Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Down The Garden Path

Dawn mirrored the cold that still clamped itself around his heart. Jordan borrowed a hack from the stables - one of the best, of course, though the groom seemed a little put out by his effrontery - and allowed Rogue to have a well-earned rest. The gelding nickered a welcome in passing but seemed content to remain stabled while his master took to the fields.

The snow had stopped for now, but drifts lay deep and deceptive and a good gallop seemed unwise though he was sorely tempted. Instead, he let the mare pick her own course for most of circuitous ride, content to breath deep and
drink in the chill solitude and the welcome silence.

He returned and ate a leisurely breakfast alone, relieved that the other members of the household seemed reluctant to venture from their chambers too early. The less he saw of his family the better, though perhaps time with Drew could be managed. With his political connections, a good word here or there wouldn't go amiss in whatever plans he may decide on for his future.

Sounds of stirring and voices on the stairwell drove him outdoors. The rose garden, thankfully, was sheltered from all but the study windows, and it was unlikely that Edward would concern himself with his younger brother's truancy. No doubt he'd be relieved. He settled himself on a reasonably dry bench with the book he'd snatched from the library on the way out. It was one he'd read before, but it would at least provide a semblance of being absorbed and might buy him privacy.

"Jordie! I knew I'd find you here."

"Annette." He deliberately made no move to stand and noticed, with some satisfaction, that her smile tightened as she acknowledged the slight. Her glance took in the bench, then drifted to his face. She wouldn't sit, he knew. The damp would be an affront to her not-quite-white cloak that seemed out of place in the rustic setting.

"You're still angry," she said petulantly and, with a quick grimace of distaste, sat beside him. So much for his sense of safety. "Say you forgive me. I couldn't bear to think I had driven you away."

"There's nothing to forgive," he responded, keeping his tone deliberately disinterested.

She pouted prettily and rested a little hand on his knee, leaning forward so that her arm brushed and settled against his. "Surely you can see I had no choice," she said. "Nothing has changed, Jordie. I never stopped loving you. I never will. Once the child is born we can--"

"Can what? Have a liaison?" He made the word brutal and had the satisfaction of seeing her flinch.

"You make it sound so sordid. It's nothing unusual, Jordie, you know that. Countless married couples do, and all Edward wants is an heir. Once he has one, there's nothing to stop us loving each other as we have always done. I know you still want me."

"That, Madam, is where you are wrong. In fact, I cannot think of anyone I want less. I have no intention of romancing my brother's wife, even if you weren't the cold, calculating woman you are. You fooled me once, Annette, but never again. You may lead Edward a merry dance down the garden path if he's stupid enough to believe you, but you made you choice. This is your life - Edward is your life, and that child you carry - and I wish you well of it.

"You are cruel!" The tears brimming in the blueness of her eyes left him indifferent. This was an act, just as it had always been. He'd seen the truth at last and could at least be thankful that it had come before he'd married her. Her wounded expression was but the semblance of anguish, another mask, another face, without any real emotion.

"No, Madam. Honest. I'll have none of your games."

He stood then, pushing her hand aside as she tried to grasp his sleeve. He left her there in the garden, no doubt seething with resentment and outrage. He wondered briefly whether she would accept his rebuttal with grace, then decided he didn't really care. It would be well, however, to watch his back. Instinct whispered that the lady of the manor might not hesitate to exact some kind of revenge.

"Hell hath no fury," he muttered as he took the steps, two at a time, to his room. If nothing else, it might add a little twist of adventure to what otherwise promised to be a long and boring stay.

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