I feel like there was something I was going to tell you guys... Oh, that's right. I bought a house.
“—damnation!” Avery had nicked himself again.
But there was a bad taste in the back of his mouth and he did not want to push this nasty contretemps any further. He shut up the book with a gesture of finality and turned it overhand into his blind spot for Avery to take. “How domestic,” he remarked flatly, and reached for his pen.
With a nonchalant flick of the wrist, the Rose of Hol dropped the booklet down on the desk and turned toward the grey-rimed window.
With an upward twist Raymond cranked open the lead window-latch and swung the pane out into the frothy grey night air. It came tumbling in through the casement over his skin, warmly nubile, almost shyly anxious to be petted.
The heavy front door, over four feet in width and kermes-coloured as a cardinal, blazed so strong in the light that Raymond could feel it cutting the nerves at the back of his eyeball. He reined Eleventh Hour in and, as no one came running round the side of the house between the ilex to take his horse, he tossed the leathers to Avery and swung down. He turned his patch to the violent door as he took hold of the knocker and drove a hard, metallic sound into the inner hall.
The man rolled his head back languidly and watched me as I watched him, in nowise hurried with his own perusal. The warning came again: he had beautiful eyes, owlish and gold-coloured, and his lips, when they smiled, were cruel.
The great greyhound gave me a straight-lipped smile which, though it did not touch his eyes, felt sincere to me.
“One cannot touch family,” I warned gently.
It was Sophia who spoke, and her voice was like the soft padding fur between a tiger's claws.
The wall into which the door was set was covered in tapestries that composed a single hunting scene: I saw horses and horsemen, hawks, hounds, game masters, a herd of unicorns, a great golden well spurting what looked like diamond dust into a cerulean-blue sky heavy with doves. There was no death, and though the men were all armed and armoured, no one seemed anxious to use iron or fang on the jewel-coloured quarry of the picture. It was an intensely beautiful scene, and I think I gazed a few moments spell-bound by it before recollecting who I was and where I stood.
"Crispin." He was walking away and calling back to us without looking over his shoulder. "Find a gown for her that is suitable. I will need Miss Witch above the salt."
She had not been meaning to cry. She did not quite cry now. Something happened in her chest that hurt like being stabbed and she forced her bruised body off the mattress and flung her arms around his neck. Her lungs spasmed and shot out a cracking sound, but somehow she did not cry. His arms folded around her, his musky, earthy scent flooded into her nostrils, and the great gaping space which had always seemed to exist between Bruin and the rest of the world was filled up in that simple gesture.
With my chin on his arm I glanced sidelong toward his face. "Are you..." I hesitated. "Are you trying to make love to me?"
"Ma petite!" His voice was an absent, laughing growl. He looked well away even as he swung me through the dance. "If I were, you would not need to ask."
“Don’t.” His voice came out like the lash of a whip for her words struck him cold in the stomach. He launched off the edge of the vanity and crossed the room in three strides, gripping her by the shoulders. She did not resist as he yanked her round to face him. Her eyes, fanned in black lashes and amber-dialled, stared back at him out of a pale, drawn face. “Don’t.” He shook her desperately. “Don’t you dare humiliate yourself in this way.” He coursed his hands through her beautiful waves of hair, pushing it all roughly back from her strained face as if the violence could impress upon her the severity of his passion. “What are you about, thinking you could be replaced, or that I would grow dissatisfied with you? I love you, my darling.” He bent and touched his brow to hers, drawing in the pre-storm strength of rose-scent mingling with her warm skin. It sent his blood skipping like sparks through his veins. “What more can I say?”
“My sons of thunder, my cedar trees—what is man when the mind of God is set against him?”