XXXVIII. Snowy Conspiracy

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Two years ago...

She walked down the aisle, her heart beating too fast.

She was surrounded by people dear to her and they were all smiling with delight. The twins were also there, crying as Alex took more steps.

There were flowers everywhere, wild ones picked by the Meriwether ladies from their own backyards.

Walking beside her was her father, a giant in comparison to the very few gentries in attendance.

And there, waiting for her was him—Ralph Everard.

Her heart skipped a bit and fluttered a few more as their eyes met.

She blinked.

And just like every other daydream, everything disappeared.

Alex was back to her lone post above her favorite stone tree.

She shook her head and directed a mocking laugh at her silly thoughts.

*****

"Dear, do you think them too nosy?"

Alex raised her brows at her future mother-in-law. "Who, Lady—I mean, Mother?"

Lady Alice raised her head from the copy of the Herald in her hand, her face contorted into a frown. "These people who claim to be writers for the Herald's gossip section, of course!"

"Well," Alex said, quite confused, "They're gossip writers fer reasons."

"They wish to know who Miss Alexandria Griggs of Blucksley is." Lady Alex was shaking her head as she folded the paper. "Should we tell them you are a bandit?"

"They won't believe it," Ralph wryly said as he looked out the window. "I am too bored. Should we have a walk in the park?"

"Precisely," Lady Alice said with a broad smile. "They will not believe the truth for they would rather want to make up their own!"

"I do like the idea," Alex said with a chuckle. And then she turned to Ralph with a scowl. "And nae, I can't stomach the people in the park."

"You have only been in Wickhurst a week, Lex," said Ralph. "It is common for the gossipmongers to stare. Simply throw them the dangerous scowl you gave them the other day. Or the one you often throw at me these days."

Alex ignored him, shaking her head.

"Ah! I forgot something!" Lady Alice said, jumping to her feet from the sofa. "Oh dear, I almost forgot! The companion!" She rushed to the door, crying out, "Emma! Emma! Where is that child running to all the time? I cannot always find her when I need her! Emma!"

The moment Lady Alice left the parlor, Alex jumped beside Ralph and hissed, "We're not free until we wed, guv, I tell ye. We barely escape yer mother since she abducted me from Beechworth! And now that I have te live with her 'til me 'Pa says yes, she's plannin' to find me a companion. A companion!"

She knew he was trying hard to suppress his laughter by the way he pursed his lips. "Because it is the proper thing to do, Lex."

"Companion me arse! Siege is a companion."

Ralph winced and cleared his throat. "And about your horse... perhaps it is best if she is attached to a carriage? When you go about Wickhurst whenever I am not here?"

Alex froze. "What did ye say?"

He gulped and cleared his throat once more. "Nothin'." He dropped a kiss on her lips and jumped away from the sofa. "It is best that you have your own companion for the time being. Your father is having a grand time making us wait, but we shall have to be very patient."

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