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Realistic or Modern The Bronze Locket

Sub Genres
Adventure, Historical, Romance, Slice of Life


Junior Member
Adelaide smiled wryly as Hugh joked, and then went on to earnestly tout her business accomplishments. She dug around in her files for the papers he requested, not looking up as she answered.

"Percy is a very...uptight fellow if I remember correctly. He's been that way since he was a child." Adelaide placed a few of the documents on the desk. "I only met him once when we were young. At a family reunion. It seems that he and his father are quite bitter about the business being passed to my father instead of them. He was grandfather's favorite, so I heard." She finished finding the things he needed and straightened up with a smile. Adelaide leaned forward on her chair and pressed a light kiss to Hugh's lips.

"Besides, we have a week or so until he arrives. I think that ample time to take a moment to ourselves to relax." She cupped his face with one hand and caressed his cheek gently with her thumb. Adelaide looked into his eyes adoringly, a bright smile lighting up her features. "Thank you, Angel, for bringing me home. I am so thrilled to be with you always, now."

Fausta returned to camp an hour or so after the men, looking exhausted but delighted. Oberon flopped down onto the grass with a huff, his tongue lolling onto the ground as he panted. She laid out her newest kills, two large hares and last but not least, a massive grayish colored fox. It was almost a nose longer than their biggest catch. After untacking her horse, she sat down heavily by Duncan's side as the other cowed over the beast. Swiping his cup from his lips, she took a long swig and exhaled happily.

"It was, how you say, a brave effort, no? But I told you, I would be the one winning." She grinned at them cheekily, raising her stolen glass in salute. "I am hoping you all had as much fun as I was having."


Junior Member
The stack of books and papers from the past year was rather large, and Hugh peeked between the pages, pleased to see neat penmanship and what looked like detailed notes. She drew his attention away from the papers and listened as she explained about the families feelings towards the progression of ownership. She seemed at ease and Hugh enjoyed seeing her confidence. Her kiss made his eyes flutter closed and he enjoyed the gentle touch of her hands on his face. His eyes opened and they locked gazes.

"You've made this a home. It was just some walls and a roof before hand." He smiled and stood, pulling Adelaide to her feet and walking them both around the desk. He plucked up the papers for the business and looked at his partner. "What with the rest of the hunting party to join us tomorrow I feel as if the peace will be fairly short lived. I sense a busy house tomorrow." His fingers laced with hers and they walked across the hall to Hugh's study and deposited the papers on his desk. Not wishing to dive into the work, but instead wanting to spend time with Adelaide he turned and smiled.

They spent the afternoon together, Adelaide took the time to show him the places where she saw changes and he helped lift more items when more came from Ivydowns. When the night arrived they sat alone in the dining room, Aunt Lydia had retired early. The candle light glowed orange against the paintings, and Hugh sighed happily as he finished the last of his meal. Deciding to follow his whim he lifted his wine glass and lifted a toast to Adelaide.

"To you dearest. Thank you for everything."


Duncan cheered at Fausta's arrival and barked out in laughter as she took the drink from his lips. She was proud of her catch and as was he. The men clapped in acknowledgement in her win and they went to examine the large body of the fox.

"Well done indeed." Earnest said. He clapped Fausta on the back and settled down next to her. "It was certainly a most engaging time. By far the best fox hunt I've ever had the pleasure of joining."

"What will you be wanting then?" Landon asked, he had remained where he was in his seated position. Connor lifted his head in question as well, stopping gutting the fish that he had caught earlier.

"This has been the topic of conversation for quite a while. You have the boys on edge." Duncan joked.


Junior Member
Adelaide enjoyed toiling around the house with him. Even the simplest activities seemed full of fun and energy. Despite the large dining room, Adelaide felt that their dinner was rather romantic, just the two of them in the low light. Hugh toasted to her then, and a blush sprang to her cheeks as she lifted her glass to his.

"I really can't say I understand what you are thanking me for, Hugh." She said softly. "It is you who has been my guardian angel since the first day we met, you know." Adelaide took a sip of her wine as Hugh quirked a brow and gave her a small frown. Adelaide stood, taking off her choker in a fluid motion. She then offered her hand to him, and pulled him up. They moved away from the table and Adelaide arranged her hands on him as if they were dancing, picking up her skirts with one hand as they began to waltz around the room. Adelaide hummed lowly, a little tune to keep them moving.

"We never did get to dance at our last party, Angel." She said softly. He pulled her closer to his chest--too close to be proper. Pressed together, she laughed and continued. "It is I who must thank you, Hugh. You have saved me more times than I can count. In more ways than I knew I needed saving. Thank you, for walking into my parlor that day. Thank you."

Fausta laughed delightedly, clapping and standing up. Placing her hands on her hips, she commanded her lover to close his eyes. After a moment's curious hesitation, he obeyed, and Fausta set to work. Striding over to the other three, she stuck out her hand in front of Earnest, first. When he took her hand, she moved to hold it, lacing her fingers between his. After a moment of concentration, she released him and moved to Landon.

The man hesitated, blushing faintly. "Come, come." She said, and finally coaxed him to do the same. Again, after a moment, she released him and went to Connor. After doing the same, she returned to Earnest once again. Fausta did the process in almost complete silence. Nodding to herself, she spoke to the three of them.

"Alright, You two," She motioned to Landon and Connor "You will be staying with us one more day, and keeping Dearest Duncan company. You, Signor," She said to Earnest "Will come with me to town." She turned and said "Open your eyes, Amore."


Junior Member
She removed her choker and Hugh found he could not find a single flaw in the woman before him. Those marks had shaped her and she had proven to the world how resilient she was. His love was certainly and inspiring one. She offered her hand to him and he took it, standing with her and then following her lead as she transitioned them to a waltz. He smiled down at her, letting the tune she hummed guide them. He pulled her closer and her whispered thanks sent a delicious shiver through him. Bending his head to catch her lips he took his time kissing her, swaying still.

"I love you." The words came easy again and Hugh reveled in them. How powerful he felt, to be able to utter the words and to feel them so deeply. "I feel as if I can anything." He confessed. "I have never felt more free."

They danced a long while more, content in each others arms as the candle light grew dim around them.


Duncan closed his eyes as directed, he felt tempted to peek but to ruin any sort of surprise that Fausta had for him was not worth the risk. He smiled and listened as Fausta moved around the campsite, speaking only once and very softly. Intrigued Duncan leaned back from his spot where he sat and took a sip of wine. As Fausta moved around the campsite the rest of the hunting party let Fausta lace her fingers with each of them. All of the men had a reddish colour to their cheeks and when Fausta announced that Earnest would be joining her to town he grew and even deeper shade of scarlet. He nodded, unable to speak. Duncan opened his eyes when prompted and burst out laughing at the sight of his friends.

"Well well!" He chortled. He caught sight of Earnest and stood bringing his friend the bottle and urging him to sit. "Fear not friend. Fausta has had that effect on many." He looked back towards the woman he spoke of and gave her a wink. "I look forward to hearing tales of your adventure."

The rest of the evening passed in a blur or boasts, drinking and laughter. Overall the hunting trip had been most successful and when the morning came they took their time packing up and loading the horses. The ride back to Westwood felt so short and all were marvelling at how the time passes when one was having fun. As they helped the servants with their things a shout of greeting game from the front door of Westwood. The men and Fausta looked up to see Hugh, lifting his arm and waving. Deciding to do away with decorum Hugh jogged towards the group. There were shouts of greeting for Duncan and the rest and suddenly they were all chattering like school boys. Saying hellos and showing off the large kill that Fausta had brought in.


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Fausta moved over to Adelaide as the men began to talk excitedly amongst themselves. The women smiled at each other.

"I assume you beat them soundly?" Adelaide asked, humor in her tone. Fausta laughed out loud, sweeping her long braid over her shoulder.

"But of course! Oh, amour, it was so much fun!" They embraced tightly, and spoke about their time apart briefly. Finally, Adelaide called over the staff to unload the trunks and game. She made her way down the steps as Fausta went inside to bathe after her adventures. Adelaide said hello to her dogs and had them ordered for a bath themselves, before finally arriving at the group. She gave a curtsey and her brightest smile.

"Hello my fine hunters! I'm glad to see you all home unscathed. I am Adelaide Lovelocke, and it's a pleasure to meet you." Through their excitement, the men each managed to give her a proper greeting, with the exception of the brothers. Hugh simply smiled and Duncan came forward to give her an affectionate kiss on the cheek. She laughed, blush crawling up her neck to rest on her cheeks. She wasn't sure if she'd ever get used to Duncan's forwardness, but she appreciated it all the same. The guests seemed a little shocked by the greeting, exchanging confused looks.

"This is my brother's beautiful lady." He explained cheerfully. "I find her quite like the sister I never had, you know." Adelaide smiled again, delighted by the prospect. She clasped his outstretched hand in hers for a moment, a warm look passing between them. They released each other and she gathered up her skirts.

"Come in, please! I'm sure you all would love a warm bath and some good food. Our chef is quite adept." With a shout of agreement, she lead them inside, and showed each of the guests to their respective rooms.

Fausta returned down to the parlor, where it seemed the brothers were talking. She smiled brightly and gave Hugh a fond embrace before standing beside her lover and giving him a kiss on the cheek.

"Let us hope that your comrade does not take long, yes? We should be off on our errand soon."


Junior Member
Hugh enjoyed seeing Duncan again, the two of them had retired to the parlor to catch up on business dealings. Duncan took in the news of the Montgomery business successes with a fairly neutral face. However when Hugh mentioned that Adelaide had begun to move her things in he brightened up at the juicy news.

"My my brother. Have you got down on a knee then?" He asked excitedly the idea suddenly hitting him, Duncan rushed forward to get in Hugh personal space. His voice an excited hushed whisper.

"No! Not yet anyways." Hugh leaned back as Duncan's nose almost touched his. He let out a laugh. "Shush though, Adelaide might enter at any moment." Unable to resist however Hugh pulled out the envelope holding the ring from Lydia and let Duncan peek inside. His brother was grinning like a fool and Hugh knew he was holding in an excited shout. There was a movement at the door and Hugh and Duncan jumped apart haistilly trying to appear normal. They relaxed however when it was Fausta and Hugh moved to give her a hug.

Duncan leaned into Fausta's kiss when she came to him and he squeezed his lover excitedly. She spoke of Earnest and their little trip and Duncan suddenly remembered their guests. However unable to contain his excitement he waggled his brows at Hugh.

"Show her." He commanded, all but vibrating in his joy. Hugh rolled his eyes but quickly showed Fausta the contents of the envelope and beamed brightly at her as the silence spoke to his intentions. He had the envelope put away as Connor was the first to arrive in the parlour. He clapped Hugh on the back and went to observe the windows looking outside on the estate. Landon and Earnest arrived together, Earnest looked nervous and pulled at his clothes. They were the finest ones that he had brought with him, but when he saw Fausta he loosed up.

"Well my dear." He said straightening. "I am quite prepared to deliver on this favour." He spoke solemnly but there was a glint of humour in his eye. He offered his arm for her to take just as Adelaide was the last to arrive in the room.

All the men in the room straightened and bowed to her. Duncan unable to contain himself returned to Adelaide, laying even more affection upon her with yet another noisy kiss to her cheek. Hugh grumbled at his brother and quickly rescued Adelaide by tucking her into his side, his arm around her waist.

"Truly such a pleasure to have you all here." Hugh said looking at all of his friends and family.

"Indeed. We shall have to make this an annual event." Landon said bouncing on the balls of his feet, enamoured with the idea.

"I would certainly like to try again to win a favour from our dear friend." Earnest patted Fausta's hand affectionately.

"You shall have to join us next year." Landon added, looking pointedly at Hugh.

"I would be delighted." Hugh agreed, giving Adelaide an affectionate squeeze.


Junior Member
Adelaide was quite taken by surprise by Duncan's excited affections, his energy seemed to be up even more than when they had returned. She laughed softly as Hugh pulled her away, holding her close to his side. At the mention of an annual event, she brightened.

"Oh, how lovely a thought! I'm sure you all will keep Fausta's hunting skills at top notch." She laughed again at the miffed expressions around the room, but the men had good fun with her little jest. Fausta took Earnest's arm, and bid them a farewell until dinner. The two exited and Adelaide moved away from Hugh to shoo Duncan into the bath. "Dearest Duncan, I am quite afraid that you must go get cleaned up. You smell of the outdoors and I just had the house cleaned. Go on, go." Finally, she managed to persuade him.

Returning to the group, she settled the men into chairs and fetched some drinks, settling down by Hugh's side once everyone was tended to. The dogs padded in soon after, both still damp from their own bath. They nuzzled the guests affectionately before laying down in a tangle by the fire.

"I have so been looking forward to meeting you." Adelaide confessed with a bashful smile. "I did wonder what sort of company Hugh kept before we met. I am delighted that he has such wonderful friends."

Fausta was buzzing with the thought of Hugh's little surprise. She managed to pull Earnest away and usher him into the carriage. Seeing the man so nervous--and in his finest, even! It was adorable. He and Duncan were much alike.

"Have you been to the town here before?" She asked him as they rode. "It is, how you say, little? Cozy? Forgive me, I am not finding the right word."


Junior Member
Earnest left with Fausta and helped her into the carriage. She asked him a question and he directed his full attention onto her.

"Certainly. Though never with a companion of the feminine variety." Earnest contemplated Fausta for a moment before continuing. "London dwarfs it in comparison, but I do enjoy the quaint feeling." He offered the word, wondering if it was the one she was looking for. Curiosity got the better of him then and he leaned forward to ask. "I must confess I am not certain what use I may be of you in town. Perhaps you might enlighten me?"


Duncan left with a bark of laughter at Adelaide's mothering and he took his time relenting to her desires. When he left Hugh breathed a sigh of relief, he had been worried Duncan's excitement would give everything away. He still had much to plan and consider, Hugh's mind worked the idea slowly over in his mind. He wanted it to be perfect, for the mood to be just right. His thoughts were drawn back to the present as Adelaide spoke to the old war friends.

Connor gave Adelaide a shy smile and he ducked his head at her compliment and focused on giving the dogs a pat as they made their rounds. Landon chuckled at the comment.

"Ah yes, Hugh is certainly a wild card, always seeking out trouble." He jested. "Had to reel that boy in we did." Hugh shifted under Landons gaze and he narrowed his eyes at his friend. Landon continued on waving his hand in dismissal at Hugh's face. "What a changed man I see, the domestic life suits. It's lovely to see him so happy..." Landon trailed off realizing he had gone all sentimental and cleared his throat. Landon drank from the glass of whiskey Adelaide had provided him and looked down. Hugh's heart warmed at his friends comment and he decided to take pity on him.

He changed the conversation to the hunt and Landon to great pleasure in regaling them of the events. With Connors nods as approval of his story telling skills Landon spoke for a long while, long enough for Duncan to return from his bath looking fresh and clean. He had calmed down considerably from the exciting news and smiled warmly at his friends. Seeing that Landon had taken the couple on quite a lengthy tale he sat himself down at the piano in the corner of the room. He made eye contact with Adelaide and with a jerk of his head he summoned her to the piano and pointed at the sheet music there.

A lively tune that needed some vocal accompaniment. He raised his brows in silent question.


Junior Member
Earnest gave her the word she'd been trying to translate and she smiled at him brilliantly. She could still see his shyness overcoming his, as well as curiosity. She had dressed more traditionally for the occasion herself, a dark blue day dress with black accents. Fausta leaned forward too, meeting him in the middle of the carriage. "Alright, I will tell you." She said, and with a wink, continued. "But you must keep it a secret from the others."

Fausta reached forward and grasped his ahd again, bringing it up between them. Flattening her gloved palm against his, she grinned. "You hand, see? It is being the closest to Duncan's, yes? I am needing you to come with me to the jeweler. I am wanting a ring for him. You see?" She laced her fingers through his and gripped his hand tightly, laughing as he blushed at the contact. She released him and sat back, still giggling. She'd nearly forgotten what proper English manors were like. Hugh and Duncan had thrown them out long ago. "I am thinking of asking him to become my husband."

Adelaide thoroughly enjoyed seeing Hugh among his old friends. It gave him a different sort of happy glow, one she had not seen before. The tales of thier hunt were entertaining, and Duncan finally saw fit to join them. He stole her away to the piano. After a moment of looking over the music, she nodded to him and turned to look over his shoulder. With one hand on the instrument and one on his shoulder, she threw a smile over her shoulder at Hugh before they began.

I was a stranger to myself
A flicker, a memory
I was a fragment, an empty shell
'Til you got a hold of me

Stretch it over me
The sky of your reflection
It's the wild I need tonight...

The song was beautiful and lively. It reminded her of Hugh's warmth. Of his smile. Duncan seemed to be overjoyed at the opportunity to play for them, and Adelaide was overcome with a heady blush once they finished. She gave a small curtsey, and as she bowed her head, her choker came loose and fell to the floor with a small tinkling. Adelaide stood hurriedly and looked away as a small wave of shock hit their visitors. She covered her bare neck with one hand and reached back for support. Duncan was there, his firm hand coming to rest on her arm as he stood.

"O-oh, forgive me, please..."


Junior Member
Earnest let out a low noise at Fausta's declaration and then as the idea settled over him he leaned back and let out a roaring laugh. Realizing that he could come off as rude Earnest did his best to stifle the noises and explain the reason.

"My dear, I do believe you are the most enchanting wonderful woman I've ever met. Duncan is a most fortunate man." Earnest looked at his hand and wiggled his fingers then. "I would be most pleased to offer my services then." Earnest ran the hand he had held out down his face and shook his head, unable to remove the grin from his face. As they drew nearer to town he leaned to peek out the window as if he could see the buildings already and his brow furrowed as he contemplated. After a moment he returned to look at Fausta and scratched his chin.

"I suppose we will be wanting the jeweler then. If I recall he's a rather amiable fellow. Often at the pub when the day is done. His wife however is the nosey sort with a gossiping mouth. It would not do to have your question reach his ears before you can even ask." He tried to think of the name of the woman, after a moment it came to him and he snapped his fingers in recollection. "Mrs. Gillian." At those words the carriage came to a halt and the door was opened to the town. In the later afternoon quite a few folks walked down the cobblestone sides, their day done and a few errands needing to be run before their return to home.

Earnest jumped out, the feeling of being in on a secret giving him a little extra pep in his step. He offered his hand to Fausta and smiled, "Shall we?"


There was a gasp of surprise from Landon as he took in the horrid marks on Adelaide's neck. "I dare say..." He muttered to himself. Duncan lifted to his feet and stepped into the reaching arm as Adelaide sought support. She looked ashamed and he felt the pang in his stomach, a feeling that he recognized as sympathy. His hand found hers and he gave it a squeeze. Hoping she knew she was not alone. Hugh was moving to his feet ready to help but Connor beat him to it. He bent in front of her and retrieved the choker, his own scars lit up by the fire lit in the room. White and red veins moved over his skin like rivers through the earth. His large hands held the piece of lace and he held it out to her.

"Here..." He said quietly the low baritone of his voice rumbled deep in his chest. Hugh stood next to Conner, wanting to comfort Adelaide. Landon took up the other side of Conner then, his shock transitioning to a rather angry expression.

"Give me the name of the brute that did this." His voice low with anger.

"Hush Landon. It is already finished." Duncan said curtly, not wanting his dear friend to deal with the anger of another man. Landon seemed appeased by the words and gave a short nod.

"They do not define you." Connor spoke again, the most he had ever said in a single space of time to the recollection of the men in the room. Adelaide had taken the choker but had yet to place it back on her neck. The giant in front of her smiled warmly and looked down again, unable to keep up the eye contact any longer.

Hugh looked at the group of men around the woman he loved. His heart warming as felt the acceptance he had so longed for her fill the room. He felt this throat tighten and wished he had a drink at hand.


Junior Member
Fausta grinned as he perked up at the idea, and grabbed his hand, lifting her skirts up so as not to trip exiting the carriage. Tucking her arm through his, they entered the jewelry shoppe. A thin, whispy woman was shuffling around behind the counter, and perked up at the sound of the bell tinkling. It wasn't a stately shop by any means, but it was clean and all the wood was carved and polished. The wares were displayed beautifully under pools of afternoon sunlight.

"Weclome, welcome!" Mrs. Gillian tittered, coming round to greet them. She shook hands with them both. "What are you looking for today?" Fausta grinned and laughed as they came back towards the counter space.

"We are looking to marry soon." She said politely, as Earnest hastily covered his shocked expression with a smile. "But mi amour here is not knowing his ring size. We wish to pick one out for him." The woman clapped her hands and began to pull out velvet pallets of wedding bands.

"Oh, how wonderful! I quite understand, my husband was the same. It's very forward thinking of you to pick out bands now--some people don't until the eve of the ceremony! Can you imagine?" Fausta chatted with Mrs. Gillian as she picked out rings for Earnest to try on. There were many different colors and styles, and she had to consider Duncan's wardrobe and skin color as well, of course.

Adelaide couldn't help but burst into tears at the overflow of kindness showed to her by the men. Such grace, given to her by almost strangers. Hugh came to hold her, wrapping her up in his warm embrace.

"T-thank you." She choked out, trying desperately to regain her composure. "T-thank you s-s-so much..." They all smiled at her tenderly, before Duncan ushered the guests away to give her a moment's peace. After a small while of soothing from Hugh, she finally managed to calm down. She still held the little lace in her clutched hand, and looked down at it pensively. "Should I... leave it off, Angel?" She asked in a timid whisper. Adelaide was quite lost in that moment, wishing for him to give her direction.

All her life she had been reprimanded for her scars, forced by her father to hide them away in shame. In the face of such gentleness, Adelaide had no idea what to do. The acceptance they had given her was foreign--and gave her a strange mix of feelings. Fear, anxiety...hope. Adelaide looked up into Hugh's blue, blue eyes, searching for an answer.


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Earnest did his best to play the part of doting future fiancé, recovering from the shock with a smile that made his golden tooth glint. Fausta handled the conversation and Mrs. Gillian cooed over the idea of their joining.

"Certainly my dearest likes to be prepared." Earnest said, offering his hand up to Fausta as she looked thoughtfully between the selection and his hand. At Mrs. Gillian's questioning look Earnest's smile grew wider, he fell even more firmly into the role. "I'm afraid my fashion sense is nothing compared to hers. I think it best to leave such an important choice to the expert."

"What a forward thinking couple!" The older woman brought out another selection of rings for Fausta to apprise. "Might I ask for your names?" The shine of curiosity in her eye had Earnest certain the woman was about to head for the tea house directly after their visit.

"Er, I'm Mr. Holloway, and my soon to be fiancé is Miss. Thorpe." He pulled the names of his commanding officers from memory.

"I've not heard of either." Mrs. Gillian furrowed her brow in confusion, a small town such as this, certainly she would have heard of the name of two more higher class patrons joining the town.

"We are visiting an old friend." Earnest did not elaborate and was pleased to see the disappointed look from the woman. Decorum had her halting her press of questions, though he was certain she might explode if she did not learn more. "Well, Miss. Thorpe, have you made a choice then?" Earnest asked, noticing that Fausta was lingering on a ring.


The men were shooed away by Duncan and he brought them down the hall to begin a rousing game of darts as the couple took a moment to compose themselves. Hugh held onto Adelaide with all his might, letting her sob into his dinner jacket. When he sobs had calmed her red rimmed eyes regarded the choker.

"I... Think Connor is right. These marks are a part of your story and your journey. To hide them away hides part of what makes you strong." Hugh said slowly, choosing his words carefully. "I do not find them unsightly, nor do I think you should be ashamed. What happened was unacceptable." His tone remained gentle despite the reminder of her abuser. "No matter your choice, it does not change how myself of the rest of my friends will feel about you." He smiled then, the warm moment still fresh on his heart.


Junior Member
Fausta only half listened to their conversation as she regarded the jewelry before her. Earnest was doing wonderful in his role--better than she had expected. It his question, she looked up with a bright smile.

"Why, yes, amore! Here, look at this." She presented him with a simple, burnished gold ring. Turning it, she showed him the inscription inside. Till death do us part. With a small, painted skull in place of the word 'death' and two hands holding up intertwining hearts. Fausta slipped it onto Earnest's finger with one smooth motion after he held out his hand, then made sure he could take it off easily. After that was decided, they returned the ring to the woman. "Ah, please, may we have a box as well? I am wanting to show it off to our friends properly, yes?" Mrs. Gillian turned to fetch it, and Fausta quickly pressed money into Earnest's hand.

There was no time to argue, if he thought to, before Mrs. Gillian returned with the ring. They paid and chatted pleasantly for another few moments before returning to the carriage. Once the door was shut and they were on their way, Fausta squealed with delight and threw herself into the man's arms. She kissed his face repeatedly, joy evident in her loud laughter. Finally, she pulled away from him and laughed again upon seeing his shocked expression. She handed him her kerchief to wipe the lipstick from his cheeks with a smile.

"Ah, forgive me signor. I was simply too excited to contain myself. You performed wonderfully! I cannot wait to show him!"

It took Adelaide almost ten minutes to calm herself. Hugh, always gentle, held her to him. His warmth and familiar heartbeat helped her, he would protect her from even her own dark thoughts, it seemed. When she looked up into his blue, blue eyes, they were full of love and kindness. He spoke softly to her and Adelaide had to push back a second wave of tears at the achingly sweet words. Adelaide hugged him closer again, laying her head upon his chest simply to hear his heartbeat once more.

"Thank you, my angel." She said, pulling away again. "I am so sorry for such a scene, I fear such kindness simply overwhelmed me." Hugh gave her that dazzling smile, and she couldn't help but smile in return. "I...I think I will leave it off, then. I've become so used to having it that way.." Her words were laced with nervousness, but Hugh kissed her brow softly and Adelaide felt herself calm again. She pulled away from him to compose herself in front of the mirror before they joined the others. The dinner bell rang just as they had entered, and the group began to head to the dining room.

"I do hope you all can tell me some stories about Hugh and Duncan." She told the men politely "I'm afraid I really haven't the chance to hear much about them before they came here, yet." The brothers groaned almost in unison as the other two men let out a gleeful cackle.


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Her kisses sent Earnest's brain into a tailspin, her scent and lipstick marks lingered as she finally leaned back holding the box happily to her breast. Her words were excited but he was able to make out her meaning despite how quickly she spoke. He chuckled and wiped away at his cheeks.

"I think it's going to be splendid." He agreed. They spent the rest of the carriage ride home chatting eagerly about plans and other exciting things. When they arrived back at Westwood, they were ushered inside to the the dining room where the rest of the household sat. Earnest was a little shocked at first at the sight of Adelaide and the horrendous scars upon her neck. Fausta who stood next to him gave his hand a squeeze and with a meaningful look she eased his worries and has him keeping his mouth shut. It was funny, Earnest thought to himself, how much trust he had in the woman that he had spent a weekend with. Fausta had more than displayed she was a worthy companion in a way Earnest knew his friend Duncan would live long and happy life.

Duncan leaned over to give Fausta a kiss on the cheek as she settled next to him at the table. The first course was served and Adelaide asked her question as a glass of wine was placed in front of Landon. His eyes sparkled with joy at the idea of sharing the stories of the brothers. Hugh and Duncan locked eyes and the both of them let out a low moan as the notion of their dirty laundry being aired filled the room.

"Oh we certainly have a number of tales to tell you Miss. Lovelocke." Earnest laughed. Conner nodded in agreement with them and Duncan glared at his friends.

"Don't you dare." He threatened half heartedly.

"Oh I dare." Landon said, his wine glass already half finished. "During our war efforts our two brothers were certainly were the talk of the town we were stationed in." Hugh slumped in his seat, already recognizing the story. His ears flushed red, and he reached for the wine glass readying himself for the tale.

"It was a quaint little town, mostly farmers. A pub down the lane, between two sheep farms." Landon began, his voice low and dramatic. "Our regiment had been commanded with the transport of some cannon barrels. We were to walk with a cart, lead by a horse team..."

"We had to take the cannons to the ridge further past the pub." Earnest supplied.

"However it seemed only right, that we stope for a drink." Landon continued, Connor nodded again, a wry smile on his scared lips. "But alas, it seemed the sheep had other plans for us that day. It felt like thousands had broken from the fields and were now grazing and huddling on the only path to the pub. Rather than just waiting these two came up with a perfectly splendid plan."

"It made sense at the time." Duncan interjected, looking pleadingly at Fausta. "My feet ached, I just wanted a beer." He added, thinking that would plead his case further.

"Hugh remembers that we have powder and fuses in one of the cases, and together he and Duncan proceed to fill the barrel and place the fuse in its spot."

"I just wanted to scare the sheep." Hugh told the two women. "No cannon ball, just a loud bang." Landon barked out a laugh and polished off the last of his wine before continuing.

"They sold us on their ridiculous plan" Landon sniggered, a happy tear falling from his eye, he wiped at it with a finger. "And certainly it worked, the bang scared the sheep, but the horses as well." Earnest let out a roar of laughter and Landon did his best to finish the tale through his laughter as Connor banged on the table in silent laughter. "The look on all our faces as the cart tore away from us, down up the hill and out of our sight."

"And to top it off! The town thought they were under attack, moments later the bloody town militia comes charging our way." Earnest howled with laughter.

"I managed to talk them down." Duncan said, he paused to see if their friends were able to continue but they were so busy laughing he finished the tale. "I thought for a moment we might get a whipping but our commanding officer was kind."

Hugh snorted in disagreement "We were not to rest until we recovered the lost cannons. It took us three nights."


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Fausta and Adelaide exchanged amused looks over the rims of their glasses from across the table. The guests were throwing themselves into quite a fit over the story--which was really only half as funny as they found it. The wine and good company seemed to have a relaxing effect on them all. Even though Hugh and Duncan looked rather embarrassed, they were all smiles. It was wonderful to see them so alive with joy and humor.

The group spent the rest of dinner trading stories of the brothers, until the guests were blue in the face and breathless with laughter. The Montgomerys were blushing deeply and more than happy to usher the tipsy guests to their rooms and then retire themselves. Adelaide was all giggles as she sat at the vanity and took off her makeup. Hugh was grumbling as he stripped down into his sleep clothes.

"Did you really need to encourage them so?" He complained, half heartedly. Adelaide smiled and laughed out loud, shaking her head as he came and sat on the edge of the bed, watching her through the mirror.

"Oh, forgive me, Angel." She soothed "I'm afraid I couldn't help it, truly. They seemed to have such joy in their eyes recounting those stories. Besides, it seemed as though you had some fun too.." Adelaide teased. Hugh blushed lightly and averted his eyes, a wry smile worming it's way onto his lips.

"Perhaps." He replied coyly. Adelaide rolled her eyes heavenward and went to undress behind the changing screen. She undid her dress and put on her nightgown, coming out to crawl into bed with her lover. She snuggled into his chest and he hummed quietly. "It was a good day." He said softly, nuzzling her hair. Adelaide smiled into his chest, tightening her grip on the front of his shirt.

"Good." She said, glad to have him so lighthearted. But her thoughts slowly turned to the future as they began to drift away. Would this visit with Perseus go well? What if the question of succession came up? Her scars were not the only thing Adelaide's father had hidden from the main family. How would she tell Hugh? More importantly, what would he say? Despite the fog of anxiety, Adelaide eventually managed to fall asleep to Hugh's familiar heartbeat thrumming beside her ear.

Fausta helped her tipsy lover into their bedroom, and laughed as he flopped onto the bed. Earnest had given her a wink on his way up, and she had greatly appreciated the confidence. Though the ring box seemed to be burning a hole through her clothes, she restrained herself. Now was certainly not the right time. Fausta didn't know when would be, but she would feel it.

"<Ah, my love, did you have a good time tonight? I do love your friends. They are so full of life.>" Fausta asked as she undressed herself to prepare for bed. SHe could see that Duncan had that wiley look in his eye, but he was currently struggling to sit up and peel off his boots. "<Darling, do you need help?>" She laughed, seeing him flounder about like a fish.

Fausta moved towards the bed, slipping on her discarded dress in her bare feet. She made a squeal and tumbled to the ground, landing on her rear. After a breath of looking at each other in astonishment, the couple burst out in uproarious laughter.


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The laughter of Fausta and Duncan filled the bedchamber for a long moment. Both their eyes were streaming with tears and it took them a long while to come back to a steady rate of breathing. Finally after much struggle Fausta made her way to Duncan and helped to pull one and then two boots off and throw them haphazardly off to the side. Even with the soft giggles that kept coming from the two of them their passion for one another burned just as bright as ever. Duncan sank onto the floor with Fausta and he made a great show of helping her out of her dress and inspecting the spot upon which she had fallen. He placed kisses the curves there and took his time returning to her mouth, by the time he had done so the both of them were panting and their eyes were filled with twin desire.

Their loving was sweet and intense, sending them into a deep sleep as they lay curled together.

As they slept Duncan's dreams took him far away. Dancing women around a large fire, chanting softly. Their music sending peaceful chills through his spine. The power of the women before him astounded him, their arms raised and the fire lifted and grew moving towards the sky. Above them the clouds circled and seemed to spiral around the circle of women. The chanting grew more rapid and a white light seemed to emanate from the coals that fed the fire. From the light a figure emerged from the fire, a woman looking very much like Fausta but Duncan knew it was not her.

A bond forged, stardust meeting.
Two wholes made stronger.
Methinks they stay'st.
The Moon so powerful.
The Sun so bright.
Keep the other treasured.

The words sounded around him and Duncan woke with a start, his jump making Fausta grumble in her sleep. She muttered something, her fingers curling as they rested on his chest. In the morning light Duncan could make out the soft curve of her mouth. The tip of her nose, and the way her hair spilled over her neck and back. She was breathtaking, and he felt his heart thrum as the dream fell away to be forgotten.

He never wanted to be parted from her, Fausta had fit so seamlessly into his life and he knew that the feelings within him would never wane. His eyes flicked up to look at the ceiling as he contemplated, a wry smile creeping onto his face. It seemed he would have to write a letter very soon.


Hugh slept soundly next to Adelaide. His mood high from the nights stories and the feeling of being surrounded by friends. He awoke early in the morning, and found himself a little too restless to remain in bed. He slipped out of Adelaide's arms and quickly drew a robe around his night clothes and penned a quick note to leave on his pillow.

Good morning dearest,
I did not wish to wake you as you slept so peacefully.
You look beautiful when you dream.
Love - Hugh

He folded the letter and silently left the room and walked down the stairs to find Earnest and Duncan in deep conversation just outside of the breakfast room.

"Good morning." Hugh said cheerfully. Both the men smiled in greeting and were about to respond just as the door opened and a servant ushered them inside. The were greeted with a table of the usual assortment and Hugh sat down across from his brother and friend.

"As I was saying." Duncan said as he seated himself and poured a rather hefty cup of tea for himself. "I need you to stay another day Earnest."

"Whatever for?" Hugh asked. Earnest nodded in agreement with Hugh.

"I need to begin preparations. I wish to ask Fausta to marry me." Duncan whispered, his eyes darting to the door just incase Fausta walked in. His eyes widened with a sudden realization then and they jumped back to Hugh. "Of course I can wait. I do not wish to steal your moment Hugh." He looked immediately regretful knowing he had forgotten his brothers plans. Earnest's mouth open in surprise and he barked out a laugh which was immediately shushed by the two brothers. "Apologies Hugh." It was not often Hugh got an apology from Duncan and he took his time buttering a scone and making his older brother squirm before answering. He was careful to keep his face neutral until finally their eyes met and Hugh could not contain his smile any longer. He could not imagine making his brother wait on his behalf. The man was a fool in love and it gave him great pleasure to see Duncan as happy as he was.

"It's perfect Duncan. I am happy for the both of you. I do not think Adelaide would be upset either." He chuckled, knowing his too sweet lover would find the idea of both sets of couples engaged absolutely endearing.

"Have you asked then?" Duncan asked, getting side tracked from his plan.

"Not yet." Hugh sighed, there came the crux of it all. He had no ideas. Like his brother he wanted to make the moment special, but he nothing seemed worthy of Adelaide. "I have to keep thinking on it I think. What do you have for a plan."

"A most extravagant night. Candle light, the stars, sweet music, dancing." Duncan's eyes lit up as he spoke. "Which is why I need you Earnest." He turned to see their friend looking at him with a silly sort of smile on his face. He assumed it had to do with his dreamings and did not question the knowing look that Earnest carried. "Can you spend the day with her? It seemed you both got along just well in town. I just need a few hours to get my own affairs in order." Duncan whipped out a letter from his breast pocket and looked at it fondly. "I am writing to her parents and siblings. Each one gets a letter asking for their permission. I hope to present their replies to her the night of." He gave Earnest a cheeky grin and it was returned to him.

"An excellent idea of course, but what would you have me do to keep her distracted?" Earnest asked.

"I don't care. Just get it done." Duncan waved away the technicalities and stood up abruptly, in too good of a mood to not share it Duncan took Earnest's face in his hands and kissed him full on the mouth before departing the room calling for a horse to be readied. Earnest was frozen where Duncan left him and Hugh watched with silent glee as the man processed the past few moments.

"It seems like you have your hands full." Hugh chuckled as Earnest slumped backwards and let out a long breath of air.

"I can tell you know, she kisses better than him." Earnest scrunched his nose and rubbed his cheek. "Is that really what it feels like to kiss someone with a beard? Dear lord."


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Adelaide woke late the next morning, Hugh's note placed carefully in her half curled hand. Rubbing her eyes sleepily with the free hand, she unfolded the paper and read the note, a small smile forming on her lips. Adelaide rose and took her time dressing, picking out a delicate pink dress to wear. She put on a small amount of makeup and twisted her long hair into a neat bun, and wore a pair of glittering pink drop earrings. Her scars stood bare against her skin.

She descended the stairs and peeked into the lounge, where Hugh and the guests were talking. It was almost time for afternoon tea. Adelaide had an idea, and slipped out into the garden. With the help of a gardner, she cut a small assortment of flowers and brought them in to the kitchen. She oversaw the teatime preparations and lead the servants into the lounge with a smile. The men greeted her, though she waived them away from rising to bow.

"Oh, please, you are our friends! There is no need for such formalities here. Besides, it's not as if I am lady of the house." Adelaide personally served each his tea, making sure they were all attended to before she settled next to Hugh. "Forgive me for greeting you all so late, I'm afraid that all the excitement tired me out yesterday."

Fausta woke without Duncan by her side. It was rare for him to leave her like this.. She was up and dressed quickly, and decided to take a walk through the gardens to clear her mind. The cool air woke her more, and Fausta was able to talk herself out of her worries. It was probably just something to do with his work, perhaps a ship was having trouble.

She came back into the manor and strode to the office, knocking thrice on the door with her knuckles sharply. Without waiting for an answer, she tried the knob, and found it locked.

"<Duncan? What's going on?>" She called.

"<I'm working, love. Please, it's terribly important. I will come and see you later.>" His voice was muffled through the door, and Fausta's lips pressed together into a pout. She turned and went to the lounge, where tea was being held. She flopped down on the chaise next to Earnest and folded her arms across her chest, her brow knitted in annoyance. He had always let her into the study before--even when he was working. She never disturbed him, much anyway, and was sure to be quiet when he was concentrating. What on earth had gotten into him?


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Hugh tucked Adelaide's arm into the crook of his as she settled next to him, happy to have her once again at his side. He had been mulling over the thought of matrimony and the asking process and still found himself rather stumped unlike Duncan who was full of ideas and romantic gestures. Everything calmed in him once Adelaide was next to him and though nothing had occurred to him yet, he knew he had it within him to romance sweet Adelaide.

His friends munched happily on the treats Adelaide had brought for them and spoke of their next plans. As they chatted about yuletide events Fausta entered the room in a dramatic huff, her hair bouncing as she lay herself upon the chaise next to Earnest. Hugh caught his gaze and looked pointedly at him and then at Fausta, reminding the man of his promise.

"Er... Fausta, I was thinking perhaps you might...." Earnest trailed off as nothing came to him and his hands flailed desperately.

Hugh looked around seeking any ideas that might save them, his eyes landed on a flyer sent in from the town, sitting atop the mail. "Come to the charity event with us in town today." He suppled making Earnest nod in agreement. Hugh plucked up the paper and offered it first to Adelaide to gauge her interest.

The Bellgrave's are happy to invite one and all to the charity event for London's Orphans.
Tickets to London's finest theatre production Much Ado About Nothing in the finest box available.
Grand prize to be won in a Vignt et un match.
Pay in of 10 pounds or more, all proceeds go to London's Orphans.

Hugh stood and passed the flyer to Fausta then. "What say you?" He asked.


Meanwhile Duncan wrote until his hands were sore, he had before him some very heartfelt letters to Fausta's family and knew that he was to send them off. He wished he had not locked the door on Fausta but he knew he would have broken and asked for her hand then. He did not want all the planning to go to waste. Quietly he slipped out of the house and headed to town ready to commence on his plans.


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Adelaide's eyes sparkled at Hugh's lovely little plan. With quick thinking and his charming smile, he suggested the group get out of the house. It seemed that Dearest Duncan was up to something and needed the privacy. Playing along, Adelaide clapped her hands in delight.

"Ooohh, I do love Shakespeare! Come now Fausta, won't it be just wonderful?" The troupe was making its rounds through the countryside for the charity, and had stopped in just the next town over. It had been years since Adelaide had seen a play put on and she was quite excited by the idea. "We have so many fine men to accompany us, we could even torture them with a little shopping, too! Perhaps a meal out in a restaurant?"

Adelaide crossed the room and dropped down before Fausta, her dress fluttering out around her. She placed her forearms on her friend's knees, and rested her head atop them, pleasing with her eyes and a shy smile. "Please? You'll do it for me, won't you?" Fausta visibly wavered a moment, then caved. Leaning over she pressed a chaste kiss to Adelaide's hair and sighed dramatically.

"You know I have never been able to refuse you, Addy. Fine, we will go." A slight scowl returned to her face "But Duncan will answer me when we return." Fausta stood and gave Earnest a look. "Be dressing to impress, yes?" and sashayed from the room. Adelaide was helped up by Landon, and she smiled gratefully. Coming back to Hugh, she did a little squeal of excitement.

"Oh, the theatre! I haven't been in so long, goodness. Oh! What do I wear?? I have the green crushed velvet dress, that red silk dress and the pink evening gown, just to start! Oh, Hugh, help!" She twirled a little and laughed, looking up at him eagerly for his opinion.


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Adelaide's excitement proved to be infectious. The men all seemed to hum with excitement along with her. Landon, Earnest and Connor all followed after Fausta and went to pull together their buy ins and garments for the outing. Hugh ginned widely at the woman he loved and took her hand to help guide her into a twirl as he considered her question. He could picture the red dress and his mouth watered at the idea of helping her out of it in the evening. Drawing her in closer he nuzzled gently at her cheek before placing a kiss upon her lips.

"The red one." He murmured, his low voice sending a shiver through her spine.

A long while later, the group gathered around the carriage and loaded in the women before the men followed after. Everyone was dressed sharply, Earnest most of all had pulled out his finest garb and took to his duties of attending to Fausta most.... earnestly. He took off his top hat and fingered the brim, his eyes locked on his charge, it was clear Fausta was less than impressed with Duncan at the moment and Earnest found it most distressing that she would feel this way.

"Do you play Vignt et un Fausta?" Earnest asked. "And you Miss Adelaide?" His eyes turned to the sweet woman in her red gown. Hugh had placed his arm over the back of the seat and tucked Adelaide neatly into his side. He had chosen to match her red with a deep crimson cravat and appropriate pocket square folded nicely in his breast pocket.

"Connor is quite the player" Landon added to the conversation. "Old stone face." Landon said fondly, choosing to pat his friend on the cheek. Connors mouth twitched up in a small smile but he remained quiet and focused on the passing trees as the carriage made its way to town.

When they arrived in town the charity event was just beginning to ramp up. Women twittered to one another as tables filled the square outside and dealers prepared their decks and players found their seating. A large man with gleaming hazel eyes called out for more players. His cash box sat next to him and he rattled off the buy in details. As more players handed him bundled notes his voice grew louder and happier.

"Seems that is where we need to be." Hugh supplied, pointing the group towards him. As they walked Hugh took out two folds of pounds and offered one half to Adelaide. "Your buy in my love." He said, his eyes shining with excitement. He hoped secretly to be the one to win the pot for Adelaide. If not he vowed he would by a box for the next theatre production. It had been such a joy to see her light up with the prospect of the theatre and Hugh was eager to keep finding new ways to bring that glow to her.


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Fausta did her best to push the troublesome thoughts of Duncan aside. She could see how distressed it was making his old friends. Fausta had dressed in a deep purple, and Ernest had dressed to match. It seemed he was determined to take her on as a charge for the evening. The big, soft man was terribly eager to please her, and Fausta's mood lightened in affection for him. She gave him a smile as he asked, and quirked a brow. Adelaide giggled wildly, covering her mouth with a gloved hand at his query.

"Si, signor." She replied "I was playing on my father's lap when I was very small, yes?" She laughed herself. "Now none of my brothers can beat me--even clever young Paolo! We shall be seeing who does best, yes?" After calming herself, Adelaide shook her head politely at the men across from her, her curls fluttering about her face. She touched the red velvet choker around her neck with one hand, the smoothness of the locket there calming her. It was all so exciting, she was terribly worked up.

"Oh, heavens, no. My father found cards too much unladylike for me, so I wasn't allowed to play. Miss Lydia did her best to teach me the basics, but I'm afraid I'm quite a terrible player." She half grimaced. The men all consoled her quickly, and she smiled simply from the kindness they offered her. The group arrived on the scene to the growing crowd, and Adelaide squeezed Hugh's hand in excitement. When he handed her the buy in, she shook her head vehemently and gently pushed it back into his palm. "Please, darling, save your money. I was not exaggerating when I told you I was awful." She stood in her tiptoes and pressed a gentle kiss to his cheek. "How about I act as your lucky charm instead? I feel I would be much better suited for the role."

The group paid and were soon seated at a table. Being so large in number there was only one outsider seated with them. Fausta sat beside Ernest, and as the first cards were dealt, she leaned over to press a feather light kiss to his ear.

"How you say, for good luck, yes?" She teased as he spluttered and glowed red. His companions looked somewhere between jealous and elated, teasing him immediately. Fausta laughed and rolled her eyes, taking a peek at her cards. 13, not a terrible hand. As she was second in the lineup she ordered another card. 20, damn! Looks like her luck wasn't starting out well.


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The sound of the expert shuffle of cards began to fill the square as people began with the first round. Hugh found himself seated with Adelaide pressed closely to his side and he thanked the dealer for the cards. He peeked at the set of cards and quickly showed Adelaide as well before he turned them down and out of sight. Hugh had been graced with a measly 3 and a 5 leaving him at 8. He rapped the table with his knuckles asking for another card. He was handed a king and his brow furrowed as he wondered if he should stay or try again.

Around him the rest of the players made their own faces at the cards. Earnest still red in the face from his good luck kiss seemed to most enthused with the cards he had been given. Landon had brought out his little flask that he always kept on his person and took a nervous little swig. Conner as usual betrayed nothing, as was Fausta, Hugh could not get a gauge on either of their standing but decided that this fist round was not to be his. He left the number as it was and leaned back as Earnest was declared the winner of that round.

"Good luck indeed." Landon chuckled. His brow arched as he caught Fausta's eye. "I don't suppose you would mind offering some of your luck to me?"

"Sod off Landon." Earnest snapped immediately, and then, however impossible it seemed he went an even darker shade of red and muttered a quick apology to Adelaide and Fausta.

The next few rounds were dealt and Hugh was pleased to have won two of them. Connor and Fausta were evenly matched with four wins each, leaving Landon with none and Earnest with a single win. All around them tables had patrons leave as they lost. The guest at the table of the group played fairly averagely, he was a quiet fellow, with a large hat that swooped low and covered his eyes. Within the brim of his hat a brilliant peacock feather shone in the the midday sun. For the most part the group paid him no mind.

"Well friends, seems I am the first of us to loose." Landon said finally, throwing his cards down and looking at the wooden rounds of chips mournfully. He stood, adjusted his coat and gave Conner a quick pat on the shoulder. "Win for me." He told his friend as he walked away towards the direction of the the nearest drinks table. Earnest was out not too long after Landon, however rather than joining Fausta he stayed, standing behind Fausta with his hands in his pocket.

"Quite the play." Earnest said appreciatively as Fausta won the next round.


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The game went quickly, each round moving through the other like a rain swollen river. After their companions had exited the table, the stranger followed and vanished into the throng. Adelaide gave each of the losers a consolation kiss, and while Landon seemed pleased with himself for it, it looked as though poor Ernest might faint. She went again to stand beside Hugh, who seemed to be deep in concentration as the next hand began. Down to three, now. Adelaide gave Hugh's shoulder a gentle squeeze, waiting with baited breath for the outcome.

Hugh had such a determined look in his eye--indeed she'd never seen him so focused. Except, of course, when they were making love. Adelaide blushed heavily at that thought, blinking to clear her mind of such things. It was wonderful to see him enjoying himself so, and while the card game was quite stimulating, Adelaide was truly excited for the theatre production afterward. Hamlet wasn't her favorite, but she enjoyed it nonetheless. All of The Bard's work was wonderful.

The game went on quite a while longer, with Hugh winning two more and Connor one. Fausta gave Ernest a confident smile at his comforts, though eventually tired of the game and cashed out. It seemed that the two old friends had a certain fire between them--a playful little rivalry all shown in haughty glances and subtle smirks. Bets not to get in the way of that, she mused. Fausta took Ernest's arm as he lead her to the tables that held food and drink. She ate a little and drank a glass of champaign, but stopped there.

Fausta's mind continued to backtrack onto Duncan's strange behavior this morning. Placing her empty glass down and waiving off the server, Fausta folded her arms across her middle and asked her companion.

"How are you with the sword, signor?" Though her eyes were unfocused, as if seeing something from a memory. Landon had gone back to oversee the game, so they were quiet alone amidst the crowd of strangers.


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If Earnest thought Fausta's question was strange he didn't show it. It seemed the women had flustered him into a state of permanent redness and there was no further reaction he could give. He shrugged considering for a moment.
"I prefer a firearm but a sword can always do in a pinch." Earnest nibbled at a pastry and enjoyed the crunch of the freshly baked good. He ignored the crumbs that fell to his front and gave Fausta a side eye, it was clear she was less than enthused and he wondered if Duncan would be privy to the pointy end of her weapon. "Are we planning to duel then?" He asked curious.

Nearby Hugh and Connor warred neck and neck, it was clear the both of them enjoyed the game and the thrill of reading the other.
"Are you feeling good about your chances?" Hugh asked Connor, earning him a soft grunt. This last hand was it, they both were all in and the winner of their table would be declared. Hugh absentmindedly reached over to touch the hand Adelaide had placed on his shoulder. He stroked the tops of her knuckles and let out a long breath as he made his choice, tapping the table for his final card. With hopeful eyes he gazed at the card and broke into a large grin unable to help himself. Connor caught sight of the victorious grin and smiled in return, tossing his cards to the table in defeat.

"Well done sir." The dealer said appreciatively.
"Well thank you." Hugh accepted the folded parchment from the dealer and flipped it open to reveal the tickets for the theatre box. Elated and unable to contain himself Hugh pressed a kiss to Adelaide's lips and put the paper in her hands. "For you." He whispered, and idea occurring to him. Perhaps this win would be most favorable indeed.


Duncan finished up the last of his affairs, the letters all sent and the most perfect ring double wrapped in cloth and tied with a bow resting heavy in his breast pocket. As he exited the jewelers the sound of music and chatter caught his attention and he headed up the street in its direction. He came upon the charity event and looked over the crowd. His eyes found and stayed on Fausta almost immediately, he broke into a wide smile and headed off in her direction. He had missed her for the whole morn and hoped to make up for time as quickly as possible.

"Fausta!" He called out, lifting his hand in greeting.


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Adelaide gave a small shout for joy when Hugh won, and everyone left the table in high spirits. Hugh gave her a kiss and she blushed heavily, going to hide her face in her hands when he pressed the tickets into them. Delighted, Adelaide laughed aloud and bounced a bit on the soles of her feet. There were only two tickets within the envelope, so everyone else would have to buy their own and sit separately. This saddened her some, as she knew how much Hugh enjoyed the company of his friends. But a romantic evening together at the theatre was surely too good to pass up, so she decided to be a little selfish.

"Shall we mingle here until it's time to go?" Adelaide asked, slipping her arm through Hugh's. "We must celebrate with all of our wonderful players." Connor joined them in finding the others at a table. To her surprise, Duncan was there as well, though currently at the mercy of his lover. "Duncan!" She exclaimed, breaking away to embrace him. "I'm so happy you could come! It really isn't a party without you." Duncan returned her embrace with a soft smile, though she could see that he was distracted.

Coming back to stand by Hugh, Adelaide murmured. "...Should we help the poor dear? Fausta is not a kind enemy.."

Fausta snorted at Ernest's query, a smile breaking through. Turning to look at him she gave a small shrug.

"No, but my father will be wanting to duel you at the wedding, you know. I am assuming you will have been being the best man, of course." FAusta gave him a wink, and heard Duncan's voice break through the din. Stiffening, she come closer and wrapped both arms around Ernest's bicep. God, how she'd missed him. Fausta wanted to run into his arms at once, but stopped herself.

She was not above a little petty revenge. Duncan drew nearner, and without looking Fausta addressed him.

"Finally able to get away from your most important work, I see. Unfortunately, you've missed the game. And I'm afraid I already have an escort for this evening. It would be so rude to put him out after watching over me the past few days, no?" Ernest looked between them in shock and slight horror, before turning his head enough to silently plead for help from the group.

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