52 Overcoming

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If it hadn’t been for his bond, shining straight through his heart with every nuance of Hannibal’s feelings, Will might have doubted his reception of their happy news. He simply stared at Will, amber eyes wide, mouth parted with the tips of his Alpha fangs peeking beneath the firm curve of his lip. Yet in a heartbeat the smooth planes of his face transformed in a wide, delighted grin and he scooped Will into his arms, dragging his sturdy little mate into his lap as he lolled backwards in the window seat, laughing with excitement.

Will laughed with him, arms tight around Hannibal’s neck, draped easily in his lap and breathless. He closed his eyes and clung, senses filled with his husband, doubts and fears and reservations vanishing beneath the force of Hannibal’s love for him.

“Gods, Will, do you mean it?” Hannibal asked, easing his hold on Will in a pang of worry, cupping the back of his curly head to stroke his hair.

Will nodded against his throat and tipped his head back, meeting Hannibal’s gaze, loosening his arms to lay his hand on Hannibal’s jaw.

“Yes,” he said, heart pounding with shared glee, with a joy that made him feel almost drunk, giddy with happiness. “At least, I believe so. I cannot be certain—”

“I am,” Hannibal said, drawing a trembling breath, vibrant with energy, like he could run all the way down to Hartford Town shouting to the world that his mate was with child. “I am, Will. I saw the signs plain as day but I tried not to pressure you with hope.”

He cut off, tipping his mouth to Will’s in a brief, sweet kiss, both of them half laughing, filled with bubbling delight that frothed over like champagne. Continue reading

51 Overcoming

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Hannibal’s mate was keeping a secret from him.

And whatever it was, it made him even more beautiful, despite the faint shadows beneath his sleepy blue eyes. Will seemed to glow from within, radiating contentment with every slight smile and serene gesture. He seemed… settled somehow in the space of a night, as if some weight Hannibal was unaware of had been lifted from Will’s shoulders to leave him free at long last.

“Hannibal, are you paying attention?” Grandfather scolded, annoyed.

“No,” Hannibal admitted, tearing his gaze off of Will, who was sitting with poised grace next to him in the conservatory where Roland had taken his breakfast. Hannibal wished the summons hadn’t come so soon after his Aunt and Uncle’s departure, but even he couldn’t put off his grandfather when the old Duke demanded his presence.

Not the answer I hoped for!” Grandfather said, scowling. “Mr. Zeller came into possession of a paper trail. I will not say how he did so, only that these are copies. Mr. Buddish, when you leave, you will take these with you to the Lord Chancellor to be added to the investigation into Lord Rathmore and create copies for the detectives in Will’s case.”

“Yes, Your Grace,” Mr. Buddish said, standing quietly to one side, but watchful and alert and a good deal more rested than he’d been the day before.

Will held the paperwork closer to Hannibal, as if his very nearness wasn’t distraction enough to render the gesture useless.

“Please tell me I am not seeing this correctly,” Will said, delving into his jacket pocket for his spectacles, but even after perching them on his snub of a nose to take a closer look, the evidence remained the same. Continue reading

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The Dimmonds were the first to leave that evening, having fully enjoyed their renewed contact with Hartford and promising to be much underfoot in the future. In pairs and small parties, Will and Hannibal bid their farewells to their guests in Grandfather’s stead until only Lord and Lady Miškinis remained. They shared a small, delightful late dinner with them, during which Uncle Tomas teased Hannibal mercilessly about the lures, using English for Will’s sake.

“And will Lady Rathmore not join us for a little drink before bedtime?” Aunt Aldona inquired, sitting back as servants smoothly removed the plates and cleared the table for brandies.

“Unfortunately, she is still unwell,” Will said, sipping his drink with great respect for his stomach. For a terrifying moment during the eel soup starter, he’d feared he might have to flee the room to spare himself, the scent was so overpowering. “She also tends to sleep very late, so I doubt you will see her before you depart. Must you leave so early?”

“I have some things to take care of in your Capital before we leave for home,” Uncle Tomas said, leaning closer for Hannibal to light his cigar for him. “We are cutting our time somewhat close, as you say. The straight is very temperamental this time of year and it is not so easy to travel safely.”

“I would never sacrifice your safety, however pleasant I find your company,” Will said, waving away the smoke in what he hoped was a surreptitious gesture. “You must write when you return to the Capital. We could host you at Chelsea House and attend the opera.”

“You darling child,” Aunt Aldona crooned, reaching out to pat Will’s cheek. “You will not be doing any of that soon, hm?” Continue reading

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What is this one, Hannibal?’

Something was thrust in his face, prickly leaves tickling his nose, and Hannibal snuffled, filling his lungs with the scent of fresh-cut herbs.

Rosemary!’ he cried, eyes flying open to find her crying. Chiyoh?’

Someone called her name, sharp and impatient, an adult with urgent business who had no time for childish needs.

I have to go away,’ she told him, another tear rolling down her smooth face. ‘He’s sending me away…’

She flung her arms around him in a brief, short hug—bony arms, a crush of sweet floral scent, the herbal aroma of her heavy dark hair—and suddenly she was gone. Her long braid streamed out behind her, her skirts kicking up around her stick-thin calves, her bare feet black on the bottoms from the garden’s rich, deep earth.

‘Chiyoh!’ Hannibal cried, giving chase but unable to keep up with her, a clumsy fawn behind a nimble doe. ‘Chiyoh! Come back!

She looked back over her shoulder but she didn’t slow, her dark eyes full of loss as she raced through the gardens of Galley Field, heeding that impatient voice.

Chiyoh! Come back…’ Continue reading