Mar 18 2017

Longbourn: Dragon Entail Chapter 6

Ok, so I’m als a sucker. You asked for chapters weekly…I guess I’ll do chapters weekly now. How about we check in with exactly what Darcy is up to as well. He better have a good reason for not coming to the rescue–right? (Don’t forget, comments really do inspire me to write faster…just saying…)

Find previous chapters HERE


Of course Aunt Catherine required a change of garments before leaving for the dragon’s lair. A walking dress, he was informed, was the proper attire for one to call upon dragons.

 Thankfully Miss Elizabeth had no such notions when rushing out from the ball to rescue Pemberley. He really ought to replace that gown for her. All things considered, there was little chance her father would do that for her.

 Rosings’ cavern lay along an overgrown path, deep in the woods along the west side of the estate, well away from the grazing pastures, small farms and tenant houses. Although Rosings would never violate the accords and harm a trespasser, she was by nature grouchy and no one wanted to make her grouchier.

Cait flew out to greet them whilst they were still a hundred yards off. She was a spectacular example of a cockatrix in her prime, covered in glossy black feathers, punctuated with deep purple along her head ruff and deep blue under her wings. Her head ruff was so full and fluffy, it was hard to make out her face, only the tip of her razor-honed beak stood out. She boasted tail feathers so long, they often dragged the ground when she perched. If one considered looks alone, it was hard to understand Walker’s adverse reaction to her, especially since she had chosen him.

“You have deigned to grace us with your presence.” Cait landed in front of them and bent her head toward the ground, but her wings were still spread.

Cockatrix sarcasm at its finest.

“Do not take that tone with me. You well know I have been occupied. I should have thought the two of you could manage a baby between you. Especially considering that you have raised two broods already.” Aunt Catherine flipped her skirts at Cait.

“Mine did not have teeth, and I assure you feather scales are not nearly so arduous to grow as teeth.” Cait flapped her wings and took off, trailing her tail feathers over their shoulders.

She must be tired and worn too, stooping to such obvious insults.

He could not blame Walker, not at all.

Aunt Catherine gathered her skirts and stormed into the hillside cavern.

At some point long ago, small cracks had opened up in the ceiling, just enough to let some light through, but still overgrown enough to keep out the rain. He paused a moment for his eyes to adjust. At last, he could make out a broad expanse, swept clear by a dragon’s tail. Along the nearest wall, a pile of soft leaves and underbrush formed Pemberley’s nest, where she lay fitful and whining softly. Several yards away, Rosings stretched out across the ground, forelegs thrown over her ears.

“Cowntess,” Aunt Catherine called.

How she loved those reminders of rank, her own and her dragon’s.

Rosings rose to her feet and shook. Starting at her head, it progressed down her shoulders, her wings, to the tip of her tail. A small cloud of dust stirred. Darcy sneezed into his handkerchief.

The firedrake Cowntess, was an exemplar of her kind. Like Pemberley, she was various shades of red, from pale red at her underbelly, to deep red, nearly purple along her spine. Her talons reflected the meager light, sharp as Cait’s beak. Her smooth scales, dusty now, shone when freshly cleaned. Nose to base of tail she must have been fifteen feet long, with another eight feet of tail behind her. Fully extended, her wings probably spanned over twenty feet. None had ever measured them though. And since she only flew on nights with no moons, none alive now had actually seen her in flight. She was a very private creature.

“Lady.” Rosings bobbed her head and Aunt Catherine curtsied.

How very different this was from the warm, almost intimate greetings that Miss Elizabeth shared with her dragon friends. At first it had seemed so odd, so improper to him, now Aunt Catherine seemed too stiff and formal.

“Will you introduce me to your guest?”

Rosings rolled her eyes. “If she will see you.”

“Pemberley is much taxed by teething right now.” Darcy hurried to her side. The last thing he needed was Aunt Catherine agitating Pemberley—and it took very little to do so.

“I shall determine that for myself.” In a swish of skirts, Aunt Catherine stormed toward the nest, Rosings barley half a step ahead.

“You should rise and greet your guest.” Rosings nosed Pemberley.

Pemberley lifted her head blinking. “She is not her. I want her.”

“What is the drakling blithering about?”

“Nothing to be concerned with. She spent a great deal of time with Miss Bennet—”

“Yes her!”

“And is having some difficulty adjusting to her removal.”

Aunt Catherine snorted. “That is why nursery maids should be changed out often. It is always a problem when youngsters get attached.”

“May I present my aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh?” Darcy gestured toward her.

“She is not her.” Pemberley looked away.

“You will not be rude to my Keeper.” Rosings slapped the tip of her tail on the ground.

“Yes, Cowntess.” Pemberley clambered to her feet, eyes down. “Greetings, Lady.”

“That is better.” Aunt Catherine nodded, still scowling. “Now, I have heard your teeth are troublesome.”

“I have no teeth.” Pemberley turned her face away.

“Yes, but you will soon. Now open your mouth and let me see.”

“No.”

“I insist. Do as you are told.”

“No.”

Darcy edged closer. “Now, Pemberley. If she—ah ‘her’—asked you, would you do so?”

“Yes.”

“Then please do so now. Lady only wants to see you well, like ‘her’.”

Aunt Catherine glowered at him, but Pemberley opened her mouth.

Hopefully she would not bite.

Aunt peered into Pemberley’s mouth, but stopped short of putting her hand inside. She did have baby fangs after all.

Aunt Catherine turned her back on Pemberley. “There is no doubt the trouble is teething. But that is very good because now we have a solution.”

“We do?”

“Of course. All she needs is to have her gums lanced to reveal the teeth, just like any infant. Then this nonsense shall be over. I shall make arrangements for it immediately. Perhaps Cait can do it, her talons might do very nicely.” In a swish of skirts, she bustled from the cavern.

“What she mean, lance?” Pemberley tucked her head under Darcy’s arm.

“It is a surgery to free your teeth from your gums. It is often done for babies as I understand—teething is very dangerous you know.”

At least it was for humans, but who knew if it was for Dragons.

Miss Elizabeth probably would.

“No, it not dangerous.  It itches. It hurts. Make it stop. I no want Cait talons in my mouth. I will bite her.” She rustled her wings.

That usually signaled the beginning of a tantrum.

Lovely.

“You must not bite. You know that.”

“Rosings say I can if someone hurt me.”

Technically she was right. Self-defense was an admissible reason for dragon aggression.

“Cait is your friend.”

“No she not. She thinks I am vex … vexanamous … vexatious. I not know what means vexatious, but it not sound good.”

“She thinks Walker is vexatious too, and she likes him a great deal.” He scratched under her chin.

She took his wrist in her mouth and gummed it, whining. “Make it better.”

He took her face in his hands and pressed his forehead to her. “I will find some way to make it better, soon.”

Pray he would be able to keep that promise. If only Miss Elizabeth was near.

 


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Mar 16 2017

Don’t miss Snowbound at Hartfield Ch 16

Find it here.

Mar 16 2017

Snowbound at Hartfield Chapter 16

Snowbound at Hartfield

A Jane Austen Mashup Short Story. What happens when Emma meets Persuasion and Pride and PrejudiceA wedding perhaps? 

Find other chapters HERE.


Saturday morning—Friday was unfortunately too soon for the butcher to prepare Emma’s order—Elizabeth stood before the mirror in her second best gown. No, it was not new, but it was silk, and pale blue, and lovely. Perhaps she ought to be wearing her best gown, but Fitzwilliam’s favorite color was pale blue and somehow pleasing him seemed more important than wearing a slightly newer gown.

Father, with Miss Carteret and the Dowager Lady Dalrymple waited downstairs. Miss Carteret, who seemed disposed to be sentimental, insisted that father should present the bride to her groom. They would be attending the wedding breakfast, too, gracing Hartfield with their presence and titles, thus lifting the status of her wedding out of the mundane.

Such a thoughtful gift, albeit a cheap one, considering what the Earl had settled upon them.

That was an ungracious thought, especially after the settlement Father had agreed to—with the encouragement of Miss Carteret. It was equal to, if not slightly more generous than the settlements to Mary and Anne.

Had she not been so fond of Fitzwilliam, that would have been important, but now it was just merely trivia.

The truly important thing was that Fitzwilliam would be waiting for her at the church and in just an hour, perhaps a wee bit more, he would be her husband.

“Are you ready?” Liza peeked in.

“I think so. What do you think?”

“You are everything a bride should be, my dear. Have you thought of any further questions?” Liza took her hand with all the tenderness of a sister.

Her cheeks heated. “I think not. Our conversation yesterday was quite … thorough.”

Liza bit her lower lip. “I believe I warned you once that directness was my way, uncomfortable though it may be at times.”

“I do appreciate it, and I think he will as well.” She looked away, anything not to meet Liza’s inquiring gaze.

“That was the point of the exercise. My sister Mary was equally mortified when I sat with her before her wedding, but later she told me she was glad for it. Shall we go now?”

Hopefully, Fitzwilliam would be, too.

Elizabeth picked up her cloak and muff and followed Liza downstairs.

Father escorted Miss Carteret and Lady Dalrymple in their coach, leaving the ladies to go in Knightley’s carriage. The men followed on horseback.

Emma and Liza exchanged encouraging glances with her, but they had little to say. Probably for the best. She was too nervous for conversation.

Though not asked, it seemed Mrs. Elton had seen to the decoration of the church. No doubt the gesture was more to insert herself into the proceedings and claim credit for their success than out of any fondness for Elizabeth. Still though, it was pleasant to see the church porch strewn with rushes and flowers, and the inside of the chapel appointed with several attractive bouquets, offering a welcoming perfume as they entered.

Father escorted his ladies to their seats and joined her at the back of the church. Mr. Elton approached them, fawning. Elizabeth stepped back and allowed Father to enjoy the attention without her.

Long heavy steps approached and stopped just behind her. A shadow leaned close and whispered in her ear, “Despite knowing Darcy was escorting you, it is still a relief to see you here.”

His voice sent delightful little shivers down the back of her neck. “I am pleased to see you here as well.” She clasped her hands behind her back.

He covered both her hands with his large, calloused one, barely lacing fingers with her.

She must not smile—not too much—and give their secret away. What a thrill to be so bold and improper with so many witnesses.

A quick glance over her shoulder revealed the same thought written in his twinkling eyes set above a very square and proper jaw.

They must invite Anne and Wentworth to stay soon. The two men were so similar. They would relish each other’s company.

He squeezed her hand and sauntered to the front of the church. His long, easy steps betrayed his mood—his steps always did.

Mr. Elton called them to order and Father paraded her to the front, making a very great show of presenting her to Fitzwilliam for the reading of the service. It seemed only a moment later Fitzwilliam slipped a braided gold band over her finger and she presented him with a sturdy, plain one. Mr. Elton trundled them to the back of the church for the signing of the marriage lines.

And it was done. She was now a married woman.

“Come, Mrs. Fitzwilliam.” He placed her hand in the crook of his arm.

He had that look in his eye. Mischievous. Pleased with himself. Playful. The one she anticipated and—if she were honest—adored.

“Close your eyes and walk with me.”

Did he not realize it was nearly impossible to think, much less obey when he whispered in her ear like that? And completely impossible when he brushed the side of her neck with his lips.

“Do you not trust me, my dear?”

“Teasing man! Just remember you are not the only one who can play at such things.”

“I count on it. Now, step over the threshold and outside. Just a few more steps. Now open your eyes.”

A freshly painted carriage waited before her. A matching pair of bay horses regarded her placidly.

“Later today we will go riding, but I thought perhaps you might like to ride to your wedding breakfast in your own carriage. I confess it is not new. It has enjoyed years of service to Listingbrook. But I have had it refitted for the occasion.” He opened the door for her.

“A carriage?” Her vision blurred and her eyes burned. A new carriage had been out of the question—she had not even brought up the notion. But this—such a perfect gift.

“Of course, Mrs. Fitzwilliam—”

Oh, the way he said that!

“How else will you make your bridal visits around the neighborhood?” He handed her into the carriage.

Buttery soft leather seats invited her into the warm interior, heated by wrapped bricks. Fresh, crisp white curtains covered the side glass, letting in just enough light to enjoy the expression on his face.

He was so pleased with himself.

He deserved to be.

“I am perfectly delighted with it—with you and with everything.” She slipped across the carriage to sit beside him and settled in very close.

He slid his arm around her shoulder and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. Tension drained from him and he leaned into her, warm and heavy. “Mrs. Fitzwilliam, you have made me a very happy man.”

“Then you, sir, are far too easy to please.”

“Let us hope you continue thinking so for quite a long time.” He tipped her chin up and pressed his lips to hers.

Yes, let it be a very long time indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 14 2017

What do Show Chickens have to do with Dragons? Everything!

It kind of goes without saying that historical fiction takes tons of research.

Tons. Literally heaps and gobs of it. Great stacks and piles.

I thought my doctoral dissertation took a lot of research. That was nothing in comparison to the thousands of pages I have read and saved on my hard drive.

History=Research.

OK. Moving on.

What has surprised the daylights out of me is how much time I spend researching things that do not even exist.

Seriously.

Hours and days on things that absolutely do not exist outside of my own imagination.

Wait, hang in there with me a minute. I promise I haven’t finally OD’d on caffeine and chocolate. Hear me out. It really does make sense.

Crossing from straight historical to what my husband calls my ‘Regency Urban Fantasy’ series, sounds like it would be less material to look up because I can just make it up right?

Yeah, sure, I could do that. I’d like to do that. Life would be easier if I did that. But I shouldn’t do that.

Huh?

Why would I spend hours and days in deep dives down research rabbit holes over things that don’t exist?

Mostly because I like to torture readers and make writing takes as long as possible. I’m mean that way—I am the meanest mom on the block, after all.

Alright. Maybe not.

Seriously though, while the meanest mom thing is entirely true, the actual reason is a bit more complicated.

In short, truth is far stranger than fiction and fiction based on fact is must more interesting, believable, and detailed than anything I could simply make up myself.

And I’m so glad for it, because it has made Jane Austen’s dragons far more fascinating that I could have.

For example, consider the tatzelwurm. I wish I could take complete credit for those delightful creatures, but I can’t. It all started when I came across the Alpine myth of the tatzelwurm, a half-cat, half-serpent creature that moved by springing along on its tail. I never thought of a cat dragon, but what would be better?

About the time I came across that myth, we took in our son’s cat, a young polydactyl with a very distinct personality. Putting the two ideas together, my Regency era tatzelwurm sprang to life. With thumb-toes to set it apart from true cats, and an insatiable desire for food he should not have, the entire species came to life. And when I need to know what a tatzelwurm might do in any given situation, I just turn to my resident cat-dragon for answers.

In my dragon world, there are a host of bird-type dragons, similarly inspired by a combination of mythical beasts and real creatures. I love hummingbirds, so they were the natural go-to for the fairy dragons, who are near and dear to my heart. Falcons and similar birds of prey jumped up and insisted on being the model for the male cockatrice—a proud heraldic creature.

The female of the species, the cockatrix though, she needed a very special inspiration. So I went poking about the avian world and discovered … (wait for it) … show chickens!

No, I do not mean the kind that end up as drumsticks on your plate. These are birds of entirely a different feather.

(Groan, yeah I know, sorry. Terrible joke, but I had to.)

Show chickens are truly spectacular creatures. Just look at these guys!The feathers! The ruffs!

 

 

 

 That look! Is that not the very image of a creature who would live with Lady Catherine de Bourgh?

Even better, birds including chickens are susceptible to all sorts of maladies that make amazing fodder for delicious plot details. They pull their own feathers out when they get stressed. Scaly leg mites and feather lice can plague them to distraction and can be treated with cures available during the regency era.  What better way to design the travails of a dragon keeper?

But what about dragons that aren’t bird-types, like baby Pemberley, who is a more traditional dragon, with teeth instead of a beak. Then the research net has to be cast a little wider, looking for real-world parallels. Baby dragons probably share a great deal in common with baby people, right? Baby people have a hard time with teething, so baby dragons just might as well. Makes sense me.

While I would have liked to turn to a vintage edition of Better Dragon Keeping Monthly to find out more about it, alas, that was not possible. So I started digging around more standard period references and wow—I was totally floored! Never would I have imagined what teething meant to Regency era parents. The issues there were far better than any I could have imagined myself and absolutely fit everything I needed for the story.

So what were these wonderful details? I’m going to make you wait for those delicious details until next week. I’m the meanest mom on the block, remember? But here are a few hints…

Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

 

Mar 11 2017

Longbourn: Dragon Entail Chapter 5

Ok, so I’m als a sucker. You asked for chapters weekly…I guess I’ll do chapters weekly now. How about we check in with exactly what Darcy is up to as well. He better have a good reason for not coming to the rescue–right? (Don’t forget, comments really do inspire me to write faster…just saying…)

Find previous chapters HERE


 Darcy settled into the morning room as far away from Aunt Catherine’s customary seat as possible. The room was large enough, that distance was not difficult to achieve. The room accommodated not only a table large enough to serve breakfast for ten, but several reasonably comfortable chairs near the east facing windows. By her standards, the decorations were ‘simple’—which still meant it was far too ostentatious for his taste. Were ormolu dragons necessary on nearly every surface? Yes, she was a Dragon Keeper, and yes she was Dragon Mate to a rare and very fine cockatrix. But did she have to remind her guests—at least the ones who understood—of it at every turn?

The framed fan of cockatrix wing feathers—glossy jet black alternating with deep blues, and a few rich purples that must have come from her ruff—was really taking things too far.  How had she managed to convince Cait to give those up? As many as there were, it must have taken years. Walker avoided the room just for that ornament alone.

Too bad he could not do the same.

Why Aunt Catherine insisted on a ‘morning audience’ was beyond him, especially when she was usually the last one in attendance. At least Anne did not usually bother with breakfast. One de Bourgh woman in the morning was enough for any man to cope with.

Arriving just before the start of the Christmastide season had offered him a welcome reprieve from many of her usual, intrusive audiences. The social calendar was so full with events to be hosted at Rosings, and events in the village that she, at least in her own mind, had to oversee, given the absence of her parson, that she had not a moment to spare for her nephew.

Not that he particularly wanted one either. The help offered by the resident dragons—at least some of them—was not only more welcome, but quite possibly more useful.

For all Aunt Catherine’s foibles, Rosings Park had far more dragons in residence than most great estates in England. The butler and housekeeper, long married but childless, were both Dragon Mates, which explained the little green zaltys that lived by the kitchen hearth, and the puck that helped the maids tend the bedrooms. The puck easily convinced the maids he was a pug and they found his propensity to takes odds and ends from guests’ rooms adorable. Happily, that led them to regularly checking for purloined articles. The puck would never change. With the maids to keep him in check, though, he was tolerable and often a good source of information.

How the snake-like zaltys passed as a cat was more difficult to fathom. Without the feline traits of a tatzelwurm to support the persuasion, it must have been quite a feat. On the other hand, she did catch kitchen rats, and after being told long enough that the zaltys was a cat, Cook and her staff simply accepted it and moved on. Regular saucers of milk kept the zaltys happy enough to slither around the Cook’s feet, making an odd hiss that passed for a purr. It was a little odd to watch her stoop to pet it like a cat, scratching behind ears it did not have.

Several large tatzelwurms lived in the barns, managing vermin there and a minor drake, passing as a hound, assisted the shepherds. Luckily the creature had more of a taste for game, especially predators, than mutton.  He was a good sort though, pleasing company when he set out for a morning ride, full of interesting stories about the neighborhood. Told from a dragon’s perspective, they were far more interesting than Aunt Catherine’s gossip.

He poured himself a cup of coffee and retrieved Fitzwilliam’s letter from his pocket. Hopefully it would be good news.

Settling into a soft, but lumpy, chair near the window, he held the letter in a sunbeam. Fitzwilliam’s hand was difficult to read on the best of days. Georgiana had not recovered her spirits yet, but she was improving and had agreed to travel. That was an a good sign. Before Darcy had left for Meryton, she would not leave her chambers.

Fitzwilliam and Georgiana would arrive in a fortnight. Good. Good. He would have someone to share both the necessary work at Rosings Park and tending baby Pemberley with someone. He leaned his head into the chair and closed his eyes.

Miss Elizabeth had made tending the drakling look effortless, absolutely effortless. She always understood Pemberley’s moods, her wants and needs, and tended to them almost before she cried. But without her, it was not nearly so simple as that. Between himself, Rosings, Walker, and Cait, they could barely keep up with her demands.

A sunbeam warmed his face, almost soporific in its effects. He would not trade the privilege of keeping Pemberley for anything, but he could easily have done without the perpetual exhaustion. Too bad one could not hire a wet nurse or a nursery maid for a juvenile dragon.

 Oh, the look Miss Elizabeth would give him for even having that thought!

“Wake up, Darcy!”

He jumped out of his chair, nearly upsetting his coffee and dropping his letter. “Aunt Catherine. I did not hear you enter.”

“Of course you did not, you were sleeping! Where have your manners gone?”

He maneuvered around the over- furnished room and pulled her chair at the table out for her.

“Forgive me, Pemberley has been exceedingly demanding of late.”

She sat and arranged her skirts. “Mark my words, Darcy, you will spoil that creature if you are not careful. Rosings—”

“Rosings is smitten with her. I would caution you not to say a word of criticism about Pemberley in Rosings’ hearing.”

Rosings might well be the only creature who could restrict the conversation of Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

“A brood mother is always too partial to her offspring.” She flicked her hand, the corner of her lips wrinkling in a half frown.

“Does Rosings know you feel that way?”

“As a matter of fact she does. I have cautioned her about it time and again.”

Darcy snickered. Needless to say that discussion had not gone well.

“Cait is also in agreement with me.” She flipped open a napkin and laid it in her lap.

“Speaking of Cait—”

“I will not have that discussion with you again Darcy.” She rang the little silver bell for the maid.

“And yet I am undeterred.”

“Not another word.”

He slipped into the chair beside her. “Yes, Aunt, many more words. Walker has expressed more than once that he is tired of her aggressive displays and demands. You must encourage Cait to a more ladylike level of demure behavior if she has any desire—”

“Of course he will sire her next brood, just has he has the last two. It is his duty. It unites our two houses, just as your marriage—”

“That is another matter we have yet to discuss discuss, but one problem at a time.”

“There is nothing to discuss. You will both do as you are told by the matriarchs of your houses.” She slapped the table, rattling the glasses.

“Walker has no house and no matriarch. Cockatrices do not mate for life. He is under no obligation to Cait.” He folded his arms over his chest, settling in for what would, again, be a long conversation.

“The brood from ten years ago produced such superior specimens that he cannot pass up the opportunity—”

“Yes, he can and he will. She is driving him away, and I will not have it. I need his help, here with me. Pemberley needs him as well. You will call Cait off or—”

“Or what, nephew, what will you threaten me with?” She canted her head to the left, eyes narrowing in an expression she surely learned from Rosings.

“Or I will do it myself.”

That got her attention.

 She sat up very straight, eyes wide. “You will do nothing of the kind. I will not have a broody cockatrix upset by your impulsive behavior. Do you have any idea what kind of damage she could wreak if unsettled?”

“I am fully aware.” He leaned on the table, deliberately placing his elbow so she could not miss his rebellion. “So then, you will have a conversation with her?”

She huffed a breath through puffed cheeks. That was all the affirmation he would get, but it was sufficient.

“I do not understand what has you so disagreeable, Darcy! You barely attended any of the Christmastide affairs. You have hardly shown your face outside your room at all.”

“I believe we covered that point already, I have had a dragon to attend. My time has largely been spent, not in my chambers, but hers.”

The maid scurried in with hot toast.

Aunt Catherine held her tongue until she left. “How did you manage when Pemberley was newly hatched?”

“I had help from Miss Elizabeth Bennet, daughter of the Blue Order’s historian. She is well versed—”

“Bennet, Bennet. That name is … ah yes, I have it now. That estate, Longbourn, is entailed upon my vicar Collins.”

“Indeed it is, despite the fact that Collins is entirely dragon deaf and nearly immune to persuasion.” He rolled his eyes, although it was probably a bad idea in her presence.

She grunted her disapproval. “Very unfortunate, that. Especially when he is rather a gudgeon amongst men. Rarely have I met a man who holds his own opinions so loosely, especially in response to a female voice. Do you happen to know if he has made an offer of marriage yet?”

“I do not think so.” His brow knotted tight enough to ache.

“That fool had better get on with the process before the Blue Order passes those ridiculous liberal mandates. Really, what can they be thinking, permitting a Keeper to marry outside of a dragon’s consent.”

“As I understood them, those new rulings also require that an alternate keeper be present, so that the dragon would not be without.”

“Foolishness. Perhaps a young thing like Pemberley might be willing to do so, knowing no better, but an old dragon—bah! A dragon must be allowed to choose their own Keeper. There can be no other way.” She waved her hand, nearly knocking over her tea cup.

“Within reason, that must be true, but the dragon’s will should not supersede that of the Keepers.”

“Rosings determined that I should marry Sir Lewis, and it did us no harm.”

It had not done them any favors either. Dragons were not known for their matchmaking capacity.

“You young people are far too selfish, not submitting to your superiors as you should. You should take a lesson from Collins. I told him he should choose a wife from among the daughters of the estate, trusting of course that Bennet would steer him toward the correct one as it were. The dragon will be satisfied with the entail. Thus, everyone’s problems are solved, Not only that, but I have discharged any inconvenient debt you might owe the man for his assistance in returning Pemberley to you.”

He dragged his hand down his face. Aunt Catherine did so love to be helpful.

“Now about Pemberley. You have permitted her to run you ragged. Take me to her. I insist. It is time I have met her. I will set things to right. You will see.”

She was half right. It was time she met her youngest guest, but there was little chance anything would be set to rights.  

 


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