Chapter Thirty Five
Lydia was sitting up when I entered the room that next morning, her hand gripped firmly in Stone’s as she tried to climb down from the desk. Through her chemise, I could see the bandage wrapped tightly around her stomach, and on her face she wore a pinched expression.
“No, no, love,” Stone hurried to say, pushing Lydia back gently. “She told you not to—"
“I know what she said,” she interrupted. “I just wanted to see if I could.” She looked up at me and smiled. “And I think I can.”
I returned her smile as I went to sit in the chair Stone usually occupied. “It’s so good to see color in your cheeks again. You had us all very worried there for a while.”
“I wasn’t,” Stone stated. When we turned to look at him, he shrugged, a teasing smile on his lips. “Why would I care if some spoiled noblewoman got herself killed?”
“Call me spoiled again and I’ll lop off your other hand,” Lydia warned.
Stone laughed and held up his hand in surrender. “Forgive me, gracious noblewoman,” he amended.
She grinned. “Better.”
Watching the two of them together was surreal. Here was a girl who had been raised with the strictest sense of morals and ethics, yet it was clear she cared for someone who represented the opposite of morals. But the easiness of their relationship, the calm they seemed to bring to one another, overshadowed all of that.
Lydia turned to me, saw something in my face, and nodded. Looking back to Stone, she said, “Harvey, could you give Beth and I some privacy?”
I blinked at him as Stone’s head dropped, obviously caught. “Did…did she just call you Harvey?” I asked.
“I suppose I understand now why they call you the biggest gossip in England,” Stone muttered, scratching at his bandana clad head, frustrated. “Can’t keep a secret, can you, love?”
Lydia’s eyes had gone wide. “I’m so sorry,” she said, covering her mouth. “It just slipped out—"
“Is that your real name?” I interrupted. “Harvey? Not Stone?”
He gave me a drawl look. “You didn’t think a woman would actually name her son after a piece of compact earth, did you?”
“I suppose I never thought about it.”
Lydia grabbed Stone’s arm. “I am truly sorry. I didn’t mean to say it.”
He sighed, ripping his bandana off his head. “No use hiding from it now.” Looking to me, he bent into a dramatic bow. “Harvey Jones, at your service.”
“Harvey Jones?” I choked back a laugh.
He narrowed his eyes at me. “Something particularly funny, little lady?”
“No, it’s just…Harvey Jones?” I shook my head. “Why do people call you Stone?”
“Ah, well, there are a few reasons I suppose, most of which are much too vulgar for the ears of two gracious noblewomen.”
Lydia swat his arm and answered me, “Because he is said to have a heart of stone.”
Stone pounded his chest over his heart, presumably gesturing to his heart. It didn’t exactly have the desired effect since it was his left hand. “Unflinching, immovable, stronger than steel.”
“Oh, stop that,” Lydia said, rolling her eyes. “We both know you are none of those things.”
He stepped closer to her, dropping his voice to a soft rumble. “You asking me to prove myself, love?” he asked.
“Perhaps.” She bit her lip to try and hide her grin. “If you think you can.”
“Oh, I don’t think you could handle—"
“Still in the room, guys,” I cut in, waving my hand as if they had somehow missed my presence.
Lydia blushed so red I thought she might explode, while Stone just chuckled. “Sincerest apologies, little lady,” he said. “I’ll just leave the two of you. To discuss the more vulgar parts of my name, I’m sure.”
“Off with you,” Lydia shooed, shoving him gently toward the door.
Before he left, he turned to me once more and said, “If you tell anyone, I will kill you.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it, Harvey.” I smiled innocently.
He scowled at me. “Never call me that again.” And then he left.
I looked at Lydia with wide eyes. “Harvey?”
“What did you want to talk to me about?” Her face was still burning the darkest shade of red.
I wasn’t finished. “Did he tell you that one night when you were looking deeply into each other’s eyes?” I teased.
She clasped her hands to her cheeks. “Goodness, Beth—"
“Or was it after you two shared a heart stopping kiss?”
She gasped, “Elizabeth!”
I made an obnoxiously exaggerated kissing noise before I started laughing.
Lydia covered her mouth and broke out into never ending giggles. “Beth, stop it,” she panted. “Too much laughing and I’m going to start bleeding again.”
That sobered me up quickly. “How are you feeling?”
“Better than the night I was brought in here.” She shrugged casually as if there wasn’t a bandage wrapped around her stomach, but her hands gripped the edge of the desk tightly.
“They said you are coming with us when we go to see Josephina.”
She nodded. “Of course.”
“Do you really think you should?” I asked gently. “You’ve barely recovered. Surely, you need more rest than—"
“I’ve already had the pleasure of this speech from Har-Stone,” she quickly corrected herself. “I do not need to hear it again. I am going, and that is final.”
I studied her a beat. “All right,” I relented. “But if anything happens—"
“Actually, I was thinking of bringing your mother along.” She watched me carefully as she spoke. “That way, if anything does happen, or there is some sort of ridiculous fight like what occurred last time, she would be right there to offer her expertise.”
I didn’t say anything. Truthfully, I wasn’t exactly sure what to say.
“She wouldn’t even need to be among the lords and ladies,” she continued. “She could pose as your lady’s maid or the like. That way she would be unseen by those who matter but still be accessible if something should go wrong.”
I nodded. It all made perfect sense. She was a doctor. If someone got hurt like Lydia had, it would be a smart plan to have her close by. I was sure if I shared the idea with Carter, he would agree that it was a good plan.
Yet, I found myself saying, “Under no circumstances is my mother to join us to Josephina’s house.”
Lydia’s shoulders sagged. “But, Beth—"
“All your points were valid. It is a smart idea to have a trusted doctor as a failsafe. But I don’t want her there.”
“Because I don’t trust her.” I was breathing too hard and it took a conscious effort to draw in through my nose and out through my mouth.
The sadness in Lydia’s eyes spoke volumes of shared despair but all she said was, “Okay.”
I stood up, smoothing my palms restlessly down my pants. “I should go find Nathaniel. It’s time for our training.”
“No, wait, Beth, talk to me,” she said. “What did you come in here to tell me?”
“Nothing.” I smiled but I wasn’t sure it reached my eyes. “Just wanted to check on you. I’m glad you’re feeling better. I’ll send Stone back in.”
I closed the door behind me, nodding to Stone that I was done, and went to find Nathaniel. He was waiting for me in the same place we had trained yesterday, a sword in each of his hands.
He smiled when he saw me and held one sword’s hilt out to me. “Today and tomorrow,” he told me, “you are going to learn how to use a sword.”
“I am?” I took the offered weapon hesitantly and almost collapsed under the weight of it.
He choked back his laugh. “It might be a bit heavy, but you will learn to balance it as we go.”
“If you say so.” Using all my might, I poised the blade at him. “So are you just going to slice at me until I learn how to deflect it?”
This time, he did laugh and shook his head. “Not exactly. Believe it or not, there will be some actual teaching during your training today.”
Between the heat of the sun above and the crushing weight of the sword, I was already sweating. “Who’d have thought?” Studying the steel, I felt a pang of nervousness go through me. “Are you sure it’s the best idea to hand me a real sword? Maybe I should start with one of those wooden ones.”
“Then there are no stakes in the game. No,” he said, lowering into a ready stance, “you will use a real blade. But please, do try not to kill me.”
“Same to you.”