Frowning, Clarke put the text in her hands down onto the dining room table. She had been pouring over one paragraph of translation for more than thirty minutes to no avail and decided to give herself a break. Though she had technically taken a break not long before when she had eaten lunch—mainly because she knew Bellamy would ask Fox whether she had eaten if he suspected she had forgotten—she had a book with her during the meal, so her mind hadn’t rested entirely.
She decided to retire to her writing desk, as she recalled she had yet to reply Harper’s last letter. She and another unmarried school friend had decided to start holidaying together. Their mothers would only allow their travels to take place within the kingdom, but the girls were taking that as far as they could; currently in Wales and already planning a tour of the Scottish Highlands. Harper’s letter had arrived two days ago, but in a rush to finish other correspondence yesterday, Clarke had accidentally neglected her friend.
Clarke had just drawn out a fresh sheet of writing paper when Andrew knocked on the sitting room door, informing her of her mother’s arrival. The visit was unexpected, but not entirely unwelcome. Over the last few months, their relationship had slowly but surely improved as they worked together to give evidence against the Wallace family. The surprise didn’t bother Clarke as it might have done once, although she was curious for the reason of the visit. It was rare that Lady Abigail Griffin went anywhere without calling ahead.
“Good afternoon,” Clarke greeted when her mother entered, moving from her writing desk to the chaise in front of it.
“Good afternoon,” Abigail said warmly, taking a seat in the chair opposite. “I hope I’m not disturbing you. I was making some calls in the area and finished early,” she explained.
This was another factor in Clarke’s thawing towards her mother. Clarke had discovered from Marcus that the lady had been helping her former protegee Doctor Jackson to treat patients around the city who could not afford the best care, taking no fee from Jackson or the patients. When she had asked her mother about it, Abigail had seemed almost embarrassed by the discussion. Clarke didn’t understand the need for secrecy—surely there was no reason to care about the opinion of people who would think treating sickly people, whatever their status, was a bad thing—but she respected her mother’s work nonetheless.
“No, I was just returning some correspondence. How are your patients faring?”
This topic entertained them for a little while, and nothing about the conversation seemed unordinary. It was only when her mother finished discussing her last patient, and seemed to pause awkwardly, that Clarke frowned.
“Is everything all right?” she wondered.
“Yes.” Abby nodded, though her smile seemed forced. “Well, the truth is, my visit isn’t entirely coincidental. There is something of significance I need to talk to you about.”
“Oh?” Clarke perked up. She heard a vague noise from outside the room, but her mind was racing too fast to register it properly. “Is it about the Wallaces?” she wondered. “Have you heard anything from the police?”
In the time since her return from Paris, Cage Wallace and some of his associates had been safely put away, but many others had eluded capture. Miss Lorelai Tsing’s office had been abandoned and most of her records destroyed, leaving only her sole recorded employee, a guileless young girl unable to offer much insight as to her former employer’s whereabouts.
Worse still, in Clarke’s opinion, was the fact that despite her mother’s testimony about Dante Wallace’s knowledge of his son’s previous actions, the courts declared there wasn’t enough evidence to directly tie the Earl to these events, and no one from the past came forward with anything else. It was a small comfort that the scandal had been enough to severely reduce his standing in London society, to the extent that the Earl and his wife had sold off his companies and abruptly left town. Rumours as to his new abode ranged from America to India to Scotland.
One of the bright spots in that news was that the Paris branch of Wallace’s company had been taken over by a senior employee who had given Miss Maya Vie a well-deserved promotion, which paid her enough to care for her father without taking so much of the burden on herself.
Although it seemed unlikely that any new information had suddenly materialised, Clarke couldn’t think of what else her mother might have to discuss that was so important.
However, the lady shook her head. “No, I’m afraid there is nothing more on that front as of late.” She was about to explain when none other than Bellamy walked into the sitting room.
“Clarke,” he said brightly, striding forward with a delicate bouquet of white flowers in his hands, presented towards her. “Have you—“ he broke off when he noticed their guest. His smile remained, though it dulled as he bowed his head to her. “Apologies, Lady Abigail, I’m afraid I did not notice you were here. Are you well?”
“That’s quite all right, Mr. Blake. I am very well, thank you.” When Bellamy merely nodded and stayed motionless, the lady added with a smirk, “Please don’t let my presence stop you from giving my daughter flowers.”
Clarke would have shot a serious glare at her mother if not for the delight blooming in her chest at the sight of the bouquet in Bellamy’s hands—the white flowers were Clarke’s favourites, though she had no earthly idea how he knew that. They had shared many intimacies as they had grown closer over the last few months, but she didn’t recall mentioning her favourite flower to him.
“Er, yes,” he said, glancing back to Clarke. A slight flush grew on his cheeks, clearly a result of the presence of his mother-in-law. He thrust the bouquet towards Clarke, a little awkward.
She blushed, less from her mother’s presence than from the gesture itself. Although she had assured Bellamy she did not need gifts after he bought her that first book when they’d returned from France, that hadn’t stopped him from presenting her with little tokens of his affection. So, she had taken to doing the same for him. Mostly, they had traded books they thought the other would like. She had enjoyed what she had read so far, though none had entertained her as much as their lively discussions afterwards. Even when they didn’t agree, Clarke always relished their debates.
Of course, flowers were the most traditionally romantic gift he’d presented her with yet. She stood to take the bouquet from him. “Thank you,” she said, beaming and racking her brain to remember if it was a special occasion. “I thought you wouldn’t be home until five.”
“I finished my meetings, so I decided to complete my paper at home. If you will excuse me,” Bellamy said with a nod to Abby, “I have some business to attend to.”
“Of course,” the lady replied. As soon as he was out of the room, she cast a curious gaze at Clarke, “Aren’t those the little flowers you like so much? I had not realised Mr. Blake was so attentive a husband.”
Clarke held her tongue a moment. It had taken longer than she could proudly admit for Clarke to realise the same thing. Inhaling the scent of the flowers, she sat back down before responding. “He is a very good man.”
“You really do like him,” Abby said, her face brightening.
Clarke hid her smile behind her gift, but nodded. “Yes, I do.” There had been so much between mother and daughter to mend; discussion of Clarke’s marriage had not been a high priority. To be fair to her mother, Abigail had seemed to take much more of an interest in Bellamy than before, regardless of whether she saw Clarke with or without him. Clarke had appreciated the interest, but still had some concerns about her mother’s opinion of her marriage, which the surprise in Abigail’s voice only confirmed. Regardless of how it would affect their newfound familiarity, Clarke felt the need to say, “I know you didn’t think it was the best match, and Bellamy is not the… type of person you would have picked for me, but—“
“Oh, no, Clarke,” her mother interrupted a little sadly. “I do admit I had my doubts when you told me of your engagement, but I never meant for you to think it was about Mr. Blake’s social class.”
“No, not at all,” Abby said vehemently.
Clarke frowned. “But you didn’t like him?”
“Well, to be honest, I didn’t think that you did,” she replied simply. “That is, I could see that you liked his company well enough, but…” Abby sighed. “You kept telling me how sensible a match it was for both of you, but nothing about your feelings for him. I only wanted you to marry someone that would make you feel the way I did with your father. If Mr. Blake truly makes you happy, then of course he is the best match for you.”
Her throat seemed to close as Clarke blinked back sudden tears at the rare emotional declaration from her mother. As words escaped her, Clarke put her flowers to one side and did something she couldn’t remember doing properly for a long time—she hugged her mother.
Once they broke apart, Clarke politely pretended not to notice her mother brushing at her eyes and moved to pick up her flowers again, idly wondering which vase they would look best in.
“So,” she said, recalling herself to the original point of her mother’s visit, “what was it you wished to talk to me about today?”
Some thirty minutes later, Clarke leant against the door of the study, observing her husband. He was hunched over a large text and didn’t notice her approach until she knocked lightly on the open door.
“My mother’s gone now,” Clarke commented, “so you don’t have to keep hiding in here.”
“I wasn’t hiding,” Bellamy replied, frowning. “I only thought you might like some time alone, and I do need to finish this paper. I meant to join you before she left.”
“I was only teasing. She sends her regards,” Clarke noted, moving into the room and towards the newer desk by the entrance: her desk. They had installed it for her more than two months ago, but Clarke still found it odd to work there when Bellamy wasn’t home. She had retrieved her book from the dining room on her way to their study and now dropped it on her desk before going to Bellamy’s. “And it probably is for the best we had that conversation in private.”
“Oh? Is everything all right?”
Clarke nodded, but perhaps a little too quickly since Bellamy raised an eyebrow in concern. Coming to a stop on his left side, Clarke leant against the desk for support, placing her palms flat on the few clear bits of surface. “She wanted to tell me that she and Marcus Kane are going to marry.”
Studying her husband’s face, which betrayed little reaction, Clarke frowned. “You knew?” When Bellamy gestured in confirmation, she exclaimed, “Marcus told you, and you didn’t say anything!”
Bellamy shook his head quickly and took her near hand in his. “No, I didn’t know. I only had a feeling, ever since I first saw him and your mother together, that there was… something there.”
Clarke pouted slightly. “From something Marcus said?”
He looked thoughtful for a moment. “Not that so much as his behaviour, I suppose.”
She scoffed and couldn’t help but muse how all around her people were falling in love, and she hadn’t noticed.
Wells had been the first, though she still wasn’t sure whether Raven returned his affections. The lady had avoided the subject altogether in her letters to Clarke, so she had followed the same example. She did know, though, that Raven had been in regular correspondence with her friend, and he had high hopes for his first trip back to Paris, for which Wells would be departing in only a few hours.
The next romance she had been oblivious to, but who were most definitely courting, were Monty and Miller. Apparently, Miller had spent a lot of time with Monty since their ordeal to help him with his magic, and their friendship had blossomed into something much sweeter. They were also another couple Bellamy had suspected long before Clarke learnt the truth, though at least in that instance Clarke could soothe her pride knowing Bellamy had years of friendship with Miller to aid him.
It was not right, however, that he should be the first of them to notice a couple of which one half comprised the woman that gave birth to Clarke.
“How did you guess from only that when I couldn’t see my own mother’s feelings?”
Bellamy shot her a wry smile. “Maybe I just recognised a man in my own situation.”
Clarke’s heart gave a slight pang at his admission, and she moved to sit in his lap.
He laughed, even as his arms curled around her instinctively. “I wasn’t trying to make you feel bad.”
“I know,” Clarke acknowledged, pressing a chaste kiss to the side of his neck just above his shirt collar. She didn’t feel bad exactly, but she didn’t like the reminder of their foolish behaviour.
“What did you say? When she told you,” Bellamy wondered, a hand coming up to brush through her hair.
“That I was happy for her.”
“And are you?”
“Of course,” Clarke said quickly, but when she looked up at him, Bellamy was gazing softly at her.
“You don’t have to be all right with it,” he replied. “You can tell me.”
She knew that. As their relationship had grown over the last few months, Clarke had found she was comfortable telling Bellamy anything, without fear of judgment, in a way she had never felt with anyone before. “I’m not upset about her getting married again. I would like her to be happy. It just brought back these memories of my father,” she admitted. “Good memories, but they still make me feel a little sad all the same.”
Bellamy brought her closer in his arms, kissing her forehead as he rubbed one hand gently up and down her back.
That was another thing Clarke had grown to appreciate about her husband. Although he was excellent with words, he also knew when they wouldn’t help, when not to say anything at all. Just being with him made her feel a little better though, as she had known it would.
After a few moments, Clarke cleared her throat. Wanting to move on to a pleasanter conversation, she said, “Thank you for my flowers, by the way.”
She could tell he noted the obvious change of subject, but decided to leave it be. “They were the right ones?” he asked.
“Yes, they’re my favourite. How did you know?”
He grinned against her neck. “I asked Wells last night.”
Clarke giggled. Wells had come round for dinner the previous evening, a farewell prior to his trip to Paris. It was his first time leaving London after their trip, and after everything they had been through, Thelonious had been loath to let him go alone. The man’s over attentiveness had driven even the well-mannered Wells to go as far as inviting himself to the Griffin-Blake house for dinner regularly the last two weeks just to have some space.
Of course, Clarke was always happy to see him and even more pleased that her husband and best friend were becoming friends themselves. Wells’ frequent visits had also made it much easier for them to give him letters and gifts to take back to their friends in Paris. Bellamy must have asked him about the flowers when she’d left them alone while retrieving her letters to Raven and Monty.
“You could have just asked me,” Clarke pointed out.
“It wouldn’t have been a surprise then.”
“No, I suppose not,” Clarke relented.
The clock chimed the start of a new hour, and their eyes both flickered up to it.
“I suppose Wells must have left his home by now,” Bellamy noted.
“Unless Thelonious drove him out much earlier,” Clarke mused, which made her husband chuckle. “Oh, that does remind me, though.”
“Mother and I were talking about houses earlier. Apparently, she and Marcus have decided my mother is going to move into the Kanes’ house. Marcus doesn’t want to leave Vera on her own at her age.”
“That could be interesting,” Bellamy considered. “Your mother and Vera both vying for mistress of the house?”
“Yes, it could,” Clarke agreed with a wry smile. “But I believe she only mentioned it since she was asking if we wanted to move into her house when she went.”
Although his face remained neutral, Clarke’s position in his lap meant she could feel her husband tense instantly.
She couldn’t help a slight giggle. “You don’t want to.”
“If you want to—“ he began in measured tones.
“I don’t,” she said simply.
He met her eyes then, studying her carefully. “It was your home for most of your life, I would understand if you did.” He reached out to brush a lock of hair off her face. “I won’t lie, the idea of living in such a big house is strange to me. But if you really wanted to try it— I don’t mind where we live, Clarke, as long as we’re together.”
Clarke smiled and kissed him. “I don’t want a big house either, Bellamy. This is my home now. I know when we got married we said we would move elsewhere, before we got distracted by… everything.” Bellamy let out a dry laugh at that. “But lately, I have been thinking. We don’t need to. We have enough space here for the both of us, and for guests to stay. Why, there’s been plenty of room when Octavia and Aurora have been with us.” It certainly helped that she and Bellamy were permanently sharing his bedroom. “And if we decide to have a child one day,” she added quietly, “there’s space for that, too.”
His smile softened. “I told you, there’s no rush,” he said, pressing a kiss to her hair.
The subject of children was the sole aspect of their future that Clarke had yet to make up her mind on. Bellamy insisted he would be happy either way. She had enjoyed playing with her niece in their visits since returning from Paris, but a child of their own would be a different matter. She needed more time to decide how she felt about that.
“If you’re happy here, then so am I,” Bellamy told her simply.
“I am happy here.” Clarke beamed. “Very much so.”
His answering smile held a trace of disbelief, as if he couldn’t quite fathom it was the truth. She hoped that in time he wouldn’t be quite so surprised by it. For now, she settled for kissing the look off his face.
“I hope, though,” Bellamy began to reply, in between kisses, “that you won’t mind if we are not always here.”
Clarke moved back a little, studying his face. “What do you mean?”
“I was given a new assignment at work today. There is a case abroad that needs looking into.”
“Oh.” She tried not to show her disappointment. After all, it was not like she didn’t know this would happen at some point. But the racket surrounding the Wallace family scandal and then Cage’s trial had only recently alleviated, and Clarke had gotten used to their new, quieter routine. “Do they mean for you to travel soon?”
Bellamy’s smile grew. “Not me. Us.”
Clarke gasped. “You mean it?” Her enthusiasm soon turned into suspicion. “You didn’t have to ask for me to join, you know.”
Laughing, Bellamy shook his head. “I told you, the Director was impressed by your work, especially in that translation from last month. You have quite an eye for Symbology.”
Clarke ducked her head on a pleased smile as Bellamy pressed a kiss to her flushed cheek.
“He thinks you’ll be quite useful in this assignment. So do I.”
“What is the assignment?”
“It’s all in here.” Bellamy lifted the envelope containing the relevant papers from his desk to hand to her.
Clarke settled back against his broad chest to read it, tucking her head underneath his chin while unfolding the paper. Excitement uncurled in her stomach as she began looking over the details of their next adventure.