09 Overcoming

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9


Thanks to the chaos downstairs and the unexpected arrival of the Dimmond clan, luncheon was forfeited and Will found he was not at all sorry. He was in no state to be in company, not while he was still trembling in the aftermath of his clash with Hannibal.

Will suppressed a shiver at the memory of Hannibal’s warm fingertips pressing along his jaw, seeking the sensitive little scent glands that Will had worked so hard to render useless. His fingers had felt like coals on his skin, searingly hot and frightening, but Will’s heart had hammered in something like excitement, with a keen kind of terrified pleasure in being pinned down and helpless beneath the weight of his bonded Alpha. Hannibal had been surprisingly rapt in his attention, his amber eyes half-shuttered and his mouth slightly parted as he’d stared down at Will, intent on seeking the source of his scent. He had worried Will even moreso in that moment because he’d felt nothing more than an eager, aching desire to allow Hannibal to do anything he wanted, anything at all, as much a product of his father’s abuse as it was the response of touch-starved instincts.

Hannibal would be appalled to know it, no doubt, repulsed into turning his noble nose up so he could glare at Will down its length, haughty and secure in his confidence.

“It’s too dangerous,” Will said, leveling a glare at his own reflection. If Hannibal was to find out about the bond Will had to him, then he would use that knowledge, that power he had over Will, to his own advantage. Certainly too dangerous to risk it. Continue reading

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08 Overcoming


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8


They parted ways in Hartford House once more after all the rounds were passed, Will upstairs in a preoccupied rush and Hannibal with plans to see his grandfather.

“Ah! Lord Clarges!” Mr. Hawkes said as he swept open the door, no doubt having watched carefully to time things to the second. Hannibal knew he had no hopes of catching old Hawkes off guard, no matter that he had lingered behind fussing over his stallion before handing him off to the stablehand. “Welcome home.”

“Is Grandfather up?” Hannibal asked.

“Yes, my Lord, he is,” Hawkes said, accompanying him to his grandfather’s suite and rapping smartly on the door for him, announcing, “Your Grace, Lord Clarges is here.”

“Honestly,” Hannibal said, equally amused and annoyed. He allowed Hawkes to open the door for him and strode inside, drawing up short when he saw his Grandfather at his small desk, head bent to his work. “Well, well, aren’t you feeling much improved today, Grandfather. Not so near Death’s door, are we?”

“Ha! Not as near as you no doubt wish,” his Grandfather said, angling his head to give Hannibal a grin. “I’m busy, boy.”

“Busy with what, pray tell?” Hannibal asked, coming closer to see his Grandfather working on a letter of some sort. “Plotting again?”

“Not in regards to you this time. We’re throwing a dinner party,” the Duke said, leaning back in his chair to look up at his grandson, who came to lean against the desk with a thoughtful frown on his handsome face. “You look very much like your father, Hannibal. Very much like him, indeed.”

“I have rather unsteady memories of him, Grandfather,” Hannibal said, thoughts on his encounter with Will. “But I would suppose I do look like him, as I look like you.”

“Why are you here?” the Duke asked, pushing him out of his curious imaginings. “Hm? Pestering?”

“I came to check on you, you old goat,” Hannibal said, smirking at the unholy gleam in his grandfather’s eyes. “Honestly, I would have thought you near expiring by now, yet here you are all dapper and young, almost as if you were having me on.”

“Well, nothing’s to be done about it now if I were,” the Duke said, unperturbed. Continue reading

07 Overcoming


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7


Hannibal woke the next morning rather later than he intended, but though he had gone to bed at a decent hour, he had lain awake several hours after thinking of Will Graham.

Unusual was too paltry a word to use to describe the Omega his cousin had married him to. In less than a day he’d been subtly dressed down, made to look a miser by the state of Will’s belongings, smacked with a fish in a burst of unexpected violence, and honest-to-gods teased at his own table.

Teased!

Antithesis of everything Hannibal knew was true might be a better description, all things considered. Hannibal had seen for himself the changes in the village and in the house itself, the updates to the fixtures and plumbing that brought it back on par with modern homes, the cottages and new businesses in the thriving town adjoining the estate. If he gave credit to Anthony’s nonsense, then Will had done a passable job attempting to keep Hartford House afloat in the absence of a true estate manager. It was very difficult for him to think that a lone Omega had been able to mastermind such things without racking up a mountain of debt, but Grandfather would never allow such flagrant spending for long and Will had proven he was a tad more than unusual in most regards. Hannibal knew firsthand how difficult it was to manage a holding this size, having watched his grandfather bear up under the burden for the years that he had lived here with him. It gave him a curling tendril of admiration for Will that he had attempted such a task on his own despite what nature had stacked against him in terms of sense, reliability, and motivation.

Yes, he was willing to concede that Will was not entirely bereft of brains. Continue reading

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6


Once his grandfather dismissed him, Hannibal decided to ride down to Mr. Stammets’ office in Hartford Town just to set eyes on the bustling village again. The road between the estate and the town was properly paved now as well, a simple pattern of plain cobblestone that followed the worn old dirt lane. He wondered at how industrious they’d become to put such a thing in and thought them all very clever for it, making it far easier for them to move from the village proper to the various places on the estate that employed them and on to the greater roads to the Capital.

Mr. Stammets’ office was above the bakery, the little sign proclaiming that he was in. Hannibal dismounted and idly fastened his bad-tempered mount to a free ring on the plaster-coated wall, his amber eyes flitting around to take in the changes he’d noticed.

There were new shops, new faces, of course. In fact, the town had grown substantially in his absence. Continue reading