A week or so later, they arrived in yet another Kindred Prince's domain, near Columbus. As was usual when coming to a new Prince's territory, the three of them had to make their presence known to that Prince. As awkward as that was on most occasions, this time, the current Prince had already been an acquaintance of Haven's, which meant that for once they would be provided with more Kindred-friendly accommodations for at least one night of the long trip westward to where Haven's sire had settled, traveling amongst the wave of frontier families that had begun branching away from the original colonies in recent years.
The Prince's home was quite the large colonial estate, complete with extra sleeping quarters for his guests. One of those rooms was designated to Sean and Claire for the night, though Baila was the one sleeping soundly upon a lush sofa inside the bedroom, while Claire sat outside the door of the room, staring up at the nighttime sky thru the hall window, as there were no windows at all in any of the bedrooms.
"Sorry it took so long. Haven wanted me to stay and become acquainted with some of the Primogen." Sean apologized with a slight smile as he appeared at the top of the stairs in what was probably the most luxurious home either had ever stayed in, considering it was three times the size of Haven's lavish Massachusetts home, itself.
"Primogen?" she asked as she turned to him, her voice hoarse from it's frequent disuse of late.
"They represent each of the clans, I guess." Sean smiled as he took the seat next to her.
"Clans?" she repeated his words once again.
"Different types of Kindred. There's this whole system. I guess Haven wants me to learn about it." he replied with a slight smile.
"Did he say anything else about this, system? Anything I should be worried about, since we supposedly already broke some kind of laws back home, or something." she returned quietly.
"I don't think it's about that. Basically, there's talk that Haven's sire might want to appoint him as the Primogen for our clan when we get to his territory. I guess Haven wants me to know what to expect, or something." Sean added with an unconcerned shrug and a pause before his eyes moved to the beam of moonlight that illuminated her pale cheeks, which easily gave him the urge to reach up and touch her long locks gently, lovingly, the way he always had, despite her current worries.
"Territory?" she asked, after taking a moment to regain her concentration after the way he caressed those locks once again.
"Yes, Haven's sire is now a Prince out west, or some such thing." he chuckled slightly, "And in case you hadn't noticed, I was trying to get off of the subject of politics for the night." he smiled again as he leaned in to kiss her neck ever so lightly.
She looked down at the sound of his words, though still couldn't quite push back the small smile at the feel of his lips against her skin, before finally forcing herself to speak again, "We're in the hallway." she reminded him in a small voice. Though his only response was a smile as he continued kissing her neck, for once not seeming like he was simply about to sink those fangs in again, "In a hallway in a house full of strangers." she managed to reiterate, though words were becoming increasingly difficult as he continued the kisses.
"Then I guess we should go into our room." he teased her as he moved to stand and reached for her hand. Though she only looked down again, not immediately taking his own hand in return. Sean creased his brow at her reaction, "What is it?" he asked softly for an explanation.
"The room's not empty." was all she could muster.
Sean sighed only slightly, "Baila was awake all day, and most of the evening too. She usually sleeps pretty heavy." he attempted to excuse.
"You can't be serious." she returned, only looking up at him out of the corner of her eye.
"Everyone else around here is quite fine with an audience, not to mention one that's already asleep." he mumbled as he finally glanced back toward the bedroom door, then back at Claire, noting that she did not seem comforted by his sentence in any way. He then sighed and added, "It's been months." he reminded needlessly.
"I'm aware of that." she returned shortly, looking away from him once again.
"We'll just tell Baila to leave the room, then. It'll be fine." he returned, speaking gently once again.
She just shook her head, "And why wasn't that the first option?" she told him nearly inaudibly.
"Honestly?" Sean returned.
"Yes honestly!" she told him with a slight raise in volume.
"I guess I thought that it would be less cruel to let her sleep thru our lovemaking, than to kick her out of the room so we could indulge in it." he admitted.
Claire just shook her head at his answer, knowing that what he was saying had some merit to it, but it didn't change how she couldn't help feeling about the words, "It doesn't matter anyway." she finally returned as she also stood.
"What's that mean?" he replied, confused by the statement.
"I'm just really not in the mood." was her only response as she moved to descend the stairs again, not sure where she was going, just as long as it was in another direction.
Sean entered the bedroom alone a long moment later, his somberness apparent as he quietly closed the door, not able to help his glance toward the subject of their recent debate, where she still was curled under a heavy cover atop the blood-colored sofa. He sighed slightly and shook his head as he moved to take a seat at the vanity. There he moved his fingers slightly over Claire's hairbrush, which Baila had unpacked for her earlier in the evening while the men spoke with Columbus' Kindred leaders.
He knew that he should have followed after Claire, but he had no idea what he would even say to her if he had. He understood her upset at having Baila as a constant intrusion on their lives together, but he also knew that she was a necessary one. He sighed once more, only to be distracted by the rustling of the cover at the other side of the room, where Baila groggily stirred from her slumber.
She rubbed at her pale blue eyes as she sat up, slowly looking around the room. She then became immediately alert as her eyes fell on Sean, causing her to beam over at him, "Evening Sean." she told him as she pushed the cover away from her sheer nightgown and looked around the room once more before turning her eyes back to Sean, where they most always were focused, "Where's Mrs.?" she asked, her voice always dropping a bit in volume when she referred to Claire.
"Downstairs." was his simple answer, still looking over Claire's belongings rather than at his companion.
"Will she be joining you soon?" she asked in the same quiet, unsure tone that she had used earlier.
"Don't know." was his only response, his eyes still downwards despite the sound of her bare feet moving slowly towards him over the plush carpeting.
"Is everything all right?" she asked as she bravely placed a hand on the back of his chair, trying not to let too much hopefulness sneak into her tone.
"We've been married almost a decade and a half. We do occasionally spend some time in different rooms." he returned with a feeble attempt at humor, despite his awareness of her so eagerly moving to his side.
"Is there anything I can do?" she dared further as she mustered even more courage and placed her small hand over his narrow shoulder, causing Sean to tense a bit as she did, though he didn't actually pull away from her, which was more than enough encouragement for her to let it rest there.
"Baila." he swallowed as he managed to look up at her as she moved around in front of him, moving her hand slowly down his arm, "I know you think you want me" he began, only to take pause when she moved to kneel in front of him.
"I don't just want you, Sean." she told him breathily as she moved her hands to his knees, the truth to what her profession had previously been, easily beginning to show thru, "I need you, and I love you." she told him in a tone that showed that she truly believed every word, despite the fact of why she felt such a way about him.
Sean closed his eyes a moment, steeling himself against the pleading tone in her voce, "It's not that simple, Baila." he told her in his own quiet tone.
"Why? Why isn't it? I'd do anything in the world for you. I just want you to touch me, please." she told him in the same whisper.
"You have to understand, Baila, before I ever touch you, Claire would have to be ok with it. I gave her eternity so I could spend it as her husband, remember?" he reminded her softly as he at least allowed himself to slightly touch her cheek, the sheer sincerity with which she believed in her feelings for him, easily affecting him.
Baila simply nodded, casting her eyes downwards as she slowly dropped her hands from his knees and stood, turning quickly away to hide her heartbroken tears at his rejection, but somehow, she made no further argument. She simply moved away, not glancing back his way again until those tears would dry up, whenever that was to be.
It was much later that night, only a little over an hour until dawn, when Claire had still not returned to their room. Instead, she had found a seat near the rose gardens outside the Prince's home. She moved her eyes around the gardens, trying to imagine how beautiful they must have been when it was not the dead of winter. She tried in vain to imagine that vision as a way of keeping her mind occupied with some kind of pleasant thoughts, instead of her usual worries. Though, this attempt wasn't very successful either, especially once their host's servants slowly began moving about the grounds here or there, preparing for either the morning's guard duty or other chores they had been assigned in order to keep the large home as lavish and beautiful as it so obviously was.
Even her appraisal of their pre-dawn movements was soon interrupted though as her husband's own servant made her way outside, now wearing long petticoats over her previously modest attire. Baila did not seem to immediately note Claire's presence near the gardens though, as they were still several feet off from the door.
Baila looked a bit uneasy, desperate even, as she moved away from the door, checking her pendant watch and the skies above, to assure herself of how close morning may actually be. She then swallowed hard and took a deep breath before purposefully heading down the long walk that lead to the still darkened town streets that wound by the front of the home.
Claire's eyes narrowed as she watched the girl make her way towards those streets. She also cast a glance to the skies above her before moving her gaze back to the girl. Claire then swallowed again as her worry caused her to move to follow Baila, though at a safe distance, giving herself time to try to reason out why she would be heading toward the heart of town at such a strange hour at all.
It was only a block or so from the Prince's home when Baila paused, which caused Claire to pause as well, casting another wary glance at the empty streets as well as the sky above them, once more. Claire's eyes then moved back to Baila, where she had stopped near the opening of a dark alleyway, appearing to be arguing with herself over something or other, as she fumbled with the long layers of her coat, seemingly searching for something.
Claire's heightened sense of sight easily caught the moonlight glinting off of the small metal object the young woman had now shakily taken from her coat. It didn't take much longer to recognize that that object seemed to be a small blade of some sort, which easily brought on visions of the night of her own embrace, as well as what she heard of Sean's, when placed against the dark alley Baila had stopped next to.
Claire swallowed again as Baila looked down at the blade shakily before casting another glance down the alley, almost looking equal parts frightened, and desperate at once. All the bits of knowledge that she had somehow managed to retain about the nature of their servants, thru her mental fog of late, also peaked into the edges of her mind in regards to the scene that may be about to unfold before her.
With that, Claire moved quickly out of the shadows, knowing that the sudden movement was sure to turn Baila's attention to her, considering her current nervousness, "Ma'am?" Baila responded throatily, hurrying to hide the blade inside her coat once more as her eyes turned to fall on where Claire still stood several feet away.
Claire tried quickly to find the right words to respond with, all things considered, "You shouldn't be out here, alone, Baila." she managed, forcing softness to her voice as she took a few more steps toward the younger woman.
"I would've returned by dawn. I promise, ma'am." she replied as she bowed her head nervously, guiltily even.
"Something might have happened to you though. Especially when it's still dark out. And where would that have left Sean and I?" she somehow managed to use the one piece of reasoning that was sure to gain Baila's concession, despite her own fears of what she may have been planning to do with that blade, after all.
"I'm sorry ma'am. I never meant to even possibly endanger Sean, or yourself." she quickly added, moving awkwardly toward Claire, eyes still cast downwards.
"No harm. Just be more wary of wandering off alone." Claire replied, continuing to force that same softness into her tone, despite her own feelings toward the girl who now shuffled slowly thru the snow to reach her side, her eyes still not able to meet Claire's, "Let's get back to the house, shall we?" Claire made the final statement, as Baila simply nodded her agreement, and silently moved to follow the older woman, despite whatever action her strong desires, and her strong addiction, had had her honestly considering that night, after all.