Chapter 26, Part 1

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As he slowly came awake, Simon felt the warmth of Evelyn’s soft body against his own. Her back was against him, and he could tell from her gentle breathing that she was asleep. He could not help smiling at the thought of it. After the afternoon they had spent together, it was no wonder she slept so soundly.

In the past, he had thought he would be satisfied with a prim, docile woman for a wife. But now that Evelyn was his, he could not imagine having someone else. She was all that was required, in terms of knowing how to be a proper lady, and yet she was so wonderfully different. It was not in her nature to disguise her feelings, and she had proven that many times over since he had first met her...this day, more than any other.

He strengthened his hold around her waist, drawing her closer against himself, and his body reacted instantly to the intense pleasure the contact brought. He was sorely tempted to coax her from her slumber, using his fingers to stroke her smooth, soft skin and letting his lips follow every place that he touched. With growing excitement he thought of how her hands had quested over his body with such eagerness, rousing his passions to a fever pitch. He loved the sound of her name on his lips, whispered over and over again. She was the sweetest of temptations.

And because of that, he knew he had to go.

There was important business to tend to, and he had to see to it immediately. If he stayed, there was a chance she would wake up, and if she did, he knew he would be tempted to lose himself in her charms all over again. With a sigh of resignation, he removed himself from her warm curves. As he dressed, he reminded himself that they could continue with these sensual delights later. The notion cheered him somewhat, as he thought of the way that anticipation often added spice to an occasion. As he left her sleeping peacefully, he ordered a maid to bring Evelyn food and anything else she needed. Then he left the room, heading off in search of his father.

*****

He found his father in the hall, taking supper. Being quite famished after such an active day, Simon was quick to join him. As he washed his hands with the cleansing bowl, his father spoke calmly to him.

“You appear at last. Did I not state that I wished to finish our conversation as soon as possible?”

After drying his hands in a towel, Simon took his seat and replied matter-of-factly.

“Evelyn was in need of me. She is my primary concern now, and she will come before all other matters. But I am here now, so speak as you wish.” As he hungrily tore into a hunk of roasted pheasant, Basil came directly to the point.

“I told you the contents of the message. Rene Jean-Bastien has escaped. We must act immediately.”

Simon sighed as he sipped his wine. At first, he had been furious to learn of the news. But his anger had been strangely brief, for it seemed that no amount of fury, however spent, would bring an end to the problem. There was but one way.

“We will find him,” he stated. “And this time, I will have him executed on the spot. I grow tired of hearing of him.”

He vowed he would personally supervise the execution, just to be certain there were no tricks. And he was certain that his father would be in agreement. But Basil’s words were shocking.

“I think perhaps he should be kept alive.”

Simon held his cup aloft, suspended by surprise. He started at his father in utter bewilderment.

“For what purpose?” he demanded to know. “To be incarcerated again, only so he might perform some criminal magic that allows his escape? I wish to be done with him, once and for all.”

Now it was Basil who sighed. “Do you truly believe you can be done with him? He has proven, time and again, that he cannot be contained. One might wonder if even death can hold such a man.”

“It would satisfy me to find out,” Simon snapped. Angrily, he used his knife to stab a bit of venison, imagining it to be Rene. Good God, how he despised that man.

Basil stated, “I think perhaps I might have a better use for him.”

Simon looked up. “And what is that?” He was not for certain he wished to hear the answer, which his father gave in much too calm a fashion.

“I will find him, detain him, and put him to work.”

Simon stared at his father, watching as Basil casually drank from his cup and enjoyed his food. He intended no disrespect, but he could not help wondering if the man had lost his senses. Simon’s voice was low but fierce.

“Have you run mad?”

Basil shook his head. “No, I have not. In fact, I am at this moment admiring myself for my cleverness.” There was a tiny smile forming on his lips, but Simon could not find the amusement in any of this. His voice rose with his temper.

“You think it clever to invite a vagabond and known criminal into our household?”

Basil replied with a shrug. “He has proven to be a man of daring deeds and quick mind, much like a fox who cannot be caught by the best of hounds. I will use such ability to my advantage.”

“How do you propose to do that?”

“I will train him as a soldier.”

Simon wanted to laugh at the ludicrous proposition.

“And you believe he will accept such a fate? You do not believe he will find a way to flee and return to his life of crime?”

“If he attempts it,” said Basil, “Then we will follow your line of thinking and have him executed. It will merely be a loss of time, and nothing more.”

Disgusted by the whole conversation, Simon pushed his trencher and cup aside.

“Forgive me, father, but I cannot agree with your plan.”

His father replied in a haughty tone. “It is not a matter for you to accept or refuse, my son. It is my experiment and I shall accept the consequences of it.”

“But I must endure his presence if you allow him here! You will force me to live in the presence of a man I despise?”

Basil returned with a commanding reply. “Better to have him here, where he can be guarded, than to have wandering about with the ability to surface at any moment.”

Simon pushed back from the table. “It is a mistake, father. And I cannot be held responsible for my actions if you allow him here.”

He rose from the table, infuriated. Never in his life had he been so angered by his father’s actions. They had occasionally disagreed on matters, but this felt like a betrayal, and he could not stand to remain in that room with him for one more moment.

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