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Mary has learned to politely decline second servings even if she's hungry. She's also learned the art of conversation, become an expert at tatting, and knows all the steps to the quadrille. Much to the astonishment of…several people, Mary Lennox has become refined. Quiet. Selfless. And ever the polite young lady in all respects.

However, like her late aunt, she maintains a rather uncommon interest in gardening. Far from being a blight as her former governess warned, this has only elevated her position in her small social circle as a rather eccentric personality trait that borders on vogue.

The key is lost once again. Uncle and Colin have yet to notice, and it has been almost 3 years. Her uncle's back has prevented him from leaving the manor for some years, and Colin long ago lost interest. Who would wish to play in a garden when fox hunting and polo is available?

When Colin kisses her, he presses his lips against hers in a flat line that she is slowly growing to hate. His kisses aren't received so much as they are endured. He squashes his body against her eagerly and his hands hold her shoulders and waist tightly as he begs her to set a date for their marriage.

"Mary, please…what's wrong?"

His eyes question her for an answer she cannot give. Instead she mumbles that these stolen moments are improper and are making her uncomfortable.

When he kisses her, he pushes his fingers through her hair and over her face. Every time. Grubby fingers, nails chipped short with black dirt underneath.

Mary never notices it when it is happening, but after, sometimes, when Martha is brushing her hair before bed, she's scolded for the dirty streaks around her ears and chin. Martha chuckles good-naturedly and has no idea that the fingerprints pressed along Mary's jaw belong to her little brother. Mary simply smiles and murmurs an apology.

Perhaps that is the problem. Perhaps she was damned from the first time she met them, kissing them both from the very beginning. She doesn't remember when the kisses turned from giggles and laughing sighs to a quivering breath under dark eyes. She's uncertain how long ago she decided that she only wanted one of them to do so on a regular basis.

Mary listens as she strolls through the gardens, ears half cocked for his lithe footsteps on the gravel. He's here somewhere. And in his pocket will be the key, the lovely filigreed key that she gave to him one day when he swore she was his and that they had been married, under the stars, years ago.

"Mary my dear, have you given much thought to your future?" Her uncle asks her kindly as they look over the menu for the week.

Future? Her future is here. In this house, in that garden, forever.

When she kisses him, she pushes him against the old acacia tree, or drags him to the stone wall covered in ivy. Best is when she pulls him onto the soft grass in the middle of their garden, where she can crawl into his lap, petticoats spilling over his homespun breeches. Mary is always surprised by the ferocity that she feels, something she hasn't let herself consider in years. That wild little girl, screaming and stamping her heels, struggles out of her for brief moments when she presses her body tightly against his, boldly pushing her tongue into his mouth.

Taking what she wants, just as she used to.