"Jesus Christ." Sebastian Valois-Angoulême shivered, his teeth chattering together. He grunted out the words, his body trembling from head to toe. Hours previous had his feet turned completley numb from the cold and the wet. The snow came up half way up his shins, showing no signs of decreasing in stature. Only increasing, if the gentle flakes floating from the equally as white sky were anything to go by. Surely, they wouldn't be able to handle much more of this torture, yes? "Father," he grunts, casting an angry green eye behind his shoulder. "you have had some ridiculous ideas in my lifetime, but this one has to be the largest yet." he grunts. "What were you thinking? Work in a manor thirty miles from where we lived, our only means of transportation walking?" he grunts. From his position at the back of the large litter, Henry de Valois-Angoulême narrows his eyes at his firstborn. By all the Gods, he was cold! "When are we getting there?" he asks grimly, looking to his side in which his eldest, younger half brother stood.
The eldest two spawns of Henry Valois-Angoulême headed the pack of offspring, matriarch and patriarch. The second-born was much more of a navigator than his elder half brother, whilst the unchallenged eldest got to work on finding the easiest path for the children to walk past. So, they continued to trudge through the thick layer of snow that blanketed what was once a footpath. Sebastian cringed again, feeling another patch of cold water come straight through ruined leather breeches and equally as defeated boots. The boots were old and long since worn in, they truly stood no chance against weather such as this.
"I don't know." his younger brother said, shivering, pulling his cloak closer to his body. His blonde curls were defaced with small snowflakes, his nose and cheeks rosy red with the chill in the air. Good God, how much longer could this last? The weather, or the unfortunate family walking through it? "It could take hours," he says, pulling the map down from his pretty face, looking at his brother. Gleaming green met burnished blue, similar, yet so different. "with the weather and whatnot." he says, shaking his hair free from a few snowflakes. Within a half-minute, they had returned with full force.
The year was seventeen hundred and forty seven. Leading the large pack were the two half brother, the elder, Sebastian, and the younger, Francis. They shared the same father, and not much else. Henry's first wife, Diane de Portiers, had died in childbirth with young Sebastian. Devastated and widowed with a young son, the Frenchman had rushed down the alter for the second time in England, to Francis' mother. Two and a half years later, their firstborn entered the world. To him, the woman had borne ten children, equal amounts sons and daughters, but soon after the twins' had been born, their family fortunes fell through. Kicked out of the Valois-Anguleme manor by the banker, they were left to find work for themselves.
Months of living in practical squalor, with the eldest children working each and every hour God could give them -their father was hardly the most employable man in the world, as was their mother- to support the younger children and their parents. Odd job after odd job for weeks after weeks, until lady luck finally cast a light upon them, pointing them north.
Now in the pay of the Duchess of Edinburgh's household were most of the Valois-Angoulême members. The daughter of long dead Duke and Duchess Stuart, James and Marie, who had died of consumption when the girl was young, had given permission for her former guardian grandmother, Margret Tudor, to accept the new family into her home and within her service days ago. So, off went the large family, walking within the frozen wastelands of the Scottish-English borders and into the welcoming arms of the Duchess.
Rumour had it that the young Scottish Duchess of Edinburgh was humble, kind and caring, even within her place in society. Thanks to her irrefutable wealth, the Duchess had built the largest schools in Scotland. One of the only ones, in fact. Owing to the fact that the girl had been risen to have fierce intelligence, she worked as headmistress of the establishment in eastern Scotland. The twenty one year old woman had found comfort in one of the best paying positions a woman could be in, during these suffocating patriarchal times of history. Financial independence made her one of the richest woman in Europe, a coveted prize for Kings and Princes all over Europe. It helped that she was rumoured to be one of the most beautiful women in the world. Yet, she wed none.
Francis and Sebastian were intended to become members of the blacksmithry, whilst Henry was to find work as one of the builders. Catherine was due to become a nanny to the children of the household, whilst the eldest three girls were to be maids to the Duchess of Edinburgh's household. The children were to help in the kitchens and sweep the floors, whilst the littlest ones were to go into the servants' nursery and cause no trouble.
It was a stark contrast to just a few months ago, when Henry and Catherine were wealthy and content. But that fell through, and the village they had been staying in had drained the rest of their money. So, this was the final leg for the large family. Subservience in the Duchess Mary's household was undoubtedly the best standing they could get for the time being. It would have to do. It paid, many of the children held positions, and the smallest children of Henry and Catherine would have food in their stomachs and warm beds to sleep in, to get past this horrid winter.
Scotland and England had been plunged into a unforgiving winter, and had been in one for over several months, so the streets they walked were covered in six inches of snow and ice. Capes had been drawn together as best as they could, but all were exhausted, freezing and hungry. It had been like this for days. Walking and walking, the children nearly becoming one with the ice on multiple occasions.
Thumps could be heard, trudging through the snow. It couldn't be running people, the thumps were far too frequent and heavy for that. The sound was loud behind them. Repeating, over and over and over. The members of the Valois-Angouleme clan clambered at the side of the road to make sure they didn't get trampled, holding their belongings in messy and tattered bags, and waited to see what was coming their way.
Eight wolves entered their vision first, all white and grey and beast like within their Majesty. They lead the way for two giant white haired stallions, attached to bridals and a carriage, and being controlled by a coachman dressed in a long black coat and a top hat, his black suit and white cravat barley viable.
The horses shrieked and howled along with the wolves, who seemed to be tamed and under control, but still looked dangerous nonetheless. All eight howled louder when the coachman cried out and stopped them all in unison when he saw the four people on the road.
"Hoe! Woah there!" The carriage slid to a stop, horses and wolves having trouble ceasing all momentum, the ice was so thick and whatnot. The coachman stared down at the dozen people ranging in all ages, a frozen brow risen in confusion. One of the wolves walked away from the pack and jumped inside the carriage's opened window, covering the occupant as best as it could, as if it was trying to keep whoever it was warm. Three of them moved to the back of the carriage, creating a shield of protection for whoever the first wolf was keeping warm.
"W-who are you?" Sebastian asked, stepping forward to protect his smallest brothers and sisters if need be.
"My name is Gregory, son. Quite obviously, I'm a coachman to her grace. We're heading in the direction of a manor several miles away. Why are you walking on a path which coaches and sleighs regularly travel down? You could get hurt. There's nobody around for miles to help." the gruff, rouge accent stated, looking down at the large family with confusion. His words were unstoppable and really rather Scottish.
"We're trying to get to our next destination, however we're not entirely sure where we're going." Henry stated, squinting in the heavy snowfall. He did trust Francis' navigation, but the fact that all directions looked the same, covered within snow and ice and a lot of it, unnerved him. The children couldn't last the rest of their lives in snow and ice, after all. They needed food and warmth sooner rather than later.
"May I ask what you are doing walking outside in this weather without a coachman or any other means of travel? If you need to be somewhere, there's plenty of time to travel when nobody will be driving and when there's no snow. You could catch your death!" The coachman, a middle aged man, asked scoldingly. His aggravation was obvious, although he didn't seem to be angry with the family before him. A cold comfort. Literally.
"Apologies, but we are travelling to our new place of residence and employment. Wolfblood Estate." she says, jerking her head to fix her black bonnet. "Do you know how far it is until there?" Catherine asked, shivering, her twin daughters laying underneath her cloak.
"Seventeen miles down the road you're headed." he says slowly, looking at each and every member of the family. "If I may be so brass, could you be the folk Lady Tudor employed days ago? Newest members of the servants in the estate?" he asks, pushing snow from his face.
"Yes, we are." Henry intervened, cocking a balding head to the side. How could a common coachman know who they were?
"May I ask something?" Sebastian asked him as the wolves stared at him. Almost all of them set their sighs upon him and Francis, but he more specifically.
"What is it, young man?" Gregory asks, staring down at Sebastian.
"Why do you have wolves leading you?" He asked, hearing movement in the carriage. "I've never heard of such a thing." he says.
"For mistress' protection. Nobody knows what can happen here when the mistress returns from her work." Gregory replies. "After all, mistress is wealthy beyond belief. We want not any issues with getting her Grace into her place of residence." he finishes, looking back as the door opens and the occupant speaks.
"Gregory?" she asks, a foot appearing from the carriage. "Why have we stopped?" she asks, her impressive gown rustling within itself as she continues to remove herself from the carriage. A wolf jumps out before her. "Astoria, Sapphira and I are chilled." They heard a sweet, feminine voice ask.
Inside the carriage, the occupant came out, the wolf that came to her now getting up and walking back to it's pack. She was holding two white dogs in her arms. But they were so furry and fluffy that they didn't even look like dogs at all. The woman was remarkably tall in height and wore a white lace ballgown, a large, thick, white fur cape wrapped around her body, trailing for two and a half feet on the snow. It covered her arms and wrists, its hood covering most of her hair, only a few ringlet curls made their way down her body. When she took a step, her embroidered shoes peeped out. Sparkling in finery and beautiful in sight. They crunched the snow below her as she walked. She held the dogs in one arm, her other hand covered by a white fur muff, which could be excused for being the dogs. Two wolves walked next to her, protecting her from any danger that the shivering family pay possess.
She definitely caught Francis' eye, as when his mother started to explain their situation to the young woman, he took in details of her, converting them into memory. A thick, diamond choker necklace was around her throat, probably keeping it warm, and below it, a smaller necklace. He lost count of how many diamond rings were on her fingers, and could faintly see the sparkle of diamonds from her ears when the soft wind and tiny snowfall blew her hair back a little. There was a small crown of crystals on her hairline that shone in the twinkle of snow light. He could also spot a blanket being hidden in the crooks of her forearms.
Francis lost himself in her eyes, although she never once glanced at him. Those beautiful, bright golden orbs sparkled in the cold air. Her cheeks and nose were slightly rosy compared to her gorgeous porcelain, flawless complexion. No imperfections or freckles dusted upon her nose. A beauty to behold, this was obvious. He even saw her react in sympathy -the genuine kind- when his mother recounted the tale they had to share. She was actually listening, too. Not just pretending to.
"Mad'am, it's nothing to concern yourself over. I will deal with this. Here, let me help you inside, we'll be home soon. Let's get you inside so your not unwell before your arrival at the estate." The horseman said, getting out of his seat and slowly helping the evidently very rich woman back into her carriage, covering her up as best as he could with the cape, which provided her with a little warmth and provided a little relief from the bitter cold. Her dainty hands were placed inside the fur muff, the dogs on her lap and abdomen, everything else covered by the large cape. The two wolves went to the back again, still protecting their mistress.
The family saw her whisper something into Alistair's ear as he covered her with a white furry blanket, and hand him something, before he came out of the carriage and extended it towards Henry.
"Mad'am requests you each take a few sips of this coffee. We wish we could help more, but it's unpractical and unrealistic for us to do more." He said, extending a silver goblet full of hot coffee towards the family. Henry quickly took it, careful not to spill any of the precious liquid. The heat of it was luxurious in his holey gloves.
The family shared the hot coffee, not even wincing at the bitter taste. It was passed on like the most precious jewel, before the empty goblet was passed back to Gregory. Francis noted the fact that it was pure silver, that goblet. And engraved in black iron. Whoever this woman was, she was extremely rich and wealthy beyond belief.
Never mind the fact that her carriage was something out of a fairy tale. Silver and glass with twined glass as decorations. All white and pure and beautiful and dainty.
"Mistress can't stand to see people cold, hungry and exhausted. Accept this, it's her gift to you. We wish we could do more." He handed them two bread rolls with thick slices of yellow cheese in the middle.
"Thank you so much, Sir, Mad'am. You've been a huge help to us." Catherine breathes out, staring at the bread rolls with wide eyes. Charles, Henri and small Margret looked them over with comedically big eyes.
"Not a problem, we hope to see you again. Best of luck on your travels!" Gregory called after he'd gotten up on the seat, grabbing the whip and cracking it, making the horses and wolves move. They started to run, the wolves at the back were now at the front again, running with the rest of their pack.
After their small meal of bread and cheese, the small family continued to walk for several hours, until they reached a large wall that lead to a pair of gates, a man waiting near them in a chair, nursing a cup of hot liquid. He rushed over to them.
"Can I be of assistance?" he says. He's young, Catherine realises. Barely nineteen years of age, wrapped up in a black blanket that had scraggly edges. He looks like Sebastian, but younger and cleaner. He's well groomed, dark hair pulled back in a small ponytail, scruff managed well. His eyes are the colour of sea glass, he looks youthful and well rested, albeit a little bit cold.
"Yes," Catherine says softly, her exhaustion evident. This perks the young man up.
"My husband, children and I received word from Lady Tudor-Stuart, dowager Duchess twice over. It regarded our employment in the Duchess of Edinburgh's household." she says, pushing matted bronze curls from her face.
"I see," the young man steps back. "you must be the barrage of servants Lady Tudor informed us of, six days past." he says, a Scottish brogue returning to his voice. He sounded somewhere between Irish and English earlier. "Mistress hasn't arrived yet, I suspect she has ran into some business on the way from the school up east, come in." he says, pulling the black iron gates open.
The large family scampers inside the grounds, immediately taking notice of the cleanliness of the grounds, the well groomedness of the trees and shrubbery, despite the thick layer of snow. They followed their impromptu tour guide up towards an imposing house of stone. The home was utterly enormous, resembling a chateaux more than a house, dwarfing any other home the former wealthy family had owned or worked within.
"My lady." he bows suddenly. Francis blinks, looking up, spotting an older woman with dark hair waiting by a door. She's older than his mother, her face prunes with age, yet she seems content in the cold. Her brown cape is fine, tanned fur poking out of the lining. He can see an off white lace skirt underneath the cape. This must be the woman who sent them summons. "I bare with me the Valois family, your recent task. I will leave them with you now, madam. Does your Grace have any more use of me, or should I return to my post, to wait for the Duchess' return?" he asks her, rubbing his dark cloak to keep the warmth inside.
"I am contented, young Fredrick. Worry not, you remember Gregory sent word through madame Carpe? My granddaughter held business with a passing Bavarian Count, before a meeting with the Earl of Essex, about getting more food supplies for the schoolchildren." she says, her voice is kind and motherly to the young man. He bows out, and Francis looks at her, awaiting instruction.
"Which one of you is Catherine Valois?" she asks. Her voice is clipped, but not unkind. He is a little intimidated, but the older woman does not scare him.
"I am." Francis' mother steps forward. "Your Grace and I corresponded over letters, if you remember correctly." she says, holding the two baby girls closer to her.
Mary Tudor looks at them for a few moments. "Very well." she says, turning around. "Follow me," she says, pushing open the door she had been leaning against. Eager for warmth, the family scampers inside, immediately surrounded by a cloud of heat. Sebastian and Francis immediately smell rich meats and hearty vegetables cooking from nearby kitchens, and cannot help but grunt in hunger.
The dowager Duchess -twice over- walks confidently with purpose, down towards servents quarters of the home. She quickly nitters on, showing the family a large room with six beds placed against the walls, telling them that that was their living quarters and another smaller, conjoined quarter, allowing them too put their things down and remove their wet clothing.
"Sit." she says. Although even the children do not dare sit at the large wooden table until the older woman does so. Mary Tudor sits upon the head, waiting patiently until all of them were sitting. Children's bellies rumble as they catch sent of food cooking just a few feet away. "I'll have Rainette bring you some clothes as soon as they're dry from the wash. You'll recognise her, she's the matron's daughter. Bright red hair, you'll never be able to unrecognise her." she says, pushing dark hair from her face.
They're surrounded by three burly men, who place cups down in front of them all, and they're filled with a hot liquid. Not even caring what the liquid was, it was quickly wolfed down by the Valois'. A smaller, kinder woman around Claude's age places two cups of milk near Catherine's arms, nodding to the two babies in her arms, before scampering away.
"I trust you've warmed sufficiently?" Mary Tudor asks, after they've had time to wash with bucketfuls of hot water and had chance to change into the servants' clothing. Henry affirms this, after fixing Charles' shirt. "Wonderful," she says, the clipped tone returned now. "Follow me, Catherine, Henry, only bring the elder children. I'm sure the others can make themselves comfortable in the servants' nursery." she says, as the babies are taken away from their mothers' arms and the children younger than Claude have been lead away by other servants.
They're lead into another room, halting at the sight of a short woman in a blue and pink dress. It doesn't look particularly expensive, but it's far grander than the servants' attire the family now wore. To Francis, she's not particularly attractive. Sure, her blue eyes are pretty enough, but they're almost completley covered by charcoal eyeliner and small beforehand. Her face was freckled, and her lips a little too large for a face such as that. Her teeth were large, but she wasn't an ugly girl. She was young and fresh, and clearly of some wealth.
"Lola, there you are." Mary Tudor says. The girl pauses in her footsteps, and curtseys to the Duchess' grandmother. "This is the new servent family Mary's just taken on. Show them around the main quarters, would you? Before you and Lady Greer begin dinner preparations for my granddaughter's return?" she asks.
"Of course, my lady." she says. Mary Tudor walks away.
"Good afternoon," she says, looking at each member of the family quickly. Her gaze doesn't linger on Francis, either, so he hardly thinks he's attractive to her anyway. Nor Sebastian, for that matter. "My name is Lola. The Duchess is a dear friend and cousin to me, I act as a Lady in waiting to her. In the months she's gone, our other cousin and two closest friends manage the estate for her Grace when she leaves for the eastern school." she says, her voice also clipped, as if she's gone through this set up a thousand times before. "I take it you are Catherine and Henry, the matriarch and patriarch?" she asks.
"You are correct, my Lady." Henry says. "My son, Sebastian, our sons, Francis and Louis, and our daughters, Elisabeth and Claude." he introduces quickly, also not wanting to spend too much time on introductions that didn't particularly need to be made.
Sebastian was dizzy from an information overload when they had finally finished the tour. This estate was far bigger than it looked to the outside, and that was quite the statement, seeing as though the exterior was large enough to intimidate any intruders. So many rooms and suites and coridoors and staircases. Finally, they finish at the mistress of the house's suite.
"I don't think I need to say, that you all must pay Mary the proper respect if ever you catch her walking around." Lola says, turning around to the family. "The usual mannerisms, of course, her hand must be kissed. Males bow, females curtsy." she says, rambling on about other not particularly interesting things. The girls enter Mary's suite, before a lecture on very interesting topics, such as how the Duchess' clothes and sheets should be washed, and how her items should be polished and cleansed every two weeks whenever she was residing at her most frequent home.
"My lady," Catherine says, as they're marching down to the kitchens. Lola turns to the woman. "My position will be in the nursery with the children of the home, yes?" she says, her usual fire returning to her now that her bones were warm and her blood didn't resemble ice. "There are children residing in this home?"
"Of course." Lola says. "apart from the servants' children -who have their own nursery and their own matron, the Duchess has four godchildren living with her. Elizabeth, Isabella, Felix and Anthony. Also, her three nephews young, Robert, David and Louis, and her grace's niece, Anna. Mary's poor niece and nephew are of illegitimate birth, God bless them, but the Duchess cares for them regardless." she says.
"Are there any others?" Catherine asks, rounding the corner.
"Indeed. Three others. Master James and the twins, Mistresses Annaliece and Annika." she lists off, her eyes changing with the names of the last three children.
"Are they her children?" Catherine asked. Lola stiffened up, raising her nose and chin in a way that looked unnatural and obviously in response to the truth of this statement. "It cannot possibly be, the Duchess has never taken a husband, yes?"
"We don't know who birthed those children, who mothers them or who fathered them." She replied shortly, starting to walk away, now that the family was in the servants' kitchen quarters, the cooks being interrogated by a bohemian brunette and a proper blonde. "The Duchess never told us, neither did any of the people related to her. We don't talk about how the children came to be, just look after them to the best of our abilities until Mad'am comes home."
"Ah, I see." Catherine knew when to drop conversations when it was appropriate too, and she left this how it was.
"Now, we must cook and eat before the Duchess comes home."
The family was seated in front of a meaty stew with vegetables floating around in a thick gravy. Francis, Louis, Sebastian, Elisabeth and Claude began hungrily wolfing down the food, whilst Henry and Catherine took a while to converse.
"When are we to conduct service?"
"Tomorrow morning." Lola answers, sipping on a mug of steaming tea. "You will be awoken at dawn with the other nannies, to eat and dress, before preparing food for the children and waking them at two hours past. Your husband will be awoken an hour later to begin work on the Duchess' carriage, for she has been within it for many days, travelling back and forth from school and whatnot. The eldest, Sebastian, will be awoken at the same time to begin working, whilst Francis will have more leighway, I highly doubt Gregory will have encountered any trouble in weather such as this. As will Louis, come to think of it." she sips. "Your daughters will be awoken at the same time as your eldest son to begin her chores." she finishes. "Mistress will undoubtedly wish to sleep longer in these next few days, the travelling days are so long and the cold will be harsh upon her. The children will be more energised than ever, we have learned this on the Duchess' trips away and returns over the years."
"I see." Catherine says, dunking her spoon into the bowl, collecting more potato and gravy. "How old are the children?" she asks, blowing upon the hot food, before devouring it happily.
"James is nearing his third birthday, whilst Annaliece and Annika are nearing their seventh month." Lola answers, breaking off a crust of bread to take in the food.
"They're twins?" she raises her brows, surprised. "I didn't realise."
"Yes." she says. "They are. Beautiful little things, those girls are. Dark, soft hair. Beautiful golden eyes, a crimson pout. You'll be as enchanted with the babies as all the household is." Lola says, drinking more of her tea.
"Must we refer to her as mistress or mad'am? And kiss her hand ever time we interact?" Sebastian asked, swallowing down the air that attempted to leave his stomach.
"Yes. It's a necessity, or her grandmother will discontinue your services to her. You must be respectful and formal to her." Lola replied sharply, her words becoming as cold as the ice outside.
"Sebastian, don't cause a scene." Henry says, shooting daggers at his firstborn child.
"Apologies, father." he grunts. "I cannot stand formalities and submission."
Francis asks about this mysterious mistress eagerly, collecting the rest of the salty gravy with a crust of bread.
"Tell me, has the Lady of the house been travelling today?" he asks, bringing the browned bread to his pouty lips. Lola barely gives him a second glance.
"She has." she says. "It takes an average of six days to get from school to the estate, more now, seeing as though the weather gets so bad nowadays." she finishes, pushing dark curls behind her ear.
"And Gregory, he is the coachman?"
"Yes." Now the girl seems confused "How do you know this? You seem to know nothing of the Duchess and her family." she says.
"I do believe that the Duchess rode past us as we travelled on foot. She was very kind." Francis smiles at the memory of the dark haired beauty who had shown such kindness. Excitement grew inside his body as he realised he would be setting eyes upon her once again.
"My cousin acts like that constantly. Make no mistake, Mary is the kindest, gentlest head of the house that these walls have seen in such a long time." Lola says, throwing a piece of food onto the floor for one of Mary's dogs to pick it up and eat.
"I believe you." he says. "We were permitted sips of coffee and bread and cheese."
"Oh?" Lola asks. "My cousin Mary doesn't feed often. Regularly, Mary gives out coffee, if she feels sympathy for them in the cold. However, mistress only feeds if she is intrigued." Lola revealed.
"Why would she be intrigued? We're nothing special." He grumbled.
"Nobody knows what happens in mistresses head sometimes. She's very ambiguous and mysterious. She keeps that side of her well hidden." the brunette replies, taking a bite of a jam tartlet.
"So, would it be invasive to tell us something about yourself? You know us fairy well now, Lola." Elisabeth says.
The curly brunette looked away. "Myself and Kenna are cousins to the Duchess, you remember, the one who dresses so impractically in the cold weather? But, we've both been disowned from our families due to scandal. Mary was nice enough to give us a home and a position, some money on the side to keep us going, until she can find us husbands and a better life, in exchange for loyalty."
"Scandal? What kind?" Catherine seemed intrigued at this.
"Loss of virtue before marriage." she stated, blushing a deep crimson. Elisabeth nodded slowly.
"Lady Greer and Lady Aylee are both in tact, however. Gossip says they are the most loyal, and have been rewarded with advantageous matches." Lola seems irritated at this.
"I am sure you can redeem yourselves in one way or another." Claude finishes her food, swallowing some water, her words quiet.
A little girl skipped into the servants' quarters happily, squealing.
"Mistress is here! Mistress is here! Mistress is here! She has arrived!" She skipped, squealing the words out happily.
"Okay, 'Dora. We understand. We shall great her momentarily." The woman who seemed to be the little child's' mother -who stood at one end of the servants' quarters- chuckled.
Francis gulped audibly, not knowing how to react to the news of the Duchess' arrival.
They all walked over to the main house and stood in the living quarters, where the mistress apparently always was.
"Where is she? She's not here." The little girl frowned. Mary Tudor came into view and chuckled at her.
"Your mistress is in her library, she's being fed and watered by Lady Greer and Aylee. All bar the newest members may see her." The maids and servants scurried away, and the elderly woman turned to the frowning people.
"Why must we be separated?"
"A thing for my granddaughter to do is meet her newest associates privately to develop a bond with them. She wants to see you in her study. Come, I'll show you where it is."
"Francis, she wants to see you." Catherine whispered to him, leaving the warm room that smelled of cinnamon and Scottish oak.
"Okay, mother." He walked inside, closed the door, and saw her on the chair. The fire was lit, and it was the only light in the room, aside from a few candles. She wore a different dress to what she was wearing when he'd saw her, a slender white satin gown with a thick robe of white fur. She had no jewellery or shoes on, her hair was gown and unwound.
"Come." She ordered softly. He nodded and walked over to her, taking her soft, small hand in his and raising it up to his mouth, kissing it for a few seconds, admiring how silky her skin felt in his hand on on his mouth. He let her hand go, and she continued to look at him for a few seconds.
"Help me stand, I want to take a look at you." He nodded silently and took both of her hands in his. He helped her to her feet and she took a few steps towards him.
She stared at him, from his long blonde hair, big, bright blue eyes, a pale nose, pouty, petal soft lips, strong jawline, shaved cheeks and neck and down his strong, muscled chest, thick biceps, small waist, long legs. He was very handsome.
"You're a treat for the eyes." She joked. He smiled shyly and she moved some hair from his face, admiring how soft it was.
"You have pretty hair." she said softly, keeping her hand on the curve of his jaw. He let her, not even noticing the fact that his arms were sliding down over her waist, wrapping over her tiny midsection.
And, before they both knew it, their lips were pressed together in a soft, passionate kiss, that changed both of their lives for the better.