Finding Rosy (or What Happens After Robin Meddles)
Takes place immediately after 'It's Ten of the Clock'.
There was a light in the chapel.
Leo had been stopped three times by the household guard on his excursion to find Rosamund. They had all been anxious when they saw who it was (‘So sorry, my Lord,’) but he had shaken his head, and reassured each of them that he would rather they were over-cautious than lax.
The side door of the chapel was thick, dark wood, but it swung quietly on its hinges, and he entered the nave.
Half a dozen candles were burning in an elaborate stand on the high table. A figure in black was kneeling on the floor in front of them, and Leo relaxed a little.
She was here. She was safe. Granted, he wasn’t thrilled that she had come to the outer ward alone, even after the gates had been locked, but he didn’t need to bother her. He could just—
‘Good evening, my Lord.’
Ah. She’d heard him come in.
Leo gave her a shallow bow. Rosamund looked up at him from the kneeling pad on the floor, apparently waiting for him to say something. Her fingers were laced together in front of her, but he could see them trembling.
‘Was there something you needed?’ she said gently.
‘You shouldn’t be out here alone.’
Her lips tightened, and he saw outrage sweep across her face before she regained control of her expression. She looked away. ‘Just as you say, my Lord,’ she murmured, eyes firmly on the floor. ‘I’ll only be a moment.’
It wasn’t until she began pushing herself to her feet that Leo realised his mistake. ‘No!’ he said hastily, and she turned around to face him, confused. ‘I mean…’ he floundered. ‘You should stay. Here. If you want to.’
She wrapped her arms around herself. ’No,’ she said, and her voice was flat in his ears, ‘you’re right. I shouldn’t be out here. I’ll just…’ she gestured at the candles before wrapping her arm back around her waist.
Her hand was still trembling.
‘I’ll stay with you.’
Rosamund paused on her way to the table, and turned around again. ‘You don’t have to. It’s been a long day, I wouldn’t expect—‘
‘—but I want to.’
She stared at him.
‘I mean, I only came to see if you were all right. If you want to stay, you should. As long as you like.’
She looked at him, some struggle Leo wasn’t privy to chasing its way across her face.
‘I’m going to sit on a bench, though,’ he suited actions to words, ‘if it’s all the same to you.’
Rosamund attempted a smile. ‘Perhaps a few more minutes, then.’ She sat down next to him on the bench, close but not quite touching, and lapsed into silence again.
Leo, not wanting to disturb her, had a surreptitious look around. The tapestries on the walls around them depicted various religious scenes. Most were too deep in shadow to make out, but the one behind the table showed the Sending of the Light, and he thought the one to his right was the Wisdoms when they Spoke the world into being.
They passed perhaps another five minutes before Rosamund spoke again. ‘Mabry is no longer my liege lord. Edmund’s inheritance is safe, my family are safe, and we’re no longer at war with my home country.’ She looked up at him. ‘If I spent the rest of my life trying, my Lord, I don’t think I could adequately repay you for even one of those things. Thank you.’ She gave herself a little shake. ‘But I am remiss,’ she continued, with a false brightness that Leo didn’t trust, ‘it’s getting late. I assume Robin is taking advantage of the fact that Elinor is no longer sharing her room with three other women?’
‘Then we have our bed to ourselves,’ she continued, the lightness of her voice belying the way her arms had wrapped themselves around her waist again, her fingers digging into the black fabric of her mourning dress.
‘Rosamund?’ Caroline sounded hesitant.
Rosamund looked over, her expression mask-like, her face pale. ‘Hello again, Caroline. Did you need something?’
‘You know you don’t have to consummate the marriage this very moment, right, Rosy? You can take your time.’
Rosamund’s mouth tightened, but then the mask reasserted itself. ‘I don’t need time.’
‘I think you do. And you’re allowed to need—‘
‘I’ve done nothing but need!’ Rosamund snapped. She began to tick things off on her fingers. ‘Need the inheritance settled, need Baron Mabry dealt with, need help in a fight, need pulled out of a river, need my hair brushed,’ every finger on her left hand was now curled down into a fist. She swapped to her right hand, ‘need to be held like a frightened child after a nightmare, need to—‘ she stopped, and gulped, before adding more softly, ‘need to beg forgiveness.’ She sniffed, before continuing more energetically, ‘Need to get married, need to be carried up the stairs after I knock myself senseless, and need a dramatic entrance from my new husband at my murdered husband’s remembrance feast.’ She turned around, leaning back on the table. ‘I’ve done nothing but need things,’ she repeated, casting a look in Leo’s direction, ‘and I’m the one who asked him to marry me.’ She spread all her fingers out again. ‘He’s done enough.’
‘Leave me alone, Caroline.’
Leo looked down at his wife, flashing back to their wedding ceremony. Rosamund had the same expression on her face right now, and it hurt. She didn’t want him. She never had. Any thoughts to the contrary were foolishness.
But maybe he could ease her heart, at least temporarily.
‘Yes,’ Leo heard himself say, ‘it’s been a long day. We should get some sleep.’
‘Sleep,’ he said firmly.
He’d hoped that would make her feel better, but instead she looked stricken.
‘Is it—‘ she broke off, swallowing hard, and Leo wondered what he’d done wrong now. She still wouldn’t look at him. ‘Am I to understand that you wish for an annulment, my Lord?’
Now he was completely lost. ‘What?’
‘I know that if the marriage remains unconsummated you don’t need to divorce me, you can ask for an annulment and remarry without difficulty,’ she rushed on, ‘and I know that you’ve been pardoned, and that you’re a Viscount now, and you don’t need me, but—‘
‘No!’ Leo cut in, louder than he had intended, and winced as Rosamund froze.
Right. Of course that’s why she was anxious. ‘The marriage isn’t valid until it’s consummated!’ Robin said in his head, and Leo wondered how to explain that he wasn’t keen on bedding a grief-stricken woman who was still wearing her mourning clothes without offending her.
‘No,’ he continued more softly, ‘I don’t want an annulment.’ Finally, she looked at him, her face a picture of confusion and hurt. ‘I’m relying on you to protect me from the machinations of the aristocracy, my Lady, please don’t abandon me.’
That surprised a laugh out of her, and her arms relaxed a little, some of the tension dissipating. Leo tried not to sigh with relief.
‘I wouldn’t dream of leaving you to the tender mercies of the society matrons, sir,’ she said finally, and gave him a more genuine smile.
‘Thank you.’ Leo wondered exactly when his life had become this bizarre. ‘Come to bed, my Lady. Sleep. Please. It’s been a long day.’
Rosamund considered him for a moment, and then hugged him. Startled, he froze, then closed his arms around her, resting his chin on the top of her head, breathing in the lavender scent of her hair.
‘Thank you,’ she mumbled into his chest.
‘Don’t mention it.’ He paused. ‘Especially not to Robin, he’s a born meddler.’
He felt her smile, relaxing a little further into his embrace. ‘My lips are sealed.’