In the Name of the Crown

Chapter 15


Without moving her lips, Lucy leaned slightly in Edmund's direction and hissed, "Stop fidgeting. You look nervous."

Edmund did stop the fidgeting, but he also retorted in a whisper that still managed to drip with sarcasm.

"Nervous? Oh, I'm sorry, it's just my sister's wedding I'm about to perform."

Lucy suppressed the urge to roll her eyes, but she heard a soft chuckle from Peter, who stood on the other side of their somewhat reluctant officiant.

"Ed, you'll do splendid. Just relax, and remember, it's only Cas and Susan. They won't disown you if you do happen to stumble a bit. It's just a wedding."

The eldest Pevensie was standing as the best man, which when you thought about it was rather odd, but Caspian had no siblings of his own and despite their significantly rocky beginning he and Peter had grown quite close since their return. Lucy privately thought that it was mostly due to the fact that both of them weren't such idiots anymore, and had learned the value of another man's opinion.

So, to keep the entire family involved, Peter was best man, Lucy was maid of honor, and Edmund was performing the ceremony (he'd begged to serve the punch instead, but the answer had been a unanimous veto). Adeline would be bearing the rings.

If they'd had a few more weeks to plan, the ceremony would be much more formal, the food would be more plentiful, the guest list would be more extensive, and Lucy wouldn't have come quite so close to keeling over from utter exhaustion every day for the past three.

Only a week after Edmund returned to the palace with Adeline and Alvaro in tow, Susan and Caspian had called all of them together and announced they'd rather have a small wedding straight away, instead of waiting till this business with the Archenland Rebellion was done with. Lucy couldn't exactly blame them, nobody could, really, but since the planning and organizing fell mostly in her lap there was naturally a good deal of stress that fell along with it.

It could have been worse, she supposed, and her sister hadn't wanted an extravagant wedding in any case. So the flowers were kept simple (she did manage to get some in Adeline's hair, and pinned to Peter's shirtfront, but Edmund had put his foot down when it came to wearing flora, and in the end it had been easier to simply let him have his way on this one), the ceremony kept brief, and the feast afterwards was to last as long as the guests wished.

In lieu of a proper honeymoon, Caspian had had the servants prepare an older section of the palace as a temporary residence; it was far removed from the hustle and bustle of the daily palace life, but it kept Caspian and Susan both nearby so if disaster struck they would be available. The soon-to-be-newlyweds were planning to slip away sometime during the feast.

The wide double doors at the far end of the hall creaked open, jerking Lucy's attention back to the present, and she smiled fondly at Caspian, who looked a bit green if one were to be honest, but he returned the grins of his three future in-laws as he approached. Once reaching his place between Edmund and Peter, everyone's attention returned to the doorway, where Adeline stood, waiting patiently for her cue.

Lucy was honestly at a loss to describe what the past few days would have been like without Adeline. They had all feared the worst when she'd been kidnapped; Lucy had suffered more than one nightmare involving torture and Edmund bringing back a mere shell of their friend. But Adeline's sweet, iron-willed temperament hadn't changed, and once she'd rested and recovered sufficiently (by her own judgment, anyway) she proved to be a lifesaver when it came to wedding planning.

She'd seen to the cleaning, decorating, inviting, music-arranging, and numerous other details, and somewhere she'd found the time to help Edmund write his speeches, and soothe everyone's frayed nerves with a simple cup of tea or offer to help. She'd even helped with last-minute alterations to Susan's wedding gown, yet now she stood, calm and serene, bearing a small engraved box that held the rings like it was the most important task she'd ever been given.

Somewhere off to the side, a group of Fauns started the music, and Adeline began her slow walk towards the little group at the front. Her gown was a deep, royal blue, almost navy, simple, with long sleeves, with lace overlay that hugged her collarbones and arms, with a yard or so of the soft fabric sweeping behind her in a small train.

Adeline wore her dagger at her waist, and carried a simple, carved box in her hands that held the rings. Amos had forged the gold bands, and the burly man stood just feet away, as one of the many guests of honor.

Fitz and Izzy hadn't been able to make it on such short notice, keeping busy with war preparations in Anvard, but their letter upon hearing the news had assured Susan that they would visit as soon as they could. Upon a joint decision, Alvaro had joined them. Three monarchs at one capital and five at another evened things out slightly. Lucy shook herself mentally; this wasn't the time for politics.

Adeline reached the front, standing just to the side; Lucy took a deep breath, and just as the music changed to a softer, more reverent tone Susan appeared in the doorway, ensconced in cream colored silk. She carried no bouquet, mostly because what little flowers they had available were needed for decoration, but there was a collective intake of air as all beheld Narnia's first royal bride.

As her sister walked down the aisle Lucy felt a lump rise in her throat; a glance over at Peter showed his eyes to be dangerously resembling misty as well. Determinedly she swallowed her tears. It wouldn't do to cry today.

The ceremony went off beautifully. Edmund didn't falter once, his deep voice ringing clear and strong through the hall, and in short order he pronounced them man and wife. He bent quickly to press a kiss to Susan's cheek, clapped his new brother on the shoulder, and amidst the cheering and whistling the happy couple and their wedding party made their way to the feast that awaited them.

/

Adeline hadn't been to many weddings. There were a few, some that Gwen had attended out of propriety rather than desire, but even those weren't royal weddings, and certainly hadn't had the atmosphere of this one. It seemed that no matter where she turned, all she saw was smiles. Everyone was beaming ear to ear, but none more so than the newlyweds. They led the dancing, whirling and laughing and other couples that were dancing near them would often stop just to watch them.

As for Adeline herself, she was perfectly content to watch, perched across the room from the royal table, near enough to feel part of the celebration but removed enough to still hear herself think. Nobody had bothered her in nearly half an hour, which was fine by her, and she was just considering grabbing a glass of the punch when a voice sounded just over her shoulder, making her jump.

"Did someone steal your dance partner?"

It was Edmund. Naturally.

Laughing slightly, she replied, "Has no one ever told you not to sneak up on a woman like that?"

He shot her a cheeky smile, leaning against the marble column beside her.

"I never do as I'm told. Just ask Peter."

At that she rolled her eyes. "I don't need to ask Peter; insubordination practically oozes out of you."

He grinned again, but nudged her with his elbow. "You didn't answer my question. Why are you not dancing?"

"I've never been overly fond of it." Truth, but not all of it. Dancing had never been her favorite pastime, but she'd grown an especial aversion to it recently.

"Why not?" he persisted, and she sighed. Edmund was nothing if not persistent.

"I just don't feel like dancing. I'd rather stand over here, where it's quiet." She gave him a meaningful look, which he either missed or ignored. Most likely the latter.

"Nonsense. Come on, they're starting a good one."

Without further preamble he grabbed her hand, and tugged her onto the dance floor, worming his way towards the center. Her protests were once again ignored, and she stumbled a bit when he whirled to face her, adjusting their handhold and putting his other hand on her waist.

"How are you at the waltz?" His tone was light, almost conversational, and she had to fight a laugh even as she gathered her full skirt into her other hand to avoid treading on it.

"Dreadful."

"That's alright, I'm a brilliant dancer. Just let me lead."

"Your humility is inspiring," she said dryly, but in truth she was relieved; she'd always been rubbish at the waltz, or any dance where you faced your partner and were forced into a close proximity with him. It wasn't the end of the world if she stepped on the man's foot, since her feet were so small it wasn't likely he'd notice, but it was still uncomfortable for her. Briefly she wished for her isolated spot by the column, but then the music started up and she had to put all her focus into not tripping.

Thankfully the dance was not fast-paced, instead meant to promote conversation, but that only worked if one was an efficient enough dancer to multi-task. Which, she wasn't. She kept her eyes trained on her feet, determined not to make a fool of herself. She heard a deep chuckle, and without glancing up she knew what Edmund found so funny.

"Not a word, Eddy."

"Addie, it's not difficult," he protested, amusement evident in his voice.

"Oh, yes, easy for you to say. I'm utterly hopeless on the dance floor."

"That's why I told you to let me lead."

"I am. I've still got to move my own feet, though, haven't I? The last thing I need is to fall flat on my face at your sister's wedding."

"Addie, look at me."

Surprised at his suddenly gentle tone, she met his eyes.

"I'm not going to let you fall. I promise."

She blinked, surprised but still felt a smile tug at her corners of her mouth. "What if I do?"

"Then I'll catch you."

Simple, matter-of-fact, as though it was the only obvious answer; but somehow she caught a deeper meaning to his words, and found that she was touched, instead of irritated like she'd expected.

Rather than admit such to him, she rolled her eyes and said, "Such a gentleman. Is it only because your sisters are in the room?"

"Susan and her new husband left about twenty minutes ago," he replied smoothly, "and Lu is still here, probably off coaxing Peter into dancing with her. He hates it more than you do."

"I don't hate dancing," she objected.

"But you don't love it."

It wasn't a question, and she couldn't argue.

"No, I've never loved dancing. I used to like it a bit more than I do now, but…"

She trailed off, suddenly realizing why she'd been so reluctant to dance this evening.

Her gaze wandered back to meet his own. His eyebrows rose in question, but he didn't prod, instead waiting patiently.

"I…the last time I danced, it was in Tashbaan….w-with Xaviar. It was the night Gwen was killed."

Her voice had dropped off to a mere whisper by the end, and she couldn't look away from him. She felt his arms tighten their hold, just a bit, and then he spoke softly.

"I'm so sorry, Addie."

For some reason she felt tears sting the backs of her eyes; wasn't she supposed to be past crying by now? Wasn't that ache in her chest supposed to lessen at some point?

Mercifully, the music ended just then, and she pulled back slightly, though Edmund kept her hand firmly clasped in his.

"I...I think I'd like to go to my room now."

He nodded, but didn't let go of her hand. "I'll walk you."

She started to protest, but he cut her off.

"Addie, please. For me."

Remembering that only a few days ago he'd broken her out of a cell, she simply curled her fingers around his hand, letting him lead her off the dance floor. Fortunately no one tried to stop them, and the blessed silence enveloped them once they reached the staircase.

Once she'd returned from her capture, Adeline had been moved to a new room, on the same hall as the Pevensies and Caspian. She'd protested strongly, but the words had fallen on deaf ears, and she'd been given a room directly across the hall from Edmund. They reached her door, and she turned to say goodnight, but he spoke first.

"Addie, may…may I ask you something rather…personal?"

Surprised, she nodded, wondering why he looked nervous.

"Were you in love with Xaviar?"

It was the last thing she'd expected; her shock must have shown on her face because he hastened to say, "You don't have to answer, by any means, I was just curious, but it's really none of my business."

"No, it's alright, Eddy. I don't mind." She assured him, and she couldn't stop a sad smile. "Gwen asked me that very thing, just hours before she died."

She paused, letting herself think about what had happened for the first time in months.

"Xaviar…was so different in Tashbaan. He was polite, charming. Nothing like he is now. I knew him to be a good man, one of kindness, and he…showed interest in me, I suppose. And I had never experienced that before."

She took a deep breath, and continued, "But I didn't know him very long. And once Gwen died, I was on the run, and didn't really have time to pine for him, and of course then I discovered his treason, and his true character, shortly after I arrived here. So…no. I wasn't in love with him…but, I think…I think perhaps I was beginning to lean in that direction."

A long moment passed before Edmund broke the silence.

"I imagine your feelings only made the betrayal even more painful."

She shrugged. "Not really; by the time I learned the truth he was starting to grate on my nerves. He's really too jealous for his own good. And he has an annoying habit of drumming his fingers on the table."

It did the trick; Edmund laughed incredulously at her unexpected remark, but he squeezed her hand slightly and grazed his thumb over her knuckles.

"I am glad you danced with me, Addie."

She smiled, a real smile, and replied, "As am I. I ended up enjoying myself, which has never happened at a ball before, so I guess you exceeded expectations."

He chuckled again, but grew quiet again almost immediately, looking at her searchingly. He looked like he was about to say something, but instead he bent and pressed a kiss to her cheek, releasing her hand as he pulled away.

"Goodnight, Addie."

He turned and strode quickly back down the hall, not giving her a chance to say goodnight in return.

Perplexed, she reached up and gingerly touched where she could still feel the burn of his lips on her cheek, wondering if she would ever understand men.

/

Three days later, Lucy sipped her after-dinner cup of tea in Peter's study, keeping one ear tuned to her brothers' conversation, and the other to the door in anticipation of Adeline's arrival.

"Ed, we don't know how long we have, Xaviar could attack anywhere at a moment's notice. We don't have time to rearrange everything."

"I know, Peter, but if we'd just try it, all it takes is shifting the archers down twenty paces-"

"That requires moving the west regiment, and then we're too far spread out."

"Move the archers fifteen paces." Lucy cut in, and Peter and Edmund both looked up in surprise.

"Would things be too crowded if it was fifteen, as opposed to twenty?" she asked, with the air of addressing two small, bickering children with irrefutable logic.

She fought a smile when her brothers, both looking a tad miffed, mumbled in unison, "No."

"Then move them fifteen," she replied, taking a dainty sip of her tea.

Edmund turned to Peter. "Just when, exactly, did she become a grown up?"

Lucy snorted. "I've been a grown up. It's taken months for you dolts to realize it."

"Now you sound like Trumpkin," Peter grumbled, but as he made the revision notes to change the archers' position, Lucy was certain she saw him fighting a smile.

"Right then, are we almost through?" Edmund wanted to know. "I'm exhausted, and we've got to get up and do this all over –"

His words were cut short by the door bursting open. Adeline barged in, her eyes wild.

"Outside."

Instantly the three monarchs were at the window, peering through the dark at what was unmistakably a small battalion of soldiers approaching the south wall of the palace.

"It looks as though…they're headed for Adeline's old room." Peter's voice was shocked, and Lucy's heart dropped in trepidation, but she didn't miss the way Edmund's entire body stiffened. When they turned to face Adeline, though, she looked confused.

"Why would they be heading for my room?"

"Because Xaviar still wants you." Edmund's reply was said harshly, and in two strides he'd reached her side; he wrapped one hand around her arm and led her out the door. Ignoring Adeline's protests, he called back over his shoulder, "I'll meet you in the armory."

The door banged shut behind him; Lucy looked at Peter skeptically and said, "D'you think perhaps he'll tell her how he feels now?"

It was Peter's turn to snort. "Not likely, given Edmund's renowned idiocy in regards to romance."

She sighed, wondering why her brother insisted on being so thick. Some things were simply a lost cause.

/

Edmund's pace was fast, purposeful, but Adeline was fighting him every step of the way. She dug her heels in, she kicked him, she clawed at his hand on her arm, she pulled, she growled at him to let her go. Suddenly his temper snapped, and he whirled, grabbing her upper arms and pinning her to the wall, stepping into her personal space.

"Do you not understand why those men are here? Do you not see what Xaviar wants from you?"

"Of course I do." She snarled back at him, having quickly gotten over her surprise of being pinned to the wall. "But I also see that I could help fight them back. I can't just stay here, safe and protected –"

"You can, and you will." His voice was steel, leaving no room for argument, but of course she argued back anyway.

"Edmund, you cannot ask me to stand aside and let others suffer for me."

"And you, Adeline, cannot ask me to stand aside and risk losing you again!"

Her eyes widened, and despite the fact his brain was calling him every kind of fool, he felt his grip on her arms slacken, turning into more of a caress, and he dropped his forehead to rest on hers. His chest heaved with the effort it took to move air in and out of his lungs, lungs that felt paralyzed with fear.

"You…you have no idea what that was like, Addie, running into your room, and there was just…blood. That was it. No body, no weapons. Just blood, everywhere."

He took a deep, shuddering breath, and he felt her hands come up to rest on his arms, her fingers gently stroking his skin, and he found comfort in the simple gesture, and enough strength to continue.

"Please…please, Addie, don't ask me to do that again. Give me your word, you'll stay here, and be safe. Please, promise me."

It was a moment before she replied, and when she did it was just above a whisper.

"I will."

He closed his eyes, abandoning all caution and pressing a kiss to her brow.

"Thank you."

/

Lucy stood on the main battlement with the other archers, waiting for Peter's command. Edmund had reappeared sooner than they'd expected, and was currently waiting on main level with Peter for Xaviar to make some sort of move. The approaching soldiers were armed, but hadn't made any attack whatsoever. Fearing that going on the defensive too soon would only make matters worse, Peter had ordered the Narnians to hold fire until the cause for the invasion was determined.

The door opened behind her; it was Trumpkin.

"My Queen, your brothers sent for you."

When she walked into the main entrance hall, the first thing she noticed was that Xaviar was present. The man was still handsome, though there was a weariness in his chiseled features that hadn't been there when she'd last seen him. The second thing she noticed was that Edmund resembled a large, angry bear just aching to go in for the kill. Thankfully, Edmund wasn't known for losing control. He stood to the side and slightly behind Peter, hands clasped behind his back, feet spread shoulder-width apart, with tension and hostility rolling off of him in palpable waves.

On one hand, Lucy really couldn't blame him, because the havoc that this man had wreaked on Adeline's life made her own blood boil. But on the other, she had to fight a laugh; she'd never seen Edmund this protective, not even when some chap in a sandwich shop had asked her out when she was sixteen. On that occasion it had taken her physically dragging her brother out the door to prevent a scene; now she wasn't so sure she was at all opposed to letting Edmund go full-throttle.

It was a moment, a very awkward moment in which Edmund shifted, Peter cleared his throat, and Lucy crossed her arms impatiently. She broke the silence, having had enough of Xaviar's mysteriousness.

"What do you want?"

There wasn't a drop of politeness in her tone; she hadn't meant for there to be. She was far past caring whether or not she insulted Xaviar.

He, apparently, had expected some common courtesy.

"I was under the impression that the Queens of Narnia were gracious to their guests." His voice hinted at surprised sarcasm, casting a look at Peter as if he were waiting for the king to rebuke his youngest sister.

"We are. But you, Lord Xaviar," she paused, letting her intentional mistake of his title sink in, a trick she'd noticed Adeline pull quite often, "are not a guest. You are a traitor, and I have no mercy for you, and no patience to pretend otherwise. State your business, and be gone."

Her words rang in the stunned silence; she thought she might have even shocked Edmund out of his anger, however briefly, and there was a very audible snort of laughter from the magnificent High King. She fought her own smile, focusing on Xaviar, who did a poor job of hiding his irritation.

"I wish to speak to Adeline."

Instantly, Edmund's tense shoulders reappeared. Peter glanced warily at him, before replying, "Firstly, to you, she is Lady Adeline. Secondly, she's not able to see you at the moment. If you give us a message, we will consider delivering it to her."

"It must be done in person," Xaviar insisted, "and if you refuse to let me see her, I will send my men to fetch her again."

He'd scarcely finished speaking when Edmund snatched two handfuls of his shirtfront, lifting him off the floor several inches.

"Try it." Edmund's voice sent chills up and down Lucy's back, but an exchanged glance with Peter held them both back. Edmund would know where to draw the line; they could trust him not to take it too far.

Xaviar, apparently, had no such healthy respect for Edmund's temper. Lucy had a feeling that would soon be rectified.

"Put me down, you insolent fool!" he writhed furiously, but Edmund was at least four inches taller than him, and nowhere near as skinny as he once was. He held Xaviar in midair effortlessly, even shaking him before speaking again.

"Allow me to make something inescapably clear to you, Lord Xaviar." The Archenland prince became quite still, and Edmund leaned in slightly, his voice hardened iron. "You will not come near Lady Adeline again. And if you would be so daft as to attempt it, I will rip you apart limb from limb, and leave your carcass to rot on the battlefield."

Lucy felt her eyes widen. Edmund's temper apparently had reached new limits.

"Do you understand?"

Xaviar seemed to be having trouble speaking; Edmund shook him again.

"Answer me, you piece of vermin," he growled, and Xaviar gasped.

"I understand."

After one last contemptuous look, he hurled Xaviar away from him; the other man hit the floor, hard, and sat up, trying to regain the tattered shreds of his dignity.

"You have precisely ten minutes to walk back through those gates," Edmund informed him, "before I give the order for our archers to open fire."

Xaviar stood, looking absolutely furious. Edmund didn't seem to care all that much.

"So, does this mean she is yours?" Xaviar spat, dusting off his robes.

Edmund's face hardened, and for a moment Lucy thought he would lunge at him again. His jaw clenched.

"Lady Adeline is her own, to do as she pleases."

"Yes, but she's chosen you, hasn't she? She picked you, a black sheep, over me!"

All three of them gaped at the man. He looked utterly demented.

"Her choices are no concern of yours." Edmund informed him harshly, and Xaviar took a menacing step towards them.

"She's intended to be my queen," he snarled, "and any man who dares –"

He was cut off abruptly, Edmund's fist making a sickening crunch against his jaw. He fell back again, and stared up at the enraged king in astonishment.

"I dare," Edmund said. "And you now have five minutes to be gone, and if I were you I would hurry, because our archers have superb shooting range."

Xaviar stood, again, and shot a look of utmost loathing at the three siblings, before turning on his heel and striding out the door.

Peter and Lucy watched their brother carefully, noticing his heaving shoulders and clenched fists. Lucy had just opened her mouth to ask if he was alright when he turned suddenly.

"I'm going to see Addie." He left without another word, and Lucy looked at Peter in shock.

"Peter, he's got to tell her, because at this rate everyone else is going to know before she does."

/

Adeline had counted the floor tiles, the stitches in the tapestry on the wall, the number of panes in the windows, and was now resorted to counting backwards from two hundred. She'd reached eighty-three when the door opened quietly. She whirled to see Edmund slip inside, shutting the door behind him.

For several long moments they stood and looked at each other. She didn't quite know where to begin, mostly because she wasn't sure which emotion she was feeling. Fortunately, he spoke first.

"I…I didn't hurt you, did I? Earlier, when-"

"No," she assured him quickly, understanding what he meant almost immediately. He looked relieved, but his face remained apprehensive.

"I feel like perhaps I should apologize for being high-handed…but I'm afraid I'm not sorry."

She wasn't surprised. Edmund wasn't the sort of person to regret doing what he believed was right; if it made you mad he did it anyway. It was one of the things she admired most about him, the way he held himself to a higher standard than the approval of others.

Nodding, she admitted, "You…you don't need to be sorry. You were looking out for my safety. How can I be angry with you for that?"

His signature smirk began to creep into his face. "Well, you certainly gave it a good try. I might have bruises from where you kicked me."

"Bruises heal." She dismissed, and his smirk morphed into a full-blown grin that she returned. He crossed the room, drawing her in for a hug. She wrapped her arms around his waist, burrowing her face into his chest and wishing she didn't have to let go.

Edmund must have felt the same way; he leaned back to talk rather than release her.

"I spoke to Xaviar."

She stiffened, but he hastened to finish. "He wanted to see you. Peter refused, and he got rather…upset."

Concern bubbled within her, but almost immediately she got distracted by the vibrations in Edmund's chest, and looked up to see him fighting laughter.

"Eddy, what...?" she trailed off.

"You ought to have seen him, Addie. He was furious."

Her brow furrowed. "All because Peter wouldn't let him see me?"

"That…among other things."

"Such as?"

To her surprise he looked a mite sheepish. He didn't meet her eyes when he muttered, "Well, I may or may not have punched him."

"You punched him?"

"After I threw him. And threatened him. And insulted him."

She found herself fighting her own hysterical laughter as she asked, "Why?"

"He…he threatened to send his men after you again. He was quite desperate to see you, Addie." At this point he wasn't laughing anymore, instead looking at her with something akin to regret.

"So, he threatens to kidnap me again, and you responded by throwing, threatening, insulting, and punching him."

"No!" he exclaimed defensively. "He threatened to kidnap you again, so I picked him up by his collar, and threatened him, and he didn't say anything so I insulted him, and then I threw him, and then he got even angrier and said some unkind and untrue things about you, so then I punched him. Peter and Lucy witnessed the entire thing."

She blinked. She'd never really been mistreated, not by anyone, and until she'd been big enough to stand up for herself Fitz or Izzy had always done so. But this…this was different. Now that she looked closely, she could see the residual anger burning deep in Edmund's eyes, and her heart did the strangest kaboom in her chest that made her breath catch.

She stepped out of his arms, and grabbed his wrists to bring his hands in front of her. She bent over them, carefully examining his knuckles, and running her thumb over the angry bruises on his right hand. She looked up at him again, and saw him watching her with an unreadable expression on his face.

"Thank you, Eddy," she whispered, and gathered her courage to stand on tip-toe, and kiss him softly on his cheek.

She'd placed one hand on his shoulder for balance, and when she went to lower herself back down on her heels, she felt his hand press into her lower back, making her sway slightly, just enough to fall against him.

Surprised, she looked at him, and her question died on her lips when his other hand stroked from her temple down to her jawbone. A shiver ran through her at his touch, and she felt her knees tremble when she saw the look in his dark eyes.

Dimly she registered that his head was lowering, that his hand was entwined in her hair, gripping the back of her head, and his arm was firmly holding her against him. She could feel his warm breath on her face, and unconsciously she lifted her chin in anticipation; she felt their noses brush, and his lips were just millimeters away when the door burst open behind him.

Edmund let go of her as though he'd been burned, but even when Lucy came into view from behind him Adeline couldn't take her eyes off of him.

"Addie, are you alright?" Lucy asked gently.

Adeline forced herself to take a deep breath, and tore her eyes off of Edmund's to look at his sister.

"Yes, Lucy, I'm fine. Thank you."

There was an awkward pause, before Edmund suddenly said, "I'll go now. Sleep well, Lu, Addie."

He didn't look at her again before walking quickly from the room.

Lucy gazed sharply at Adeline. "What happened just then?"

Still finding it a bit hard to breathe, she tried to shake the feeling of his hand in her hair and at her back.

"Nothing, Lu. Nothing at all."


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