to Westwood to tend to her, and finally it was just Hugh and Adelaide waiting before the estate for her carriage to come up in the line of carriages as guests departed.

Adelaide stayed firmly attached to Hugh through the whole affair, too distraught and worried to care for the wanton stares and scoff of the others.


Junior Member
There was the crack of gunfire and Lenora's bottom suddenly felt as if it were on fire. She let out a screech of pain that was cut off abruptly as she hit the floor and felt Fausta land heavily on her. She writhed under her.

"I'll kill you!" She bellowed, making another noise of pain as the butt of the weapon landed on her head with a solid thunk. Lenora felt all fight leave her body in that moment, the pain in her rump flaring as her muscles contorted around the bullet. There was a long moment of silence from her while Fausta yellowed for the doctor and the police. The well of tears that had been brimming for the longest time finally felt free from her eyes and soon the room was filled with her wails as a floury of feet moved around her.


Hugh held tightly to Adelaide and felt the desperation in her voice. "It's alright love. It's over." He whispered when the screaming turned to crying. Careful to make sure Adelaide did not have to look at more than she did and eager to get Fausta and the rest of them out of there; Hugh held tightly to Adelaide and once a number of men took over guarding Lenora he had Fausta tightly against his side, supporting her as they found a clear room to take care of her wounds while they waited for the doctor.

When finally the whole affair was wrapped up and the final carriage was Hugh and Adelaide's did Hugh take a breath. Adelaide had remained stuck to his side and Hugh felt her presence the sole reason his heart felt as calm as it did. His hand moved up and down her upper arm. They remained silent as the carriage pulled up and Hugh offered his hand to help her up into her seat. He followed behind quickly and shut the door, drawing the curtains on the windows and leaving them in the dark privacy of the night. Hugh could barely make out the sight of Adelaide across him but he reached forward with confident hands and pulled her into his lap. She settled down and he wrapped his arms tightly around her.

"I've got you." He whispered. "I missed you being in my arms. Everything is over now." He soothed.


Duncan was hovering over the doctor as he situated Fausta in her bed after her stitches. He had spent the entire time of stitches breathing down the doctors neck. Finally with Fausta being properly bandaged and settled the doctor was happy to be out of the piercing gaze of the eldest Montgomery brother. Duncan thanked the man with a grunt and snapped the door shut quickly behind him before turning back to Fausta his eyes ripe with concern and fury.

He let out a long puff of air and moved a chair to sit next to her, not wishing to move the bed and hurt her. His hand reached for Fausta's and he lowered his head to press a long kiss there.

"What on earth am I going to do with you?" He muttered. His hands guided her to his heart. "I find myself ready to end a few lives tonight for what happened to you." He said honestly.


Junior Member
Finally, finally, it was over. They were in the quiet dark of her carriage and Hugh had swept her up into his lap, his arms pressing her close against his chest. He whispered soothing words to her and for a moment she buried her face into his neck and simply breathed him in, at last letting herself relax after the harrowing ordeal. His scent was familiar and comforting, and she could feel the steady thrum of his heart and his warmth against her.

"I've missed you, Hugh." She replied softly, her breath ghosting against his neck. "So much that it hurts. Please... don't leave me again." She begged. Adelaide knew she was being selfish to ask such a thing, but after the past week, she honestly couldn't care less. Adelaide tightened her arms around his neck, trying to become even closer to him. It seemed that the only safe place in the world was right there in Hugh's embrace. Leaving him tonight to sleep in her empty home would be one of the hardest things Adelaide had yet experienced. More than anything she wanted to stay in his arms and be beside him in bed that night. But with Lydia still visiting it was entirely out of the question. The old woman would raise hell if she thought their courtship were being conducted improperly.

The lovers traded sweet nothings and soft promises until the carriage stopped at Westwood. The manor was alight with a soft yellow glow that dripped through the heavy curtains like golden honey. Adelaide cupped Hugh's face and kissed him once--deeply and achingly--with all of the love and passion she could muster in a single moment. Hugh made a low growling noise that sent a lightning bolt of want shocking through her body. He dug his fingers into her hips possessively and Adelaide could not help the soft moan that escaped her. After several long moments, she tore herself away from him, knowing that if they continued that way much longer he would not leave the carriage. Though her body whined for need of him, Adelaide reluctantly climbed off of his lap. Once she was settled, the woman took her handkerchief from her clutch and gently wiped off his face--her makeup had come loose onto his skin. When she finished, Adelaide gave him a soft, bittersweet smile.

"Until tomorrow, then, angel.." She could see him briefly consider simply telling the driver to continue on to Ivydowns, but with a concerted effort Hugh bid her goodnight and managed to remove himself from the carriage. Once he was out, the driver started off back home, and Adelaide twisted in her seat to watch his figure stand at the entrance, until she couldn't see him anymore.

Fausta laughed dryly at Duncan's grumblings, and settled back into the pillows as he kissed her knuckles gently. She had lost a lot of blood--it seemed that Lenora was close to hitting a major vein. But Fausta could rest easy knowing that the woman was to be put away into a cell after she recovered from her own wound. It was the right choice--of that she had no doubt. Though Fausta didn't enjoy the drawn and worried look on her lover's face as he observed her. Duncan placed her hand over his still madly beating heart and told her of his frustrations. She sighed softly, her long hair spilling out onto the pillows around her head like a dark, soft halo.

Fausta moved her hand up to touch his face, running her fingers along his jawline and rubbing her thumb over his cheek soothingly. "Amore," She said "It was no one's fault but my own, yes? Lenora...she was ill. Duncan, you should have looked in her eyes, as I did. That man took something inside of her and twisted it until it snapped. I feel only pity, now. She was not of her own mind." Fausta paused for a moment to consider her words further. "<I am not sorry that I did it, amore. I would do it again too, even if it cost me my life. I am sorry that you have worried, so. I never wish to be a source of strife for you.>" There was ture sorrow in her dark eyes, and her lips curved gently into a pout. fausta took her thumb and rubbed out the wrinkles that had formed between Duncan's brows, forcing his face to relax, even if just a little.

"<Please, forgive me for that worry. But I could do nothing else in such a situation. Won't you give me that lovely rakish smile I so adore? Just once?>"

Hugh woke again in the glade behind the witch's cottage ruins. He seemed to be in the eye of a storm--just beyond the trees a wild, violent wind was blowing. Rain and sleet pelting the ground with a vengeance. As before, the eternal springtime of the glade was untouched. the grass was soft and new beneath his toes and the air was still and pleasantly warm. But the atmosphere was different. No bright laughter floated about.

In the middle of the clearing sat Oberon, his elegant head bowed to look at the woman in his lap. It was Tatiana, but she looked...different. No longer powerful and vibrant. She was pale and breathing raggedly, her brow drenched in sweat. Her head rested on Oberon's thigh, her body limp and laying in the grass. Her large wings were unmoving and seemed to have lost their luster. The colors were mutated, almost grey. A raccoon moved back and forth between Oberon and a large basin of water, wetting a cloth he was using to cool her head. The king looked up, finally, and his eyes were the dark, greenish color of the sky before a hurricane. Rage seeped from every inch of his frame, yet he was infinitely gentle with his treatment of Tatiana.

"My wife is struck down by sickness, and my ward is cast off into the wilds." His voice seemed not to come from his mouth, but from the trees and air around them. "You must be my arms, now, human." He spoke to Hugh, thunder rolling from his words as the wind howled around them. "Find her, before the frost. If you do not heed my words, I will strike you down. If you follow my commands, I will give the enemy the life he deserves. After death, he will know only me. Do you understand?" Hugh found himself nodding, as if his body was compelled to. Oberon raised one hand and pointed to the ground at Hugh's feet, where a chrysanthemum sprung to life before him.

"Know my words are true and the time has come when you see this bloom. It is not native to the season or the land on which you sleep." he turned away again, resuming the tender care of his wife. "Leave us." He commanded.

Hugh woke with a start. The necklace upon Hugh's dessert had burnt a shallow hole in the wood, thin wisps of smoke curling up from it. It seemed to almost pulse with a dull amber light, like a warning.

Adelaide woke from her dead sleep in a cold sweat, clutching her throat. He was here. Every nerve in her body was screaming, her pulse beat so loudly in her ears that her skull throbbed with it. Throwing off the covers, Adelaide scrambled out of bed and into the hall. She fell down the stairs, haphazardly clutching at the rails to pull herself up and continue her flight. She swerved away from the front door--he would be waiting for her there. Adelaide bolted through the kitchen and out the garden doors, the howling wind slamming it shut behind her. The only thing she could do was run. Her only hope was to be faster than him--fast enough to get lost in the storm.

Edward had to cover his mouth to keep from letting out a barking laugh. He'd barely picked the lock from the servant's quarters where Adelaide had flown past him and out into the night. Luck was on his side, then. He needn't even chase her--once she got lost in the woods it would take days to find her. And with the first frost coming that night, well. She'd be a corpse by the time they did.

Edward made his way to the front stairs, ignoring the soft growl that came from the pile of dogs in the lounge. He went to Adelaide's room and quickly tided up--pulled the covers up on the bed, arranged her slippers and robe neatly beside. It couldn't hurt, after all, to delay the search. He closed the door softly behind him as he left, and exited the house. He would see that he kept his promise, all right.

If he couldn't have Adelaide, nobody would.

It was almost noon by the time Charles made his way to the Westwood estate. After the incident at the party the night before, the whole house had settled in for some extra sleep, it seemed. For, Joseph had to go and rouse the young master Montgomery himself. Charles stood in the foye, his suit torn and stained with mud, and his hands visibly shook as they held his hat.

"Master Montgomery, I hate to disturb you, but I'm afraid it's rather urgent." He began. "My lady has not been seen since she retired to her rooms last night. We have searched the house and the grounds thrice over now. I've sent riders to the town and into the wood behind our estate, but we cannot find her. Please--we need your help." Charles stepped forward to emphasise himself, though he was already close to tears, when the small dried flower fell from the brim of his hat. t landed on the floor before Hugh's bare feet, a few petals crumbling off. It was a crysthanamum.


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Fausta's touch soothed and Duncan and her words proved to be even more of his undoing. His shoulders sagged and he leaned his head forward to press a kiss to her soft cheek, settling back to consider what she had been through.
"You saved my brother, and your dear friend. I would expect nothing less from you." He chuckled. "Thank you, for being the brightest most fearless soul." There it was, his smile, he eyes seeing only hers. They held hands a long time, murmuring quietly to one another as Fausta slipped into sleep. Once Duncan was assured she was peaceful he tucked her in further and stayed in the chair next to her, ready to tend to her every need.


The gentle knocking of the door roused Hugh from his deep sleep. Confused from the vivid dream it took Joseph knocking three times to finally bring him back to the land of the living. Once his eyes opened the dreamscape fell away to nothing and Hugh felt Joseph's concern as he was urged down the stairs to meet with Charles. Hugh took no time to dress but instead slipped on a robe over his night pants. He was tying up the best tight as he reached the bottom of the stairs to catch sight of Adelaide's butler. The words that fell from his mouth had Hugh cursing. Before he could connect the dots, the flower slipped from the brim of the mans hat and the dream came hurtling back into his mind.

"My god..." Hugh breathed, bending to touch the petals. They crunched against his skin.

"You must be my arms."

"Sir?" Charles asked, confusion and worry thick in his voice.

"You have men searching already, I shall add my own." Hugh straightened, gesturing to Joseph. "Go collect all you can. Have my horse readied." Hugh stepped forward catching the Charles' arm, his gaze steady on the brimming over eyes. "I will find her." Without another word he rushed up the stairs and crashed into his room. He found his riding shirt and jacket and switched into them. His boots were pulled roughly on and Hugh was about to make his way out of the door when the cold flash of the pendant against his heart made him pause. His gaze swept over the room, landing on his pistol and rapier which had been mounted to the wall. Without a second thought he secured both the weapons to his person, feeling the familiar weight. Something he had not felt since his time in the militia.

His sword bounced against the steps as rushed down, forgetting to notify the rest of the family, his sole purpose now set on finding Adelaide. Outside the stable boys had Hellfire trotting excitedly towards the front doors. Hugh wasted no time, rushing forward and catching the reigns, as he propelled himself upward and onto the saddle.

"We'll spread out and look as well sir!" The boys cried as Hellfire lifted up on his hind legs eager to propel forward as his master directed. Hugh grunted in acknowledgement and then dug his heels into the sides of the dark stallion and they were off. Above them, the autumn air was crisp, dark clouds rumbled, threatening to spill their contents onto the world below.

"Adelaide... where are you?" Hugh muttered as another wave of thunder rolled across the sky.


Duncan was roused by the clatter of sword down the stairs and blinked into the dark room, its curtains still drawn. Fausta lay on the bed still resting and after he was certain she was alright he lifted up from the chair and went to the door. He could hear commotion and quickly opened the door and shut it as quietly as he could after exiting. He caught sight of one of the maids lifting her skirts and running down the hall towards the stairs.

"Master Montgomery!" She said breathlessly. "It's Miss Lovelocke, she's missing. We're all getting ready to search the woods." She rushed her explanation as she quickly moved down the stairs leaving Duncan to process the information they had just received. His hand sought out the stair railing as his knees went weak. How...? They had taken care of Lenora. His mouth thinned then and he realized with all of the days events, Edward had gotten away once again. Anger surged through him at the damage the man had done to his family, his duty to Fausta had him rushing back to her.

"Sweetheart. I'm sorry beautiful wake up." Duncan said as he gently shook her shoulder, at the flutter of her eyelashes he dove into the news. "Adelaide is missing. Hugh's just left to find her. The rest of the house is starting the search as well. I must join them." He brushed a hand down the side of her face. "It pains me to say this, but I must demand you remain in bed."


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"What?? Like hell I'll--" Fausta tried to sit up, and pain shot through her. the wound was still to tender. She fell back against the pillows, cursing up a storm. As Duncan dressed, she watched him grimly. Winter was fast approaching, the sky looked as though it would open any moment. When Duncan returned to her bed, she kissed him swiftly.

"Find her, and make sure you all come back to me safe." She said. Duncan acknowledged her words with a taught nod before departing. Fausta listened to the commotion throughout the house and uneasily watched the sky as it rumbled. For the first time since girlhood, she folded her hands and prayed. To whatever god there was, whatever demons or forces controlled Fate.

The search was long and seeming to be a fruitless one. Hours passed, and it was almost sunset and the servants had taken a break to serve dinner. A few still aided Hugh and Duncan as they moved through the foliage, Charles chief among them. As it began to snow, Hellfire spooked, nearly throwing Hugh. Once he had the horse under control, Hugh was able to see what was before them.

You know where she is. Search your memory.

A voice thrummed from the forest, as if spoken by the trees. Or perhaps it was just in his mind. A shadowy figure stood before him, of Obern, Adelaide's black hound. He almost seemed to have antlers protruding from his head, and a crown of bright jewels upon his brow. His eyes were not the warm chocolate of a loyal animal, but the same violent green-grey as the storm. The figure vanished, revealing a lightly trodden path. It lead somewhere familiar...

Adelaide was barely conscious, now. She was covered in small wounds, thistles sticking to her skin and clothes and hair. Her nightdress was torn to shreds, barely enough left on to cover her properly. She looked like a woman mad, her eyes wild and her hair a mess. She was hunched down within the ruins of Mauve's cabin once again, the past and present blending together in her exhausted mind. As the cold snow began to land on her, her eyes finally began to slip closed. She uttered a single word before her body slumped over.



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The cold had Hugh's fingers feeling like they were on fire, every time he regripped the reigns. Hellfire panted under him and the stallions breath fogged up the air as the sun drew lower towards the horizon. Soft white snowflakes fell to the earth and Hugh felt a pang move through his mind. He was running out of time. Hellfire let out a high pitched noise, rearing back as he caught sight of the figure in the distance. Hugh fought to control Hellfire and when he was safely righted he felt the path open. Hugh and Hellfire panted out breath, not noticing as the fog behind them grew denser, hiding them out of sight from the rest of the search party.

Without another thought Hugh urged Hellfire forward, the horse moving swiftly down the path. It felt like hours on the path. Hugh grew colder and colder, never once did the thought occur to him to turn back. One hill followed the other, below him Hellfire grunted as their journey began to take a toll on even him. Deciding the horse could use a break from his weight, Hugh slid off the saddle and brushed away at the snow in his hair and on his shoulders. Shivering, Hugh made sure he had a firm grip before he turned to face the path again. It felt endless, like a dark hole ready to swallow him whole. His mouth curled up, and he bared his teeth to the elements.

"Adelaide!" He roared, his voice carrying and echoing down the path. He felt the nudge of Hellfire and Hugh remembered to place one foot in front of the other. The walked again, moving past yellowed grass and bare branches, the world ready to accept the winter.

Keep going love.

A small voice whispered, the voice bringing memories of warm summer days, boyhood, and fanciful tales. A woman protecting her boys with stories, eventually succumbing to the tragedies she never read allowed. Hugh grunted, blinking away the snow from his eyes, as his lids closed and opened again a clearing fell into focus.

Just a little further dearest.

Hugh could not stop the tears that came to him then. Words failed him, and he shouted again, a warrior ready to get back up again. The trees slowly fell away and Mauve's clearing was all that remained. Hugh felt the rush as he caught sight of a body nestled away in the ruins. Her clothes as destroyed as the rubble around her.

"Adelaide!" He barked, letting go of the reigns and rushing towards the woman who had captured his every sense. She had filled him body and mind, and there was nothing, nothing but her sweet smile and loving heart. He reached her moments. Slipping on the slick ground; behind him, Hellfire whinnied and followed, his hooves heavy against the frozen ground. "Oh god..." Hugh fell to his knees, gathering Adelaide. Her skin was cold and torn. It was clear she had been on the run for hours, her body was limp and weak with exhaustion. Swearing Hugh wrenched off his jacket, and pulled it tight around her, his cold hands seeking out her face and neck, searching for a pulse.

"Adelaide." His voice cracked as his frozen fingers desperately searched for that thrum of life in the junction of her neck and jaw. "Come back love..." He wailed. "I love you Adelaide. Come back!" He clutched desperately at her.


Duncan couldn't see a blasted thing with the fog and the snow. The group had ventured far into the woods and now Charles stood a meter away, looking hazy as the fog passed between them. Duncan spat out in anger knowing they would not get much done with their current situation. Charles made a noise of agreement and then suddenly cried out, his figure falling forward.

"Hey now!" Duncan lunged forward and saw the man, on the ground. Charles had not seen a protruding root and his foot had caught it sending the older man hard to the ground. Charles groaned and Duncan took his time getting the man back to his feet. "We best get back to the manor and get that looked at." Duncan said as the butler tried to step and ended up limping and hissing in pain. Unwilling to leave a man behind, Duncan threw the man's arm up onto his shoulders, supporting him as they turned back.

Eventually they caught sight of one of the servants on horseback and flagged down the man so that Charles may safely ride back in peace. Duncan glanced back into the foggy woods and caught sight of what looked like a dog bounding through the trees. It was then joined by another figure, a shape that Duncan could not describe. Instead of fear Duncan instantly felt a sense of calm move through him. His mind emptied of worry and as the two figures disappeared Duncan knew deep in his heart he was not needed in the woods. His mind turned back to the lovely creature that waited in his bed, and Duncan turned to follow the rest of the group out of the woods.


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Adelaide's pulse was weak against Hugh's fingers, barely there. But her heart was still beating, somehow. At Hugh's desperate cries, her eyes fluttered open, though it felt like yanking up a rusted door. Hugh's face was before her eyes then, surrounded by the white sky and glittering falling snow. Her cracked lips curled softly upward into a tired, happy smile. Her frozen fingers reached up and caressed Hugh's numbing cheek.

"Come to s-s-save me again, angel?" She asked quietly, her voice dry and raspy and she even let out a rusted sounding laugh. Her eyes grew heavy again, but this time she wasn't afraid.

The ride back to Westwood was strangely, much shorter than the ride out. Or it seemed that way, at least. There was a doctor at the manor already, and he set to work on Adelaide and Hugh as soon as they entered. Adelaide had a mild case of hypothermia, and most likely pneumonia on top of her other injuries. Hugh was suffering from a severe lack of food and drink, but had luckily escaped the worst of it. The doctor had demanded that they stay seperate, lest Hugh disturb Adelaide's much needed rest. After three very long days, Adelaide finally woke, and the doctor deemed her well enough for visitors. Hugh was inside the room in an instant, forcing the doctor out and coming to his lover's side.

The woman was still rather weak and clearly ill, but looked much better than when he had found her. Some color was seeping back into her cheeks. She had blankets piled high upon the bed, and a bowl of hot soup and warm tea to boot. But joy lit up her face like a sunrise upon seeing Hugh once again. Adelaide sat up despite his protests, and grabbed his hands as he extended them to her.

"Hugh... please, tell me I wasn't dreaming when you told me you loved me." The words tumbled out of her mouth before she could stop them. Suddenly aware of herself, Adelaide smiled sheepishly and covered her neck with one hand, releasing him. "F-forgive me, angel. I've forgotten myself. Have you recovered? Is everyone else alright?"

Duncan returned to her shortly before Hugh found Addy, and finally Fausta was able to relax. The next few days she spent quite literally in the lap of luxury, as Duncan happily attended personally to her every need. Fausta couldn't help but love being spoiled so, and on the day her friend awoke, she had finally managed to convince Duncan to share the bed with her. He was still leery of her wound, but she could care less.

Duncan was in naught but his breeches, and Fausta hummed happily as she curled up against his bare chest, her nails lightly scraping lazy patterns upon his skin. The days of pampering were certainly lovely, but she ached for him. Now all she had to do was rile him up enough to want her just as badly. Fausta dragged long, wanting kisses along his collarbone, acutely aware of the way he was shifting beneath her and the hitch in his breath. He warned her again of her injury and tried to wiggle away, but she stopped that with another well placed kiss to the base of his neck. Fausta knew just where to go to make him melt. She knew he couldn't hold out too much longer and smiled against his skin.

"<Come, lover...>" She purred "<You said I could ask anything at all of you, no? Are you going back on your word, now?>"


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The three days felt nothing like his time in the woods without her. The knowledge that she was there within reach brought Hugh a mixture of comfort and insanity. Duncan and Fausta had seemed quite content to spend their time with one another after the events that had rocked them all. Aunt Lydia had been his companion for the wait and the two of them had spent a great deal of time playing chess and talking of the past. There had been heartfelt apologies from the the both of them, Lydia for inviting such a soul into their home and Hugh for not communicating. The three days together had brought the two family members secret smiles at dinner time. Arguments over chess strategy, and most of all the sort of respect that came after trying times.

With the three days over and the doctors permission for Hugh to visit, he waved farewell to Lydia in the drawing room and grinned as she waved him off impatiently. When he entered the room and shut the door behind the doctor he wasted no time in getting as close to her as possible. She looked frail and tired, but the colour was there. Her smile as warm as ever. Her hands grabbed onto his and he laughed when her question was the first thing out of her mouth. She quickly covered her thoughts and throat and Hugh found he would have none of it.

With a gentle hand he reached to her wrist that held her neck and pulled it away to press a kiss to her palm, revealing the angry scars. His gaze moved up to her olive eyes and he grinned.

"Perhaps you heard me correctly." He teased. "As for your other questions, it seems we are all on the mend. Fausta is healing nicely, Lydia sends her deepest apologies, Duncan told me to send you a kiss." He said to her, settling on the bed next to her. He kicked off his shoes and slid under the covers with her. His head moved to the base of her jawline, just under her ear.

"I love you." He said the words into the shell of her ear. They felt right, the words had his heart leaping for joy, so much so he wanted to say it to her over and over. He kissed her then, pressing soft gentle lips to hers. "I love you." He repeated. "If this is a dream, I never wish to wake."


Duncan did his best to remind himself that the woman curled around him had been injured naught but a few days ago, however he was finding it quite hard to function with her pushing all of the correct buttons. He did his best to get up and be stern with her however the warm kiss to his neck had him growling. His arm that had been lazily traveling up and down her spine halted for a moment and then reached to grip her shoulder tightly.

"<Fausta...>" He said doing his best to remember the doctors orders. At her purred invitation his eyes darkened and he skillfully twisted his body, pushing her to her back, and hovering over her, a hungry look in his eye. "<You know very well that this is not conducive to your healing.>" He grumbled, the look in her eyes selling him on the idea. He bent his head down his teeth capturing her bottom lip and tugging. "<I should punish you for this. Logic tells me to walk away, but my heart says I could be a little more creative.>" He said against her mouth. He made another noise of content as they sank into one another.

They became one, gently despite all their pent up passions. Finding that precipice together, and falling with their fingers entwined. Whispered delights and gasped declarations of love filled the room as the two rediscovered the twin flame that lit the both of their souls.

Later with the candles growing low, the two lay entangled, their breathing finally back to normal. Duncan remained careful of her leg, but truly he felt so much better, having her like this brought him one step closer back to the idea of contentment and stability.


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Adelaide broke at his confession. She buried herself into his chest and cried in relief for some time, overwhelmed. Even for all her wishing and hoping, Adelaide had been scared to think that Hugh might actually love her back. Hearing it now made her heart soar.

Over the next week Hugh was perfect. Though the pneumonia made her tired and in need of constant care, he never wavered. He personally brought her each meal, kept her updated on affairs of her estate and catered to her every whim. He had the dogs brought over from Ivydowns and tended to Tatiana as well, though she at least seemed to be getting better. Hugh even helped her bathe, as the sickness had her perspiring often. Her lover was full of constant assurances, too, as Adelaide was righteously embarrassed for him seeing her in such a state.

Hugh even moved her from guest quarters to his own room, despite her protests. He told her that being apart even one more night was unacceptable. Even though he himself had to sleep on the sofa because of her sickness. The week passed with relative peace, Fausta and Duncan visited her often, and Adelaide finally felt at peace. Hugh sat with her now, after doing some paperwork for his company. He read out of a book of mythology and wiped her brow with a damp cloth as a slight fever had taken her again. She looked up at him with a warm smile, and reached out, placing her hand on his knee.

"Thank you, Hugh. I could not have asked God for a more wonderful guardian angel."

Fausta was up and around now, despite Duncan's worries. Though the pampering was a wonderful treat, she couldn't simply lay in bed all day. She had to do something. Fausta bounced around the house often that week. Offering new Italian recipes to the chefs in the kitchen, playing chess with Lydia, lounging around speaking with Duncan as he worked on things for his company and of course visiting Addy. She answered a few letters from home, and even went on walkabouts through the gardens with the dogs to tire them out so they wouldn't disturb her friend too much.

She was sitting with Duncan and Lydia having luncheon on the back patio when all the commotion began. A stout, red faced woman barreled through the doors and skidded to a stop before them. Her cup halfway to her lips, Fausta quirked a dark brow up in curiosity and traded a look with her lover. She recognized the servant--it was Myriam, one of the kitchen cooks. Panting heavily, Myriam planted her hands on her hips and took a moment to recollect herself before speaking.

"Master Duncan, sir! I saw him! Redstone is down at the Twisted Rose now!! He'd just entered when I was comin' back from the market and I ran all tha' way here to tell ye before he moves again."

Fausta's face darkened and she placed her teacup down. Looking over at Duncan she asked

"<What will we do, love?>"


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The recovery of his family had Duncan feeling quite at ease with the world. He and Hugh had made great strides with the shipping company and within another week they were set to take in another large client, one who wanted a repeated journey to Morocco for the acquisition of fine dyes and clothing. On the way to luncheon with Fausta and Lydia Duncan had paused at an old family portrait. His mother had been happy and alive at the birth of her youngest, John. She cradled him in her arms and Duncan stood to the left of her, his arm raised and placed on her shoulder. Hugh stood on the other side, leaning against his mothers leg. Their father had not been present that day, however the artist had taken some liberties and placed him behind his little family. His presence darkening what would have been a lovely scene. He pondered the image a moment, realizing that they had taken the company that his father had so poorly run and turned it around. The Montgomery's were a success not only in stature now but also with hard work.

He grinned at the painting and thought to perhaps ask if the group would like one commissioned with Westwood's newest tenants. He walked to the lunch a cheerful pep in his step. He seated himself between the two women already gathered there and exchanged pleasantries. It was not long before they were interrupted with the news of Redstone. Duncan's eyes narrowed, of course the man had chosen to appear just as it seemed they were settling. Fausta asked what they would do and Duncan set down his cutlery before standing.

"<We should tell Hugh.>" He said his voice calm, but carrying the threat of anger. He simmered with it as they took their leave from the table and went to find Hugh and Adelaide.


Hugh flushed at the sweet words and flipped the final page of the latest tale. He rested his hand against hers and took a moment to make sure the cool cloth was correctly placed against her brow. Then with a soothing voice began to read the final pages from the happy ending of Cupid and Psyche. He finished and closed the book and carefully laid the book on the night stand. He was leaning forward to press a kiss to her lips when a knock came at the door.

"Enter." Hugh said in a relaxed tone. Clearly his time with Adelaide had given him so much joy. Duncan peeked his head around the door frame and gave the couple a small smile.

"Forgive me Adelaide, but I must ask to borrow Hugh for a moment." Duncan opened the door wider, inviting Hugh out into the hall. With a quick glance to make sure Adelaide was alright Hugh squeezed her hand and then stood.

"Call me if you need anything." He said as he moved to stand next to his brother. Duncan waited until Hugh was in the hall and then gently closed the door so that Adelaide would not be able to hear. Hugh looked at Fausta and Duncan's expressions, mouth growing thin and brows furrowing. "What is it?" He asked in a hushed voice.

"I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, but it seems that Redstone was spotted at the Twisted Rose recently." Duncan said.

"How recent?" Hugh snapped.

"Myriam just ran all the way up to tell us. She spotted him not even an hour past." Duncan supplied. Duncan could feel the anger and tension moving from his brother and fed off that same energy, they both knew what needed to be done. Confronting Redstone felt like the only way he would leave Adelaide alone. Run him out of town, or if that didn't work they could consider a more permanent solution...

"I must go." Hugh breathed out.

"I will come as well." Duncan agreed. "What do we tell Adelaide?" He asked then, looking to Fausta for the answer.


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Fausta could feel the bloodlust falling off of the brothers in waves. Had she not been so injured she would have insisted on accompanying them. At Duncan's query, she sighed and placed her hand on the doorknob to Hugh's bedroom. "I will stay with her, and tell her the truth." She half shrugged "There is nothing else to tell her. But," She stopped Hugh as he tried to move closer "Do not let her see you as you are now. This anger is too much like what she has suffered before." Her eyes darkened as she looked to her lover and spoke softly in Italian. "<Do whatever it takes.>"

The men began to descend the stairway and she called out "Good luck, and good hunting!" Fausta steadied herself before entering the room, and found Adelaide sleeping. She sat down on the bed beside her friend, and removed the damp cloth. She soaked it in the ice water and wrung it out, gently wiping Adelaide's face before placing it back on her brow. As she watched the other woman sleep fitfully under her fever, Fausta wished the best of luck to their companions.

Edward was comfortably seated at the plush corner table of the pub, puffing on his pipe as he waited for a second tankard of ale. There had been no news as of yet from the Lovelocke estate, nor from the Montgomerys. In a day or two he would go up and have a look for himself. The pub was quiet at this early afternoon stage of the day, and it smelled heavily of cleaning and maple wood. This dim, warm place had been more a home to him than anywhere else, so a small pang hit his heart when he realised he's have to leave it behind. Once it was confirmed that she was dead, he would have to leave for good. There was nothing left in the sleepy little down for him.

If only she had cooperated. He thought wistfully. They would be living a charmed life up in that manor together--not a want for anything in the world. Good food, plenty of coin, high status in society. They would have made love every night and had many strong children. She would have sung for him whenever he wished. A pity, truly, that she wouldn't simply do as he asked, like a proper wife.

Edward was pulled roughly fro his thoughts when the door to the Twisted Rose swung open with a bang, and two fingers stood in the entryway, illuminated by the sunlight to their backs. He couldn't quite make out their faces from where he sat, but he heard one shout out.


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There was no turning back. The moment Hugh heard the news the rage that had been brewing for so long felt ready to boil over. She had taken the broken angry man and healed him, however it was clear the beast was ready to break free. Both of the brothers were silent as they gathered what they needed. Ammo, a single pistol each and their well used swords of war. Hugh caught sight of the sharp blade and his own eyes reflected back up at him in the thin metal. The blue had turned dark and stormy, the light he had grown accustomed to was hidden away. There was a ringing in his ears as Hugh slid the blade in its sheath and secured it to his waist. Hugh was smart enough to know that while justice would be served today, this was purely revenge. There was nothing noble about his quest.

They left the estate and geared up their own horses, preferring to keep the rage between the two of them. However as they were preparing to mount Joseph entered the stable. The men exchanged looks and the old butler gave them a grim smile. He held out a small dirk to Hugh and he took it.

"Give him hell." The old man said quietly. Hugh nodded and slid the knife to his boot. They clasped hands then and with a firm squeeze of support, Joseph stepped back and watched as the Montgomery's drove off with the thunder of hoof beats. The winter was slowly settling around them and the snowfall from the week previous still clung to the ground around them. Their breaths puffing out in fog as the town drew closer.


Duncan jumped off his horse first and secured the reigns to the post in front of the Twisted Rose. A man shouted out in greeting but Duncan ignored him, turning to wait for Hugh to dismount and give him the alright that they commence. His grip was tight on the hilt of his blade and he took in a deep breath, the cold air filling his lungs. Hugh stood next to him and Duncan reached out to grip his brothers shoulder. Hugh's mouth was upturned in a snarl and Duncan knew the look all to well. There would be no stopping him.

The moved as one, walking towards the door and pushing it open sharply. The door hit the wall with a bang and Duncan spotted their quarry in the corner. He gestured and Hugh's eyes followed to land on Edward.

"Redstone!" Hugh barked out.

"Any fighting ye best do it on the street." The barkeep warned, his hands steady on the glass he was cleaning.

"An excellent plan." Duncan agreed. He left Hugh in the doorway and walked towards Edward and leaned down with both hands on the table his gaze intense. "Would you care to join myself and my brother outside? I would be happy to drag you should you decline." Duncan said pleasantly. Hugh had joined them now his steps purposeful against the hardwood floor of the pub.

"Enough." Hugh muttered, his hands shooting out to grab the collar of Edwards jacket. Jerking him forward face first, Hugh quickly switched his grip to the back of Edwards head and sent him the rest of the way into the hardwood table.

"Take it outside!" The barkeep shouted, placing down the glass and pointing to the door.

"Apologies." Duncan said flashing a smile. Together the two brothers hauled up Redstone and walked the dazed man out the door and pushed him down into the snow on the street.


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Edward's shoulder made hard contact with the frozen cobblestones just beneath the snowdrift and he grunted at the shock of pain. He righted himself and sat, looking up at the brothers whose eyes burned. A lopsided grin took shape on his face and a cold, crackling laugh fell from his lips.

"Where is the honor of men who've served the queen's army, then?" He taunted, still laughing. Edward stood, brushing off the snow as his breath fogged the air. The commotion was beginning to draw a small crowd, not that his attackers noticed or cared. The brothers were staring at him like predators, and he used that to his advanged. If he could get one, or both of them angry enough, he could take them down. At least one--use him for leverage against the other.

"Mad that I've won, now, are you?" He grinned "Here to take revenge for that poor madwoman that got you with a sad tale, lads?" Thee crowd around them was growing, steadily. "Are you going to fight me unarmed? Come, now, that's not very sporting of you." A slight clamour began around them and someone called out, tossing him a knife. Another handed him a pistol. Edward began to saunter away from them, slightly, goading the men further.

"Did you bed her, sir Montgomery? Did both of you? That's the one thing I never quite managed, you know. Perhaps it was a blessing. Tell me, how was it? The little harlot please you, ey?" That seemed to be what snapped. The younger lunged for him bare handed, and Edward easily dodged. Like fighting an angry bull, all he had to do for now was evade. Unfortunately, that left the elder, who began to circle, looking for an opening. The crowd around them began to shout and holler. Hugh lunged again, cursing, and Edward dodged, not before a trinket slipped from his pocket. It clattered to the ground and lay there at Hugh's feet. The bronze locket from Adelaide's mother, dented slightly and glittering in the cold winter sun. The same one Edward had stolen off her neck the night of the welcoming ball.

All three men froze, Edward cursing his luck for losing his trophy. It had been many months now, perhaps they would not remember what it was.


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His smile infuriated Hugh, the laughter from Edward had his blood boiling. His lies kept coming and soon Hugh could feel his vision blurring from his attempt to hold back. It would make victory that much sweeter should Edward be given a chance to defend himself and so he relented when the man was provided a weapon. He spoke again his words black tar against the beautiful image of Adelaide. With a roar he rushed his opponent ready to rip that ugly smile from his skull. A second lunge had him missing again and Hugh had to force himself to be better. He was the practiced fighter, and anger had him making mistakes.

There was the soft cling of metal hitting the frozen cobblestone which made Hugh freeze. His nostrils flared when he recognized the very jewelry Adelaide had used to hide her scars from the world.

"I don't think that belongs to you." Hugh said, his voice as cold as the weather.

"It most certainly does not." Duncan agreed, keeping an eye on his brother incase he left himself open to retrieve Adelaide's locket.

"You will sully Miss Lovelocke's name no longer Edward. I will not allow for you to hurt her in anyway anymore. I don't care what the town thinks, but I will not be poisoned by your lies." Hugh said, his hands fisting. "You can leave and never return or I will finish you now." He reached for the hilt of his sword. "What say you?"

Knowing the fight was mostly for Hugh, Duncan made sure he was clear of the two men, ready to step in should Edward decide to play foul.


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Edward's jaunty expression vanished as his prize vanished into Duncan's pocket. Hugh made his declaration, his voice full of venom. The crowd around them protested, but Duncan was able to keep them corraled away from the fighters. Edward appraised Hugh for a moment, knowing that he would be no match for a trained swordsman. He spread his arms wide and took a few steps back.

"Fine, then! A duel, between gentlemen. It would be a shame if we beat each other to death in the street and got arrested for it, no?" Hugh slowly released his sword and nodded. "Ten paces and then we fire. Your dear brother will call it for us. Agreed?"

It took almost fifteen minutes to clear the crowd and shut down the street so the duel could take place. Edward could care less about a stray bullet hitting some simpleton, but the brothers wouldn't allow it. This did offer him one advantage, though. His opponent was positively frothing at the mouth by the time the duel was to begin. They started back to back and Duncan counted off their steps as they moved. Edward barely had time to catch his breath before the turn was called and he spun on his heel and fired.


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The world grew strangely silent as the men walked away from one another. Their hands poised above their pistols each ready to move when Duncan called for it. His breath fogged out before him and then stopped abruptly as Duncan called for them to turn. His hand found the butt of his gun and with a skilled hand he cocked and fired as he turned. There was a white hot flash on the side of his arm and Hugh felt his skin flay open as the bullet grazed past him to land in the wall of the general store. A terrified squeak came from the building but no screaming. Hugh's own mark had landed as well. It was clear from the way Redstone was holding himself that the bullet had found him. However Hugh could not tell where his shot had landed.

With the pistol spent and no time to reload, Hugh tossed the smoking barrel onto the ground and regarded Redstone for a moment. In the distance Hugh heard the muffled sound of galloping hooves as the police drew nearer. The towns constable was at the head of the group of four horses. He was a larger man with a clean shaven face that seemed to be permanently set in a look of disappointment.

"It seems I am too late to stop any duel..." He said grimly. "Twould be a shame to have to arrest anyone for murder." He said as the rest of the party came to a halt their pistols drawn on the three men.


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Edward stood briefly after the guns had fired; long enough for the law enforcement to arrive. He laughed a little, blood beginning to dribble from his mouth. Redstone fell to his knees, one hand clutching his heart. Even as angered as he was, Hugh's training in the regimen prevailed over Edward's rusty hunting skills. It wouldn't be long, now. He knew the feeling of a bullet wound, and this was largely different. He gave the brothers a bloody grin as his vision began to dim.

"I...still...win..." He coughed up a mouthful of blood before collapsing, his heart stopping. His blood slowly began to mix with the grey snow about the street, turning it a strange, pinkish color. A few citizens began to wail from fright or loss. The constables escorted the Montgomerys to their horses and then down to the station.

It took several hours for the brothers to be released from the custody of the constables. While they received a heavy reprimand for dueling within the town limits, there was no law that would let them prosecute--as the duel was conducted fairly and all participants were willing.


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"I... still... win..." The words and the smile had Hugh gripping his hands so tightly together that he felt his nails digging into his palms and drawing blood. He looked at the body on the ground in front of him and felt a strange mix of relief and fury. He had wanted so badly for the man to have seen the damage and understand the pain he had caused. Above all he wanted Redstone to have been sorry, he wanted the town to feel the same and to welcome his Adelaide with open arms. At the sounds of wailing Hugh's shoulders sank. This town be damned.

Duncan and Hugh were taken away then. Hugh barely remembered the questioning, letting Duncan with his award winning smile and charm handle the police. Duncan had slipped him the locket as they sat and Hugh fingered the locket with a heart far away. As they left the station and went to their horses Hugh caught sight of bright petals tucked into his saddle. He recognized the flower and plucked the chrysanthemum from one of the loops on his saddle.

After death, he will know only me.

The bloom's petals waved in the winter breeze and Hugh felt a bit a peace settle into his heart. It was finished. There was nothing left of the man that had taken such great strides to destroy Adelaide's life. He placed the flower safely in his breast pocket, next to the locket.


The ride back to Westwood's was rather uneventful. Duncan remained uncharacteristically quiet, letting his brother process what had all happened without the worry of conversation. He needed a moment too, killing was certainly no stranger to either of the brothers, however Redstone's death had certainly left a bitter taste in both their mouths. Fool of a man thinking he had won, Duncan smiled at the thought of the two women waiting for them back at the manor.

When they arrived Duncan found his lover and caught her in a deep kiss before speaking to her. He heard the giggle of a maid down the hall as she caught sight of the couple and ignored it. "<It is finished.>" He said after stepping back, his nose crinkled at the thought again. Needing to tell her what had happened, Duncan took his lovers hand and led her to a quiet study, where he could relate the days events.


Hugh found Adelaide in their bed, he went straight to her upon his arrival home, wanting nothing but her. She was awake, with a book on her lap and glanced up at him with worry and questions. Unable to speak, he went to her, settled on the edge of the bed and placed both the flower and the locket in her hands. His eyes were down cast, unable to bear the thought of her thinking him a monster.


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Fausta went with Duncan as he swept her into the study, all pent up energy and raging emotions. Death without the chaos of war was so much more personal. It was harder to absorb the action as a good one when it wasn't ordered by someone who knew 'better'. Duncan called it revenge, but Fausta thought it was only part of the equation that lead up to Redstone's death. Desperation, fear, and a desire to protect also drove them to it. Though neither would admit to it, too racked with guilt and shock. After listening to his tale, Fausta kissed him again, softly. She then rose and poured him a healthy glass of brandy. Fausta returned, placing the glass down before taking his coat, weapons and cravat from him.

She picked up the glass again and sat down on his lap, handing him the drink with a small smile. One of Duncan's arms came up and around her, first circling her waist as he drank and then coming to cup her bottom. She laughed, gently mussing his hair as he drank deeply.

"<That was a great sacrifice, love. Your heart deserves such peace after the battles you've fought, and Adelaide will not forget the part you played in this.>" Fausta kissed his forehead, cupping the sides of his face with her hands and stroking his cheeks. She wrapped her arms around his neck so he could continue to drink. "<I wish I could have kept this burden from you.>" She lamented.

"What can I do to ease you now? What can I do to lighten your heart?" Fausta asked, earnestly.

As soon as Hugh entered the room, Adelaide could feel his dark mood. He was full of storms, and his blue eyes showed it clearly. The sat down on the edge of the bed and silently placed the locket and a flower in her palm. He refused to look at her. Adelaide closed her book and set it aside, then examined the trinkets in her hand. It was her mother's locket, dented slightly but otherwise unharmed. It even still had the picture inside. The other was a rare flower, foreign to this region of England, called a chrysanthemum. The bright yellow bloom represented happiness, love, longevity and joy. She had given a bloom to Charles once, on his birthday, when a flower seller had come in from the port.

Adelaide placed the things aside as well, then dug out of the blankets and crawled to him. Her soft nightgown cascaded over the edge, falling over Hugh's shoes, the hem catching onto some mud--and blood. She didn't notice, too intent on her lover. Carefully, Adelaide lifted Hugh's face up with both hands, touching him as if he were made of glass.As soon as their eyes met, Adelaide burst into tears. Such pain, such anger...all because of her. Adelaide threw her arms around his neck and pulled him into her, sobbing. Hugh hesitantly wrapped her up in his arms, his fists burying into the back of her nightgown so tightly it was almost hard to breathe.

"I-I-I-I'm so s-sorry!" She exclaimed between sobs "Oh, God, I'm so sorry! Hugh.... I-I'm so s-s-sorry you h-had to do that for me. I---" It was the only thing she could say, the only thing she could think to say. Adelaide's fingers tangled into his hair and her other hand stayed steady on his shoulder, though her body shook with the force of her crying.


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Fausta moved to his lap and Duncan snuggled into her, enjoying the curves and dips that he had well acquainted himself with. She had listened with an open heart and taken care of him, easily seeing that he needed her in this moment. He smiled when she asked him what could be done to ease his heart. He considered as he finished the last of his drink and settled his cheek on the side of Fausta's arm, looking at her. Her hands moved through his hair and he sighed happily, settling into their embrace, every touch relaxing the muscles that had been tense all day.

"Thank you love." When the idea came to him, a wolfish grin emerged.

"Perhaps you might care to come on a hunting trip? My old war friend Earnest has been in contact again. He's met up with a few other gentlemen we fought with and it seems there is some excellent fox hunting in these woods, they've asked to use our lands for sport and invited me along. I get the feeling you would fit in most splendidly." He chuckled. "I think they asked for a couple nights of hunting... You could help keep me warm in these early winter nights." He winked.


Hugh held onto Adelaide tightly, fearing that if he let her go he may never touch her again. Her sobs wracked through him, sending his heart into overdrive. She kept repeating her apologies and Hugh found himself confused in the mix of emotions raging through him.

"I could not bear the thought of him hurting you even more. I could not allow him to bring you any more sadness." He pulled back, his own eyes brimming with tears. "I tried... I tried to get him to walk away- he kept pressing the matter- I stopped thinking... I'm sorry if this has pained you even more." Their gazes were locked Hugh's mind told him to pull away but his heart would not let him. He loved this woman, and she him. His thumb reached up to catch a falling tear on her cheek. "It is finished. There will be no more pain from his hands." He promised her.


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Fausta let out a low, happy laugh at Duncan's teasing. His suggestion showed that he was clearly beginning to feel better, despite the day's events. He was relaxing into her embrace, and she was glad. Her own heart began to lighten as they settled down. Fausta chewed over his proposal for a moment before grinning back at him.

"A chance to meet your old companions and be showing them up for hunting? How could I say no, amore?" She stuck her tongue out at him and giggled, continuing to card her fingers through his soft hair. The two stayed up late that night talking about everything and nothing, simply enjoying each other's company. They solidified their plan to invite and host his old friends and drew up a list of what they would need to arrange in the morning.

Fausta hugged Duncan from behind as he shed his shirt onto the bedroom floor, humming gently. Duncan spun around in her arms and wrapped his around her. They began to sway, gently to her humming. They danced around the room, somewhere between laughing and singing. They moved over discarded clothes and danced over furniture until they collapsed onto the bed in a pile of limbs and laughter. Fausta looked over at Duncan in adoration, her laugh still spilling from her lips.

"Hugh..." She whispered, holding onto him as if she was drowning. LIke her life depended on it. "I cannot begin to thank you for what you have done." Her tears were drying, slowly. Adelaide sighed and pulled herself up a little more, curling deeper into his chest. "Knowing he is gone.. it feels like I can breathe again. Like I finally have a life to live that is my own."

Adelaide held onto Hugh tightly, wishing she had the proper words to express the storm of emotions inside of her. She was horrified that Hugh had felt the need to take a life for her sake. But, knowing that Edward was well and truly gone.. it filled her with a lightness she had never known. Like she could fly, if she wished to. Adelaide looked up into his blue, blue eyes, full of worry and emotion of their own.

"Angel... you have given me so much since the very first day we met. Please, whatever can I do to repay you? You have freed me, Hugh."

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