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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

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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

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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

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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

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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