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A servant opened the door before Dentin could answer my question. I didn’t turn to check who it was and they didn’t enter the room. I forced myself to breathe evenly.
“A pitcher of water and glasses,” Dentin requested in calm, conversational tones. “Also, if you could locate Lady Dentin and let her know I require her presence in my book room.”
Then the servant left, leaving the door slightly ajar.
“What do you mean she isn’t well?” I demanded as the earl retreated to the opposite side of the table and claimed the chair there. He took his time arranging his overtunic and adjusting the position of his dagger. Clearly, he didn’t intend to answer me.
“You can’t expect me not to ask after using such ominous wording,” I pointed out, my annoyance at his delay overriding my awareness of his station. “We were discussing my sister. Tell me the truth plainly or…” My brain faltered for a threat that would work, but none came to mind.
Across the desk, Dentin had stopped fidgeting and now regarded me with blatant amusement.
“Don’t laugh at me,” I protested, torn between laughter and tears myself.
He cleared his throat. “I never laugh at people who threaten me.”
“Even when they fail miserably at it?” I asked with a half smile.
“Not even then.” He straightened in his seat as I became aware of movement behind me.
“You summoned me, my lord?” Lady Elsa’s soft voice soothed my frustration. I would have an ally now.
Dentin rose to his feet and came around the table to greet his wife. “Madam Rendare became overset, and I hoped your presence would help as we discuss the repercussions of my news.”
Something passed between the countess and the earl I didn’t catch, but I did witness the earl’s attempt at an expression of complete innocence before he deposited her in a seat next to me.
“What were you going to mention?” Elsa turned to me, and her expression melted into concern. “She is white as milk, Simon. What did you say?” Leaning over as best she could with her growing belly, she caught and held one of my hands in hers for a moment. She then frowned at her husband.
“I am only trying to convince her she needs to focus on her sister’s welfare, not her father’s. She can do more in that area than any other.”
“Simon…” The sound of gentle reproof in Elsa’s voice helped me quiet my frustration with her husband. “Tell her the full truth and let her decide for herself what to do. It is her decision, not yours.”
The Making of a Man:
A Short Story Anthology