February 2, 2016

In Which Cladelia Is Unusually Charmed

January 17, 1198

"...I didn't write to him."

That was all Cladelia's brother had to say to her as he left their father's study. Nothing about whether she'd been eavesdropping, or why she'd lingered if she wasn't listening, not even a warning not to mention this to anyone. Given that, the appropriate response--and about all she could muster--was an awkward nod before Koradril hurried off in search of anything else to think about.

She still couldn't quite believe her luck. When she'd given her mumbled confession, the young baron hadn't yelled or gasped or stormed out. No--he'd blinked, and then stared for a couple seconds.

Then he'd laughed. And after a startled minute, her father had started laughing too. Cladelia hadn't dared join in herself, but she'd managed a grin at one point, and that had spurred the baron's laughter further. Then, he'd insisted on seeing Koradril to continue on with his own subsequent joke, which was to act as if the first joke had worked.

Cladelia had no idea what to make of that. She didn't think she felt bad for her brother, but the whole thing was a bit... hazy. Almost a drunkenness in itself--though unlike the letter, she couldn't blame it on the wine.

"Well, that was fun," the baron proclaimed from the study as soon as Koradril would have been out of earshot. "How did he look?"

Cladelia shrugged as she crossed the doorway and joined him. "Confused, I suppose?"

"Excellent. It's been a while since I've gotten to chew anyone out. I'll feed him some explanation when I see him next, but I believe I'll keep him thinking I'm angry with him for a day or two." He smirked. "Thank you for this. I'd forgotten how much fun this sort of prank could be."

Thank you.
That couldn't have been right.

"You know, I did just make you return early from your break for a stupid reason in spite of the fact that we've never met." How he'd forgotten that fact the second he'd learned of it, she couldn't have guessed. "You must be at least somewhat angry with me. Or at least... irked."

The young baron shrugged. "Perhaps I should be, but my mother never seems to know what to do with herself when I'm home and she's not taking care of my shire herself; an early departure was probably the best belated Christmas gift I could have given her."

"That seems like an odd reason not to be annoyed, at least for your own sake."

"Who needs a reason not to be annoyed? It's not as if there's nothing I could fill the next few weeks with; I do have many friends and relatives out here. I just hope nothing you heard of me gave you the impression that I was the sort of man who knocked up his female peers without thought."

"I suppose all I could think in my drunken state was that Koradril had mentioned you two going to a brothel."

"I'll admit to paying the occasional willing woman for her services, but I have no intention of leading on a woman who might expect an emotional commitment. Not unless I'm sure I can deliver that emotional commitment, at least," he added with a slight blush, freckles still apparent in spite of the pink. "I suppose that when I got the letter, I thought some unfortunate acquaintance of mine needed a husband and picked me in a moment of panic. I did plan to help where I could, but the child, had there been one, couldn't have been mine."

"Well... it's sweet that you planned to help, in any case." Having grown up with her mother's midwifery horror stories, Cladelia knew many men didn't bother even when they were the ones responsible! "At least let me make it up to you before term resumes. We'll have you for supper or something; you name the dish, and I'll make sure it's served."

"I may have to take you up on that offer--though Koradril will no doubt be furious at the sight of me once he knows the truth."

"If he bans you from supper, and you're willing to wait a few months, then I'll treat you at the pub on campus some time; I'll be starting there in the summer."

"I'm glad to hear that our educational timelines will have some overlap." He took her by the hand and kissed it, causing a sudden unsteadiness in her knees. "I told my lady sister I'd join her and my nephew for lunch, but alas, I can't promise you'll be rid of me for long."

This man ought to have been furious with her. Instead, he was flirting. How charmingly unusual. How unusually charming.

"I suppose I can live with that."


1 comment:

Van said...

Well, January 1198 was a longer month than most months Naroni has seen recently.