The ride to Duxbury left Hannibal with too much time to think about the reasons why he had never been back, not since Melinda had been buried. He found himself reluctant to go there despite his provoking, pressing need to find Will, as if the ghosts of his neglected family might hold him accountable for his absence.
Now, with no company other than his own thoughts and the surety of seeing her final resting place at last, Hannibal found himself thinking about her. Their childhood friendship was still one of his fondest recollections of his time at Hartford House. She had taken the place of his lost little sister at first, being so close to Mischa in age. Hannibal had been besotted the moment they met, taking the role of her protector, much to the amusement of her parents. His middling years had passed in a blur of exploration, climbing trees, being carefree and happy, always with Melinda next to him. His grandfather had tried to discourage their association, but Hannibal had found ways around that, as children often would. Even then he’d known he would have to marry well when he was of age. He’d been told time after time by Grandfather that someone was already picked out for him, that it was settled and contracted, that he would have no choice in the matter.
Those warnings had fallen on deaf ears, slamming up against the wall of youthful surety that he knew what was best for himself. He’d been determined to marry Melinda when they both were old enough, the four years of difference between them seeming to stretch forever, long enough that his feelings for her had altered from brotherly to something else entirely.
And then she’d finally caught up to him and everything had fallen apart… Continue reading