Thump. Thump. Thump.
It’s the wedding! Well, the highlights. Everyone knows the reception is where the real action happens.
Chapter Twenty Two
It rained the morning of the wedding.
“Cheer up. It’s not an omen,” Luis said, delivering a tray packed with pastries.
Solenne turned away from the window. “I never said it was an omen, and are those almond croissants? Cook made almond croissants?” Cook save those for a special treat, usually birthdays. She stuffed one in her mouth, barely chewing. “Oh, these are so good.”
Luis reached for one, and Solenne slapped his hand away. “No. Bad brother. Cook made them for me.”
“Cook made them for everyone.”
“On my wedding day. Get your own wedding day,” she said, causing him to blush. “Fine. One. You can have the muffins.” Star berries stained the muffins a deep magenta. On a normal morning, Solenne more than happily smothered them with butter before devouring, but there were almond croissants to be had.
Luis uncovered a plate with fluffy scrambled eggs, still steaming. “Cook also said to eat something besides sugar, or you won’t last the day.”
“Thank you. Pull over the chair. There’s more than enough to share.”
With the tray balanced on the bedside table, Luis dragged over the old green chair. “Nervous?” he asked, grabbing a muffin.
“No,” she lied.
“Wow, you are a terrible liar. It’s insulting how bad you are. Like, are you even trying?”
She kicked his feet. “I’m not nervous about the ceremony, just everything that comes after.”
He nodded, which would have been sagely, but he stuffed another muffin in his mouth. “I wish you weren’t leaving so soon. Papa calmed down.”
She shook her head. Godwin’s reluctant acceptance was only part of the issue. The atmosphere in the house felt electric, like before a storm. There would always be a reason to delay departure or stay. She fell into that trap when she left university on a temporary break, to help Godwin set his finances in order and get the house under control. She fully intended to return, even though she had to pay her own way, but somehow she kept putting it off until returning to her studies seemed impossible. It was bad enough she and Alek had to wait out the effects of the equinox. Once that had passed, they were off because she feared that if she and Alek did not leave soon, they would never leave.
“He can barely speak a civil word to Alek. I won’t let Papa treat Alek as inferior. I’m sorry, I can’t abide by it,” she said.
Luis nodded. “It’ll be strange not having you here. You’ve always been… here. I’m envious, actually. You get to see the world, or at least bits of it.”
“We’re going to Alek’s property. That’s hardly traveling the globe.”
“The only place I’ve ever been to is boarding school.”
Solenne hid a yawn behind her hand.
“Did you get any sleep?” Luis asked.
“Nerves kept me up, so I did a bit of packing.” Two trunks sat against the far wall.
“Wow. Alek will have to hire another cart just for your luggage.”
“Oh, hush. I packed light. I don’t know how long we’ll be or what condition the house will be.”
“How much of that are books?”
“I only packed a dozen books.” Two dozen, but why split hairs. Plus, she wanted to bring a decent stock of herbs and medicine with her. A few plant clippings would be helpful, too. There wasn’t time. She had weeks to prepare and there wasn’t enough time.
She glanced at the rain outside the window.
“It’s nearly time. Do you need help with your hair?” Luis brushed away crumbs as he stood.
“I thought I’d wear it down.”
Already wearing the proper undergarments, Luis helped her button the back of the dress. It was a soft linen of deep indigo, embroidered with green leaves and hooded purple blossoms at the hem and neckline.
Wolfsbane, a common decoration for good luck. How fitting.
A knock sounded at the door. “The coach is waiting.” Godwin entered, dressed in a finely tailored outfit of dove gray. Other than the waistcoat, it matched Luis’s outfit.
“You look beautiful,” he said, sounding a bit dazed. “Just like your Mama. I don’t think I’ve told you, but you and Luis are both made in her image. It’s like Amalie never left me.”
Solenne resisted the urge to fuss with her hair. “Thank you, Papa.”
Silence stretched awkwardly between them.
“Luis, give us a moment,” Godwin said, fussing with the cloak draped over his arm. When the door shut behind Luis, he said, “You really do look like your mother.”
“The coach is waiting,” she prompted, because the moment felt sticky, like it would trap her.
“Right, right. It’s raining, and I thought you’d need something to wear.” He presented the cloak with a flourish, rich blue velvet the color of twilight. Crystal beads decorated the edge of the hood and around the clasp.
The weight of the cloak settled over her, warm like an embrace. Godwin raised the hood and fastened the clasp. The length was ideal, stopping mid calf. She ran a hand over the fabric, appreciating how it was made for her and wondering how her father afforded such a thing.
“Your mother wore this on our wedding day,” Godwin said. Her eyes watered. Godwin cleared his throat, looking everywhere but at her. “I wish you wouldn’t leave. I need you here, I’ll always need you here, but I understand that you must go. I wanted you to know that you’ll always have a place here, you and Alek.”
Solenne threw her arms around her father, fully crying now and not caring if her dress wrinkled. “Oh, Papa, thank you.”
Gravel crunched underfoot as Alek paced. He tugged at the cravat around his throat, somehow making it tighter. He hated how constrained he felt in his new suit, like the coat had been cut for a slimmer man. If he raised his arms, he felt the seams would ripe.
He did not need a fancy ceremony with special clothes that seemed designed for discomfort. He only needed Solenne.
The clock in the village square struck noon.
Things happened, and he could not say how.
The coach arrived. He stood at the altar, awkward next to Chambers.
Solenne entered the chapel like the sun.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
The golden thread between them hummed and sang and he was lost in the joy of it until only snapping out of his reverie when prompted to kiss the bride.
Copyright 2020 Nancey Cummings
Coming December 26th!
Hunted by Moonlight has a new name and a new cover!
The final version will be available in all the major stores on December 26, 2020.
Additional scenes (yes, the sex scenes) will be included, especially what happened on page 72!