THIRTY FOUR

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RAVENNA HELD HER BREATH as her eyes raked over the front of the house

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RAVENNA HELD HER BREATH as her eyes raked over the front of the house. There was a small part of her that half-expected Caelan to be on the porch again, just waiting to chew her out. Another altercation wouldn't surprise her at this point, especially considering how her day had gone so far. The mere idea that he could still be mad at her made her heart flutter erratically inside her chest.

A relieved sigh bristled past her lips. The heart inside her chest began to slow its rhythm, despite the knot that began to twist within her stomach. From what she could see, the front porch was empty, aside from an ornately decorated walking stick that leaned against the wall just beside the door. As she neared it, she frowned.

Did Caelan have a guest?

She pushed open the front door and then paused. Amidst the usual symphony of songbirds and rustling leaves that occurred within nature, she could hear a faint, unfamiliar sound. The more she listened, she realized that it sounded like a heavy breathing. Someone was huffing and puffing, and muttering incoherently under their breath.

Her eyebrows furrowed. She stepped into the house, quietly closing the door behind her. The moment that she did, the sounds seemed to vanish. Confusion surged through her. Hesitantly, Ravenna started to walk toward the kitchen. As she got closer to the back of the house, she began to hear the huffing again.

She followed the sounds until she reached Caelan's study. Taking a deep breath, she carefully opened the door and poked her head inside.

Caelan stood in front of the window, his back to her. She moved further into the room and frowned. From what she could see within the window's reflection, his arms were folded across his chest and a wry smirk had triumphed against his typical stoic expression.

"What is going on?" Ravenna asked in a half whisper.

In his reflection, she saw his gaze shift, instantly locking with hers. His smirk seemed to grow tenfold, and instantly all of her worries vanished. He lifted a hand and beckoned her closer. A crease formed between her brows as she moved to stand beside him, her gaze flickering over the small garden that stretched out before them.

There was a muttered curse and then a soft thunk.

"I don't think that he realizes we've returned," Caelan said softly. When he noticed her confused expression, he inclined his head to the left. "I told you that he's always up to no good."

With a small frown, Ravenna tried to follow his gaze. It was hard to pinpoint the source of the sounds within the cluttered garden. The vegetation had always been slightly crowded, overgrown. There was so much going on all at once, that it was hard to spot something out of place. Despite a careful examination of the left half of the garden, where the carrots and cabbages grew, Ravenna pouted with defeat. There was nothing that looked amiss.

As she opened her mouth to speak, she noticed movement near the back of the garden. A haystack leaned against the wooden fence, slightly rustling as a figure emerged from behind it. Eyes wide, Ravenna watched as Henry the Thief shuffled toward the carrots and crouched down, out of sight.

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