I walked into the inn in the village and the girl behind the bar nodded to me and motioned her head to William’s office.
“Hello Lady Dugarry,” he grinned. I smiled and sat down as he gestured to a couch. “I was expecting you earlier.” I frowned at him.
“Sir Tristan arrived home,” I explained arranging my skirts, “he had,” I swallowed, “other plans,” he smirked at me. “Don’t look at me like that.”
“I’m not looking at you any way in particular,” he said as the girl walked in with a tea tray, “thank you Izzie.”
“You’re welcome,” she said and bounced a curtsey to me, “My Lady.” I nodded at her, and she shut the door behind her.
“You are looking at me, and you can’t,” I mumbled. He stood up and came next to me. “Don’t,” I said, “my husband is back, and we’re,” I looked down.
“Caro,” he mumbled, “I don’t want to complicate your life.” I nodded.
“Then don’t,” I said, standing up and looking out the window. He stood up and kissed my neck, “William,” I mumbled.
“Do you love him?” He whispered.
“What kind of question is that?” I turned around. “He’s my husband.”
“I’m aware he’s your husband,” he said, “that wasn’t what I asked.” I frowned at him.
“I do, yes,” I said. “And it’s awfully presumptive of you to think I love you.” He smiled.
“I never thought for a moment that you loved me,” he said. “But I know you want me.”
“No” I said sharply. “You’re the one who keeps bringing it up.” It shouldn’t have gone further than this, his teasing, a few kisses, glances we hope no one sees. But there was that one night, which I know he’s thinking of now.
“You’re the one who came to me,” he whispered softly, “lonely and wanting.” I swallowed. “I wonder sometimes if you told him, and that’s why he hates me so much.”
“He hates you because you didn’t recognize Brayton, he has no idea about us,” I whispered. He nodded. “I wouldn’t hurt him like that.”
“He did,” he whispered. I closed my eyes.
“That was different,” I said as he kissed my knuckles. “William,” I said softly. “Please?” He nodded and stepped back, “I just wanted to,” I exhaled.
“You wanted to tell me Tristan was home, which I already knew,” he said, “and see if I had any news.” I nodded. “I have no news for you my lady.” I swallowed and pulled my shawl around me.
“Good, then,” I said softly, and walked out. I frowned and exhaled. I shouldn’t have gone to him that night. But I thought that I wanted something, anything but what I was feeling, so alone and lost. That night, sobbing in his arms, taking comfort in his touch, and kisses, felt horribly wrong now that Tristan was back.
“Oh, Caro,” Aaron was walking down the lane when I saw him. I dipped into a curtsey. “I didn’t expect to see you about.”
“Your Grace,” I said. He laughed. “Are you going to my house?” He smiled.
“Not just yet,” he shook his head. “I’m giving the twins a wide berth.” I laughed. He glanced at the inn. “And I’m supposed to invite William to dinner.”
“Oh,” I said softly, “well, that should make for an entertaining evening.” Aaron looked at me. I wonder sometimes how much he knows. He knows so many things that are impossible to know.
“Caro, I,” he sighed, “I wonder if maybe you ought to have gone to Dorin these past few months.” I laughed.
“If I’d been invited I’d have gone, I can assure you,” I said gently. “Unfortunately my in laws are not quite at the point where they wish to completely alienate my father, as much as my sister seems to wish it.” Aaron nodded. “Dovetail will make a nice change.” He lifted one shoulder.
“It always does,” he said. “The Queen is nervous about council convening.” I nodded. “Did anything happen?”
“No,” I said quietly. I was reporting and reassuring him, I realized. He nodded. “I don’t want,” I exhaled.
“You don’t have to say anything,” he said. “I know none of this has been easy for you,” he looked down, “but don’t,” I rested my hand on his elbow.
“Aaron,” I said, “I swear, there’s nothing to tell.” He nodded. “But, thank you.”
“Of course,” he said softly. “I’ll see you tonight.” I smiled. He smiled back. I found my way home, Tristan was back at his desk and I slid my hands down his chest. He closed his eyes and exhaled.
“How was your visit?” Tristan asked gently.
“Fine,” I said, “I saw Aaron. Are Athena and Calla gone?”
“Mm hm,” he said. “She’s having another baby.” I closed my eyes.
“I see,” I whispered. “That’s good.” He looked up at me. “It is! It’s wonderful news. Tristan,” I said, my voice breaking.
“Yes, love,” he said.
“Please don’t ever stay away so long again,” I mumbled, curling into his lap. He nodded and cradled me to him.
“I’ll try my best,” he whispered. “What’s happened? You were so determined this morning.”
“It doesn’t matter.” I mumbled. “It only matters that you’re home and you wanted me.” He lifted my chin.
“I’ll always want you,” he said softly. “Did he upset you? I can kill him.” I laughed. “I’ve wanted to kill William Santino for five years, Caro, I could muster the impulse to do it quite easily.” I liked this old joke of ours. He’d threatened Andrei the same, and I knew his antipathy towards William had little to do with me, but it still felt nice.
“Hush,” I mumbled and kissed him. “Are you terribly disappointed that Athena and Aaron will have another child, and we still have none?”
“Hmm,” he whispered and lifted me onto the desk and I giggled, “I was, but I suppose I will have to renew my resolve to use this time we have together.” I smiled and spread my legs for him. I’d married a good man, who even if he hadn’t loved me then, did now, and wanted me, wanted me to have his child.