Chapter 20, Part D: The Man Who Does Not Leave Things Unfinished (conc.)


Elanore smiled but not with the giddy joy that was warranted by such a declaration. “I will not prevent you,” she said lightly.

Edmund leaned back against the chair,startled by her subdued response. “No kisses and hugs, I see.”

She twisted the ring on her finger twice before she raised her head and looked into those uneasy, grey eyes. “I wish we could stop talking about it and just marry now.”

He stiffened in surprise. Edmund closed his eyes and exhaled while he tried to think of his response.

Whatever romantic notions Edmund had on his mind had been dashed by her desire for conversation about their future. She ought to have waited for another moment, she knew. However, the events as of late had unsettled her. She who had loved every moment they had together had seen something peculiar this evening.

Elanore knew she had wandered into uncomfortable territory. Her fingers reached out for the front of his garment and held fast, as if he might slip away from her. ”No matter what we plan for, I think…no I believe it will become almost impossible. You said we would be married shortly before our journey outside. But that day seems forever far away.”

He stroked the back of her head. It was a gesture that had become a habit of his when she sounded troubled. “I suppose this is because of what brash thing I said to the Count.”

“That’s part of it,” she answered quietly.

“I see.” His fingers tried to smooth out the line she was sure had creased her brow. “I know we had promised to leave shortly after the children were born. But now we have Lady Selva’s welfare to think about.” He paused. “And the children. It isn’t a good time to leave.”

“Of course,” she said. “It’s not that.”

“Then.. your family?”

Elanore had often wondered how her parents and siblings fared down south. But she had known they would be fine; where they resided, there was no full eclipse or lack of harvests or help. She shook her head. She understood everything about family, including Edmund’s desire to understand the one that claimed him now. “Edmund, it isn’t that. I am not asking you to leave this place. I know you have come to like this place and wouldn’t ask that of you.”

The attractions of this place were many. It was comfortable and full of drama and magical surprises. For them, who had lived ordinary lives, there was little reason to leave the safety and charm of such a place.

Except the Wolframs did not offer it up without their own expectations. Elanore reached up and touched Edmund’s face. “I told you I would stay at your side. I can do that as long as you and I are both free to live that way. That time may end soon.Tomorrow, should Selva remember something new, your circumstances could change. Our situation won’t be the same. And you’ll belong to someone else.”

He tightened his arms around her waist and tried to hold her close as if she might otherwise steal away from him. “By saying that I would accept whatever ideas or thoughts Selva had regarding my parentage, I simply wanted her to allow her closure. I did not mean I would accept the plans that might follow — particularly those of the Count.”

“Not his,” she shook her head as she felt the ring on her hand. The Count had given it to Edmund for her sake, she knew. And she knew he tacitly approved of their match for reasons he had never openly stated. “It’s not him but his family. Selva told me how much they meddled in bringing them together.”

He flashed her a bemused smile, one that was meant to offer some assurance that her worries would not come to pass. “I am not so easily bullied into peoples’ ideas for my future. But since you are worried, we shall find the friar tomorrow and have him proclaim the date. They will not interfere with an act of the church.”