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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

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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

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With the warmth of their bath behind them, Hannibal returned to his own suite bundled into a bathing sheet while Will went to fetch something he said he needed. He was still tingling from the blissful confirmation that had occurred in the tub, the gentle but insistent scenting and closeness that had eased them both. The part of himself that had been unsettled, unsteady, and deeply unhappy during his departure was now calm and quiet, reassured through scent and touch that his husband was near at hand.

He heard the door to Will’s suite open and the scrabble of claws clicking on tile before Winston came barreling through the open door at a mad dash, tongue lolling.

Hannibal chuckled, hastily escaping into his dressing room to change into his underclothes and dressing gown before the excited dog could reach him.

“He’s missed you,” Will said when he emerged, standing in the doorway still in his warm bathrobe, looking damp and delectable and dangerously approachable.

“I can tell,” Hannibal said, grinning when Winston jumped up to plant both forepaws on his stomach, tail wagging. He cut a sly look at Will and said, “He certainly never leaves me in doubt.”

Will’s brows shot up, both of them disapproving, and he asked, “Have I left you in doubt, Hannibal?” Continue reading

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For the first time in a very long time, Will thought he might be falling ill.

He woke nauseous and still a bit shaky, bleary-eyed as if he’d had too much wine to drink the night before. His bed was empty, no sign of Winston anywhere, and the light through the windows spoke of it being much later than he first thought.

Jimmy came in with Winston trotting at his heels and he promptly moved to get Will’s dressing gown. There was already a fire burning in the fireplace and despite his usual refusal to be coddled, Will was grateful for it. There was a chill he couldn’t seem to shake, and he was reluctant to leave the meager warmth of his bed to start his day.

“Good morning, my Lord,” Jimmy said, bundling Will up in the dressing gown the moment he rose. A pair of bedroom slippers hitherto unworn met Will’s toes as he gained his feet, surprising but too pleasant to protest. “Winston was very anxious to do his business when I came in to check on you, so I had one of the boys take him for a run down to the village. He’s already had his breakfast, as well.”

“Heavens, I slept so late,” Will breathed, rubbing the remnants of a headache away from his temple. “You should have roused me, Jimmy.”

“There’s no harm getting some rest for a change, my Lord,” Jimmy said, tying his dressing gown snuggly at his waist. “The work isn’t going anywhere and the House is in chaos getting things ready.”

Will winced, still dreading the gathering to come, entirely unprepared to see his father again after all of these years. Continue reading

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A strange calm overcame Will as he stared at the Alpha before him, his senses tuning to survival and eliminating all else. Fear was there, but it was mute, unheeded and unneeded as Garret Jacob Hobbs stopped on the trail.

He was lean with strain, dirty from traveling, jittery with nervous energy that brought a wild light to his eyes. His mouth cracked in a feral smile, the knife in his right hand catching the gleam of the waning sun. The rotten scent of him was cloying, the same sickly-sweet smell that had come from the body he’d left in the woods.

“There’s no Alpha to rescue you this time,” he said, advancing another step, but cautiously, almost uncertain, and it wasn’t due to Winston’s savage barking.

Will was gratified to see his caution, pleased that he could put a thread of wariness in the eyes of this predatory monster.

“I don’t need an Alpha to rescue me, Mr. Hobbs,” he said, his tone bland but unyielding. Winston quieted, growling and bristling at his side. “I think you know that well enough, don’t you? Did you hurt the man who was posted outside?”

Hobbs laughed, an abrupt and sharp noise of half hysteria, but he did not answer.

“Why have you come, Mr. Hobbs?” Will asked, inching backwards, his hand brushing over his pocket where the pistol lay, a heavy and reassuring weight.

“I knew you’d come back eventually,” Hobbs said, nostrils flaring to catch Will’s scent. “That I could come here and take you.”

Take me?” Will asked, holding eye contact, keeping the knife at the edge of his vision. “For what reason?” Continue reading

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Hartford House was quiet as it settled down for the night, though staff still hurried about below stairs getting things set to rights after dinner. With their guests packed off back to Fernhill and Grandfather retiring to his suite, it seemed a pall had fallen over the evening. Their happy homecoming had been pressed with the potential for tragedy and Will found himself restless as he mounted the stairs, his thoughts returning time and again to Alana and how frightened she must surely feel.

Winston whined uneasily at his side, anxious. Peter had returned him to the house freshly brushed and smelling strongly of mint, and Will was grateful for his company as he let himself into his suite, his presence keeping Will’s dread somewhat at bay.

He undressed in silence in his massive dressing room, the echoes of his movements a hollow sound that brought his spirits low. He put his cufflinks and pocket watch away, smiling as he ran his fingers over the filigreed watch cover. Jimmy had procured a proper box for him and the sight of all those watches Hannibal had purchased lightened his heart somewhat. He would even now be on the train to the Capital, Will imagined. No doubt he had paced and frothed at the station, anxious to be on his way, exhausted to find himself returning so soon.

Will very deliberately did not touch the bond, though he was tempted. He couldn’t bring himself to, not yet and not now. The abrupt haste of their parting under such dismal circumstances had knocked him off balance, a light flick from Fate’s fingers reminding him of days past when he believed that his happiness would always be momentary, would always be punished.

“Not anymore,” he murmured, fighting the loneliness that threatened. He missed Hannibal. He missed him with a strength that frightened him. It was only a fraction of what he might feel had they bonded properly, he knew, but even that fraction was quite enough. Continue reading