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It was late when the coach turned onto the street towards Chelsea House with the Capital just waking up for the night all around them. The gas lamps cast their eerie, soft glow on the world, a misty haze sparkling with moisture and mystery, but Will had no eye for its beauty. He sat gazing out of the window with solemn intensity, as if the force of his stare would carry him to Hannibal’s side all the faster.

It was a long ride back, a long time to think, a long time to feel his bond to Hannibal dim from piercing horror to something much worse—the settled and inescapable certainty that there was nothing more he could do. It made Will even more anxious to reach him, cursing the fact that he had left with so much unresolved between them.

The coach pulled to a stop at last and the weary footman jumped down to open the door. Winston leapt out, hastily relieving himself before Will could even exit the coach.

“Try not to wake the staff if you can avoid it,” Will said, tugging his heavy coat around him as he emerged into the cold, damp air. “The night watchman will let you in around back.”

“Yes, m’Lord, we’ll manage,” Will was told.

“Do you and your men have boarding you can seek?” Will asked, turning to the Captain, and got a nod in return. “Have them charge the cost to Chelsea House and return once you’ve rested. My husband will expect I’ll not try to be rid of you. He is remarkably persistent at times.”

He only hoped Hannibal’s persistence would not keep him from seeing reason, and silently girded himself with his Gift for what was to come. He drew a deep breath, mindful of Winston tugging on his lead, and quietly focused on the bond. Continue reading

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Hannibal imposed on Berger after ringing for Jimmy and took a bath downstairs in the washroom reserved for the servants.

“You’ve had some correspondence while you were indisposed,” Berger informed him.

“Leave it in the library for me, please. And have breakfast laid out there, something light but tempting,” Hannibal said, distracted. The hot water on the chafed, bruised skin of his groin was painful but he couldn’t regret the cause, nor the bruises, nor the scores Will’s fingernails had left on his back and flanks. The last few days he’d spent with Will were the most beautiful and cherished of his life; the small pain was a pleasure all its own in that regard.

He only hoped that Will, given time and distance to sort his emotions, would come to feel the same way.

“Consider it done, my Lord. I’ll bring your clothes down and help you dress after,” Berger offered.

“Just leave my things for me and get my suite set to rights, please, Berger. I think Will would be more settled if things return to normal as quickly as possible,” Hannibal said, scrubbing up with unusual intensity. He paused and pinned his valet with a look, asking, “Is Will’s suite in order?”

Berger nodded. “Yes, m’Lord, Price has kept it ready this whole time.”

“And Abigail?”

“Awake, my Lord, but not asking questions,” Berger said, frowning. “She ain’t said a word, not even to Emily; she just stands at the window hugging herself, staring out at the woods. Magistrate’s been here every day. He wants to take her—”

“He isn’t taking her anywhere,” Hannibal announced, splashing water up over his shoulders to rinse the soap away. “Make sure she knows that, if that’s what has her mute. And tell Price to start packing.”

“M’Lord?” Berger asked, at a loss.

Pack, Berger,” Hannibal said. “I want us prepared to leave on a moment’s notice. Will is quite recovered and we are not safe here. The moment the Magistrate consents, we are leaving Marsham Heath.” Continue reading

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The storm lessened in intensity, the rain becoming a gentle drone of sound on the roof that merged with Will’s even breathing. It was a symphony that Hannibal relished, half-asleep and curled around Will, whose feverish heat ebbed as he slept. He took every advantage of such a rare treat, spending this quiet moment enjoying, cherishing, and soothing his mate.

Loving him, always and forever, just as he’d said.

He drifted in the surety of it, surprised that the words hadn’t escaped him already. They seemed perched on the tip of his tongue, a bird of prey reading to burst from his lips with his heart grasped in its talons. It was not soft, nor gentle, but a force of nature that awed him and he hoped, prayed, silently begged every listening ear of capricious Fate that his wondrous mate would return his confession to him when he was finally able to speak it.

A gentle rap on the door, furtive as if someone feared to disturb them, roused Hannibal from his half-asleep musings. Hoping it was their dinner tray, Hannibal eased out of the bed, smiling when Will’s fingers tightened on his wrist, a soft chirp trilling out of him.

“I’m not going far,” he murmured, kissing Will’s temple and the firm muscle of his arm as he slipped from his warm embrace. He kissed Will’s hand and tucked it beneath the blanket before he drew the curtains, shielding his mate from outside eyes. Continue reading

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The click of the latch was loud in the silence that followed, a slight screech of oiled metal on metal and a solid snap as it was drawn into its catch. The door swung inwards a crack and Hannibal swallowed reflexively as Will’s scent strengthened, swirling around him in a blanket of warm air.

Will was a black silhouette framed by the window beyond, his curls a halo of firelight-tinged softness. He didn’t stir or even breathe, as if bracing for something awful to come as it had so often in the past.

“May I come in?” Hannibal asked, his words a low, throaty throb of sound.

Will considered, then nodded, a slow gesture that became decisive as he stepped back, offering entrance to his husband and his distracting Alpha scent.

Hannibal closed the door behind him and leaned on it, taking a moment to gaze at Will in all of his diffident glory.

No knight in full armor or King in royal vestments could match the effortless dignity and grace of Will Lecter-Graham barefoot in his dressing gown. From the unruly mop of his curls to the swan-like length of his neck all the way down to the tips of his toes, he was every inch a marvel in his husband’s eyes.

The smell of Will’s heat lay thick on Hannibal’s tongue, pouring in through his mouth and nose to fill him up with longing. He swallowed reflexively, testing and tasting it, every breath notching his pulse up. The Alpha in him swelled in response, a weighty drag in his groin as his whole being responded. His skin was hot, overly sensitive, attuned to every small movement of Will’s body. He felt an overwhelming urge to go to him, to run his hands over the scent glands beneath his jaw, to stroke and soothe the heated nape of his neck, to sink his teeth into fevered flesh and lay a mark for all to see.

He shifted, weak with just the thought of it, a rough, coaxing chuff escaping him.

Will closed his eyes, the low sound purring through him with delighted approval, the resonance of Hannibal’s Alpha voice tingling down his spine. His skin tightened, the fine hairs on his arms and nape lifting on a flush, another pulse of wet want pooling between his thighs. His bond to Hannibal clamoured loudly enough to drown out the desperate voices of the past which sought to intrude, leaving him with too few restraints on his hunger to be safe. He looked to one side, uncertain now what to do, but secure in the knowledge he could send him away if he wanted to and Hannibal would dutifully go.

But he didn’t want to send him away. He didn’t want him to go.

He would give Hannibal this chance and if he walked away, if he hurt him again, then it would be the last time in their lives he would ever do so. He would make his decision and never look back, however much it hurt him. Continue reading

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– There were a million reasons to dissuade Hannibal and Will from carrying that kiss further, starting with the lack of locks on the washroom doors, or the proximity to their unexpected guest, or the unhelpful way in which the washroom seemed to amplify every tiny noise.

But despite all that, despite everything that had happened, the kiss they shared deepened with every second. It was a catharsis of pent-up tension, of exhaustion. It was Hannibal spitting in the face of the gods again, resisting their attempts to cow him with devastation. He had come so close to losing Will, so very close.

Yet, Will was warm and very much alive in his lap, and Hannibal was alive to marvel over him, and all else could burn to a crisp in the heat of his desire to love his little mate. Continue reading

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With the crew finally beginning work and so much to occupy them, life fell into a kind of rhythm. The happiness Will found began to grow, putting down roots that reached deep to take firm hold despite the unwholesome happenings at Marsham Heath. Taking the bitter with the sweet was simply life, he knew, and had tasted enough bitterness to savor what he had.

Abigail did not return to the House. Will’s concern in her direction was laid to rest by Magistrate Crawford, who called on the family personally at Hannibal’s insistence and due to his own worry for her safety. She was one of very few girls her age in Moseley who matched their killer’s preferences and the Magistrate was taking no chances. To all reports, she was abed with low spirits and Mrs. Hobbs was tending her, which had to suffice for them all. Continue reading

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Will stalked down the lane with purpose, Winston and his guard at his heels. His mouth was set with grim determination, his blue eyes narrowed behind the shield of his glasses. He was as much worried for Abigail’s state of mind as he was for her safety, and felt his indignation rise that she would have been deceived so cruelly.

Someone somewhere along the line had brought Abigail to believe she was Hannibal’s daughter, either to reassure her or to mislead her—either way, he was going to get to the bottom of it before things could go any further. Telling stories to entertain was one thing, but deliberately misleading a child was something he could not bear, nor tolerate.

There was no sign of Abigail on the trail along the way. The smokehouse was pouring its acrid, unpleasant scent into the air as Will approached the Hobbs’ house. He idly noted it in passing, cataloguing the fact that Mr. Hobbs must have been successful in that aspect, at least.

He could hear shouting ahead, Abigail’s voice raised in hysterical denials, and quickened his pace in concern, his guard calling a nervous warning after him.

Before he could reach the cottage, the door opened and Mrs. Hobbs emerged, the beautiful little hat box in hand, her face pinched and drawn. She caught sight of Will and paled, if such a thing was possible given her current state.

“Mrs. Hobbs,” he called, thrusting Winston’s lead at the guard, who fumbled to take it, leaving Will to move ahead. “Louise! There is something I need to speak to you about.”

“Please, my Lord, just take it and go,” she said, wretched pleading in her voice as she hurried towards him. She sounded teary and disturbed, her blue eyes darting around in expectation of interruption. She held the box out at arm’s length, a vain attempt to keep him at bay. “She’s beside herself! She’s not thinking clearly!”

“Mrs. Hobbs, Abigail seems to believe something that is patently untrue,” Will said, and waved an impatient hand at the young officer to halt him in his tracks. He lowered his voice and moved closer to Mrs. Hobbs, saying, “Who told Abigail that she is Lord Clarges’ daughter?”

“Please, my Lord,” she said, trembling. “Please, let it lie!” Continue reading