♔ Chapter Three ♔

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"Are you going to look at me of not Elias Mortel." Elias jumped about a foot when he noticed Lady Aline standing there. Her hands on her hips, her sleeves billowing. "I need to talk to you now." He could no longer pretend that he did not see her there as he'd been attempting. Aline would not be ignored, and she could be quite stubborn when she desired.

"Lady Aline? I was under the impression you didn't wish to be beheaded." Elias knew to tread lightly with the humor or any other antics around Aline or any other member of her family, but he found it challenging. She gave him so many fabulous opportunities. If only.

"Corridor now. This is important." And just like that she walks out not even bothering to let him get out off the wooden bench. Marys, who was too caught up in a conversation with his grandmother to notice that his father was leaving. This was not a question, she commanded him to do her bidding, like a military commander. Disobey and face her fury.

"Aline.... This is quite unexpected" He found himself to be quite amused with the proceedings. For he had much faith in her inability to stay away from the party for long.

"Are you coming?" Aline impatiently walks back grabs his hand without listening to his protests drags him out of the room. He made no attempt to stop her and allowed himself to be pulled along. After all, the woman had seemed so uninterested just moments ago. What had happened in that time he had to know.

"You have my attention, my lady." Aline glared holding his shoulder blades at arm's length. Such a maneuver makes it possible for her to pin his body against the wall.

"I'm... in love with Avila." She announced with the air of relief as if she'd been holding her breath alone with the secret. For moments he stood, baffled. At first, it sounded like she was speaking to him in a foreign language. Then it dawned on him what she'd meant. The confusion that played his expression replaced with something more pleasant. It all made a tad more sense now after all; her disinterest, her rude behavior and her anger. Everything was crystal clear, laughter sparked but he ignored the urge. Oh Aline, you poor girl.

"I would be lying if I said this did not surprise me." Elias's features melted in a smug look of satisfaction his suspicions had been sound. This completes the picture, and I can rest easy.

"The trouble is I need to keep it a secret from everyone. And to do that I need a husband..." She trailed off hesitation ringing in her tone clear as day.

"And you're wondering if I would like to play the part of your husband?" He finished the sentence with no hesitation. At this point, he had well caught up to her. He could anticipate the words before she has voiced them. People did not give him credit for his intelligence, but he was no less an idiot that Raphael Morien was. "I see. Perhaps that would be a good choice to make. However, Lord Raife would not be pleased with me. If you would not mind perhaps my previous suggestion may yet appeal to you.." He was stalling, and if there was as much to her as her perceived, she would see right through his feeble facade.

"He's little more than a child. I'm not interested." The look on her face suggested she had a strong dislike or prejudice against children. Why was he suggesting this match? Marys would abhor him even more than he already did, and Aline did not seem like the kind of person who would or could break his son's shell.

"My son is fifteen years old, five years younger than yourself if my sources are correct. He would be ideal for your purpose. He has no interest in a relationship as far as I'm concerned. He would act for you if I told him to. As for myself..... I am not as skilled at 'acting'." Elias, stop stalling. Just agree already. Raife Morien does not micromanage your life.

That was not the reason he was hesitant. Their pre-mentioned history was the real reason. His father's affair with Lady Daisy had the infuriated Lord Sebastian. So much so that he had banned both Elias and his now deceased father from The Minoutanière. From experience, Elias somehow didn't see Lord Sebastian as being thrilled to see him again, even after all these years. Not to mention, Aline's father scared him more than he wished to admit. And though, he'd rather drink horse piss that tells her to her face, Aline reminded him of Lord Sebastian.

"I told you he's too young. Nobody would buy it and the point is for the plan to not backfire in my face." Smart girl.

"Perhaps...." He paused for a moment to entertain a few possibilities, none of which had the desired outcome. So he resolved to accept the young woman's request, and act as her husband for the sake of their history. "Alright, Lady Aline. I will accept for your sake, however dangerous it may be for myself." How very tempting it was, he mused. Lord Sebastian would not take his life for his daughter's sake, but with her hostility towards him, he would have to beware her as well.

"And how exactly are you planning to explain yourself to your father? It seems strange that a noble lady would marry for the sake of marrying." He thought once again to Lord Raife who has bore a more intense hatred towards him before Marys had been born. He has taken his daughter away from him in every sense of the word. Although Elias knew he'd never truly understood the meaning of taking. Then he had taken her life for his son's. Had the boy not been his mother's son, nothing could have calmed Lord Raife. And Elias had promised him since then to mind his carelessness which he had for most of Marys's life.

"I don't need to explain myself to my father. That is what you are for. Besides this mighty actually, please Lord Sebastian for once." What do I really know about her father? Nothing realistically. This is all based on my impressions.

"Uh. What about our history?" Aline liked to question, she seemed to doubt and query his every move, thought or reply. A very different style from Julia's variation. This was going to very entertainment stimulating if everything played out in a certain way.

"It's so cute that you try and act like we have a history. If you referring to what happened with my aunt and your father and my father well you don't need to worry. If it's an excuse to turn me away then I'm sure he shall gladly accept." She turned away as if about to leave before Elias spoke. When he did utter his thought, she whipped around to gaze intently at him with mild favor.

"I'm sure the old man would not hold a grudge for so long. Especially for something done by my father." Having expressed this, a smile graced the man's lips once more, mischievous as that which she has seen before. "You know, they will expect a son, Lady Aline."

"I'm willing to play this as far as it needs playing. But I doubt it will ever get that far. I don't see the point in doing extra useless stuff that isn't going to benefit the both of us. Don't look so dismal. You don't even like me. You're still too caught up in Lady Julia." His muscle tensed at the mention of his Julia. From her tone, he guessed she very intentionally taken a jab at this tender subject to get a rise out of him. It was her revenge for his attempt at mild humor.

"As far as is reasonable? You did not hear me. Or is it that I underestimate your determination?" No, he most certainly did not underestimate her. But the words had slipped out. The Le Navré's were as known for their beauty as for their determination. One does not simply estimate what a Le Navré will do or not do.

"Am I an idiot?" No, he thought a bit resentfully. It would be better if he didn't finish that thought. Her eyebrows raised in skepticism and her lips pursed in a contemptuous look.

"No." He spoke rather timidly.

"Good, then I hope you understand that this part of the conversation is over. If you'll excuse I have a few ceremonial polite things that I'm supposed to do." She seemed satisfied with the answer and strode off with the air of someone who hadn't seen her uncle beheaded. She had proceeded but a few steps before pivoting and gave him one of her coy smiles, "midnight."

"Midnight?" He affirmed, unsure of what he was agreeing to. What it was, he assumed positivity in their endeavor.

"Same place, midnight. We can't have a relationship form without evidence. My father is no more an idiot than yourself, Lord Mortel. Do not question my motive but question your judgment." She then walked out of the room, a skip of satisfaction in her step.

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