A/N: A one-shot I came up with while re-reading the Heir Series a while back, about how Linda and Hastings met (since they're my favorite couple of all time). Reviews are more than welcome!
The sound of a ringing telephone echoed throughout the large manor. It took two more rings before the owner of the home made his way to the living room and checked the caller ID.
"Williams. About time," muttered the man, before picking up the phone. "Hello?"
"Hastings?" said Williams, through the receiver. "It's me, Tanner! I'm at the trade and I think I've found something you're going to like!"
"Is that so? What did you find?"
"Williams, we have been over this," sighed Hastings. "I do not liberate enchanters. I have worked too hard for my money and I refuse to be tricked out of it by a beautiful con artist."
"No, this one is different. This one is tame. No, not "tame" exactly. More like-"
"Tanner, she has you bewitched. Go home immediately, and call me back when you find me someone useful."
"But she is useful. Trust me! She doesn't use her magic excessively, like other enchanters. She only used it once while I was with her, and she did it to make the wizard guard leave. After that, she seemed to relax. I think she's scared of them, but she wasn't of me. Hastings, I'm telling you, she could help us!"
Hastings pinched the bridge of his nose as he thought through the possible consequences of this decision. If she did turn out to be trustworthy, as Tanner insisted, he could gain a powerful ally against the Roses. And an enchanter ally at that! On the other hand, if she betrayed him, he could end up losing everything he had ever worked for.
"After that, she seemed to relax… I think she's afraid of them…" Tanner's words echoed through Hastings's mind.
After cursing something about chivalry, Hastings gave his assistant permission to purchase the enchanter and have her sent to his home.
When the doorbell rang, Hastings stood from the armchair in the living room where he had been waiting and went to answer the door.
"Good evening, Master Hastings!" said a stout and fairly sweaty man.
"Good to see you, Lerich! I hope you are doing well," lied Hastings. Knowing for a fact that this man often mistreated those he transported for the Trade, Hastings was actually disgusted to see him and hoped that he was not doing well.
"I get by with what I've got" said Lerich, with a crooked smile. "I'm here to deliver your new beauty. You're a lucky man, Hastings. If only I'd seen her first!"
Only years of perfecting his self-control prevented Hastings from punching the portly man in the face as he laughed.
No matter if the enchanter turns on me now, thought Hastings, so long as she's out of this man's reach.
"Sign here, while I go get your prize." Lerich winked as he handed over a clipboard.
Hastings waiting until he had a clear view of Lerich's back before he scowled at him. That was when he saw him bring a young girl in chains out of the back of his truck.
"Here you are," Lerich handed the lead chain over to Hastings before taking the clipboard and turning away. "You two have a good night now!"
The roaring laughter that erupted from his throat sounded harsh against Hastings's ears. If he had been a child he might have stopped them up with his hands just to make the horrible sound stop.
Hastings waited until the truck was out of sight before showing the girl inside. After taking her to his public study, his private one being guarded by dozens of charms to ward off intruders, he dissolved her handcuffs and gestured for her to take a seat. It took a second before she finally slumped down in the chair in front of his desk, and he took his place on the opposite side.
Steepling his hands together, Hastings leaned back in his chair without saying a word. The girl took the momentary silence as an opportunity to analyze her new owner. He was taller than she was, much taller, though most people usually were. High cheekbones and other chiseled features made him look aristocratic despite thick eyebrows and dark, unruly hair.
He's handsome, I'll give him that, thought the girl. If only he wasn't a wizard...
Hastings ignored her searching gaze as he conducted his own assessment of her. He discovered that while she wasn't in the worst shape he had ever seen, she definitely wasn't in the best. Shallow cuts and yellowing bruises covered her arms, while fresher, more purple, ones gave the illusion of jewelry around her wrists and neck. Despite her injuries, she met his assessing eyes with a calm gaze that gave away no hint as to what she was thinking.
As their eyes held, Hastings was slightly startled to note their color. Her irises were violet flecked with gold, which added a bit of exoticism to her already beautiful face.
No wonder she managed to enchant Williams so easily, even without magic, thought Hastings. In spite of her injuries, one can still see that she is very beautiful.
Based on the soft features of her face, he assumed her to be no older than nineteen years old. Maybe even younger, since she seemed unusually short. Eighteen, and already caught up in the trade? Obviously she had not belonged to anyone before now, because no one would be foolish enough to let her out of their sight. But if she had managed to live freely up until now, how did she end up in the Trade? She must have done something to stand out from the crowd, something to get herself caught. But what?
While he thought over the possibilities, she waited with what seemed like endless patience. Finally, just as Hastings was about to speak, she beat him to it.
"Is Hastings your first name or your last name?" she asked casually.
His mouth, having been opened in order to ask her a different question than the one she currently posed, stayed open, blatantly stating the fact that she had caught him off guard. Had she been waiting to interrupt him?
"It is my last name," he replied.
"What's your first name?"
Hastings was beginning to rethink his rash decision to purchase her.
"Leander. My name is Leander Hastings-"
Suddenly the corners of the girl's lips twitched with a smile.
"Is there something amusing about my name?"
"No, nothing at all," she said, looking away from him. "It's nice, actually. 'Lee'."
Hastings thought about the last time someone had referred to him by that name and fought back a pang of sadness. Realizing that she had stopped talking, he took the chance to ask a few questions of his own.
"What is your name?"
"Does it matter?" she asked simply. "You bought me, therefore you can rename me whatever you want, and use me for whatever you want. Isn't that how this is supposed to work?"
Hastings couldn't decide between scowling or smiling at her wit. Lesser wizards would have already flooded her with power at this point in order to teach her to watch her tongue, mistaking her insolence for blatant disrespect. His trained eye, however, had picked up the way she had been twirling a single strand of her brown, shoulder-length hair since she had sat down—a clear sign of anxiety. When the girl realized that he had spotted her nervous habit, she quickly brought her hand down and placed it on the arm of the chair.
Slowly he stood up from his chair and walked over to the window, placing his hands behind his back as he analyzed the view.
"How did you get caught, if you don't mind my asking?"
The girl paused before she spoke, unsure of why he would want to know her answer.
"A friend of mine disappeared over a year ago. She's a sorcerer, a very powerful sorcerer. When I started looking into where she could have gone, I discovered the Trade. Through some friends of mine, I got hold of the schematics for the cells where they keep the prisoners. So I went to liberate her."
Hastings smiled into his reflection in the mirror.
"Interesting word, "liberate". Where some people hear the word "emancipate", others hear "steal" instead."
"I wasn't trying to steal Clara because she doesn't belong to anyone!" cried the girl. "I was merely trying to help bring her home!"
"I see," said Hastings.
Giving the girl a moment to calm down, Hastings mentally noted that Tanner was to receive a larger commission than usual for this particular purchase. If this girl was willing to attempt a break-in at the Trade all on her own then it would be easy to persuade her into joining his forces and fighting the hierarchy of power that had created institutions like the Trade in the first place. She would need to be trained, however. He couldn't afford to lose any more associates.
"Do you know what you did wrong?" he asked, turning around to face her.
His question had apparently caught her by surprise because her brow furrowed in confusion.
"Did wrong? I don't understand what you mean."
"Since you're currently sitting here in my office as my property, I'm assuming that your escapade did not end successfully. Why not? What did you do wrong?"
"Oh, you mean that," she said. "Well, I knew that there would be guards posted all along the corridors of the building. They were easy enough to avoid. What I didn't account for was the fact that there was a wizard inside of Clara's cell. Two of them, actually. I guess they considered her a high priority or something. When I finally got inside, I was hit with an immobilization charm." The girl curled her hands into fists."I should have entered more cautiously."
Hastings felt the corners of his mouth twitch with the desire to smile. This girl clearly disliked the current system that ruled over the magical guilds, and rather than sit around and complain about it it, like so many others were doing and had done for years, she had chosen to act against it. Yes, Tanner would be receiving a very large commission indeed.
There was only one more question left to ask, even though Hastings could already guess the nature of the answer. He hated having to remind this girl of all that she had gone through, but at the same time he knew it was necessary. If she was to join him as an ally, it wouldn't be enough to simply dislike the current hierarchy of power on account of what had happened to someone else. She would need to harbor her own personal grievance against it and use it to drive both her actions and her loyalty to the cause.
Hastings walked over to her chair and towered over her even more so then when she had been standing. "How did they treat you once you were caught?"
At his question, the girl lowered her head and brought her hands into her lap, as if closing in on herself.
"Some nights were worse than others," she said almost inaudibly. "Let's leave it at that."
A strange heat began to burn inside Hastings's chest. Looking again at the bruises around her neck, he made a mental note to hunt down whoever had dared to touch her and make them suffer.
"I'm sorry," he said, meaning it in every way possible. "Truly, I am."
The girl turned her face up toward him, meeting his gaze, and suddenly they each found themselves unable to look away.
"You..." she said softly, after a moment had passed. "You're different. I can't tell what it is, but you're not like the others."
"Is that so?" he replied, speaking just as softly.
The girl nodded.
She understands that I'm not one of them, thought Hastings. Now's my chance... Moving slowly, Hastings bent down beside her chair so that they were at eye-level. "How would you like to join me, enchanter, and help me fight the Roses?"
"What?" she asked, looking at him incredulously.
"We could free your friend, and everyone else like her—members of the so-called "lesser guilds" who have been taken from their families and stolen away from their homes, simply because some wizard in charge gave the order."
"But how? At the founding of the guilds, a covenant was signed in blood: wizards rule the underguilds. It's always been that way since the beginning and-"
Hastings shook his head. "It's been that way because there has never been anyone powerful enough to stop them."
"Are you powerful enough?"
"I can be. With help."
The girl looked away, whether wondering about the best way to turn him over to the Roses or actually considering his offer, Hastings had no idea.
"What could I do to help?" she asked, still not looking at him.
"You could be one of my spies. If you're as powerful as I think you are, I can't imagine you having any trouble teasing information out of the Roses' networks."
At his mention of her magic, she turned back to look at him.
"What makes you think I'm powerful?"
Hastings smirked. "Your control says it all. If you were weak, you would have been flaunting what little skill you had the second you came into this room, trying to make me think you were more powerful than you really were. The fact that you've been guarding yourself this entire time, making sure that not even a single trace of persuasion escape you, leads me to believe that you are very powerful indeed."
Although the girl houghed with annoyance at the fact that he had read her so easily, Hastings noticed her cheeks color at his flattery.
"So, what do you say?" asked Hastings, offering his hand for her to shake as he stood up straight. "Partners?"
The girl sat, still considering his offer. Finally, she stood and reached out her hand. Before he could grasp it, however, she took it back.
"You know I'm powerful, yet you're willing to work with me. How do you know I won't take advantage of you?"
Hastings thought about her question carefully, wanting to answer her as truthfully as possible. "You said earlier that I was different from other wizards. You didn't know how, but you knew that I was, correct?"
The girl nodded.
"Well, although I can't quite explain it either, I know that you are different from other enchanters as well. I know that you won't take advantage of me because you're not the kind of person who would take advantage of anyone. Unless provoked, maybe."
The girl smiled at his amendment, and Hastings smiled quickly before becoming solemn once again. He wanted to be serious when he spoke his next statement so that she could understand how much he really meant it.
"I trust you."
After letting the words hang between them for a bit, the girl reached out and shook his hand.
Hastings smiled triumphantly and the girl smiled in return, this time letting it last more than a single second. He was starting to find that he rather enjoyed her smile. Slowly, the girl turned his hand over and stared at the opal ring that he wore.
"You asked for my name before," she said, addressing him while still eying the ring, seemingly transfixed.
"Yes, I did."
"It's Linda," said the girl, before looking up at him. "Linda Downey."
Suddenly, Hastings felt his mouth go dry. Surely he hadn't heard her right.
"I'm sorry. Linda Downey, was it?"
The girl nodded as she reached out her other hand to finger the opal.
"And where are you from, Linda Downey?"
"I'm originally from Trinity, Ohio, in the States, but I've been living in England for the past few years while attending school."
"Do you like it here?" asked Hastings in a flat voice, not at all interested in hearing her response. He only asked her so that he could think over what she had just told him.
Linda Downey. This enchanter's name was Linda Downey, and Linda Downey was from Trinity, Ohio. Trinity, he knew from experience, was located not even a day's drive north of Coalton County. Downey. Coalton County. There was no way it was a coincidence.
"I'm afraid I have made a terrible mistake, Linda Downey."
"What?" she asked, clearly confused.
"This partnership was a mistake. You need to leave, immediately" Hastings quickly yanked his hand away from hers. He strode over to the entrance of his study and pressed a button on the intercom mounted on the wall.
"I don't understand, did I do something wrong?" she asked, cradling the hand he had abandoned.
"No, absolutely not. The error was all mine, and for that I am truly sorry." Hastings didn't dare look at her face as he opened the door and stepped aside to allow her through.
"I'm not leaving-"
"My driver is waiting out front to take you to the King's Inn in the city. You may stay there as long as you like or you could have the concierge arrange for you to travel elsewhere. I will call ahead to set up credit and let them know that they should be expecting you."
"An Inn? What are you talking about? We're partners now! You can't just-"
"My driver doesn't like to be kept waiting."
"Leave." he said, trying for all the world to keep calm. Only the memory of the last time he had argued with a Downey woman kept him from yelling.
Linda walked quickly past him and out into the receiving room. After putting one hand on the door, she looked back at him over her shoulder and waited until she caught his eye.
"Goodbye, Lee," she said, before opening the door and walking out.
Hastings waited until the door closed behind her.
Hastings was so lost in his thoughts that he hardly noticed the relentless rain pouring on the other side of the window. He was sitting in an armchair in the corner of his private study when the doorbell rang. Since he was not even remotely in the mood to entertain guests, he ignored it.
After a few seconds it rang again. And again. And again. Slowly, the frequency of the rings increased until it became an incessant string of chimes, and Hastings could take it no longer.
Practically growling with annoyance, he stood from his chair and quickly made his way to the front door. When he threw it open, careful not to rip it off of it's hinges, he was startled to find a soaking wet Linda Downey. Before he could say anything, she began pelting him with questions, shouting in an effort to be heard over the pouring rain.
"Why did you let me go? You offered me a partnership and then you suddenly just backed out! Why? Why would you do that? I mean, did I do something wrong? Did I offend you in some way?"
Hastings opened his mouth to answer but she continued speaking.
"And why set up the inn? I mean, you bought me! Why would you try to get rid of me?"
"Because-" Hastings interrupted.
"Because," said Hastings softly, "you're too strong. You enchanted me."
"What? But I didn't!" replied Linda, starting to calm down. "You said it yourself, I didn't use magic on you. I didn't want to because I knew I didn't need to. I knew that you wouldn't hurt me. You made me feel-" Linda paused as she finally realized what made Hastings different from other wizards. "You made me feel safe."
"I never said you used magic. I said that you enchanted me." said Hastings, slowly moving closer to her.
Linda's brow furrowed on confusion, and Hastings realized that he would need to show her what he meant.
Carefully, he reached up one hand to brush the wet hair back from her face, and she closed her eyes at his touch. Moving slowly, Hastings leaned down and kissed her gently on the lips, feeling her respond immediately. Driven by a passion he hadn't realize still existed within him, Hastings lowered his hands to her waist and pulled her closer to him. Rather than fight him, Linda melted into arms. While she pulled down at the collar of his shirt with one hand, she ran the fingers of the other through his hair.
Finally, Hastings broke the kiss in order to take a breath. When Linda leaned against his chest, he rested his chin on top of her head, and they both stood unmoving, simply holding each other. After a gust of frigid wind blew onto the porch, Hastings felt a single shiver run through Linda's body.
"You're going to catch a cold."
Linda turned her face up towards his and kissed his neck.
"So take me inside," she said against his skin.
Hastings kissed her once more before he complied.
Morning sunlight streamed through the window and fell softly on the sleeping couple. Linda slowly opened her eyes and simply looked around the room, letting the imagery sink in. Although she had been with Hastings for three months now, she had only slept at the manor a handful of times, which meant that Hastings's—and, by default, her room, still seemed unfamiliar.
After their first night together, Linda and Hastings spent the entire day trading names, both of enemies and of allies, and figuring out the best way to defeat the Roses. They figured out the best way to make use of her talent, and what role she would play within his network of spies. The next day they began their travels, going from one country to the next and staying in hotels, always under assumed names. It was dangerous, but so long as she had Hastings arms wrapped around her every night, she slept without a care.
Turning over onto her side, Linda watched his chest rise and fall in peaceful rhythm. Even while asleep, he looked regal and powerful. He might have looked intimidating, even frightening, if not for the soft smile that always seemed to be playing on his lips. She had to resist the urge to kiss him. They had gotten in late last night, and she didn't want to disturb his sleep.
Slowly, she slid out from under the covers, gathered her things and went into the bathroom to get ready, careful not to make any noise. A few weeks ago she came down with what she thought was a bug. As time went on, however, and her condition got worse, she decided to schedule an appointment with a doctor as soon as they were back in England. She had neglected to tell Hastings because she didn't want him to worry, or worse—ask her to take a break from their work. All she needed was some medicine to kill whatever virus she had caught and she would be as good as new.
When she came out of the bathroom she grabbed a notepad and pen from the desk and wrote, "Went to the city on errands. I'll send Jamie back to you after he drops me off by the inn, in case you need him. I should be back by the afternoon. Forever yours, Linda." After she signed it, she put the pen down on the desk and immediately picked it up again. "P.S. I love you."
She placed the notepad on her pillow and took one last look at her sleeping wizard before she left.
Linda sat reading a magazine when a tall, dark haired woman entered the examination room.
"Good morning!" she said. "My name is Dr. Miller. What seems to be the problem, Miss..."
"Downey," said Linda.
"Downey," repeated Dr. Miller. "It says here on your chart that you've been feeling nauseous and have had headaches for the past few weeks. Why didn't you come in earlier?"
"Well, me and my-" Linda paused, unsure of what exactly to call Hastings, "boyfriend were traveling, and we just got home yesterday."
"In that case, you might have contracted something foreign. Where did you go?"
"France, mostly. Oh, and Germany," said Linda, mentally adding Scotland, Ireland, France, and Belgium.
"Were you immunized for either of those countries before you left?"
"No, I wasn't. We hadn't planned on staying long so we thought we would be ok."
Linda kept to herself how it had actually been Hastings's idea to avoid getting shots every time she left the country. Unless she wanted her arm to look like Swiss cheese, he had told her, it would be easier to use magic rather than medicine if she ever did come down with something. It was when Clara's potions had failed to make her feel better that Linda had decided to see a medical doctor.
"No matter how long you stay, you should always be immunized when traveling. Try to remember for next time, ok?"
"Since your symptoms are pretty general, I'll go ahead and order some tests for you. Are you available now or would you like to reschedule?"
"Please, now. The sooner I can keep my food down again, the better."
Dr. Miller laughed. "Being surrounded by that French cuisine must have been torture for you!"
"You have no idea."
"Well, I have some good news, and some more good news. Which would you like first?"
Even though she had been at the hospital for almost four hours now, Linda couldn't help but smile at her doctor's charm. Perhaps she wasn't the only enchanter in the room.
"The first good news?"
"Well, we ran your blood for the more serious diseases that you could have gotten from France or Germany, and they all came back negative."
"Really? Then why have I been feeling this way?"
"That's where the other good news comes in. Congratulations, Ms. Downey, you're pregnant!"
Linda simply stared at the grinning woman before her.
"I... I'm sorry, what?" she asked.
"You're pregnant! And pretty far along, judging by your hormone levels. I'd say you're close to three months."
Linda let her gaze drop to the floor as she thought back to that first night with Hastings. In the heat of the moment, neither of them had thought to take any precautions. It wasn't until after that they decided to use Clara's charms as a preventative measure.
"Three months... It's been exactly three months..." she replied in a small voice, laying her hands over her stomach.
"Well then, in that case we better have you checked out as soon as possible. I'll go see if our sonogram technician is in. If you're lucky, you might be able to see your baby today. Once again, congratulations!" She said before leaving the room.
After the door closed, Linda let go of the breath she had been holding and felt her heart sink.
Pregnant? How could I let this happen?, she thought to herself. Becka's going to kill me when she finds out! And Lee... Linda's heart began to race as she thought of how Hastings would react. Would he be angry with her? No, she realized, he won't be mad. If anything, he'll probably be happy! Ever since he was ten, he's been alone. But now that he has me, now that we're going to have a baby, it'll be a chance for him to have a family again. He'll be thrilled!
Suddenly, a loud crash from outside of the room made Linda jump off of the examination table. Wizards!, she thought. When she heard scolding, apologies, and metal objects being picked up off the floor, however, she realized that it had just been an Anaweir accident.
What am I thinking? We can't raise a baby! Not now, when wizards could be coming after us at any moment. And if tonight's meeting goes through, we'll be even deeper in the game than we were before.
Slowly, Linda came to a saddening realization: there was no way they could keep the baby. Letting a few stray tears roll down her face, she gently rubbed her stomach. I can't believe this, she thought angrily, it's not fair! I'm having a baby with the man I love, but I won't be able to raise it, or see which of us it'll look more like. After a moment, Linda's anger melted into sadness again.
"It may not be fair, but it's what's best for you." she said, looking down at her stomach. "That's all that matters now..."
Once she said it aloud, she knew it to be true. Her needs, beyond those that coincided with the baby's needs, were not her priority anymore. Her only job was to keep her baby healthy and safe. Which meant the thing Linda had feared the most—no more spy work.
At least until I give birth, she thought. Surely Lee will let me get back to work after we give up the baby... At that point something dawned on Linda that hadn't occurred to her before. Would Hastings even agree to give up the baby? Would he understand that it was for the best? Oh, no! Of course he won't agree to give them up! He'll try to raise them as best he can, which means bringing them with us as we go from one hotel to the next every night, hiding from enemy wizards. Or worse—he'll want to stop working against the Roses altogether. I can't let that happen! Not when we're about to make a breakthrough! Which means only one thing... I can't tell Lee that I'm pregnant...
The tears began to free-fall down Linda's face as she came to an even more painful realization than the last: Since she was not willing to lie to Hastings about the baby, she would have to leave and never come back.
"It'll be fine," she tried to convince herself. "Maybe I can come back to him. One day. But until then, you'll be my little secret..." she said, placing both hands over her stomach.
When Dr. Miller came back to the room a few minutes later, Linda Downey was gone.
It was pouring rain when Hastings called Tanner for the sixth time. He was standing in a phone booth in the middle of London, and it was almost twilight. Soon most shops would begin to close and his searching would be delayed until the next morning when they opened again. Finally, on the eight call, Tanner answered the phone.
"Dammit, Williams, where the hell have you been?" growled Hastings.
"Hastings? What's wrong?"
"Linda's missing! She was supposed to have come home hours ago, but I haven't seen or heard from her since. She would never have just gone off like that, so something must have happened to her!"
"Do you think she was picked up by-"
"I've already contacted some transporters from the Trade, and no one's seen her, but I need you to go down there and look for her. Now!"
"On my way!"
When Hastings heard the dead dial tone, he slammed the phone back onto its hook. He had already searched the main shops and taverns in the city, asking people if they had seen a short woman with blonde hair and violet eyes. They hadn't. Where could she be?
Of course! Clara's shop! If Linda was in the city, surely she went to visit Clara. She might know where Linda was planning on going next.
Hastings stepped out of the phone booth and quickly made his way through London's backstreets. Finally, he came upon the small botanical shop he and Linda had helped Clara to establish. Throwing open the door, Hastings quickly walked up to the main counter.
"Where is she? Where's Linda?" he asked.
"Hastings! I didn't even know you were back in town!"
Hastings felt his heart sink down into his stomach. "You haven't seen her?"
"No, I'm sorry. She's missing?"
"Yes, and I've already looked everywhere. I thought that maybe, if she had come here-"
Suddenly, Hastings was confronted by his own startled reflection. After taking a step back, he saw that a small elderly woman had thrust a hand mirror in front of his face.
"It will show you the way..." she said ominously.
"Mother!" said Clara. "I'm so sorry about that," she added, looking at Hastings. "She's a seer, and she thinks that her mirror knows everything."
"No, it's fine. But I really don't have time for this-"
"Ask to see what you seek, and it will show you the way..." repeated the old woman, thrusting the mirror towards Hastings once again.
Without a word, Hastings tore the mirror out of her small hand and held it in front of his face. "Show me Linda..." he told it.
Slowly his reflection began to shift and swirl until finally it settled and Hastings stared into a younger version of himself. His hair was still dark and curly, though it was longer than Hastings ever remembered having it, and it was very disheveled. His eyes seemed unable to focus on one spot, and if he didn't know any better, Hastings would have thought that they were constantly changing color. Must be a trick of the light, he thought to himself. Suddenly he was no longer looking at just his face, but at his entire lanky self. Hastings held his breath as raw power visibly poured out from every inch of his image and spread out into the atmosphere and onto the tiled floor. Once again, the image in the mirror changed and he saw himself from behind. The details of his younger self disappeared as he became but a dark silhouette against a large full moon. Finally the light of the moon began to fade and the vision turned black before showing Hastings his current reflection once more. Looking away from the mirror, he saw that Clara and her mother were staring at him, waiting for him to explain what he saw.
"I knew this was a waste of time! It didn't show me Linda, it showed me myself!" growled Hastings before shoving the worthless mirror back at the old woman.
"Are you sure...?" she asked him with narrowed eyes.
Hastings didn't waste time responding and instead left the shop, slamming the door shut behind him. Even though he didn't know where to go, he kept walking until finally he stopped in the middle of a bridge. The sun was just setting on the horizon and Hastings pondered the meaning of his vision. Although he had asked it to show him Linda in the present, it had showed him himself in the past. But why?
Could it be, he wondered, that it's telling me I'll never find her? That even if I was younger, at the height of my power, I wouldn't be able to find her?
"No," he said out loud. "I can't believe that. The mirror is wrong. I will find her. I refuse to lose her like I lost Susannah."
Warm tears began to mix with the cold rain that ran down his face.
"I will find you, Linda. I promise."
A/N: And there you have it. I was originally going to close with Hastings's side of the conversation when Linda calls him asking for help, but decided not to since it was too far off in the future.
If you've read the Heir Series, then hopefully you recognized who Hastings actually saw in the mirror and why. :3
Hope you enjoyed it! :)