(I’ll be back later today with some guest post links – I’ll be out and about this entire month to help bring Vicki out into the world.)
Lady Blackmyre is still riding me hard. *snickers* I’m just her pony hack at this point. Her Grace’s Stable broke 15K this morning Dark & Early. The story’s still going strong and it’s killing me every time I have to take a break and work or go to a band concert (last night). Three huge days in a row and my wrists are holding up, though I’m definitely hitting the Motrin a little more than usual to keep inflamation down.
I had a hard decision to make yesterday that my beloved sis talked me through whether she knew it or not via texts. I had to decide what to do with Cole. One thing would be easier and definitely within my comfort zone. The other option is something I privately had drawn a line at years ago.
Without formally deciding, I was already going the easy route. I’d even played a few options in my mind for Cole. Perhaps Dottie… No. That wasn’t right.
In fact, the more I thought about it, easy wasn’t right at all.
I have to be true to the story that’s driving me, no matter how much I balk. Lady Blackmyre requires nothing less than the painful, awful truth. It hovers like a gigantic impossible jump ahead of me, a black hole ready to swallow me on the other side, but she already gave me the signal to jump.
I’ll just have to trust that the story takes me over and onward.
“Have you been happy with him?”
Another man might have dropped his gaze and shuffled his feet in embarrassment, but Cole continued to meet her gaze levelly. “No, Your Grace.”
“Because you’re not there with us.” At the stricken look that must be on her face, he quickly moved on. “Besides, I don’t know that he particularly likes men. I mean, he didn’t hesitate to use me at first because his need was too great to ignore. But if he has his choice, I don’t know that he’d select me again.”
Surprised, she reached out to Cole and he came around her desk immediately to drop at her feet and bury his face in her skirts. “You mean he hasn’t…”
“Only the time in the stable when I first found him, and then once after that when he was fully recovered. He seemed… to regret it.”
“Oh, pet, I had no idea. I thought you might be happy with him and I was perfectly willing to step aside.”
“I don’t want another man if I can’t have you too, Mistress. I certainly don’t want a man who can only stomach the thought of touching me in a desperate moment of weakness better quickly forgotten.”
“Of course not,” she murmured, smoothing her hand through his hair. “You deserve more than that, Cole. I swore I’d take care of anything you might need, and I shall.”
“I don’t understand why you set me free in the first place.” He kept his head buried against her, muffling his words, but each one sank like a barbed arrow straight to her heart. “I don’t want to be free, Mistress.”
“You need more than I can give you.” And I can’t bear to make you watch me die a slow, agonizing death.
“I need you more than another man, Mistress. Please, you’re my sun and my sustenance, the very air I breathe. Tell me to drop dead at your feet and I shall but don’t send me away from you, please. Keep Arthur, I don’t mind. Just keep me too.”
What could she say that might allow him some assurance? The last thing she wanted was for this dear boy to waste away at her bedside while she coughed up her lungs and slowly expired. Yet I can’t bear to let him think I don’t love him as much as I do.
“We shall see, all right?” She cupped his cheek and pressed her forehead to his, letting him see the tears in her eyes. “I love you dearly, Cole. It’s hurt me more than I ever imagined to give you your freedom. But I can’t explain the entire situation to you at this time. Please, trust me to do everything I can to see to your wellbeing and happiness as long as I’m able.”
His eyes narrowed and she feared she’d said too much. No one knew she was ill besides the Queen. That’s the way she preferred it. She wouldn’t have even told Majel, except no one refused Her Majesty without a death wish. I have nothing to fear in that regard, for my death has already been signed, sealed and delivered.
“The Duchess of Blackmyre is able to do a great many things. If you can break a wild stallion to your hand, then you can surely keep this mischievous pony in your stable, too.”