XXIV. Love's a Gamble

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Three years ago...

"Would you like to dance?" Lady in Blue uttered all of a sudden, surprising Ralph.

"You should remember that you did refuse my attempts earlier," Ralph said, already stepping in front of her.

Lady in Blue lifted her shoulder in a shrug. "I changed my mind."

"A waltz then?" Ralph said, lifting a brow as he offered his hand.

She gracefully took it with a mocking curtsy. They chuckled as his right hand took hers and his left arm wrapped her waist. She carefully placed her other hand over his shoulder.

Ralph led the dance, quite surprised that she easily followed his steps.

A silence reigned before them as they gazed at each other's eyes.

"I beg you tell me where you are from," Ralph whispered above her.

"Blucksley."

"Where you met my sisters."

"Yes."

He frowned. "Where in Blucksley."

"Somewhere in Blucksley."

Ralph shook his head mildly. "You are never going to tell, are you?"

"No."

*****

Everyone was quiet long after Jeremy Briars left with Lord Belverst, warning Alex once more before leaving to go home to Meriwether. For the life of her, she could not even manage to comfort the man with more words. All she could do was bid him farewell with a wish to see him again.

McKenzie Haverston paced around the room while Ralph fixed himself a drink from the liquor cabinet. Alex was still dumbfounded.

She had heard stories, whispers... but she had never truly taken them seriously. A way aboveground? There was a way aboveground? Was her father also aware of it? Did anyone in Meriwether?

It was Ralph who broke the silence and asked the question playing inside Alex's mind. "Could it be done?"

She turned to McKenzie Haverston. The tight look on McKenzie's face was enough to tell her that the man knew more than anyone in the room did.

"All I can say is that it has been done quite often than what you may believe," McKenzie admitted, "the rebels among them."

"Then we can find a way in."

"We are not in any position to do such things," McKenzie said with a shake of his head. "There are rules to follow and as Guards, we shall have to obtain the proper license through one of the known passages."

"Known?"

"There are quite a few." McKenzie turned to Alex. "Should you repeat any of this to anyone..."

"Oi, ye don't give me threats, Guard."

"She will not utter a word," Ralph reassured. He gulped down his brandy and set the glass on a nearby table. He faced McKenzie. "How do we acquire this license?"

"The League, of course. Who do you think safeguards these passages? The Leaders can be barely trusted."

A knock came on the door and the butler rushed in, looking quite distressed. He was followed by another man dressed in black and a bowler hat that covered most of his face.

"Master Mac, he insisted—"

"I believe Mr. Haverston shall have me," said the man, his eyes travelling around the room before they settled on Alex for quite some time.

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