The Lion's Heir

By: Lilly Pink


She kept her gaze on him, as if trying to unveil something he had purposefully hidden. “There was a place back in Roseblood Hall, it was a secret little room behind a bookcase. I’d go there too, but only when my head felt too full. You know, like too many things inside it. Sometimes it can get so loud!” She stabbed her forehead again, and Kyle gave her a worried look and reached out.

When he touched her arm she flinched, as if she’d been bitten, but when she saw it was his hand gave a little sigh. Her own hand went out and clasped it, and she leaned her head against Kyle’s shoulder, a gesture that threw him off balance.

“I’m sorry… I’m talking too much again. I get so worked up,” she said, and her voice was suddenly tired. “It’s… all this new stimuli. Almost too much to take it all in.”

“I understand,” he said. “You don’t need to apologize. We’ve both been raised in big houses… and even if we’ve always been aware of an impending marriage somewhere in our future, theory doesn’t really help us face the actual practical event.”

He winced, wishing he’d put it in less technical terms, but out of the corner of his eye he saw Krista nod again to herself judiciously.

“Exactly,” she whispered, her head still nudging his arm and her hand resting on his in his lap. They were quiet again for a long time, with only the restless calligraphy of the river below breaking the otherwise tranquil silence. Krista’s breathing changed, became steady and slow, and he felt her heart through his shirt.

He felt like Krista—overwhelmed by too much happening all at once. He’d had a few girlfriends in his past, but nothing that could compare to actually being married. Now faced with the prospect, he wondered if he was husband-material at all. He glanced down at Krista’s sleeping face. She was overly trusting, and he was surprised to find himself feeling suddenly protective of her. Especially if my father found out about this, he thought. Whatever happened, he would have to keep Krista safe from him.

So much for bachelorhood, he mused, echoing Alan’s speech. But this time, for some reason, it wasn’t full of irony or scorn. It was full of promise.





CHAPTER THREE



It was night by the time the two of them made it back to the Estate. Kyle had wanted to show her the rest of town, and Krista was still visibly sleepy, although seemed happy. The steward met him at the gate, along with Miriam, and Kyle made the introductions. As proper as any lady he’d ever seen, Krista played the part excellently, and Kyle saw even Miriam raise an eyebrow, a reflexive tic on her behalf that indicated she was pleased.

As Miriam led them through the house, giving Krista a quick tour in short succinct phrases, the brunette leaned into Kyle again and whispered, “Er, this is… awkward, but… where do we sleep?”

Kyle’s jaw tightened and he realized he hadn’t actually made preparations. No doubt Miriam had, though, and just as he thought, a moment later, they turned down the hallway and he was relieved to see that one of the guest rooms had been made up.

Until the actual marriage ceremony in a few days, the two of them weren’t officially married. So we’ll pretend we live in the Victorian age until then, he thought as he shook his head, feeling himself caught between worlds again.

“Well, if that’s all, I’ll leave you two for now… If you are still hungry, I believe the kitchen is still open. Otherwise, I will bid you both goodnight, for now. If you need anything at all, we are at your disposal, Miss Roseblood.” The laconic matron-servant gave a lower bow than Kyle had ever seen her give.

It wasn’t until Miriam had disappeared down the hallway that Krista spoke again. Both her hands were in front of her, wringing together nervously, and she bit her lip, as if unsure of how to express herself.

“Erm, this is a really big house,” she said. “It’s actually bigger than House Roseblood. Or it seems like it.”

“I’m sure you’ll get used to it,” Kyle said, trying to reassure her.

“Where… where is your bedroom?” she asked quickly, and ducked her gaze.

He frowned. “Well, it’s just down at the end of the hall, there… You see?” he wanted to reach out and touch her chin, urge her eyes back to his, but he resisted. “Is everything okay? You seem as timid as when you got off the plane again. You don’t have to be so formal and polite here either, you know… I know Miriam gives off that vibe, but after living with me for so long, she’s used to a more casual pace.”

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