His eyes quickly scanned the room, sensing the presence of the children nearby. He found them in a corner, nestling with Lady Tala and two of her daughters and preparing for a good nap.
And he smiled to himself. By the noises they made he could tell that they were sated and happy.
“Edmund!” Selva interrupted his reverie and beckoned from her bed. “I thought you might not come after all.”
He bowed briefly, his eyes never leaving the fair-haired woman until he had satisfied himself that she was in both good health and spirits. Only then did he take a seat by the bed across from where the Count himself sat.
The two men nodded to one another in greeting. Edmund wondered if the Count might have something to say but found the wolf lord rather quiet.
Edmund offered Selva his full attention. With a light smile, he apologized. “I had the same concern myself. My parents wanted to make sure I practiced my vows yet again. Then they started in on advice. ” He paused for a moment. He was hesitant to expound on exactly what that advice was.
“I see,” Selva’s mouth twitched slightly. “Is it something that we can be of help with?”
He cleared his throat and flushed. He avoided looking at Selva and instead studied the blanket on her bed. “I would rather not. It was not exactly polite conversation.”
Apparently she did not understand him well enough. She tilted her head slightly. “Oh?”
He nearly buried his head in his hands out of sheer embarrassment. “It was about the wedding night.”
Selva threw her head back and laughed. “Oh Edmund! You are so cute! ”
Fortunately for him, she did not press for more information. Instead when Selva finally stopped her giggling, she patted Edmund’s hand to comfort him. “I won’t ask more,” she winked at him. Instead, she reached out for her husband’s sleeve and tugged at it.
The Count–unused to such small, affectionate gestures– glanced her way. “What is it, woman?”
His gruff voice did not deter her from offering him a radiant smile. “A change of topic might be in order. I was thinking that it would be so much nicer if Elanore and Edmund could be married in the garden.”
When he did not respond, Selva glanced down at her sheets. “I know it was going to be the library but it is such a severe room. Weddings should be green and light. Like a wedding at home. Like the old days.”
What those old days were, neither Edmund or the Count possibly could know. But even so, her words were powerful.
Edmund felt a longing to understand the customs and traditions that represented him and that apparently made this woman happy.
And if he had ever doubted the affection the Count held for his wife, he could not now.
Indeed, a complex look of love and suffering broke out over Wolfram’s face as he contemplated how to placate his wife. He wrenched his head away from his companion to look back at Edmund. “The location is not my decision. Edmund asked for the library.”
Edmund felt uneasy as both stared at him expectantly. He rubbed the back of his head before answering. “Elanore’s grandmother and my parents cannot stand all that long. And while Friar Lorrence is not a proponent of long ceremonies on most occasions, he is rather particular about weddings. It will take at least an hour. They cannot stand that long. Nor should you, Selva–” he muttered.
Selva beamed at Edmund–pleased by his kindness and thoughtfulness. “As true as that may be I would stand many hours just to see you two wed. I am very happy for you. Elanore is such a darling!”
“I know,” he smiled in return. “I am excited. Scared. But mostly excited.”
She reached out for his hand and held it, as if to console him. “I would be as well. I was. So I expect you to be the same, after all.”
There was so much to those words– so much unsaid. Edmund knew she was not yet ready to commit one way or another regarding the degree of their relatedness. But he relished the connection he felt with her as they sat in companionable silence.
And there was a certain degree of irony to this situation. Not too long ago, he believed the Count had designs on Elanore. Had Selva not returned at the moment she did, this day, these children might not all have happened.
Edmund gently cleared his throat. “If you prefer the garden and we can bring in enough seats, I am certain Elanore will not mind.”
Selva’s hand tightened around his in anticipation. “If that is your worry, we shall check with her for you.”
Elanore was never all that particular. However, the truth was that among those who were invited were many who might not like or understand creatures of magic or fantasy. Edmund shook his head. “You know she would not mind. That place suits her so well. But it is unusual.”
The Count leaned forward, betraying his interest. “You fear that something should show itself.”
Edmund knew very well to mistrust the glint in the Count’s eye. He pressed his lips together. His instinct told him to beware of the wolf and his plans. But he was unwilling to shatter Selva’s good mood and so he shrugged instead.
Selva was unaware of the dynamics between the two men in her life. Her face was suffused with excitement over the idea. “But it would be lovely if they would show. Our darlings would be able to meet the fairies and be presented to them for a blessing!”
“Yes,” the Count’s look softened a bit as he laid his hand on his wife’s golden crown of hair. “I think they would be delighted to meet you with all of our children. I should be very proud to show them how well we have done.”
Edmund remained alert for some sign of subterfuge or trickery. But as Wolfram’s eyes flickered back in his direction, he felt no such sentiment.
Instead, the Count’s wolfish demeanor seemed fairly tame as he continued to pet his wife’s head. “Edmund, you need not worry about your guests. Hastings will handle them and all the arrangements to improve their comfort. I apologize that I myself cannot attend you this afternoon… as your customs dictate of family.”
Edmund worriedly glanced Selva’s way, wondering if the double meaning of such a statement would be lost upon her. He moved quickly to smooth things over. “My preparations are simple. Neither of you should trouble yourself on my account. I will simply see you later.”
Wolfram, however, did not let the matter pass. “Even so, Giles will be by in my stead and attend you.”
* * *
Giles’ arrival was, as expected, quite a production. First, he was preceded by an entourage of servants carrying boxes.