Once they were done with lunch, Julian payed the bill and stood then offered his hand to Alice. Needing to feel her small, delicate hand in his to reafirm his decision to try and vie for her heart against Borris, Elliot, Ace and the others.

Tilting her head back, Ali looked at him with those wide teal eyes of hers. Her expression openly curious even as she slipped her hand into his, causing his pulse to leap in response.

Gently pulling her to her feet, he then watched as she started to collect the bags with her new clothes- and felt the small urge to chuckle at her silliness. What was the point in him taking her shopping if he wasn't going to chivalrously carry her bags for her? He was a gentleman after all, wasn't he? Bending down slightly at the waist, he gently took possession of the bags from her even as she awkwardly protested, "Hey! I can- You don't have to- Julian!"

"Hush Ali. I do not mind carrying them."

"But they're heavy." Ali said in a concerned tone that had Julian tilting his head to the side, reminding Alice of a bird of prey she had once seen the picture of in one of her late mother's books. The intense way he looked at her made her shiver a little even as she saw his lips curl up in a small amused smile before replying,

"The fact that they are heavy are all the more reason for me to carry them."

"Well that may be but-"

"No buts Alice. I will carry the bags. Besides, you still aren't feeling completely well and I do not want you're health to fail..." Alice got a look on her face that reminded Julian of what Borris looked like as a kitten before he had been taken in by Merry.

That look, it was haunted. Holding a thousand secrets.

And it made him wonder if no one in her world other than her mother had ever been so kind to her before she had come to Heartland. He wanted to ask, to know what her life had been like before Heartland. But part of him felt it would be cruel to do so.

Especially with the recent death of her mother.

"Come Ali," he said as he shifted his hold on some of the bags so that he could free up an arm and offer it to her. "I can see that you are tiring. I believe that we have just enough time for one more shop before we start back. What would you like to see this time?"

Ali was quiet for a heartbeat or two as they walked out of the cafe, her mind going over possible shops that she had yet to see but wanted too before saying weakly, "I-I don't know."

Julian stopped walking and tilted his head again as he considered her answer before suggesting, "We've only bought several dresses and other things for you to wear. Perhaps you would like to get a few more outfits before heading back?"

"If you think I should..." Alice replied. Julian nodded his head as they started walking again.

(************************************************* ************************************************** ***)

Frustrated that he hadn't been able to catch Julian in his home and demand that he hand over Alice, Blood sat in his carriage- seething in silence while Elliot and that damned knight of hearts, Ace, conversed about anything and everthing. Pissing him off even further since the drone of their voices were giving him a headache.

"Where are we going?" Elliot asked him suddenly, jarring Blood from his dark thoughts just enough to look around as if confused when he was actually checking to make sure that his order to drive into town was actually being followed by his driver since the wanker had a problem when it came to taking orders.

Why the last time he'd ordered his carriage driver to drive him into town the man had taken him miles from home and left him hanging off of the edge of a cliff. The damned bloody bastard...

I should have killed him for that stunt. Blood thought, but then good drivers were so hard to find these days. Once he had assured himself that they were indeed heading into town, he sighed and finally answered Elliot's question. "We're going into town. Since Julian isn't at his home, then he must be there. Tracking him down shouldn't be all that hard since he has an outsider with him. He's probably showing her around."

"Ah, so you're still looking for him." Elliot said thoughtfully as his left hand went to the gun holster attached to his belt, his fingers tapping the leather absently as Ace silently calculated a way to find Julian first.

Hopefully before his old friend wound up with a few bullet holes in him.

(************************************************* ************************************************** **************)

Alice finished trying on the skirts, shirts, pants and shoes that Julian had helped her pick out, and folded what was in her hands carefully so that she didn't end up accidentally wrinkling it. And then laid it aside with the other pieces of clothing when she was hit by a sudden bought of dizziness. Staggering a bit, her back hit the wall behind her with a dull thud just as Julian decided to thrust an arm into the dressing room, his hand extended with a teal satin and black lace ribbon in it.

Glancing over at his hand, she reached up and took the ribbon and slowly eased herself onto the small bench and waited for the wave of dizziness to pass as she said a breathless 'thank you' as Julian's arm disappeared.

She took a moment to study the piece of beautiful workmanship in her hands and smiled faintly when she heard Julian ask from outside the dressing room, "Do you like it Alice?"

"Yes. It's very nice." Alice said as she ran a finger along the silky smooth fabric as if entranced.

"I'm glad," Julian said, his tone light as he looked down at the small bag of multi colored ribbons he had just gotten for her before asking, "Are you done trying clothes on?"


"Alright, bring what you want to the front when you are done re dressing."