Chapter 19, Part 2

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Do not weep. Do not weep.

As she watched Simon’s figure growing smaller in the distance, Evelyn’s mind told her to refrain from tears. He would be back soon, and they would both rejoice at their reunion.

If only her heart could be convinced.

The tears in her eyes spilled over. She wiped them away, feeling foolish for being so emotional, when she had just assured Simon of the hope that was giving her strength. That feeling had not faded, not in the least. But she felt his absence already. There was a hole in her heart, an emptiness that only he could fill. She wanted to be strong...but her longing for him was already conquering her valiant effort.

As she took in a trembling breath, she felt her mother’s presence beside her. Thea was quick in joining them. They all stood together, teary eyed. Thea held Gabriel against her shoulder, gently rubbing his back. He slept peacefully, unaware of the distress shared between his mother, his grandmother, and his aunt. Thea sighed despondently.

“I do not know how you endure these separations, Mama.”

Cassia sniffled, rubbing away a tear. She hugged herself, resting a protective palm on her belly. “Experience does not ease my suffering, nor will it. Were it not for the perils of the road, and the delicacy of my condition, I would be at my husband’s side. But matters being as they are, I shall live in anticipation of his return.” She turned back towards the house, leaning on Celeste for support.

Thea and Evelyn followed. As they came through the entry way, Evelyn noticed Owen. He was headed upstairs, rather than to the barracks, where he spent most of his waking hours. Seeing him earlier that day, looking so poorly, she had been concerned. Now, she felt she must know what was ailing him so. With a concerned air, she approached him.

“Owen, are you unwell? You seem out of sorts this morning.”

He flinched, as if struck. And he shook his head...but not in denial.

“I am in hell,” he mumbled, leaning a hand on the wall to support himself. His other hand supported his head, which hung heavy. “Plagued by a head that is split in two, and a stomach that seems intent on turning itself inside out.”

She started to ask him a question. But taking his hand from his forehead, he waved her away.

“I beg you...no speaking. No noise. No disturbance. I must find a silent and dark place, or I swear I will die.”

Evelyn watched him go, wondering at his behavior. He was obviously ill, and in need of nursing. But he wanted to be left alone. And now was not the time to start an argument, or to make accusations.

He disappeared into his room, and she moved a few doors down to her own chamber. Violette was not far behind, attentive as always to her mistress. But Evelyn kindly dismissed her, wishing to be alone. In her room, she closed the door and walked to the window seat. Sitting there, pulling her knees up, she looked out on the sunny day. The sky was blue and cloudless...a good day for travel. She hoped that the men would have such weather all along their way.

But what of matters worse than weather? She thought, suddenly fearful. What of bandits? The Duke’s carriage would indeed be a rich target for thieves. And what of wild beasts? They were not unheard of. Wolves, bears...who knew what other manner of hungry animals were lying in wait?

She closed her eyes, shaking her head to lose those dreadful thoughts. Her father, Simon, and Lucien were all competent warriors and huntsmen. Each man was a strong man on their own, but together, they were a force to be reckoned with. They would be safe. She was sure of it.

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