By Louise M. Gouge
Unable to restrain himself any longer, Griffin Tirach spurred his mount to a gallop. The Northumbrian wind bit through the woolen scarf he had thrown across his face against the cold. But he must gain the top of the hill before his heart leapt from his chest. Within a scant five minutes, he reached his destination and stared down into the valley below.
There, just as he had left it eleven years before, stood Arbonne. Vast. Stately. Austere. Foreboding. Home.
Joy welled up in his chest and battled with his anguished doubts, leaving him almost breathless. Would the inhabitants welcome home the prodigal after all this time? Would Mama weep, as she had when he left? Would Father even grant him entrance? Perhaps Terrence would be home for Christmas with his family. Perhaps little Alicia, grown up and married and now with her own children.
He glanced behind him at the heavy-laden coach that lumbered up the road, taking a quarter hour to reach him and carrying all his hard-earned wealth. In this sparsely populated part of the country, highwaymen might have stolen it all. Yet they had only passed a single coach yesterday and none at all today. God was watching over them.
“Whoa.” The coachman pulled the horses to a stop and set the brake. “Quite a sight, ain’t it, gov’ner?” The whiskered old fellow grinned with the familiarity of a close and trusted servant.
“That it is, Stevens. That it is.” Now that he had seen the place, now that they were safely within the borders of Arbonne, tendrils of warmth spread through his chest, shoving his doubts to a dark corner.
He peered through the carriage’s isinglass window and grinned. “Warm enough?”
Bundled in her furs, Verity nodded. Her blue eyes sparkled, and her olive cheeks bore the blush of excitement. Wisps of black hair curled across her forehead, enhancing her look of innocence. Sweet child. She had no idea that his family might send them all packing. Only nine years old, yet she had borne the wild and wintry voyage from India without complaint, unlike many more mature passengers on the Night Hawk.
Griffin glanced at Disha. The Hindu woman gave him a curt nod. Slavishly devoted to the child, she, too, had endured the voyage, refusing to become seasick. Somehow her presence gave him a sense of assurance that all would be well.
Dear God, please grant us grace in Father’s eyes. Grave and parsimonious for eleven months of the year, yet at this season, the old man had always become sentimental and benevolent. May he still be that way. Please, God.If not, they would find out soon enough.
More to come...
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