31 - Unwell Farewells

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Fye watched as Xander stiffened all over. She imagined the fight for control that raged in him, a brutal clash of willpower versus whatever feral urge had come upon him. He couldn't do anything violent, though, not while he carried Kaylin and while a small handful of Luntberg's soldiers were watching him. The audience was probably the only thing that saved the messenger's life.

What was so bad about Xander being invited to his own mother's wedding?

"I see," Xander said after a moment. "Please kindly inform her ladyship that I would rather eat my own dung than see her get married to that pus-gutted claw-clapper."

Oh. Apparently Xander wasn't fond of Duke Augustus von Skymeadow.

"Sir, she was very adamant that you come," the messenger said. He didn't seem ruffled at all by Xander's rather impolite response. Fye was beginning to like this fellow. Despite his boring appearance, she sensed that he might have an interesting personality buried under all the normalcy. "She asked me to extend her most heartfelt wishes."

Xander's jaw tightened. Fye wondered if she should take Kaylin before Xander lost control and accidentally hurt the girl.

What was going on?

"I know exactly why she wants me to come," Xander hissed. "And she is on her own. I'm not going to save her. She dug her own grave. Excuse me. I'm done speaking with you. I'm sure you'll be welcome to stay the night at Luntberg. Fye can escort you to one of the guest rooms." Xander walked away, looking as dangerous as an active volcano despite the little girl in his arms.

Fye wanted to follow him, to pry the truth out of him, to find out exactly what was going on. If she sought Xander out, though, and if they actually ended up talking about anything other than the most trivial subjects... no, Fye couldn't do that. She would have to find out through other means.

She painted on a smile. "Welcome to Luntberg," she said to the messenger. "You must be tired from your journey. Please, come with me."

He bowed slightly. "Thank you, Miss Fye."

"Dame Fye. But most people just call me Sir Fye."

He frowned as he walked beside her into the keep. "You... think you are a knight?"

"I think I'm a knight? You think I'm off in the head. I might be off in the head slightly, but I think life is more enjoyable that way. Now, tell me everything you know about this Duke Augustus."

"I know little of him, Dame Fye. He is quite wealthy. He owns a vast estate not far outside of Palermo on Sicily, close to the property of Lady Salvatrice's late husband. That is the extent of my knowledge."

"Interesting," Fye said. Salvatrice. So that was the name of Xander's mother—the woman Reuben seemed to have no affection for whatsoever. As Fye recalled, he had called this Salvatrice "a conniving temptress." To the messenger, Fye said, "If you see Sir Reuben—he looks like Xander, only older—don't mention why you came here."

"Wherefore not?"

"Because I'm sure you're fond of your tongue. And of breathing. And of life in general."

The messenger nodded, though he didn't seem afraid. Yes, Fye rather liked this man.

*

31.2

Xander cursed under his breath as he walked toward Lady Ayla's bedchamber. He had told the messenger he wouldn't go to see his mother, but he knew he didn't have a choice. He had to go. If he didn't go, she would end up with another worthless, albeit rich, husband. The woman was impossible!

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