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The Callihans

Date: 06-26-12
Poster: Gillean Callihan
Post # 81

Letter from Thornston Estates

A day had passed since Gillean received that letter from his father. The returned correspondence he had yet to prepare even though a new day had begun and had come to the darker hours of completion. Once Caiome had returned safely yesterday, Gillean chided himself for allowing his thoughts to run rampant on what had detained her. After Ultan's letter, that was just another concern for her safety. He hadn't slept, but eased the frustration and building apprehension in ways that did not require slumber. This day had passed without controversy, the Lord of Swan Lake attempted to keep everything seemingly conformed to the standards of their usual everyday. The evening meal had come and gone as it should. Gillean had sought out the billiards room but it wasn't the table game he made use of...rather the darts and the board beyond.

Caiome hadn't slept much since her encounter with Daniel. Luckily she didn't need beauty sleep for she looked as fresh as ever. Perhaps that had to do with spending time outside as she continued her work on the gardens. They were shaping up beautifully too. She would take walks, daydream, and always waiting to see if there was any mail delivered. She didn't know about the letter from their father and if she had, she would not be sleeping much at all for a whole different reason. It was still warm outside but the pesky insects were becoming too much so she headed back in, eyeing the small table in the foyer that still.. wait! Blink. Her heart jumping to pound in her throat. Almost as if Daniel stood there, but it was the letter he was to send. A quick look as she approached and Barry had just stepped out from another room to bring it to Gill, "That's all right Barry, I will take it to him." Giving him one of her disarming smiles as she took up the tray and first headed to Gill's den. He was not there surprisingly but his desk seemed to be a mess. She debated to straighten itup for him but then decided it might be best to leave it undisturbed. Last time she did that, he couldn't find things for a week. Besides, there was the bill from her shopping which she couldn't help but taking a peek at. It was a good amount. A grin slid for every coin had been well spent. Once back in the hall she asked one of the maids, who she knew kept an eye on her brother for her own reasons. She quickly told her, which only proved what Caio suspected and she headed for the game room, letter in hand.

Michael had just returned from his journey to Kildare, though once the letter was delivered, he had stopped to rest and have a meal. He knew he had to get back but there was no making the journey shorter. He used his gloves to brush off some of the dust of the road, with little success and made his way into the manor. Ignoring the obvious displeasure of the butler, he asked after the lord of the manor. First he was directed to the den, then to the game room by the same maid that had spoken to Caiome. He'd arrive a minute or two after the Lady Caiome to give his report.

Did the board represent more than just rings and sections? It would appear so, because each dart sank into the bullseye or in the red or green ring surrounding it. So focused was he that he didn't even notice Caiome enter, something he always managed to do. He leaned to the side and brought up his brandy, taking a drink then placed it back, releasing the next throw even before his fingers separated from the crystal.

Caiome came up short, so concentrated on her brother she didn't realize that Michael was behind her. The darts were hurled at tremendous speed as if he planned to kill the cork board. "What is wrong, brother?" her words soft, kind and considerate of him as she came close to set her free hand upon his arm, near restraining him from throwing the dart in his hand.

Michael wasn't so close that he rain into Caiome, but he did pause outside the door. He stepped back, out of sight, to wait a moment. Wouldn't do for him to interrupt the two right away. In fact, he walked back down the hall.

Completely unprepared for the interruption, and especially by Caiome, he tightened his grip on the dart to keep from releasing it where her hand had pressed his arm down. Beyond her shoulder he caught a glimpse of the Captain of the Guard. "Dewar!" He called the man back, then looked down with a smile to Caiome. It was genuine, that smile, even if it was only because of her he could. "What's wrong?" His other hand lifted to place over the top of hers that touched on his arm. "The rock foundation under the south side of the smoke house crumbled, and we've lost all of the meat within it. The next barrow shouldn't be slaughtered until fall, so if we are to have pork, we'll be forced to purchase it already prepared. I'm told the well that supplies the water for the serfs of Westfield has dried out to nothing but mud. Which means there is water, but we will have to dig deeper to find it or seek out another location and dig another well. For which, I'll have to locate a dowser. Do you know a dowser? I sure as hell don't." He finished with a smile and looked past Caiome again to see if Dewar had heard the summons.

Pork was one of her favorites too. She was frowning at the loss and then the well too. "Do we have the means to see to both?" Digging a deeper well and getting prepared port from the market, which would cost them more. She halted there, "a dowser. Not off hand but I'm sure the Captain might know of one or one on our staff might." Eventually they would know who was who about the lands! Speaking of Dewar, she turned an expectant look over her shoulder as it seems he was close enough for her brother to call out for him. "We have a letter," almost biting her bottom lip for the seal on it was recognized as she was sure her brother would immediately as she offered it over. "It must have arrived while we dined."

Caught! He just smiled to himself, turned and joined the siblings. "My Lord, my Lady." He almost looked over his shoulder to see if the butler had sent one of the maids trailing after him with a mop and bucket but restrained himself. "Forgive my interruption." He offered Gillean a package. "This is from the alchemist in Kildare." Possibly for Gill's headaches? But it was also a way to let him know the letter had been delivered, and the wheels set in motion. "As far as a dowser, Master Tom Everett would be the one to contact. He has the small farm at the southern edge of your lands."

Gill accepted the letter, not looking down to it yet since the captain had entered with a suggestion and ... a package. "I'll send a man tomorrow to inquire for the services of this Tom Everett then. " Gillean kept his gaze on Michael a moment more, the nod that followed was faint. He collected the package and placed it on the wooden border of the billiards table, glancing down to the letter. "I've had enough of ill news, pray this come with glad tidingssss." The last word trailed off into a hiss when he saw and recognized the crest of Thornston. His gaze drifted up to Caiome, then back down, peeling back the seal and opening the letter. Persistence could wear down resolve and produce the desired affects...or it could wear the nerve raw and produce the return of a migraine. If only the remedy was within that package delivered from Michael. Gill read, folding the parchment over itself in an attempt not to ball it up right there in front of Caiome. "It seems...the man is formally inviting us to Thornston in an attempt to extirpate all memories of our last visit. And to ... " Gill reopened the letter, searching until he found the exact wording. "As he says ... continue where he left off." The invitation was tossed unsealed, unfolded to the billiards table as well. "Whatever the hell the man means by that."

Caiome was watching his expression the while. She was one that could read even the most discreet changes. Gill was not having one of his better days and for good reasons. "All will work out, Gillean. We will need to accept his invitation being he had accepted mine to the Ball." Even if it had been to the father, the man had still come being his father could not. What was tossed was picked up by her. She would keep it too for her own reasons. The penmanship was of a strong hand as her eyes glided over the words. Her thumb actually moved over a word as she held it, as if she could feel the strength there. To distract them she spoke up, "what is in the package?" It would not do to have her brother think she was too interested in this invitation.

The Captain merely watched the siblings after the eye contact from Gillean. Reactions were always interesting, and he watched Caiome for a moment with a clench of his jaw. He would suggest three of the guard to escort them to Thornston rather then leave his post. "I do have some news that might help. The border patrols have little to report. It's been quiet with no incidents." A small bit of news but still better then nothing. He looked at the package and then to Caiome again. Gillean could answer and in a moment or two, he'd excuse himself. It had been a long two days.

Gillean shot a look to the package, then to Michael, and then back to Caiome. Without an answer, he just brought forth a likely possibility to placate his sister. He missed her caress of the written words completely. "Salve for the foreman. For his ankle." Worked, did it not? "Remmington requested a visit within the fortnight. With the borders quiet, it might be best we make the trip as soon as possible. Would you be so kind as to respond to him, My Sweet and let him know when to expect us?" Although the situation at the smokehouse and Westfield were dire, and in no way fabricated, those were not Gill's greatest concerns. He would foist off this lesser matter of tedium for his sister to take care of...and he would manage the others. "Fret not over the funds, Caiome. Where there is a will, there is a way."

She smiled, trying to hold back her delight. Even if there was nothing more to it than an excursion out. "I hope the foreman will be all right," more mussed but actually was sincere. Her mind was elsewhere, "I shall do so immediately then." Glancing to the Captain for the good news then back to her brother. "I shall conserve on my spending for a while to help. I will leave you to your game," glancing to the dart board then back as she lifted enough on the balls of her feet to place a kiss to his cheek. "I will see you in the morning." As it was late and if he had any more business with the Captain, he could do so privately. "A good night, Captain," smile with a sliding glance his way as she passed him to head upstairs.

"Good night, Lady Caiome." He bowed his head slightly, then looked at Gillean. "With your permission, my Lord, I'd like to excuse myself and return to the barracks." He'd write up the reports from yesterday after a hot bath and a hot meal. And it would all begin again come the morning.


Date: 07-20-12
Poster: Gillean Callihan
Post # 82

Swan Lake Estates
Montrose, Kildare

The windows of the study were opened, the fresh breeze shifting the sheers and causing them to puff out and then relax, as if they took human-like breaths. The outdoor sounds of birds, men speaking, women chattering, horses snorting, dogs barking, the occasional bellow of a cow all blending as they, too, wafted into the otherwise silent study. Gillean was seated behind his desk, his strokes of quill steady and sure. A frown pulled tight between his brows, but more from concentration than frustration. Indeed, his determination was the same ... steady and sure. The more formal attire of his station had been discarded to a nearby chair and he worked in the simple comfort of the white, cotton shirt, sleeves rolled up mid arm, neck ties loosened. For all appearances, it was business as usual. And where this particular sort of correspondence was concerned it was, dangerously, business as usual.


It was with no small amount of reservation that I began to read your most recent update regarding your current state of affairs. I was pleased to find that you have settled in Paris and it suits your circumstances. France sounds as if it holds many possibilities and diversions. All of which make clear your nisus has not much changed since last I was in your company and, thus, sets firm my resolve regarding the necessity for that which has become the greater purpose.

The depth of your devotion toward Caiome could never be doubted and mine, as well, remains as steadfast. You and I are, neither one of us, uncertain where we stand in regards to my sister. I would be remiss not to mention that Swan Lake thrives under her caring hand and all adore her. The gentle folk here recognize her worth and are dedicated to her well being. Despite the challenges of her past, or perhaps because of them, she has blossomed - a rose among the thorns.

The hour grows late and there is still much to complete this day, including the posting of this correspondence. May you continue to be well until our paths cross again. Indeed, I wish it no other way.

Your son, Gillean

The missive was sealed with wax and pressed with the ring of Callihan. No doubt Ultan would recognize the need for caution where the Alliance was concerned.

Ultan Callihan had not failed in his attempt to raise a son who could weave his way with great success within that tight tapestry of intrigue. The sire had not wasted his time or his effort. He had trained his son for greater things, expecting much from him. And his son had not, in the least, forgotten the father's lessons.

Date: 08-12-12
Poster: Ultan Callihan
Post # 83

100 Rue Delambre
Paris, France

Ultan Callihan was not home when the letter from his son arrived. He returned in a mood best described as foul after losing badly at the gambling tables at one of the more exclusive casinos in Paris. After nearly tossing his cloak at a young page, he picked up the mail and went through it, all the while cursing his luck. Seeing the familiar handwriting, Ultan tossed the remainder of the mail down. Gregore was standing nearby as always.

"Go through the rest of this garbage and see what needs my attention. Tend to the rest as needed." He growled. "I'm going to my study. Sent the new maid to me within the hour. I wish to go over her ... duties." He snapped. Gregore bowed and watched the bad-tempered noble storm away. He turned back to the man a with a hint of a smile.

Slamming the door of the study closed behind him, Ultan poured himself a glass of brandy before he broke the seal and read the letter. It was careful, cautious and he smiled finally. Sitting at his desk, he began to write an answer.


My dearest son, how delighted I was to hear that all is well. I must say that I miss you and the conversations we used to have. I know we did not part on the best of terms, but as you can tell from the tone of my letters, all is forgiven.

I am glad to hear Caiome is doing so well. She was such a fragile creature. I feared at times she would never leave the safety of her cocoon. I am certain that she will soon find herself a bride, and happy with many children. Of course, I do hope the marriage is an advantageous one.

I am hoping that soon the two of you will come here to visit me if it is possible. There is much that you and I have to discuss about the future and my hopes for you. I expect to hear from you soon with news of your lands and the state of Kildare. I do miss the gossip and machinations of the court.


It was less then he wanted to say but it would do for now. Next time he would write more, and of course, his true desires would be hidden among his words. He sprinkled sand over the ink and when it was completely dry, once more put his seal to wax, mixed with a touch of his blood. As he rang the bell, Gregore opened the door.

"The girl is here, my Lord."

Ultan rubbed his hands together, then stood and made his way to the door. "Have this delivered first thing in the morning, Gregore." He waved him aside and studied the young woman waiting. She was a country lass with rosy cheeks and pale hair. "We are not to be disturbed, save for an emergency." He said in a low voice to Gregore before motioning the girl in. Gregore waited until the door was locked before he walked away. His Lordship would feel better soon enough.

Date: 07-21-12
Poster: Daniel Remmington
Post # 84


Caiome penned the response letter to Lord Thornston, all formal like as it should be. Perhaps he could read between the lines but otherwise it was cut and dry. First to thank him for his offer of which they would come to visit. They would arrive five days hence at his convenience. Which she knew was a proper enough amount of time for the other to be prepared, even if she knew he'd be prepared, for it also kept it from seeming she was rushing there in any kind of favoritism of this visit. No, she would keep herself set apart so that her brother held no suspicions. The day appointed she wore a frock of peach trimmed in white eyelet lace. A dipping neckline still held to enough modesty, more so than the gown she had worn to the Ball. All lightweight and fitted perfectly. A surrey would be utilized, which her brother would most likely join her in, as it was spacious and well cushioned. Any of the guards he chose to have with them, would ride alongside, although not too close that would cause any dust to blow over on them.

All too soon the designated day arrived and had the Callihans seated comfortably within the opened conveyance. Caiome sat cross from Gill and quite the sight she was. Her brother smiled to her, then reached around to tap the driver lightly with the silver handle of his ornamental walking stick. All fawn, forest green and deep browns and pure white from his green vest to his tan britches to his well polished, dark brown boots. His shirt was crisp and ivory, the sleeves billowing out from under that tailored vest, the finely knitted designs of doves stitched into the fabric. This was no pleasant, glad to see you visit and while the majority of his attire may give off a casual flare, the matching green tie around his neck added the assurance of the actuality. This was a formal visit because of the invitation. With Michael and their guards prepared to head out, the surrey started forward without a hitch. And... they were on their way.

Thornston at present had calmed, the majority of the day before and the morning set into the bustle of preparation. Not that the manor and those within it were not always anticipating unexpected company. It was the way of their existence and the preference of their lord and master, and so, it would be. Still, there were none of them beneath this roof who did not realize the importance of the impending arrival. Was their Lord Thornston not resplendent in his chosen attire today? The hour was upon them. And with that the case, Daniel went outside to await the company. Should he have made himself appear busy within? Perhaps. Did he mind looking as if he was as eager for the arrival as he actually was? Not at all for there he stood at the bottom of the wide, welcoming brick stairs, hands behind his back...waiting.

Michael and the guards were dressed in the colors that Caiome had chosen for them. A lighter version then what they had worn in the winter. He nodded at O'Brien as they started off, then settled in for the ride. The men were constantly watching the road around them since nothing had truly settled. Michael watched the road ahead mostly, telling himself the whole time that he didn't mind going. It was necessary. It was his duty. Dammit, it was Thornston.

Except for the French curls framing her face, the rest of her hair was rolled up into a netting with small pearls laced through the threading. She had a small parasol that matched the material of her dress and shoes of the same hue but made for walking not just on flooring but outdoors. "You look dashing, Gillean." She appreciated the way he dressed and how he filled his clothes. There was more to a man than what he wore and her brother proved that point. She studied both Dewar and O'Brien openly as they rode but said nothing of what she observed. The other two guards were given a glance over, clones of two that stood out far more than their uniforms. From there she studied the countryside, a perfect day to be out in it. Sunlight streamed down over knoll and dale with a summery haze of mountains as the backdrop. Distant lakes glistened in invitation for the heat even with the nice breeze that helped keep it from becoming insufferable. So the time was whiled away in light conversation with her brother as she pointed out various parts that drew her notice. Wasn't long before they reached Daniel Remmington's estate and there he was attired in a way much like how her brother wore his choice of clothing. The imp in her could not resist the remark, "look here, he anxiously awaits your arrival my brother." He may well note that curl to the edges of her lips.

With his hands cupping over the handle of his walking stick which was braced between his knees, Gillean leaned forward to see Remmington anxiously awaiting. "There are none of us here fooled into believing it is my company he anticipates..." His gaze drifted back over to Caiome and he relaxed back for the final moments before he had to act all civil and proper for his sister's sake. "...Rabbit."

"Welcome! Welcome! Welcome once again to Thornston, My Lord and Lady Callihan." Even before the surrey came to a full stop Daniel was calling over and walking to them. He waved away the man who had hurried over to open the door and took the handle himself. He reached up as he did to offer his hand to Caiome to help her down.

Michael realized that Caiome was studying him and looked her way, giving her a wink and smile before he looked away again. At least the ride was pleasant, and the only shadow he saw came from a deer watching them in some brush. He saw Daniel and thought he looked as anxious as a schoolboy about to meet a pretty lass but kept from either smiling or frowning at the image. Instead, he waited for the Lord and Lady to step down from the surrey before dismounting, and stood beside his horse, holding the reins until they were seen to by a stable boy.

She had caught Michael's wink early but had not return such in kind with her brother sitting across from her. That would not do! "Of course," in reply to her brother's comment. But she didn't add whether she enjoyed the notice or not. In the very beginning she had not and her brother knew that much. "Lord Thornston," turning her attention there as he approached and setting a light lacy gloved hand in his. These would be removed when it came time to dine later. Her hand in his she stepped down from the surrey under his assistance. "It is good to see you again." Which held to propriety but her brother, being behind her, would not see the look in her eyes that touched upon Daniel's for a brief moment. "I hope we did not keep you waiting.." and there the imp's curl to her lips formed again.

Gillean, Captain Dewar...they were present but were they acknowledged for now beyond the nod before he was dipping his head to hear Caiome better? "Today I have not waited long at all, but it seems an eternity before this day arrived." Daniel took the slender hand in his and hooked it over his offered elbow. "You look of peaches and cream, one of my favorite combinations." His voice lowered and since his head was already dipped to hear her words, he
added his own. "And that smile you offer me is dangerously tempting, M'Lady." He patted her hand lightly where it rested and only then looked back to the men. "I have a day of activities arranged. If the other guards would wish to find some shade and company within the barracks, my lands have been secured enough to ensure that the Lord and Lady will be well protected with just the company of the Captain. If...that will suit you, M'Lord."

Gillean stepped down from the surrey, turning to shut the door behind him. He heard every word. Every...single...word. The tight hold he had on the brass handle released. "That will work well enough, Thornston. Dewar? If you would dismiss your men and make yourself available to join us?"

There was trouble afoot already. He could see it in the actions of both men but his concern was for the one he served, and the Lady Caiome. "Of course, my Lord." He saluted Gillean with a touch of his fist to his chest, over his heart, then turned to speak to the three men. "Keep an ear out, Jacob." He actually whispered to the man. "Might be trouble. You heard his Lordship. Dismissed." He raised his voice for the dismissal. Didn't need to remind them to be on their best behavior, not with O'Brien with them. Once they headed off, he turned to follow the three nobles.

She didn't look to either her brother nor Dewar although she was well aware of the tension that was already rising in her brother. "Lord Thornston, or do you prefer Lord Remmington?" She had been curious on that being both were proper to use. She would switch between them but now wondered if he had a preference in public. Another question followed as she walked smoothly at his side. "What are the plans for the day?" Which had green eyes turned up to his again with the last question especially.

Oh, what he would prefer she call him could not, would not be addressed at this particular moment. "You may call me Daniel, when in such pleasurable company as your brother and your guard. And if you must be more formal, then Lord Thornston probably should be used in public." He smiled with genuine pleasure to the lady at his side, but a good part of that smile had to do with what he knew ...he positively knew... how that offer of his given name affected Gillean Callihan. "I thought first we might take a stroll through the gardens collecting elderflowers, and when we return from the tour of Thornston then we might have an elderflower cordial. Perhaps you would like to see what the serfs are doing with the lands and homes provided to them to manage."

Elderflower cordials? Since Caiome and Daniel had started walking as they talked, Gillean followed along behind them but that comment about elderflowers had him pausing while the two of them continued a few paces. Gillean glanced around to Michael. Were they really going to be gathering up flowers?

He followed along behind Gillean, listening to the conversation with a bit of amusement. Daniel was keeping everything nice and proper but there was an undertone to it that even had his teeth on edge. He looked at Gillean and raised his shoulders minutely in a shrug. He sure as hell hoped not but apparently that was the plan. And then the serfs? What was going on in that crafty mind of Lord Thornston?

"That sounds wonderful, Daniel. I've not had an elderflower cordial before," his name flowed smoothly from her lips like a near caress or so one might wonder in the velvety tones. She had not looked at her brother nor Dewar until she addressed them with dark eyes in a slant there beneath the thickness of lash. "Have you ever had an elderflower cordial?" It sounded exotic to her. "I wish to see what the serfs are doing with the lands as I'm sure my brother and guard would as well." She was sure that would be far more interesting to them than the picking of flowers. The fact that Daniel would pick flowers intrigued her in and of itself. She could not picture her brother doing so although Dewar might.

He rather liked the sound of his name from her lips and though it may look as if he glanced back to Gillean with Caiome's question for that answer, that twitch of brow portrayed so much more. "I'm delighted, so it shall be." The slightest cant of head to the Lord of Swan Lake and he turned to start forward again. The stroll did not take the front stairs up but wound them around to the right side of the large manor house and through the rock walled fence that held the before mentioned gardens. Once they entered beneath the arch, colors and scents overwhelmed the senses. Flowering vines, bushes, individual clumps of blooms in all variations of yellows, reds, whites, pinks, purples. Rich green foliage, some edged or veined with vibrant yellow or purple. Petals littered the stone walk or fluttered on the breeze. Daniel allowed the lady to step through first and then eased in behind her. "The elderberry bushes are over there." He indicated the area with a sweep of his hand. "I shall have Celia bring us a couple of baskets.

The man...was not kidding. Elderflowers it would be then. Not a big deal, after all, whatever made Caiome happy and from the look on his sister's face, Remmington had managed to accomplish that. The Bas'tid.

The only time Michael had picked flowers was when he was young and with his sisters, and for his mother. He didn't mind the garden however, and as he stepped through behind Gillean, a brow lifted. Ah well, he'd enjoy watching the three pick flowers while he stood "guard".

"How utterly beautiful," words came naturally as she slipped into the wonderland of flower laid out professionally all around her. In fact she turned in a graceful sweep that she might take it all in. There were small puffs, bits of flowers residue that floated in the air, borne of fairy dust some might argue. Some landed in her hair like being crowned as she moved about the flowers, taking in the scent of this one and that. She had left them all behind, "I am going to have to steal away your gardener," half a threat, half a plea. This was a garden one could only dream of in her mind's eye. Once Celia handed her off a basket, she was over to the elderberry bush to pick the flowers. A soft light hum on the tip of her tongue as butterflies fluttered and even hummingbirds flitted by.


Date: 07-22-12
Poster: Caiome Callihan
Post # 85

Daniel had waited for all three to enter before him and then he followed. It really was surreal, this wonderland of nature and art. Statues of gods and goddesses were draped with ivy, pixie miniatures were well established with the moss under the matured trees. Unlike Swan Lake's gardens, this one had been maintained for decades and it showed in the thick, heaviness of the healthy plants, meandering landscaping and expensive decorations. He accepted a basket from Celia and then handed it over to Gillean. "No doubt you wish to collect your own blooms, My Lord. I will share with your sister." A brief nod, a smile and he started in Caoime's direction.

Granted, Gill was rather impressed with the luxury and beauty within the garden walls. Still, this was Remmington and that was...Caiome! When Daniel handed over the wicker, Gill curled his hand over the handle but didn't yet take it. "Your eagerness may be your downfall, Remmington." Gill slanted a look Caiome's way to make sure she remained enthralled with her surroundings while he spoke in lowered tones to Daniel.

Daniel withdrew his support of the basket, twitching off a wink of comradery to the Swan Lake Lord. "That remains to be seen, now doesn't it?" He continued on to Caiome, coming to stand just shy of brushing upper arms. "You could steal him away, M'Lady. But then, you could also come to these gardens instead whenever you wished, and not take the man from his family." He smiled over to her and then leaned in to pluck free a star-shaped bloom from the obliging elderberry shrub.

Though Dewar managed not to look impressed, he was. He knew how his mother had nurtured the gardens of his own home until she was forced out and he had spent hours there with her. He watched Gillean and Daniel, nearly shaking his head but he caught himself. Instead he looked away, watching a bird hopping about the garden. It would be interesting to see how much control Gillean had and if he'd keep his temper during what promised to be a long day.

Didn't she looked the perfect picture of being part of this garden? It enhanced her beauty as she soaked it all in around her. One could imagine a small child hanging onto her skirts while she held another while picking the blossoms. She was far enough away not to hear the two's lowered words other than a masculine rumble. She looked up with a smile that would rival the sunlight around them before she was back to plucking blossoms. A soft touch of pink graced her cheeks as Daniel joined her. There had been that challenge she gave him about befriending her brother, the bear. A flicker of that within green eyes that shifted from him to her brother a moment then back. At least he didn't smash the basket, that was a good sign. "I would not wish to take a man from his family." That could have all kinds of implications as she left it that plain statement. A tiny smile hinted to the corners of her lips as she noted Dewar taking it all on. He knew her brother at this point nearly as well as she. That twinkle remained as she looked back to Daniel, something safe to speak on, "how do you go about making the cordial from the blossoms?"

Daniel made sure to pinch free the recently opened tiny buds and add them to Caiome's basket. "If I remember correctly, I believe MayBeth...she was my Nanny...she told me that you take these buds and you place them in sugar, let the flavor infuse into a syrup." He stopped picking and frowned, as if to remember. A smile replaced that draw of brows and he nodded. "Yes...and then you remove the blooms, add lemon I believe it is, and then I do believe you just leave it to steep for a while. While we're out in the fields should be plenty enough time, hmmm?" Gillean was close, he was listening, and Daniel damn well knew it. He continued speaking about cordials...but his gaze dipped to the lady's lips before slowly lifting back to meet her eyes. "Then...we'll add gin." With that, his brows danced up and down before he looked around and found Gill and Michael. "So do collect as many of the newly opened buds as you can, gentleman."

"So do, Dewar, hmmm?" Gillean growled beneath his breath, tweaking off a blossom and tossing it to the basket draped over his arm. His tone changed as he addressed Daniel. "Explain how the progress goes in the fields, Remmington."

"I'm supposed to be on duty." He answered under his breath but Gillean would hear. However, Dewar wasn't disobeying. He moved over to one of the bushes and started to pluck the flowers from the bush. He shouldn't have laughed earlier but with his back to the Callihan Lord he was smiling. That was why he kept his back to the man!

"How interesting," but her words were lowered mostly because they might hear the catch in her throat when his eyes dipped to her lips. It was almost as if she could feel them upon hers. She felt vulnerable at that moment as she dipped her head away, dark lashes lowering as to not give anything away by her eyes. Her brother was far too close and would be watching. She busied herself with the task that they could soon move on to the fields which would be of greater interest to both her brother and Dewar. She was as interested too but then she was enjoying the blossom plucking as well. She loved the garden and the thought of bringing her sketch book next time to capture it on paper was noted. Once she had her composure back she glanced to see just how many flowers her brother had picked so far.

Six. He had all of six small white stars in that basket. What had Michael added? Two of those?

When Caiome looked over, Daniel followed her lead and he chuckled to himself at Swan Lake's reluctance to pluck up something that was willingly offering. "Perhaps you could just hold the basket under, Gillean, and rake your fingers over. Like this. Hold the basket here, Caiome." Remmington placed his hand over hers and brought the hull of the basket beneath a bulb of blooms. He braced the stem with his fingers near the base and then gently stroked his other fingers over the bulk of it. The tiny blossoms obeyed and fluttered down into the basket. Daniel grinned over to Caiome. "Do forgive me, M'Lady, for wishing to prolong the process otherwise."

"Allow me, my Lord. Then you can talk to them a little easier." Michael picked up the basket and did as Thornston suggested. He might as well make himself useful and the sooner the basket was filled, the sooner they could move on. Besides, why not make things a little more interesting. Surely Gillean did not appreciate Remmington being so close to his sister.

Gillean shot a double look Michael's way, but nodded his gratitude. He did just that, moved over to be closer to Caiome. "You didn't answer my question about the fields, Daniel. I believe you've been distracted by flowers."

"You're quite right, Gillean." They were both using given names, but neither of them did it out of friendship. "On both accounts. Although there is more than just beauty in the flowers here capable of distracting a man from talk of business. Tends to sway the mind to things more pleasurable."

"Do attempt to stay focused, Daniel. Certain distractions can be ... deadly. Caiome?" Gillean offered his arm to his sister. "While Dewar and Daniel finish collecting blooms for our cordials later, would you take a turn around the garden with me?"

Daniel smiled, mostly to himself, and nodded once to Gillean following that warning. His gaze drifted to and lingered on Caiome before he turned to resume collecting tiny whites. "Be sure to note the wisteria vines along the south wall, M'Lady. My father commissioned an artist to carve mourning doves from discarded branches and they have been grafted into the vine, their feet are now forever a part of the living branches."

"Oh my," came as near a laugh considering she tried to suppress it as Daniel showed her how to rake in the blossoms. "This is much quicker," which had her glance to her brother and Dewar beyond but she was so very much aware of Daniel's touch. The sun had grazed her cheeks again into a soft rose. Unpainted lips seemed fuller. Eyes brighter. Now this conversation she could hear as it was right there with her in the middle. "Gentlemen..." nearly squeaked out as the flush only deepened upon the curve of her cheeks. It seemed that Daniel got her basket as she would not refuse her brother. Hand curled into the crock of his arm as he would very efficiently move her away from Daniel. For now. Green eyes lingered upon Daniel's as he spoke on the branches. "How wonderful, I will surely make note of them." The look however wasn't really matching her words although her words were true. Tearing away, as certainly it felt that way, she looked up to her brother as they moved off with a disarming smile. "Shall we head there to see such a sight?"

"I would like nothing more at this point, Rabbit." Gillean returned her smile and a nod to her, moving them away from Daniel and his ... whatever the hell he was up to.

Daniel continued to enjoy himself, raking his hands along the stems and collecting those blooms. What remained would soon turn into berries, and those would be used to make wine. Such a useful shrub, the elderberry, in so many wonderful ways. "Is she ever left to her own devices, Dewar?" Daniel didn't look to the man, just continued to brush blooms and shake his basket level.

Michael was glad the men weren't around to see him. Not that he cared so much that he was doing it, but O'Brien would never let him hear the end of it! He paused to look at Daniel and nodded. "At times, but, frankly, it's rare. They were separated for a long time, and I don't believe any man will come up to his Lordship's standards." He smiled as he added, "no insult intended, my Lord." Gillean was as obsessed as a sane man could be when it came to Caiome's safety, but then again, Dewar wasn't certain Gillean was sane either!

Luckily she was not in earshot of that conversation between Dewar and Remmington. She was relieved he didn't say anything on Daniel, no warnings or noticing how she reacted around the man. It was different but then she could put up a good front. Especially if they didn't talk too directly on Daniel. "Oh look, there they are.." meaning the vines as she tugged on his arm instead of slipping away and over on her own. Once there her hand slipped away to she could examine the carving, "how very tasteful, intriguing," she was looking for the right words to describe the ingenuity of the artist that did this.

At least one hundred little doves were perched within the leaves and copious blooms, heads tilted or uplifted as if to peer above the foliage. Gill allowed Caiome to guide him, smiling with her examination of what was, truly, quite an interesting process. "I'm really not so certain this is a good thing, Caiome." He stepped up, brushing aside the dangling purple cluster. He studied the small bird beyond, then looked over to Caiome. "Remmington. You. Not so comfortable with that whole idea. If I could come up with one bad thing to besmirch his reputation in your eyes, I would. All I have is what his father did. And neither of us would wish to be judged by the actions of our father. So for now, Rabbit, I will just say...I am not comfortable with this whole idea. And...until I am?" He shrugged, releasing the hold on the blooms and they bounced back into their previous position. "Well, until then." Gillean only shook his head to the negative. He wasn't relenting in his opinion. Daniel Remmington was not his favorite candidate for Caiome's company. "Don't you find him a bit...effeminate? He knows how to make elderberry cordials for God's sake, Sister."

Daniel waved Celia over to collect his basket, casting a look across the distance to the talking Gill, the observing Caiome. "I'm not so sure, Captain, that any man will ever either. And for that reason..." He looked over to Michael. "There are none of us who should allow that fact to waylay our best intentions. In the end, it is the Lady's regard any honorable man would seek, not the brother. I know Gillean Callihan. He is not a man inclined to ... allow me to say, pleasant tendencies, except where Caiome is concerned. Personally, I do not hold that against him. But I will take offense if he manages to taint the lovely lady's regard with his callousness. All of us have demons to battle, Dewar. I do. I am sure you do. But none of us should submit to is then we become as evil as the source. Evil, even if devoted, can be a dangerous thing. I can't have it where Caiome is concerned, Captain. You are the man's right hand. Know now...I will not have it." As he finished speaking, he drifted his gaze back over to the brother and sister.

"I truly don't believe he'll stand in the way of her happiness." He handed his basket to Celia as well, then looked at Daniel. "And I'm well aware of his ... tendencies. Perhaps not as well as you. I also can't predict what he'll do in regards to you and Lady Caiome but I will say this. I have sworn to protect them both, with my life if necessary. And I will do just that." He took in a deep breath, then exhaled as if easing away his own tension. "How did you meet him?" Not where or when but how.

Gillean might note a barrage of emotions cross her features, so fast that it would be hard to pinpoint any one of them. She drew in a breath and took a few moments before answering his outlook. She was over as a hand lifted to cup his cheek, thumb stroking in slow motion as she spoke. "You know I love you dearly brother. I would give my life to save yours but truly," here she paused in taking a slow breath, "is there anyone that you could say, give me a name, that you would be comfortable seeing me with?" He needed to come back down to earth. "I hope that one day you will get past your.." here she struggled for a word to use on the infatuated women, "companions of night to one that would give you true love in your heart." Yes, she knew, had suspected but then found proof. Women talked. Now that was a monumental statement right there but it was sincere, it was in her eyes that he might find real love one day. She didn't know who, she didn't know where, but she knew it would not be any of his present bed warmers.

Certainly they would not judge another by their father. Daniel's father.. she knew little about and now suspected he was as bad as their father. Perhaps it was surprising Daniel showed any interest in her for her father. Bad seed and all that. "I find that makes him down to earth and versatile." She was intrigued rather than put off by the fact he knew how to make such a cordial. "We shall find out later just how good he is at that." Implying he was probably good at a lot of things, much like her brother. She smiled then, noticing the two had handed off their baskets. "I do believe it is time to see what the serfs have done.." curling her hand back into the crook of his arm again as she added, "try to be a little more open minded, it is not like I'm drawn to the dockside sailors," trying to lighten it up as surely she could be in notice of ones far lesser than the Lord of Thornston. She was leading him back to the others as she finished up what she had to say for now.

Gillean's hand lifted to cup over the top of hers while she spoke. He didn't show a change in expression at all when she mentioned his private ... affairs. Women talked? Well then, if they did, Caiome should know that there was more than likely not a single 'Lady' out there that would provide 'real love' to Gillean's preferences. He didn't have to like the fact that his sister knew more than she needed to. But he didn't show that he minded, he just turned his head to kiss the hand against his cheek. He listened, didn't speak the entire time, and when her hand lowered to his arm, he curled his over hers. Nice little speech but that didn't change a damn thing. He still didn't approve of Daniel Remmington. No, he'd not approve of anyone. But anyone, included Remmington. It was what it was. Open minded like hell. "I'm not drawn to dockside sailors either, Caiome. Well, unless I've had too much to drink." A twitch of a grin her way and they returned to the two waiting by the elderberry bushes.

Before the siblings came too close, Daniel passed a glance to Michael. "How? We were forced, Dewar. Shoulder to shoulder at the age of thirteen." He finished that with an uplift of chin to the brother/sister return. "Amazing, is it not? There are a few there that actually sprout blooms from their bellies and beaks." With a sweep of arm, he indicated the door leading out of the garden. "Shall we continue on to the stables?"

He knew what that meant and would have nodded had the Lord and Lady not returned. Instead he glanced at Daniel's hand then looked up at the siblings. He couldn't tell anything from either of them but Caiome at least was smiling. The Captain looked at Daniel again then waited for the nobles to lead on. Some day he intended to find out why Gillean hated Daniel.

Her free hand lifted to pat over his, "now that is a positive thing I've heard all night from you," giving him a wink as she didn't see, no matter how crazy the idea.. her brother swinging that way. "There is always Dewar.." good lord.. did she really say that? Indeed. In a tease. Her smile would never give away the talk she just had as she slipped a glance to Michael first for her last comment, out of his earshot, with her brother. "We have enough blossoms now? I certainly await the pleasure of the cordial," words spoken as she looked straight at Daniel, "once it is ready. The carvings were creatively superb." Certainly her words rang true. A nod given as they started for the stable. Her hand still within the crook of her brother's arm.

"Dewar tempts me everyday, Rabbit" From his voice, she would not be able to tell if he was serious or not although as he looked at Dewar, he offered the Captain a dip of head since he wouldn't have heard that addition to Caiome's comment. Or was she suggesting Dewar for herself? Either way. Anyway. They started for the gateway door without another word from Swan Lake's Lord.

Daniel noted the head motion from Gillean and shot a look to Dewar. What was that about? None of his business to be sure and Daniel did attempt not to delve in the depths of None-of-your. "And I, the pleasure of you enjoying said cordial, M'Lady. Come." He led the way, stepping through the doorway and waiting on the other side for them to exit the garden. "The stables, as you know, are right over there."

Dewar had no idea about the conversation but the nod was returned with one of his own. In his mind, it meant all was well. He brushed off any residue from the flowers before falling into line again. Time to play follow the Nobles again. Of course, he was more interested in the horses, or the serfs for that matter, then in picking flowers.

Caiome couldn't help the smirk as she saw the return nod as if Dewar and her brother had a secret life together. This was rich, certainly. She coughed, lifting her free hand to cover her mouth. Really. Except eyes of green wandered over Daniel as thoughts of his brother turned to other thoughts of her and the one her brother marked as taboo yet couldn't find a single fault other than he didn't want her with anyone. How much more enticing that made it too. It didn't take long to get to the stables and a fine mare was saddled up for her, considering her gown, she would be riding side saddle. Not preferred but certainly she was well versed there too.

It took everything within Gillean not to look to Caiome as she coughed and smothered her amusement with her hand. Gillean left his walking stick leaning beside the stable wall and once Caiome was safely mounted, he swung up to his saddle as well. "So we shall see what a man does with his own property, rather than that of his lord's?"

Daniel spoke a few words with one of the men in the stable, who then darted off toward the manse. He nodded with a smile to Gillean's question before slipping his foot within the stirrup and mounting. "To some degree. There is a small amount of pride in something done well no matter who it is for. But when one's family is well taken care of, because of something you have done yourself, then is a good thing this pride in accomplishment for oneself rather than one's overseer." A click of tongue and he urged his horse forward to the double doors opened to the field beyond.

Dewar mounted his own horse, then urged out of the stable. The horse seemed glad to be outdoors again and wanted to run but he held him back. Once they were back at Swan Lake, he'd have one of the younger men take him out to the field. Now this he didn't mind.

"You do have their sworn allegiance? Do they pay a tax?" She was wondering if they were scot free to do with whatever they wanted of the land given. She was trying to understand how it worked as they rode along. She was near Daniel and well her brother. In fact Dewar would not be that far that he couldn't join in the conversation. She was noticing her surroundings too.


Date: 08-09-12
Poster: Daniel Remmington
Post # 86

The Workings of Thornston

They were, all of them, proficient equestrians given their lineage and their stations. As they traveled along, field workers stopped and waved, tugged off caps and bowed to the lady amongst the males. A canal was being dug through a swampy marsh, clearing away the stagnant sludge and making way for the flow of clear, fresh water instead. Groupings of huts sprouted up here and there, women and children pausing to acknowledge the riders with a curtsy or ribbons offered up to their lordship to hand over to the lady riding next to him. The youngsters swarmed, making it difficult to proceed at one point until the adults managed to get them settled and tugged away. Earlier, Daniel had nodded to Caiome, his intention of answering her question obvious with that motion of head but with the workings of Thornston visible, he waited to answer verbally. As he handed over a yellow ribbon tied with lavender knots down its length to her he spoke. "They do pay taxes. All relevant to their holdings. If they felt they could manage more, then I expect more progress from them, and with that, comes the obligation of additional taxes. They own their property, M'Lady. But there are none of us without our obligations for that which has been entrusted to us." He shifted in the saddle just enough to look past Caiome over to her brother. "Would you not agree, Lord Callihan?"

The scene from the moment they made the working fields had intrigued Gillean. The devotion with which these people seemed to toil and labor said a lot for their state of mind and their appreciation of Thornston's generosity. He hadn't missed the fact that one of the men in the canal had waved Daniel on down to them, as if he expected the man to join in their labor, to which Daniel offered only an uplift of chin. Was that something that the peasant might actually expect of the man? Nasty business, that marsh. Remmington thigh deep in putrid ooze didn't seem feasible. Did it? It wasn't until after Thornston asked that question that Gillean actually spoke, plucking his way gingerly amongst the people as the bodies shifted to clear a path for them. "I'm surprised you need even ask that of me, Thornston." Gillean didn't even bother to look in the man's direction as he replied. Truly, the man's question was rhetorical. Gillean Callihan's obligation toward what/who was entrusted to him was unquestionable.

Dewar rode with the nobles so he was close enough to hear the conversation, but he added nothing. Instead he looked with interest at Thornston's holdings and those who worked for him. He looked at Gillean a moment with his answer, then turned to watch the work in the canal. He looked down at one tiny lass and winked at her, causing the child to giggle and cling to her mother's skirt. He turned his attention ahead again, almost smiling at Daniel's question. Could be taken several ways.

This was a horse of a different color. Caiome was very impressed and had always been one for freedom. Most lords, overlords and especially warlords avoided such freedoms and went the suppression way in hoping to gain their ends to any matter. Freedom meant you had the chance to say no and many would not give that chance. It seemed Daniel had and the people he had given land to were only more loyal. She kept stealing glances her brother's way to try and note all and any of his reactions to this. The ribbon that had been handed her was then tied upon a lock of hair much to the delight of the child giver. The breeze played with the streamers down along her back. "It seems you are well loved by your people." Which she wasn't sure if her brother could say the same of himself. Although, there had been no rebellions so that was a good sign. The marsh had a funny smell to it and she was ever wary of snakes. One creature she didn't care for as her cousin found out. "Will they one day plant this area and with what?" Although Daniel had asked a question of her brother too and a shift of focus ended up there.

One hour led to two, then three as they rode leisurely along. Whenever there were workers, they did appear pleased with their current status. Everyone seemed to work and work hard. No doubt Thornston demanded no less from them and they, for now, wished not to disappoint. The older serfs knew the previous Lord and made sure the youngers were well aware of the difference. "The marsh, Caiome?" His gaze filtered down the fluttering ribbon in her hair back up to her features. "No, I would see that as a brook or stream, to be channeled out into the thirsty fields. There is much to be done there though. In time." He smiled to her, a click of tongue, a tap of heel and he picked up their pace. The smile he had shared with her turned to one more so to his own thoughts. "All time."

Gill noticed the same as Caiome, that Daniel did seem to be well liked by his people. Why? Because he had given them land to work? Or was there more? Surely just telling a man to take this soil and make something of it wouldn't produce the loyalty and gratitude that showed itself throughout Thornston. Even in Remmington's household, the servants seemed to trip over themselves to please the man. "Your lands are extensive, Remmington. I'm sure we won't travel the whole of it this day, or several were we to stay that do you manage to protect these people? I've yet to see a single guard. Do you expect them to fend for themselves in this way as well? Do they not fear with your holding at such a distance that their families might someday be in jeopardy?"

Daniel's head dipped, his smile spreading, then he cut a look to Gillean over the neck of Caiome's horse. "All that needs, Gillean. A show of force and might does not necessarily mean a good defense. At times, as you surely know, it is the suspected but unseen where the true power lies. That which is depended upon without any outward ... display. That..." Here he chuckled, offering a shrug of shoulder with his good humor. "And the full length of our borders are walled...and manned...with nary a peasant here that can't use a pitch fork or axe with less deadly force than any sword to be sure. I wouldn't wish to cross them."

Dewar was studying the faces of the peasants, brow furrowed slightly. He was wondering too about their willingness to please Daniel. There didn't seem to be fear in their faces, nothing off that he could detect. Still.... it made him wonder.

That's not something she thought of. Guards had all but become invisible to her, or more a want not to see not only Dewar but others that were set to guard her. Especially recently when not in the company of her brother. Made it all the harder to sneak out and away. Still, she had her ways and was up to the challenge. A double checking, double tracking to ensure she would not be followed when the time came she wanted to get away. Her thoughts had her with that far away look in her eyes until it passed with a blink and catching up on the talk between Daniel and her brother, with her in between. She first caught upon Daniel's eyes for dipping away to her brother. "Have you thought about supplying them with swords, training those that wished it?" She needed to add in something to cover up her distraction. Distracting thoughts too.

This once, Daniel's smile faded slightly when Caiome spoke but he was quick to replace it fully. "A thought worth considering, Caiome. Thank you." By now they had circled back around and the manor house could be seen in the distance. Daniel didn't say anything else about arming the masses instead... "I am very much looking forward to the remainder of the evening."

If Gill hadn't been looking fully at Daniel when Caoime made that suggestion, he wouldn't have noticed a thing. The man's voice had not changed in the least. As cordial and appreciative of his sister's suggestion as if she had offered to climb over into his lap and ride the rest of the way back that way. But Gillean had looked, and even the faint expression change caused Gillean's own gaze to narrow with consideration. "Caiome..." Gill began softly. "With so much on Lord Thornston's mind, we'll need allow him some small amount of leniency for not thinking of everything." For that moment, even so brief, the men met each other's gaze, and neither one held any hint of genteel propriety. "I don't know about anyone else, but I'm interested in tasting this cordial that Thornston has promised." That said, he twisted enough to look to Dewar. "And you?"

Michael had been lost in his own thoughts, but he snapped back quickly and looked at Gillean when he spoke. "Aye, I am. I've never tasted the like." He wasn't sure if he had or not. Sounded like something his grandmother would brew for aches and pains.

She was becoming more in tune with Daniel and had noticed that slight change. She had hit upon something and even the full smile that quickly replaced the other fading one, didn't have her not notice. Still, it was not something to continue with at the moment. Just another intrigue about this man. There were secrets and she just touched on something. How very exciting! Sent a chill through her. "Of course," in reply to her brother as green eyes turned there. Except she caught her brother's look to Daniel which had her swiftly looking back his way. The fact her brother wanted to taste the cordial, after all said and done earlier this day, told her more than cordial tasting. It almost seemed that he was covering up what ever secret Daniel had. Even more intriguing! "It is that time and I await our labors for the sweet liquor." She was also getting hungry but that she didn't mention presently.

As they arrived back in the stables, men and boys hurried to collect the mounts and assist the lady down. Together the four made their way back to the manse. "We will all have time to freshen up. Rooms have been made ready for you. Shall we meet in the grand hall an hour's time? Will that suit everyone?" Daniel nodded off his thanks to the servant who opened the door for them.

"We thank you for that consideration, Remmington." Gillean added as a manservant stepped up to him to deliver him to the room assigned for the evening.

"Thank you, my Lord. " He added after Gillean spoke. He nodded at the manservant then glanced at Gillean. Not having the two nobles under his watch made Dewar nervous.

She thanked the young man with more a smile than words as he helped her dismount. Peeling the riding gloves from her fingers as she stepped away missing his fluster and quick glance to his lordship. That was something Caiome missed for her distraction. "That sounds good to me," as they headed in and time for her to explore her room, more than likely for at least one night. She wondered how close, or rather, how far it was from Remmington's.

Daniel remained at the bottom of the staircase as they three continued up, his gaze lingering on one more so than the other two. A soft nod of head with satisfaction and then he continued on to another section of the manor. The hour provided seemed to drag for some, to go swiftly for others. But in the end, it was a full sixty minutes when the chime for dinner sounded.

Dewar took that time to clean up and then rest, though he didn't make use of the bed. He sat at a chair and stared out the window. Not at the grounds but the sky. He may have dozed but when the chime sounded, he stood and made his way to the door. In the hall, he waited for the Lord and Lady of Swan Lake.

She had a change of clothes. Actually she had a few changes of clothes and an overnight gown. She came prepared. There was so much to see that most likely they would be staying much longer to the chagrin of her brother. But even there, she felt he had accepted the inevitable. She had asked Daniel to befriend her brother but she really didn't think that was possible, but not impossible? It seemed if anyone could accomplish it, it would be Daniel for he was a man of extraordinary accomplishments. That very fact only added to his intrigues. She had freshened up and leaned at the bay window looking out over the magnificent gardens, which was probably why this room was chosen for her. Her thoughts whimsical to pass the time until the dinner chime was heard. She pulled from her daydreams and headed out, meeting up with her brother and Dewar in the hall. A fresh summery smile already in place, perhaps remnant of the previous view.

Gillean met up with his sister in the corridor, his gaze dipping down and then back up as he took in her appearance. It wasn't so much what she wore. She was radiant. Aglow with life and excitement and ... joy. There was something else as well. That sparkle of ... was it hope? Promise? Anticipation? Gill took a step back, tilting his head as he smiled over to her. "It is just dinner, Rabbit." He chuckled low, offering his arm to her.

Dewar was pretty sure he knew why Caiome was smiling but it was hard not to smile in return. And her happiness made Gill more ... bearable. To a point. Once they were in Daniel's company again, he was sure that would all change. "You look beautiful, Lady Caoime, if I may say so." He already did but he couldn't help adding the last.

She was watching him keenly, her smile never fading although she wondered what was going on through his head. "I always attire thus for dinner as a guest.." well, even if this really was the first place they had been asked to as guests. Eyes sparkled that turned on Michael for the compliment, "thank you Captain Dewar." She really hadn't thought he noticed much, or words being courteous. Still, it brightened her smile just a touch and gave her a little more confidence in her appearance for this evening. "I am hungry," giving them both a wink as if they were the ones holding up the procession to the dining hall.

"No doubt, you are not the only one." Gill muttered under his breath, cutting a look over to Dewar when Caiome thanked him for the compliment before the threesome continued on toward the stairs.

Daniel was not awaiting them at the foot of the stairs when they started their descent, but before they were more than halfway down he came around, a hand resting on the base balustrade. His gaze lifted, passing over the guard, the brother and resting on the lady. He didn't say anything. Did he need to? His gaze didn't falter from the moment he saw her to the time she joined him.

Michael meant the compliment and luckily, didn't hear Gillean or he might not give her another in his presence. He smiled at the wink, then followed them down the steps. He watched how Daniel's gaze was glued to Caiome and though he kept his face neutral, he grimaced inside. Things were about to get tense again. He decided to do his best to ignore the tension and enjoy the meal.

Caiome could feel the flush on her cheeks rising as Daniel appeared with his focus to end and stay upon her. Hers was upon his but she didn't miss a step. Can you picture that? Her launching through the air in the hopes that Daniel caught her, probably end up sprawled over him. Right. Her brother would lose it! That smile turned into a smirk for her thoughts. "I am truly famished for the wonderful day you have graced us with, Lord Thornston." And if he looked very close.. to her lips.. he might see them form the word Daniel. Something her brother and Dewar would not see for the angle.

When she spoke, most times, that was exactly where Daniel's gaze focused. On her lips. His name, even though not spoken aloud, caused him to offer her a dip of head. Gratitude. Appreciation. Expectation. "It has been my honor, and continues to be as you join me for this meal." Although, without a single doubt, his words were for the lovely Caiome, his gaze touched upon each of them and he offered them a bow of head and shoulders. "Manfred, if you would show our guests to the dining hall, I will check on the special drinks that are being prepared for us after. Please, do excuse me. M'Lady. Lord. Captain. I will be but a moment more." That said, he continued around them, a momentary, miniscule pause as he passed Caiome to pass his gaze over her features.

"Take as long as you need, Lord Thornston." Gill offered cordially. Right. And with his sister and Michael, followed Manfred away from Daniel's presence.

Hmmm, Michael hadn't noticed the ceilings before. He studied them a moment, mostly to ready himself, and then lowered his eyes when Daniel excused himself. Just in time to nod at the man. Well, as long as Caiome enjoyed herself all would be well. Keep telling yourself that Michael.

There was the slight dip of dark lashes over green eyes as he passed her. That certain look that might well cause him to wonder. Fleeting. They were on their way to the dining room and assaulted with the best of scents all mingling as much as those that served the table were doing. Everything precise and timed, timed to include their Lordship. "How wonderful and enticing. Can you guess what we'll be having?," meaning by scents alone while she passed a glance over her brother and Michael as they reached the table. Her hand slid from her brother's arm as she was guided to a seat picked for her by one of the servants. She gracefully sat while guiding the material of her dress accordingly.

"Compliments heavily salted with lust and peppered with yearning?" Gill muttered under his breath to himself, nodding to the manservant who had indicated the chair for him to claim while he dined. Then he spoke up in order to answer his sister where he could be heard. "I dare not guess further, Caiome, for no doubt his Lordship has set forth his best for ... us ... this night."

Michael was passing by Gillean when he muttered. His lips twitched just a touch but otherwise, his expression remained the same. He thanked the manservant then looked at Caiome and allowed the smile to appear. "I don't have a clue, but it does smell delicious." He glanced at Gillean, then added, "I doubt we'll have long to wait to find out."

It was a good thing she didn't hear that being set apart from her brother in the seating. Otherwise she would duly remind him he knew best about lusting and yearning to recognize it. "Then we shall have to wait until our host returns.." smile encompassed them both as she took up the cloth napkin to spread over her lap.


Date: 08-13-12
Poster: Caiome Callihan
Post # 87

Daniel entered just as Caiome spoke, handing a rolled parchment back to the butler who had followed him before continuing in. "Which shall not be long at all, M'Lady." Although a servant had come up alongside Caiome to assist her with her chair just as the others had Michael and Gillean, Daniel motioned them away with the slightest motion of head and saw to the task himself. Easing her in to a comfortable position. He looked up and over to the steward and man began to pour the wine while Daniel claimed his chair. "I do apologize for the momentary delay but I trust it has only encouraged your appetite." As before, and as per usual for this household, the meal consisted of several courses, each perfectly prepared and precisely presented with the wine service complimenting the flavors of the food.

Gillean watched from under a lowered brow as Thornston attended to his sister but when the man sat, he lifted his gaze over to him. "For just a moment's slight, Remmington, I would like to comment on the fact that I am greatly impressed with the workings of your lands." When the bowl of soup was placed before him, he thanked the server with a fractional nod. "And that is all I will mention of business during the meal."

Michael watched the Lord of Thornston tend to Caiome as well, but with a slight smile. He looked at Gillean when he spoke, but since he had nothing to add, he only thanked the server quietly and as soon as the two Lords and the Lady Caiome began to eat, he did the same.

She smiled up upon Daniel as he assisted her in her chair, brief as it was but the eye contact held long enough before dipped away. "Thank you," came softly spoken as she took up her glass of wine to take a taste. "Will the cordial be later then?" The question out but then her brother spoke up. It wasn't so much the words in appraisal.. but it was rare for her brother to pay such a compliment, especially to Daniel. Maybe things were starting to look up? Once the soup was set, she waited for the host to begin eating so that she might.

Daniel made himself comfortable, taking up his spoon. "It is a work in progress, Callihan." Daniel's lips twitched into a smile considering the fact that neither of the nobles at this table saw fit to call the other by their given names or by their titles. A cant of head to Gillean and Daniel averted his attention to a much more pleasant sight...and topic. "Indeed, My Lady Caiome. Following the meal, when we retire to the parlor. Unless, of course, you would prefer yours now." He lifted a hand as if to make the demand for her cordial this very moment.

Gillean actually smiled, but he dipped his chin and brought up his spoon and that feature disappeared. Let the man press his advantage. For now.

He had waited for the sparring to begin and didn't have to wait long. He just smiled slightly to himself and continued to enjoy both the soup and wine. Eyes lifted to Caiome for just a second or two to see if she'd accept the cordial. She seemed blissfully unaware of the first round.

Her hand lifted as if to bring his back down, "oh no,"slightly blushing, "I was curious. You know what they say about the curious and the cat, except satisfaction brought him back." Perhaps she was alluding to something else as her hand settled back to the table in taking up her spoon. "I shall enjoy it later with everyone else." Averting her eyes back to her soup as it was a safe place as she started in.

Thornston's brows actually lifted with surprise, considering her statement and the implications that he could so easily, and willingly, tack to it. The hand that was lifted closed around the stem of his wine glass and he tipped the rim in her direction. "I would wish nothing more than your satisfaction, M'Lady." He then began to eat, slipping in easy conversation during. "You all find your rooms suitable?"

Gillean stroked his napkin along his lips, eyeing the distance from Thornston to his sister, back and forth while they spoke. The cloth once more found the support of his thigh and he didn't reclaim his spoon. "Your inheritance leaves nothing to desire." Dark eyes narrowed across the way to the Lord of this grand manse, his addition was made for propriety and his sister's comfort. "It seems you have taken care of every possible detail for your guests. For that we can not but all be most grateful. It is, perhaps, part of the scheme of comfort that the master's chambers as well as that of the family are on the other side of the manor. I've noticed a similar design for many of the more elite homes built during the era of this residence." Gillean wasn't fishing, he was already filleting the cod before it had a chance to flop about and draw attention.

Daniel nodded, not looking over to Gillean at first. A flicker of a gaze touched on the lady as she enjoyed her meal before he spoke. "Privacy can not ever be taken for granted, My Lord Callihan. At times, it is just as important to comfort as a well cushioned mattress or a warmed, oiled bath."

Gillean had spoken for them all and again, Dewar felt no need to add anything. He just watched one man then the other. Words could be used so well by some. Best he keep out of it but that didn't mean he couldn't enjoy it.

She realized for certain thoughts formulating, that she should not set her brother off by her words or deeds anymore than normal. But oh, what a wicked idea her brother just gave her, speaking on old manses and how many were constructed similar. That would mean there could be possible secret passageways. She would have to explore her room. How delightfully exciting if there should be such. She slipped a glance her brother's way before back to their host. "My room has the most gorgeous view of the gardens and beyond. I have no complaints." To at least address his question then she was back to eating her meal, almost too quietly for her.

The dinner conversation wasn't always riddled with unspoken meanings or subtle threats, As the courses arrived, the wine was refilled or changed out to compliment the fare, and the four spoke of lands and holdings. They discussed upcoming social events. They chatted about Kildare and Montrose, expertly avoiding the past and for the most part, strategically skirting issues other than those as trivial as, per se, the state of the roads. Once dessert was served and consumed, Thornston's lord eased his chair back, straightening up to stand. "If Swan Lake would do me the honor, we can now retire to the south lawn. A lovely breeze oft times accompanies the stars and while we enjoy both, we can also partake of the fruits of our labors." Daniel smiled over to Caoime. "Elderflower cordials." He extended his palm to the lady, not his arm, as he stepped around the corner of the table.

When Daniel stood, so did Gillean. Although the meal had remained, hospitable, the undercurrent of possibility had not dissipated. The duo of hours spent dining in relative peace hiccupped to a halt when Remmington offered his hand to Caiome. Dark eyes spanned the distance from offered palm to deciding sister and he growled under his breath a word probably none would hear. Emmerde. He cut a look to Michael, so swift and fleeting that Gill really didn't register the man at all, just his location. "The day has been a long one, Remmington, but I, for one, have been looking forward to this grand finale prior to finding our beds." Cordials. Bed. And then Caiome would be safe at least for the few hours spent within the confines of her room.

Dewar actually relaxed during the dinner. Perhaps too much but the food was delicious and the wine even better. He stood as the others did, having contributed some to the conversation. He wasn't close enough to Caiome to interfere with Daniel's offer, but he did glance over at Gillean. While the Lord's expression showed little, Michael would swear he saw waves of angry heat coming from the man!

Luckily she ate enough of the food presented in courses to offset the wine; which there was plenty of. She felt warm inside, mellow, by the time the dessert plates were removed and she was up to place her hand in Daniel's when it was offered as if nothing out of place. Something she didn't even think twice on nor look her brother's way. So any expression, minute or not, were missed for a change. Perhaps it was due to the relaxed conversation that she fell into during the meal and continued with her.. She missed the fumes rising from her brother but then would it have mattered? No. "Something I have been looking forward to for a good portion of this evening." Perhaps something else but then that something else may or may not happen like the sampling of the cordials would. "A breeze would be welcome."

Daniel's fingers closed possessively around Caiome's slender hand, guiding her away from the table. "It is my constant endeavor to provide something for ... " His gaze drifted over to Gillean and Michael before looking back to Caiome. " guests to look forward to." The hand in his he eventually brought up and tucked into the crook of his arm. Daniel may goad Gillean and the captain with his words and his actions, but he was still a gentleman - for the most part - where Caiome was concerned. "Manfred, I'm thinking by the Magnolias, if you would see to that?" With the servant's dip of head and shoulders, he was off to do the lord's bidding.

Remmington and Caiome exited first, Gillean and Michael falling in behind. When the guard came up alongside Gill, the lord of Swan Lake didn't look at his captain, just spoke to him with his gaze straight ahead. "Would I be overreacting, Dewar, if I ever so nonchalantly withdrew my dagger and plunged the blade of it to the hilt into the back of our Lord Thornston's neck?" He cut a look the Captain's way, almost smiled, and never once slowed his pace as they remained in the wake of the Lord and Lady before them.

If Caiome knew of her brother's dislike for Daniel, it didn't seem to matter, though Daniel was careful to remain a gentleman always. He nearly stopped dead when he heard Gillean but he just coughed to cover his laugh. "Just a touch, my Lord." He kept his voice low, his eyes straight ahead but there was laughter in his eyes and he didn't bother hiding it.

Luckily she didn't hear her brother! He might get to see Caiome's Fury. Something that would flow over onto the dutiful Captain Dewar. "You know how to be the perfect host," everything had been on the up and up this day, probably to the chagrin of her brother. She knew he was like a crouching tiger waiting for an opportunity to find fault, to find an opening for his suppressed anger and aggression, to pounce. Did she do all this purposely to goad her brother? No. Perhaps at first some was done just as a sibling would do, but this now, no, Daniel had truly come to intrigue her in a number of ways. From his ability as a gentleman right down to his luring qualities of a kind that only appealed to women. "It will be the perfect ending to a perfect day," but then she added under her breath that only he'd hear, "perhaps."

The lady's addition to her comment caused Daniel to slant her a lingering look following a double-take. Perhaps? And what would she have in mind that would otherwise see to a more perfect ending...considering the men strolling along behind them. There his gaze remained a moment more before he looked around his shoulder to Gillean and Michael, both seemingly enjoying whatever conversation they were engaged in. "You will find, Gillean, that the Magnolias are the same as what stood here a score ago and then some." The same trees that certain boys may have passed time beneath while their fathers spoke of the business of schemes and plans. Stately and aged, the rings of those trunks held within their sap many a secret for many a man.

Gillean answered Michael's confirmation with a 'mmmmm'ed agreement of his own but that died away as did his humor when Daniel spoke to them. A twitch beneath his right eye would be the only give away that Daniel's words held more weight than either were willing to give away. "Thornston has managed to stand strong through many a storm,..." And here he used. "...Daniel. Her gardens are proof enough that she is well tended and has been for some time. May she continue to be so."

The amusement disappeared from Dewar's eyes and he glanced at Gillean. He knew a bit more about the dislike between the two men, or perhaps it was just on Gillean's part. Then again, if Caiome wasn't here, the words exchanged likely would be much different. He smiled slightly as he looked forward. "They look quite stately, Lord Thornston." And likely the two boys did not spend a pleasant time together.

She wondered for a fleeting moment if her father and Daniel's father were friends if they met so. She was younger than Gill and a girl so she was left out on those excursions. She had always been curious but learned this was a man's world, even young men and the girls.. well, they stayed home doing girl things. Then again some societies had women as the center structure such as priestess, druids and mystics. She near strained her neck in a quick turning look her brother's way when he used Daniel's given name. Now, that made history right there but she felt there was far more to it with being familiar. Had they plotted and planned together as lads? Maybe friends at some point? If so, then what happened to change that? Oh, the questions that flew through her mind! Turning back to Daniel, "indeed, they are magnificent and seem significant too.." by his implications. "The light breeze is as you predicted.." following his lead to where they would sit.

Beneath the heavy, solid limbs of those ancient trees, cushioned chairs and clothed tables were arranged for the comfort of anyone who wished to enjoy the shade during the day or the breeze during the evening. To the left, a sturdy roped swing with wide wooden seat waited motionless. Years since any had tested the wide arch it could achieve. Not tonight though and as if it was aware of that fact, it remained in the shadows in its silence of possibilities. Daniel touched a hand to the back of one of the chairs for Caoime to sit. A young woman stepped forward from beneath the waxy, wide leaves and started to pour the drinks into short, shot-like glasses. "I wish I could take responsibility for their grandeur." Daniel's gaze lifted as if he might see the tops of those trees in the darkness, but more, he smiled when he witnessed the stars beyond. He couldn't have ordered a better evening. "But they are quite breathtaking, especially when in full bloom. Ah. The cordials. Thank you, Catherine." She curtsied off her service and, with a secretive glance to the other two men, swept away toward the manse.

Since Daniel was busy surveying the stars, Gillean nodded off an order to Michael which placed him to the right of Caiome while Gillean claimed the seat to her left. Not that Daniel would mind sitting directly across from the lovely lady, he could see her better, and Gillean realized this, but it kept him from 'touching' distance for now. Gillean also offered a softly spoken thank you to the woman as she passed and lowered to his place next to Caiome. "Do we have elderberries, Caiome?"

Michael just nodded when he received the order, and after Caiome and Gillean were seated. He didn't wait for Daniel since he was distracted. He winked at Catherine while offering his thanks, then once again listened to the conversation. If he had anything to contribute, he would. The Captain had to keep reminding himself he was on duty.

Her cordial delivered with a nod of thanks to Catherine before she was off. Curses! Foiled again, as brother and guard came to flank her. It was almost amusing. Almost. But nothing a long legged reach couldn't amend beneath the table. Brief run of a foot up the side of Daniel's leg with a certain look. Once seated as well her brother, guard and Daniel. Her eyes upon him so she didn't miss any reaction. See how good he was! Answering her brother at the same time. "I believe we do in that jungle of a back garden that were more bush then anything else. The gardener informed me they were not just overgrown weeds and was going to attend to them."

Daniel knew what Gillean had arranged, and it was all fine and good. He may not have done any differently had he a sister of Caiome's grace and beauty. Still, he claimed his chair across from her with just a bit of resentment at being out maneuvered. Not the actual positioning, just that Gillean had acted first. "I will make sure that you have the instructions, wait, I do believe it is called a recipe." He chuckled with a shake of head when he corrected himself. "For the makings of this cordial from your own bushes if you enjoy it."

With this seating arrangement, Gillean relaxed, and found that he actually did like the sweet concoction produced by those tiny white blossoms. He wasn't one to be fond of sweet drinks, but this one, had just the right mixture of sugar, lemon, gin to please even the most bitter of souls.

Michael stretched out his legs beneath the table after he sat. He didn't slouch though he would have if he was at the barracks. He took a sip of the cordial and nodded. Had Gillean spoken up, he would have agreed with the him. The Captain blinked in surprise, and looked at Caiome, a brow lifting, then at the two men. Lips pressed tight to keep himself from making a comment, he looked at Caiome again. Had that been a mistake?

It became her turn to act as if nothing happened. Whose leg had her foot trace upon when there was no reaction from Daniel but the surprise look upon Michael's instead? Ah oh, but she nearly laughed. Nearly. Instead she continued with the conversation as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. "That would be perfect for then we can have this cordial anytime.." seeing that her brother actually enjoyed it -- a rare find indeed. "The stars are bright tonight and what a wonderful view from here, so clear." As she raised her glass heavenwards a moment in tribute. "Extremely romantic." Not looking at any of them with those soften words before taking a sip of the cordial. Oh yes, this was perfect and how perfect it would be if they each had someone to stroll under the stars with this night.

Ah, and here was that word. Romance. Daniel smiled, bringing up the small glass and sipping the thick liquid within it as he watched the lady opposite him. "I'll see that it is done." Small talk about how magnolia fossils had been found over several million years old. Such trivial facts, but they made for comfortable conversation. As the evening hour lengthened, it began to get chilled, and Daniel could not help but feel a goodly amount of regret that the time spent with his company was forced to an end. Theirs had been a long day, so spoken by Gillean, and while Daniel could suggest they take their entertainment within, he didn't wish to overextend any of them. Especially one in particular. He finished off his cordial and smiled across the table just for Caiome. "If you should need anything at all tonight, M'Lady..." And only then looked to the men on either side of him. "M'lord, Captain, there is only the asking. Someone will be available to you at any hour you may require them." He stood, moving around behind Michael in order to assist Caiome from her chair.

Gillean also stood, but he hadn't realized the sugary cordial had packed such power and he had to remain where he was a moment while the wave of ... wow ... passed. He brought his gaze up and over to Michael. Was it only his drink? Or was Michael feeling the same? And what of Caiome? Was that the main reason that Daniel had made it a point to be at the lady's side when she stood? God help him, but if he hadn't seen Thornston drink from the same pitcher as the rest of them, he would swear foul play. He may still.

Michael stood as well, blinking as he did. He pushed the chair in, then took a step, bumping into Daniel. "Sorry, m'Lord." He muttered then frowned. "Seems the day has caught up to me." He wasn't sure if it was the day or the drinking, but he shrugged, not bothering to hide it though he looked at Gillean a moment.

"Oh my," came as she rose and near swoon right into Daniel's arms. One hand in motion to fan her face as the strong hand of Daniel's kept her from a misstep. "We definitely need that recipe." She was already in a heady mood for what she had planned to do once she got back to her room. The wine consumed then topped off by the cordial after a long day, had its effect. She didn't mind, she could lean against Daniel with that very excuse. A small laugh escaped then covered up by a hand.

Daniel, ever the gentleman of course, pulled Caiome close to his side in order to steady her. "I fear I've expected much of you this day, M'Lady. Although, I find it difficult to apologize since I now benefit from it with you in my arms." Or at least, she was leaned up against him and his one arm was around her to steady her "Will you be able to make it up to your room?"

Gritting his teeth past speculation and accusation, Gillean slid his fingertips free of the support of the table top and moved around the table. "She has family, Remmington, to see her to her rooms if she should need the assistance. You have done quite enough to entertain her... us... this day. Please. Allow me. Rabbit?" Gillean snaked his arm around the back of Caiome's waist and when Daniel reluctantly but obediently released his hold, Gillean took over the care of his sister's balance. "Caiome's and my rooms are side by side, Remmington. No need for you to bother yourself. Seeing as how you are on the opposite end of the manor. We do thank you for your hospitality and generosity. It does seem to be time for the evening to be over, however. Good night to you, Lord Thornston."

He was steady enough again, and just stayed put until the decision to take charge of Caiome was made. He gave Daniel a lopsided grin before he bowed slightly. "Good night, Lord Thornston. It's been a very pleasant day." Were his words slurred? Maybe, but he walked in a fairly straight line when he followed the siblings. Fairly straight, though he nearly fell into the bushes along the way, catching himself at the last minute. He laughed out loud, cleared his throat and continued to follow them inside.

Would her brother resort to tug of war? Just when she was getting nice and comfy against Daniel's side. The pout could not be helped. "It has been a very pleasant evening, I wish you pleasant dreams, Lord Thornston." Except he'd see her give him a quick wink and just the slight pressure of her hand in a grip against his arm before her brother peeled her away and off to her room. The night was just beginning.


Date: 08-14-12
Poster: Caiome Callihan
Post # 88

Secret Passageway
(Note: Mature reading)

The manor quieted at last, soft footsteps of the final settling of the household dying down to complete silence of impending slumber. Upstairs the windows were left opened to the cool night breeze, bringing in a reprieve from the upper level heat and along with that the fresh scent of night and the harmonious chirp of cricket blending with the occasional soft hoot of owl. Peace. Then why couldn't Daniel sleep? Hands up and behind his head, he stretched out on his bed, his face turned to look out of the window although the distance from his resting place to the outside didn't give him much to look at except the darkness. His mind raced, from what needed to be done with the bogs to the notice he had received from the Alliance to ... more pleasant thoughts. Those were the ones that kept him from sleeping. Those very ones that centered on a certain lady resting under his roof...on the other side of the manor. He threw the light cover of sheet aside and rolled to sit on the edge of his bed, elbows finding thighs, eyes finding palms. Daniel was no fool to believe he would sleep at all with knowing this...a pleasurable torment. God help him.

Caiome couldn't wait to get to her room for what she had planned, mentally praying that her efforts would not be in vein either. She put on a good show of yawing as she was escorted by brother and guard. Perhaps a bit tipsy from the cordial showing in her walk that played well into her hand. Once inside, after her good nights, she rested a moment with her back to the closed door. A few steadying breaths before she set to action. First she changed into the lighter night gown with matching wrap. Peach and cream fitted well with the summer evening. A light perfume added. By the time she was done, she was sure her brother and guard would be passed out. Still, she moved about the room as quietly as possible. The fireplace was checked first but came she up with nothing out of the ordinary. The bookcase was next, dresser area, she was getting frustrated as she stood by the window looking out into the night for a few moments before back upon the room. That's when she noticed, not the paintings that hung but a small mirror that seemed off kilter. Minute but had drawn her eye. She was over to fix it but when she shifted it too far to the opposite, there was a slight sound behind the bookcase. Her heart leaped as she was over to pry her fingers in the small opening which finally gave way. What only took a few minutes seemed an eternity in keeping any noise level down. A candle taken up before she stepped into the hall and eased the bookcase close behind her. It would not do if someone came to her room then followed through that opening too.

A deep breath and Daniel pushed down with his hands, shoving up to stand. As he passed a cushioned chair, he slid up the silk robe and pulled it on over his bared chest and sleeping braies. He crossed to that very window, looking out through the darkness to the other side of the mansion. The curve of architecture allowed a view of the guest wing from this vantage point and though the windows were unlit, Daniel knew exactly which opened pane to watch. He brought up an arm, resting it to the wood that framed his glass and rested his temple against it. It was common knowledge there was no rest for the weary. There was also no rest for the wicked. And definitely no rest for the wanting. Add the last two together and here he stood, staring out into darkness.

A low burning candle left in the room flickered causing shadows to dance about. One might imagine a form moving then gone again as if some ghostly shadow. The woman he sought was already missing from there and moving down a narrow passage. The light from the candle she carried illuminated the cobwebs in silver threads, the occupants unseen or had long been abandoned. She paused coming upon the first latch soon after and knew that either her brother or Dewar was beyond that wall. A hand gently pressed against it with a silent wishing they sleep well this night thanks to the cordial. She still had the effects running through her veins but adrenaline offset it well, the wicked thought caught in her mind that drove her without care nor caution of the outcome. It was almost as if she were possessed by the heat that coiled inside. She continued on as the passage wound its way through the manse. There were no more latches for some time and had her wondering if she took a wrong turn. It was not the easiest to tell what direction one was going. Finally she came upon one but knowing there were many rooms this side she tried it just to see. At first it didn't budge but when she applied the weight of her whole body into it, it moved reluctantly. It was an empty bedroom as she peered from behind the bookcase they all seemed to have. Quiet. Darkness. She eased it back and from there on, she would listen at each latch to hear if there were any sounds beyond.

Would she hear anything at all? The manor house slept in blissful peace and quiet. At least, it would seem so. Daniel was too far from Caiome's room to be able to see the soft, flickering light. He shrugged his dressing robe up around his shoulders more, tying the sash at his waist as he moved away from the window. Was he about to pace? By God! He almost was! He stood, dead center of his bedroom floor, his bared feet braced against the floorboards daring them to move...because he would not...would not... pace. Instead he crossed back to his bed and propped the extra pillows to the headboard preparing himself to easing back into it to sit.

In the quiet, even steps upon bare feet could be heard if one listened carefully. How she wished she had taken the glass upon her night table draining it of the water it held to be used against the walls to hear. Instead she had to resort to listening with just her ear pessed. So intent she didn't realize that the latch moved and gave way, having her stumble into the room. Peaches and cream gossamer fabric hid just enough but also revealed just enough. She smothered the startled cry behind a palm that shot up to press over her lips. She was not in darkness this time although not lit well and the back of the man could not have her tell exactly who it was at first. That fleeting fear filled widened eyes until recognition set in. "M'lord," came near strangled from her throat for a number of reasons as her hand lowered. He cut a fine figure, that much she could admire and did. "I found a passage.." as if the excuse would fly!

The very moment the wood panel next to the fireplace swung open, Daniel reached for the dagger next to his bed. But when he turned, he jerked it behind his back, once he saw and heard who had literally stumbled into his lair. At first, he had to think it was an apparition of his imagination, as much as he had been thinking about her. In this light, just the faint flicker of the one candle, the glow of the moon, she seemed to be a vision of his desires. In this light, just the faint flicker of the one candle, the glow of the moon, she WAS the vision of his desires. He smiled as she struggled for an explanation, reaching unseen behind him to slip the weapon underneath the book on his nightstand. "There are a few." He confessed, smiling slightly as he started toward her. "And you were wandering them, M'Lady..." He was an arm's length away. "Why?"

Her chin slightly lifted as one determined to stand her ground in spite of the very fact she was here seeking him out in her night gown, in his bed chambers with no chaperone at all. Obviously, a chaperone would never let her be here where she stood right now. The smile came warming her features to a soft glow, or was it the candle light still? "I have wanderlust tonight and I happened upon the secret passage," like that explained it all. "Shall I go?" Taking a step towards the still open bookcase in case she had disturbed his thinking on whatever he was thinking. The fact was, he was still up too.

Daniel moved swiftly, coming around so that he stood between Caiome and the previously utilized hidden panel. "Even if you wished to, I may not be able to allow you to." He took a step closer to her, and for all his upbringing, his schooling, his lineage, the gentleman dipped his gaze down the length of female standing before him with an appreciative and approving smile following. When at last their eyes met again, the single glow of candle not only caught, but gave away the thoughts of the man. "I must make sure that the secrets of Thornston remain secrets, Caiome." From her eyes to her lips his attention drifted, and there it lingered for her to reply.

The glint sparked in green eyes as her step was only a ruse having him move to block her way. "I would be hard pressed to take my leave of you just yet, Daniel. The night seems to call to us both." The sweet scent of jasmine hinted on the air between them before she stepped closer as he stepped closer too. She saw the look in his eyes as her hand came to rest upon his chest, over his heart. She could feel its beat against her palm. "The night seems to draw us both to these secrets that are best kept." The trace of a glance shifted down to where her hand rested only to draw back up to meet his eyes and held there. The light breeze from his window played with the wisps of dark hair along the column of her neck, teasing the skin that already felt the flush of heat.

Dark eyes lowered to the placement of her hand, his own lifting to clasp over the top of that smaller touch and hold it to the smooth fabric of his night robe. "It does call. It calls to such an extent I'm surprised any can sleep." His fingers tightened around her hand. "But...Tell me true, Caiome. Why...were you exploring those corridors?"

"Oh, let us hope the others do sleep," which held a touch of laughter to her soften words and that amusement to glint in her eyes. She took a long pause before answering his question, more on how much to answer and how much did she totally understand her reasons other than drawn, "I have missed our meeting after the one and only upon the meadows back home. I came to see if I could find you." Which was quite obvious that her being here was not by accident although by an amount of chance. Chance she found the passageway and chance she actually found his room.

That was what he needed to hear. That she didn't accidentally wander and tumble inside his room. That she had, truly, wished to find him. For find him she did. His hand around hers edged her palm toward the center of his chest and the opening of his robe, the heat of his skin touching against the softness of her touch. Flesh to flesh. "You have found me, Caiome." Unlike her original response, there was not the slightest trace of humor in his reply. His free hand touched at her waist, urging her even closer to him, hips but inches apart, her arm bent tight between them. "As a wayward lamb into the wolf's den. The sheepdogs unknowing and sleeping through what possibilities could and very well may unfold. Who is the lamb, My Dear...and who...the wolf?"

Lashes fluttered that lowered as the heat of his skin ignited hers with that very touch. "I have found you," repeating his words as there was a quiver to her voice, one barely a whisper. Here too, any fleeting humor was gone with the seriousness of the moment, the air around them becoming tangible. The beat of her heart had already skipped up a few faster. The slight distance apart was no longer as she eased close and even pressed her lips to the spot that had been beneath the palm of her hand. "Does it matter?" He was playing with metaphors when she was drowning in his nearness alone.

Daniel smiled, his head dipping to watch her place her lips to his skin, that smile fading and his eyes closing briefly with the feel of warmth until she spoke and he looked to her again. "I suppose not, Caiome." And not to the 'sheepdog'. No matter if Daniel was the wolf or the lamb, if either Gillean or Michael found them, heard of this tryst, it wouldn't matter at all...lamb or wolf, Daniel would be the one slaughtered. Did it matter? She was right. Not at all. She could not step any closer, he could not pull her any nearer, their bodies were up against one another. The hand at her back lifted and stroked along her shoulder, her neck, slipping under her chin to lift her face to him. His mouth lowering to hers, and at last, from the longing created from last time he had tasted them, he drew her into a kiss.

All that mattered needed not words, it was this moment, this togetherness that both desired. All her masks were gone, this was fully Caiome without the play of words, without the coyness needed in most exchanges for protection more than naught. She was baring her soul and so much more to him. The full monte gamble without reservation. The kiss was fire itself in the way it coiled inside, her arms slipping up and around his neck while her body pressed to his sharing that heat. Come what may tomorrow, or there on, if her brother found out or not, didn't matter at the moment. She, they, would cross that bridge then. Fingers curled in an anchor within his hair as she would help to deepen that kiss she so craved and had missed. He could tell, she didn't try to hide anything.

Caoime, in his arms, in his bedchamber, her body pressed to his, her mouth offering, giving...she may think nothing mattered beyond this moment, this sensation, this shared euphoria. Daniel knew better. Bridges created could sometimes never be crossed if the building of them rested on unsteady soil to begin with. Did that stop him at present? Absolutely not. None would enter his chamber by way of his door. His hand brushed upward along her arm, bringing with it the soft fabric of her robe, and then when he stroked along the curve of her shoulder, he eased the flimsy material away, exposing the skin, his thumb tracing there. His mouth moved from hers to the corner of her lips, touching against her cheek, her jaw. His head tilting to suckle softly against her neck and down, ever constantly kissing, to the area so recently presented.

Caiome in his arms, was exactly where she had wanted to be and had taken the extra measure of steps to put herself there. This might be sinful but how could something so exciting, so alluring, so all consuming, be sinful? It was heaven to one who had never been with a man and could only imagine. Oh, she heard horror stories but even those of ecstasy couldn't compare to what she was feeling, what fires and desires he ignited in her. She was living lava at the moment and it didn't take a whole lot to get her responding which was a good indication for a worldly man to recognize her innocence in this area. Innocent and yet not, just had not gotten such an opportunity, or one she wanted to take advantage of, before him. Eyes had closed with her head slightly tilted back as she soaked in all that he ignited. Full lips quivered after being abandoned but what follow would have no complaint from them.

He eased his other hand up between them, tugging free the ties at her throat that held her thin robe together at the front and then, with almost a feverish gesture, swept the garment away as it pooled at her feet and leaving behind just the gossamer film of her nightgown. Daniel lifted his head to look down to Caiome, her head tilted, her lips parted, her eyes closed...a goddess accepting his offering, and yet, presenting herself to him. "Caiome." He was breathless with his desire, his wanting, his need. "Open your eyes, My Dear. See me. Know who it is that is worshipping you." And worship her he did, taking a step back so that he could pass his gaze over the soft, thin material that left little to the imagination and presented all to the hungry appreciation. "I am Daniel Remmington, Earl of Thornston. And know this as well, I am a man, who very much desires to take you, Caiome Callihan, Lady of Swan Lake, to my bed." The entire time he spoke, his voice low, not because of secrets but because the sight of her brought with it a difficulty drawing in a breath past the thundering of his heart, the racing of his pulses. The entire time he spoke, as well, his gaze covered every single inch of her, this lady, Caiome Callihan, until it lifted to meet her eyes. Opened. Knowing him at least in this for she truly did not know him at all.

Which had her open her eyes, dreamy, glossy with desire as surely as any stoked ember waiting for more to burst into flame. "I see you, I know who it is that makes my heart race no matter any warnings. My heart says different and I follow my heart. One that is thunderous when near you." So who worshipped who? It could make for a debate but who wanted to waste time debating, not when so much was offered for their movement. With her chin tilted back her smile came with her words, "the Lady of Swan Lake wishes to know the Earl of Thornston's bed," if one wanted to put it to proper terms, something that was not so proper not being married. Yet something many did probably for the same reasons. She wished to know him in many ways but certainly this one took precedence at the moment over any others. The desire could not, would not, be denied. She was not so skilled and fingers fumbled at his robe to ease it from his shoulders.

She surprised him with her verbal reply, but at the same exact moment of that amazement, those very words sent a jolt of excited anticipation through him. He helped her inexperienced gesture by shrugging each shoulder, freeing himself from the cover of robe and then pulled her fully up against him again. He could feel the heat of her skin through the thin material of her gown which separated them as well as the press of the firmness of her breasts to his chest. Oh so innocent, this woman. Was it what drew him to her even more? This naivete that offset his deeper secrets? Proof that there was still goodness? Hope? An offering of herself as well as an offering of clarity that all in this world was not corrupt and requiring intervention. This close together, he dipped his chin to smile down to her. "Then we are of the same mind, Caiome. That very bed is but a few paces behind me." He eased back just enough to find her lips again, not moving from that spot. Not closer, not farther from said bed. For in that bed, while they may find erotic pleasure, such as he ached to taste with her, they would not find ... each other. Not...this night. For all his need to take her, so willing and welcoming as she was, she meant more to him than just that toss to his mattress. Secretive, hidden, forbidden. His kiss would not give away his hesitation though. No. He allowed himself what was permitted of him. That kiss, the feel of her against him. The sweet sound of the soft, uninhibited sighs that she probably didn't even know she made. He also allowed himself the knowing...the knowing that he wanted her beyond just this lingering kiss.

Luckily that very naivety kept her from knowing there usually was more. He had said of his bed and she had agreed but then it didn't come about. Yet, she didn't really realize it for the kiss. She was lost in desire, floating on a cloud for she could enjoy every second of it instead of what might lie ahead. The wonder of the moment. It would be later that when she reflected back she would wonder if he didn't find her pleasing after all said. That she was too naive to be worthy of his bed. Her body seemed to soften, to mold against his and right now was all that mattered. The kiss was a form of ecstasy all in and of itself and she easily surrendered into it. So the kiss lingered and she with it, she was following his lead for she didn't know how to lead in this unknown territory of the heart, body and emotions between a man and a woman.

With her in his arms, their mouths still linked, he twisted them as one, taking a step to that side and lowering to sit on a nearby chair. He settled them with expert ease into it, her legs draped over his thighs to the right. She may be innocent and naive, she may have never had to deal with the affections, the attractions, the needs of a man, but where she sat, leaning toward him, his arms around her and holding her to his kiss, there would be no denying he wanted her in ways that had everything to do with mouths and tongues and teeth and palms and fingers and skin and skin and more skin. And especially that erection that pressed for release against the inside of his night pants. The heat of his palm trailed up and down the slender length of her arm. His mouth under hers. Suckling at her lips, her tongue. His other hand had lowered to rest, fingers splayed, against her hip, the upper curve of her backside.

She hardly realized she was being moved being so into that kiss that was never broken. Vaguely aware they moved down and she angled over his lap, her arms sliding further about his neck. There were only a few partings of her lips to catch a breath, one that was sucked in before they were back upon his again. He was going to find out just how innocent she was as that which was pressed against her leg she thought a sheathed knife - not that it made any sense if she thought on it but she wasn't. Only that her hand fell away from around his neck to 'adjust' it. But once fingers and palm pressed and the heat that it gave off, her lips parted in realization with, "oh my," to follow along with some embarrassment as she realized her hand lingered until the realization caught up and was lifted away.

His own hand dropped fast and caught her wrist as soon as she angled her hold on his arousal. Her 'oh my' had him clearing his throat, he had to, he almost growled with animal need. He brought the hand up that he held to kiss the inside of the wrist gripped, just between his fingers. "Lest you ever think I do not want you, Caiome. You now have physical proof. Every part of me demands to possess you both body and mind. But God help me, if you stroke me again, what little bit of gentleman remains where you are concerned will be greatly set upon and possibly conquered by the rogue in me." He smiled, his gaze lowering to linger on her kiss-swollen and smudged lips. "So kiss me, My Dear, and we'll leave the secrets of demons and their delights for another night more suitable, hmm?" He lifted up the hand he held and draped her arm over his shoulder, then reached to her, cupping her face in his palm, his fingers lacing in her hair in order to reclaim her lips.

Problem was the heat that coiled inside her wanted him just as much, no matter if she didn't really know how the coupling went other than an idea of it. "Then you should know my need wants you. I have never felt such heat inside.." or what it was doing to her. He might be able to tell just for the coarser sound of her lowered voice, near to his ear as she leaned in against him. Her heart pounding as she leaned in to kiss him and kiss him well. Lips now supple molded easily as did the play of her tongue over them. This she managed to pick up without too much schooling on it. That too was providing they got another night. Most were stolen as this one was... actually the first night she was with him alone. She might not be able to experience the ultimate this night but she sure could ravish his lips to make up for it.

He couldn't feel her 'need' the way she could his, although, if he was less a gentleman and more a ragtag ruffian he sure would have not wasted a breath to test her confession. A slip of fingertips would have accomplished that sampling of her claim quite nicely indeed. Just the thought of it caused every cell in his body to throb with the actuality of, this once in his life, wishing he was less than who he was, to be able to partake in more of who she was. This willing, giving female on his lap. This woman that he craved and desired. This kiss alone proved the eagerness and openness she would offer to the man blessed to lie with her. His mouth moved from hers, grazing along her cheek, her jaw, her ear, her neck and then back up again. The warmth of his breath as much a caress against her ear as the touch of his lips. With all his wanting, there was still that niggling suspicion, that cautious hesitation regarding a cage and a bird and the need to find its wings beyond those limitations. Was she merely placing his fingers on that wired door? She was Gillian Callihan's sister. Ultan Callihan's daughter. Daniel thought he knew her. Had watched her grow under James' protection. But...did he know her? She truly did not know him fully. In truth, beyond his affection for her and what he had shown her this day, she knew him not at all. The heat of his breath there at her ear as he suckled the lobe and nibbled at the shell was laced with his words. "What do you want, Caiome?" So softly spoken, they were nothing more than his exhale. Hot. Slightly moist. Hoarse. Deep. "What did you come here for?"

So new to this area of life, so sensitive, that would probably be all she would need before the sky exploded at the back of her eyes. The cordial was gradually having its effect but she didn't wish to be anywhere else this night than in his arms. So many nights spent alone wondering, trying to picture it, feel it, but right now it was real. That was what counted presently. Probably the shifting in his lap didn't help as lips parted with tiny kisses to trail along his jaw. All her facades, defenses were down with true affection, unhindered and unmasked. Something that made her very vulnerable to this man. He was wreaking havoc throughout her whole body and mind. Eyes had closed, her lips parting breathlessly as the words slipped just audible enough. One word answered both his questions with far more behind it than spoken. "You."


Date: 08-31-12
Poster: Daniel Remmington
Post # 89

Leaving Thornston

For some, morning comes too soon. The duties. The demands of the day.

For one, the night had never ended. During a moment of just holding one another, Caiome had fallen asleep in his arms and Daniel had slipped her back to her room the same way she had found her way to his. None the wiser except the two of them. Returning to his own room had not done any good as far as his own rest. Whereas he had found his thoughts distracted before she arrived, they were even more so now. His body added to that quandary of wanting more but wisdom dictated and he refrained. He had to. For now. So he dressed. Might as well.

He ended up in the kitchen, grinding up his own dark beans with quick, determined strokes of the pestle within the mortar and then brewing a pot of coffee. The cook who slept just off of that room stumbled forth with concern creasing his brow, wishing to help but Daniel only waved him away back to find the much needed rest he, himself was denied. Besides, by this time of morning, the sun would rise in four hours and the house would be alive with activity an hour before that.

As the staff began to stir, they found him seated on the bottom step of the wide staircase that led above, drinking his coffee. Each paused to ask after his welfare. If he needed anything. Could they do anything? All coming up with their own conclusions for their master's inability to sleep. While they broke their fast in the kitchen prior to daylight and duties, each servant added their deduction, and a group decision was made. Which, actually, placed them all in a very good mood to begin their day. Even more so than usual.

Daniel was still on that bottom step, his forehead against the palm of his hand, his elbow braced to a thigh when polished black boots came into his lowered view beside him. He hadn't even heard the man descend.

"Rough night, Thornston?"

Daniel rolled his forehead against his hand and looked up to Gillean Callihan, resplendent as always and looking to be well rested. "Compared to some, no." He handed his empty coffee cup to a young maid who happened by and stood. "I trust you were comfortable."

Gillean nodded once in answer then added. "We need to talk."

Daniel's brows arched up slightly. "Do we? Or ... do you?"

"We…need to." Gillean clarified, clearing his throat before he reached into his breast pocket and drew out a folded note. This he handed over to Daniel.

The way it was presented, seal exposed, Daniel did not need to open it, just looked back over to Gillean. "We can speak in the study, Gillean." He started to turn in that direction.

"No." Gill stopped the man in his steps, cutting a glance up the stairs then back to Daniel. "This will do. What we need to discuss will not take long and those who need not hear, will not."

Daniel extended the letter back to Gillean which was collected. "Very well. Let me speed this along then by saying, yes, I am aware of what has transpired. And yes, I know you will be … traveling abroad."

Callihan dipped his head with acknowledgement. I'll be taking Dewar with me. Which leaves Caiome." The smile that started on Thornston's lips perhaps said too much because Gillean growled low at the back of his throat. "Fuck you, Remmington. I have no other choice ... but you."

"Why not Montrose? You could tuck her away safely at Montrose until you return. In the guise of allowing her to visit her cousins once again. Is that not your way? Always an ulterior motive for your actions where Caiome is concerned?" Daniel’s arms crossed at his chest. "Even if those motives are in her best interests."

"I fear she will deny me. That she will wish to stay at the manor with so much to do." Gillean shook his head to the negative, as if he still struggled to come up with something, anything, any…one but what he was forced to do. "She will appreciate your visits. For reasons I truly do not wish to even try to understand."

Daniel chuckled, the sound traveling within the otherwise quiet grand hallway. "I am dashing. I am debonair. I am an eligible bachelor and she an eligible maiden. It works, Callihan."

Gillean’s gaze narrowed on the man opposite him. "What works…is you keeping her safe. And that includes from your own … eligibility … until we can see this matter settled. You are a pompous ass, Daniel. You always have been."

Daniel really laughed now, reaching out to smack a brotherly swat to Gillean’s upper arm. "Lest you forget, I am your superior, and have always been."

It was the first rays of the sun that reached in through the open curtains, glowing over her features, that awoke Caiome. Displeased to be awaken from such sweet dreams followed by being disoriented a moment to where she was. It all came back in a rush, one that brought a rosy hue to her cheeks. Daniel Remmington of Thornston was indeed an honorable man. Last night proved it or she was just not tempting enough. She was inexperienced but that shouldn't have deterred her success if he was less than honorable. She was up and to the window to take a peek out just as the light knock came at her door from a handmaiden set to the task of seeing to her. The woman was not much older than her but very efficient as would be expected of the Lord of the Manor to see to even the smallest details. The woman, Melythe, didn't prattle on like some and was hard to read other than properly schooled, pleasant without giving away much at all other than breaking fast would soon commence downstairs. She parted from Melythe, thanking her for her time before she headed to the top of the stairs.

Without even realizing, Gillean edged his shoulder back, as if to avoid the contact although to no avail. "Only under the hood, Daniel." He glanced up with the sound of a door closing and the soft shuffle of skirts. Both men had their heads and voices lowered in private conversation, as well as their brows with the serious nature of this discussion, even if the mood had lifted slightly.

"In birth title as well, Gillean. Which is not a bad match for your lovely sister if you allow yourself to admit it."

"One battle at a time, Thornston. We'll see to the more serious matter concerning the Alliance and then…we shall address this rather trivial infatuation of Caiome's. Infatuation…if you allow yourself to admit it."

Caiome would find two of the men waiting at the foot of the stairs. When the rustle of her skirts announced her arrival, simultaneously they both looked up and where once a serious strain had made a mark, now they both smiled with sincerity. Daniel forced back a grin before both men looked up to the woman they spoke of as she started down the stairs. Daniel took one step up "Good morning, Caiome." and offered his hand out to her. There would be no tell-tale signs of his deprivation - of either need - while he stood beside her brother, welcoming her to this new day by offering his hand out to her with her last steps down.

Gillean started to speak, but when Daniel's greeting managed to slip out prior, so he just dipped his head to his sister. "I thought we could ride out as soon as we break our fast." Their host had argued otherwise. Guess when they would leave.

Michael had gone outside to check on the horses and the men who had accompanied them. When he returned, he stood behind the two in the hallway, looking a little worse for wear. He let out a soft sigh as he waited to see when they'd get out of here. He still couldn't figure out why he had reacted as he had to the cordial but that would be something to consider when his brain didn't feel like mush.

Hair was done up in soft curls that left some to frame her face. She wore a light blue gown with pale yellow lace. Very spring like in that kind of blue sky. Once she descended the steps her hand came to rest in Daniel's outstretched one but being her brother was right there, she stepped up, going to tip toe to place a kiss to his cheek. "Morning brother," such a smile that was all for him before addressing Daniel in the next instance, "good morning Lord Thornston, I slept wonderfully last night." Although the words were not out of place and in fact correctly complimenting their host, there was a light in her eyes that he would know its origins. "Good morning Captain Dewar," having stepped by Daniel's side as the good captain joined them.

A flicker of notice touched on Daniel when Caiome addressed him, then Gillean turned to look back to Dewar. His brows inched up in silent question that all was prepared to see to their immediate departure after breakfast even though he need say nothing. "Then you should be well rested for our ride today." Her brother nodded with his continued smile to Caiome then took a step back so that the Lord of this Manor could lead the way to the meal.

Her comment, that unmistakable gleam to her eyes, only brought more of a smile to Thornston's lord. "I slept not at all in the hopes that would be the case, M'Lady." His fingers curled casually over hers, providing a light squeeze then he started them forward. "Your brother has pressing business to attend to and it took all my powers of persuasion to get him to even consider breaking the fast here before your departure." Daniel's gaze moved to Gillean, then on to Dewar, that expression of merriment and pleasure never faltering. "If he must whisk you away so swiftly then we must at least make your journey back as comfortable as possible." As they moved toward the room where the meal would be served, servants drifted here and there, making ready.

"Good morning, my Lady." He inclined his head to her, watching the three nobles closely. Gillean got a slight nod before he was back to watching, and then following them to the dining room. He'd be quite happy to put distance between himself and Thornston. The smell of food made his stomach roll but he knew food would help, as would the coffee that was waiting.

"I'm pleased he has not set me out on an empty stomach," giving her brother a look over her shoulder before back to the moment at hand. "He always has pressing matters, one of these times I'm going to follow him and see what his pressing matters are." She was sure her brother was listening and now might wonder if she could actually manage such a feat. A dipping glance given Daniel with the last, wondering how he was going to make her journey back comfortable when her thoughts were when they could meet again. Would it be weeks or months?

Daniel laughed low with her threat, providing another squeeze of her hand before he moved her around to take a chair. "I am sure you would find most of his dealings beneath your regard, My Lady." He bent as she sat and spoke softly near her ear. "Pig stickers and rent collecting, the ho-hum day-to-day necessities of running an estate, but pressing, oh so pressing." He twitched off a wink to her and stood away, moving to take his place at the table. A momentary notice touched on Gillean and in that brief passing of time, eyes met with unspoken communication.

Gillean had also smiled to himself with his sister's comment, dipping his head to hide the expression. He wouldn't put it past her to attempt such a thing. Not at all. But he could only hope his own endeavors to keep her safe would prevent any success in that area of her curiosity. The breakfast was served, hot and steaming, along with juices and teas, dark, rich coffee and spiced ciders. Efficiency accompanied expertise and the delicious meal was completed with mild conversation. While they ate, the personal cases of the guests were delivered to the conveyance. There were none of the servants there unknowing to their master's regret in regards to this impending departure. While they worked diligently to see all handled appropriately, they were loathe to speed their duties. Even though they would. Soon enough, Gillean was assisting Caiome into the means to their return home.

Daniel stood off to the side, watching Gill settle Caiome in. "You do not need an invitation to visit Thornston." He lifted his hand in farewell to them all since the comment was meant for them all, even though his gaze rested on one in particular. "Her doors, as always, are open for Swan Lake's arrival."

It was hard for her to tear her eyes from Daniel as she settled into the coach provided. She had to for her brother being right there and would start to wonder if he wasn't already! Instead she smiled at him and started up a conversation with a question, one to hopefully distract more than not but there was genuine curiosity in it too. "What pressing matter is at hand now?" She was sure it was not the loss of the meat shed or some wall needing fixing.

Michael had more coffee then food, though he did manage to down some of the lighter fare. He excused himself when finished and went out to wait with the carriage and the other men. The fresh air was welcome, the sunshine not so much. There were amused looks from the men but they said nothing and managed to look less amused when Michael would glance their way.

Gillean sat beside Caiome, cutting a look around his arm to Daniel. "We thank you for your hospitality, Lord Thornston." And that was all before he looked back to Caiome. "Pig sticking..." He smiled to her, reaching out to pat her hand where it rested on her leg. The surrey began forward and so would their lives...continue from that direction. Forward.

She gave him a look that pressed her lips so she didn't say anything but that mind was in a whirl. No. She didn't believe her brother one iota nor Daniel's comment that he seemed to repeat. Made her all the more determined.


Date: 09-02-12
Poster: Gillean Callihan
Post # 90

Prelude to Paris

This day, Gillean was not found behind his desk but seated opposite his Captain of the Guard at one of the groupings of chairs within his study. The rumble of male voices filtered through the room although with their topic, none entering or passing would hear more than that. A comment of deep resonance. A reply of the same. The Lord sat forward, both of his forearms resting on his knees, at times his head would dip with exasperation. They had only all just returned a day since Thornston but plans had already been underway for the 'reunion'. A letter had been sent with Gillean's intentions to come to Paris, now there was only the journey over. "If you can come up with another suggestion, I would be willing to seriously consider it, Dewar." He lifted his head, although his posture didn't straighten as he looked over to his trusted captain. "I would have you with me, but I must consider her beyond all else while we travel."

Michael wasn't sitting forward, but he was on the edge of the chair he had claimed. One elbow was resting on the arm of the chair, his fist braced under his chin. He was frowning as he considered the Callihan Lord's question, then slowly shook his head. "I'm afraid not. You've covered the possibilities." He shrugged slightly. "I might come up with something with some thought." If there was time. At least he was no longer feeling as he had the morning after their dinner.

Caiome had been distracted ever since leaving Thornston. Even her handmaid noticed asking if she was well of which she was reassured everything was fine. Caiome wasn't sure she believed her but accepted the reply. She had to. Little things that added up, being distracted and somewhat forgetful as in where she placed this or that. She had also become restless for all the thoughts that plagued her, from Daniel Remmington right down to some ideas on following her brother for the intrigue that was always there. The aloft secrets she felt present sometimes for reasons, sometimes for no particular reason. She wanted to get out and see to some of these ideas but knew she would have to let her brother know.. say she was going to visit the villagers on their lands, which was something she did from time to time to keep up that rapport. Distracted enough she first stepped outside and about to signal to one of the stable boys to bring around her mount. Wait. Turning instead in a swirl of mauve skirts, she headed back in and in search of her brother. First place would be his office, his lair,  his den. That is when she came upon the two in low rumbling conversation. Blink. Dawning on her that Dewar might well be privy to some of her brother's secrets. It stalled her steps a moment before she put on the familiar smile, knowing it would end their conversation she was not to hear. "Good Afternoon brother," slight hesitation as she flowed into the room, "Captain Dewar.." another hesitation but not in drawing closer to her brother, "is there something amiss?" Knowing she would be assured there was not or that minor things like replies given in the past. There was just that air about them that didn't agree.

"You have two days for those thoughts." Gillean began, but bluish-purple movement by the door drew his gaze and he came to his feet. Where once a frown had resided, now his smile replaced it. "Caiome, good afternoon to you. I'm glad you happened in. There are some things I need to discuss with you if you can grant me some of your time. Please. Come and sit with us." He motioned to a chair directly beside where he had been seated, offering his hand out for her to join them.

Anything that might be added was left to die when Caiome appeared, looking as fresh and lovely as a late summer flower. He stood as she did, looking at her with a smile "Good afternoon, Lady Caiome. " He looked then to Gillean. "Do you wish to speak to your sister in private, my Lord?" He would tend to his duties until he was needed if necessary, and give Gillean's question much thought.

Oh, she was in a strange mood, probably set by all those tangled thoughts. First she stepped to her brother to place a kiss upon his cheek. "Good afternoon to you brother." A step away had her bringing her hand down to slide along Dewar's jaw line as she passed to sit in the chair offered. One of those sleight of hand motions. "Good afternoon Captain." Sneaky little smile as if she was up to something too. Attention being immediately drawn back to her brother. "Please..." giving him the go ahead as she folded her hands neatly in her lap.

What.. was this? Gillean looked from that feminine stroke over to his sister when she sat then back over to Dewar. "No. Remain. Since this involves you as well, Dewar." Such a gesture was one of familiarity. Something Gillean may have suspected, though not approved or liked, with Daniel but seeing it with Michael caused him to draw his brows together with consideration. Slowly lowering to his own seat, he perched on the edge of the cushion, reaching over to take up the top hand placed with such feminine grace upon her lap. "I must away to Paris for some business, Caiome. I would have Dewar come with me." He gave her hand a slight squeeze where he held her. "That would leave you... and the remaining guard. With the unrest along the border, I must implore you not to venture out without suitable chaperone"

Michael was as startled as he could be and his face showed it before he regained his composure. He cleared his throat softly before speaking. "Aye, my Lord." And he sat almost too quickly, nearly causing the chair to slide. He watched the siblings as they began to speak, eyes unreadable. Why would Caiome show him such familiarity when she was so drawn to Daniel. Again, that would be considered another time.

She certainly noticed the reaction and such a sweet smile his way. If she had been bolder, she might have pursed her lips in a kissing motion but refrained. She didn't want her brother to come to blows with Dewar. Her sight trained on the Captain for a few moments as she spoke before turning to her brother, "what kind of business would need both you and Mic... the Captain?" Making it sound that it must be something very serious. Her hand resting in her brother's as eyes met and held, daring him to lie to her.

Would he lie? Could he lie? He was Gillean Callihan, raised under the tutelage of Ultan Callihan. "He is my guard as well, Mimi. Traveling afar would require some sort of escort, even for me. But I've business with a Parisian Haras which breeds the Selle Français. A most delightful cross breeding of Normandy mares with English Thoroughbreds. A fine addition to our stables." Did he lie? He...did not. "I would go and check out the line myself before investing such a large sum in the breed. My only concern lies if you can find it in your good graces to be kind to the guards, and behave, while we are gone." He smiled, and that almost had sound, knowing it would be most difficult for his sister to do just that. He hadn't mentioned Daniel yet. He wasn't sure he would at all.

"Sergeant O'Brien will be in charge, Lady Caiome. He will take my place in escorting you when you go out." He wasn't going to react to her, wondering if she was trying to torment her brother. "And of course, any of the other guards." They might have to raise O'Brien's rank after they return. He almost felt sorry for his friend.

She was digging first before deciding what she would do about this news. "I understand checking out the line itself but wouldn't O'Brien do you just as well in being your escort? No slight on the Captain intended," giving that very one a slight dip of her head with a small smile before back to her brother, "but should not one of such command remain?" That was why she thought it was that serious that he'd take Dewar from the premises, although it might have him wondering that she was simpering over the fact he was taking Dewar in particular with him. There was this other issue, "and if you must take him away, who do you think is of such caliber to stand guard over me?" She did not agree to be docile while he was gone, easy for the guards left behind. "Perhaps I should go back to Thornston where I would be fully attended upon.." sliding that right in there just to see how her brother reacted.

Fully. Attended. Upon? Gillean eased his hand away from hers, edging back a little on the cushion. "I mean to purchase them while there if I like what I see, Caiome. They will be for the guards. O'Brien is capable of taking command here, he is trusted by Dewar." Gillean had not missed that she had not promised anything other than to be 'fully attended'. "Remmington and I have spoken, Caiome. He intends to ... fully attend you ... here on occasion. If you wouldn't mind that overmuch. And if you must know, Caiome. I also intend to purchase new crystals for the chandelier in the ballroom, a few pieces are missing according to one of the maids. Baccarat crystal. Not a purchase left to any guard save the best. Horses and crystal, My Dearest, would require Dewar. can spare him for my purposes this once, seeing as he is also an employ of mine and not yours alone. Who knows, some stemware of the same fine quality may make it into the crates to be brought back." He shrugged a shoulder, as if he hadn't thought of that before although it had already been arranged. "Now...your safety. Will you consider it so I can see to business in Paris without having to worry that you are being naughty?"

Michael sat quietly as he listened, still on the edge of the chair. Caoime had apparently not heard him but he wasn't surprised. She obviously had a lot on her mind. He smiled slightly as he remembered he had not had to deal with his sisters in the way Gillean was even when he was home. It was, as always, interesting to watch. He wondered at time how either kept their patience. Cat and mouse? Which was which?

"When have I ever been naughty?" Which in essence she had not so far... at all. That he knew of anyway. She lifted her chin slightly in indignation and had been considering arguing to go with them for whom better to pick out the crystal? Certainly not Dewar there but surely on the horses. That added only made her suspicions grow there was far more to it all. But, he agreed to let Daniel come here... now it HAD to be something serious. BUT.. would she let go of this opportunity? She worried her bottom lip, something that was rare for her to do. Another idea hit, if there were secret passageways in Thornston, it stood to reason there might be some here too. The idea of finding a duplicate of herself to employ, would be a piece of cake with them both gone. Meow. "You need not worry about me, my brother. It would be more appropriate I worry about you." Which she had too often already. She needed to get to the bottom of this and the answers were most likely here, in his office.

She need not pick out the crystal, it would match what was already a part of Swan Lake's collection. As far as her being naughty... "I do not delude myself into believing you are not capable of things beyond my knowledge, Rabbit. Do you think I forget our youth?" If Gillean truly thought her at risk, he would have her locked away in a tower until such time as he could return to her. This would be her test, this separation. From here, a future would be decided. Roar. "And I will not say you should not worry about me in Paris, My Sweet." He clicked his tongue with a wink her way. "For it is diverse with lovely females and divine accents. I may return to you with a wife. Indeed, that would be cause for concern." Not at all likely to happen. Not a gnat's chance in the flames of hell. "I will worry about you though, Caiome. Will you not promise me to allow O'Brien to see to your safety unless ..." He nearly had to grit out the next line. "Thornston is visiting."

If Gillean ever wanted to take her off guard, scare her, the implication he might bring back some foreigner, did the job. She would be oust, no longer the lady of Swan Lakes but the... sister. She actually paled a moment there before collecting her wits. She would move to Montrose, or take off to the sea with her cousin if needed. Eyes narrowed as the color gradually returned. HA! Any woman putting up with her brother deserved respect! "I was a very timid little girl." Which was true but also implied she intended to make up for it. "If you bring one home, at least make sure she can cook." Oops, so their cook had help in Caiome. So she quickly added to cover up any hints, "I will not give O'Brien a hard time," of course not, he'd never know if she did anything that was better for the guards not to know but more than likely there would not be anything of concern with Daniel coming to visit. She would not have to sneak off to see him.

Gillean smiled as she spoke, a fractional shake of his head. "My Dear, if I bring a wife home, it will not be for duties in the kitchen." Thus stated, he stood, reaching for her hand as he did to bring her to her feet as well and pulled her into his embrace. "Thank you, Caiome, in advance, for allowing O'Brien to keep his sanity." It was his turn to touch a kiss, this one to her forehead before he looked down to her again. "We will be departing in two days time and be gone for three weeks, four at the most."

Michael wasn't sure if he would be remaining but he stood as Gillean helped Caiome to her feet. He'd have to go warn O'Brien to be extra vigilant though with Daniel visiting, that wasn't as much of a worry. She wouldn't be trying to ride off to Thornston, and there were maids here to make sure things remained ... proper.

"Of course not," giving him one of those quick smiles as her hand slid into his while she rose with minimal help that was more a courtesy. She rested her head against his chest as he pulled her to him but Dewar would only be the one to see that little smile that usually meant trouble. Almost a dare for him to say anything too! Hard to tell anyway. That brief moment ended so fast one could wonder if they even witnessed it as she looked up to her brother adoringly, she did adore him, leaving him to place a kiss to her forehead. "I'm not sure I can bare so much time in you being departed from me." There was that fear that had never quite gone away after his disappearance for so many years. Not knowing if he lived or not. She searched his eyes for any clues that she should be worried over. She still felt there was more to all of this. From there the day continued normally for Swan Lake.


Date: 09-03-12
Poster: Gillean Callihan
Post # 91

Two riders raced along the packed path which led from Kildare toward the border. A new moon prevented any heavenly light and the weight of the ride itself was one of secrets and desperation. A dark purpose to match the dark of night.

Cloaks flapped behind them, both men leaned close to the necks of their mounts to urge them on. No words between them. Just breath. That of the straining horses and of the fleeing men. Chunks of gouged earth were flung behind with the urgency of the thundering speed. The quickened, steady thud of hooves and pulses.

The youngest of the two dared look behind and found none gave chase. Or at least, had not been able to keep up were that the case. The wind of their flight stung at his cheeks, his nose, caused his eyes to burn. The sweat that snaked down from his temple tickled as it trailed and dried.

"Father! None come!" He shouted over in the hopes they might slow in order to relieve the horses and themselves of such a torturous pace. It had no affect. The other man did not even acknowledge the comment or the notice but pushed them all on still.

It was a good hour later, when the younger saw why. Mounted men in hoods lined the border's edge, each holding a torch to light their existence. Even from a distance, the younger man could see the reflection of their eyes beyond those slits as they caught the fire's glow. One man spurred his horse forward in pursuit, the others following.

"Gillean! Do not slow now, Son. Ride! Ride! For God's sake...Ride!"

Gillean pressed himself tighter to his horse, his fingers laced with reins and mane, holding tight. He cast a look to the side just as he and his father passed the stone marker which ended the reign of Kildare. The hooded men slid to a halt, horses fighting the commands, rearing and tearing at the air.

A hood fell back as one of the mounts slammed back to the ground, jerking that rider around in the circuit of the animal's frustrated dance. The flame of torch lit facial features and eyes locked across the distance.

Gillean Callihan jerked upward in bed, nearly bolting from the mattress. Sweat beaded his forehead, across his bared chest. His breathing came strained and heavy. A glance to the side took in the female still asleep beside him as she rolled away from him with a soft sigh of contented slumber because of his movement. Her long, blonde hair draped the pillows, wrapping around one of his arms. He plucked himself free of that entrapment thick curl by curl and eased from the bed to go stand by the opened window.

This wasn't the first time his dreams had taken him back to that night.

This wasn't the first time he had vaulted from the memories which invaded his sleep.

This wouldn't be the last time.

And even that night Gillean had known it wouldn't be the last time he would have to face off against Daniel Remmington.

But that would be the first time and it would be the last time he ever did fear.

Date: 09-04-13
Poster: Gillean Callihan
Post # 92


Paris never changed. Extravagance and simplicity so perfectly combined that some could never leave, some must return again and again and others longed to experience. Gillean Callihan didn't fit into any of those categories. His memories of Paris had been sufficient to last him a lifetime. But not unlike an experienced mistress, he was sucked back into her charms by way of necessity. She demanded. He responded. And now here he stood on the busy street outside his father's apartments, watching those passing by in their finery, while Michael paid their hired coach. Four days. It took four days for his father to respond to his calling card of arrival. Was he at all surprised? Not one bit. Gillean had expected delay. Too soon and Ultan would have seemed too eager. Too long and the older man knew his son would have just left. Gillean had most certainly expected the reunion to be postponed and in the interim he and Michael had seen to the purchase of six fine specimens of horse and the crystal finery. All the better for Swan Lake. Before Dewar was finished, Gill turned to scan up the exterior of the well tended abode. Had his father been watching down from one of those many windows? How many years had passed since last they were in each other's company? Quite a few. Not nearly enough.

Michael found Paris to be less then what he expected, and more. He did his best not to act like some gawking farmboy but at times it was nearly impossible. Too much of everything, art, buildings, sights and women. It gave him a headache. Luckily, he had a good understanding of French, though he might have pretended not to had they been at home. His education had certainly included everything a gentleman should know. Even if he denied that title. As he joined Gillean, he looked up at the manse. "I'm sure I'll be made to wait." He said quietly, with a slight smile. He didn't ask if Gillean would be all right. The man would do what he had to.

From an upper window, Ultan Callihan watched the man his son had become. He felt a sense of pride, not totally unwelcome, in how Gillean carried himself, how he dressed. Yes, he had learned his lessons well. He let the curtain fall back in place and made his way downstairs to the study. It would be there that he would greet his son. It would be there that they talked.

"Is it not his power game, Dewar?" Gillean dropped his study from the building over to Michael. "I do so despise games." Gillean was submerged in games up to his eyebrows. He started up the steps toward the door. "Ah, well, my father at present believes he possesses the white, we shall allow him to make his first move." Ultan Callihan should never be underestimated, however. And who knew this better than his own son? Gillean stood to the side as Michael utilized the ornate door knocker, bowing his head and drawing in a deep, steadying breath. For all Gillean's training, when it came to Ultan, it took everything within his being to face his father and be ... civil.

Michael merely nodded. There was nothing he could add, nothing he could really say. Games were not one of his strongest points but Gillean, so far had proved himself more then capable. Against his father, it might be another matter. The door opened slowly, the butler studying the men there. "Viscount Gillean Callihan, Lord of Swan Lake to see Ultan Callihan." Michael spoke to the man with just the right tone. The butler stepped back, opening the door wider for the two men to step in. Michael waited for Gillean to cross the threshold first. "One moment. I will inform the master you are here."

And again they would wait. Gillean actually smiled as he passed this time, a faint shake of head as if he fought some internal battle and a decision was made. "When we return to Swan Lake, do remind me to make it clear I wish not to be entombed." A flicker of a gaze shot Michael's way but the sound of footsteps returning kept Gillean from adding anything more. His shoulders squared as did his jaw. He could only anticipate the first move for the black side, he had to await the placement of white.

Dewar blinked and looked at Gillean, a brow lifting. He answered before the door open with a soft, "of course", and immediately hid his smile. He'd make sure not to remind the Callihan Lord in front of his sister. It might trouble her.

The butler returned with a maid following. "If you will follow the young lady," He addressed Michael, "you may wait in the servant parlor." He was about to dismiss them from his thoughts and started to turn toward Gillean.

"No he will not." Gillean pushed past the butler toward Michael and the maid. "This man is no servant but the son of the Baron of Harcourt. He will be treated as such. If he is not to accompany me, he is to be shown the respect due his family name and title. My father can afford him thus. He will afford him ... thus." He turned and looked to the butler. He may be Gillean's Captain of the Guard, but Ultan would not play worldly lord and master over one of the peerage, no matter how that one may serve Gillean. "Are we clear on this?" If Ultan had taught his son anything, he had taught him the airs of a snob. And by God, that narrowing of death-to-you eyes, the tone of voice, the way he tilted his head just so with that last question, made it all too evident he meant his dictates to be administered too.

For a brief second, the butler was taken aback. "Of... of course, my Lord. Tilda, take his Lordship to the family parlor, see to his comfort." He didn't see Michael's grin as that man had turned away but Gillean may have. The maid was nearly giggling but managed to stay quiet. "Now, if you will please follow me, my Lord." The butler was being oh so humble now. If Ultan was dangerous, it seemed his son was more so. He led Gillian down another hall and knocked at the door. When he heard the command to open, he did so, stepping aside as he announced. "Lord Callihan, my Lord." Ultan and another man stood in the study, both turning toward the door. Ultan had changed little, though his hair had turned white. The other man might be familiar but until he was introduced, Gillean would not realize it was Gregore. He looked younger, almost as young as Gillean. Ultan smiled when he saw Gillean and walked to meet him. He placed his hands on his son's shoulders. "You look well, Gillean. Very well indeed. I trust your servant was seen to?" The introduction would wait.

Gillean stepped past the servant when the introduction was made, but his steps slowed when not just his father, but another turned to greet him. The tiniest of a twitch jumped under his right eye but he continued forward, standing firm before his father as that man greeted his son. "That no servant at all but the son of Sebastian Dewar. Your butler has remedied that misunderstanding by having him escorted to a family parlor to seek his comfort." As he spoke, he raised a hand around his father's stretched out embrace and placed a firm grip on the side of his sire's shoulder. Gillean's gaze traveled past that hold to the other man in the room before returning to Ultan. "Paris seems never to alter, and seems to suit you well."

Now that was a surprise. He had heard of course, that Gillean had a soldier that often accompanied him, but the son of a noble as well? Interesting. He remembered Sebastian Dewar but put that aside. "I'm glad you remedied that." He released Gillean though only briefly, as he placed a hand on his son's shoulder. "You remember Gregore, Gillean. Of course, he has changed much since you last saw him. The curse has been removed. Yes, Paris is a good place to live, but it does not feel like home." He motioned toward cushioned chairs placed before the fire. "Gregore, why don't you see to our guest, and make sure he's comfortable. Then you can do that favor for me." Gregore nodded at Gillean, a slight smile on his face. He was treating him as an equal, instead of maintaining the farce of being a servant.

Now that was the surprise. Gillean's features surely showed that surprise as much as he would have been loathe to admit it. Dark brows arched for that split second before his features were masked once again behind the air of noble disinterest. For the slightest of time fractions, Gillean experienced a tinge of apprehension that Gregore would be 'seeing to' Michael. "What a blessing for Gregore." Gillean started to follow the man's departure with his gaze but fought back that need to center his attention on his father, and where that first chess piece would touch down. He moved at his father's instruction toward the chairs, waiting for the lord to seat himself before following his lead. "Tell me, Father." How foul that name tasted on his tongue. Brimstone and bile. "Where would be home after all these years? Personally, I can not imagine such a place."

Ultan didn't ask, but after sitting, he filled two crystal glasses with brandy. One was placed on the small table in front of Gillean. "I am not certain anymore. Kildare is death to me. It saddens me that I cannot see for myself how well you and sweet Caiome are doing? She didn't come with you?" Ultan's words dripped honey but underneath there was nothing but poison. "I understand there is trouble along the northern border? How tragic." He took a sip of the brandy, watching his son all the while.

As Gillean leaned forward to accept that drink, he began his reply. "Kildare remains newly established with its sovereign king." He sat back, bringing his glass up with the smallest of dips toward his father with the rim. "But even in the most settled of times, there can be trouble. Is that not the way of lands possessing wealth and power?" Gillean did not answer his father's rhetorical question about Caiome. She...Gillean would keep out of this putrid muck of political entanglements. He smiled behind that touch of crystal to his lips, appreciating his father's need for expensive liquor. This was the monster of Ultan's design seated across from the older man, and while Ultan watched, could he read anything but satisfied boredom laced with the underpinnings of ... danger? Oh, it was there. Ultan, himself, had planted that seed and nurtured it. And it had grown. Heartily. It had grown.

Ultan nodded, watching his son with a somewhat enigmatic expression. He might see only that, but would the seed continue to grow? He made a slight motion of his hand. "It is, indeed the way of things. Kingdoms rise and fall, troubles come and are defeated, or take over the lands." Ultan placed his glass on the table, leaning forward. "And you, my son, do you aid them in their endeavors, or do you support the efforts of the King? " Perhaps he was now getting to the gist of it. Perhaps not. But his son had been out of his 'care' for some time. He needed to take his measure.

The glass lowered, resting within Gillean's grasp on the arm of the chair. One corner of his lip twitched, a suppressed grin, just for his father. One he let show. Just for his father. "Do you sit across from me and question my loyalty to the crown or to the Alliance, Father? What if they are one and the same? Cerberus backs the McLarkins as yet, but you would know that." His forefinger tapped lightly on the etched crystal of his glass. "I am Ultan Callihan's spawn." His smile spread, showing healthy, white teeth. "If I must speak the words for you to know them, then know them now. I support that which has been ingrained in me. That which best suits me and mine."

"They may be one and the same, but if the agenda of one does not suit you, then perhaps you should look deeper into what would suit you more." He smiled as he picked up his glass again. Gillean was indeed his son, and as good at being ... cautious as he himself was. "How long do you intend to stay in Paris, Gillean? " Yes, he would change the subject, for now, see if Gillean intended to stay or leave quickly. That too would say much about his son.

Gillean dipped his head in a nod of acceptance. "Your advice has never fallen on deaf ears, Father. Now more so than ever." The glass returned to his lips and he forced his center of attention to drift to look around the room as he drank. Damn but only a fool would let Ultan Callihan out of their sights for long. Gill's gaze returned after a suitable survey and he leaned forward, placing his empty glass on the table. "I intend to stay until my business here is done. Although I've recently visited the haras and purchased six Selle Français for Swan Lake's stables. This will push my need to depart. That and returning to ..." He almost said Caiome but he quickly remedied that with "my duties at the manor. James expects much. I would not wish to disappoint or he may question my sincerity."

"Excellent." He seemed pleased with the answer. Gillean was not a child anymore, but Ultan had never lost faith in his own ability to influence him. "You, and of course, Lord Dewar, are welcome to stay here though young men in Paris likely do not wish to waste time in the company of old men." He leaned back in his chair. "Has the Alliance contacted you at all about me?" A question intended to possibly catch Gillean off guard. Rarely did Ultan resort to direct questions, unless he had a purpose.

And because of that question, Gillean postponed his reply regarding their lodgings. Rare was the time Gillean was not prepared. Gregore was once, that would be the only during this visit, by God. "Indeed they have. And instituted Bathos." Gillean shrugged a shoulder as if this was of little concern to him. "But I am without an heir and not yet at an age that I am forced to adopt. So it is not only about you that they have contacted me." The Alliance would have contacted him regarding his father and Ultan knew that. Gillean would have answered no other way. The tilt of the younger Callihan's lips was nothing short of pure evil. "Alas." That said, he wiped his palm along his thigh, a dark brow arching with promise. "One night among the elderly danglers would not be too much to endure. I have rented a flat within Les Halles, but for the night, if the old men could manage to make the evening entertaining enough...." His hand lifted to tilt side to side, as if his mind could be made up one way or the other.

Ultan seemed pleased, very pleased indeed. He nodded and stood. "I'm certain that could be arranged. You and your companion of course. Paris has much to offer to two young men and perhaps tomorrow, you and I can continue our talk before you continue your business." Tomorrow there would be less dancing, more directness though Ultan would still be very, very careful.

When his father stood, so stood Gillean. "Tonight then shall be for pleasure and another day." So the board had been set, the pieces moving carefully throughout with strategic subtleties. This was a game. But this was, indeed, a very, very dangerous game.


The evening that followed lasted until the morning hours. At first, it seemed as if it would be little more then dinner at Ultan's club, then a few hours spent in playing cards but Paris had much to offer, both legitimate and not. Ultan and his acquaintances belonged to not one, but many clubs, each offering its own form of sinful pleasures. It was nearly noon when they broke their fast. Gregore then offered to show Michael a few of the milder places in Paris until the father and son talked. The Captain had no reason to turn him down in spite of any suspicions. Thus, the two men were again left alone. This time, they went to the veranda overlooking a garden to speak. It seemed open, but there were always precautions taken.

The aftermath of the evening spent with the 'old men' had made it difficult for Gillean to even roll his head from his pillow, much less prompt him to make himself presentable for the day ahead. It was the life of the elite, however, and while he hadn't indulged in a long time of certain restricted ... diversions...he couldn't lay abed all day. At least, no longer than that grand clock in the hall heralded the half hour had passed eleven. He fuck'n hated that clock. Still, he joined the others to break the fast, as much a noble man in appearance as in birth title. The only visible evidence of the past night of decadence was the slight shadowing beneath his eyes. He wasn't particularly fond of the sunshine today, but to the out-of-doors they would go and make themselves (as much as Gillean could) comfortable overlooking the well tended gardens. He crossed to the wrought iron of the gallery's railing and curled his fingers around the coolness. With his back to his father, he closed his eyes, fighting against that dull ache that throbbed in a steady rhythm inside his skull. He said nothing when Michael left with Gregore. How could he? This was all a part of his father's strategy, and to play out this round, every single move would have to be endured.

The night had still only offered some of the 'delights' of Paris. Ultan seemed unaffected and in some sense, he was. There were times he didn't indulge, times he allowed himself to recuperate. He watched his son with a slight smile, then cleared his throat. "Would you prefer coffee or tea, Gillean, or perhaps some of that fine brandy we shared yesterday?" He sat on one of the chairs, waiting for Gillean to join him. "I must say, that both you and Michael impressed my ... friends last evening, and they are not easily impressed." Did either of the young men remember the entire evening? Ultan himself did, but he had not indulged as heavily. For good reason. He wished to see how Gillean handled himself.

Gillean cocked his head to peer through one eye around his shoulder at his father. "Brandy would do nicely." With a tightening of his jaw line, he straightened, releasing his hold and turned to join his seated father. There was much he remembered about the evening prior, no matter how much he had been invited to continue to indulge in order to avoid insulting any of his father's acquaintances. He lowered to a seat, crossing his leg so his hand draped over his knee. A smile turned Ultan's way. "What are sons for, Father, if not to impress those most requiring positive influence?" The evening had been laced with carefully veiled inquiries and just as expertly guarded replies.

Ultan nodded at a servant then watched Gillean a moment or two more. "They are influential men. Wealthy men. They are willing to finance certain," he paused a moment to consider, "projects, if needed." He waited for the servant to return with a tray. The decanter and two filled glasses were placed with the tray on the table. The servant bowed and retreated. "I am aware that you are always watched, whether it seems so or not. Your behavior has been exemplary." He picked up his glass and studied the liquid. "But... it is my hope that you have not been made to resign yourself to remaining on the outskirts of the court?" He took a sip of the drink, his dark eyes remaining on his son. He had trained him, to the point of nearly destroying him, to be so much more.

Gillean never moved his gaze from his father the entire time, not even when the servant arrived with the tray. Once his father had taken up his drink, Gillean reached for the other, but didn't bring it up yet. He only sat back, for all appearances quite pleased and comfortable to be in his father's company. "I have not been raised to possess the good grace to resign myself to anything not of my preference."

Ultan nodded slowly, then laughed. "You are definitely my son, Gillean. We dance around so carefully with our answers, and say nothing. Is there anything you wish to ask, wish to know about these years we have been parted? Do you have plans beyond the day to day, the mediocre? Do you intend to become part of the King's inner circle?" Was Ultan becoming impatient? Perhaps but he showed only a hint of curiosity.

Impatience brought with it ... negligence. And ultimately, failure. Had it not already been proven via Ultan in the past? Gillean, glass still in hand, shifted a hip and leaned to the arm of his chair toward his father. Still a well-practiced smile remained as he spoke, the faintest tilt of his glass toward the man beside him. "These past years have not been spent in blasé trivials for me, Father. I am not deceived into believing you have not been as ... diligent toward certain ... outcomes." The glass lowered to the table, the liquid within untouched. "The Alliance is well aware of what we both are undertaking. And I am, already, deeply ensconced in the King's inner circle. Would I be anywhere else at this point in time? If I appear placated with mediocrity, it is but a ruse well taught me to gain the means to an end." Dark eyes passed over the features of the man opposite him across the side table. "Believe me in this, Father. For I'll say it the once and no more. If you manage to see your endeavors financed to the point I think satisfactory to achieve any possible ... success... and you act on your ...project, then you will soon be without any doubt as to my own abilities in this area of consideration."

Ultan didn't show if he was pleased with Gillean's answer, nor did he show displeasure. He had taught his son well. He merely nodded and smiled. "We will see soon enough. I have not as yet decided on a firm course of action. I do wish to see how you further your own agenda." He made a motion of dismissal. "Now, tell me of your sister? Is she as frightened of her shadow as she was. She had the potential to become a beauty. Does she attract suitors?" He knew the girl could be used as a pawn but it was unlikely Gillean would do so. His closeness to his sister was the one fault Ultan could not destroy.

Knowing a man's weakness was vital to destroying him. And Goddammit, Ultan knew Gillean's. The son did not, in the least, think his father had not kept up with Caiome's ... well being. Not when she was such a crucial aspect of any possibilities to draw Gillean in deeper. "Come now, Father. You come close to insulting me to think I believe you have let your devotion to Caiome slip, and that you haven't been kept abreast of her these many years." Amusement guarded his deeper emotions as his smile widened and he reached for his glass again. This time he took a moment to appreciate something he and his father did have in common. Expensive tastes in the finer things. Once the crystal lowered, he edged up from his chair. "That said, you enjoy your indecision here in Paris, Father, while I enjoy my own agenda in Kildare. We'll see who derives the most pleasure, hmm?" He stepped to the side, hailing a servant within to come out and he handed her his glass. "Since our conversation here seems to have come to a stagnant impasse, you because you continue to leave matters best attended to, to others and me...because I care not for others to attend to that which I can best achieve...shall we call it an afternoon and you accompany me to the stables? I'd value your opinion on the horses I have recently purchased for Swan Lake. When Dewar returns, we shall be retiring to Les Halles and then on the morrow, returning to Kildare."

Ultan stared at Gillean for a long moment, then he let out a laugh. "Ah, Gillean, are you so certain that I am not dealing with certain matters." He stood, still chuckling. "Yes, you are doing well. But always watch your back. You know who you can trust and who you cannot. Do not trust Remmington especially. He is our enemy." He didn't need to add his concern about Caiome. The mention of Thornston should be enough., though perhaps the alliance of the two houses would do much in Gillean's favor. Something to consider in the future. He nodded to the offer of seeing the horses. "Very well. I would enjoy doing so." He motioned toward the door. "You and your comrade should see a little more of Paris before you rush off. He's very personable, isn't he?" They could continue to talk about non-consequential things while they did. Ultan would have much to consider once his son had departed. Much to consider indeed.


Date: 09-05-12
Poster: Caiome Callihan
Post # 93

When the Cat's Away... 

The mansion seemed quiet with her brother gone, even if it was not even a day's worth of time. So far Caiome couldn't find any secret passages in her room and so decided to go for a walk. The walk proved to have more eyes on her than normal. O'Brien seemed to be around every corner to the point she wondered if he found a means to duplicate himself. She was tempted to try her charm on him but she had promised to be nice while the Big Cheese was gone. Well, trying was only a day so far. In a swirl of pink petticoats under white eyelet lace she headed back into the manor where at least she had her own space. A few of the chambermaids seemed to have a permanent pout now that Gillean was gone and only caused her to smirk as she passed them by. A word of reminder to do their duties and not slack off. She took to the library to go over a few books but her mind was not really on the distraction. To the point a few fell from the shelf and she waved the butler away that came charging in to help.

She may have waved him away and he would help if needed, but that wasn't the main reason he remained, fidgeting where he stood in his need to assist her, and the additional obligation to speak. He cleared his throat. "My Lady. There is a gentleman ensconced in the parlor below. He states he has been invited by your brother and you are expecting him." To that he glanced toward the opened doorway then took a step closer to her. His voice lowered as if the man waiting on the next level down might hear him. "It is the Lord of Thornston, M'Lady. Shall I fetch O'Brien?"

She placed the books on a nearby table as the Butler spoke up. "Why didn't you tell me sooner?" Like the man could have at all. What he had to say next had her blink as she stepped by him heading for the door, "why would fetch O'Brien? I doubt very much he as come to see him or he would be with him now." O'Brien knew the Lord of Thornston would be coming and that was the end of it. Unless they went for a ride perhaps then he and his clones might follow. "Please let the cook know we'll be having a guest for dinner this evening," one way to keep the Butler out of the way as he had a fancy for the cook, or so she was pretty certain. She was gone, heading down the steps before the poor man could even reply. She'd not wait another minute. Like a summer breeze she whisked her way into the parlor.

The butler bowed low as the Lady of the House sailed by answering with just a bow of head and a soft. "Yes, M'Lady." But she was long gone by then. He hurried forward to finish collecting those books and placing them away before he allowed himself the delight of seeking out the cook.

Daniel had been provided a glass of brandy which he swirled more than drank as he waited. A smile played along his lips, brushing back the soft cream film of sheer to look out over what he could see of Swan Lake. He almost felt her before he heard her arrival, turning to look to the door. "I hope my eagerness to visit is not too apparent." He didn't even look to the side as he placed his glass upon a nearby table. "It would be a shame, though, to allow too much time to pass that we might share together." By the time she neared, his gaze had swept over her ending in a rather pleased smile of approval.

She came up alongside him with a quick look out the window. "Look, there is O'Brien," giving a small soft snort before the sheers were back in place and the man below on his way again. Lips curled into that sly smile that was turned up his way as well green eyes. "What took you so long?" Teasing tone as a hand lifted to run her fingers down along his lapel. Eyes had dipped there in following the trace before lifting again, "there is no time like the present and that time is now. I'm pleased you came so soon." And those words were true.. "perhaps you can stay the while?" Although she knew he probably had to be back to his estate to check on things, see to business and all such.

He turned to follow her with his gaze as she looked out the window. His hand lifted to cover hers, stilling her stroke along his coat so she wouldn't move it away. "I had hoped Swan Lake might offer Thornston a night..or two? At least, this visit." His head had dipped to follow her glance down but when she looked back up to him and he spoke, their eyes held. Thornston was a well established estate, managed carefully. Unlike Swan Lake that was beginning to take shape and needed constant attention. Remmington could take the time, if the lady wished him to do so ... here.

Eyes held for what seemed suspended time. Something the mind took hold of and kept unlike so much that was discarded or put in archives. "I wish you to stay as long as you can and then, if you must go, to come back again." Fingers curled into his lapel beneath his as if claiming him or keeping him here with her. "Perhaps you can offer some suggestions.." which could include a lot of things, varied as well. Eyes that held finally drifted to his lips as if committing them to memory, or perhaps it was the memory that drew her focus there.

Those lips she stared at, tipped up into a smile all the more. "Dear Lady. The way you are looking at me could entice me to provide several suggestions." He twitched off a wink to her. That may have been in playful dismissal, that wink, but he was completely serious. "And I truly doubt you need any such suggestions from me." His gaze lifted to look to the entry, where the butler had come to stand. Daniel cleared his throat softly, giving a faint nod in the man's direction. "I have a few things that could be brought above since the Lady of Swan Lake has so graciously offered me the hospitality of her manor for a few days. would see them to ... a room, perhaps?"

Date: 09-10-12
Poster: Caiome Callihan
Post # 94

The Library

"Then let us not waste any time to spend with each other. I don't believe we have shown you the mansion," probably because her brother didn't want him to get too familiar with its layout. Then again they were all similar but she knew Gill begrudged Daniel all that he could extending to unreasonable. Her smile never faltered as she curled her hand into the crock of his arm while giving the Butler instructions to have a room made up for Daniel in the same wing as she and her brother's room. If he gave her any look, she would purposely miss it, like the slight rise of his brows. He knew enough not to say anything and was on his way to see to the task. Or more, to see that it was done by the chambermaid in charge of that wing.

His hand covered hers with a light pat and when she gave the butler her instructions, he dipped his head, a rather poor attempt at hiding his smile. Seemed the Lady of Swan Lake rather enjoyed playing with fire. Very well then. Who was he to deny her? Together they continued on their way through the large manse, neither of them showing any notice of the heads that poked out of doorways when they passed or if the faint echo of whispers followed in their wake. "Tell me, Caiome, was it you who chose to have details added to the woodwork along the baseboards, windowpanes and doorframes? Or was that here upon your arrival?" He paused them at one such example, his free hand extending to run a fingertip along the intricate design carved within the wood.

She had that kind of smile, smug, some might say but really it was that such petty whispering affected her to react that way. Let them speak, they'll make of it what they want whether true or not. Some were probably very jealous for the handsome man at her side. Steps were light as they ended up right outside the library. "They have been here since the manse was built. Luckily well kept and if anything new is added, I make sure it matches and fits. Such fine artistry," running the tips of her fingers along a scrolling curl that formed part of a lion's mane. "The library has the most as if one thought it were an art gallery," She watched the trace of her fingers before green eyes lifted to meet his. "Libraries have always been a place of intrigue outside a man's office." Some had made them their office but usually they were too big and used too often by others members of the family.

His fingertip might be following the carving, but his gaze followed hers instead. He forced himself to relent and drew his appreciate notice of her stroking finger over to her. "And what do you know of intrigues, M'Lady?" He tilted his head ever so slightly to indicate they enter of intrigue..she mentioned.

"Only that I need to learn of intrigue.." words were soft as her fingertip fell away and she started them into the Library. Perhaps it was the touch or perhaps some other ripple in time that crossed as the eyes of the carved lion moved as if watching as the two receded. For a moment before it was back to polished wood. Something within the heart of the manse stirred. Shadows shifted within the room or perhaps it was just the dance of candle light playing tricks on the eyes. There was a great polished mahogany desk towards the back with shelves of books that reached the high ceilings. Rows and rows to either side and ladders on wheels to reach the top shelves. There were many carvings about as well tapestries and the walls that were spared the shelves, were ornate from ceiling to hardwood floors.

Once they were inside, Daniel reached back and nudged the door, the wood meeting wood yet not sealing. Still, privacy was theirs. The lion outside would no longer be privy to the two inside. Remmington twisted his arm, easing her hand from his escort and instead, took her hand in his, using his body to back hers up against one of those beautifully designed tapestries. "Then why not begin this day, Caiome? In this place, so suited for intrigue. One of the places outside a man's office." The forefinger of his other hand hooked under her chin, lifting her face as he searched her eyes. "Or was this not the sort of intrigue you had in mind? Would you prefer that of politics?" He dipped his head, touching a kiss to her lips, light and fleeting before straightening. "That of the rise or fall of a kingdom?" Again he came to her, his mouth touching softly, this time to the corner of her brow, to her temple, then straightening away, looking down to her, the touch of his finger to angle her face never releasing. "Or debauchery, My Sweet? Leaving behind all virtue and duty in the fervent seduction of indulgences otherwise denied you?" He didn't kiss her this time, but the hand he held was lifted, and the back of her hand laced with his was brushed ever so gently against the outer swell of her breast. Her touch, not his. But a sensual stroke never-the-less.

"Should I forsake intrigue to keep safe from debauchery?" She had dipped her head to the side once backed against the tapestry, allowing him to taunt and tease her. His nearness made her catch her breath, the rise and fall of her bosom, demurely exposed, attested to it. Attested to the effect he had on her. "Would you prefer I be prudish?" Eyes lifting as he could then see the pure raw desire he set aflame in them. "Does the rise and fall of kingdoms touch upon us now that I should know of their passing, of their history that it would somehow have me flee that which burns, that of such physical needs. Do you secretly wish me to flee Lord Thornston?" Daring him back as lips had become fuller with his touch. "It is not that I wish this of any other man and you just one of the many pawns in a game of chess." This was not the first time he was all but taunting her to flee him. What game was this she didn't know of? Eyes searched in wondering.

The beginning of his answer came with the slightest shake of his head to the negative. His words strained with the effort of control. "I would no more wish you to flee me, Caiome, than I would wish the world to come to an end. For surely it would...did you." There was a faint smile that followed, one not of mirth, but of desire. "What I wished to know is what sort of intrigue you are seeking. So that I know, what to offer. For I'd not wish a prudish lady to share an empty manor with, here or at Thornston. But if you seek more, if you seek the secrets and mysteries of a man's world, that which your brother keeps you so carefully protected from...this...I can not share with you." This time as her hand moved close to the side of her breast, his thumb caressed the shape instead. "If this suits between us, for now, then I'm quite open to this ... intrigue ... provided by the library and Lady of Swan Lake."

Her heart leaped seeing that slight shake of his head. For a moment she held her breath that perhaps this was all a game to tease her, lure her, then turn her away. Afterall, he had done as much that night in his room. "Then I shall not flee the Lord of Thornston," a slight smile following that actually had a dimple to show. "The intrigue is you and all that you have to offer, all that you wish to offer. To know what not only beats in your heart but what beats in your thoughts, mind and body, body and soul. All in good time, one intrigue at a time. There may be things you cannot share but I am not limited to only one desire as much as curiosity takes hold. Of my brother in ways but certainly not in the same ways it does where you're concern." Except she was losing her concentration with that touch. So new, so innocent in such ways, so touched far more than one that had become immune to even the slightest of touch. "It suits," came as a whisper under the release of a caught breath.


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