48 Overcoming

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48


Eager as he was to set eyes on his mate, Hannibal made quick and thorough work of cleaning himself up. His dream of Lady Murasaki teased at his awareness, a restless ghost trailing cold fingers over the heart that had been so hardened against her. He wished he could recall it in detail to share with Will, but it slipped from him by the second, murky and muted.

“Ah! There you are!” Berger called, closing the dressing room door behind him and hurrying to assist him, though Hannibal was nearly dressed already. “I spoke with Mr. Hawkes, m’Lord. Gods above, if you don’t have a match in his Lordship, then the sun won’t rise tomorrow!”

“And I thank the gods every moment for it,” Hannibal said, amused by Berger’s flushed delight. “Quickly, now, Berger, and tell me what’s happened. Is he well?” Continue reading

47 Overcoming

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47


Yes.”

It was a wonder that a single word could alter the course of a man’s life, but Hannibal sat still in his chair, staring up at the most wondrous person he could ever imagine, and felt that word resonate through his heart with a vibrancy that threatened to steal his breath away.

It nearly stole Will’s as well, the bond setting him adrift in his husband’s profound joy. Hannibal’s pleasure and relief and trembling hope fed into him in a chaos of emotions, but all of it was wrapped in the glorious bliss of his love.

“Are you certain?” Hannibal asked, because it was too good to be true, too much what he desired, too tremulous a hope to trust when he knew too well that he didn’t deserve him, that he could never deserve him. Tears rose in his amber eyes, the turmoil of his feelings welling up to spill down his cheeks. “Is this a dream I’m doomed to wake from?”

“I’m certain, Hannibal,” Will murmured, smoothing his tears away. “I’ve made my decision. My place is with you and our home is one another. The family that loves and respects me is ours together.”

“Will,” Hannibal said, smiling from the bloom of love within him. “Should you ever change your mind—”

“I won’t. I am greedy for you, Hannibal Lecter,” Will said, bending to nuzzle his nose to Hannibal’s. “I will always choose you.” Continue reading

46 Overcoming

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46


Statton Graham, current Earl of Reddig, was not what Hannibal expected.

He was not monstrous, nor overly tall or impressive. He was, instead, a portly, scowling man with florid cheeks, an air of impatience, and a very solid sense of his own worth who strode into Hartford House with the appraising air of a man studiously cataloguing the value of everything in sight. Hannibal half expected a bevy of solicitors following in his wake to take notations, but he was quite alone.

“Lord Reddig,” Hannibal said, his smile tightening with annoyance when the man did not immediately look at him. “How good of you to come. I trust you had no difficulties?”

“None but the inconvenience of travel, Lord Clarges,” Lord Reddig said, looking at Hannibal with frank disapproval. “I have a great deal of business I had to put on hold to accept His Grace’s invitation. I’m sure you find yourself in a similar position with your affairs.”

“As a matter of fact, I do not. I have the luxury of being married to a man who has an excellent head for business,” Hannibal said, his smile wolfish with delight. “I find I never need to worry myself with the details, as Will has everything well in hand.”

Statton blinked, his bushy eyebrows slanting down and his mouth pursing in a spill of lines that made him appear much older than he actually was. He took his gloves and hat off with short, sharp movements, digesting that statement along with Hannibal’s pleased smile. Continue reading

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45


Will descended to see Grandfather the next morning ahead of his husband with the packets in hand. Hannibal had been reluctant to agree, but in the end had put up no argument. The issue of the Addendum was settled for the two of them, but it cut much deeper coming from the man Will had spent the last six years alone with.

This was a conversation best had in private, and one Will was determined they would have.

He knocked and was granted immediate entry with the low warning from Zeller, “No sneaking him food.”

“I would never,” Will promised, and when Zeller strained a look past him, Will said, “His Lordship will be along momentarily. I’m here to see His Grace about some paperwork. Is he receiving?”

“You? Always,” Zeller said, falling back to admit him with a gesture that managed to be half respectful, half mocking, much like the man himself. “You want breakfast here with him?”

“Thank you, Mr. Zeller, that would be lovely,” Will said, amused. “I’ll need some time alone with him, if you please.”

“I’ll be right outside the door,” Zeller said, following him through to give Will access to Grandfather’s bedroom proper and closing the door securely in Will’s wake.

“Well, good morning, my dear,” Grandfather said, propped up in his bed by a mountain of pillows, looking fragile but much improved with Zeller’s ministrations. “This is an unexpected pleasure.”

“Your Grace,” Will said, and an immediate cloud of concern fell over the Duke’s lined features. Will came to a stop at his bedside, solemn and still, his fondness and love for this aging Alpha softening his hurt. “You look very well this morning.”

“And you look very pensive, my dear,” Grandfather said, wary but concerned. He was too cagey an old fox not to feel the huntsman’s gaze, but too proud to flee before it.

“I am pensive,” Will admitted, the ache in his heart becoming more pronounced. He composed himself, aware of Grandfather’s eyes on him, and managed to say, “I have had a terrible shock.”

“Tell me what is distressing you and I will sort it immediately,” Roland said, eager to put a smile back on his grandson’s beautiful face.

Will lifted the Addendum from the packet of paperwork and handed it to his grandfather. With studied calm, he said, “I have something which belongs to you. Something which came into my keeping through a very devious design.”

Roland took it with trepidation, his eyes scanning the sentences with growing realization. Continue reading