Note: Please read Brandon's Surprise and Brandon's Doubt before reading this story.
"They are here, my love," Brandon said to his wife. "Shall I go down and greet them or wait for you?"
Marianne smiled at the man standing behind her in the mirror as she slipped a necklace around her neck. "You may go down if you like. I'll only be a moment longer."
Brandon stood still as if he were unsure, then he moved closer to her and took both ends of the necklace and clasped it. His hands stayed, resting where they were, tickling the ringlets at the back of her neck. She watched his gray-green eyes as they softly lingered on her face. His eyes were so bright tonight and there was more than a hint of excitement in them.
"I'm telling mother and Elinor tonight. You know," she said, her smile widening. She reached a hand up and wrapped it around one of his.
"I'll tell the gentlemen over port." He met her eyes in the reflection in the mirror the brightness of his growing.
It was finally time for the family to know their happy secret. She was already beginning to show. It wasn't always custom for conditions such as Marianne's to be announced in any fashion, but she and Brandon had agreed that it would be better if at least the close members of the family knew.
"Mother will be pleased and worried. She'll be fearful of my health."
Brandon slid his hands around Marianne's throat and massaged the flesh at her collar, she still held onto his fingers.
"Everything will be fine. I will be with you through it all." Brandon's words comforted her and she smiled at his true understanding of her words.
"You should go down, our family is waiting."
He kissed the back of her head and let her go. "Hurry, angel. You have the guest of honor with you."
Marianne's eyes grew wide at the innuendo in his voice and smile. "Why, Colonel, I do believe you are becoming a devil."
A bit of blonde hair fell into Brandon's eyes as he winked at her; his smile boyish. "Perhaps I--" There was a knock at the door that cut Brandon's playful remake off short. "Enter."
Annie, the maid, opened the door holding a tray with a letter on it. "Sir, there is a post just come for you. Boy, that brung it said it was very important."
Brandon winked again at his wife and turned to the maid, "Thank you, Annie. I'll take it. Go tell our guests that Mrs. Brandon and I shall be down presently." Brandon took the letter and closed the door behind the maid. He opened it and began to read.
Marianne looked back at herself in the mirror giving a final appraisal before standing. She reached down and took her bottle of perfume water dabbing a bit at her ears.
"What is it about?" she asked, setting down the bottle and turning around.
Brandon didn't answer, his body stood ridged and his brow was lined.
"What is it?" Marianne asked, this time with more urgency in her voice. Her hand came to her heart on it's own. She thought she might die from the wait as she watched him continue to read. He scanned over it twice more before looking up at her. All the brightness was gone from his eyes and something very close to fear was replacing it.
"Their giving me orders. I'm being called to India." He tightened his grip around the parchment.
"For a year."
Marianne's other hand came up to her breast and she tightened her fingers around each other. "But that would mean…" she couldn't even speak the words, already a lonely, hollow feeling was rising in her chest.
Brandon stepped forward and put his arms around her. She did not move to reciprocate the embrace but stayed stone like. His buttons pressed hard against her hands still clasped at her heart.
"Our guests, are waiting," she said, pulling out of his grasp. She didn't look back at him but moved into the hallway. Her breath was labored and she gripped the railing in front of her. She breathed in deeply and composed herself, then she stepped slowly down the stairs.