“Did you hear that?”
Clarke turned her head quickly, frowning. She hadn’t heard a sound, but Miss Reyes had proven to be a most adept guide and Clarke trusted the woman’s instincts.
“I didn’t hear anything,” Wells said quietly, but Raven held her finger up, silencing him. The trio remained frozen as they listened for anything untoward.
For a moment, all was completely still.
Then, the distinctive sound of a pebble being crushed underfoot filtered through the corridor, in surprising proximity. Perhaps the run-down building was less abandoned than they had thought. Raven whispered hastily, “Quick, behind me,” ushering both her charges into place with one hand, while taking her gun out of the holster with the other.
Wells looked like he disagreed with his placement behind the two women, but had no time to argue before they were met by another group turning the corner.
Raven raised her gun at the group of five, carefully studying the man opposite her, but Clarke’s eyes immediately fell on the first in their party, and her breath stopped. The man was initially focused on the gun, but then he looked further and his expression changed entirely when their eyes met.
“Clarke?” he croaked hoarsely.
She could feel Wells and Raven’s eyes on her, but she paid them no notice. She was already moving, running, to embrace her husband.
Locking her arms around his neck, Clarke buried her face in his shoulder, breathing in his scent. Bellamy.
The Lady Clarke Griffin wed Mr. Bellamy Blake on a Saturday in June.
On the fourth Monday following, he left their home in London to attend to business in Arcadia. Although easily within a day’s journey, his sister’s residence in Polis nearby prompted him to stay with her for the duration, instead of travelling back and forth by train. He assured his wife he would return no later than three days hence, but when that Thursday arrived, all Clarke found waiting for her at lunchtime was a letter—and a short one at that.
Still, it included all the requisite details: an apology, a brief explanation of his extended absence, an intended location, and a vague return date. Clarke experienced some disappointment at the news, though much less than what may have been expected of a new bride. She was still learning about her husband’s field of work—the research and recovery of magical artefacts—but it seemed reasonable that something may have been urgent enough to require his immediate attention. Even if it was in another country. At any rate, Clarke had no reason to doubt the veracity of her husband’s letter.
His sister had a decidedly different opinion.
“And you just believed it?” Octavia scoffed down the phone.
Clarke bit her tongue at her sister-in-law’s gruff tone, reminding herself that even though it had been more than a week for her, the girl had only just learnt of her brother’s departure. Something that must have come as a surprise considering she had called to confirm her upcoming visit to London, which had apparently been discussed during his stay in Polis.
“I had no reason not to believe it,” Clarke defended. “Or the telegram he sent to confirm his arrival in France.”
“A telegram!” she exclaimed. “Bellamy doesn’t like telegrams, they’re too impersonal.”
“But they are very practical, considering the delay of international post,” Clarke said sensibly. “I still have them both, if you could hold, I can find it.”
“I’m low on change,” Octavia replied. “Can you call me back?”
Once she had rattled off the number of the public telephone box for Clarke to ring back, Clarke had barely wished her goodbye before the younger girl hung up. Clarke returned to the sitting room to scour her writing table for evidence of her husband’s communications, pleased with her habit of saving all correspondence. She had almost forgotten her guest until she saw him still waiting patiently, sat in the chair by the fireplace.
Her childhood friend, Mr. Wells Jaha, smiled. “Is everything all right?”
“I’m not certain,” Clarke admitted. “Blake’s younger sister, Mrs. Octavia Wood called. Apparently, when Blake was in Polis he invited Octavia and her daughter Aurora to visit us this weekend, but he never mentioned anything to me.”
“That is rather careless,” Wells said, frowning.
“It doesn’t seem like something he would do,” Clarke said truthfully. For all that she had only known her new husband for a few months before their wedding, there were some things about his character that she was certain of. “He is most considerate of his sister and niece. Octavia is a widow, and Blake is her only family. Blake had been staying with them, so I assumed he told her of his trip in person as he did not ask me to pass any messages on that he had gone to France. If his new business arose after he left her, I would have thought he’d send her a message to spare the child from making the journey at least.”
“True. Though I cannot speak to the man’s character from personal experience,” Wells said. He had not completed his work in America in time to return for the wedding, and this visit had originally been planned for him to be introduced to Clarke’s husband. “But Father seems to think well of him. Perhaps Mr. Blake sent his sister something from France and it has been misdirected?” he offered.
It was a possibility, Clarke supposed, but if he only had time to write one letter before setting sail, she found it far more likely he’d have written to his sister and asked her to pass on the message to his wife, whatever convention might dictate.
On finding the telegram and letter, the latter of which she had kept in its original envelope, Clarke took both out to the telephone in the hall. When she rang back, she read the letter to Octavia and the girl grumbled immediately.
“That was not written by Bellamy.”
Affronted, Clarke glared at the blank wall of the hallway in front of her. “We may not have been in correspondence before, but I do know his handwriting.”
Octavia clucked her tongue dismissively. “It may be his handwriting, but it’s not his words. It is not Bellamy’s style of writing at all.” The ‘You should know that,’ of her sentiment remained unsaid, but Clarke heard it loud and clear.
“I realise I do not have your years of knowledge of Blake’s writing style, but I don’t see how you can be so certain. He must have been rushed, so he did not have time to write more.”
“So why didn’t Bellamy find a way to call instead? And why didn’t he tell me not to visit, or mention to you that I was coming? Bellamy would have told at least one of us. And besides, when Bellamy left my house on Monday, he said he would go straight back to you. So, when exactly did Bellamy write that?” Clarke surmised that Octavia’s repeated use of her brother’s name was intentional to highlight her dislike of Clarke’s calling Blake by his last name. It was yet another piece of evidence to back up what Clarke had suspected from their first meeting, just days before her wedding: Octavia Wood did not approve of her brother’s marriage.
But any further musings on that would have to wait, as Octavia’s words prompted another revelation in Clarke’s mind.
“Did you say Monday?”
“Yes, Monday,” Octavia confirmed. “Is the line not clear?” she asked, tapping the receiver.
“Yes, that’s not— Blake told me he would stay at least two nights with you, possibly three.”
“That’s what we had planned, but his business in Arcadia concluded faster than he expected, so he didn’t need to have another meeting on Tuesday,” Octavia explained. “He came to my house for lunch after the meeting, but said he was going to go home instead of staying the night. That was why we arranged for me to come visit you in London so soon.”
“What time did he leave you?” Clarke said, turning the letter over in her hands before reaching for the envelope, which she had not previously studied in detail.
“Just after 3 o’clock. Definitely by half past.”
“Yes. Bellamy said he wanted to make it back home for dinnertime, so he had to get the 4 o’clock train. Why does the time matter?”
“Because I only received this letter on Thursday. And,” Clarke said slowly, staring at the evidence in front of her, “the postmark on the envelope is from Polis, on Wednesday. If he left you on Monday—“
Octavia gasped. “What was he doing in between?”
“Clarke? Has something happened to Mr. Blake?” Wells asked, concern etched on his face. He stood in the doorway to Blake’s study, watching as Clarke rifled through the papers on the desk. She had headed straight for the room after hanging up the phone, correctly assuming Wells would hear her and follow.
“I’m not sure, but his telegram gave the name of the hotel where he was staying,” she said as she considered the different piles of documents on top, before switching to opening drawers. Clarke was glad Blake had already told her he kept no magical objects himself, so she was not worried about encountering something potentially dangerous.
“No, but he’s mentioned to me before that he’d been to Paris frequently in the last two years. He always stays at this same place, but I cannot remember the name of it. I know he keeps his receipts here somewhere. If I can find the hotel’s information, we can contact them. Aren’t you going to help me look?” Clarke added after a moment, noticing Wells had remained in the entryway of the room.
“It would be impolite to rifle through another man’s study.” At Clarke’s raised eyebrow, he said, “You’re his wife. I’m a stranger to him, and for all we know he is—“
Clarke was saved from having to reprimand her friend by an important discovery. “Here it is. The Maurice.” The piece of paper firmly in hand, she sat down in the desk chair and picked up the telephone receiver.
Her husband had thought it the height of excess to have not one, but two telephones in the house, when Clarke had said she would get both installed upon moving in. However, Clarke had insisted the second, for his study, was her wedding present to him, at which he had looked away and muttered something about it being her money to spend as she pleased. Clarke wasn’t sure if he had used it, but it was certainly convenient now. She had never needed to make an international call before, but it didn’t take as long as she would have thought for the switchboard operator to put her through to the Maurice. Once she had inquired as to Mr. Blake’s room details, Clarke had to wait a few moments before she was informed, “I’m afraid he is not staying at the hotel, Madame.”
“I see. Did he check out this morning?” Clarke asked into the phone.
“No, Madame,” the voice was scratchy, but still intelligible, through the line. “Mr. Blake has not visited us since last year.”
Clarke swallowed. Recalling a conversation with her husband, she realised that tallied with his last trip to Paris, not long before they’d first met. “Are you certain there have been no new visits? Mr. Bellamy Blake?”
“Yes, Madame. He was a regular guest of ours, but I have not seen him at the hotel since then. He did leave a forwarding address if you need to reach him,” the hotel concierge told Clarke, before proceeding to list the address where she currently resided.
After she hung up, Clarke didn’t have to tell Wells the details of her conversation. They were quite plainly written on her face.
“I take it Mrs. Wood thinks something untoward has befallen her brother?” Wells asked, to which Clarke nodded. “Do you share that opinion, or do you think he simply…”
“Lied to me?”
“I don’t mean to suggest—”
“That’s alright, Wells,” Clarke assured him, “It’s not an unreasonable idea, considering our… arrangement.” She had not made any such suggestion to Octavia, uncertain of exactly what Blake had told her, but Clarke had already informed Wells through her letters that her marriage had been for practical reasons, and not love, so there was no reason to pretend otherwise now. Some of her husband’s absence could be explained away, by a mistress, perhaps. “But it would not tally with his conduct to his sister. The telegram was sent from Paris, and I’m certain Blake would have made sure Octavia would have a way to contact him.”
Wells seemed thoughtful while Clarke tried to recollect past conversations with her husband regarding his work.
Clarke had always been fascinated by the history of magic, but it was an avenue of study her mother had steered her away from, so her early friendship with Blake had revolved around the subject. However, now that she cast her mind back on it, Clarke realised she did not truly understand the mechanics of how he carried out his work. She had been too interested in the history and the magic itself—understandably, she would have thought—to have asked about the practicalities of his profession. Clarke knew that although he found the practice of having to cosy up to rich people for funding distasteful, he absolutely abhorred the researchers who undertook private commissions and gave their discovered artefacts to collectors instead of museums. As such, Blake was currently working on projects for the British Museum, but she couldn’t just call up and ask someone for the details. She didn’t even know whom to ask for.
Looking around the room with a sigh, her eyes caught on a collection of leather-bound books on a shelf to her right. Getting up from the chair, Clarke crouched down next to them and ran her fingers over the spines.
“What is it?”
“I think they’re Blake’s old journals. I’ve often seen him scribbling in a book like this,” Clarke explained, taking the last one off the shelf.
“We shouldn’t read his journals,” Wells said, affronted.
“You shouldn’t,” Clarke corrected. “But I asked him once what he writes in here, and he said it was mainly for work, to jot down any relevant thoughts he might have while he was out.”
“Then wouldn’t he have taken his most recent one with him?”
“I imagine so. But there could be something in here that will tell me what took him to Arcadia…” She let the book fall open naturally, and smoothed down the page, roughly just after the middle.
Clarke noted the date at the top, weeks after she had first met her husband. It was probably too long ago to be of use, but curiosity prompted her to start reading anyway.
Unproductive day again. Funding priorities have changed so the museum has now asked me to start looking into the Leiden mask, but the Magical History Library could provide me with very little. I was surprised the texts I consulted contained no mention of the item—although perhaps I cannot fault the texts entirely on my failings as a translator. My Dutch has become rusty from disuse and yet I did not give it my full concentration after my encounter on the way in. Clarke was outside.
The woman confounds me. When we are apart I can think of at least five charming things to say to her, and any number of interesting anecdotes that she would enjoy, and yet the moment we cross paths, I am compelled to irritate her. I cannot explain it, even to myself. Though I suppose it is not surprising that she would then decline to spend more time with me in the library. And yet, even that brief encounter has only fuelled my longing for our next meeting.
But I ought not think this way. Even if I did conduct myself in the most proper manner, Clarke must have innumerable suitors. I am sure a Lady such as herself could have no thoughts of someone as far below her station as I, let alone a man who also purposefully begins disagreements with her.
Clarke gasped and shut the book sharply between her hands.
“Did you find something?” Wells asked, curious.
“No,” she said, quickly, returning the book to its place on the shelf. “You’re right, journals are private. I was just surprised by some of Blake’s… language,” she said lamely.
Wells cocked his head, unimpressed. “I didn’t think you would be offended by swearing, Clarke.”
“Would you like tea?” she asked, standing up and ignoring him. “I think we need some tea.”
Thank you to the people who left comments/kudos on the first chapter. It's very much appreciated! I hope you guys like this update; do let me know what you think!
Clarke stood at the bottom of the steps, staring up at the front doors of the Magical History Library. Most of her circle walked past the building without a second glance, but she had always thought the building looked charming, even before she was old enough to realise the special contents of the books inside.
Not that she had ever been inside the library. Clarke’s only interaction with magical texts outside of museum exhibits had been the time she and Wells had found one open in his father’s study, and she’d convinced him they should both try saying an incantation aloud to see if they had the gift. Wells had been sceptical, since they knew anyone who had it would have displayed signs at an early age. Still, at only eleven years old, he hadn’t wanted to seem less brave than his friend. Neither of them were successful at turning the glass of water into any other substance, although that hadn’t stopped Clarke from pulling down many more books with magical titles from the shelves to keep trying.
The scolding they got from Thelonious was for making a mess of his study, but the one Clarke received later at home was for playing with things she didn’t fully understand. Lady Griffin’s strict guidelines for her daughter’s education ensured Clarke never would either, although the lady probably should have known her daughter’s character well enough by then to realise her warnings about magic only fanned the flames of Clarke’s curiosity.
Clarke was old enough now she could try to educate herself in the subject, although she did still live under her mother’s roof and would surely be questioned if she spent hours in study. This probably wouldn’t be the right library to start with either, Clarke noted. The librarian Miss Pince was well-known for being one of the few magicians still in London who did not use her powers for mere party tricks. She kept mainly to herself and her books, and catered to the specialists. Her library supposedly held books about magic written in every language—both magical and non-magical. Under such circumstances, Clarke supposed she shouldn’t have been surprised to discover Mr. Blake was a patron.
“Good morning, Mr. Blake,” she called to him as he approached the steps, equally as a greeting and as a means of getting him to look up from his newspaper before he tripped.
“Good morning,” he replied, recovering from his surprise with a nod of his head, and tucking the paper under his arm. “Are you also visiting the library?”
“No,” Clarke said quickly. “I was just admiring the building, but I have never been inside.”
“No? From what you’ve said in our talks, I’d have thought you would enjoy the selection.”
“It doesn’t seem like the library is meant for someone like me.”
“Oh, I think Miss Pince would be willing to accept the presence of someone like yourself in her establishment. Perhaps a visit from the nobility would bring the library some prestige.”
“I do not—” Clarke began hotly, before shutting her mouth when she saw the spark in her companion’s eye. Shoulders relaxing, she remarked, “Sometimes I think you are intent on misunderstanding me, Mr. Blake.”
He showed a flash of teeth before glancing back at the library entrance. “Often I think I could say the same of you.”
Clarke shook her head, smiling lightly. “I merely meant that the library is better suited to the scholar than the casual reader. As I have already mentioned, in truth, I know very little of your field.”
“I think you know more than you give yourself credit for. And one must start somewhere,” he said gently. “If you would like, I could show you some sections that may be of interest to you?”
“That is very kind,” Clarke said, grateful, “but I’m on my way to meet Miss McIntyre, and I don’t want to be late.”
“Of course. Well, I should be going as well,” he said, with a nod to the grand library doors, which he soon disappeared behind.
Clarke blinked away the memory of her encounter with Blake on the steps of the library. At the time, she had thought very little of the meeting, considered Blake’s offer to show her around the establishment mere politeness. If she’d stopped to wonder what he might have done had she accepted, Clarke would have guessed he’d direct her to the area housing introductory volumes and then return to his work. Now she wondered if he would have spent his time with her, talking her through the selection, or perhaps have tried to turn the invitation into another meeting, to court her?
But why had he not done anything of the kind since? After her first three weeks of marriage, Clarke would have described Mr. Blake to anyone who enquired as a considerate, but often distant, husband. The offer to show her the library had never been repeated. In fact, between their differing professional and social obligations, the only activity they consistently shared was breakfast, which was often a largely silent affair as they both read the paper. Clarke had not found it an uncomfortable silence, but she considered it rather odd that the man who seemed to find something to refute in their every conversation as acquaintances had so little to say to her once they were husband and wife. And now that she had read that entry in his journal, she was even more puzzled by Blake’s behaviour.
However, Clarke would have to put that confusion to one side as there was a much more serious matter at hand. The last 24 hours had done little to clear her anxiety about Blake’s whereabouts. Octavia had promised to ask around the village to see what she could discover, and Clarke, having been unable to find any documents on Blake’s desk that explained his meeting in Arcadia, was currently staring blankly between her lunch and her mother’s note while she waited for Octavia’s call.
The Dowager Duchess, Lady Abigail Griffin who had been away at a medical conference for the past week, had sent a note to her daughter asking when Clarke and her husband would next be free to dine now that she had returned.
Although Lady Griffin had been one of the first among her set to install a telephone in her home, it had been intended for use in medical emergencies rather than to show off her wealth. For private communication, Clarke’s mother still preferred letters. Clarke suspected that was more due to a suspicion of operators potentially listening in than a mere attachment to the written mode of communication. Still, even privately it was hard for Clarke to know how to answer this note in her time of uncertainty, not to mention how her mother would take the little information she had to give.
Clarke was saved from her musings and picking over her food by the shrill ring of the telephone. She rushed to it and was relieved that it was Octavia.
Her relief did not last long.
“I just have no idea what’s happened to him, Clarke,” the girl almost sobbed on the phone.
“Tell me what you found out.”
“I’m at the phone box. Can you call me back?”
Impatient, Clarke complied and Octavia soon relayed the results of her investigations.
“Bellamy was definitely at the station for the four o’clock train. I know the girl who sells tickets, and I’ve been to the station with Bellamy before. She recognised him as my brother when he bought his ticket and they talked for a few minutes before he went through the door to the platform. But the Station Master didn’t recognise him from my picture, and wasn’t sure if he got on the train or not. Said it was too many days ago to remember exactly, but that he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.”
“What about the post office?”
“They couldn’t remember seeing anyone that looked like Bellamy at all that week,” she said, with growing trepidation in her voice. “Clarke, I know you haven’t known Bellamy that long, but this just isn’t like him! I don’t know what to do, he’s the only family I have left—”
“No,” Clarke said quickly, “You have me now too. And I promise I’ll find out what has happened.”
After a few more assurances, Octavia had to go to relieve the friend who was watching Aurora, but wanted regular updates on the search. Clarke promised to pass them on before hanging up and trying to decide on her next course of action.
If Blake hadn’t been noticed getting on the train at a small station like Polis, it was hard to expect anyone to spot him in a more crowded London station, but she would still make enquiries. Then she would need to see what ships had left for France since Monday and somehow obtain the passenger manifests. Was there a way of tracking who had sent a telegram from abroad? It wasn’t something she’d had to consider before, but she knew who she would call on in her time of need.
Wells was, not to put too fine a point on it, baffled by Clarke’s reaction to her husband’s absence. “I agree it is peculiar, but there is nothing definitive yet,” he pointed out. He was currently pacing in front of the fireplace of Clarke’s sitting room, having arrived as soon as possible after her call. “Mr. Blake may have met someone on the train who proposed this business in France and gotten off at an earlier stop. He may have intended to stay at The Maurice, but sent the telegram before discovering they had no vacancies and stayed somewhere else. Either he didn’t think he would be staying there long enough to warrant another message, or he has sent you a letter that has not arrived yet.”
Clarke did recall she had not checked whether the hotel was full when she called the previous day, which was a failing on her part. “I admit your theory is not impossible. But it doesn’t explain going back to Polis on Wednesday to post the first letter, and then not even calling on his family, does it?”
“Perhaps he left the letter on his way to the station on the Monday, but it was misplaced and not posted until the Wednesday. I do not doubt your judgement, Clarke,” Wells added at Clarke’s look. “But I do think these are the questions the police will ask.”
“Which is why we will not go to them before we have more information,” Clarke stated.
“Clarke!” Wells exclaimed. “You cannot expect to launch an international investigation without involving the police.”
“At some point the police will have to be involved, but you are right, it is unlikely they will take me seriously yet. Besides, if it is all a series of misunderstandings, it will be better not to trouble them. And we do not even know if it will be an international investigation,” Clarke added. “Perhaps the telegram is a hoax and Blake is still in England.”
“And if he is in France?”
“I have heard Paris is quite charming this time of year,” Clarke said pointedly. “I will be delighted to pay it a visit.”
Seeing that Clarke was not to be swayed from her decision, Wells insisted on first calling The Maurice again. The concierge seemed confused as to their inquiry and appeared reluctant to suggest there was an excess of empty rooms in the hotel. However, on pressing him, they realised that had Blake asked for a room that previous week, there would have been more than one vacancy available. As a result, Wells agreed to help as long as it was he who made the enquiries at the train station and into the ships’ logs. Clarke acquiesced since she also wanted to look into Blake’s work for any projects that might take him to Paris and Wells was still unwilling to search through another man’s private study.
Clarke sent Wells off with a photo of her husband that she found in his desk drawer to show at the station and started combing through the contents of his desk with no such qualms.
She was surprised to find that despite his sense of order in many facets of his life, the majority of Blake’s loose papers seemed to be a jumble of thoughts and ideas. Instead of focusing on one artefact, it appeared he was investigating multiple objects simultaneously. Likely the result of changes in funding and priorities as suggested in the journal entry Clarke had read the previous day, but it made her task of finding the work that had taken him to Arcadia, let alone Paris, increasingly difficult.
It occurred to Clarke that her initial instinct—that the most relevant information on Blake’s work, perhaps even an answer as to where he was now, would be contained in his journal—was most likely an accurate one, but to follow that line of enquiry, she would have to read them again. She stood from the chair and took out the journal that she had so hastily returned to the shelf, this time opening to the back page to see how recent the journal was. The last entry was written just three days before their wedding, which had taken place barely a few weeks after her proposal.
“Thank you for coming, Mr. Blake,” Clarke said as he took the offered seat by the fireplace.
“Thank you for inviting me, my lady,” he responded with a smile. “Is your mother not joining us?”
Clarke usually quipped back at his frequent, deliberate incorrect form of address. Ever since Marcus Kane had introduced her to him as ‘The Lady Clarke Griffin’—technically the correct title for the daughter of a Duke, but a formality Clarke greatly disliked—Mr. Blake had insisted on reminding her of her status, although at least in the presence of others he addressed her as Miss Griffin. However, her nerves forced her to ignore the comment in favour of pressing on. “She is out until dinnertime. In fact, that’s why I asked you to come today,” Clarke replied, ensuring that the door was almost fully shut. She could not close it completely, as she did not want to draw the servants’ attention, but Clarke didn’t want anyone overhearing their conversation. They could still inform her mother of the visit once she returned, though Clarke hoped she could do that herself if their conversation went as she hoped it would.
For his part, Mr. Blake looked curious now. “Is that so?”
“I have a proposition for you.” Clarke moved into the centre of the room, but remained standing, feeling more comfortable by avoiding his prying gaze. “I feel it is best I just come out and say that— I think we should be married.”
In the silence that followed, Clarke allowed herself to sneak a look at his expression. His blatant surprise did not shock her, although he was slower to respond than she expected. “You do?” was all he said, finally, voice decidedly less light than it had been.
“I do. I hope you do not mind me saying that I know my fortune would be useful to you—not only for your work, but also for your sister and niece. In fact, when Marcus told me that you had become their sole provider, I was surprised your purpose in London was only work, and not looking for a rich wife,” she tried to sound casual as she finished, but Mr. Blake’s expression remained unreadable. “Do you not agree that the money would be beneficial?”
“I’m sure it would, but,” here he paused, seemingly to have difficulty finding the words until he said, “why do you want to marry me?”
Sitting down opposite him, Clarke tried to inject more lightness into her tone when she said, truthfully, “Despite your persistent intentions to rile me, I enjoy our conversations and I believe you do as well. I also think, unlike most potential spouses that my mother has thrown in my direction over the years, you do not have any old-fashioned ideas about what is expected of a wife. And you travel to many interesting places. I would like to accompany you sometimes.”
“If you desire a life of travel, surely you have enough money to do so without my escort. As you have just mentioned.”
“Unfortunately, it is not quite that straightforward. How much have you heard about the details of my father’s will?”
“I have heard some comments,” he admitted, “but I do not know the details. I try to pay as little attention as possible to gossip.”
“Very wise. But I shall enlighten you in this instance. Do you know much of his work?”
Here, his lips twitched in their first show of amusement since she had mentioned her proposal. “I think there are few in the country who have not heard of Lord Jacob Griffin, the Duke who became a successful inventor. I have even used his tools myself occasionally.”
“Then you may know that my father made quite a lot of money from his inventions. Far more than came with his title. When it came to drawing up a will, he was not able to prevent his title and estate from passing to his nephew, but the money he had earned from his creations he could do what he liked with.” At his nod of acknowledgement, Clarke continued, “Every year, he received a percentage of the lease of his inventions, which he left to my mother. This has been plenty for us to live on since his death, and I am sure it will continue to provide well for her through the rest of her lifetime. The rest of his money—the bulk of his fortune—he left to me, on condition.”
“And what condition was that?”
“That I receive it after my wedding day, and keep the Griffin name.” At his look of surprise, Clarke said, “I believe his intention was, in part, to protect the money from falling into the wrong hands. I was only 10 when he first fell ill. If I had received the money while still a child, it would have been under the purview of not only my mother, but a potential step-father if she remarried. This way he could put off fortune-hunters, at least until I was older.”
“And was he successful in doing so?”
“Yes, although not being able to change my name has not been a great deterrent. There have even been some occasions of my mother’s suitors changing their suit over to me on realising I would eventually be more wealthy than she.” As she expected, Mr. Blake’s face wrinkled in disgust at the statement. “They were seen off quite quickly.”
“I have no doubt of that.” After a pause, he asked, “So you see nothing of your fortune until your wedding?”
“Since my eighteenth birthday, I have received a small, yearly stipend, but it is only enough to act as an allowance to the money my mother spends on us.” Clarke had often wondered why her father had not chosen to simply make the fortune available to her on her birthday, instead of specifying a marriage requirement. Over the years, she had come up with many potential explanations, but she had slowly come to believe that for all his forward-thinking, her father had perhaps not been modern enough to consider his daughter may not wish to get married at all.
It was a different question that lingered for Mr. Blake. “I see. And you think that is not enough?” he asked, voice mild but with a pointed glance to the furnishings around them. Though her mother’s choice in decoration was not ostentatious, Clarke did allow herself a slight blush at what must seem overly grand for a home of two, especially to a man of Mr. Blake’s upbringing.
“I do not pretend that I am not well-situated, Mr. Blake. I know how lucky I have been. But for all that my mother allows me many freedoms not given to my friends, I am still living in her house, under her rules. And I have grown tired of waiting to live my life as I wish, simply because I am unmarried.”
“I see,” he nodded thoughtfully, and appeared to give her words careful consideration. Rather than feeling impatient, however, Clarke was glad he seemed to be giving her opinion its due. Finally, he asked, “And do you not wish to marry for love?”
Clarke couldn’t help a short laugh, though it was somewhat humourless. “I don’t believe that is in the cards for me.”
“You are quite young to be so sure.”
“I have known love before,” she said softly, “I do not expect it to happen again.”
It was not something she was so open about with many people, even if she truly felt that she had finally moved on from that loss. But, if she was asking the man to spend the rest of his life with her and give up his own chance at love, then he deserved her honesty. It granted her a sympathetic look in response, but Clarke did not want to dwell on the past.
She made her tone lighter when she continued, “Truth be told, if I could remain unmarried, I would. I have tried to train myself in a few professions, but so far I have been unable to find something I like that would not also make living with my mother difficult. And after all, the money is mine, it has just been sitting in the bank all this time, and will continue to do so until I marry someone…”
“And I’ll do,” he finished for her.
Clarke pressed her lips together at his summation. She would be lying if she said there wasn’t any truth in his statement, but she did not want him to think of himself as just anyone. “If you think I have not been discerning in my choice of spouse, I assure you that is not the case. I believe our interests align, and I think, the odd argument aside, we will be well-suited to each other and could perhaps grow to be great friends. I cannot promise to give you unfettered access to my accounts, but I will be happy to support your sister and your niece, as well as your endeavours if you explain them to me. I’m sure you are used to having to provide details of your financials to benefactors for previous expeditions. It may be strange to do so to a wife, but I hope not entirely unpalatable.” When there was still no response, Clarke began, “I understand you may need some time to think on my proposal, and—”
Clarke blinked. “You do?”
“You make a strong case, my lady.” Some surprise must still have shown on her face because he added with a wry smile, “Don’t you think so?”
“Yes, of course I do,” Clarke said quickly. “Well, I suppose we have a deal, then.”
Clarke read through the last entry in the journal, a little disappointed to find no mention of his work, and surprised herself at experiencing the same emotion that there was no mention of herself either. Despite the entry being so close to their wedding date, Blake had talked only of his worries about his sister and how she was faring as a single mother, in advance of Octavia’s arrival the following day. There was no mention of his future bride, not even a thought as to what his sister might think of her.
But he must have written something about her on the day of her proposal.
Before she could talk herself out of it, Clarke flicked through the journal looking only at the dates until she got to the page in question.
I am engaged. It is a sentence that should give me more joy than I am currently experiencing, and yet I cannot help but feel torn—I never imagined I could be engaged to the woman of my dreams while she remains completely in the dark as to my feelings.
I could tell Clarke possessed a sharp mind from our first meeting, though it turns out she is shrewder than even I had thought. She is unhappy with her current situation in life and our marriage would lift her out of it most conveniently. She had even thought of how her money could help support Octavia and little Aurora, and I confess it will be a relief to once more start focusing on projects based on how much they interest me, and not consider how much they will earn.
I could not argue with Clarke’s reasoning for our match. I certainly didn’t want to for my own sake. In the little time I have seriously thought of matrimony, she alone has met my every desire in a wife, though I had scarce let myself hope that it would ever be a reality.
And yet, part of me wished to say no. To give her the chance to find someone else, someone she could learn to love. I’m sure Octavia will say I should have refused and given myself the chance to marry someone who returns my feelings for them, but I cannot imagine feeling this way about anyone else. Even now, having heard the confirmation that she will never feel the same of me from her own lips, I ache to be near her again.
If I cannot bring her happiness in all the ways I wish to, at least I can still help her in some ways. I believe she has the right spirit for my work, and if she grows to like it, could one day be a true partner to me. And it is at least something that she recognised I could be the kind of husband she required, even if it is not the relationship I had longed for between us. To have her in my life as a companion, a friend, must be better than nothing at all.
Swallowing hard, Clarke shut the journal, face and hands burning as she recalled how clever she’d thought she’d been that day, proposing to him. How little she knew her husband at all.
Thank you to those who left comments/kudos. I love hearing from you, so if you're enjoying the fic, do let me know!
Clarke woke with a start. Clutching the covers tightly in her hands, she closed her eyes and sighed as she tried to shake the images from her mind. All night, her husband had haunted her dreams, appearing out of corners in whatever room she happened to be. They all blended together so easily in the dream world, though she found they kept returning to her bedroom despite Blake having only been in this room with her once. He barely spoke in the dream, but when he did, the words were husky and intimate, things he had never said to her. Though some he had written…
Turning her head to her bedside table where Blake’s journal sat, the dark brown leather standing out amongst the few small items she had placed there, Clarke felt as if it was mocking her. She should never have taken it from his study, but it felt strange to leave it there in his absence, where anyone could find it and read it. What if Fox was dusting and it fell off the shelf and she saw something…
Clarke grimaced, mentally scolding herself. No one else was going to read it. She hadn’t read any further after that maddening entry, but the knowledge that she could weighed heavily in her chest. In fact, she certainly would at some point, since she still hadn’t made any sense of Blake’s other papers.
With a sigh, Clarke sat up in bed and surveyed her surroundings. She hadn’t brought much with her when she moved in. Although she had been lucky enough to afford most of what she desired growing up, by the age of 18, Clarke had realised she had accumulated far more than she truly required. She had given things away in the 5 years since then, but she had still relished the opportunity to leave behind the weight of her old things and brought to her new home only her most prized or useful possessions.
It should have felt like a relief, but Clarke thought the room seemed a little bare—as if she was still a guest, rather than a bride in her new, albeit temporary, home.
“I know it’s a bit plain,” Mr. Blake admitted, as they walked down the upstairs corridor, “but when I came back to London and looked for a long-term home, I did not put much stock in the furnishings. If you want to make any adjustments to the décor before we find somewhere more suitable, feel free to do so at your leisure.”
“Thank you. And I don’t think it so bad, Mr. Blake. I’m sure it will do until we find another place.”
He nodded, but didn’t say anything until they reached the door at the far end of the corridor. “I thought you might like this for your bedroom. It has never been occupied, but you may wish to change some of the furniture with your own. The private bathroom has also not been used, at least not since I moved in,” he added, pointing to the adjoining door.
“Where is your room?”
“At the other end of the corridor. After your room and bathroom there is a storage closet. Then another bedroom, which adjoins to a bathroom that can also be accessed from the corridor. My room is on the other side of that, also connecting.”
Clarke stared at him, puzzled at his response. “Did you not think I should stay in the other bedroom?”
Mr. Blake seemed oblivious to her surprise, as he answered in the same matter-of-fact tone, “It is a little small—when I secured the house, I thought that would be Aurora’s bedroom and Octavia would use the one on the other side, only…” He trailed off, and Clarke didn’t need him to elaborate. She had been surprised in the early days of their acquaintance to find a young bachelor, seemingly not looking for a wife, had taken residence in a three-bedroom house, instead of a small apartment. However, Clarke had soon gleaned, between information dropped by Mr. Blake and their mutual friend Mr. Kane, that he had originally intended for his sister and niece to live with him. Clarke still wasn’t certain of the reason the younger girl didn’t oblige, but she was aware that Mrs. Octavia Wood had not left Polis since her husband’s untimely death the previous year.
Clearing his throat, Mr. Blake continued, “At any rate, I decided to take the far room because I liked the view, and set this one up for guests, not that I have had any. If you prefer a better view, you are welcome to switch rooms with me, only I thought you might like to have a private bathroom.”
“No,” Clarke said quickly. “I couldn’t throw you out of your room. That’s not what I meant.”
“What did you mean?”
“Well. You see, I—” Clarke flushed, unwilling to continue, but knowing she was unlikely to find a better time. Her mother had wanted to accompany her for this visit, but Clarke had managed to convince her that her friend Miss Harper McIntyre was a suitable enough escort since she was already engaged. When Blake suggested they begin the tour, Harper had kindly feigned interest in a book left in the living room and told them to go on without her, although she would have to re-join them at some point. Clearing her throat, Clarke forced herself to complete her thought while they were still alone. “The wedding night.” His eyebrows raised a centimetre, but his lips didn’t move so Clarke huffed and continued, “Perhaps I should stay in that bedroom so I don’t have to walk down the corridor to your rooms, or—“
“That isn’t necessary,” he said, flat, almost cold.
“Then you plan on coming here?”
“I was planning on spending the night asleep in my room. Alone. I expected you would do the same, after such a long day.”
“Oh. I see. I suppose weddings can be tiring. But do—“
He interrupted, eyes growing dark, “I was under the impression that our arrangement was for reasons of practicality only?”
“Well, yes,” Clarke said impatiently, “but I do intend to perform my duty as—“
“I can assure you I do not expect anything from you in that manner as part of our bargain.”
“Oh.” Clarke mulled this over as she looked about the room. It was set up rather nicely, now that she was taking it in. “Do you not want to have children, Mr. Blake?”
He paused. “I had always thought I would. Someday.”
She turned to look at him at that. He was steadfastly gazing out the window, though Clarke noticed some of the tension seemed to have left his shoulders. “Someday? After some event in particular, perhaps?”
“When Octavia and Aurora are more settled, and I am not travelling quite so much. If I am to be a father, I should like to be at home with my child more.”
Clarke nodded. “That is very sensible.”
“Would you like to have children?”
“I… I must admit I haven’t thought about it in those terms. It has always been expected that I will provide an heir for my husband. I have not considered if it is truly what I want for myself.” As she spoke, Clarke was almost embarrassed with herself for not thinking to discuss these things with her future husband sooner.
He turned his head to meet her gaze plainly. “Well, now you can consider it.”
“And if I decide against it?”
Mr. Blake spared her a smile. “I will still keep up my part of the bargain, if that is what you’re worried about. It is a big decision, and I don’t expect you to be certain by our wedding day.”
Clarke blinked, equal parts surprised and warmed by his assertion. “Won’t you be disappointed?”
“Do not worry yourself. I already have a niece I can dote on.”
Clarke wasn’t sure if his response came a little too easily, but he did seem certain. “Very well. I shall think about it.”
He nodded in agreement. Then, as if they hadn’t been discussing something as life-altering as having a child, he said, “When we are done here, perhaps we should view the garden next? There are a few rooms I still haven’t shown you, but I think it may rain soon, Lady Griffin.”
“That is another thing we haven’t discussed,” Clarke noted, her mind still unsettled from his comments on potential future children or lack thereof.
“The garden?” he said, dumbly.
“Our names, after the wedding.”
“I was under the impression you would not be taking mine, due to the terms of the will,” he said, slight smirk on his lips.
Clarke rolled her eyes. “That is not what I meant. You do like to insist on addressing me as Lady, even though I have told you numerous times to call me Miss Griffin, but since we are to be married I don’t see any reason for either.”
He nodded. “How would you like me to address you?”
“Clarke, of course.” When he did not immediately offer the same in return, she asked, “What would you prefer I call you? Your given name?”
He coughed and looked back out the window. “You can call me Blake. It is what all my friends do.”
Clarke smiled, pleased that he considered her a friend, or at least that she would be in time. “Well, then. On to the garden next?”
The repeated knock on her door startled Clarke, and she quickly leaned over to shove the journal in one of the drawers before replying. She must have sounded out of sorts to Fox who answered, but after the maid had left, Clarke took a deep breath to steady herself.
If she had to read the journal to find out more information about Blake’s work, then she would have to concentrate on his work alone—skim every page for relevant details and skip past any mention of her name. It was the only way she was going to concentrate on finding her husband, instead of the nature of their relationship.
Clarke was glad that Wells came early to see her, but was disappointed with his lack of information. No one at the train station had seen Blake, and despite the Jaha family connections, Wells had difficulty obtaining the passenger lists of the ships.
When Wells hesitated, Clarke pressed him to continue.
“I don’t want to pry into the details of your arrangement with Mr. Blake, but—have you any knowledge of Mr. Blake’s having a mistress?”
“He never said so.”
Wells grimaced. “Clarke, forgive me for being so blunt, but when you came to your agreement over your marriage, you didn’t specify whether either of you could take other lovers?”
Clarke blushed, more from her own naïveté at not specifying such a detail in her proposal than Wells’ statement. “No, we didn’t. But I don’t think he has a mistress.”
“I doubt that will satisfy the police. It has not been long enough since his telegram for them to be seriously worried about his whereabouts. A visit to his mistress is the easiest explanation for both his missing days in England, and his absence from the hotel in Paris.”
“If he wanted a mistress, he wouldn’t have to go all the way to Paris for one!” she snapped.
At Clarke’s biting tone, Wells wisely stayed silent to give her a moment to collect herself. Examining the photo she had given him the previous day, he commented, “I suppose he is a handsome man.”
“I am aware,” Clarke said, gruffly. But had she been? She remembered considering his good looks on their first meeting, before her opinion of him was soured by his comments that night. Although he came into her good graces soon after, there had been few instances where she had stopped to appreciate his looks in the way she remembered observing others do.
She knew it wasn’t proof—and she was never going to offer her husband’s journal to others to read—but the depth of feeling with which he had written of about her made Clarke certain he did not have a mistress. Perhaps it was pride that made her believe that, but there was one more fact on her side. She admitted, “He has been very open in what I have read of his journal, and there is no mention of one.”
“That may be telling,” Wells said, nodding, “but we don’t have his most recent one, do we?”
“Yes, the last one finishes just before our wedding.” Which was over a month ago, Clarke thought. More than enough time for him to have taken up with someone. “But as I said the other day, regardless, a mistress would not explain—“
“His lack of communication with his sister,” Wells remembered. “May I ask what is your financial arrangement with Mr. Blake?”
“What do you mean?”
“You told me before that you were in charge of the household finances.” At Clarke’s nod, he continued, “So I am merely wondering how much money Mr. Blake would have had with him. If he would even be able to pay for this trip without further money from you.”
“Oh.” Clarke nodded slowly, annoyed at herself for not considering that sooner. But then, unlike her friend, it was only since very recently that Clarke had been in a position to understand the intricacies of managing finances, with her mother having previously looked after everything. Regardless, she soon realised the information would not be of any use. “I cannot say exactly how much money he would have taken with him when he left for Arcadia, but he would have had access to at least enough to pay his way around Paris for a few weeks I’d imagine.”
Their discussion continued, and it soon became clear that they could not seriously continue the search without help, so Wells gallantly offered to accompany Clarke to the police station. As she went to fetch her coat, Clarke reflected she was lucky to have a friend like Wells in this situation. Even after all their years of friendship he offered her nothing less than his unending support. Once she had even considered proposing to him, in the manner she later had Blake, but in the end, Clarke had never discussed the subject with her friend. It was not as if he had any need of her money, and she still hoped Wells would find someone who he would marry for love. Why had she so easily decided that Blake’s need of money outweighed his own chance at happiness in a real, loving marriage? Clarke had taken his public behaviour to believe he cared little for attachments, never once suspecting he had been hiding such strong feelings for her. Still, if she had not proposed, would he have eventually married another for money instead?
Clarke pushed aside the surprisingly nauseating feeling that the thought gave rise to in her stomach. She could focus on Blake’s emotions once she knew where the man was.
The police were, as Wells suspected, not quite convinced that Blake was missing. Wells even had to hold Clarke back when one officer suggested her new husband was perhaps unsettled by his sudden ousting from bachelor life and needed a quick break from matrimony. Eventually, they did manage to speak to someone who agreed the postmark on the letter was confusing at least, and promised to look for the ship manifests. Unfortunately, since Clarke couldn’t provide an exact date or port of departure, the inspector informed them they may be waiting some time.
It was Clarke who first thought of using a private investigator, on the walk back to her house.
“Locating missing persons is commonplace for them, isn’t it?”
“I suppose,” Wells agreed. “That and cheating spouses.” Clarke could tell the latter sentiment was said thoughtlessly when he coughed uncomfortably afterwards. “Not that—“
“No need to correct yourself, Wells,” Clarke stated. “I imagine you are quite right. Didn’t your father use a PI once, when he needed something investigated for his business?”
“Yes, Marcus found him one, but that was a long time ago. If I remember rightly, that man has since died.”
“Oh. Well, we shall have to see if his practice has been taken up by anyone else. It is a shame Marcus is not in London at the moment.”
“Yes, as a lawyer, he would most likely know the names of many investigators in London.”
“And having known Blake for some time, he may have a better idea of where he might have gone.”
“That too. Isn’t your mother back?”
“Yes. I have not replied to her letter yet, as I wasn’t sure what to tell her about Blake, but I should respond tonight.”
“She will know when Marcus is back, surely,” Wells said, with an ease that surprised Clarke.
Wells looked at her strangely before he replied, “He calls on her often when he is in town, doesn’t he? He must have mentioned it. It would be easier to ask her than having to call on Vera Kane to find out.”
After some debate with her friend about private investigators, Clarke decided to call on her mother instead of going home. She did not, however, choose to share her suspicions regarding her husband’s absence with her, instead relaying the simple facts of the letter as she had first received them.
“Oh,” said Abby, looking disappointed. “I thought you intended to accompany him on his travels.”
It was true, and something that they had easily agreed on when discussing the particulars of their arrangement before the wedding. Blake had seemed excited even, at the prospect. Should that have made her realise then, that all was not as it had seemed? Pushing the thought away, Clarke replied, “I do, but not every time.”
“Well, if he is away, why don’t you stay at home for a few days? I can send a man to get your things—”
“No, mother. Thank you,” she added, in a gentler tone to ease Abby’s hurt expression, “but I need to settle in to my new home, and that won’t happen if I come back here every time my husband is away.”
Abby Leant back into her chair, but she did not seem much more relaxed. “Of course. I understand. I suppose after coming back from the conference, I am just reminded of how big this house seems now it is only me in it.”
Clarke took a slow sip of her tea, hearing Blake’s voice in her ear commenting that Abigail wasn’t truly alone when she still had so many servants in the house. Still, Clarke felt awkward at the quiet sadness in her mother’s voice. Her relationship with her mother had never fit quite as naturally as hers with her father. It wasn’t that they were distant, but Clarke sometimes struggled to confide in her, and didn’t know how best to handle this rare display of the emotion when, however unintentionally, she had been the cause.
“I am sorry that I was too distracted to reply to your note. I can stay for dinner tonight if it’s not any trouble,” she offered, even though she had intended to peruse Blake’s study further that evening.
At her mother’s pleased smile, Clarke soon informed her household she would not returning to dinner, hoping that Fox had not yet started preparations. She spent the rest of the evening conversing with her mother and was pleased that, despite allowing herself to be guilted into changing her own plans, Abby did in fact know when Marcus would be returning. It was that very night.
When Clarke finally returned home and slipped into bed, she felt she was in a better mood than the day before despite the lack of any new information. With Marcus’ impending arrival, she would have a potentially helpful source of information on her husband and that made her feel more hopeful.
After turning out the lights, she struggled to stop the buzz of thoughts in her brain and found herself painting brushstrokes in her mind’s eye on the bare walls of her bedroom. The lack of any truly personal touches since her arrival reminded Clarke of her husband’s comment to her on the first day he had shown her the house.
Even while she scolded herself for doing it, Clarke found herself turning the bedside light back on and removing his journal from its place in her drawer. She flipped through the last few pages of the book until she found the date she was looking for.
I had thought the wedding day would be my biggest test; to hide how dearly I care for her when she agrees to be my bride. It may be yet when I see her walking down the aisle toward me. Until then, the torture of these last few days, planning how to build a life together when we will not truly be husband and wife, has been a pain I had not fully appreciated. Clarke seemed very pleased with Fox and Andrew, even though two servants must be nothing compared to what she is used to in such a big house, and I am glad they appeared to like her as well.
Despite her previous insistence that she wanted to move out of her mother’s house and would not even bring a servant with her, I was worried she would not like the house, but she seemed charmed, and not at all impatient to find a larger establishment. I hope she is still pleased once she is living here—we have arranged for her things to be moved the morning of the wedding.
When she mentioned the wedding night! I thought for sure she would see past my indifference, but if she knew how much I wanted her, I don’t think she could have spoken so plainly. And then she gave me leave to use her name so easily, as if I have not dreamt of doing so intimately. I hope Clarke did not think me cold for not asking her to use mine. I know Octavia says I am too formal for these modern times and that now even casual friends may call each other by their given names, but I do not think I could bear to hear her call me Bellamy, knowing it means so little to her.
I must get a hold of myself. If I am to be married to the woman I cannot keep pitying myself over every little thing. I must learn to treat everything practically, and follow her example of what our relationship will be. I did attempt to for the rest of her visit, I hope with some success. Still, when I spoke to Octavia later and she told me of little Aurora, I suddenly pictured a baby like her, but with Clarke’s eyes. It was not an image that will leave me easily.
After she turned out the light again, Clarke found it was a different face she could not remove from her mind.
I should note there are a few references to characters from other media, specifically magical stories, sprinkled through this fic. This is not meant to be any kind of crossover into those worlds; I just thought it was fun.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Marcus, I did not realise you were back in London,” Clarke said warmly as the man approached her.
She had been feeling run down, as if she had been at the concert all night, though it was only the interval, and had gone to the restroom to splash some water on her face. It hadn’t proved very effective, but her spirits rallied at the sight of her parents’ old friend amongst the crowd as she tried to return to her seat. Caught up in exchanging greetings with Mr. Kane and his mother, who hung on his left arm, Clarke did not notice the man stood to his right until just before his introduction.
“Clarke, allow me to introduce you to a friend of mine who has just moved to London, Mr. Bellamy Blake. Blake, this is The Lady Clarke Griffin. You met her mother a few minutes ago.”
“Of course,” he said, with a nod of his head. Clarke couldn’t help but note that despite the harsh, serious set of his mouth, he was quite handsome. “How do you do?”
“How do you do, Mr. Blake?” Clarke replied, an amused smile on her lips. She often chided Marcus for insisting on using her courtesy title, but it seemed rude to correct him in front of a new acquaintance. She simply said, “I’m very pleased to meet you.”
Marcus looked as if he was about to start a conversation, but before he could sound the words, his mother pulled on his arm.
“Marcus, there is Miss Sydney. You must say hello to her, or she will surely cut me at bridge next week.”
“I’d have thought it a blessing to be ignored by Diana,” he replied, with a knowing look at Clarke, who giggled. Mr. Blake, though clearly unfamiliar with the lady, spared a smile for the joke.
“Honestly, Marcus,” Vera Kane tutted.
“Clarke, may I leave Blake here in your capable hands? I shan’t be long, but I fear he may run off if left unattended,” he told them jovially.
Clarke agreed with ease, and Mr. Blake nodded a wordless response at his friend before both Kanes departed.
“So Mr. Blake, why does Marcus have such little faith in your remaining here without him?” Clarke asked, in what she thought was good humour.
The response she received was rather sour. “He knows me well enough to realise how tiresome I find events like these.”
Clarke maintained a mask of careful politeness. She had just been thinking the same thing herself, but it was not good form to make such a complaint to a veritable stranger, no matter how well both were acquainted with their mutual friend. “They can be tiring at times, but one can always find something to enjoy in good music and good company.”
“Perhaps when you are well-acquainted with the other guests—or have no other business to attend to.”
If his statement had ended with the first condition, Clarke might have found it in her to sympathise. After all, there were a lot of people in attendance. It couldn’t be pleasant to be surrounded by so many strangers. However, the second implied a certain arrogance—that he had business more urgent than any other—which Clarke could not abide. “And what business is it you are in?” she asked, through her teeth. “Do you practice law, like Marcus?”
He glanced to the side, with an expression Clarke thought suggested he would rather be anywhere else, before stating, “No, I am a researcher of magical artefacts.”
“Oh.” Clarke was surprised. She could perhaps excuse some arrogance in favour of learning more about a topic that intrigued her so greatly, but that she had little first-hand knowledge of. “That must be fascinating. I have always thought it sounded very exciting,” she admitted.
He let out what Clarke could only describe as a sigh. “Yes, all those magic tricks and digging up Norrell’s old magic stones, just thrilling,” he said in a tone that conveyed the opposite sentiment.
Clarke listened to his words with a growing frown. Her companion was either a con artist or had no knowledge of his apparent profession. Neither explanation was acceptable.
“Actually, Mr. Norrell donated his entire collection of magical items to the British Museum, so if you want to see some real magical artefacts, Mr. Blake, I suggest you stop digging and pay them a visit.” Clarke wasn’t sure if his astonishment was a result of her biting tone or because he hadn’t expected to encounter someone who saw through his blatant lies. She didn’t understand how a man as clever as Mr. Kane could have been fooled by him, but she wasn’t going to stand around listening to this Mr. Blake’s drivel any longer. “Please tell Marcus that I had to return to my mother.”
She did not wait for his reply.
Clarke arrived at Marcus Kane’s law office with no appointment, a fact that his secretary Miss Cartwig made sure to impress upon her as she sat in the waiting room. Still, Clarke was confident Marcus would make time to see her, especially since she had arrived so early.
He did not disappoint. Clarke only waited 45 minutes before he called her into his office.
“Have you come to see me for business reasons, or…” Marcus trailed off, clearly confused by Clarke’s visit.
“In a manner of speaking,” Clarke said carefully, waiting until he had shut the door to start explaining. “I’m concerned about Blake.”
“Oh?” Marcus sat down opposite Clarke on the other side of his desk, concern etched onto his face. “I have not spoken with him since the dinner at your mother’s house to celebrate your wedding.”
Clarke remembered that dinner well. She had thought she’d avoided exposing Blake to the more insufferable among her mother’s social set by keeping their wedding small, but Abigail Griffin had waited barely a week to throw the couple a celebratory dinner so large Clarke still wasn’t sure how they’d all fit inside her old home. She’d been glad Marcus had been there to give Blake a friendly face amongst the Sydneys, Wallaces, Shumways, and all the others, but Clarke didn’t think they’d had time to speak for very long.
Marcus confirmed that thought with his next words, although he continued, “He told me all was well between you. I have been busy in Scotland since then and I’m afraid have not had much time for personal correspondence. Have things changed since then?”
“No,” she answered. “The problem is, well—I think something might have happened to him.”
“What do you mean?”
Clarke quickly related the details that she’d learnt over the last few days and watched as Marcus’ face grew thoughtful. “I know there’s nothing concrete. That Blake may well be fine in Paris, and perhaps hasn’t had time to write yet—“
“No,” Marcus responded quickly. “I agree with Octavia—and you. That doesn’t sound like him. Even if he had somehow come across important information while he was on the train, I’d have still thought he would come back home first.”
“Exactly. He would have only packed a few days’ worth of clothes, and from the looks of his study, he had only a few tools with him. It would have made much more sense to come get his things before going abroad,” Clarke said.
“I was thinking he’d want to see you first, with you being newlyweds,” Marcus admitted, “but that is also true.”
Clarke ducked her head, trying to hide her flush. She had been unsure what Marcus knew about the nature of her relationship with Blake, but his statement confirmed her hunch that her husband was not quite close enough to the older man to share the details of their arrangement. Although, she contemplated, might Marcus have known how Blake felt about her and assumed Clarke felt the same?
Unaware of Clarke’s discomfort, Marcus continued, “And you don’t think the police are taking it seriously?”
“They don’t seem to think there is enough to go on yet, and apparently, it will be some time before they can check all the passenger lists to confirm his arrival. I was hoping you could help me locate a private investigator.”
Marcus nodded. “Of course,” he said, and opened one of his desk drawers before obtaining a plain folder from within. “There are four that I use regularly, I am sure one of them will be able to take your case on. Please mention you were referred by us if they seem reluctant. I’d be happy to speak to them directly if required.”
“Thank you Marcus,” Clarke said, taking the offered list, “but I hope that will not be necessary.”
Once Miss Cartwig copied the addresses for Clarke, she went on her way, with a promise to Marcus to keep him updated on her search. She had only just left the firm when she ran into a friendly face on the street.
“Wells? What are you doing here?”
“Father mentioned Marcus was back last night, so I thought I would pay him a visit this morning to ask about the private investigators. I see you have saved me a trip.”
“Yes,” Clarke said triumphantly, showing him the piece of paper. “Two of them are quite close, I believe I can walk to both before lunchtime.”
“May I accompany you?” he asked, offering her his arm.
Clarke frowned. “I do not need a protector, Wells.”
“As you have told me many times, but I offer myself merely as a concerned friend.”
She was not entirely convinced by his motive, but Clarke couldn’t deny it would be nice to have him as company. They made good time to the closest office, but were disappointed when no one answered the door.
“How do they expect to get any business if they don’t have anyone in to receive new clients?” Clarke grumbled.
“We could wait?” Wells suggested. “Perhaps they have only stepped out on an errand?”
“No,” Clarke shook her head. “I’d rather not waste the time. Let’s see, the other one is further down the street. If they’re not there either, we can come back here on our way home.”
“I’ll just try one more time,” Wells said, knocking once more.
“Excuse me. Are you looking for a private investigator?”
To Clarke’s surprise the voice came not from behind the door, but to her left. Turning, Clarke saw a lady slightly further up the pavement, watching them with a careful smile. She was very smartly dressed, and Clarke particularly admired the style of her brown trousers. Clarke herself only had one pair, that she had managed to sneak into her wardrobe when her mother had been away from home and so avoid Lady Griffin’s disapproving brow. She supposed now she could buy as many as she liked, although in the past month of being her own mistress it had not crossed Clarke’s mind.
“I don’t believe this is your practice, is it?” Clarke wondered. She would never assume a lady could not be a private investigator, but the sign by the door and the information she had obtained from Marcus both clearly stated “Mr.”.
The woman laughed, reaching into her purse with a smile. “No, I work down the street, my name is Miss Tsing.” She held out a little white card, which Wells took. “I just stepped out to deal with a matter on another case, though I should tell you if you had gone to my establishment there would have been a girl in to help you in my absence. I never keep my clients waiting like this.”
Wells cast a wry look at Clarke at the comment, but Clarke liked the woman’s spirit. And the name of her practice was on Marcus’ list, so Clarke saw no harm in admitting, “In fact, we were just about to go to your office next.”
Miss Tsing’s smile now showed her teeth. “Wonderful. Well, if you would just follow me.”
She chatted to them as they walked down the street together, but Clarke was glad the lady made no move to request the details of Clarke’s business until they were comfortably seated inside her private office. Before Clarke could begin explaining the situation, Wells asked, “What kinds of investigations do you normally handle?”
“All kinds,” she said easily. “We are perfectly equipped to look into all matters, be they business or personal, local or international.”
It sounded like a typical line, but the last word did catch Clarke’s attention. Miss Tsing clearly noticed Clarke’s piqued interest, so as she picked up a pencil, she directed her intent gaze to her.
“Now, why don’t you tell me everything?”
When Clarke arrived back at home and discovered there was a letter waiting for her, she practically ran to pick it up, but her spirits sank when she saw the sender was only her sister-in-law. Knowing Octavia would have rung if she had anything urgent to impart, Clarke was curious as to what reason she could have for writing.
I realise this is the part of a letter where one is supposed to discuss pleasantries, but I have little patience for such conventions. Particularly given the situation.
I have been casting my mind for more I can do to help Bellamy, but my means are unfortunately limited. If I were free to do so, I would be searching for him myself, but Aurora is still too young and fussy for me to leave her with a friend overnight, and under the circumstances I don’t wish to bring her to London.
You will forgive my impertinence if I admit that I know of your true reasons for marrying Bellamy. I don’t believe he wished to tell me, but I own I scolded him for agreeing to a wedding less than a year after my Lincoln’s passing so he eventually told me the whole truth of your father’s will and your proposal. I do not mention it to criticise—in fact, had you proposed to anyone other than my own brother, I would be the first to applaud your good sense—only, I wish to say that I hope your lack of romantic feeling for Bellamy does not slow your search. And, because that was why it occurred to me that you may not possess a photo of him. I have enclosed one and I hope it will be of some assistance.
If there is anything else I can do, do not hesitate to let me know. In case you cannot find my direction amongst Bellamy’s undoubtedly many papers, I have also enclosed my card, on which I have written my neighbour Indra’s number on the back. I have not known her long, but when I confessed my fears about Bellamy, she kindly offered the use of her private telephone. If you have anything urgent to tell me, please call her number, and she will let me know directly.
Clarke noted that despite her supposed lack of patience for it, Octavia had learnt some of her brother’s skill at turning a phrase. Putting the letter down on her writing table, Clarke picked up the envelope once more and placed the calling card aside before studying the photo.
Her sister-in-law had been right in her assumption that Clarke did not have any personal photos of her husband. Clarke knew many people exchanged photos with their fiancé upon their engagement, some even while they were courting, but she had never thought to offer Blake one and he had never brought up the subject. The photos she had given Wells, and later the police and the private investigator, Clarke had taken from Blake’s desk. They showed his appearance clearly, but were severe and seemed forced somehow. She expected he had them taken for his passport.
This photo showed her husband at his most charming, Clarke thought, as she stared at his relaxed, smiling face. His hair was a little shorter than Clarke remembered it, and he seemed less burdened than she had ever seen him. From his smart attire, Clarke suspected it had been taken on Octavia’s wedding day. It was far more personable than the photos she had given out, and if she needed another she could certainly provide this one. Therefore, it surely made the most sense to keep it close, Clarke reasoned, and kept it in her pocket until she went up to her room. She did not consciously intend to use it as a bookmark, but that night while she thumbed through the pages of Blake’s journal, Clarke found herself tucking it next to the page bearing the entry written after they first met.
Kane insisted I attend a concert last night. I was most reluctant after the tiresome events he has dragged me to these last four days, but he promised it would be more enjoyable, and I do admit the orchestra played extremely well. I am not sure it made up for the seemingly innumerable and trying acquaintances of Kane’s I was introduced to, though I did meet a most interesting woman during the interval. Am certain she despised me.
If you liked it, please let me know! :)
At their meeting, Ms. Tsing had said she would send a note to the house directly once there was news. In the meantime, Clarke was not to worry about her husband, and simply wait patiently for her instructions.
When they had left, Wells had commented that were he not a perfect gentleman, he may have snorted aloud at the suggestion of Clarke sitting and waiting patiently for anything to happen. Clarke made a joke of being affronted by this, since she knew all too well why he would say such a thing. But in truth, this time, Clarke had at least seen the merit in Ms. Tsing’s suggestion. After all, what else could she do to further the investigation now?
On Monday evening, Clarke rang her sister-in-law and completed all the correspondence she had left by the wayside over the last few days. The following morning, she visited her mother, which she had intended to take up most of the day, but because of her decision to keep Abby in the dark about Blake’s situation, Clarke found herself leaving before lunch out of awkwardness. She then visited the Magical History Library, and was surprised to learn that after giving her name to the librarian, she was instantly recognised as Mr. Blake’s wife. Clarke used the chance to inquire as to what her husband had been working on, but as Miss Pince could not offer much insight, she took her leave quickly.
Wells had invited Clarke to dine at his father’s house that evening, but her visit did not last above a half hour. She had only been in conversation with Wells for five minutes before Thelonious entered, informing them he had invited the Earl of Weatherly, Dante Wallace to join them that evening. It did not take long in Thelonious’ company for Clarke to realise she was in no mood to suffer through a dinner with both him and the Earl, and she was soon pleading a sudden headache. Thelonious did initially entreat her to stay, claiming it was up to himself and Wells to entertain her for the evening in her husband’s absence, as they were doing for the Earl while his son was away. However, when Clarke added a slight cough and potential fever to her list of ailments, Thelonious couldn’t help her out the house fast enough, always fearful for the slightest hint of a virus in proximity to his precious son.
Wells only smirked as he helped her into her coat – despite his father’s cries to keep his distance – and wished her a restful evening. Unable to quiet her own nerves though, Clarke ended up combing through her husband’s papers long into the night.
Come Wednesday afternoon, Clarke had searched through the entirety of Blake’s study, in addition to making one brief trip to his surprisingly sparse bedroom, to ensure she had sight of all his papers. She had managed to discover whom her husband had met with in Arcadia, but on telephoning, learnt the project was to do with an Irish relic and had no connection to Paris. The search had also reminded her of Blake’s friend Mr. Miller, whose name had appeared on some documents for his older projects. Although Clarke had never met the man, she recalled that he lived in Paris, but a further investigation for his telephone number proved fruitless. A brief telephone call confirmed that Octavia did not possess it either, although she thought she may have an address from when Mr. Miller first moved that she would look for.
At a loss for where to look next, Clarke returned to the pages of her husband’s journal, although she studiously skipped over anything remotely personal and only searched for mentions of his work. Still, her eye couldn’t help but be drawn to the sight of her name on the page. Even when she avoided reading the words surrounding it, she noticed how much more frequently it began to appear. When she suddenly noticed a page that mentioned another lady, one whom she was friends with, Clarke couldn’t keep herself from reading the entry in full.
Had dinner at Kane’s house tonight. I had told him I would not attend as I need to organise a few more things for Amsterdam, but he asked again when I stopped by the office and proceeded to mention Clarke Griffin would be there. I do not think he was implying anything by it since he also named many of the other guests, including her mother (which I feel cannot be a positive for anyone other than Kane himself), but I could not help my own awkwardness. I have been hoping to see the lady again since our last meeting, but have been so busy this last week, only leaving the house for business, so have had no reason to cross her path. In the end, I agreed to attend as it was better than simply hoping to run into her in town, but I didn’t want Kane to guess the true motive for my change of mind so I claimed it was a good opportunity to discuss a project with Jaha (he has been asking about research into the Vianne ring the last few times I saw him).
It was an idiotic thing to say. My meeting finished late so I only arrived just before dinner was served, and Kane, being the excellent host that he is, sat me right next to Jaha so we could discuss the “important project” I had mentioned earlier. I had forgotten how long that man could talk without drawing a breath! Jaha continued well after dinner and by the time I managed to extricate myself, Clarke was speaking to Miss McIntyre. I have only spoken with Miss McIntyre briefly, but she seemed a genuine and friendly person, and an entertaining conversational partner even if Clarke had not also been present. Still, they were deep in conversation and I thought it rude to insert myself into a discussion between such old friends. I was pleased that Clarke sought me out to speak to later, albeit only briefly before she left. She did spend most of the short conversation laughing at me, which I enjoyed far more than I should.
Clarke blushed, embarrassed with herself for reading the entry, but soothed nonetheless. She remembered sitting with Harper that evening, but she could not recall their conversation, so it could not have been significant. She felt a brief pang of sadness that he had not felt he could approach them at the time, for they would have been glad to have him join them.
Although her mother and many of her set had been pleased with the news that Clarke Griffin was finally (their emphasis, not hers) getting married, it was Harper alone who had congratulated Clarke specifically on her choice of groom, and not just that she would “at long last” have one. Was that why Clarke had felt something akin to jealousy at seeing Harper’s name appear in her husband’s journal? Because she could still picture Harper’s less-than-subtle wink when she’d appraised Bellamy? What did that signify when Clarke was the one he had married? When, in fact, his thoughts had all been of her?
Not that she could rightly understand why, thinking back on her own behaviour. Although Clarke had intended to speak to him more that night, their lack of conversation after dinner had not given rise to the same disappointment in her. Clarke hadn’t thought anything of approaching him before leaving and had never realised the greater significance the act had taken on for him.
And what was that comment about her mother? She had worried idly over the lack of affection between her husband and the Dowager Duchess, but Clarke had not thought Blake actively disliked her mother. Still, this was in the early part of their acquaintance, she reminded herself, and hopefully Blake’s opinion had warmed since.
Clarke was shaken out of her musings when she heard footsteps and a knock on the door. She put the journal behind her hastily, then realised her behaviour was just as silly as Blake’s had been in giving an excuse to Marcus. She stood up, brushing her skirt down before calling out, “Come in,” and the door was pushed open to reveal Fox, the young maid and cook of the house.
“Sorry to disturb you, ma’am. Only we were wondering— Is everything alright?” When Clarke didn’t answer, Fox continued, still a little shyly, “Andrew thought he heard mention of the police the other day, and then an investigator—and now you’ve been taking apart Mr. Blake’s study—we were worried.”
“Oh.” Clarke realised at once her own thoughtlessness. Although she thought—hoped—she had always been kind to her servants, she had not formed a close bond with any. Lady Abigail Griffin would never have thought to inform her servants of any private matters unless absolutely necessary and, as a result, Clarke had inadvertently followed the same example. Of course, Blake ran a different type of household.
“I know a great lady like yourself must not think anything of it,” Fox hastily assured her. “It’s just after everything Mr. Blake has done for us, we wanted to make sure nothing was amiss.”
“I am no great lady,” Clarke said quickly. “I— What do you mean, what Mr. Blake has done for you?” As soon as the words left her mouth, Clarke realised in her position the girl could feel forced to answer and she didn’t want that. “You don’t have to tell me, if you don’t want to of course,” she added.
“It’s all right, ma’am, it’s no secret,” Fox said readily. “You see, I lived in Mecha—studied with Miss Octavia when I was a girl—until my father died and I had to leave school to find work. It was hard to get work there, so I came to London. I had a good job for a while, working for an old lady, but when she passed, I got a place with her nephew and— Well, he wasn’t so good to work for. Paid all right, but him and his wife— They’re not good people, ma’am,” she finished, head bowed.
“I see. And Mr. Blake, he helped you out of that position?”
Fox nodded eagerly. “Yes. I had gone back to Mecha to see my mother and sister, and Mr. Blake was there. He remembered me even though it had been years since we had last met, asked me how I was. I didn’t like to go into all the details, but he soon realised what was wrong. Then he told me how he was going to Paris for a few weeks, but would be settling in London right after, and would I like to work for him.”
Clarke paused, unsure how to respond to this information. “And Andrew?”
“He worked with me, at the other house. Mr. Blake said he would need a manservant as well, and he just took my word for Andrew, didn’t ask for any references for either of us, even though I told him I wasn’t very good at cooking. I have been practicing, but I’m sure it’s nothing like what you were used to before, ma’am.”
“I quite like your cooking,” Clarke assured her. “Especially your fish stew.”
“Oh, but that one is Mr. Blake’s own recipe.”
Clarke blinked, trying not to give away the fact that she only just discovered he could cook. Uncomfortable in the realisation that her servant seemed to know more about her husband than Clarke did herself, she pasted on an easy smile. “Of course. But you have gotten very good at making it.” When Fox flushed prettily at the praise, Clarke decided to revert the conversation back to the girl’s original question before she revealed any more of Blake’s good Samaritan acts. “Do you recall I mentioned Mr. Blake’s sudden trip to Paris?”
“I… Octavia and I have been worried that he has not written yet. It might be nothing, but I am trying to make sure he is well.”
Fox nodded, taking this in. “Of course. I am glad he has you to look out for him now, ma’am.”
Clarke gulped, unwilling to take the girl’s compliment when she didn’t feel like she had done a very good job at caring for her husband. After Fox left her, Clarke sighed and leaned back against the bookcase. It didn’t take her long to come to a decision on where her next stop should be.
It seemed her instinct was justified when Miss Tsing said, “I was just writing a note to you for you to come here directly.”
Clarke did not appreciate that the lady went to the effort of crumpling up the unfinished note and throwing it away before providing any more information. “Well?”
“Your husband is in Paris, Lady Griffin.”
Ms. Tsing raised her eyebrow. “You seem shocked. I thought the telegram made it rather obvious, myself.”
“Well. Yes, it’s just— Since he left his sister before the letter was posted, I thought…” Clarke trailed off, well aware she wasn’t sure what she had thought.
Ms. Tsing had a knowing look in her eyes when she explained, “Unfortunately, in my line of work, one tends to find that husbands tell their wives their business dealings last longer than they really do in order to conduct personal meetings. It’s rather commonplace, really. I can try to track your husband’s activities between the day in Arcadia and Polis before he sailed for Paris, if you wish. Though if you want to confirm who he may be meeting, I find that it is generally easier to catch them in the act. It may be advisable to tail him when he returns from France.”
Clarke looked away at the investigator’s words. They left a sour taste in her mouth. “No, that won’t be necessary. How do you know he sailed to Paris?”
“He took a sky ship,” she informed Clarke, sliding a piece of paper over to Clarke’s side of the desk with a list of names. Mr. Bellamy Blake was underlined very clearly. For her benefit, Clarke assumed. “I spoke with my contacts in France. Sky ships are still far less popular than travelling by sea, but I suspected that given your husband’s field of work, he would be more amenable than most. Since they are subject to more scrutiny, it is easier to track their comings and goings. Once I had spoken to the port operators in France, it was easy to find the confirmation in England.” As Clarke stared blankly at the slip of paper, Miss Tsing added, “Now, as for your husband’s location in Paris, there is still work to be done.”
“Mr. Blake! Marcus tells me you are going to Amsterdam this weekend. What is the object of interest to you there?”
“Well, good evening to you too, Lady Griffin. I am very well, thank you. The weather was particularly fine today, was it not?”
Clarke rolled her eyes at her companion’s uncommonly good humour. “Miss Griffin, which you know very well. And I did not think you liked dispensing pleasantries, Mr. Blake.”
He smirked a little, glancing to make sure they were not overheard before replying, “Do not tell the others, but I am trying to ingratiate myself amongst your society.”
She held back a smile. “I do not think you are trying very hard. However, I will excuse your mockery if you tell me about your trip. I do wish to travel more, but my mother prefers to be in England, so I have seen very little.”
“I have never been to Amsterdam before myself, but I do not think I shall have time to see much of the city. I will only be there two nights.”
“Two nights?” Clarke repeated, confusion clouding her expression. “Marcus made it sound as though you would be gone far longer.”
“The rest is my journey time, to get the train up to the port and then—”
“Oh? I heard sky ships are leaving from London itself now.”
“Only small ones,” he said.
“But they don’t go to Amsterdam?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Mr. Blake admitted. “I had not looked in to it. I am travelling by sea, so I must go further North for my ship.”
“Oh,” Clarke said, surprised. “I had assumed everyone in your field travelled by sky—I have never been on a sky ship myself, but it sounds very exciting.”
Mr. Blake grimaced. “I have only been once, on a trip to Paris two years ago. My friend Mr. Miller was moving there and as they had just begun flying sky ships directly into Paris, he wanted to try the vessel. I… I did not find it a pleasant experience.”
Clarke gasped, a delighted grin breaking out onto her face. “Mr. Blake, were you scared?”
“There is no need to look so pleased at my misery,” he replied. His eyes held a hint of amusement that belied his stern tone.
Clarke giggled, not at all sorry. “But what made you so miserable? Was it not fascinating to witness all the magical elements coming together to power the craft?”
He tilted his head, considering. “I did appreciate that part of the journey—for a few minutes anyway. Then I realised in watching the display, I had been distracted by just how far above the ground I was. If Miller had not given me tablets to put me to sleep for the rest of the trip, I think he would have knocked me out with his fists so he wouldn’t have to put up with my fretting any longer. I’m glad you find it so amusing,” he added when she laughed even harder at his explanation.
“But everyone says it is no more dangerous than a normal journey by sea.”
“That may be true. But I think I would rather die by drowning than falling.”
“Well, that is a very morbid a stance to take,” she said, shaking her head. Before she could add anything else, Clarke heard her name being called. Looking over Mr. Blake’s shoulder, she saw her mother. Clarke could tell she was trying, and largely failing, not to look impatient.
“Are you leaving?” Mr. Blake asked.
“Yes, my mother has an early start tomorrow, I’m afraid. But hopefully I shall see you soon after your return, Mr. Blake. And know that one day I plan travel by sky ship, and then I will tell you that you are wrong.”
A small smirk played upon his lips when he responded, “I hope to hear all about it.”
“So don’t you see? He would never have gone on the sky ship of his free will!”
Wells stared up at Clarke from his seat on the chaise. “What are you trying to say? You think Mr. Blake was taken there by force?”
“It’s the only explanation!”
Wells made a face as if to argue with the sentiment, but only asked, “Did you tell that to the investigator?”
“No, I thanked her for her services and asked her to notify me when she finds anything about his location in Paris”
“So you’re going tell the police?”
Clarke hummed thoughtfully. “I suppose I should before I go.”
Wells blinked at her. “You’re going? To Paris?”
“I told you that I would if necessary—”
“I’m not sure we’ve reached necessary yet—”
“I can’t just sit here. I just— I just know something is wrong, Wells. I can feel it. And I’m tired of sitting at home waiting for other people to investigate. Bellamy would go to Paris if he thought I’d been kidnapped!” Wells’ careful expression caused Clarke to pause. “What?” she said at her friend’s look. “He would! You don’t know him.”
“You’re right, I don’t know him,” he responded slowly. “That’s not what I— I just thought you always called him Blake.”
Clarke flushed as she realised what she had said. When had he become Bellamy in her thoughts? Brushing it aside, she said with fake confidence, “He is my husband. I can call him what I like. Now, I’m going to take a sky ship to Paris. Are you coming with me or not?”
“A sky ship?” Wells said with some trepidation.
Clarke huffed. “Don’t tell me you’re afraid too?”
“Not afraid, just— You would be literally held in the air by magic, Clarke. Over international waters!”
“It’s much faster than going by sea and time is of the essence, Wells. Besides, where is your sense of adventure?”
Wells sighed, leaning his head back in defeat. “All right, I’ll come with you.”
Clarke smiled, trying not to show the extent of her relief. Although she had been honest in her insistence that she would be going to Paris, alone or not, it would be a comfort to have him with her. “Thank you.”
“I suppose we shall have to find out when they sail—“
“I have already seen to it,” Clarke interrupted, pulling out some papers from her bag. “After I left Miss Tsing’s, I stopped to gather the schedules for all sky ships sailing to Paris. I think our best option is one that leaves the day after tomorrow, direct from London. It will be small, but that will suit us just fine.”
“And I suppose you have already purchased our tickets?”
Clarke wrinkled her nose. “Of course not. It was not on my way.”
Thanks, as always, to the people who left comments/kudos on the last chapter, and to my beta! - If you liked this update, please do let me know :)
The air was tense in the Griffin household, in a way that Clarke had not felt since she had moved out from under her mother’s roof. Clarke couldn’t say she’d forgotten the tight, measured way she sometimes had to voice her thoughts in her mother’s presence, but perhaps the newfound independence marriage had brought her had made her careless in her speech. She decided to stick with the time-honoured practice of waiting out Abby’s stunned silence.
A few moments later, Lady Griffin did not disappoint. “What do you mean you’re going to Paris tomorrow?”
“I told you before, mother, I would sometimes join Blake on his travels,” Clarke said primly.
“That may be true,” Abby noted, “but you had never mentioned you would go so soon. I told Mrs. Kane that we would dine with her and Marcus the day after tomorrow.”
“Well, you should not have done so before asking me.” When her mother looked as if she wished to argue the point, Clarke quickly continued, “Blake will be abroad longer than he anticipated so I have decided to join him.” She wished she did not find it so easy to lie to her mother, but she knew Abby would be set against Clarke’s going if she knew even a hint of the truth. She had at least left some of the details of her trip with Marcus when she had called on him at his office the previous evening. The man had been reluctant to sanction Clarke’s journey, but he had agreed that it was best to keep her mother in the dark for the time being. Although he too must have been in the dark with regards to this dinner engagement as he made no mention of it.
“I am sure Mrs. Kane will understand if you say that you accepted without realising the change to my plans,” added Clarke.
The slight raise of her eyebrows suggested otherwise, but Abby accepted this. She only asked, “How long will you be gone?”
“I’m not certain yet, but I hope to be back within a week.”
In truth, Clarke had no notion of how long she would be gone since that all depended on what she found in Paris. But she had come prepared with a story she thought her mother would accept.
The story Clarke prepared for her next visit was much closer to the truth, barring one detail. Although it seemed ridiculous on some level that Clarke would not share the fear her husband had been kidnapped with her private investigator, the person who should be best equipped with dealing with that possibility, she had decided to keep that suspicion between herself and Wells until she had stronger evidence than a fear of sky ships.
Miss Tsing, although seemingly sympathetic to Clarke’s decision to travel to Paris herself, did not approve of the rest of her plans. “Really, Miss Griffin, you should have told me before you left my office yesterday. I could have sorted everything for you! I know a very good Captain who could take you in a few days.”
“Thank you, but I have already purchased tickets to leave tomorrow.”
“Well, at least let me set you up with accommodation in Paris— Unless your family already has a house there?”
“Oh, no,” Clarke said quickly. “No, we do not. But Mr. Jaha has a friend who lives there, and he has already arranged for us to stay with him. That was why I came. To give you the address.”
“Well, of course I will cable you anything I find right away,” Miss Tsing replied cordially, taking the piece of paper Clarke offered. “Are you sure there is nothing else I can do for you?”
After making a few more assurances, Clarke was finally allowed to leave. She was concerned that her third and final meeting, in a manner of speaking, of the day would follow a similar pattern, but it turned out she need not have worried.
“Of course you should go,” Octavia said, her voice sounding confidently down the telephone line.
Miss Indra’s line was very clear, so it was surprise at the response rather than lack of understanding that caused Clarke to pause for a moment. “You really think so?” she replied, relieved to finally hear someone immediately agree with her.
“Yes, certainly. I would come with you myself if I could.”
“I’ll write to you when I hear anything. A telegram, so you know right away. Or telephone if I can,” she promised.
“Thank you.” She heard Octavia inhale sharply before saying in a quick breath, “And Clarke— About my letter the other day, what I said—“
“You don’t need to mention it,” Clarke interjected quickly, her mother’s suspicion about operators listening in suddenly ringing in her head. How odd that it shouldn’t bother her when discussing Bellamy’s uncertain location, but seem unbearable when talking about her own sentiment. “I appreciated your honesty. And the picture.”
“I only wanted to say that I feel I misjudged you when we met. Though, I suppose— How many people are truly what they seem on first meeting?” Octavia added, with a rare lilt of humour to her voice.
“Indeed,” Clarke murmured.
“Ahem.” A throat clearing behind her prompted Clarke to turn around.
Having endured years of lessons in etiquette, as befitted a Duke’s daughter, Clarke should have known better than to let her displeasure at the sight of the person opposite her show. However, it had been a tiring day, and she was not in the mood for false politeness—especially with someone she believed to be entirely false himself.
“Mr. Blake,” she said through gritted teeth. “I did not know you were going to be at dinner tonight.”
His face was tilted down towards the hem of her long skirt, though his eyes kept darting up to meet hers. “I was not sure I could attend; I was supposed to be in a meeting,” he responded evenly.
“Oh, well, I do hope you have not been dragged away from your important work to make up numbers for such tiresome company,” she replied, making no attempt to hide her malice. It was not ladylike, but as they were alone in Mr. Kane’s library, her mother couldn’t scold her. And if it stopped Mr. Blake from seeking her out for conversation in future, then so much the better.
To Clarke’s surprise, he chuckled. A hearty, warm chuckle that did not seem false in the slightest and lit up the man’s face in such a way that Clarke forgot for a second that she had resolved to hate him. “I suppose I deserve that,” he said ruefully, straightening to take a step towards her.
Somewhat taken aback, Clarke could only reply, “Well, yes. You do.”
A smirk played on his lips as Mr. Blake looked down at her, though Clarke noticed his hands seemed to be nervously clasped behind his back. “To tell you the truth, I made an excuse of needing a book from the library when I realised you were in here because I wanted to apologise.”
Clarke raised a suspicious eyebrow at him. “You did?”
“I am very sorry,” he said plainly. “I was incredibly rude to you the night of the concert, and I can only hope that you forgive me.”
She was, to put it mildly, stunned, and had no idea how to respond. Clarke could admit to herself, if no one else, that she rather enjoyed being venomous to those she thought deserved it and had even felt a spark of enjoyment at the thought of a new nemesis. But, if someone gave such a sincere sounding apology, then surely she would be in the wrong not to accept it. “I appreciate your apology, Mr. Blake,” Clarke replied. “But I am surprised at it. After what you said—“
He grimaced before interrupting, “Please don’t remind me of what I said. I should never have spoken like that.”
“May I ask why you did?”
He sighed, glancing away before meeting her eyes. “It is not a very good excuse.”
Clarke couldn’t help a wry smile at that. “I would like to hear it anyway.”
Mr. Blake seemed reluctant, but with a slight nod of his head, rubbed the back of his neck and began. “Well… When I moved to London, Kane offered to introduce me to many contacts that would be beneficial to my work. Naturally, I agreed. I did not realise at the time he intended to do so by dragging me to social events every night of my first week here.”
Clarke smirked. “Something tells me you don’t enjoy social engagements.”
“They have their time and their place certainly. But I don’t like to mix business with pleasure.”
“I am not in business myself, but I can tell you it is rather commonplace here.”
“As I have realised,” he agreed. “By the night of the concert, I had begun something of a game to amuse myself.”
“A game?” Clarke repeated.
He gave a very ungentlemanly shrug. “I discovered quickly that many of my new contacts had very little understanding of the field they were so willing to provide funding for. As they were all so keen to demonstrate their expertise by sharing all their incorrect knowledge, I decided to start responding with incorrect facts of my own.”
Clarke was a little shocked at this admission, but, despite herself, was also amused. As improper as it was, it was just the sort of little joke she would contrive and therefore she could easily understand the impulse behind it. Still, she didn’t want to make him think he was so easily forgiven, so pointed out, “I do not recall having told you any incorrect facts before you made your outlandish claims.”
He hung his head in shame. “No, you had not and I am sorry for the assumptions I made. I did look for you to apologise after the concert had finished, but I couldn’t find you. I thought about asking Kane how I might reach you, but…”
“Then you would have to explain why?” Clarke supplied.
“Exactly,” he said sheepishly.
“Well,” Clarke paused for dramatic effect, “I suppose I can forgive you. But you know if your purpose in London is to get rich benefactors, then you should be more careful about insulting them.”
He smirked, shoulders relaxing once more at her easy tone. “I think you were the only person I insulted.”
“No, I’m just the only one who noticed.”
He couldn’t help but nod at that. “I hope that doesn’t mean the magical research community has lost all hope of a donation from yourself?”
Clarke laughed. She wasn’t actually in a position to make any significant donations at the present, though it did occur to her that when she finally was, being an investor in projects that interested her may be a worthwhile use of her money. Not wanting to discuss those details, though, she simply said, “No, of course not. On one condition.”
“You tell me all about your work— With actual facts this time.”
He replied with a bright smile. “I would be happy to, my lady.”
Clarke scoffed suddenly, remembering their initial introduction. “Please. I never go by my title; Marcus is just a little old fashioned in his ways. And it is my mother who is Lady Griffin. I am Miss Griffin.”
Mr. Blake seemed to consider this. “Well, it seems there is quite a lot for me to remember if I am not to insult any potential benefactors.”
She stopped herself from rolling her eyes, but any retort she might have made fell from her lips when she noticed the clock on the mantelpiece. “Oh—! I think we will be sitting down to dinner soon.”
He followed her gaze and nodded in agreement before straightening. “I suppose we should return to the others.”
“Not quite yet, Mr. Blake,” Clarke said, a hint of mischief in her tone. The man raised a curious brow at her, to which she responded by tapping the volume in her hands. “We need to find you a book.”
“You packed how many books?” Wells exclaimed, staring at Clarke, flabbergasted.
“I’ve been working my way through the books in Bellamy’s study, for any that may be important. I know the trip will be much faster than by sea, but there will be some reading time.”
“Some,” Wells grumbled, leaning back down to pick up their cases to load onto the ship.
“I can handle my own case, Wells.”
He sighed, but moved out of the way so Clarke could hand over her own luggage, before they hurried to board the ship themselves.
Despite Clarke’s best intentions, they arrived only just before the specified time, thanks to her mother’s unexpected visit before she left. It was sweetly intended, Clarke was sure, but she would have appreciated some warning. She could have then made sure to finish her packing the previous night. That had been her original intention regardless, but she had been distracted by one of Bellamy’s history books and ended up spending most of her evening pouring over one volume that recounted a detailed history of the Magicians War.
The tutor she had shared with Wells had taught them the key events and dates, enough that Clarke knew it had occurred when her great-grandparents had been children, even if they had died when Clarke was too young to ask them anything about it. However, those battles only made a brief appearance in her already abbreviated History lessons due to her parents’ insistence on stressing her education in Mathematics and the Sciences and allowing her to express her creativity in Art. Though no expense had been spared in providing Clarke this education, even her mother had limited ambitions for what she would do with it.
Even though Wells’ education had taken a different path to hers as they grew older, little importance was given to the part magic played in the world in either of their studies. Clarke did her best to give the subject its due now as she took in her surroundings. Even though she knew most sky ships resembled their seafaring counterparts, she did experience an initial twinge of disappointment at seeing how much. That feeling dissipated, however, once she and Wells had climbed aboard and taken their place on the main deck. She had read that unlike traditional ships, sky ships were identified by the magical symbols chosen by their Captain rather than a simple name. However, Clarke had not expected that the symbols would be carved all along the surface of the boat, even into some of the planks they stood upon.
She gasped in delight at the intricacies of the swirled designs but still heard Wells grumble next to her. She looked over her shoulder at him to raise an eyebrow, questioning.
“Doesn’t it damage the integrity of the boat if the materials have been overworked?” he questioned, taking care to keep his voice low.
Clarke smiled. “It’s magic, Wells.” She reached out a finger to touch the design on the mast near her and despite the appearance of raised engravings, the material in fact felt completely smooth.
He nodded, a slight show of acceptance, before turning to survey the rest of the vessel. Clarke let her eyes follow the pattern on the mast in front of them, all the way up to the flag, fluttering gently in the breeze. She noticed there were three symbols displayed in blue on the white background and, thanks to her recent perusal of her husband’s books, she could understand the most prominent one: the symbol for peace.
The Captain who took centre stage, for Clarke thought it felt a little like a play with the woman in her long green jacket standing on the higher deck above all the rest, introduced herself as Luna. She wished a warm welcome to all passengers and pointed out the crew members, but dispensed with a long speech in favour of setting things in motion.
Captain Luna spoke softly as she started the incantation. From their position Clarke couldn’t hear the words, but she could see the way the woman carefully touched a finger to a particular symbol and it lit up in response. Clarke’s gasp of excitement was swallowed by the same sound emanating from the other passengers, either fellow first-timers or those simply appreciative of the wondrous sight, as the glow started to spread, connecting the various parts of the ship until it seemed like the vessel was lit from within. Clarke caught Wells’ eye with a delighted grin, and was pleased to note that excitement finally seemed to outweigh apprehension in her friend.
Clarke caught her breath as the boat began to lift, first just lightly at the bow, a tentative shift, followed swiftly by a sharp tug into the air. Clarke’s ears filled with the sound of more excited gasps as they flew up.
For her part, Clarke gagged.
“Clarke! Are you alright?”
Clarke nodded dimly, even as she clenched her lips together tightly and hunched over the hand pressed tight against her suddenly inflamed stomach. She was vaguely aware of a crew member moving to stand before them, offering a large, round object. A bucket. Wells took it with his right hand, his left pressed uncertainly to Clarke’s shoulder.
“Clarke?” he repeated. “Are you unwell?”
“I’m fine,” she managed, and even straightened to her full height, a tentative smile flashing on her face.
Then, she grabbed the bucket from his hands and vomited.
“How is the patient faring?”
Clarke blinked, trying to sit up, when she spotted her new visitor peeking out from behind Wells’ shoulder at the door. “Captain Luna, you didn’t have to come. You must have so much to do.”
“Please, just Luna. And while you’re on board my ship, it’s my duty to see that everyone makes it to the end of the journey, safe and well. I take it it’s your first journey on a sky ship?”
“Yes,” Clarke groaned. “I am so sorry.”
“No need to apologise. Happens more often than you think. People just don’t like to talk about it— Have you ever been seasick?”
“Hmmm.” Luna pondered this. “That is more unusual.”
“As long as I’m special,” Clarke grumbled, looking up at the ceiling of her cabin.
“Have you been brought any food?” Luna directed her question to Wells, ignoring Clarke’s mutterings.
“Yes,” he said quickly, “one of your crew was so kind as to bring some crackers earlier, although Clarke has not had any appetite.”
“I’m sure it must feel that way, but you should try to have at least one of the crackers; it will help. I will also get someone to bring you some ginger root.” Clarke crinkled her nose up at the comment, but Luna continued as if she had not, “I have found that to work well with people who get sick on the journey.”
Clarke sighed. She did not feel up to eating anything, no matter how small, but it seemed rude to ignore the suggestion. “I can try it.”
Wells shot a quick glance at Clarke before turning back to Luna, saying, “Thank you very much,” with feeling.
Luna left them soon after, with a reminder to Wells that food was only being served for the next half hour if he wanted any. However, despite Clarke’s protestations, he still had not left when five minutes later one of the crew brought the ginger root.
“I’ll make you a deal,” Wells offered. “I’ll go to dinner if you eat some of this ginger.”
Clarke wrinkled her nose. “That’s not fair.”
“Now, Clarke,” he said with a grin, “where’s your sense of adventure?”
If she’d possessed the energy to roll her eyes at him, Clarke would have. As it was, she leaned over to the small table beside her bed. “If I have two of these crackers will you go?”
“Fair enough. But if you’re still feeling unwell later, you need to try some of the ginger.”
Thankfully, Wells did not insist on waiting to watch her finish her food before leaving. Though Clarke meant to keep her word, she managed only one and a half crackers before she lay back down. She wasn’t sure if they helped, but at least she didn’t feel like throwing them up, which Clarke hoped was progress. She tried to sleep but found she wasn’t settled enough. Even though the ship’s movements weren’t jerky, she thought she could feel the swaying right inside her stomach.
Deciding she needed a distraction, Clarke reached for her bag, and started leafing through the books. Although there were plenty of texts that she still wanted to work through, she doubted she’d pay much attention to magical history at that moment. Instead, she let herself reach for the small leather-bound book she had packed between the layers of her clothes. Tucking the photo of her husband securely between two early pages so it would not fall out, Clarke flicked through the volume until she saw her name and started reading.
Finally met The Lady from the night of the concert again—and remembered her name this time: Clarke Griffin. I did not know women were called names like Clarke, especially not those in the upper classes. But then, she is a most singular woman. It is so rare to meet others who are eager to discuss my work—I sometimes feel even my colleagues have lost their enthusiasm for the old magical ways, and approach it all with a dispassionate sense of requirement, rather than adventure.
Although Clarke does not have the same level of knowledge on the subject as I, her excitement more than made up for it, and she asked many insightful questions. If she had not been born a Lady, I imagine she might have entered the field herself. It was stupid of me to have spoken to her the way I did at the concert, and I am very glad she accepted my apology.
She is the first person I have met since moving here that I feel genuinely comfortable talking to and I hope we will meet again soon.
Thank you to whoever nominated/voted for this fic at the bellarkefanworkawards on tumblr, that was a nice surprise. :) - And as always thanks to my beta, and to everyone reading this. I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter, let me know what you think below!
When Clarke awoke to the sound of a busy street outside her window, it took her longer than usual to gain her bearings. Her memories of leaving the sky ship were hazy, as her travel sickness prevented her from observing any of the usual niceties of the ship’s descent. She did remember meeting Wells’ friend from university, Mr. Monty Green, whom she had heard so much about, and had so kindly agreed to put them up at such short notice.
It was the car ride back to the house when things turned blurry again, with sleep first overtaking her in the vehicle, before she could finally rest in Mr. Green’s guest room, where she had apparently slept through the night. This bed at least was significantly more comfortable than the one on board the ship and had the added luxury of remaining completely still. Despite her lingering feeling of unrest, Clarke’s stomach finally felt settled as she dressed for breakfast.
Wells and Mr. Green were already deep in conversation when she joined them at the dining table.
“I am so sorry to have overslept,” Clarke apologised as she sat down opposite Wells, who was next to his friend.
“I was just saying we should wake you,” Wells noted. “Are you feeling better?”
“Much, thank you,” Clarke confirmed, reaching for the butter Wells slid towards her. “I do hope we aren’t keeping you from anything this morning, Mr. Green.”
He shook his head before replying. “Not at all, I don’t need to be at work for some time yet. And please call me Monty; Mr. Green is my father. Who, as I was just telling Wells, is currently on holiday with my mother. I was quite pleased when Wells wrote to me of your trip.” Clarke returned his smile with a close-lipped one to cover her mouthful of bread before Monty added to Wells, “Although I didn’t expect to see you playing tourist so soon after you returned home from America.”
Clarke paused mid-bite as her eyes flickered over to Wells. The man avoided her gaze, glancing down quickly at his plate before responding casually, “I’ve told you how my father can be sometimes, wanting everything done just so. When Clarke said she was going to do some sightseeing in Paris before joining her husband, I thought it sounded like a good idea.”
Monty nodded at this very reasonably statement. “Wells mentioned your husband is a— A historian, I believe?” he said to Clarke.
She held her smile politely, not giving away the word he’d missed out. “Yes, that’s correct.”
“And when do you hope to join him?”
“Soon,” was all Clarke could manage, hoping she was not flushing very badly. However, after she spoke, it struck her that Monty might want more concrete details, so he could plan around them. “Of course, I don’t want to trouble you for longer than necessary. We can easily book into a hotel, if we’re inconveniencing you.”
“Not at all,” Monty replied quickly. “I’m looking after my parent’s house while they are on holiday, which is why we have so much space. They’re not due back for another month, so it’s no trouble. Wells mentioned he’d given you the address for my apartment.”
“Yes,” Clarke answered, realisation dawning. “I was expecting a message any time now.”
“A friend of mine is residing there for the time being, but when I can’t visit myself, one of the servants checks on my post after lunch. I can tell them to look for yours as well.”
“They don’t need to do that,” Clarke said, “we can go that way ourselves. I was hoping to go out soon anyway,” she added. “Will that suit you, Wells?”
Monty was ready to leave first, but waited for Clarke and Wells before he left the house, chatting with them for the first five minutes of their walk. He was a very pleasant conversation partner, and Clarke could see why he and Wells had become friends. At any other time, she would have enjoyed conversing with him without reservation. However, at present, she was hoping he would leave them soon so she could finally talk to Wells freely.
Once they parted ways, Monty heading to work after informing them they were less than ten minutes away from his apartment, Clarke immediately took the opportunity to hiss to Wells, “What was that about?”
He looked up from the map in his hands, and blinked a little blankly at her. “The only other time I’ve visited Monty in Paris he still lived with his parents; I’ve never been to his apartment, only written. I thought getting directions from him would be a good idea.”
“Not that,” Clarke snapped. “You lied to him.”
She had an excellent view of the way his jaw tightened since he looked straight ahead rather than at her. “I didn’t lie, I just… concealed part of the truth.”
“But why? Don’t you trust Monty? You’re the one who suggested we stay with him rather than at a hotel.”
“I do trust him.”
“Then why didn’t you tell him the truth?”
“We don’t know the truth yet. Not the whole truth, anyway.”
They walked in silence for a few more steps, Clarke pondering this statement. Finally, she said, “You don’t believe me.”
“It’s not that—“ he started instantly, but Clarke cut him off.
“You didn’t want to tell Monty the whole story, because you don’t think Bellamy’s really in danger,” Clarke stated, trying to keep the hurt from creeping into her voice.
“I think he could be, but I’m just not sure that he really is. I didn’t see any reason to tell Monty about it until we know for certain.”
Clarke frowned, staring at the pavement as they continued to walk to the apartment. “If that’s how you feel, then why did you even come with me?”
Wells sighed and shook his head. “Because I believe that you believe it.”
Monty’s friend, Mr. Thomas, was very welcoming to his unexpected guests, but Clarke politely refused his generous offer of tea and biscuits and was glad of it once he revealed that a telegram had arrived for her that very morning.
Clarke tore open the envelope as soon as they were on the street again.
“What does it say?” Wells prompted, a little impatient as Clarke silently reread the message, hoping to glean more and coming up short.
“Here,” she said, passing the note over and taking Wells’ map from his hands.
“There’s not much to go on,” Wells noted. “It doesn’t even say when Mr. Blake was seen there, or in what condition.”
It was a fair statement. The contents were brief: Blake located in Paris – followed by an address that Clarke was unfamiliar with (not that she had much local knowledge).
Still, Clarke argued, “It’s a telegram. She did not have room to tell us everything. Clearly Miss Tsing thought it important we received this news immediately. Perhaps more will follow. At least she provided a full address,” she added as she tried to figure out from the map where the address was in relation to their current location. “Do you know that area?”
“No. And I know you’re going to say we should go there—“
“Well, of course we should,” Clarke insisted, wondering in what capacity Bellamy had been spotted by Ms. Tsing’s informant. She had a sudden vision of Bellamy escaping his captors, but then being burgled before he could get help— No, that wouldn’t do, she realised. He would have just gone to the police. Perhaps he was with his captors at the time, then, following their instructions.
Clarke’s musings were interrupted by Wells commenting, “I know. I was only going to say I don’t think we should go alone.”
Clarke frowned. “Monty will not leave work until this evening, and I don’t want to wait that long. Besides, you don’t even want to tell him about this.”
“I wasn’t thinking of Monty; I meant someone professional—who could offer us protection.”
“You were just saying you didn’t think there was any real danger –“
“I said I wasn’t sure,” Wells interrupted. Then he revealed, “When we dined on the ship, I mentioned my concerns to Captain Luna. I asked if she knew anyone that she could recommend to us, who would act as more than just a tour guide. She gave me the contact details for a Miss Raven Reyes. Apparently, they knew each other from when they both lived in Spain, but Miss Reyes moved to Paris some time ago.”
“I see. And you think she’ll be more trustworthy than Monty?”
Wells shot Clarke a reproachful look. “If we are going to be heading into danger, I’d at least like to be accompanied by a trained professional.”
Somewhat chastened, Clarke conceded, “I suppose there is some merit in that. Do you know what she is trained in exactly?”
Wells hesitated. “Captain Luna wasn’t clear on that exactly, but she said the lady used to work as a bodyguard when they first met. It seems Miss Reyes now has a different regular job, but she sometimes offers protection to those who require it for a short term to gain an additional income.”
A quick consultation of the map showed that the address Captain Luna had given Wells was around half an hour’s walk away at a steady pace. However, Clarke was too impatient to continue the journey on foot, especially when further map readings suggested it would take many hours to reach the address provided by Miss Tsing even by car. They flagged down a cab to drive them the shorter journey to Miss Reyes, though Clarke was concerned there had been some mistake when they stopped, not in front of an office building as she had expected, but a large garage. While Wells settled the fare, she confirmed their location on the map, eventually conceding their cab had not decided she and Wells were exactly the type of tourists to strand for a joke.
“Did Luna say the address was some sort of… repair shop?” Clarke wondered, pleased she had decided to wear trousers and her good walking boots when she surveyed the dirt covering the floor.
Before Wells could respond, a man moved from behind one of the vehicles and eyed them suspiciously. Clarke supposed they must look a bit odd. With no vehicle of their own, they clearly did not require any repair services and even if they did, looking at the shabbiness of cars in front of her, they were probably not the usual type of clientele. Still, after wiping his hands on a cloth, he approached them.
Clarke let Wells take the lead in the conversation, as his language skills had always been far superior to hers. He began his greeting in what sounded to Clarke like perfectly fluent French.
The man considered them for a moment, before he replied in excellent English, “How can I help you?”
“We’re looking for Miss Reyes,” Wells replied.
“Friends of hers?”
“Friends of a friend,” Clarke said, though that made the man frown.
“Is she expecting you?” he asked, though his tone suggested he knew she wasn’t.
However, when Wells explained they had been told to contact her by Captain Luna, the man looked slightly more amenable to their request. Telling them to wait, he disappeared into the back for a few moments, before appearing in the doorway to call them inside. Clarke stepped gingerly between two cars as they walked up to the door and followed the man into the back room, Wells a few steps behind her.
The room itself was spacious, but so full of worktables, each covered in tools and bits of machinery, there was only just enough space for the three of them to stand.
Miss Reyes, presumably, sat behind the far table and put down the bit of metal in her hands when they came in. Her hands were at least as dirty as the man’s who’d greeted them. When she looked up, Clarke noted that Miss Reyes was, despite the spot of grease on her nose, very pretty. Although the Captain had appeared only slightly older than herself, Clarke realised only when the surprise set in that she had assumed Miss Reyes would be an older lady. Instead, she stood opposite someone her own age, if clearly very removed from her own position in life. She knew of some exceptionally rich ladies preferring female bodyguards, so that had not seemed shocking, however, Clarke had not heard of ladies working in garages before. Once the surprise faded Clarke smiled warmly. It helped that she felt genuine amusement wondering Lady Abigail Griffin might have reacted if Clarke had pursued such a career for herself.
After a soft assurance from Miss Reyes to the man, which Clarke roughly translated as, “I’m fine, Sinclair,” he left them, although he pointedly took care to leave the door slightly ajar. Wells began to make introductions, but Miss Reyes immediately dispensed with the pleasantries, asking, “How do you know Luna?”
“We were passengers of hers,” Clarke explained. “We arrived in Paris last night.”
“And she gave you a message for me?” she probed.
“No, not exactly.”
“I thought we might need a guide while we were in Paris, and she suggested you.”
Miss Reyes’ brow furrowed, eyeing them up carefully. “There are plenty of tour guides in Paris. Most of them will be try to fleece you,” she acknowledged, “but you two look like you can afford it.”
“It’s not just a tour guide we need, Miss Reyes,” Clarke said, moving to stand closer to the lady, or at least as close as possible with the large table between them. “We need protection. You see, we— I—” She started again, “My husband is missing.”
Miss Reyes remained silent while the story was related, but her eyes stayed on Clarke, flitting to Wells on the few occasions he chimed in. By the time the tale was finished, Miss Reyes’ lips had flattened into a thin line. Clarke placed the telegram from Miss Tsing on the table between them, but Miss Reyes ignored it, fixing her eyes on Clarke and settling back in her seat before speaking. “I’m sorry that you’ve had difficulty finding your husband, but as you now know his location, I think all you need is a driver. Not me.”
When Wells sputtered in protest, Miss Reyes calmly claimed Luna must have misunderstood the situation when she gave them her name. He was just beginning to argue more coherently when Clarke cut in, “Very well then.”
The surprise of it must have taken Wells quite sharply. He was at her back so she could not see his reaction, but she could hear his shock when he uttered, “Clarke.”
Miss Reyes did not reply, but her eyebrows rose questioningly.
Clarke replied by pasting a small smile on her face and saying, with as much composure as she could command, “I didn’t think you could help us either, to be frank. After all, why would we need a mechanic?” Clarke added with her best society laugh, “But Wells did insist we come. I’m so sorry for disturbing you.”
She had just started to turn on her heel, when Miss Reyes piped up, “I never said I couldn’t help you.” Clarke risked a glance at the lady, who was leaning forward in her chair with her folded arms resting on the table. “I just don’t see why it’s worth my time.”
“We would reward you handsomely,” Wells noted.
Wells started to reply but before he could give a figure, Clarke spoke over him, “That depends on how good you are.”
The lady levelled Clarke with a confident glare. “I’m the best.”
“I can’t just take your word for it,” Clarke said.
“I thought you were taking Luna’s word for it,” Miss Reyes remarked with a smirk.
She had them there. Clarke reached into her handbag and retrieved a pen and a small notebook. The pages were nearly full with the notes she had been making from her studies of Magical History, so she flipped right to the end, wrote down a figure, tore off part of the page, and passed it across the table. “I will pay you in full once you have safely returned us to Paris.”
The lady had some trouble keeping the surprise off her face at the sum Clarke had written down. Indeed, Clarke knew Wells would say it was too generous, which was why she had written it down in the first place. But Miss Reyes seemed too sharp to be easily manipulated, even if she had responded to Clarke’s earlier gambit. And as she would not be able to pay in advance, Clarke wanted to make certain the sum was worth it.
Putting the paper down, Miss Reyes lifted the telegram Clarke had left on the table and finally studied the address. “This is not a good neighbourhood,” she commented. “There’ve been reports of burglaries there lately, not to mention the street fights.”
“Hence the generous sum,” Clarke said with confidence, as if she knew anything about the area other than roughly where it appeared on their map.
“Pay me half now, half when we get back.”
“Very well,” Wells started, but Clarke interrupted.
“No. To get half, I will need to go to the bank, which will take too much time. I want to leave now.”
“You can’t expect me to take you there on your word alone. I don’t even have proof that you really know Luna.”
Clarke reached into her purse again and emerged with a roll of cash which she placed on the table. Wells sucked in a breath at the sight, clearly realising Clarke had no intention of reserving any of it. It came to roughly a quarter of what she had offered, which she hoped was enough to placate Miss Reyes. Besides, if the place they were going really was rife with thieves it was probably better not to carry so much money on her person.
“If you take us right away, you can have this now, and the rest once you drive us back. What do you say?”
Miss Reyes eyed the bills with hungrily as she counted them, but Clarke still wasn’t certain she would agree to the suggestion. Not until she finally said, “You’ve got yourself a deal, Mrs.—“ she cut herself off, remembering there had never been a proper introduction.
“Clarke,” she supplied, holding her hand out. “You can call me Clarke.”
“Raven,” she answered. And they shook on it.
Once they stood on the street in front of the shop, alone again, Wells immediately started to fidget.
“Oh, Wells, do stop making that face.”
“I’m not making a face.”
“You are,” Clarke said stubbornly. “And we’ve got protection now, which was your suggestion. What is there to be upset about?”
“I just think we’re being too hasty.”
“Well, you already know we aren’t likely to agree on that.”
He sighed. “I do.” After looking through his jacket pocket for a few moments, he seemed to be satisfied. “I should have enough money to cover any sudden expenses later today, as long as Miss Reyes really does get us back tonight.”
“Raven assured us she would.”
“I thought she was most interested in ushering us outside so she could put all the money you gave her in their safe.”
Clarke rolled her eyes. “Well, so much the better if she does only care about the money. She’ll be sure to take care of us. After all, she can’t be paid if we’re dead.”
Wells was too well bred to roll his eyes back. “Very well. I do need to let Monty know that we will be back late,” he said. Before Clarke could object he added, “I won’t go all the way to his office; on the way here, I noticed a post office off the road we turned left from. I can send him a telegram from there, it will only be a few minutes walk.”
Clarke had to agree with him. It wasn’t a task that required two people, however, so she decided to venture back into the shop and see if she could provide any assistance in getting ready for their sudden trip. She wasn’t entirely certain whether Raven would let her, after the condescending tone she’d taken with the woman earlier in their discussion. It had felt necessary to Clarke at the time, the only solution to Raven’s clear disinterest—and since it worked, she felt justified— but she wouldn’t be surprised if Raven now declined anything from Clarke but her coin.
She expected to find Sinclair still with her, as Clarke hadn’t noticed him in the front of the garage. However, Raven was alone in the back room when she entered, walking up to a cupboard aided by a cane. Clarke had noticed the item on the table during their conversation, but hadn’t realised its purpose until Raven had gotten up to call Sinclair inside and send them out. Raven looked over her shoulder briefly, acknowledging Clarke’s return, but made no motion to interact.
Clarke cleared her throat to speak. “Wells has gone to send a message to our friend. Is there anything I can do to help you get ready?”
Now Raven did stop her motion, straightening herself on the cane as she peered suspiciously at Clarke. “I don’t need any assistance.”
“There must be something I can do that would help.”
Face hardening, Raven added, “I assure you I am perfectly capable of managing this by myself. My leg can get a little stiff after I’ve sat in that chair for a long time, but it’ll be fine.“
Clarke blushed as she suddenly realised what Raven thought she had meant. “Of course, I never mean to suggest—“ Clarke looked down before admitting, “The truth is, I have felt so helpless since I realised my husband was missing. If there is anything I can do that would mean we would find him sooner, then I want to do it.” She looked back up to find Raven considering her with less aggression than before.
She resumed her task, but said in a kinder tone than Clarke had heard from her yet, “I can understand that.” She then gave Clarke a menial job, sorting some items into their right places. Most likely it would have taken Raven far less time to do herself, even with the stiffness in her leg, but Clarke was glad of the gesture, and of having something to do with her hands.
Sinclair had already loaded up the car by the time Wells returned, so it wasn’t long before they were ready to leave. Wells insisted Clarke take the back seat of Raven’s car so she could stretch out and potentially sleep off any remaining travel sickness. She did not think this was necessary, but took the back seat anyway if it meant leaving sooner.
Even if she had not rested well at Monty’s house, she would not have slept now. She was brimming with energy and excitement at the possibility of finding Bellamy that very afternoon. Of course, they had no way of knowing whether he would still be at the location Miss Tsing had reported, but at least they would be closer to finding something.
As they drove away, Wells and Raven immediately started discussing the best way to navigate the roads. Their disagreements, which sounded suspiciously like pleasant bickering between two friends, amused Clarke well enough. However, since she had not yet learnt to drive herself, nor had she spent enough time in Paris to contribute to the conversation, Clarke soon lost interest. Still, she needed to distract herself.
Clarke reached into her handbag to retrieve the only reading material that had been small enough to bring with her that day—An Abbreviated History of French Magic—but her hand first traced over the cover of another book.
There hadn’t been any logical reason to bring the journal with her. Although she didn’t know Monty, she didn’t think a friend of Wells would snoop through her things. But even in her rush to dress that morning, Clarke hadn’t been able to resist slipping the journal into her bag. She wasn’t going to read it now though, what with Wells and Miss Reyes right in front of her. She pulled out the history book, and tried to concentrate on the words on the page, rather than the man to whom the book belonged.
Clarke stared at her husband’s unruly curls and wondered whether she should wake him.
He had offered her free rein of his books when he’d given her the tour of the house, but this was the first time that she had ventured into Blake’s study since that day. That neglect wasn’t for lack of interest, but rather the result of a surprisingly busy schedule since the wedding.
They had forgone a honeymoon, citing Blake’s work commitments to those who had asked, although Clarke hadn’t been idle either. She’d spent the first week settling into her new home and working to better understand her finances now that she could finally take charge of them. From the second week on, she had been forced to endure the good wishes of her mother’s many friends and acquaintances. It had been one thing to suffer through them at the dinner her mother had cleverly tricked them into attending, but it was another to have to play hostess to so many unwanted guests when she still felt like a guest herself. She didn’t mind when guests such as Harper or Mrs. Kane visited, for she liked to see them, but Clarke strongly suspected many of their other visitors only came for a first-hand view of the house and what had tempted the daughter of Lord and Lady Griffin into marrying a penniless academic. Naturally, these guests were not offered a tour.
That night, on finding it difficult to fall asleep, Clarke had decided she may as well read if she was already awake, but she wasn’t expecting to find her husband still in his study at midnight.
His shirt-sleeves were rolled up, revealing strong, richly coloured arms stretched out on his desk, on either side of his head. She was tempted not to disturb him, but although his face was mostly obscured from view, she could see he had left his glasses on. Worried they would leave a mark, or possibly break from the way his head pressed them against the desk, she decided to gently remove them.
Not gently enough, it seemed, since her attempt woke him and his eyes blinked wide open. He sat up, staring at her wordlessly until Clarke found herself saying, mild, “Hello.”
He seemed to collect himself then, rising with a start and asking quite seriously, “Has something happened?”
“No, everything is fine,” Clarke assured him, hoping she did not sound too amused at his sudden seriousness, which was completely at odds with his dishevelled appearance. She couldn’t help but note this was the most unkempt she had ever seen her husband and found, to her own surprise, she rather liked it. “I didn’t mean to disturb you,” she explained when he didn’t appear convinced. “I wasn’t able to sleep, and I thought perhaps I would read instead. Do you often fall asleep in here?”
“On occasion,” he admitted, rubbing a hand across his face, “when I am busy. I try not to make a habit of it.”
“I’m sorry for waking you, it was just—“ She held up his glasses, which were still in her hand.
Her ducked his head, reaching out to take them from her and putting them back on. “Thank you. It’s fine, I should get better at sleeping upstairs anyway.”
“Well, in future, I will make sure to remind you when I am on my way up.”
Clarke made the offer easily as it was no trouble for her to check on him before she went to bed, but he seemed to consider her carefully at its pronouncement. Finally, he simply repeated, voice rough with sleep, “Thank you.” Turning to the far wall, which was covered in heavily laden bookshelves he asked, “What sort of book were you looking for?”
“Truthfully, I’m not sure.”
“Well,” he moved closer to the collection, “I’m afraid I got rid of all the works that used to put me to sleep recently.”
Clarke smirked, approaching his side. “I was hoping for something more stimulating, actually.”
“You prefer fiction, do you not?”
“Usually,” Clarke confirmed, surprised he had remembered, “but I was hoping for non-fiction tonight. That was why I came, to look at your books on magic. Do you have any recommendations for a novice?”
Despite the tired lines in his face, he beamed at the question, answering, “Of course.”
It was not the first time since her wedding that Clarke had been reminded what a handsome man her husband truly was, but something about the late hour and their lack of formal attire seemed to heighten her awareness. She felt a pang of self-consciousness at what her own state of dress. She had thankfully remembered to pull on a robe over her nightgown before leaving her bedroom, but after all the tossing and turning she had been doing, her hair was likely in a terrible snarl. She tried to pat it down, but Blake took no notice. He was already pulling volumes off the shelves.
“This one is the most informative,” he began, “but it may be a little too much for a true beginner. This is a good introduction—though in my opinion a little too focused on Western magic. This is the best one on global magical history, but it’s not actually in English—“
“I also don’t think I can manage them all in one night,” Clarke pointed out, amused.
Blake stopped with his hands on another two books. “Sorry, I sometimes get a little carried away.”
“Don’t apologise. It’s always nice to hear someone talk so passionately about their work.” She paused before adding, “That’s one of the things I always enjoyed about our conversations.”
He ducked his head, and although it was too dark to tell, Clarke wondered if his cheeks were flushed. “I used to wonder if you would start to find them tiresome,” he admitted.
“Well, it was tiresome whenever you goaded me into an argument,” she said, though she smiled so he would know she wasn’t truly annoyed.
“But you always made it so easy,” he teased, though turned back to the shelf. “If you only want something for tonight, how about this one?” he suggested, holding a medium-sized red book out to her.
“Thank you,” Clarke replied, taking it between her palms.
“Don’t you want to look at the description?”
“I trust you.”
He laughed, and if not for his obvious exhaustion, Clarke could have said he seemed uncomfortable. “Maybe you should wait until you’ve read it to decide.”
“I shall let you know,” Clarke said, stepping back to head up to bed. When she noticed Blake had moved to stand behind his desk she asked, “I hope you aren’t planning on going back to work now?”
“No,” he chuckled and switched off the desk light, casting them fully into darkness for a moment while he lit a lamp. “Even I can admit I wouldn’t get anything done right now.” He rounded the desk with the lamp in hand, and stood by the door. It was only when he gestured that Clarke realised he was waiting for her to leave first.
After he closed the door behind them, Clarke said, “If you are home for dinner tomorrow, perhaps I could tell you my first thoughts on the book then?”
They fell into step easily as they walked to the staircase. Between the lamp and the moonlight streaming in through the gaps in the curtains, it was easy enough for Clarke to observe her husband’s sideways glance and wry smile. “I would be glad to hear them, but I’m afraid I will be out. Do you need any more light?”
“No that’s not necessary, I can see perfectly well,” Clarke assured him, but he still moved to switch their positions so that she would be next to the railing when they ascended the stairs. She did not need it now the way she had on her way down, when she had forgone the use of a lamp or any light, but she appreciated the gesture. “Do you have a meeting?” she asked.
“Yes. It’s before lunch, but in Arcadia.”
“Oh. I suppose you will be gone all day then,” Clarke realised, somewhat disappointed that she would eat yet another dinner by herself. Clearly she had never before appreciated how busy a magical historian was.
“Actually I shall be gone for a few days. I have another meeting the day after as well, but since Polis is very close to Arcadia, I thought I would visit Octavia while I was in the area. I informed Andrew already, but I’m afraid it must have slipped my mind when I saw you this morning. I apologise.”
“That’s all right. As we have discussed before, you do not have to give me a full report. As long as I am generally aware if you need to— What are you doing?” Clarke asked suddenly, as he turned the corner with her once they had gone upstairs.
“Escorting you to your room,” he replied instantly. Since he also kept walking, Clarke had no choice but to take a few quick steps to make up for his long strides.
“Escorting me?” she repeated.
Clarke didn’t know whether to laugh or roll her eyes. “We’re inside our own home. And I was under the impression you trusted the servants.”
“I do, but I thought honourable ladies required door service.”
Clarke smirked at the familiar taunt of old. “I don’t know any honourable ladies who would be awake at this hour,” she remarked, coming to a stop outside her door and raising a challenging brow. Blake smirked back at her. Hastily, she turned away. But after opening her door slightly, she couldn’t resist turning to face him once again. Only one side of his face was clearly visible, but she swore she could still see the constellations his freckles painted on the shadowed half. Clarke told herself she must be more tired than she’d thought if she was comparing her husband’s freckles to starlight.
She swallowed and clutched the book slightly tighter to her chest before offering a slightly breathless, “Thank you for the recommendation and the door service. If I don’t see you in the morning, I hope you have a good trip.”
“Thank you. I should be back by Wednesday, Thursday at the latest.”
“Please give my regards to your sister.” She nearly included his niece as well, but did one send regards to an infant who would neither understand the sentiment nor remember Clarke? “And I hope your niece is well,” she added.
He nodded his thanks. “I will pass on your wishes.”
The cool night air made Clarke suddenly aware how thin nightgown she wore under her robe was, and although she wanted to spend more time with this side of her husband, she also wanted to crawl back under her covers where it was warm. Besides, he did look quite tired. “Goodnight, Blake.”
“Goodnight, my lady.”
She was too tired to scold him, but rolled her eyes even as a smile played on her lips. She saw the smile returned on his face, and then she shut the door.
As Clarke’s eyes remained on the pages of her history book, her mind lingered on her last meeting with her husband.
She did her best not to imagine what Bellamy might have written about that night in his journal.
Despite her inability to concentrate on the words before her, the journey passed much faster than Clarke anticipated. Far sooner than expected, Raven began to slow the vehicle. This street was not too dissimilar from the one where they had found Miss Reyes, but it was far dustier and less well-kept. Clarke eyed the many shop fronts, trying to guess where Bellamy could have been seen, until Raven revealed this was not their destination, but a safer area a few roads away from the location Miss Tsing had provided.
After parking, Raven told her charges to carry only what they thought necessary and alighted to start gathering her own things from the trunk fixed to the vehicle. Although Clarke had parted with her money at the garage, her handbag still had precious contents, and looked expensive itself, so she decided to leave that in the trunk, removing only the photograph of Bellamy and slipping it into her trouser pocket.
Once that was taken care of, Clarke was impatient to start the last part of the journey, but after he laid his jacket down in the trunk, Wells revealed, with more than a hint of embarrassment, that he needed to relieve himself. He then left at quite a pace in the direction Raven had suggested, while she examined the items she had put into her bag. Clarke watched this process silently, unwilling to offer help lest she offend her guide again. Although they had been sat down for some time, Raven did not show the stiff and sluggish movement she had earlier, and closed the trunk with her cane still inside.
They had agreed on what the protection Miss Reyes offered them would entail, but Clarke still couldn’t help a sharp intake of breath when the lady produced and began checking over a gun.
Raven glanced up at Clarke at the sound and said, “I wouldn’t be too nervous, as it’s still daytime. This is only a precaution.”
Clarke nodded. “Of course. I’m not nervous. I— Well, I suppose I am in a way,” Clarke admitted, though she trailed off, unsure how to continue.
Raven put the gun away and considered Clarke more carefully. After a moment she asked, not unkindly, “When was the last time you saw your husband?”
“Almost three weeks ago, now.”
“Oh.” Raven looked surprised at that. “From what you said earlier, I thought it was longer.”
Clarke coloured a little, taken aback. She did the calculations once more in her head, but came to the same conclusion. There were two weeks between the evening he’d wished her goodnight before his departure and her phone call with Octavia, and then about a week since that day. Somehow, it did feel like so much longer since the last time they’d been together. Perhaps because she felt like so much had changed since she last saw his face. “I suppose it doesn’t sound very long, but it’s been very confusing,” she settled on, “not knowing what really happened.”
“Of course,” Raven nodded, adjusting the way her bag sat on her shoulder. “Well, if I’m being honest, I don’t really think there’s much chance of him being here,” she admitted, looking away. “It’s not an area known for its magical history. But I do hope we find him.”
Clarke tried to smile back, even as her stomach sank.
When the three of them started walking through the streets of Paris’ underbelly, Clarke’s fingers tightened around the photo of Bellamy in her pocket, worrying the edges. She soon had to give it up to Raven, though, who used it to ask some of the passing locals if they had seen him. There was one man who studied the picture long enough to give Clarke some hope, but she did not need to wait for Wells’ translation to realise he gave them no information before leaving.
Her spirits lowered even further when they finally stopped in front of the address Miss Tsing had supplied.
“There’s nothing here,” Wells remarked.
“Well, there’s something,” Raven replied, moving to approach the deserted shop front. She nudged the fallen sign out of the way with the toe of her boot before rubbing the dust from a window with her sleeve so she could peer in. “Doesn’t look like the shop’s been open for a while though.”
“How could they have seen Bellamy here if the building’s not even occupied?” Clarke whispered, though it was more of a sad statement than a question.
As if in response, Raven tapped her shoe against the door, which swung back with the barest hint of a creak to reveal an apparently empty room. Another door stood on the back wall.
“That should have been locked,” Wells thought aloud, brow furrowed.
Raven walked further down the street to ask people about the shop, while Wells turned to Clarke.
“I know what you’re going to say,” Clarke said.
“There’s just something about it that— Well, I don’t know exactly,” he replied, frustrated. “But it doesn’t seem right.”
“We’ve already come all this way. I’m going to look inside, even if you don’t want to.”
It was the quickest way to get Wells to agree, and Clarke knew it. Still, she’d wait to see what Raven discovered.
The street was primarily residential and therefore had far fewer people out and about, but Raven did manage to find someone who told her that the building had been empty for at least a year. That seemed odd to Raven. If the door had been left unlocked for a whole year, that front room should have been quite damaged, instead of just dusty.
Raven was the first to enter, but it was Clarke who opened the second door, also unlocked, and led them down the wide, though unexpectedly long, corridor. She hadn’t realised the building ran so deep.
Eventually, they approached the end of the hallway, with a door on their right and a turn to the left. No one had spoken for several minutes until when Raven murmured, “Did you hear that?”
Clarke turned her head quickly, frowning. She hadn’t heard a sound, but Miss Reyes had proven to be a most adept guide and Clarke trusted the woman’s instincts.
“I didn’t hear anything,” Wells said quietly, but Raven held her finger up, silencing him. The trio remained frozen as they listened for anything untoward.
For a moment, all was completely still.
Then, the distinctive sound of a pebble being crushed underfoot filtered through the corridor, in surprising proximity. Perhaps the run-down building was less abandoned than they had thought. Raven whispered hastily, “Quick, behind me,” ushering both her charges into place with one hand, while taking her gun out of the holster with the other.
Wells looked like he disagreed with his placement behind the two women, but had no time to argue before they were met by another group turning the corner.
Raven raised her gun at the group of five, carefully studying the man opposite her, but Clarke’s eyes immediately fell on the first in their party, and her breath stopped. The man was initially focused on the gun, but then he looked further and his expression changed entirely when their eyes met.
“Clarke?” he croaked hoarsely.
She could feel Wells and Raven’s eyes on her, but she paid them no notice. She was already moving, running, to embrace her husband.
Locking her arms around his neck, Clarke buried her face in his shoulder, breathing in his scent. Bellamy.
Clarke had given much thought to her reunion with him, particularly in the last few days. The way his arms wrapped around her instinctively, as if they had held her numerous times before, was something that had featured her imagination. So too, was the way his head tucked into the crook of her neck. The brush of his lips against her ear, though, was an unforeseen detail that marked the embrace as all too real.
Similarly, she had never dreamt that the first words he would utter upon their reunion, in a low tone only for her to hear, would be, “Run.”
Clarke pushed away from him in confusion and was met with a pleading look, one that belied the firm grip his right hand kept on her waist, as if despite his whisper, he didn’t want her to go far.
“When you’ve finished whispering sweet nothings to your wife, Blake,” a nasty, though not unfamiliar, voice mocked from behind him, “I believe we have business to attend to.”
Turning, she saw one of the men take advantage of Raven’s distraction to pull out a gun of his own, but it was his face that made her gasp.
“Miss Griffin,” he sneered. “We’ve been expecting you.”
And that's the end...of Part One! I'm not that mean ;)
I was waiting to post this until I had a few more chapters written, so the gap wasn't too long after this. I've got the next couple back from my beta already so I just need to finish off some edits to them and I can put them up as well.
Let me know what you guys think of the story below :)
“I thought you said this was going to be a quiet dinner.”
Clarke stared, dumfounded, at the number of vehicles surrounding her old home as her mother’s driver slowed down. “I thought it would be,” she said dumbly. “I’m sure mother said just family would attend.”
Although she was still looking out the window, Clarke could hear a smirk in her husband’s dry response, “I had no idea I had married into such a big one.”
Clarke scoffed. “This is ridiculous. I knew she agreed to a small wedding too easily.”
“So this is… retaliation?”
With a sigh, Clarke mused, mostly to herself, “I think she just wants to show off that her daughter has finally gotten married.”
“What a relief then to be a trophy husband and know I need not say anything to make the picture complete.”
Clarke glanced over at him, an apologetic smile on her face. Although Blake sounded amused and wore a wry smile on his face, she feared it was simply a way to hide his discomfort. She nearly reached over to place her palm on his hand, but the one near her was resting on his thigh. She feared that might seem forward to a man who had made clear he didn’t want to partake in the physical pleasure a wife could provide. She settled for replying in her most conciliatory tone, “I am sorry, Blake. I know how little you care for these types of functions.”
“It doesn’t sound like you care for them much yourself,” he noted.
“No, although I have grown used to them,” Clarke admitted. “But it is always better with some time to prepare oneself. And I know first-hand how you handle talking to strangers.” He had the good grace to duck his head in embarrassment at that. “However, I’m sure she will have invited Marcus and Thelonious, so there will at least be two people you can talk with.”
“Does anyone really speak with Mr. Jaha?” Blake said gravely, as their vehicle rolled to a stop.
Clarke stifled the urge to snort just before her door was opened, and she took the attending footman’s offered hand to step out. She gave the man a polite nod before she moved away, surprised that she did not immediately recognise him. Had she already forgotten some of the help, or was the gathering so large her mother had hired more for the occasion?
She was pensively surveying the outside of her former home when Blake came up to stand beside her and mistook her musings for nostalgia.
“Do you miss it?” he asked, with more gentleness in his voice than there had been the whole ride there.
When she met his eyes, they were softer too, and Clarke wondered at how it changed the look of his face. Before she could respond, her name was called and they had only moments before they were ambushed by other arriving guests, full of well-wishes for their recent nuptials.
These greetings occupied the couple on their way into house and prevented Clarke from engaging her mother in a private conversation when the hostess welcomed this wave of guests. Although Lady Griffin outwardly seemed the very picture of politeness, sparing a kiss on the cheek for both her daughter and son-in-law, Clarke didn’t miss the way her mother avoided catching her eyes, and excused herself from their group as soon as possible.
However, the lady had been the one to teach Clarke to navigate the etiquette of high society herself, and soon after, Clarke managed to separate herself and Blake from the group as well, claiming she had many people she wanted to introduce her husband to.
There was no way for them to be alone inconspicuously, but years of experience with the parties and functions of polite society had taught Clarke it was much easier to hide a private conversation amongst a large crowd than one might assume. While in the corridor, she whispered her intention to Blake of speaking to her mother privately.
“There is no need on my account,” he said politely. “And I’m not sure now would be the most opportune time.”
“She is avoiding me, which is why I would prefer to do so now.”
It was a little petulant, she knew, but Blake only smirked. “Very well. I don’t suppose you want me to join you?”
Clarke shook her head. “I had hoped to leave you with Marcus before finding my mother, but I cannot see him either, which is a shame. I fear you will be forced to endure far less pleasant company shortly.”
At her comment, Blake turned to follow her gaze. Although the newlyweds expected to be a popular conversational point among the guests, none were making their interest more obvious than Mr. Jaha and his companion. The two men were openly gesturing towards the newly married couple. On realising they had been observed, the younger man started making his way through the crowd, no doubt to waylay them directly. Clarke immediately spotted the way Blake’s expression lost its casualness.
“You know him?” Clarke wondered.
“We have never been introduced,” Blake said, a little stiffly. “But I know of the man. An old friend of yours?”
“Hardly,” Clarke said through the side of her mouth, then plastered a perfect fake smile on her face. “Lord Cage.”
“Miss Griffin— Or Mrs. Blake, I should say now. How wonderful you are finally introducing all of us to your new husband.”
She gave him a tight smile as she formally introduced the pair. She had not in fact changed her name, but it was not a subject she intended to discuss in detail with Lord Cage of all people. She knew her mother had worked closely with Lord Wallace in the past, and the older man was always pleasant enough, but his son seemed to set himself at ease by making others uncomfortable. It was the last thing she had wanted to put Blake through when he would be feeling uneasy regardless.
“Why haven’t we seen you in town these last few weeks? I had heard you were still in London, after all.”
“It is my fault,” Blake stepped in. “I have been quite busy with work, so that has kept us from attending many events.”
“Ah, yes. I have heard about your work. The magical explorer, isn’t it?” There was a glint in his eye that Clarke couldn’t decipher, but decided she didn’t like.
“I’m more of a researcher than an explorer.”
“No need to be so modest,” he said swiftly. “Thelonious has been telling me all about you.”
Clarke bit back a smirk as she watched Blake try not to grimace. “He gives me too much credit, I’m sure.”
“Nonsense. Why he was just telling me about— Where has Thelonious got to?” Cage looked around the room. “Ah!” he said, spotting the man. Without a further word to the couple, Cage weaved through the crowd, back to Thelonious’ side.
“Do you think anyone will notice if we leave now?” Blake whispered to Clarke.
Clarke bit back a smile. “I am sorry,” she said genuinely, as she watched Cage and Thelonious, the pair already in debate, make their way back to them.
“For tonight or the fact that you are already planning how to best excuse yourself from this conversation?”
This time Clarke didn’t hide her smirk when she looked up at her husband. “Both.” He let out a wry chuckle. “But I do promise,” she added gently, “that you won’t have to see most of these people again.”
“Would someone like to tell me what the hell is going on?” Raven demanded. She was leaning against a wall to take some weight off her leg, but no one looking at her face would have thought that meant she was relaxing. “How is it you actually know our kidnapper?”
The last few minutes had seemed to unravel so quickly, Clarke almost felt as if they had been happening to someone else. Reuniting with Bellamy had quickly turned into Cage and his accomplice turning their guns on them, taking advantage of Raven’s surprise to disarm her. They were then forced to join up with Bellamy and the other man and woman who had flanked him, before everyone trudged back around the corner where Bellamy had first appeared. Cage had tossed a few cruel remarks her way, but when Clarke had tried to ask questions, they were all clearly reminded who was in charge. It seemed best to follow in silence until she got her bearings. It wasn’t long before the corridor led them up a back entrance and outside.
In many ways the area resembled the streets where they had shown Bellamy’s picture around, but the alleyway was much narrower and the only signs of life Clarke noticed were a pair of rats burrowing into some waste.
With the sun still high in the sky, the group stuck out brazenly, but there was no one around to notice Cage and his partner herding the other six through the streets and into a nearby house. Or perhaps it was a mansion, Clarke considered from the little they had seen before being ushered into an empty room. Although the building looked far from its best, the few rooms she saw were large certainly. Of course, that impression was aided by the absolute lack of furniture in any of them.
Just as Clarke thought she had found her voice again, Cage sneered and locked them inside.
With a sigh, she had moved away from the door to sit near Bellamy, who had slumped against the wall opposite. Even though Clarke had been the one to first suggest his disappearance was the result of kidnapping, she found it hard to accept the reality of it. Not only had her husband been kidnapped, a man she’d known since childhood had done it. Her stomach sickened at the thought of it.
She could feel Raven’s stare boring into the side of her face, but Clarke couldn’t take her eyes off her husband. “Cage took you back in Polis,” she said quietly. She wasn’t sure if it was a question or not. Bellamy had looked at her only once while they’d been marched back to this place, a quick shake of his head to keep her silent, but he avoided her eyes now.
“In a manner of speaking. It’s a long story—“ he cut himself short, but everyone still looked at him expectantly, so he added, “Cage wants my help finding something.”
“A magical object?” Wells surmised from the middle of the room where he paced.
Bellamy ran a hand through his hair, distracted. “There was a pair of gauntlets in the Wallace family centuries ago. They supposedly brought great power to their wearer. There isn’t a lot of public information on them—Which isn’t strange of itself. Old families like that, magical or otherwise, they keep their heirlooms private—but Cage found out about them.”
“And now he thinks you can help him locate them and he’ll put them on and just get magical powers?” Raven guessed.
“That about sums it up.” It was the man who had been with Bellamy that spoke. Clarke didn’t know how he had ended up here, but she did appreciate that he was trying to pick the lock on the door.
“That’s ridiculous,” Raven said blithely. “Everyone knows you’re either born with magic or you’re not.”
“Lord Cage would have known by now if he had the gift,” Wells agreed. “And he definitely would have shown it off it he had.”
“But why would he go to the effort of kidnapping you to find something he can’t even use?” Clarke wondered.
“The gauntlets are also made of gold and covered in jewels,” the man crouching by the door offered, as he continued to fiddle with the lock. “They’ll fetch more than enough money to justify a few skeletons to a man like that.”
Wells nodded slowly. “Father did always say the Wallaces are ruthless when it comes to profit.”
Clarke couldn’t disagree with Wells’ comment, but she also couldn’t disregard the sceptical look on her husband’s face. “You think there’s still a way he could use them,” she observed.
Bellamy sighed. “Maybe— They shouldn’t work, but— Some of the dark magicians of old practiced blood magic. There are laws against it now, but if that had been used on the gauntlets, then it’s possible that just by virtue of being a Wallace, Cage could use them to some degree. It’s impossible to say how much. The best case scenario is they’d give him the ability to perform nothing more than a few parlour tricks.”
“And worst case?” Clarke pressed, though she hardly wanted to know the answer. She’d only found one mention of blood magic in her reading so far, but it hadn’t been pleasant.
Bellamy sounded grave when he stated, “It could unlock all their power and put it directly in Cage’s hands. Without studying the object in more detail, there’s no telling how much destruction they could cause. Cage certainly wouldn’t be able to control it.”
They were all silent for a moment, the quiet only tempered by the clicking of the lock. It was Clarke who broke it, wondering, “But why did they bring you here?”
“Because this is where he thought they were,” Bellamy replied, gesturing to the room.
“Of course,” Wells said suddenly. “Father once mentioned that Wallace’s great-grandmother was French. — Although, he was talking about the Earl, so I suppose she would be Lord Cage’s great-great-grandmother. He said she came to England after the Magicians War.”
Clarke turned to stare at him, shocked. “And all this time you never thought to mention that the Wallaces might not be such a giftless family after all?”
“I had forgotten,” Wells countered. “Father never said that she had magic, just that she got caught up in the war. He likely didn’t know himself.”
It was probably true, and they’d had no reason to suspect the Wallaces, but Clarke was still annoyed that it hadn’t occurred to Wells before now. She turned her attention back to Bellamy however, who was looking at Wells curiously.
“So Cage kidnapped you to,“ she faltered for a moment, “search his ancestor’s house?” Once she said it, Clarke realised why Wells had thought her ideas about Bellamy sounded so far-fetched.
Even Bellamy gave her one of those wry smiles he wore so often. It was the first thing about him that seemed truly familiar, and it made her ache to comfort him.
“It seemed likely from the clues they had—not that they let us see all of those properly. Cage had plenty of hired men to search the place for him, but I suppose he thought it was time to bring in an expert,” Bellamy explained. “We’ve combed through the whole mansion now though, even found a few secret passageways, but no gauntlets. I thought for sure he was going to move us yesterday, but now that you’re here, I can see why he was so agitated. How did you get here?” he added suddenly.
“These two hired me,” Raven supplied. Clearly recognising Bellamy from the picture she’d been showing the locals, Raven continued, “She explained that you’d been missing and they wanted help getting to the location her private investigator had supplied. Of course, that location turned out to be an empty storefront that was perfect for an ambush.”
“Does that private investigator go by the name of Tsing?” the woman sat on the other side of Bellamy, who had been quiet up to now, asked.
Wells and Clarke shared a look before she confirmed it, a sinking feeling in her gut.
“She handles a lot of investigations for the Wallaces in England,” the lady informed them. “They must have arranged for her to give you false information if you started asking around.”
“How do you know that?” Clarke asked.
“I work for them— Well, I did,” she added quickly, eyes downcast.
“You did?” Raven narrowed her eyes.
“It’s not her fault,” the man by the door piped up sharply, and Bellamy nodded in agreement.
“She’s only here because she tried to help us escape,” Bellamy said. Then, realising the gaps in their knowledge, he added, “This is Miss Maya Vie, and Mr. Nathan Miller.”
Clarke recognised the latter’s name. “Your friend.”
He smirked. “I had the luck of recognising Blake when they were outside one day in town. I don’t think they quite knew what to do with me at first, but when they realised I worked in the same field, they decided I should help too.”
“This is my friend Mr. Wells Jaha, and our guide Miss Raven Reyes,” Clarke told the others. Then, turning to the pair, she swallowed past the lump in her throat. “I’m so sorry for getting you both involved in all this.”
“No, I’m sorry,” Bellamy apologised, glancing around the room. “If Cage didn’t need me to help him find the gauntlets, none of you would be trapped here.”
“But Cage only knew you because of me,” Clarke argued, recalling the party at her mother’s house and shaking her head sadly, “If I—“
“So, it was both your faults! Is everyone happy now?” Raven interrupted, causing all eyes to swing to her. “Whoever’s fault it was, we’re all stuck here now, so if you’re both done apologising, maybe we could find a way out of here?”
“She’s right,” Mr. Miller nodded. “I have—“
Anything he was about to add was interrupted by a hacking cough from Bellamy. Although he covered his mouth with his fist, the noise echoed about the room.
“Are you alright?” Clarke asked.
“It’s nothing.” He shook his head but the coughing continued, concerning Clarke.
“Do you need medicine?” she wondered, about to move closer to him.
“He needs to rest,” Maya stated. “He would have recovered by now if he’d been able to.”
Bellamy pulled out a yellow-stained handkerchief from his breast pocket to dab at his mouth once the coughing subsided. “Bit hard to fall asleep on this,” he attempted to joke, but the scratchiness of his voice belied his humorous tone. Although the floor was carpeted, it was clearly worn from age and Clarke could feel the hard ground beneath her thighs.
They were in a mansion, and Cage had kept them confined to this one room? Clarke thought, face hardening. Not that a soft bed and some sunlight would negate the kidnapping, but it was the principle of the thing. Cage could certainly afford it.
Clearing his throat, Bellamy continued, “Miller’s been working on something.”
“It takes a while, but I know how to pick the lock—“
This time he was interrupted by both Raven and Wells; the latter simply asking, “How?” while the former wanted to know, “Why the hell haven’t you left yet, then?”
Mr. Miller gave them a brief look of annoyance. “Because we need to get out of the whole building, not just this room. Since they had us searching everywhere with his thugs once it became clear our expertise wouldn’t help them much, we’ve got some idea of possible escape routes, but Blake’s only just starting to get over the worst of his flu. You should have seen him a few days ago.”
Clarke glanced over at her husband again, her insides twisting at the thought of him kidnapped and sick. It was expected that he would look different, clearly in need of a bath and a shave. If she looked past that though, Clarke thought Bellamy seemed healthy enough, but in profile, she noticed sweat dripping off his nose. It wasn’t cold exactly, but it wasn’t so warm that he should be perspiring so much from the weather alone.
“Are you sure it’s not serious?” she couldn’t help asking. She’d spent too many years hearing her mother discuss a wide variety of illnesses to know how easily something apparently harmless could be a symptom of something far worse. “You can’t have seen a doctor.”
Bellamy looked back at her now, seemingly surprised at her show of concern. “I’m really fine. Miller is making it sound worse than it is.”
He snorted at that. “I’m surprised I recognised you that day, with how pale you were. Though,” he added wryly, “I suppose I would have been better off if I hadn’t.”
She thought she heard Raven respond, but Clarke ignored the comments as she reached forward to lay her palm flat across Bellamy’s forehead. She tried not to flush as he stared at her, wishing he didn’t look so openly surprised by the mere touch of her hand. “It doesn’t feel like fever,” she acknowledged when she dropped her hand and moved back.
He met her eyes, all of a sudden impossibly soft. “I told you, I’m fine.” When he offered her a smile, Clarke did her best to match it.
“I’m not medically trained,” Miss Vie piped up, “but before Lord Cage realised I was trying to help them escape, I was able to check on Mr. Blake’s symptoms and get him a little medicine.” She was looking at Clarke as she spoke, clearly trying to offer some comfort.
“That was how they found her out,” Bellamy added, looking back at the girl, his face a mixture of gratitude and guilt.
“That was very kind of you,” Clarke said in what she hoped was a tone of gratitude and not, inexplicably, annoyance.
Clarke wasn’t sure if Wells sensed her discomfort or not, but she was glad when her friend said, “Getting back to your escape plan…”
“Yes.” Mr. Miller clapped his hands together. “I wasn’t sure which of the exits we should take, but since there’s more of us now, that narrows it down to two options, but they both lead out the same way at the front. We hadn’t figured out where to go after that, but I’m hoping you can help with that.”
“We drove here, but I parked my car further away before we went into the other building,” Raven informed them. “It’ll be a squeeze, but we should all fit. If we can make it there, I can drive us back to Paris. You three might even be able to get on a ship before dawn.”
“No,” Bellamy said quickly.
“Cage isn’t going to stop looking for the gauntlets. Who knows who else he’ll hurt trying to get to them. I need to stay in France so I can find them first.” He looked at Wells before he added, “Can you take Clarke back home?”
“No!” Clarke exclaimed, not sure if she was angrier with her husband’s suggestion or her friend’s immediate agreement. “I am not going back without you,” she stated firmly.
Bellamy stared back at her, incredulous. “You can’t stay, it’s too dangerous.”
“And it’s not dangerous for you? You were kidnapped!”
“So were you,” Bellamy argued, causing Clarke to huff.
“Only because I was trying to find you!”
“All the more reason for you to be far away from here!”
“If you think—“
“Blake!” Mr. Miller interrupted, startling them. Clarke would have classified his interjection a whisper, if he hadn’t sounded so severe. “If you’re going to quarrel maybe you could do so quietly so you don’t alert our kidnappers?”
Bellamy look suitably chastised at his friend’s words, and Clarke glanced away, embarrassed.
“Also,” Miss Vie broke the silence somewhat timidly, “Lord Cage may have had men watching you in Paris. If they found your car, in all likelihood it is no longer there.”
Raven’s face grew stonier, while Clarke’s mind started spinning as she wondered for how long someone might have been on their tail, and with whom they may have been seen. “Monty,” she whispered, turning to Wells.
Despite the worried set of his face, Wells remained level-headed as he reassured her, “He left the house when we did, remember? They’d have no reason to follow him as well. Besides, they would only have seen us with him if they followed us from the ship, which they didn’t need to do since we gave Tsing an address,” he realised. “Although that still leaves Mr. Thomas. And—“ he looked to Raven, who finished the thought for him.
They were all quiet for a moment as the thought sunk in, but it was Bellamy who finally spoke. “I’m sorry that your friends are in danger, but we can’t do anything to help them while we’re still stuck in here.”
Clarke nodded before getting to her feet. “So what’s your escape plan?”
Mr. Miller lifted up a corner of the carpet to reveal a makeshift layout of the mansion. He laid it flat in the centre of the room as they all moved to crowd round it. Clarke recognised some of Bellamy’s scrawl amongst the words on the paper, but it was Mr. Miller and Miss Vie who took the lead in explaining what they believed to be their best means of escape. They would have to wait a few hours to make the attempt at the opportune time, but what was a delay of a few hours compared to the weeks Bellamy had been captive?
“Are you sure this will work?” Raven asked. It was more thoughtful than accusatory.
“What have we got to lose?”
“Our lives,” Wells noted. “And many things before that.”
“Cage knows he can’t find the gauntlets on his own,” Mr. Miller reminded them. “It’s what kept us alive this long.”
“Yes, but he only needs Blake here, and perhaps you, for that,” Raven pointed out. “I imagine he’ll keep Clarke around to motivate her husband. No telling what he’ll do to the rest of us.”
Though she didn’t like to think in those terms, Clarke could see why she was more likely to be spared, for now at least, should they get caught. The possibility didn’t seem to phase Wells, but Miss Vie grew pale.
“Just pointing out the facts,” Raven added when no one immediately responded.
Observing Miss Vie’s apprehension, Bellamy glanced at the girl as he spoke, though his words seemed to be for the group. “There are six of us now. Even if the other men come back to the house early, we’ll still outnumber them. Cage and Emerson had the upper hand earlier because they took us by surprise. They knew what would happen when they took us down there, so we never had a fair chance to even try to escape. But we’re the ones with the plan now. I believe we can do it.”
“I’m touched,” Mr. Miller said sarcastically, putting a hand over his chest.
Bellamy leaned across to shove the man’s shoulder jokingly as Clarke blinked away the haze that had overtaken her. There was something about Bellamy’s certainty that had made her believe in the plan too. It was a side to him she hadn’t seen before. She had witnessed his bravado in social settings, certainly, but never this gentle, commanding confidence. It was a look he wore well, she thought, though Clarke couldn’t help but feel Miss Vie had noticed this too.
She frowned suddenly, annoyed with herself. They had been kidnapped. There was no place for jealousy in her thoughts right now.
A gentle touch on her wrist made Clarke look up from the paper on the floor. Wells and Raven had started to ask questions about markings on the map, and Mr. Miller and Miss Vie were listening intently, but Bellamy’s eyes were focused on her.
“Are you alright?” He cast his head down then, as if realising the strangeness of the question. “I mean— This must be a lot to take in— I understand if—“
He stopped in apparent surprise when Clarke placed her palm over the back of his hand, squeezing gently. “I’m fine,” she told him, matching his quiet tones, as if they were having a conversation all to themselves.
Somehow, despite their situation, she meant it too.
Thanks for your comments on the last chapter, I hope you've enjoyed the update. We're roughly halfway through!
She had been confident in their success, but Clarke was still surprised with how well their escape went. Although they spent their long wait going over the details, she had feared that somehow, one of the men would alter their usual routine and stumble across them scurrying through the mansion. Not that they were out of danger once they had passed that hurdle.
They couldn’t simply retrace their steps to where Raven had parked, and it was difficult to see in the pitch black of late night. Not to mention the unusual dilemma of having to run as quickly as possible while keeping silent. Mr. Miller was far and away the best of them at it, and between his skill, Raven’s navigation, and Miss Vie’s local knowledge, they managed to find Raven’s car. Clarke let out a breath she hadn’t realised she was holding when she saw the vehicle, apparently untouched. Perhaps Cage hadn’t really sent people to follow them all the way from Monty’s apartment. Perhaps he’d just expected Clarke to follow Miss Tsing’s instructions as he wanted. It still stung a little that she had fallen for his scheme, though she wouldn’t complain now if his arrogance might be playing in their favour.
“Do you think it could be a trap?” Wells whispered, as Raven inspected the vehicle.
It wasn’t until Raven asked Wells to pass her one of the rocks by his feet that Clarke realised their other concern. “They took your keys.” Cage’s man— Emerson, Clarke recalled Bellamy naming him—had taken Raven’s bag along with her gun, and they hadn’t been able to retrieve either in their escape.
“You don’t need to break it,” Miller said, stepping up to stand beside Raven. He had the car door open even before Wells had time to put the rock gently back on the ground.
“How did you manage that?” Wells asked, frowning.
“You might say locks are Miller’s specialty.” The timbre of Bellamy’s voice was what reminded Clarke he stood right behind her.
“I’m afraid I’m no good at engines though.”
“Now that is my specialty,” Raven said, getting into the seat. True to her word, she had the engine started up in no time. Clarke could have grinned at their good fortune if she wasn’t freezing, uncomfortable, and constantly aware that they could be found at any minute.
As they hurried to get in, Wells offered Maya the passenger seat, which Clarke observed was very gentlemanly of him. It meant, though, the four people left to squeeze into the back included the three tall men who would have struggled to share the space on their own. Clarke didn’t consider herself particularly small, but it was she who ended up sitting forward, her head almost right against the back of the driver’s seat.
Bellamy was to her left, and moved his legs as close to the car door as he was able. Wells, and Miller on his right did the best they could, but Clarke could not sit upright without leaning significantly on both Bellamy and Wells.
“It would probably be more comfortable for you to sit on your husband’s lap,” Raven suggested as she tried to navigate the vehicle back onto the main road. “After what just happened, I’m sure none of us are going to be shocked by that.”
Clarke was, for the first time, glad that she could easily bury her face in the seat in front of her.
She was saved from answering by Miss Vie’s quiet offer, “I don’t mind trading places with someone.”
Bellamy and Wells rushed to politely reassure her that it wasn’t necessary. Tilting her head, Clarke wondered if the frown she observed on Mr. Miller’s face meant he thought the offer just as sensible as she did.
“Besides,” Raven added before anyone else could speak up, “we can’t stop now just to change seating arrangements. It won’t be long before they realise we’re gone and we don’t want to waste any time.”
This was a very sensible argument, and one no one could dispute. Clarke did her best to hide her sigh into the back of Raven’s seat. “I’m fine, honestly,” she said, even managing to sound like it. “I’m sure we’ll be there in no time.”
Clarke’s prediction did not prove correct. They began the drive discussing their next plan of action, but once they had agreed on that, they all seemed to run out of steam. Anticipation and anxiety at the possibility of finding Bellamy had seen Clarke through the drive down, but now the adrenaline from their escape was slowly but surely draining from her system. Any desire to sleep, though, was outweighed by the cramped position she found herself in. She genuinely considered sitting on Bellamy’s lap; the fear of any awkwardness far outweighed by the growing physical discomfort in her neck and lower back. However, his illness must have taken a toll on Bellamy for, despite their cramped quarters, he had fallen asleep—quite loudly, thanks to his blocked nose—and after his ordeal, Clarke did not have the heart to wake him.
Wells had wanted to go to the nearest police station, but Miller advocated for waiting until they could go to one where he knew one of the officers. Clarke didn’t think the Wallace family had the same kind of influence in France as they did back home, but it didn’t hurt to have someone inclined to be on their side.
Once they arrived at the station, Clarke feared the combination of the language barrier and their exhaustion would prove a significant obstacle. However, as everyone apart from herself and Wells spoke the language fluently, she let them take the lead. Although she was annoyed to be the least helpful member of their party, she was pleased it seemed to be a successful stop, and Miller’s friend even arranged for escorts to drive everyone home safely.
After a brief goodbye in which they agreed to reconvene in the afternoon, Clarke found herself ushered into a police car between Bellamy and Wells. Once seated, she struggled to keep her eyes open.
It was almost light when Clarke was woken by Wells shaking her shoulder.
“We’re here,” he explained, holding something out to her. As she blinked away the haze of sleep from her eyes, Clarke realised it was her purse, which Raven had returned along with Wells’ jacket before they parted ways at the station. After Clarke nodded her understanding to Wells, he slipped back out of the car on her right, shutting the car door gently.
Turning to her left, Clarke saw Bellamy was still asleep, head resting on the window. His mouth was slightly open, a faint trail of drool still connecting his bottom lip to his collar. Clarke felt a sudden burst of fondness in her chest, mixed with despair at the situation he had found himself in, all thanks to a man she had sorely underestimated. And now so many others were tangled up in this as well, which was, again, partly her fault.
There was a sharp knock on the window, close enough to Bellamy’s ear to jolt him upright, his elbow knocking into Clarke’s side. She hadn’t registered that the policeman who had driven them had stepped out the car until his voice came through, checking on them. Clarke would have replied, but she was wincing at the new pain in her stomach, her hand pressed over the delicate area.
“I’m sorry,” Bellamy began, voice rough, his hand reaching out for her.
Clarke shook her head quickly, an automatic response since it wasn’t his fault, though he seemed to take it as a signal to back away from her. “It was an accident,” she said, and smiled at him. Disappointed that he did not return the expression, she added, “I’m really all right.”
He seemed to accept this and, after rubbing at his face, opened the car door. His first step on the pavement seemed shaky, either from sleep or stiffness from the long journey, but he recovered quickly enough to turn and offer a hand to Clarke to help her out. She was just about to take it when he jerked away suddenly. Clarke grabbed onto the frame of the car to regain her balance and glanced up at Bellamy, confused. As she stepped down from the vehicle without assistance, Clarke noted that even in the dim light of the early morning, she could see his dark cheeks were flushed as he rubbed his palms on his trouser leg. She realised he had just remembered he was covered in dirt and dust.
She didn’t think this was anything to be embarrassed about—after everything that had happened, Clarke was far from daisy-fresh herself—but before she could say anything, the policeman took his leave of them. They all thanked him for his help, which even Clarke could manage in the native tongue. Before he had even driven away, Wells started to turn towards the house. Clarke couldn’t blame his haste. The fresh morning air only made their combined sour aroma all the more obvious.
As much as she desired the opportunity to hold a private conversation with her husband, Clarke was absolutely craving a hot bath.
Clarke couldn’t recall the name of the Greens’ butler. But, when he answered the front door, he clearly did not recall hers or Wells’, either since he immediately tried to shut the door in their faces. Luckily, Bellamy’s quick thinking prevented this, as he wedged his foot in the opening. Once Wells spoke, shocked recognition flew over the butler’s face. Clarke could not blame the poor man. If not for their lack of tools, and Clarke’s clean, fashionable handbag, they most closely resembled an unlikely group of chimney sweeps.
They were eventually allowed inside, but cautiously asked to wait in the front hall while he went to find young Master Green.
Only a few minutes of awkward silence had passed between the trio when Monty’s voice called down from the top of the stairs, “Wells!” His hair was askew, and Clarke was certain those were pyjama trousers underneath his dressing gown. Whatever the butler had told him, Monty had clearly been shocked enough to come down without completing his toilette. “Clarke!” he added, as he took the steps two at a time. “Are you all right?”
“We’re fine,” Wells rushed to the foot of the stairs to reassure him. “We just— There’s been—“ he cut himself off, clearly unsure how to explain the extraordinary events they had endured.
“Monty, this is my husband, Bellamy Blake,” Clarke introduced, at which Bellamy nodded. “He was kidnapped and then we were kidnapped trying to find him.”
It was a succinct summation certainly, though Monty clearly had no idea how to respond as he started at three of them in turn.
“I am so sorry about this,” Clarke said, taking the few steps necessary to close the distance between them. “To tell you the truth, I was afraid something had happened to Bellamy when we came to Paris, but I didn’t think we would be putting ourselves, or you, in danger too.”
“It’s my fault we did not warn you,” Wells admitted. “Clarke was convinced Mr. Blake had been kidnapped, but I honestly couldn’t imagine why someone would go to the lengths of kidnapping a magical researcher.”
“You’re not the only one,” Bellamy remarked. When Clarke glanced at him over her shoulder, she noticed he wore a wry grin. When she turned back, Monty had grown even more ashen, and she felt a pang of guilt.
Wells beat her to a further apology, but this seemed to finally stir Monty out of his shock and he shook his head, cutting Wells off short. “There’s no need to apologise. Whatever happened, I’m glad none of you were hurt,” he said. “How can I help? Have you been to the police?”
“They’re sending people to investigate the house, but I don’t think it’s going to be as simple as that,” Wells replied.
“I know it’s an imposition,” Clarke said, “but do you mind if we stay here just for a few more days? While we determine what we need to do next.”
“And some hot water wouldn’t go amiss either,” Bellamy added.
Monty ushered them from the foyer into the living room, where they discovered the butler had already given orders for the servants to cover up the nice furniture with plain sheets to protect against their visitors’ disarray. They made quick work of the food shortly provided, devouring the simple spread before Monty returned, arms laden with towels. The house had two bathtubs, and one was located in the bathroom attached to the bedroom where Clarke had slept their first night in Paris. The same bedroom Monty now naturally assumed Bellamy would be sharing with her.
It didn’t take long to convince Bellamy to bathe before her, given how long it had been since he’d been able to do so. She and Wells had insisted Monty use the other first, and they discussed their predicament while they waited. Neither Sinclair nor Maya’s father had a telephone, so Raven and Maya hadn’t been able to call them from the police station, but both had promised to let the others know if anything had happened. Monty had tried calling Mr. Thomas once they explained the whole story, but there had not been a response. However, that could have been explained by the early hour, so Monty sent one of the servants to check on the man.
Once it was a more decent hour, and taking into account the time difference with London, they had further calls to make. Wells wanted to contact his father; the man would undoubtedly be fuming he had not yet received a call from his son since his arrival in Paris, but more importantly, Thelonious might have information about the Wallace family that could be useful. At least, Wells was confident that it would be useful. Clarke did not think Thelonious was likely to provide them with much assistance.
She did wonder, however, if there would be an advantage to letting Mr. Kane know exactly what had befallen them. Although Clarke doubted, whatever their plans were, that it would truly be worth the Wallace family causing harm to as notable a figure as her mother, she would feel comforted if Lady Griffin had a dependable ally close at hand, with a clear picture of the danger she could be in. Not to mention, he would be able to assist Octavia and little Aurora, neither of whom had the social standing sufficient to protect them against harm.
Once Monty had finished using the bathtub, Wells went upstairs for his turn and Clarke returned to her guest room where she stared at her unruly appearance in the mirror and debated when to change. She had already washed her face and hands, but was desperate to get out of her filthy clothes. However, it seemed premature to change into clean clothes now before bathing, and she didn’t have a robe to wait in. Finally, she decided to take her shoes off at the very least, and some of her outer layers while she was at it. While doing so, she slipped a hand into her trouser pocket and discovered something she’d entirely forgotten about.
Pulling the item out, Clarke stared at the picture of Bellamy that Octavia had given her, which they had been showing to people in case they recognised him.
She was still looking at it when a light rap sounded at the door. “Can I come in?” Bellamy’s voice sounded muffled from behind it.
Embarrassed, Clarke found herself suddenly glancing around for a hiding place before dropping the picture into her handbag where it lay on the bed.
Once Clarke replied in the affirmative, the door nudged open and his head popped out. His hair was pasted to his forehead in wet clumps, droplets falling in front of his eyes, though Clarke didn’t think that was why he refused to meet her gaze.
“Monty said he was going to leave some clothes for me.” The statement came out as more of a question.
“Yes,” Clarke acknowledged, gesturing to the neatly folded clean clothes that sat next to hers on the bed. “He wasn’t sure if his father’s trousers would be quite long enough for you, but…”
Bellamy smirked. “I’m sure in the circumstances, no one will be scandalised if they see my ankles.”
Clarke chuckled, inordinately pleased at the dry comment. It was another sign of the man she had gotten to know over months through many enjoyable conversations, rather than the one she had learnt of in the last week from his confounding words. He met her eyes with a smile, but then looked away, awkward.
“Would you like me to change in here?“ he asked, gesturing behind him. Bellamy was still somewhat obscured by the door, and it was that which made Clarke realise he was still unsure how to behave around her.
“No,” Clarke said quickly, before gathering her clothes and a clean towel into her arms. “You should change here, then I can start bathing.”
“I didn’t mean to use so much of the hot water,” he apologised as they began to awkwardly shuffle around each other to switch places between the rooms. Clarke felt the need to face away from him.
“That’s alright, you needed it,” she replied before realising what that sounded like. “I mean— Not that you—“ she stopped, averting her eyes when she caught sight of the broad expanse of his chest. Clarke didn’t consider herself one of those naïve, innocent girls, but when she glanced through the open bathroom door and saw her reflection in the small mirror above the sink, she could tell her cheeks had suddenly turned bright pink despite the haze of steam covering it. It made her inexplicably tongue-tied. “Just— after everything you’ve been through— I am so sorry,” she added, suddenly unable to remember if she had said it yet. Even if she had it wouldn’t be enough.
“Clarke.” The gentleness of his voice was what made her turn around. Even when she did, it was striking to see the softness in his eyes, coupled with the way the water droplets clung to his skin. So very much skin. He had draped a second towel over his shoulders, but the sight was still overwhelming. Monty must have provided him with a razor, as his now clean-shaven face meant he more closely resembled the man she knew – though she had never seen quite so much of him before. His next words helped to bring her back to reality. “This wasn’t your fault.”
She instinctively clutched her clean clothes tighter to her chest, only adjusting her hold when she realised that would make them dirty too. “I know,” Clarke acknowledged, “but I can’t help but feel like— If I had known…” she trailed off because he was right, really. How could she have guessed? Not that that made it any better. “And who knows what Cage will try next? We must stop him.”
“We’ll figure it out,” he said, assured. Clarke couldn’t help but nod in response to his conviction.
They would figure it out. Together. The thought put her at ease.
As always, thank you to my beta megaphonemonday, and to the people who left feedback, it's always really nice to hear your thoughts. :) Just a few edits left to do on the next chapter so hopefully will be up within a week!
By the time she had finished bathing and changed into some clean clothes, Clarke was feeling more composed. True, she was no closer to a solution for their myriad of problems, but her head was clear. As she emerged from the bedroom, Clarke was certain that things were starting to go their way.
Her first sign that this wasn’t the case presented itself on the landing, where she discovered two of the maids whispering in serious tones. They stopped abruptly at her appearance, and scurried off in opposite directions before she could react. Clarke told herself they simply wanted to avoid any trouble if she mentioned the scene to her host—not that she could picture Monty scolding the girls for something so small, but she didn’t know what sort of people his parents were. Lady Abigail Griffin certainly wouldn’t have abided her staff gossiping in front of guests.
It was this thought that reminded Clarke of her mother’s connection with Lord Cage’s father, and what she knew about the family, which in turn made her wonder whether the Earl was aware of his son’s scheme. She thought it unlikely as the Earl had always seemed a far gentler man than his son.
And yet, if he did not know of the scheme, what did he think Cage was doing here in France? Where did all the funds this plot surely needed come from? And why be so secretive about their family’s magical ancestors? Clarke considered all this as she entered the living room, and was surprised to find Raven there already, sitting opposite Wells in front of the fireplace.
“I did not expect to see you so soon,” Clarke noted, once they’d exchanged greetings. A quick glance to the clock on the mantelpiece confirmed it was not even lunchtime yet. “Is Sinclair alright?” she asked, taking the seat beside Wells.
She nodded. “Yes, thankfully. Although, I cannot say the same for the shop.”
“Oh no!” Clarke gasped. “What did they take?”
Raven softened at Clarke’s apparent concern. “Nothing as far as I can tell. The damage isn’t as bad as it looked, but they were far from careful when they searched the entire place. Didn’t get into the safe, luckily, so at least we can still afford the repairs.”
“No,” Clarke shook her head. “Raven, I will cover the cost of everything, I’m so sorry, I—“
Raven held up a hand to stop her, smiling a little. “Thank you, but that’s not why I came.”
“We think that if they knew to go to the shop, they must have followed us there,” Wells said. “Most likely from Monty’s apartment, since that was the address Miss Tsing had.”
“Did Monty hear back from his friend Mr. Thomas?” Clarke remembered. “Is he safe?”
“Monty’s man still hadn’t returned when Raven arrived. He was anxious to check on Mr. Thomas, so Mr. Miller said he would drive him there.”
“Miller arrived too?” Clarke asked, wondering what else had happened while she had been in her room. She had considered the bath short by her usual standards, but she must have indulged herself to have missed all this. Another thought struck her then. “Where is Bellamy?”
“He left with them,” Wells explained.
Raven continued the story, oblivious to the disappointment that suddenly coloured Clarke’s face. “I left my car at the police station. Sinclair was going to drive me there this morning, but after we found the mess at the shop, he wanted to stay to clean up. I called Miller for a lift, and we both drove here after.” Since neither Clarke nor Wells had known the telephone number at Monty’s parent’s house, they hadn’t been able to provide one for the others to contact them. “Miller seemed to think an associate of his would be able to help them learn more about the history of those magical gauntlets,” she added.
“They were going to take Monty to see Mr. Thomas and check on Miss Vie and her father before going to meet Mr. Miller’s associate,” Wells clarified.
“I see,” Clarke said, trying to school her features into a calm expression even as her thoughts flew about. Had Bellamy not thought to at least write her a note saying he was leaving? Of course, that likely hadn’t seemed necessary when Wells would be there to give her the message. But it still felt a little cold. “And I suppose we’re just going to wait here until they get back.” From the lift in Wells’ eyebrows, it seemed the bitterness of her comment wasn’t as veiled as Clarke might have hoped.
If Raven picked up on it, she didn’t let on. “I should get back to the shop.”
“Are you sure it’s safe?”
“That is just what I was saying before you joined us,” Wells said, vehement.
Raven shook her head dismissively, but Clarke thought she caught a trace of a smile on the woman’s lips. “They were clearly looking for us and went elsewhere once they couldn’t find us.”
“That doesn’t mean they won’t come back.”
“I already told the police when I went back to collect my car,” Raven explained, standing. “And we’re going to leave the shop closed for a few days to be safe, but I know Sinclair won’t go home today until everything is cleaned up so—“
“Then we’ll help you too,” Clarke offered decisively, standing herself. Wells did not look as confident, but his good manners demanded he rise from his chair as well.
Raven sighed, shaking her head again, though she didn’t look annoyed. “It is kind of you to offer, but I can’t imagine you have much experience with this kind of work,” Raven remarked, with a quick sweep of her eyes over Clarke’s dress.
Clarke immediately regretted her choice of attire. The long green dress had seemed the most practical outfit in her wardrobe, now that her only pair of trousers needed a wash, but it bore just enough flourishes to clearly mark its purpose as one of leisure.
“I don’t mean to offend,” Raven added, when Clarke remained motionless.
“I understand,” Clarke said, though it did sting somewhat. “But I am not afraid of hard work, and I am willing to learn. We both are.” She glanced over at Wells, who nodded immediately at the prompt.
“Yes, of course,” he asserted.
This time, Raven laughed. “Well, if you insist, you’re both welcome to help. But only if you don’t get in the way,” she noted with a sternness Clarke didn’t doubt.
Once she had observed it with her own eyes, Clarke could admit the shop wasn’t as badly damaged as she had feared. That did not help her own guilt to subside, but the physical labour of assisting with the clean up eased her conscience, and she welcomed the distraction of this kind of work. It was much harder to dwell on the threat Cage posed, not to mention her renewed concern for her husband’s whereabouts, while she was busy with her hands.
However, after some time she realised that in her hasty desire to help Raven, she had neglected her other responsibilities. Clarke had many calls to make back home, if only to reassure her mother and Octavia, and they still didn’t know what had happened to Monty’s friend. When she took Wells aside, he understood her position but expressed a desire to stay until this job was finished. He apologised, but Clarke was pleased since it meant she did not need to feel quite so bad when she spoke to Raven about leaving before the clean up was complete. She was further gratified when the woman expressed some admiration for Clarke’s work and, despite first greeting her with a steely glare, Sinclair even smiled at Clarke when she left.
During the hired car ride to the Greens’ home Clarke warred with the slight soreness to muscles she didn’t normally use, not that she could have relaxed even if she had felt in perfect health. It was a relief to arrive back and find Monty already there.
He was in the hallway putting his coat on to finally go to work, hoping they did not begrudge his poor excuse for his unexpected morning off, but he paused to give her the good news. It was with some embarrassment that Monty explained Mr. Thomas had not received either that morning’s phone call, nor his servant’s visit, because he had spent the night at the home of a “lady friend.” Clarke bit back her giggle at the blush on Monty’s face, though she lost all humour entirely when he mentioned they found the front door inexplicably unlocked. There were no other signs the apartment had been tampered with, but it was enough to make Monty recommended his friend find other lodgings for at least the next few nights.
They were discussing the possible reasons for the differences between this break-in and the one at Raven’s shop when Clarke heard the welcome sound of Bellamy’s voice, trailing down the stairs. He was deep in conversation with Miller, though she could tell when he caught sight of her by the way he briefly hesitated on the steps.
As they approached, Clarke realised she had no idea how to greet her husband in this situation. Part of her was still angry that he had left with no acknowledgement to her, but it would not be polite to show that in front of the others. Another part of her was relieved to see him here and safe, instead of snatched up by Cage once more on the streets of Paris. Still, as it had only been a few hours since she had last seen him, any display of emotion like the one that had burst out of her just a day before would have seemed wholly excessive.
She settled for, “You’re back,” with a pleasant smile on her face.
It fell when Miller replied, “Not for long.” Clarke couldn’t be sure if it was just her disappointment talking, but she felt the statement a little cold.
“We need to meet with one of Miller’s contacts,” Bellamy explained, his eyes meeting hers easily.
“I thought that was what you have been doing,” Clarke replied, hoping it didn’t sound so petulant when said aloud.
“We were,” Miller confirmed, “and my colleague made a few recommendations. One was to meet with a contact of his. Another was to consult a certain rare book on French magicians, which quite handily Bellamy had spotted here earlier this morning.”
Clarke glanced at Monty in confusion, but he only paused in adjusting his hat to note, “My father is a collector of rare books. Are you sure you are able to drive me to work?” Monty asked, looking over at Miller. “I think it will be out of your way.”
“Of course, it won’t take long.”
They both moved, as if heading to the front door, and Bellamy barely even glimpsed at Clarke before making to follow them.
“Well then, I suppose I’ll come with you,” Clarke said suddenly, stopping all of them in their tracks.
Miller frowned. “That’s not necessary.”
She looked up at Bellamy imploringly, but she could see from the soft smile on his face he was about to let her down. “We don’t know if the man we’re going to see will want to receive us,” he explained, “so it’s probably best not to overwhelm him.”
Clarke thought it was a poor excuse, but did her best not to pout. “There must be something useful I can do.”
“Well…” Bellamy glanced down, hesitating.
“Yes?” she prompted.
“We need some supplies.”
“Mostly other books that Miller doesn’t have, but there are also some items we think will be useful.” He reached into the pocket of his jacket—well, the older Mr. Green’s jacket, which was unfashionably tight on him—and produced a list. Clarke took it automatically, though she didn’t read it. “If you don’t mind,” Bellamy added, and he even had the cheek to give her a somewhat hopeful smile.
“Of course not,” she lied. She pasted on a smile, but didn’t bother to wish them a goodbye before walking past them, knowing it would not sound genuine. She tried not to grit her teeth before she stormed up the stairs to the guest bedroom.
As she flung open the door to the empty room, it struck Clarke that she shouldn’t be surprised her husband thought she was only useful for spending money; the main reason she had given him for her proposal was that she wanted to spend more of it. And certainly one of the lessons society had given her was how to shop and how to do it well.
Nonetheless, Clarke had felt sure Bellamy saw through that outward appearance. After all, how could someone as obviously uncomfortable around the wealthy as Bellamy come to love her the way he had written he did if—
Clarke gasped as she thought of his journal, which she had so needlessly brought along on this trip and was now in the room she and Bellamy would share for the remainder of their time in Paris. It was still in her handbag at least, which he would never have opened, though she felt sick at the thought that it might have been in Cage’s clutches had she not decided to leave it in Raven’s car.
She had just finished securing the journal inside her trunk when a knock rapped sharply on the bedroom door. With lightning speed, Clarke shut the lid and stood in front of it before calling for them to enter.
Expecting a servant, Clarke was surprised when the door swung open to reveal her husband. He did not say anything as he came into the room, but she did not feel equal to polite, meaningless conversation with him at the moment, so she decided to busy her hands. Turning her back to him, she moved the shopping list he had given her so that he couldn’t see how crumpled it had become in her hand, and began tidying up the things she had neglected in her earlier haste to find everyone after her bath.
While she folded her dirty clothes, she heard him clear his throat before he began, “Are you alright?”
“Of course,” she answered instantly, voice clipped.
“You seem upset.” Clarke had no good response to that, and she clearly took too long trying to think of one, as he began, “I— I don’t pretend to know how to best proceed under the circumstances, but I think I’ve been so focused on putting a stop to that man, I hadn’t even thought to ask you where Mr. Jaha is.”
Clarke turned to face him even as she felt overwhelmed by confusion. When he first spoke, she felt herself softening at the reminder of his ordeal, but her shoulders tensed at the mention of Wells, not understanding the significance she heard in Bellamy’s voice.
As she didn’t reply, he continued, “The butler said you both left with Miss Reyes earlier. I assumed you had come back together and Mr. Jaha had gone to his room, until Monty mentioned you had returned alone.”
“Yes. He’s still with Raven,” Clarke said slowly.
“I see.” Bellamy frowned. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to suggest you should go out by yourself.”
Clarke blinked, shock the only thing restraining her from shouting her response. “You think I’m upset because you suggested I go out by myself?”
Her incredulity must have shown anyway, as now it was Bellamy’s turn to look confused. “Well, it could be dangerous. Who knows what Cage will do next. You should stay here.”
“Stay here?” Clarke repeated, hands clenching into fists as she balled up her blouse.
“I know you said that you didn’t want to go back to London yet, but if you stay, you can’t travel around Paris by yourself.”
“I’ll be just fine, thank you for your concern,” she ground out.
He shook his head, clearly frustrated. “You can’t be too careful.”
“How can you say that considering what you’re doing?” she demanded.
Clarke couldn’t believe that he even looked shocked.
“You were kidnapped!” she exclaimed. “And taken to another country! If anyone should be staying in it’s you! And you need to rest,” she added, recalling his illness.
Bellamy practically scowled when he responded, “What I need is to find out how to stop that man.”
She couldn’t argue with that statement, but Clarke reminded him, “You don’t have to do that alone.”
“I know,” he said, exasperated, “that’s why I’m going now. So Miller and I can get help!”
That hurt more than Clarke could have expected, swiftly draining the anger out of her. She had thought they would take down Cage together, but Bellamy apparently thought she was only good to foot the bill.
“I better not keep them waiting,” he said, when she didn’t respond.
As he turned to leave, Clarke called out the first thing she was sure would stop him. “What about Octavia?”
Bellamy twisted to look round at her. “Octavia? You heard from her?”
“She’s been worried sick about you. Aren’t you going to let her know you’re all right?”
His mouth hardened before he told her, “Cage’s men were waiting for me at the train station in Polis. They said they had people watching her; that they’d hurt her and Aurora if I didn’t come with them.” If she’d thought about it, Clarke could have guessed they must have made some threats against Octavia and her daughter to coerce Bellamy into working for them, but she still gasped on hearing the truth of it. “It’ll be safer for her if I don’t try to make contact,” he continued. “They could easily intercept a telegram.”
“But you can call her,” Clarke said. “I have a number for her.” Once she had spoken, Clarke realised she should have told him that as soon as they had arrived at the Green house that morning.
Brow furrowed, Bellamy asked, “What number?”
“Her friend, Miss Indra, has a phone she lets Octavia use.”
“Who?” he said, dubious. “I don’t know this friend.”
“She’s a recent friend,” Clarke recalled, walking over to the dressing table where she had placed some of the important information she had brought with her. On it she found Octavia’s letter along with her card that held Indra’s phone number. “Her neighbour,” she noted, glancing at the letter before handing him the card.
Bellamy’s frown deepened as he inspected it. “She must work for Cage.”
“When I was at Octavia’s in Polis that day, she mentioned she had a new neighbour that she hadn’t met yet, and that the old one had left quite suddenly. This woman must have been put there by Cage to watch her!”
Clarke could see why under the circumstances, Bellamy would be so suspicious, and it certainly carried an aura of intrigue. Still, something about the theory didn’t seem right to her, though Clarke couldn’t put her finger on why. “I don’t know,” was all she said, “Octavia seemed to trust her.”
Bellamy was shaking his head before Clarke even finished. “Octavia is not a good judge of character. We cannot call her. It’s best if she doesn’t know anything,” he insisted.
“We have to tell her something.”
“If they think she doesn’t know anything, they won’t harm her.”
He looked almost angry with her opposition, but Clarke wasn’t about to back down. “Octavia already told Indra that she was worried about you, so even if she does work for Cage, it wouldn’t matter. And I already told Octavia I would call her. If I don’t, she’ll think something has happened anyway.”
Clarke could tell he was gearing up to disagree with her once more, but they were interrupted.
“Blake!” The call was matched with a loud rap on the door.
Clarke soon realised Bellamy had not shut the door behind him properly, which was why the voice was so loud. Bellamy took a step to open the door fully, revealing a frowning Miller, with an anxious Monty stood behind his shoulder.
“Monty needs to go to work,” Miller stated flatly.
“It’s all right, I can go by myself if you need to finish up here,” Monty offered.
“No,” Bellamy shook his head, putting Octavia’s card back down. “I’ll be right with you.” If he had thought to check with her, Clarke would have readily agreed. She didn’t want to trouble Monty any more than they already had, and she suspected any further attempt at conversation right now would only lead to further arguments.
Monty and Miller stepped away from the door, and Bellamy moved to follow them. He had not gone three steps before he hesitated and turned to look back at Clarke with a grim expression on his face.
“I know you don’t like it, but you will stay here? And you won’t call Octavia?”
Clarke bit her lip in annoyance but, aware that the others could still likely hear them, she only nodded tightly.
She watched some of the tension dissipate from Bellamy’s shoulders, and he even flashed her a smile before leaving the room.
Clarke refused to let that make her feel even a little bad that she had knowingly deceived him.
Thanks for the feedback on the last chapter, hope you guys enjoyed this one - and aren't too mad about that ending ;) They wouldn't be Bellamy and Clarke if they didn't argue sometimes!
Many hours later, Clarke was tiptoeing through the Greens’ house, holding her lamp carefully in front of her to illuminate her path. It was almost midnight, and she should have been sleeping—in normal circumstances she would have been—but having spent the previous night and early morning hours helping to orchestrate and implement an escape from kidnapping, her sense of time was understandably confused.
Once the three men had left the house, Clarke had warred with her own instinct to rebel against her husband’s irritating requests. On the one hand, she didn’t want to go out to buy supplies, as if that was the only contribution she could possibly make. On the other, if she stayed in as she wanted, that might confirm to Blake that she was too scared to leave the house by herself.
In the end, her desire to contribute in a more meaningful way won out, and she split her time between reading through the books she had borrowed from Bellamy’s library and making various phone calls. After all, she had contacts of her own that could be helpful, not that anyone had bothered to ask her.
Clarke last remembered looking at the clock around 6, when she was settling down to read the next book in bed, having grown tired of the empty living room.
She had hoped that Bellamy would return for dinner, but she had slept through that and woken up quite alone in the spare bedroom.
Her first instinct, after deciding he might have chosen to retire to another room rather than disturb her, had been to go to the library. She was only vaguely aware of its location, but Monty had told them all to feel at home while they stayed there, and it was the closest thing to Bellamy’s study.
With the memory of their last encounter in their London home fresh in her mind, Clarke slowly opened the door to the room and the flickering light revealed a mop of dark hair resting on the table in the far corner of the room. Clarke smiled, pleased with herself, and, after their last conversation, felt no scruples in knocking on the door heavily enough to wake him up.
Disappointment hit her fast when the head shot upright and she realised it was not her husband at the table after all.
“Monty!” she exclaimed, then clapped her hand over her mouth at the volume. She moved into the room to speak more quietly. “I am so sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”
It was true. She would not have tried to wake him had she known it was Monty.
“That’s all right,” he said, rubbing his eyes. “I shouldn’t have fallen asleep here. What time is it?”
“Close to Midnight,” Clarke informed him.
“If you’re hungry, there is some food for you downstairs,” he told her through a yawn.
“Thank you, I’m fine. And I’m sorry I missed dinner.”
Monty shook his head. “No need to apologise. After what happened I’m surprised all of you didn’t go to bed straight after you got here in the morning! Wells did think about waking you for food, but decided against it in the end.”
Wells did, she thought. “Was Bellamy not back for dinner?” she asked tentatively.
“No, Mr. Blake called in the evening to say he and Mr. Miller would likely not finish with his contact until late and so he would just stay with Mr. Miller. I think Wells said he was going to leave you a note.”
“Oh, I see. I must have walked past it.” Even in the faint light Clarke could make out something like sympathy in Monty’s eyes so she shot him a smile. “Well, hopefully Mr. Miller’s contact was able to provide them with something useful.”
“Hopefully,” he agreed, finally rising. “Are you sure you don’t want anything to eat?”
“I’m sure, thank you. I think I’ll just go back to bed, try to rest properly for tomorrow.”
“Did you want something from the library?” Monty wondered, just as he reached the door.
“Yes,” Clarke lied. “Is that all right?”
She did not take her time in choosing one of the many novels from the shelf nearest her, before following him out. When Clarke returned to the bedroom, she found the note from Wells sitting on the chest of drawers next to the door. She placed her new book carelessly on the dressing table and turned out the lamp. As she crawled under the covers, still in her green dress, she fended off the sudden urge to cry.
The next day Clarke tried to be productive. She called Marcus Kane again, though he had not yet acquired the information she had asked for. He noted that her request not to use any private investigators was significantly slowing him down, but she would not budge on that point. She let Wells make the necessary phone call to his father, but just as in their call the previous morning, Thelonious had nothing but praise for the Earl of Weatherly. To interrogate the connection further would only raise the man’s suspicions, so Clarke decided to take the step of inquiring with her mother.
When she did pose the question of their business arrangement, Lady Abigail Griffin laughed lightly. “Clarke, you were never interested in that. Where’s this come from?”
She was prepared for this question. “I crossed paths with Lord Cage after I arrived, and it just made me wonder. I realised I didn’t know how we came to know the family.”
“Much the way everyone gets to know each other in society, I suppose.” The vagueness of the remark was discouraging.
“Yes, but you must have known them quite well since you worked for him,” Clarke insisted.
“Not particularly. I treated some of the Earl’s staff when they were ill, that’s all.”
Clarke frowned. That did not match her recollection. “Just on one occasion?”
“He didn’t trust his doctor so well after that, so I provided a few more treatments when needed. They found a better doctor eventually and then didn’t need my help. It’s really not an interesting story.” She could tell her mother had had enough of that line of questioning even before Abby obviously changed the subject, “So, why don’t you tell me what you have been doing in Paris? Are you and Mr. Blake having a nice time?”
“Yes,” she said flatly. “Just lovely.”
After lunch Clarke took a hired car into town. Wells had offered to join her, but she refused. However, as Clarke couldn’t say that she needed to prove to herself that she could take care of her own safety for one afternoon without making Wells worry more, she turned his attention elsewhere.
When she suggested he should instead check on Miss Reyes and Miss Vie, Wells was instantly agreeable. Clarke was ashamed to realise she had not asked after the latter lady the previous day, though she expected that had anything untoward befallen the girl or her father, Blake or Mr. Miller would have mentioned it unprompted.
Some of the stops she made were of her own volition—after all she did need to go to the bank—though the rest were to collect the supplies on the list Blake had given her. Bitter though she may have been, she wasn’t about to endanger their chance of stopping Cage to coddle her own pride. Besides, Blake would return in order to collect them.
She assumed, anyway.
Mr. Miller had rung just as they were finishing breakfast to keep them apprised of their whereabouts, which was the only evidence she had that Blake had not been kidnapped again.
Once she had finished, Clarke realised she was not far from Raven’s apartment, so decided to walk the short distance before going back to the Greens. The lady had given them the address before Clarke left the shop the previous day, but Clarke was still surprised to see Wells there, expecting he would have left by that time. Her surprise grew when she realised he sat opposite Miss Vie.
It appeared Miss Vie had grown anxious in the night, unable to sleep after hearing noises she suspected may have been her former colleagues. Having decided to avoid her own home and stay with her father until everything was cleared up, she had contacted Miller, concerned for their safety. Although she didn’t think Cage or his accomplices knew her father’s exact address, she had talked freely of going to visit him often and worried they could deduce the location. Miller had ferried the pair to Raven’s that afternoon.
Clarke felt sympathy for the girl and her father, driven out of their own homes from fear of Cage’s retaliation, and it re-energised her desire to take a more active role in stopping the man. She took her leave not long after the story was recounted, but didn’t encourage Wells to join her.
Monty was still at work when Clarke arrived back at the house, which she was glad of as it meant she didn’t have to feel like she was being rude by retiring to her room and focusing on her books. She was so engrossed in them that when she first heard a noise coming from downstairs, she nearly ignored it, assuming it must have been Monty or Wells returning. It was only when the noise grew louder she realised it was neither of their voices.
Leaving her room, Clarke quickly walked to the top of the stairs in time to see her husband staggering into the hallway, supported by Mr. Miller.
“Bellamy!” she exclaimed, before rushing down the stairs towards them. “What happened? Was it Cage? Did he attack you?” Clarke asked as she reached them. Bellamy had a strange look in his eyes as he stared at her, but Mr. Miller seemed wholly unimpressed.
“He has a cold,” Miller explained.
Clarke blinked. “A cold?” she repeated.
The butler who had just closed the door said in his usual even tone, “I will have a broth prepared,” and left, presumably towards the kitchen.
“I’m fine,” Bellamy argued, adjusting his posture to stand upright on his own. He lasted only a few seconds before his shoulders sagged and his back began to droop. Clarke quickly took hold of his left arm, at the same time Miller supported his right, which prevented him from falling.
“You can’t stand, I would hardly call that fine,” Clarke pointed out.
“A momentary dizzy spell. It’s passed now,” he argued, trying to shake them off. Miller relented and stepped back, but Clarke kept her hand curled around his bicep.
She tried to study his face, ignoring the impatient way he was looking at her. His complexion was flushed rather than the pale tinge she had noted when they were reunited, but the beads of sweat on his forehead belied the mild temperature outside. Touching a hand to his forehead, Clarke asked, “Have you eaten today?”
Clarke could just make out her husband’s reply of “Enough,” through the snort Miller emitted, before muttering, “Hardly.”
“I did eat,” Bellamy insisted, when Clarke narrowed her eyes at him.
“He barely touched breakfast,” Miller revealed. “Said he didn’t have any appetite.”
“And you haven’t eaten since then?” He was warmer than she would have liked, but Clarke suspected Bellamy’s ailments were caused mainly from a lack of food and rest, prolonging his illness. “You need to eat something and get some rest.”
“I have!” Bellamy replied, frowning. “At least as much as I did this last week.”
“If you’re saying that you’re still eating and resting as much as you did in captivity, then I think we’ve found the source of your illness,” Clarke countered.
“I take it I can leave him with you then?” Miller asked Clarke, purposely ignoring the frown Bellamy now directed towards him.
Bellamy huffed in frustration. “We have things to do— We need to stop—“
“Well, you won’t have any luck stopping anything if you pass out,” Clarke interrupted.
“Exactly,” Miller agreed, backing away from them towards the door.
Bellamy tried to take a step towards him, but found himself held back as Clarke still hung onto his arm. He looked down at her, saying angrily, “I’m not a child.”
“Then stop acting like one,” she responded, matching his tone. Clarke did her best not to relent under his steely gaze, and after a few moments of searching her face, the tension in him faded.
She didn’t realise they were still silently staring each other down, albeit less irritably, until Miller called out his goodbye. The interruption also reminded her she was still holding onto her husband, even though his dizziness had clearly passed.
Taking a step back, Clarke said evenly, “Would you prefer to eat or sleep first?”
He let out a short laugh. “Are those my only options?”
He grumbled under his breath, before rubbing a hand over his face. “I suppose I could eat something.”
As it turned out, Monty had called shortly before Bellamy and Miller’s arrival to inform his staff that he would not be home for dinner. So, Clarke asked for a simple supper to be laid out alongside the broth the cook had already started so she and Bellamy could have an early dinner together. She was not expecting a lively affair, but she was still surprised by how awkward the largely silent meal felt once they had dispensed with the usual pleasantries. Clarke was glad he was eating at least, and did not want him to feel as if he had to carry a spirited conversation when he needed rest. But she was disappointed to be left feeling like after everything, now that she and her husband were finally alone together, she still did not know what to say to him. She wanted to ask what he and Miller had discovered so far, but he was focused on his plate.
“Do you want any more?” Clarke asked once he had finished his second helping. She had already finished her food, but was reluctant to leave.
“No, thank you,” he said, pushing his bowl slightly away from him. “You know, I’m actually feeling much better now. I don’t think I need to sleep.”
“Try that again with your eyes open,” she remarked.
It made him smile, which she was pleased about. “Very well,” he admitted, wiping his hands on the napkin.
“I bought some clothes you can change into,” Clarke revealed as they walked towards the staircase. He was not in the same clothes as yesterday, so she suspected these were on loan from Miller.
Bellamy seemed more alert after a real meal, curiosity evident when he looked over at her. “You did?”
“Miss Cartwig, Marcus’ secretary, recommended some places to me yesterday so I used your old clothes to get a size. I collected the orders today.” When Bellamy continued to look over at her, surprised, Clarke went on, “They might not be quite what you like, but I thought you might prefer it to having to borrow from others.”
“Thank you, that’s— That’s very thoughtful of you,” he said, low.
Clarke looked away so he wouldn’t see her blush. “Well, I hope they will be comfortable anyway. They are in a bag on the bed. I can wait outside while you change,” Clarke replied, as they stepped inside their room.
“No, I don’t want to get in your way. I can change in the bathroom,” he told her, as he started looking through the bag.
“I also realised I don’t know what you prefer to sleep in,” Clarke admitted, embarrassed. “The shop assistant insisted pyjamas are preferable now, I hope that’s alright.”
From over his shoulder, he shot her a soft, sleepy smile. “They’re fine. Really,” he added, when she didn’t seem convinced.
While Bellamy changed, Clarke tidied up. First the bed, and then the items from her trunk she had left strewn on the floor. She had just closed the bedroom door behind the maid who’d brought them up some water when Bellamy came out of the bathroom. She shot him a quick smile, but didn’t pause to consider how the new clothes suited him. In the act of pouring them both a glass of water to drink, she almost missed the way he pulled off the extra blanket draped on the chair.
“Are you cold?” she wondered.
“Well, no, but I thought the floor might be.”
Clarke frowned, setting the jug down firmly. “Bellamy, you’re sleeping on the bed.”
Now it was his turn to look confused. “Then where will you sleep?”
“I can sleep in the chair, or take the floor.”
“You can’t take the floor.”
She rolled her eyes at his shock. “Well, you certainly can’t sleep on the floor. You’re not well.”
“I’ll be fine,” he insisted. It would have sounded more commanding if he hadn’t started coughing again before he’d finished his last word.
Tutting, Clarke grabbed a glass of water and took it over to him. He accepted the water, but seemed reluctant to relax into the hand she rested on his back, so after a few moments she stepped away. “You should rest,” she told him.
“I can rest on the chair.”
“And so can I,” she chided and tugged on the blanket still in his hand.
“You have to take the bed,” he managed, in between more coughs, sloshing the water in his glass so that some splashed onto his cheek.
Growing cross, Clarke took the glass from him and brushed the water droplets off his cheek with her fingers. “Honestly, Bellamy, you don’t have to be so noble.”
It was only when he blinked down at her, mute, that Clarke realised just how close they were suddenly standing. She could have counted his eyelashes.
Clearing her throat, Clarke took a step back. “Please rest,” she implored. “I promise if you’re well enough, I will let you sleep on the floor tomorrow.”
That made him smile, and he dropped his head ruefully. Clearing his throat, he replied, “Very well. But I will hold you to that.”
He let her take the blanket from him as he lay down on the bed, taking the side nearest the door. Clarke placed his glass of water on the nearby side table before turning off the main light and placing the blanket on top of her trunk.
Once she picked up her book, the only thing left was for her to turn off the lamp and go to another room to continue reading.
Instead, she asked him quietly, “Would you mind if I read in here?”
His voice was thick, but clear. “No, I don’t mind.”
Quietly settling back down into the chair, Clarke turned to her page and listened to the sound of Bellamy’s quiet breathing as he fell asleep.
This is the last chapter for the year, hope you guys enjoyed it!
As far as Clarke could tell, Bellamy slept soundly for the rest of that evening. She had stayed in the bedroom to read for some time, before finally accepting that she needed more space to spread out her books and relocating to the library. That was where Wells and Monty found her when they returned, much later than she would have expected if she had been paying any attention to the time. Monty explained he had been catching up on the work he had missed the previous day, while Wells offered only a quick summary of his day. Seemingly, it was spent entirely in the company of Raven, Miss Vie and her father. Clarke would have asked for more details, but in finally pausing her studies to speak with them, she realised she was, in fact, quite tired.
Knowing she couldn’t lecture her husband on the value of rest if she didn’t try to get some herself, Clarke retired to her bedroom after very little prodding from Wells. Finding Bellamy in the same position she had left him in, Clarke picked up the blanket and settled back into the chair that would be hers for the night. The Greens were wealthy enough that the piece of furniture was lovely and soft, despite residing in an infrequently used spare bedroom. Nonetheless, it still took Clarke some time to drift off herself.
Thanks to her own family’s wealth, it was the second-least comfortable place Clarke had ever slept (the bed of a sky ship while in flight, taking top honours), but considering the conditions her husband had been forced into recently, she would never complain. Once it came however, her rest was peaceful, and Clarke did not stir until the next morning, when the sound of raised voices reached her ears.
She did not realise what woke her at first, too confused by how warm she suddenly felt. After blinking away the sleep from her eyes, Clarke realised she was practically swaddled. The bed covers had been wrapped around her person, on top of the blanket she had already claimed for herself. She allowed herself a brief, pleased smile at the gesture, surely from Bellamy, before standing and returning the duvet to the now empty bed. It was while she smoothed down the fabric that Clarke noticed the loud voices coming from outside her closed door, and how varied they were. Quickly pulling her robe out of the wardrobe, Clarke fastened it over her nightgown and left the room.
Once she was on the landing, Clarke realised the voices came from downstairs. She was not entirely surprised to recognise her husband’s or Mr. Miller’s tones, but she had not expected Miss Reyes to be among them as well.
It was that lady who noticed Clarke first when she reached the top of the stairs and paused there for a moment. From her vantage, she could observe the way Raven stood in between Wells and Miller, with Monty and lastly Bellamy completing the circle of opinionated persons arguing in the hallway. Though perhaps in Monty’s case, he simply had the misfortune of living in the house they had temporarily overtaken.
Clarke had missed the start of Miller’s sentence, but she clearly heard him end with, “—and then your wife will be here to look after you.”
“I don’t need a nurse!”
“I hope not,” Clarke said, forcibly mild, but still loud enough for them to hear over the clamour. “If I had any talent at nursing, I would have followed my mother’s footsteps,” she added as she made her way down the stairs. She vaguely heard Wells apologise for waking her, but even as she moved to stand between him and Monty, who had both stepped back to make room for her, she was focused on her husband, whose face seemed to have blanched at her remark.
Luckily, her presence did not seem to quiet anyone else.
Clarke soon learnt that the information from Miller’s contacts had proven useful enough, and he had a strong lead as to where the gauntlets were hidden. However, he advocated for Bellamy to remain at the Green house and find a solution that would prevent Cage from using them if he found them first. Clarke agreed with this plan, and suspected Bellamy might have too, if it weren’t for the suggestion that he needed to “stay indoors today and rest.”
“Miller and I are going to follow the trail, but Maya is still concerned about her and her father’s safety,” Raven explained.
“Where are they?” Clarke was just about to offer that the Vies stay with them while Raven was out, but bit her tongue when she recalled this wasn’t her home to offer. They were taking advantage of Monty’s kindness as it was, and spacious though the home seemed, Clarke didn’t think he could magic up two more bedrooms for additional guests.
“They’re still at my apartment. Maya didn’t want to move her father again unnecessarily. I was hoping that Wells wouldn’t mind staying with them until we get back.”
“That sounds sensible,” Clarke replied honestly, purposely looking at Raven, and not her husband, whose gaze she could feel boring into the side of her head. “As long as you don’t mind?” she asked Wells, who immediately confirmed his agreement.
Miller looked relieved, saying, “That’s settled then.”
While the group started to separate, Monty asked the departing trio, “I don’t suppose I could trouble you for a lift?”
It was not long before Clarke and Bellamy were left alone in the hallway. As she felt Bellamy’s eyes still on her, Clarke found herself adjusting the ties on her robe self-consciously, before returning the stare.
His outward appearance at least seemed much healthier than the day before, though part of that may have been down to finally wearing clean clothes that fit him well. Not that she focused on just how well they fit.
“How are you feeling today?” she inquired, civilly.
“Much better, thank you,” he responded. “I hope you slept well.”
“Yes, I did.” They both looked at each other somewhat awkwardly before Clarke added, “I know you would rather be out there with the others, but you should not tire yourself too quickly. And the research is still important. It is not such a bad task to be laboured with.” Clarke was not sure if she meant the task or the company, and bit her lip before anything else should slip out.
“I know,” he acknowledged, a smile playing at the corner of his mouth. “It is my profession, after all.”
“Of course,” she replied, a slight flush on her cheeks even as she laughed. “Have you had breakfast?” she asked, after a moment.
“Yes, I already ate, but the table is still laid for you. I should get started with these,” he finished, gesturing to the book and papers Miller had just left with him, tucked under his arm.
Clarke ate her breakfast quickly, finding it easy not to dawdle when she had no company and many plans running through her head. She tried not to feel bitter that she didn’t seem to have factored into the plans made that morning. After all her reading the previous day, she preferred the task of staying behind to research, even if she wondered whether the others intended for her to do nothing more than fuss over her husband, like a good wife.
That was perhaps unfair, Clarke reasoned with herself as she dressed impatiently, for no one had said that. Still, she felt on edge as she made her way from the spare bedroom to the library to collect some of her work before finding the location Bellamy had chosen for his.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise that he had picked the same spot, Clarke thought, when she discovered her husband seated at the same table where she had made herself comfortable the previous evening. All her books and papers were still open from the night before, and Bellamy appeared to be perusing them in favour of the ones Miller had given him. Clarke had planned to greet him with casual conversation, but she prickled upon realising he had changed the order of her texts.
Her pace quickened as she entered the room, but he was so engrossed in a book that Bellamy did not notice her presence until Clarke was stood right beside him, exclaiming, “You’ve moved everything!”
“What?” Bellamy’s head jerked up in surprise. He seemed to sink in his chair somewhat, though she wasn’t sure if that was due to the angle he had to tilt his head in order to look at her, or the scowl on her face.
“I had a system,” Clarke pouted, though once the words left her lips she realised it sounded quite petulant. He was the expert, after all.
“Of course, I’m sorry,” he apologised, closing his book with a hand still inside to keep the page. “When I realised you brought my books, I wanted to consult certain passages. I have kept all your pages bookmarked, though, and your notes with them,” he explained, demonstrating with the nearest text, which appeased her somewhat. “That is,” Bellamy added, “they are your notes, aren’t they? You did all of this?”
“Yes,” she said cautiously, slipping into the chair on his left.
“By yourself?” He sounded more careful than surprised, but the words still rubbed her the wrong way.
“Yes,” she replied, curt. Before she could stop herself, Clarke continued, “Even if I might seem incapable of this work—“
“Of course not,” Bellamy interrupted, with a certainty that caught Clarke off guard. “I would never think that. I just wondered if Mr. Jaha, or perhaps Mr. Green, had assisted you,” he explained, “rather than leaving you to do all of this by yourself.”
Now, she caught the note of admiration in his words and tried to temper her warm reaction to it. “I didn’t mind. I wanted to be useful,” she said, carefully flattening the page of notes nearest her. Bellamy nodded once, and she would have launched a discussion on what they had both found, except he appeared to be contemplating something. Clarke gave him a moment, though when he spoke, it wasn’t the question she expected.
“Why didn’t you say you brought some of my library with you?”
Her reply was soft, as she did not want to sound too accusatory. “You never gave me much chance.”
He hung his head then. “No, I did not.” He sighed before continuing, “I am sorry, if I made you feel like you weren’t useful. I never wanted that.”
“But you were trying to keep me apart from your search,” she responded, needing the confirmation.
“I was,” he admitted, without much shame. “I was afraid Wallace would find us, and thought you would be safer here. And I know we used to discuss magical history in the early days of our acquaintance, but I didn’t realise you would actually enjoy the realities of this work.”
“You won’t know if you don’t ask me,” she said, gentle.
“No, I suppose not.”
He held her gaze, and Clarke felt herself blushing suddenly as she thought of another rather important matter that Bellamy had neglected to speak to her about.
Glancing away, she injected a false degree of surety into her voice before replying, “You don’t need to keep me at arm’s length for my protection. I can look after myself.” When he looked as if he was about to respond, she continued, “I’m here and I want to help. And I won’t take no for an answer.”
Bellamy smiled then, warm in a way that reminded Clarke of their talks back before her proposal. Before, thought Clarke. That was a complicated subject for them, but not one she should (or could) discuss yet.
“Very well,” he replied, sitting forward to open his book so that it was within easy reading distance for her as well. “Let’s compare notes.”
It would probably be wrong for Clarke to say she greatly enjoyed the next few hours. After all, they were trying to stop potentially dangerous magic from being used by a certainly dangerous man. It was an important and serious task that needed to be completed as soon as possible. But there was something she relished about completing the research with her husband. Although the reading she had undertaken on her own had been interesting, it was helpful to have a knowledgeable person to discuss certain passages with. Even though Bellamy was far more experienced in the field than she, he helped without patronising her and considered her opinions as if they held equal weight to his. It was nice.
Clarke had become so engrossed in the work, that she had forgotten to keep looking out for his health until he started coughing heavily. Thrusting her (thankfully clean) handkerchief towards him she was about to offer him a drink before a quick glance around reminded Clarke that she had completely neglected to procure any.
“I should have thought of refreshments,” she thought aloud.
Bellamy shook his head, even as he continued to cough into the handkerchief. Clearing his throat, though it didn’t do much good, he sputtered, “I’ll go fetch some water.”
“No,” Clarke argued, “you wait here.” She had intended to call for one of the servants to bring water up to them, but Bellamy’s offer to obtain it made her feel that she should do the same herself. “I can go and ask if they have any remedies you could take. I should have remembered to ask Monty.”
Wiping at the corners of his mouth now that his coughing had subsided, Bellamy shook his head again. “I already have something I can take. I think I left it in Miller’s jacket last night, I’ll just need hot water.”
Clarke went downstairs to obtain some, while Bellamy left for their room to retrieve this remedy. Her appearance in the kitchen was met with some surprise, though the servants no doubt were more taken aback by her presence rather than her request. She was sent back upstairs empty-handed, and a servant followed a few minutes later bearing a tray laden with her requested beverages. Just as she was becoming concerned that Bellamy was taking too long, he returned bearing a small packet in his right hand.
Taking a sip of her tea, Clarke watched Bellamy pour a sachet of dark herbs into his mug of hot water. “Is that a remedy of Miller’s?” she wondered.
“No,” he replied, stirring the mixture, “Miss Vie made it. She gave me some while we were stuck in that house, before Cage realised she was trying to help us,” he explained, bitterness creeping into his tone when he spoke his captor’s name. “When Miller and I went to collect her and her father, she had made a larger batch for me.”
“I see,” Clarke said, as Bellamy took a sip of his drink. She had felt she’d been very organised the previous day, getting Bellamy new clothes, but clearly she hadn’t been thoughtful enough if she’d forgotten about her husband’s ailment. Not that Clarke would have known what to look for, even if she had been shopping in England. She could have asked her mother for advice though, when they had spoken on the telephone. Swallowing down the dryness in her throat, she commented evenly, “That was very kind of her.”
“That’s the sort of person she is.” A moment of silence passed as they both sipped their drinks thoughtfully, before Bellamy continued, “To tell you the truth, I have been quite worried for her— And her father. Cage must know more about her than the rest of us, and I can’t help but think he might take his anger out on them.”
Clarke did not realise immediately that he had finished his thoughts, and was looking to her for comfort. “Well, at least neither of them are at home anymore; if Cage could find Raven’s apartment, he would have done so already.” When Bellamy still looked concerned, she added, “And I’m sure she’ll be safe with Wells; he is much stronger than he appears.”
He smiled lightly at that before his eyes returned to perusing his book over the rim of his cup.
Clarke ventured, “Had you ever met Miss Vie before?”
“No, I only met her when I was brought to France,” he said absently, eyes still on his book. “She said she was originally hired as a secretary to one of the managers at their Paris office. I believe she has been working directly for Cage only these past two years, although apparently, he was quite frequently been back and forth between London and Paris.”
That last statement aligned with Clarke’s vague recollections of Cage’s presence at society functions over the last few years. She still couldn’t help but ask, “And you still trust her?”
Bellamy’s head jerked up sharply at that, eyes narrowing. “Maya risked her life to try to help Miller and myself. I see no reason not to.”
The use of the girl’s name stung Clarke unexpectedly. Apart from the first day of their reunion, Bellamy had not addressed Clarke in the same way, even though they had just spent all morning alone together. “And you two have grown close,” she said, a little sourly.
He looked confused. “I wouldn’t say we are particularly close, but I suppose such intense situations can form bonds between people.”
“Bonds,” Clarke repeated, eyes returning to her book as she nodded. “Or attachments, perhaps.”
“What do you mean?” he asked plainly.
“Nothing.” When she looked up, he was clearly unconvinced. Clarke found herself saying, detached, “I simply wonder if you remembered you are a married man now.”
Bellamy stared back at her severely. “Wallace didn’t hit me on the head quite that hard,” he stated with a coldness she had never heard from him before. “Besides,” he continued, voice hard, “our marriage wasn’t exactly one based on attachment.”
“That’s not what you wrote—” Clarke shot back, before snapping her mouth shut in horror when she realised what she’d let slip.
Bellamy’s eyes widened. For a moment they both stared at each other in painful silence.
With a start, Clarke shoved back her chair and stood up, taking a few terse steps towards the door. Then, realising it would be worse to run, she stopped abruptly. It was her own fault for letting petty, unfounded jealousy creep into her heart; not to mention the fact that she had no good excuse for reading her husband’s private thoughts.
“I’m sorry,” she said, still staring at the bookcase in front of her.
“For what?” he asked, and she felt it a sign of how well she knew him now that she could immediately recognise the calm façade even without facing him.
“For speaking that way. And for—” She sighed and forced herself to turn around to face him. “For reading your journal.”
She watched his face drop, followed by the slow bob of his Adam’s apple as he swallowed. “You read my journal,” he repeated to the page in front of him.
“I— I didn’t mean to.” When he tilted his head and raised his eyebrows, she explained, “I was in your study, looking for notes, something to shed some light on what had happened to you. I thought your last journal might help. I know I shouldn’t have kept reading…”
“But you did.”
He nodded slowly, not able to meet her gaze any longer. “I see. Well. Now you know everything.”
Clarke clasped her hands together, hesitating. Then, she finally let herself ask the question that had been on her mind since the second entry she had read. “Why didn’t you say anything when I proposed?”
His lips twisted up in what some might have described as a smile, but it looked out of place on his face. Though his gaze was still lowered, Bellamy spoke evenly when he admitted, “You said you had no thought of a love match. After that, it didn’t seem right to tell you I had some feelings for you that went beyond friendship.”
Some feelings, Clarke repeated in her head. Remembering one of the phrases from the journal that had stayed with her, she replied, “You wrote that you ached for me.” The moment the words left her lips Clarke blushed and wished she’d had the good sense to bite her tongue.
Bellamy’s subsequent flush confirmed she had only embarrassed them both further. Clearing his throat, he managed, “I’m afraid I have a tendency for hyperbole when I’ve been drinking excessively.”
“I’ve never seen you drink excessively,” Clarke said thoughtfully, trying to settle her nerves.
“Yes, well.” Bellamy sighed and met her gaze. “Being offered marriage as a business transaction by the woman you’re in love with felt like the right occasion for it.”
Clarke tried not to gape at him as the colour returned to her cheeks in full force. What could she say to that? What was she going to say to that? She’d practically forced him to admit he was in love with her, only she still had no idea how to respond. The way she felt about Bellamy had twisted and turned in so many ways since that first evening they met, but she didn’t think she loved him—not like that, certainly.
But after reading his journal, the possibility of it kept entering her mind.
She’d been so sure after Lexa that it—love—would never happen again for her. That it would be best if it didn’t. Still, it was hard to think clearly with the way Bellamy was looking at her right now. Had he always looked at her like that and she’d been too blind to notice? Or had she been so dismissive of feelings in their arrangement that he’d guarded his own?
Clarke was still far from formulating a coherent response when a loud knock on the library door broke through her haze. She was somewhat mollified that Bellamy appeared just as startled as she was. After calling out for them to enter, one of the maids appeared and informed Clarke that there was a phone call from a Mr. Kane.
If it had been anyone but Marcus, she might have taken the call later, but his name reminded Clarke of the various enquiries she had asked him to make. It was also a reminder of the dangerous situation they were still in, regardless of anyone’s feelings.
Once the maid left the room, Clarke informed Bellamy, “I told Marcus what happened.” She then turned to make her way to the telephone, trusting that her husband would follow.
“Everything?” he asked incredulously. She heard him quicken his strides to catch up with her.
“He can find information we don’t have access to,” Clarke said as she hurried down the stairs.
“And what happens to Kane when the Wallaces realise he is investigating them?” Even without looking over her shoulder, Clarke was certain a crease had appeared in Bellamy’s brow.
“Marcus knows how to do these things quietly,” she replied certainly.
Bellamy huffed. “Kane knows how to hire people to do these things for him. Like private investigators. If I recall correctly, isn’t that how you ended up getting kidnapped too?”
Clarke had just enough time to shoot him a glare over her shoulder before she picked up the receiver.
Marcus tried to begin with pleasantries, but she wasted little time on those. She was impatient to discover the reason for his call, a feeling that only grew when he hinted that he had in fact learned some suspicious information about the Wallace family.
“You did? What is it?” Clarke prodded. Bellamy stood facing her a polite distance away. Too far to hear Marcus’ voice, but he clearly recognised her own piqued interest, meeting her eyes curiously and coming closer.
“I’ve found evidence of a connection between the family and… the subject you mentioned.
Clarke gasped. “You mean mag—”
Marcus interrupted before she could complete her thought, “I’m not sure how much we should say over the telephone.”
“Marcus!” Clarke exclaimed. “If the Walla—“
She stopped as the man began to cough audibly over the line. Her first thought was that he had a similar affliction to Bellamy’s, until she realised that the noise Marcus was emitting sounded extremely false in comparison to her husband’s recent outburst. It occurred to Clarke then that Marcus had taken care not to mention any of the family by name.
“Marcus,” she repeated, more flatly this time.
Miraculously, his cough cleared up and he said in perfectly even tones, “We must be… discreet about sharing this information.”
“I would rather be indiscreet if it would prevent another kidnapping!” Clarke noticed Bellamy lift his eyebrows at her raised voice, but when she met his eyes defiantly, he only placed his palm on her shoulder reassuringly. She allowed herself to lean into the touch as she listened to Marcus splutter, no doubt trying to think of a cover for any operators eavesdropping on their call.
“I’m sure there is no need to exaggerate; the situation is not as dire as that. I do realise time is of the essence, so I have arranged for a telegram to be sent to you.” Clarke would have pointed out that telegrams were no less vulnerable to spying eyes than the telephone was to ears, when Marcus continued, “I doubt it will not make much sense to you, but Blake will be able to read it. I know he was out when we last spoke, but—“
“Bellamy is here,” Clarke informed him. Her husband perked up at the sound of his name, and Clarke supposed it could be useful to put him on the phone. She was not sure how he would surreptitiously confirm he was aware of the code Marcus had used on the telegram, but it was worth a try.
After she passed the phone over to Bellamy, Clarke tried to stand quietly opposite him as Bellamy had done while she had been on the phone, but she couldn’t stay still. She started to walk the length of the hall, listening to Bellamy’s quiet, measured tones, but his half of the conversation did not tell her very much.
At one point he let out a sharp, confused, “Oh,” which caused Clarke to stop her pacing. She swivelled on her heel to face him and found Bellamy looking at her, his face unreadable. When she moved to approach him, however, he looked away. His tone was back to normal when he replied down the phone, and shortly after Clarke had taken the ten paces separating them, Bellamy ended the call.
“Was that everything?” She hadn’t realised transferring the phone to Bellamy meant the end of the conversation for her.
“Kane had to leave for a meeting,” Bellamy replied evenly.
“Well, what did he say?” she asked, hands on her hips.
“He’s not sure if the information he’s sent will help, but it’s something he thinks we should look at. He’s going to call back when—”
Bellamy was interrupted by the phone ringing, and his eyebrows quirked up in surprise.
Clarke answered immediately. It seemed odd that Marcus would ring again so soon if he had a meeting, but perhaps he had remembered something. The switchboard operator confirmed that the call was for her so Clarke hastily affirmed that she would accept it without thinking too deeply about who was calling.
It was only once Clarke was connected that she realised this had been a mistake.
The caller’s voice came through exuberant and loud even over an international line, with Bellamy still standing close enough to hear the excitement. This was unfortunate as Clarke had yet to decide how she would inform Bellamy that she had ignored his request to not contact his family. For though he likely hadn’t been able to ascertain the operator’s speech, he clearly didn’t need the clarity of words to recognise his younger sister’s voice.
The next chapter just needs a bit of editing so that should hopefully be up in a week. Thanks, as always, to my awesome beta and you lovely readers. Do let me know your thoughts :)
Thanks so much for your comments on the last chapter, I hope you continue to enjoy the ride :)
“Clarke?” Octavia repeated over the phone. “Are you there?”
Bellamy’s face hardened as he stared down at Clarke, clearly realising what she had done. Swallowing, Clarke closed her eyes against his probing gaze and answered, “Yes, I’m here.”
“I know you said not to telephone, but I didn’t hear anything from you yesterday. Are you able to come back yet?”
“Not yet, but…” Clarke trailed off, risking a glance at her husband. He still stood close, though he now avoided her eyes. Instead, he glared at the receiver as if it had been the one to offend him. She cupped her hand over the telephone and asked, “Will you speak to her?”
“I told you I—“
“I know,” she interrupted, careful not to raise her voice to match his, “but if you don’t want Octavia to call again, I think it would help if she heard it from you.”
The frown on his face remained, but after they heard Octavia’s voice checking the line once more, Bellamy took the receiver from Clarke.
He greeted Octavia calmly, with no trace of the fire Clarke had sensed brewing. Octavia’s excited response was audible until Clarke took a few steps away, but she decided the siblings deserved a wholly private conversation. It was the least she could do for Bellamy, after she had so blatantly ignored his request not to call his sister in the first place.
She returned to the library and their books. Her tea had grown lukewarm, but she didn’t feel thirsty anyway. Attempts at considering her notes caused the letters to grow blurry before her eyes, and thoughts of the coded message Marcus had promised was en route were no better for her concentration. As Clarke couldn’t focus on the research, her mind kept drifting back to her husband and what she was going to say to him when he finished his call.
She was still mentally preparing her justifications to Bellamy when he returned the library. Of course, Clarke had realised she would have to explain her decision to contact Octavia eventually, but it felt worse now, after the last conversation they’d had.
Had it really been not even half an hour since we talked about his feelings? Looking at the set of his face as he took his seat, Clarke wouldn’t be surprised if those feelings had drastically changed in the past few minutes.
They sat in tense silence for a moment until Bellamy finally asked, “When were you going to tell me that you’d spoken to Octavia?”
“I’m not sure,” she admitted. “On our way back to England, I suppose.”
“You were always going to call her, weren’t you? Even when you told me you wouldn’t.”
“I never said—“ she began, but cut herself off when he narrowed his eyes.
“You let me believe it,” he said, harshly.
Clarke glanced away. “I did. But you were so sure you were right—“
“And what makes you so certain you are?” he demanded.
She gaped at him. “At least I’m not patronising my sister—or wife!”
“Patronising!” he repeated, pushing his chair back to stand up.
“Yes,” she affirmed, standing herself. “You think not knowing anything will keep us safe, but it doesn’t work that way! So, yes, I did call her. Even though you didn’t want me to. But I also asked Marcus to check on them,” Clarke revealed. “I even asked him to look into her friend Miss Indra, to find out if she is connected to the Wallaces.” She couldn’t decipher the look on his face before he turned to start pacing the library. “Well?” she prompted.
“I know,” he admitted with a sigh directed towards a shelf at the far end of the library.
Prepared for further argument, Clarke blinked in surprise, though she didn’t think she had won that battle so easily. There was something in his tone that made her think he hadn’t acquiesced to her point of view yet. “You know?”
With his back still to Clarke, Bellamy grudgingly admitted, “Before Kane said goodbye, he said to tell you he hadn’t found anything on the lady you’d asked him to investigate yet, but he was going to keep looking. I was going to ask you which lady he meant, but…” Bellamy didn’t need to finish the sentence; they both knew it was Octavia’s call that had prevented him.
“Oh,” Clarke replied, some of the fight draining from her. “Well, if you already knew that, what are you so angry about?”
Now, Bellamy whirled on her, his brows knitted together in frustration. “Because you still lied to me! You gave no thought to putting my family in danger—“
“Of course, I gave it thought!” Clarke yelled back. “Why do you think I spoke to Marcus?! I don’t want anything to happen to them either. But I thought about how I would feel, if I’d been stuck at home, knowing nothing about what had happened to you and— I had to tell her something. If it wasn’t—“ Clarke choked back a sob suddenly, unsure what had come over her.
“If it wasn’t what?” Bellamy wondered, softer now.
Clarke sank back down into her chair, weariness settling within her as she hung her head, a little shamefully. Bellamy started towards her, but stopped after two paces, apparently unsure.
Finally, Clarke confessed, “The truth is if it weren’t for Octavia, I don’t know how long it would have taken me to realise something had happened to you.”
Risking a glance upwards, Clarke was surprised that Bellamy seemed even more perplexed now than he had been before her explanation. “And that upsets you?”
“Of course it does,” Clarke instantly replied. “I didn’t even notice my husband had been kidnapped.”
“That’s not your fault. Wallace set it up so you wouldn’t notice.” He shrugged a bit awkwardly. “And when they made me write that letter, I knew I could slip something in that would raise your suspicions, but I didn’t want you to notice, either. I thought that way—”
“I would be safer?” Clarke finished, some sarcasm seeping into her reply.
A trace of embarrassment coloured his face as he met her eyes. “Something like that,” he acknowledged. “Octavia and Aurora weren’t the only people they threatened to hurt if I didn’t help them,” he added softly.
“Oh.” It shouldn’t have been a surprise that Cage would threaten his wife too, but the notion that she was one of his weaknesses still startled Clarke somehow. She couldn’t think of how else to respond, and, under the weight of his gaze, she ended up breaking eye contact to stare at the plush carpet at her feet.
She wasn’t sure how long her eyes had been cast down when she heard him taking the few remaining steps back towards her. Bellamy sat in his chair smoothly, and she raised her head quickly enough to notice the hesitant way he reached his hand towards hers where it rested on the table. She thought for a moment, from the way he placed his forearm down, that he was about to take her hand in his. But then, once she caught his eye, Bellamy glanced away and jerkily moved one of the books to the side.
He cleared his throat. “You know, it occurs to me that I haven’t properly thanked you. For coming to find me,” he added, when she looked sceptically at him.
“It was nothing,” she replied, but he was shaking his head before she could finish.
“Don’t say that. You came all this way—even brought Mr. Jaha, who’s never even met me—“
“Wells was happy to come,” Clarke interjected, though she wasn’t sure happy was the most appropriate phrasing. “He’s heard all about you from me. And his father, of course.”
Bellamy shot her a wry smile. “I’m sure that’s not the reason he came.” Before Clarke could begin to interpret that, Bellamy continued, “But I am glad of it, since it meant you weren’t travelling alone.”
That made Clarke huff a little. “I am perfectly capable of trav—“
“I know we are not likely to agree,” Bellamy interrupted, “on my approach to keeping you and Octavia safe anytime soon. But can you at least admit that in light of my kidnapping, I have earned the right to worry about my family’s safety?” When Clarke did not immediately reply, he noted, “After all, I was travelling alone when I was taken.”
Clarke managed to meet his soft smile with one of her own. “Very well.” She could see where he was coming from, even if she didn’t fully agree. For the moment, she kept coming back to the fact that, for the first time she could recall, he’d referred to her as family. “And I’m sorry for not taking your feelings into consideration.”
Bellamy simply nodded in response, but Clarke felt own words were another reminder of the course of their conversation before they had been interrupted.
Taking a deep breath, Clarke started, “About what we were speaking of… before Kane called.” She noticed the slight tensing in Bellamy’s jaw, but tried to be brave and ploughed on, “I know I should not have read your journal be—“
“Let’s not discuss it further,” Bellamy said quickly. “You’ve already apologised, There’s no need to do so again.”
Clarke blinked at him. Well aware that she had already apologised, Clarke had intended to segue into some discussion of their relationship, but Bellamy’s words made her reconsider.
His following comment only served to further crumble her resolve. “You’re not the only one who recently read a journal unsolicited,” he said, tone surprisingly jovial as he started flipping through one of the books. “When we were at the mansion, Cage showed me an old family journal; I think that’s how he discovered the gauntlets existed in the first place,” he explained. “Unfortunately, the binding was ruined, and a lot of the pages were missing.”
“I see,” Clarke replied thickly, trying to mirror her husband’s casual behaviour and refocus her attention on the book in front of her. “How interesting.”
It was with a tentative peace that the couple returned to work following their interruptions. Soon, it was time for lunch, which could have been awkward had they attempted to make idle conversation over the food. However, they took their light meal of sandwiches in the library in order to make the most of their time and continue their research uninterrupted. Monty had said they should make themselves at home, after all, although the Greens’ butler seemed most perturbed by this request.
At first, Clarke kept exerting herself to maintain an air of serenity. She felt it was largely her own fault for disrupting their easy companionship of the morning. However, it wasn’t long before she found herself relaxing back into the work, discussing their research with Bellamy without having to check every other word before voicing it.
When Clarke began to feel tense later in the day, it wasn’t the result of further quarrels with her husband, but a restlessness borne of waiting for further news. They had yet to hear from Miller or Raven as to their progress, and had no means of contacting them. The longer Marcus’ promised telegram took to arrive, the more Clarke itched to go outside and find some way of hastening it. She could tell her agitation was starting to irritate Bellamy, and although she didn’t want a repeat of their arguments that morning, she had difficulty calming herself. If only Raven’s home had a phone so she could call Wells. He likely wouldn’t have any information for her, but her old friend always knew just what to say when everyone else found Clarke exasperating. However, when Clarke remarked, in an attempt to change the conversation, that it was a shame they couldn’t telephone to check on Wells and Miss Vie, Bellamy only scowled at his book and grunted in response. Deciding the mention of the lady had reminded Bellamy of their earlier conversation and his many reasons to be frustrated with his wife, Clarke thought it best to leave the library and stretch her legs.
Despite being a lady of leisure, Clarke wasn’t one to sit at home all day, instead favouring long walks and exertion. She wouldn’t indulge her desire to explore Paris fully until this whole mess was behind them, but she thought she could be permitted a moment to take in some fresh air. There was no garden to speak of at the Greens’ home, so Clarke took a turn outside the front of the house. It was evening, and she expected people would be returning home from work soon, but for now there was little activity on the street. Clarke quietly admired the architecture of the surrounding houses as she enjoyed the cool air on her face. There was no window in the library to open, and she had not wanted to leave the door open for fear the servants might overhear too much, but it had made the room stuffy.
It seemed rude to take a long break under the circumstances—and she wouldn’t want her husband to think she was shirking the work—so Clarke only allowed herself a few minutes outside before turning back to re-enter to the house. She was just opening the door when she heard a bicycle pedalling furiously down the road. Curiosity got the better of her, and when she turned to look, she realised the boy was headed straight towards her.
Finally, Marcus’ telegram had arrived.
She raced back inside with the missive in hand, taking the steps as fast as the skirt of her long dress would allow. Tempting as it was to tear it open, Clarke told herself she should wait until she was in the library and could share the moment with her husband, especially since he was the one who could decipher its code.
“The telegram is here!” she announced as soon as she opened the door. Clarke was surprised to see her husband standing at the back of the library instead of seated at the desk, carefully studying the spines on one of the shelves. Whatever his mission in that corner of the room, she would have thought the arrival of the telegram would be enough to grab his attention, but he appeared unmoved by her words.
“Bellamy, did you hear me?” she prompted.
At that, he did turn his head to look at her, though he seemed distracted.
“I have the telegram.” She shook the hand holding it for good measure.
“Oh. That’s good,” he commented. Despite his words, his voice sounded flat.
“What’s wrong?” Clarke asked.
He rubbed at his face, turning away from her. “Nothing.”
Stepping further into the room, Clarke placed the telegram on the table, unopened. “Bellamy,” she said quietly, waiting until he met her eyes to continue. “I know today has been… well, it hasn’t been easy,” she conceded, noting the flash of a smirk on his lips at that. “But if there is something… else bothering you, you can talk to me about it.” His reluctance was plain on his face, and Clarke wondered if she was what still bothered him. Even if that was the case, she hoped he would talk to her. As he remained quiet, she added, “You might not think that I’m particularly trustworthy, but—“
“It’s not that,” he said quickly. She looked at him expectantly, but Bellamy turned back to face the shelf he had been studying with a sigh. His tone was quieter when he asked, “How well do you know Mr. Green?”
Clarke frowned, surprised by his line of questioning. “Monty?”
“I didn’t think you knew the elder Mr. Green,” Bellamy replied, a trace of humour in his voice.
“No, I—“ Clarke shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. “I suppose I don’t know Monty that well personally, though I had heard much about him before we came to stay here. All of it favourable.”
“I see. But you had never met him yourself before this trip?”
“Well, no,” Clarke admitted. “But Wells is an excellent judge of character, and Monty is a dear friend of his.”
“Of course. And Mr. Jaha would never mistake someone’s character.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Clarke retorted, affronted by the bite to her husband’s remark.
“Nothing.” He winced. “Mr. Jaha isn’t what— It’s not important. I’m asking for your opinion. Do you trust him?”
Clarke’s subsequent pause was only partly from confusion. Bellamy’s words made her realise she had always felt favourably towards Monty because of Wells’ own opinion of him. But since she had met Monty herself, he had been nothing but pleasant and considerate. She didn’t think anyone could dislike the man. However, liking someone and trusting them weren’t the same thing, and Bellamy’s thoughts had her concerned. “What’s so important about Monty?” she asked. “Are you saying you have reason not to trust him?”
“I— I don’t know. I think there’s something he’s not telling us.”
“What do you mean?”
Bellamy rubbed a frustrated hand over his face, glaring at the shelf before looking back at Clarke. “Everything that’s happened— He’s not asked many questions, has he?” When Clarke didn’t respond he continued, “Magical objects, kidnapping—it’s not your everyday affair. Most people would have a few more questions, don’t you think, if all that was going on under their roof?”
Clarke frowned. “Some people might not want to get involved, or maybe he thinks it would be rude to pry. A lack of interest is hardly malicious.”
“Not on its own. I just think he might have some secrets of his own.” His statement was punctuated by a dry cough, but since he stopped easily after only two, Clarke decided to save her concern for his ailment for later.
He sighed and folded his arms. “Do you remember that first morning I was here, after we escaped from Wallace?” When Clarke nodded, he approached the table they’d been using. “You were still bathing once I finished changing, so I was going to go back into the living room, but I heard a noise. The library door was open so I came in to look. Monty was in here, with a pile of books in his hands. The top one was this,” Bellamy said, picking up the oldest looking volume on the table. Clarke remembered it as the book Bellamy and Miller had come back for that day, the one Miller’s colleague had told them to consult.
“All right. What’s so secretive about that?”
“When I asked him about it, Monty said his father had left a few things lying around, and he was sorting them out.”
“So, that’s odd. Why would he bother to tidy up then? We still hadn’t heard back from his friend at that time.”
Clarke could agree it was unusual, but she didn’t see anything nefarious in Monty’s conduct. “Sometimes people do strange things when they’re anxious.”
Bellamy was already shaking his head. “He said his father collected rare books. But no collector would leave something as valuable as this lying around their house while they were away. I was too distracted at the time to think about it, and it was only later that I heard just how long his parents are supposed to have been away. I didn’t put it together until I noticed these,” he said, pointing at the shelf he’d been examining when Clarke first returned to the library. “These books here, they’re all rare. But not just any rare books, rare magic books.”
“But you must have come across such specialised collections before,” Clarke pointed out.
“It’s not the collection I’m worried about, it’s the secrecy. We told him what had happened that morning. Maybe not the whole story, but the crux of it. Why wouldn’t he mention that his father was interested in magic and might have more resources we could use if that’s all it was?”
“Then what do you think it is?”
He emitted a frustrated sigh, hands resting on his hips. “I don’t know,” he admitted, “but something doesn’t feel right.”
Clarke watched as Bellamy leant back against the wall, tired lines creeping into his face. She was tempted to tell him he needed some rest, but she knew he wouldn’t appreciate that. He might even think that she believed his suspicions about Monty were entirely down to exhaustion, which wouldn’t help the careful détente they had reached. Besides, she thought his fatigue was only half the issue.
Desirous of a solution that might put his mind at rest, without making him think she was dismissing his fears, Clarke walked up to the shelf and suggested, “Well then, why don’t we have a look through some of these?”
He straightened, but made no move to help Clarke as she started examining the titles. Bellamy told her, “They’re not likely to be helpful—“
“But if you think Monty is keeping something from us, then maybe a closer look will tell us something,” she noted. It wasn’t being nosy when he had already told them to make themselves at home during their stay.
“We’ve spent all day looking through the other books for answers and haven’t gotten anywhere,” Bellamy began, to no avail. Clarke was already removing the books off the shelf and passing them to her husband, one by one, and he created a pile in his arms even as he pointed out, “I thought I’d be the last person to say so, but maybe the answer isn’t going to be in a book. You said the tele—“
Clarke stopped her actions when she noticed the way her husband’s mouth hung open wide, despite his halted speech. “Bellamy?”
He tried to drop the books onto the now empty corner of the shelf next to him, but even laying horizontally, there were too many volumes. Clarke took the two books that wouldn’t fit to free his hands.
“What is it?” she asked, growing concerned at his still shocked expression.
Quiet even now, he stepped around her and pulled out the remaining books in one go, twisting to drop them onto the empty chair nearby with a carelessness that surprised Clarke. Had he not just said these were rare volumes? He was looking at the shelf again when he asked, “Do you see that?”
“See what?” Clarke wondered. As far as she could tell, they were staring at a completely empty corner of the shelf. The light in this corner of the room was an issue with all the available lamps clustered on their table. As such, it was difficult to make out any markings on the wood, if that was what Bellamy was driving at.
It turned out he wasn’t. “Over there. The air.”
The air? She was about to tell her husband that he really did need to rest if he were seeing things in the air when, suddenly, she did see it.
It was subtle, but definitely present. She would have described it as the ripple of a wave on a pond, only it was in the air and confined to a small rectangular area, hovering three inches above the surface of the shelf.
Hesitantly, Bellamy reached his hand out to the space just above the ripple and lowered it slowly.
Clarke gasped when Bellamy’s hand stopped moving. For instead of touching the shelf, it landed on an object lying on its side that materialised as soon as Bellamy’s palm made contact.
“How—” Clarke began, “Did you—”
“I didn’t do anything,” Bellamy said, though he didn’t sound convinced himself.
“Wha— But how?”
“A cloaking spell,” he explained, moving his hand around the rough object gently, making it come into clearer focus. “The basic ones keep things invisible to the untrained eye, but they reveal themselves if you touch the object.”
“How could you even tell?” Clarke wondered.
“It’s one of the few spells I’ve seen in practice, rather than just reading about,” Bellamy explained. “A lot of the magical objects I’ve helped uncover have been cloaked—after a while, you learn to spot the signs.”
“Is it a book?”
“Feels like it,” he replied, finally pulling the volume out. His eyes grew wide once more as he studied the cover.
It appeared much older than the others and had a unique lock binding the pages together. Clarke couldn’t see the spine from the way Bellamy held it in both hands, but the front cover bore no title: only an assortment of symbols.
When Bellamy spoke, his voice was almost reverent. “It’s a grimoire.”
“What?” Clarke spoke in astonishment rather than misunderstanding, though her husband didn’t realise.
“Clarke, all those other books,” he began, eyes still not leaving the heavy volume in his hands, “they’re about magic. This book— This book is magic.”
“I know,” she told him, mentally sorting through what she had learned about magical history in the last week. “It’s a… book of spells?”
“In basic terms, yes. But it’s so much more than that. Any magician can have a book of spells, but a grimoire is so much more than that, has much more history. They’re usually passed down families through generations,” he explained. “You see this symbol?” he pointed to one of the markings on the cover.
Before he could explain the symbol to her, there was a loud rap on the door, which silenced them both. Clarke’s gaze quickly shot forward, and the crack in the door reminded her that in her hurry to return with the telegram, she hadn’t remembered to latch it.
Certain the servants would wait for a response before increasing the gap, Clarke was about to race forward and answer it herself. However, the door opened wide before she could.
Monty stepped into the room. He had only formed the initial “H” sound of his greeting before he turned quiet and the pleasant smile fell off his face.
Clarke gulped and looked between Monty and her husband, at a complete loss for words.
Bellamy didn’t appear to have the same problem. He turned the book in his hands around so the cover faced Monty and pointed to the same symbol he had just shown Clarke. “I suppose this is your family crest?”
Although still ashen, Monty jerked back to life at Bellamy’s words, jumping into the room and closing the door behind him. “I can explain.”
For all the time she spent growing up, cultivating her interest in magic, it had never crossed Clarke’s mind that she would one day become friends with a magician. Even meeting one never seemed likely under her mother’s roof, so making friends with one was unfathomable. Witches and wizards were few and far between nowadays, and the rumours were that at least half the known magicians in London were tricksters rather than truly gifted. Besides, the stories she had heard about magic always made the magicians seem like these ethereal figures: ancient and mysterious and larger than life.
She had never pictured they could also be like Monty Green: young, sweet and normal.
That aspect hadn’t bothered her husband. Clearly, one thing he had learnt from his years of expertise was that magicians were more likely than not to appear ordinary. They learned to blend in. Nonetheless, it was somewhat gratifying that he seemed just as surprised as she to learn Monty had been hiding his gift right under their noses.
It must have helped that they were so distracted by Cage Wallace, as well as the fact that Monty didn’t practice magic very often. Still, Clarke was annoyed with herself that she had been fooled, no matter how innocent the deception. She would have understood his desire for secrecy regardless, but her recent reading had revealed the extent to which some magicians had suffered at the hands of others when they were found out. That sort of crime was illegal nowadays, but Bellamy himself had told Clarke of so-called experts in his field who spent their time hunting down the ancestors of old magicians, rather than just their tokens, and finding various means to profit from them.
“I kept going back and forth, trying to decide whether staying quiet was the right thing,” Monty admitted. He was slumped back into the chair opposite Bellamy at the table Clarke had come to think of as theirs. She and Bellamy had returned to their earlier seats eagerly as Monty told them his side of the story; torn between wanting to help them, and not wanting to reveal the one thing his parents had always insisted he keep secret. “In the end, it seemed easier to keep myself out if it. And I thought it might be difficult to tell Wells—after all this time.”
“Wells will understand,” Clarke assured him instantly, for which Monty offered her a grateful smile.
“Do both your parents have the gift as well? Or was it just one of them?” Bellamy asked. “If they want to keep it secret did they tell you about it, or wait until you showed—“
“Bellamy,” Clarke cut in pointedly. “That’s hardly relevant.” Bellamy looked over at the overwhelmed Monty and sat back, sheepish.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to ask so many questions,” Bellamy apologised. “It’s just very interesting to me.”
Monty nodded. “I understand. I actually have a lot of questions myself. About your work,” he told Bellamy. “But there are other pressing matters. Do you remember the other night, when you found me in the library?” he asked Clarke, who nodded in response. “Wells had been telling me at dinner how frustrating it was not knowing what to do—how to help. I had decided against looking through my books after that first morning—when you saw me—” Monty added to Bellamy, “but I wondered if I might have something—a spell—that could help.”
Monty shook his head. “Not that I can tell. There are a few locator spells, but they’re mainly for finding people, and I would need to have something that belonged to them. The only one that seemed like it would work on objects requires that I be near it to begin with. Although, my translation of the symbols is somewhat basic,” he noted wryly.
“Both my parents have the gift, but they decided to stop using it before I was born. They taught me our history, and some of the basics when I was a boy, but when I wanted to know more, I had to teach myself.” He looked over at Bellamy then, placing his hands on the book dominating the centre space on the table—the grimoire. “You would have studied these, though, right? Perhaps you should take a look.”
Bellamy’s entire face lit up, brighter than Clarke had ever seen him. “Are you sure?”
“Of course,” Monty said, reaching for the book. His careless movements were in stark contrast to the delicate, reverent way Bellamy had handled it upon discovery. The flick of his wrist as he muttered a few words to unlock it was so practised and quick, Clarke almost missed the action. She did, however, notice that as the men cleared the table to make space to lay the large one flat, something slid to the edge and then fluttered to the floor.
Reaching down for the item, Clarke reflected that, before Monty’s revelation had completely overtaken her thoughts, this would have been the most exciting part of her day. Well, her afternoon, at least.
“Kane’s telegram,” she murmured, mostly to herself, and tore into it.
“Kane,” Monty mused, pausing his turning of pages. “He’s a friend of Wells’ father?”
“Yes, he said he’d try to help us,” Clarke replied, scanning her eyes over the contents of the telegram. She had been prepared not to understand the note or the code Marcus mentioned using. What she didn’t expect was to be able to understand each word and still to be utterly flummoxed by it.
“What sort of code is this?” she exclaimed, thrusting the paper at Bellamy. “It’s just a lot of punctuation.”
Bellamy examined the paper closely, holding it up to his eyes and towards one of the lamps, as if that would reveal the answer. Or perhaps, Clarke considered, as if he were struggling to read it.
“Your glasses!” Clarke suddenly remembered. She had seen him wear them on only a handful of occasions. All after they were married and inside the house, now that she thought about it. Although, she didn’t recall finding them in his study or bedroom after he’d left.
He grimaced. “Lost them sometime before I reached Paris. I don’t always need them, though,” Bellamy added at Clarke’s look of concern. “Only when I have quite a lot of reading to do,” he said, before studying the note once more, as if Clarke wasn’t well aware that was exactly how he’d spent his day.
Well, if she couldn’t conjure up a new pair for him, she could at least help in other ways. Clarke retired to fetch more gas lamps to provide better light. Although she had initially thought to get at least two, the offer from the manservant to carry them up himself reminded Clarke that she didn’t know to what extent the staff were aware of the Green family abilities. From his haste to shut the door when he first arrived and the mention of his parents’ secrecy, she was inclined to think they didn’t. So, Clarke declined the help and took just one lamp back to the room. It wasn’t as if she couldn’t go back downstairs for more if necessary.
She had not been gone long, but when she returned, Clarke found the men had pushed the grimoire to the side of the table as they had with the other books only minutes earlier. In its place in the centre of the table sat Marcus’ telegram and… her notebook?
Setting the lamp next to Bellamy, Clarke watched over his shoulder as he scribbled in pencil on a clear sheet of paper in the notebook. “What is that?” she asked.
Her husband hardly paused in his scribbling, but Monty took pity on the baffled look that Clarke knew had overtaken her face.
“It seems he’s used the punctuation to send us a symbol, but we haven’t worked out which one yet.”
Observing how Bellamy rotated the paper, Clarke began to recognise the way the punctuation marks in the telegram formed the basis of what he was drawing on the page. His strokes were messy, the notations creating one large circle that Bellamy drew lines through as he tried to match them up.
“Of course,” Bellamy suddenly muttered before putting pencil to paper in a blank corner of the sheet. This time, the strokes created a smaller shape out of some of the punctuation marks; hexagonal on one side, and circular on the other. Clarke didn’t need Monty and Bellamy to explain that one to her, since they had all just been looking at the same mark along the spine of a book: the symbol for a grimoire.
However, after that quick realisation, they became stuck, staring at the jumble of lines and dots, twisting the paper this way and that without decoding anything.
It was while she re-examined the original telegram to ensure they had copied its contents correctly that something occurred to Clarke. “Why don’t you take out the dots? Where Marcus wrote STOP.”
Bellamy’s brow furrowed. “Why? It’s part of the code. See this part:” he pointed at a section near the start they had yet to decode, “there’s a double STOP.”
“Yes, that second one may be the start of a new symbol, but I think the first and some of these other ones could just denote the end. The marks in the grimoire, they’re all this last set of punctuation,” Clarke showed him, “and see how a STOP precedes it? I think he’s used them as breaks, just like a normal telegram.”
“There doesn’t seem much point in sending the STOPs at all, then. Surely that’s only more confusing?”
“I know. But you know how exacting Marcus can be. Perhaps he thought they would be helpful in breaking up the symbols.”
“It’s worth a try,” Monty offered.
He was frowning, but Bellamy still redrew the marks in sets, grouped by the supposed breaks. He was drawing the third, and final set before the already decoded grimoire notation, when he stopped suddenly, eyes widening.
“Do you recognise it?”
Bellamy drew a line through two of the marks before he pulled the edge of the paper up to better show Clarke. “This is the symbol on the book—that old family journal—that Cage had. He only showed it to me briefly so I could translate some of the writing, but I’m sure it was this one. It must be the family crest.”
“I’ve seen the Wallace family crest. It doesn’t look like that,” Clarke said, remembering the shape of a lion as part of the formation. “I suppose they could have changed it on purpose.”
“It might not be the Wallace family’s either,” Bellamy noted. “Wells said Thelonious had mentioned a connection on the great-grandmother’s side, didn’t he? It could be from her family.”
“That’s true. I suppose that means Marcus is telling us to… find their family grimoire? That isn’t particularly helpful,” Clarke frowned. “Where would we even start looking?”
“I think I know,” Monty offered, whose eyes had been fixed to the piece of paper while Clarke and Bellamy discussed the crest. Looking up, he asked Bellamy, “Have you ever been to the Bibliothèque nationale? To their permanent exhibition on magical history?”
Bellamy nodded. “Yes, I have. Twice. Though I’ve never been able to spend as much time there as I would have liked.”
“I’ve been there often—since my parents wouldn’t teach me, the National Library has been quite helpful. I still go regularly,” Monty admitted. “They have a small collection of spell books, but there is one particularly grand one that’s been displayed there for years that I always admire. It was donated anonymously to the collection, so there’s no information about the family, but I think— I’d have to go there to be sure,” Monty prefaced, “but I think this is the family symbol on it.”
“You’re saying that after all this time we’ve spent looking for clues, we could have found Cage’s family grimoire at the National Library?” Bellamy asked.
“If that’s really the symbol you saw on that diary, then yes. Though, donating their family book to a library is a strangely public gesture for a family trying to distance themselves from their magical past,” Monty observed.
“It’s the largest book collection in the world,” Bellamy pointed out. “Maybe someone wanted to hide it in plain sight. Its magic would have protected it from being destroyed.”
“Hide it from who?” Monty wondered.
“From Cage,” Clarke thought. “He’s clearly trying to get his hands on the kind of magic his ancestors had, but that doesn’t mean all the family is. If the Earl wanted to separate that part of their history from them, what better way than sending the grimoire abroad as an anonymous donation? In England, most of the public old grimoires are displayed in the British Museum, aren’t they?” she asked Bellamy, who nodded. “I doubt Cage would end up there often, but he might go there with a group, and spot it. And like you said, it can’t be destroyed. But Lord Wallace must have known Cage would never voluntarily go to a library.” Bellamy snorted at that, and Clarke grinned at him before turning to ask Monty, “How far away is the library from here?”
“Not too far, but,” he paused to glance at the clock, “even in a car we wouldn’t get there before it closed.”
Clarke sighed and leaned back in her chair. Just when she thought they were getting somewhere, she’d have to wait a little longer for answers.
Noticing her disappointment, Monty said, “It doesn’t open very early, but we can go first thing.”
“Won’t you have trouble from work for missing more time? I don’t want to make things more difficult for you.”
Monty shook his head. “To tell you the truth, I’ve wanted to get involved with this. And I can just tell my boss that I’ve fallen ill or something.”
“Speaking of your work,” Bellamy wondered, “I don’t remember you saying what you did? Is it related to magic as well or—”
“Oh, no,” Monty replied, “I work for the newspaper.”
It wasn’t particularly late when Clarke began getting ready for bed, but she felt far more drained than she would have expected after a day that mainly consisted of reading. Following a quick break for dinner, Clarke and Bellamy had returned to the library with Monty in tow to work out the first two symbols of the telegram. Despite drawing a blank on the first, the most likely candidate for the second appeared to be the symbol for learning. However, this just suggested that Marcus was trying to point them in the direction of the library, which Monty had already been able to tell them.
Their energy flagging, it wasn’t difficult to convince Bellamy that they should give up their investigations for the day and hope their trip to the National Library would shed new light on the matter.
Clarke would have said they all retired with fresh hope for the next day, if they had not also grown concerned about the lack of communication from Raven and Miller—and Wells, for that matter. In that quarter, Clarke at least supposed that could simply be the direct result of not wanting to leave the Vies until Raven had returned, but she had no way of being certain.
Since Clarke had changed first, she was brushing her hair while Bellamy used the bathroom. She also used the time to debate the best way to handle any potential bartering over sleeping arrangements for that night.
She had already agreed that they could switch places from the night before if he wished, but despite his health seeming better, she worried such an action could set him back. Clarke supposed she could settle into the chair and pretend to have drifted off by the time he came out of the bathroom, but she doubted that would stop him from taking the floor anyway. It would be ridiculous of him, but Clarke wouldn’t put it past Bellamy.
The sound of footsteps outside the door distracted Clarke from her musings. She set the brush down and tied her robe carefully before leaving the room. Clarke had only moved a few paces when a large smile spread across her face at the sight of her friend coming up the stairs.
“Wells,” she said happily. “Are you alright?”
“I’m perfectly fine,” he responded with a smile as he took the last few steps to reach the landing. He kept his voice low in deference to the hour. “I’ve spent practically all day playing cards with a charming young lady and her father, so I’ve no complaints.”
Clarke giggled, growing easy at his tone, although she had to ask, “And Raven and Miller?”
“Both safe,” he affirmed. “Although apparently they nearly had a run in with two of Lord Cage’s men that Mr. Miller recognised from the mansion. They’re fine,” he added, when Clarke’s face fell, “just disappointed that they didn’t find anything. Mr. Miller at least seemed positive they were on the right trail since those men were there too. Did you and Mr. Blake find anything?” he asked, now standing directly opposite her.
“Yes— Well—” Clarke began to correct herself and before stopping suddenly. Technically, the most significant thing they had found out wasn’t related to the case. As much as she didn’t like keeping anything from Wells, it wasn’t her secret to tell. “We have a good lead,” she settled on, “but we need to go to the National Library tomorrow morning.”
“I see. Well, Raven wasn’t sure if she could join Mr. Miller again tomorrow. It seemed like her old injury troubled her more than she would like. I offered my services, but we thought it best to decide tomorrow morning, once Raven could see how her leg felt.” When Clarke nodded, Wells added, “I’ll let you get to bed then.”
Clarke nodded again. Then, impulsively, she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and embraced her friend.
“Is everything alright?” he asked, concern lacing his voice even as he returned her hug.
“Yes,” Clarke affirmed, a little surprised at her own reaction. Perhaps what Bellamy had said earlier had been right— You couldn’t help but worry more after a kidnapping, even if you knew logically there was little reason to do so. “I’m just glad you’re safe.”
She was just starting to step back when Clarke heard a noise from behind her.
“Mr. Blake,” Wells said as he finished moving out of her embrace. “Mr. Miller sends his regards.”
“Thank you.” Bellamy’s voice seemed rougher than Clarke expected, though she wrote it off as another sign of the fatigue he claimed not to suffer from. “Did he find anything?”
“Only a few signs of trouble,” Wells commented.
Clarke smiled, but when she turned, she noticed Bellamy’s face looked blank and unamused.
“He’s going to drive out again tomorrow, but—“ Wells stopped, interrupted by Monty who stepped out of his bedroom and onto the landing to join his houseguests.
“Wells, you’re back.”
“Yes,” Wells turned around and smiled at his friend. “I’m sorry to wake you.”
Monty shook his head. “That’s all right, I hadn’t fallen asleep. I’m glad you’re here actually,” Monty said, before pausing and looking over to Clarke.
Immediately understanding, Clarke piped up, “I think Bellamy and I will retire now.” Bellamy began to speak, but sensing he would counter her, she said “Goodnight!” loudly and with bright cheer. Then, she started walking to the spare bedroom, only stopping to tug on the back of Bellamy’s nightshirt when he didn’t immediately follow her.
She stood next to the door until he had entered and then closed it quietly behind him.
“I wanted to find out what happened with Miller,” Bellamy grumbled, sitting down on the edge of the bed.
“I can tell you that,” Clarke said primly and then repeated what Wells had told her.
Bellamy frowned. “There must be more to it than that. What were Cage’s men doing?”
He started to stand, but Clarke held a hand out to stop him. “We can ask Wells in the morning.”
“Why not now? It sounds like they’re still outside.”
“Because Monty needs to tell Wells about his gift.”
Bellamy looked more perplexed. “That’s why we left? We already know about that, why can’t we be there?”
Clarke’s eyes widened, incredulous at her husband’s density. “Because Monty clearly wanted to speak to Wells in private. If I had the gift and had to tell Wells I’d been keeping it secret from him for years, I wouldn’t want an audience,” Clarke reasoned. She started moving about the room, tidying up some of her things as Bellamy mused on this.
“So, you think their friendship is the same as yours with Mr. Jaha?” he wondered finally.
“Not the same,” Clarke allowed. “But they are very close. Wells and Monty deserve the time to themselves to discuss something so significant.” Bellamy didn’t reply, but when Clarke looked over at him he seemed to be nodding. “You know,” she thought, “you and I haven’t had chance to ourselves to discuss that revelation.”
“Which one?” came Bellamy’s instant reply. Their eyes caught then and Bellamy visibly blanched at his slip while Clarke felt the colour return to her cheeks.
In a day full of discoveries, all the others still paled in comparison to their discussion from the morning. It occurred to Clarke that she could (and probably should) give Bellamy back his journal now, but that might mean they had to discuss the subject once more.
“I hadn’t expected to find a wizard right under our noses,” Bellamy said, looking at the floor as he obviously changed the subject. “But it might be nice to have one on our side.”
Clarke nodded. “Yes, that’s true. It should come in ha— What are you doing?” she asked, when she realised he was standing to pick up the blanket she had used the night before when she slept in the chair.
“I know you’re going to say I shouldn’t sleep on the floor,” Bellamy said, “but that wasn’t what I was about to suggest.”
“Don’t say the chair.”
“Actually,” Bellamy replied, sounding proud of himself, “I was going to say the bathtub.”
“The tub?” Clarke did not slap her palm to her forehead, but it was a near thing.
“Surely you can’t object to that.”
“Of course I can object!” Clarke retorted. “It’s not even long enough for my legs to stretch out, never mind yours.”
“I’m better today,” Bellamy argued. “I haven’t coughed in at least four hours.”
“So, what would you call that incident at dinner, then?”
Bellamy pursed his lips, but insisted, “I was choking.”
Clarke raised her eyebrow. “On cream of mushroom soup?”
“It went down the wrong way.”
Clarke folded her arms and stared him down. “You’re taking the bed.”
“I’m not letting you sleep in a chair again.”
“Fine! Then we’ll share.”
Bellamy paled at the suggestion. To tell the truth, Clarke wasn’t so certain about it either, the words bursting from her lips before she had fully thought them through, but it was a large bed. And, after all, they were married.
“You really don’t have to—“ he began, but Clarke had made up her mind by that point.
“I won’t get in if you don’t.”
He frowned, but didn’t have a response to that. With less awkwardness than she might have feared, they were soon tucked into the bed with the light off. Clarke tried to stay close to her edge of the bed, as Bellamy lay still on his, but she found it harder than ever to turn her mind off. She kept switching positions, going from flat on her back to her right side, facing the door to the bathroom, but she couldn’t lie in one place for long. She decided to try her other side, but just as she moved to turn over, Clarke started in shock. Bellamy was not as asleep as she had believed. Though he lay on his back, his breathing even, his head tilted towards her. Even in the dark, she could tell that his eyes were open and trained on her.
“I thought you were asleep,” she said, unable to keep a hint of accusation out of her voice thanks to the rapid pace of her heart.
“I can’t decide if you’re uncomfortable, or deliberately trying to punish me for insisting you take the bed,” he noted in a gravelly whisper.
Despite herself, Clarke snorted loudly, then clapped a hand over her mouth. “I’m sorry,” she whispered back from between her fingers. “I’m just having trouble falling asleep.”
“Is something bothering you?”
“Maybe,” she allowed, moving her left hand to rest over her right on top of the covers.
He studied her gravely. “You know you can talk to me… if you want to.”
“I’m not sure I really know what’s keeping me awake,” she admitted.
Bellamy nodded, as if in acceptance, but his eyes left hers then, staring off towards the foot of the bed. “Well, goodnight then,” he said, before turning so the duvet came up to cover his shoulder as he faced the hall door.
She stared at his back for a long moment before whispering, “Goodnight.”
Thanks for reading, let me know your thoughts :)
Most of the fic is written now and just needs editing, so we're not far off the end guys! :o Thanks for your feedback so far, and hope you enjoy the update :)
While last night it seemed like good luck that the grimoire they needed to consult was in such a public space, in the cold light of morning the many issues of this availability began to sink in.
The book was part of the exhibition, rather than the library’s lending collection, which meant that they didn’t have to worry about it being taken out by someone else before they could get there. However, as part of the exhibition, it was a display-only item. Kept behind a locked glass case, it wasn’t available for public perusal. Although Monty had a spell that would allow them to quietly unlock the cabinet, someone was bound to notice if they tried to walk off with a large, embellished tome to read it in secret. And, as the grimoire had pride of place in one of the exhibition rooms, they couldn’t exactly rifle through its contents in full view.
For the same reason, the cloaking spell that Monty had employed on his own grimoire would not work in this circumstance, but Clarke couldn’t help but think that magic of some kind was their best option.
“Do you have any other spell,” she wondered, consciously lowering her voice at that word, even though the servants had long since left the breakfast table, “that we could use? Something that could make people think they were seeing something that isn’t there?”
Monty grimaced as he sipped his tea. “Those spells certainly exist, but tricking the eye is complicated magic. I don’t have that kind of skill.”
“What if we didn’t have to make people believe they’re seeing something that’s not there?” Wells supposed. When the other three just stared at him blankly, he continued, “I would assume many of the visitors to the exhibition will be new.”
“And they won’t know what they should be looking at,” Bellamy finished for him, eyes widening in understanding.
Clarke was delighted to see her husband and best friend smiling at each other in camaraderie. The feeling, however, was somewhat offset by her own lack of understanding. “Would you care to explain?”
“We switch the book with another,” Wells suggested, eager. “The room will have to be empty long enough to make the exchange, but provided there is a book there for visitors to look at, it doesn’t matter what book it is. We only need to make sure that none of the staff notice before we return it.”
“But we can’t just replace a grimoire with any old book,” Clarke pointed out. “It would have to look special enough to be in the display.”
“It would,” Bellamy agreed, “but we do have a grimoire,” he reminded, as all eyes turned to Monty. “That is, if you wouldn’t mind us using it?”
As Monty paled, Wells’ smile faded somewhat. “It’s a lot to ask after you’ve kept it so well hidden all this time,” he told his friend.
“No,” Monty said, shaking his head. “It’s okay. It’s a good idea—as long as we get it back. If I lost it, that would be…” he trailed off, unable to put the unfathomable into words. “My parents would never forgive me.”
“We won’t lose it. We’ll make sure of that,” Clarke assured him, hoping that it was true.
“Maybe,” Wells began, his eagerness returning, “when you have the other grimoire, you could just quietly tear out the pages you need, so you could return the book sooner?”
Clarke’s face twisted into a grimace, but her reaction was nothing compared to the expressions of pure horror that came over both Bellamy and Monty.
“Well, I don’t like to tear pages out of books either,” Wells defended, “but isn’t there a spell that can repair it later?”
Monty scoffed. “Yes, if it were a normal book perhaps, but you can’t just magic a grimoire back together! You couldn’t tear its pages out in the first place.”
“Grimoires are very hard to destroy,” Clarke clarified for Wells, as Bellamy and Monty were both too busy murmuring to each other over the table at the audacity of such a proposal.
This only heightened Wells’ curiosity. Despite their conversation last night, Monty had not shown his friend the volume that had revealed his secret to Clarke and Bellamy. Once Monty and Wells both finished eating, they took their coffees up to the library so that they could perform a close inspection of the Green grimoire before taking it from the house.
Clarke expected Bellamy to follow them, but he seemed in no rush to finish his last piece of bread. She took another sip of her tea as she quietly observed her husband. If he was content to remain in her company for a little while longer, Clarke wasn’t going to send him away. This was the first time they’d been alone (and conscious) all morning, and likely their only chance for the rest of the day, depending on what they found at the BnF.
She had been the first to wake, and by the time she emerged from the bathroom, Bellamy had already left to take up residence in the Greens’ library with Monty by his side. Clarke had joined them in transcribing some of the more valuable research they had completed the day before. They couldn’t possibly take all the books with them, but if the much larger library did provide them with the final answers they needed, it wouldn’t do to be without the methods they had uncovered to prevent the gauntlets’ use. They wouldn’t want to delay just to come back to the house.
It was essential work, but Clarke sometimes found herself distracted from it. Instead of focusing on the task at hand, her attention was split between the books and over-thinking her behaviour towards her husband with someone else in their company. Clarke wasn’t entirely sure where things stood between them after their talks yesterday, and she didn’t want Bellamy to think she was being forward when their hands sometimes touched. At the same time, she couldn’t help but wonder if Monty might consider them not affectionate enough for a newlywed couple reunited after a kidnaping. It shouldn’t have been an important consideration when they’d had so many companions recently, but after spending most of the previous day alone together, and considering the position she’d found herself very early that morning, she felt strangely self-conscious.
It had taken her a long time to fall asleep the previous night, and she’d lain awake well after Bellamy began softly snoring. After all her tossing and turning when they first settled into bed, Clarke had done her best not to disturb him again. However, when she awoke unseasonably early Clarke found she had managed to venture away from her designated side of the bed and (there was no other word for it) nestle herself up against Bellamy’s back. She had flushed crimson when she’d realised— in the midst of nuzzling her cheek against his shoulder blade no less. His broad frame was rather warm. It was no wonder she had been drawn to him, she told herself.
At least she had been spared the embarrassment of Bellamy noticing her behaviour. Or, so she hoped.
Clarke certainly wasn’t going to bring that morning up, but there was something from the previous day that she wished to discuss with him, now they were alone.
“I’ve been thinking,” she began, “about Marcus’ telegram.”
“Oh? What about it?”
“How Marcus knew to send us that message,” Clarke said.
Bellamy looked away from his plate, to meet her eyes then. “Kane accompanied me to a lecture on coded messages about two or three months ago. It didn’t focus on magic, but afterwards I told him about some of the codes I’d seen magicians use, including the use of punctuation for symbols. We didn’t go into the full details of it, and his knowledge of the symbols is quite rudimentary, which is why his style was more improvised, but—“
“That’s not what I meant,” Clarke cut in, though the idea of the two men attending lectures together in their leisure time amused her and was something she would definitely inquire about another time. “I’ve been wondering how Kane found out the information about the grimoire.”
“Ah. Investigators, I imagine.”
“That’s just it. After what happened to me, with Ms. Tsing, I specifically told Marcus that I wanted him to look into this by himself. But to discover that the Wallaces’ grimoire is in the French National Library—where must he have gone to find that! I know he might have hired someone he trusted, but if he has been doing this all himself, then— What if he’s in danger because of me?”
“Not because of you,” Bellamy said instantly.
“He was afraid of letting anything slip over the phone! Because someone could be listening—”
“Someone’s always listening. Isn’t that why your circle is so wary of what they say over the telephone, even though they all bought one?” It was something they had joked over when they first became friends, but Clarke wasn’t mollified by Bellamy’s jest. Softening, he said, “Marcus will be fine. He can take care of himself.”
Clarke frowned. “But Octavia and I can’t? Because he’s a man?” Clarke hadn’t believed Bellamy thought like that, but the idea still sprang to mind.
He didn’t look impressed. “Because he’s a high-powered barrister with lots of money.”
“Just yesterday you were telling me how I put everyone in danger,” Clarke pouted, and Bellamy’s face fell.
“No, I— I didn’t mean it in that way. I was upset.”
“You were right though. It’s because of me more people than necessary are involved. Maybe I have put them in danger—“
“There’s no need to be so hard on yourself,” Bellamy implored.
“But you said—“
“I know what I said. I was worried, and I took it out on you.”
“Regardless,” Clarke shook her head, “I can’t help but think you might have been right.” She looked away from him, staring instead at her empty teacup before placing it back on the saucer. When Bellamy’s silence continued, she wondered if she should leave until he surprised her with his next words.
“For what it’s worth, I think you were right too. In using the resources at your disposal to find out more,” Bellamy explained, when she looked at him in surprise. “I still don’t like getting more people involved, but if it means we find the gauntlets sooner—and keep Cage from hurting anyone else—then maybe it’s worth it.”
“I suppose. How is it we seem to have reversed positions in less than a day?” she asked with a rueful laugh.
Bellamy smiled back. “Maybe because there’s no easy answer. But, I think if we keep working, together, we’ll figure it out.”
Clarke might have missed the emphasis of his statement, so casually it was spoken, if he hadn’t combined the word with action, placing one of his hands over hers where it rested on the tablecloth. The movement startled her a little, so he began to pull his hand away, but she caught it before he could. Turning her hand up so their palms were touching, Clarke titled her head to look at her husband. His cheeks were slightly flushed, but he didn’t shy away from her gaze.
As she nodded in response, her mind harked back to another image of her husband. Even though his smile was more muted, the warmth in Bellamy’s face now reminded her of the photo Octavia had provided. With a slight blush, Clarke remembered that both the photo and his journal were with her possessions upstairs, but another recollection soon overtook that sheepishness.
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “I never asked you what Octavia said on the phone yesterday. Are she and Aurora well?”
He seemed surprised by her sudden change of subject, but pleased nonetheless. “They are, thank you.” He recounted their short conversation, his fondness for his sister and niece coming through even the most banal discussion. It seemed Octavia was eager for him to come home, and Clarke couldn’t help but agree, thinking that back in London she and Bellamy would finally have the time to figure out what they meant to each other. To do that they needed to beat Cage at his own search and put all this behind them, which required leaving the breakfast table and joining their friends.
But, as there was still a while to go before the library opened, Clarke let herself enjoy the feeling of Bellamy’s hand clasped between hers for a few minutes longer.
Minutes after the French National Library opened its doors, Clarke walked through them alongside her husband and Monty, Wells following slightly behind. Raven’s leg was still giving her some trouble, so she had decided to remain with Maya and her father.
When Miller had arrived to tell them that news, Wells had offered to go to the apartment again anyway, since Raven would need to rest. However, Maya had apparently been perfectly at ease with no additional protection, believing Miss Reyes was still more than capable of taking care of things if necessary. Clarke couldn’t help but agree—injured or not, Clarke had every confidence that Raven was a most formidable opponent. She then expected that Wells might offer to accompany Miller, but he seemed much more interested in joining the trip to the library.
Unconcerned by this turn of events, Miller left them after a quick visit. He was eager to return to the trail he’d been on yesterday, though he did first provide a few tips on how best to pass unnoticed between some of the rooms at the BnF, using certain passageways that weren’t immediately obvious to visitors. Clarke was highly intrigued as to why her husband’s best friend knew such information, not to mention his lock-picking skills, but that was a question for another time.
As part of their plan, Wells was to keep his distance from the remaining trio, just another lone visitor to the exhibition. That way he could amble through the exhibition rooms and keep an eye on the Green family grimoire once the switch had been made. The rest of them would make the switch, slip the grimoire into a reading room, and hopefully find the vital clue they needed quickly, returning the book before any staff noticed.
On a weekday morning in the off-season, the exhibition halls were relatively quiet. Unfortunately, the room that proudly displayed the grimoire they wished to whisk away was not entirely devoid of visitors, which it needed to be for their plan to work. Initially, the trio carefully milled about the room separately so they could have a good vantage of their quarry. As soon as the other visitors began to disperse, they converged upon the grimoire’s display case.
Clarke immediately saw the resemblance between the symbol that Bellamy had drawn and the one that adorned the book’s cover—though the gleaming of the carved emblem was far more ostentatious than Bellamy’s crude pencil sketch. Monty was the one who was to make the switch, with Bellamy and Clarke stationed on either side, both so they could keep close watch and obscure his actions from view.
Monty quietly whispered a few strange words, which were met with a quiet click that Clarke assumed meant the cabinet lock had opened. Just as she was breathing a sigh of relief that the first part of their plan was going smoothly, she heard Bellamy loudly clear his throat, their chosen alert signal. Subtly tilting her head, Clarke noticed a man was approaching from the entryway on Bellamy’s side.
She recognised him from their entrance barely fifteen minutes prior, when she had seen him talking to one of the library staff behind the front desk. From his smart, dark clothes and the way his eyes seemed to carefully scan his surroundings, Clarke suspected he was a watchman employed by the library, rather than an ordinary guest.
This was the last employee they wanted to see, especially when Monty had only just widened the opening to the case. He hadn’t even made the switch yet.
Thinking quickly, Clarke walked around Monty and took her husband’s arm, pressing herself in close to his side as she made sure her wedding ring was visible from where she placed her hand. Such behaviour would have been considered overly affectionate in public by her mother’s friends, but it had the benefit of better shielding Monty and the grimoire from the man’s view. Clarke wasn’t sure if they had a more relaxed view on such behaviour in Paris, but she’d rather end up talked about as too demonstrative a wife than an accomplice to attempted theft.
Which, technically she was. She comforted herself that it was for a greater good. And they were going to put it back.
“Oh, darling, isn’t it such a splendid painting?” she said loudly, just as the man entered the room. The colour seemed to fade from Bellamy’s face, but he at least managed a faint smile as he glanced down at her. “Don’t you think so, dearest?” Clarke prodded helpfully, gesturing over to the one that hung on the wall opposite.
Splendid might not have been the best choice of words to describe the artwork—the colours were striking and vibrant, to be sure, but on closer inspection the scene seemed to depict a ritualistic sacrifice by practitioners of dark magic in the Middle Ages. But she’d had to think on her feet, and it was the most obvious item between them and the watchman, and Clarke needed to draw his attention in that direction.
“Indeed,” Bellamy said, somewhat awkward. “Extraordinary.”
Clarke tugged Bellamy along with her to approach the man as he came up beside the painting. “Excusez-moi, parlez-vous anglais?” Clarke asked.
“Oui, Madame. A little,” he nodded.
“Oh, thank heavens,” Clarke said breathily, emphasising her accent. “You see, we’ve come to Paris for our honeymoon, but we’re both terrible at reading French! Aren’t we, darling?”
“Terrible,” Bellamy managed.
She put on her best society laugh, exaggerating the sound to drown out Bellamy’s forced chuckle when he tried to join in.
The guard did not appear charmed.
Pointing to the plaque next to the painting, Clarke inquired, “Could you tell us what it says about the painting, s'il vous plaît?”
The man winced at her purposely awful pronunciation. He translated the title of the painting but then informed them that the reception desk had guides for tourists that could better aid them.
“Oh, really? We must have just walked right by it. How silly of me! But I’m always doing things like that, aren’t I, dearest?” Clarke beamed up at Bellamy.
“Yes,” Bellamy mumbled, “you certainly are, wife of mine.”
The man only nodded curtly at them both and then walked straight past them and into the next room, clearly eager to be on his way.
That had been exactly Clarke’s aim, but before she could congratulate herself on a job well done— despite her husband’s lamentable efforts at maintaining the ruse—the sound of Monty clearing his throat created a new concern. Did they have trouble from the other entryway? Clarke had left it unattended in her ploy.
A sharp glance over her shoulder revealed it was only Monty’s way of trying to cover up his laughter.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly, shoulders still shaking, “but your acting is terrible.”
Clarke pouted. “Well, I hadn’t planned for a career on the stage.”
“You were all right,” Monty said, as they moved to join him by the case to make a second attempt at swapping the grimoires. “But really,” he added, with a look at Bellamy, “I would have thought you could make a more convincing husband. You are actually married.”
Bellamy bristled and mumbled something about being put on the spot.
It was tempting to tease him—I mean, really! The best endearment he could come up with was ‘wife of mine’?—but the flush on his cheeks revealed his embarrassment so Clarke bit her lip on her own chuckle and left it alone.
They were on the clock after all.
The reading room was busier than Clarke would have preferred. One wrong move and anyone could recognise the volume they were perusing. However, with construction at one end of the library, it wasn’t surprising that the people who wanted to read quietly had all congregated in one area. She, Bellamy, and Monty did manage to find a secluded enough table to begin their study, though they still spoke softly and took care not to mention any details lest prying ears pick up anything suspicious.
They had brought along a few magical texts, in addition to their own notebooks, which helped to disguise the fact that they were all trying to analyse the same book. Monty and Bellamy were clearly concerned by many of the notes and spells they paged past. Even with her limited knowledge, Clarke could see the warning signs that marked some of them as dangerous.
But, for now, they were only interested in anything pertaining to the gauntlets, so they flipped through as fast as they could without drawing unwanted attention.
Clarke felt her breath catch the moment Monty turned the page to reveal the next. There in the top right corner, a set of gauntlets had been artfully drawn.
“They look more ornate than I expected,” Monty whispered.
“The Wallaces always liked to show off,” Clarke responded, although there were a few more jewels than she would have predicted.
Bellamy was too busy scanning the spread pages in front of them to reply.
Leaving the text to the men since it was in French (although her command of the language was better than she had pretended earlier, her reading comprehension was admittedly weak), Clarke focused her attention on the various symbols and sketches instead. From what she had seen in both this and Monty’s grimoire, the books often employed imagery as quick notations. As Clarke had a keen interest in art, she had taken to the symbolic side of magical texts faster than the many scripts that accompanied it.
While she sketched a copy of the drawing of the gauntlets in her own notebook, Clarke listened to Monty and Bellamy discussing certain phrases, including something that related to the mansion. Because they were all engrossed in their work, Clarke decided to save her questions until later.
Once she finished her sketch, Clarke began analysing the other markings. One pattern stood out to her, mainly because it looked so ordinary. Whereas most of the designs were made of intricate symbols, one at the bottom corner of the page was just a small group of rectangular shapes in a V pattern, uneven hatches drawn through them. It didn’t look like anything magical that she’d ever seen, in fact, it almost resembled—
“Bellamy,” she whispered harshly. When his eyes stayed glued to the page, she tugged impatiently on his sleeve. “Bellamy,” she repeated. “Did you look under the floor?”
“What?” he asked, frowning in confusion.
“When you were in Cage’s mansion? Did you look underneath the floorboards?”
He paused for a moment, thoughtful. “No. We looked in the fireplaces and behind a lot of the old bookcases. Cage was convinced there’d be some kind of secret passageway or something,” he added, shaking his head, “and they moved a lot of furniture around, but, no. I think the only room where we took up the carpet was the room they kept us in. To hide the map.”
“Doesn’t this look like floorboards to you?” Clarke pointed to the drawing, and both Bellamy and Monty took a closer look. No sooner had they leaned in that Clarke turned back to a page they’d skipped past, one she recalled having a similar pattern. “See, and here,” she said; although this drawing was of a much smaller group, the pattern was unmistakable. “I think this was the etching in the floorboards in the room where Cage held us.”
Bellamy studied the drawing more closely, frowning. “It could be, but— I don’t remember it well enough, to be sure.”
That was disappointing, but there was something else about the sketch that spoke to her, so Clarke continued, “And see how this hatch pattern doesn’t line up correctly across the drawing? Some of the rectangles are a lot more marked than the others. It made me think of the scratches on the floorboards in that room, but there shouldn’t have been so much damage when they were under carpet. Not unless someone made the marks deliberately.”
“So that they would know which one to take up,” Bellamy finished.
“Yes, exactly,” Clarke turned to him with delight at the discovery, expecting her excitement to be matched on his face. But instead of his handsome grin, his mouth was turned up in a slight but sure smile, and the look in his eyes could only be termed as fond.
Her eyes caught on his full lips, and she couldn’t help but notice how kissable they looked, before immediately chastising herself for the thought.
Then again, he was her husband. Surely if she was going to think anyone’s lips were kissable, it should be his. And she hadn’t experienced anything other than a perfunctory peck on their wedding day; it was only natural to be curious.
For the second time that morning, Clarke was interrupted by Monty clearing his throat. This time she didn’t need to look at him to realise his purpose. He was subtly, but clearly, trying to remind them of his presence.
She couldn’t fight the flush on her cheeks when she turned back to face their companion, sat across the table from them, a smirk gracing his face. Thankfully, Monty did not comment on their prolonged, silent gaze.
“Well,” Clarke said, hoping she didn’t look as awkward as she felt. “You did say magicians worked out innumerable ways of hidings things.”
Monty remarked, “From what it says here, I think it’s likely they’d be hidden at the family house, but if we don’t want to hunt through every room we’ll still need a translation for these symbols.”
“I think they have something here that can help with that actually,” Bellamy replied, not meeting either of their eyes as he stood from the table. “I’ll just be a few minutes.”
While he was gone, Monty began enlightening Clarke on some of the written sections. She learnt that the gauntlets needed a kind of key in order to activate their power, but that was all Monty had managed to impart when Bellamy came rushing back.
Before Clarke could ask him why he didn’t have a book with him, Bellamy knelt on the floor between them and whispered, “Cage’s men are here.”
“What?” Clarke exclaimed, forgetting herself. The reading room’s other occupants all turned to stare, and Clarke instantly whispered her apology. “Sorry— Pardonez-moi,” she corrected.
Most people turned back to their own work, though the nearest one muttered a complaint first. (Not that she could understand it, since he was speaking under his breath, and in French. But the tone was very clear).
“Did they see you?” Monty asked, just as Clarke wondered how many of them were here.
“I don’t think so, and I only saw Emerson,” Bellamy revealed. “But Miller said Emerson was on the trail he followed yesterday with some of Cage’s other men, so if he’s here, they could be too.”
“But that could mean the trail led them here,” Clarke realised.
Bellamy nodded gravely.
“But how do we—“
Clarke didn’t hear the rest of Monty’s question. It was drowned out by a commotion from behind the main door, drawing the attention of everyone in the room.
Bellamy was the first to react. “We need to go.”
“It might not be Emerson,” Clarke argued. “Maybe there was a construction accident.”
“That didn’t sound like tools to me,” Bellamy countered. “It was more like people fighting.”
Clarke let Bellamy pull her up from her chair, but insisted, “We can’t go without Wells.”
“The noise seems to be coming from his direction,” Monty said, concerned, as he scooped up the grimoire automatically. Then, he startled at the sight of the book in his arms. “And we can’t leave with this!”
Clarke hurriedly put the books they came with into the briefcase, while Bellamy snapped up the grimoire. “We might have to; whatever’s happened, they’re going to be on alert now.”
There was still a lot of rumbling from outside, and many of the other occupants were clearly disgruntled, some of them heading towards the main door to see what was happening.
“Here, this way, while no one’s looking.” Bellamy took Clarke’s hand and led her to the other exit, pushing Clarke in front of him.
“What about Wells?” she hissed, turning back to face her husband.
“We’ll find him. I promise,” he added when Clarke didn’t move.
Someone must have opened the main door, as the sounds were clearer now. Bellamy’s instincts were clearly right; the noise resembled a brawl. Right as they heard furniture snapping, Monty jumped forward to dart through the doorway, and Clarke followed suit.
After Bellamy emerged behind them, he led the way down the corridor, Clarke and Monty trailing him in single file. It was a public walkway, but clearly rarely used, which was helpful now. “Remember those passageways Miller mentioned?” Bellamy reminded them. “We should be able to connect to an exhibition room from the other side.”
As they picked up the pace, Clarke was thankful that her trousers had been washed and dried in time for today’s activities, though she was still concerned that Wells was somehow involved in whatever disturbance had just occurred. They were all too tense to converse as they walked. She was so focused on the sound of security trying to break up the clamour that Clarke had little warning when Bellamy halted abruptly. She crashed right into his back, though as Monty had kept a more sensible distance, he managed to catch himself before doing the same to Clarke.
“Are you all right?” Bellamy whispered, without looking back.
“Yes,” she said, straightening. “Why have you stopped?”
“I think someone’s coming,” he replied, straining to listen. Clarke could hardly tell the various noises apart.
“Do you think we should go back?” Monty suggested.
“You both go wait behind the last corner, I’ll see who it is.”
“No,” Clarke said instantly, grabbing onto her husband’s jacket. “What if it’s Emerson?”
“It’s probably just security.”
“But you’re holding the grimoire,” Monty pointed out.
“I’ll say I found it. Go,” Bellamy added with more force.
“No,” Clarke insisted.
“Clarke,” Bellamy warned, finally looking over his shoulder at her.
“Bellamy,” she glared back.
They both whirled their heads at Monty’s exclamation.
“Thank heavens it’s only you,” Monty finished, relieved, as the man came into view—though once he finished turning the corner, they realised that wasn’t quite accurate.
“Wells,” Clarke cried. “What happened to you?”
“Three of them came at me at once,” he explained, clutching his face. “Rather unsporting, I must say.”
They rushed up to the pair, Clarke grimacing with sympathy as she inspected her friend’s bruise.
“Cage?” Bellamy asked, but Miller shook his head.
“No, but some of his men are here. When I realised they were on their way, I tried to get to the exhibition before them. I only arrived in time to stop them doing more damage to Wells.”
“They took your grimoire, Monty,” Wells revealed. “I’m so sorry.”
Monty paled, but shook his head. “It’s not your fault.”
“So, they knew which book to take, but—“
“Not what it looks like,” Miller finished for Bellamy.
“But how did they know to come here?” Clarke wondered. “Did the trail you were all following lead back here?”
“No, it led to a statue. The base was hollow, and they knew how to open it, but when they saw there was nothing there, they eventually gave up searching around there. I heard one of them say they should just go to the next location Cage’s informant had sent them, so I decided to follow them and ended up here.”
“So it was just empty?” Bellamy wondered.
“When they found it, it was,” Miller said, a smirk coming to his lips. “Because I got there first.”
With that, he reached into his jacket and pulled out a fantastic jewelled necklace. No less than nine pear shaped gemstones, in alternating teal and pink, adorned the silver setting. For all the extravagant (and, in her opinion, often excessive) jewellery Clarke had ever seen, none had gleamed quite as bright as this.
Bellamy reached out to inspect it, but the grimoire in his hands got in his way, so he and Miller exchanged items, both eagerly reviewing the other’s find.
“Maybe we should relocate?” Clarke suggested.
“Where to?” Wells asked.
“Well, the exit would be that way, isn’t it?” Monty guessed, pointing to the direction Wells and Miller had come from.
“Yes,” Wells replied, “but it’s also the way back towards the men that punched me.”
“They’re still here?” Clarke asked, surprised.
“Two of them broke away just after Miller and I did,” he explained, “and they ran out, but I didn’t see the other two leave.”
Voices then began to approach from the way Clarke, Bellamy and Monty had come, though were far too noisy to belong to anyone trying to sneak around the building. Even if they were simply other visitors, trying to escape from the commotion, moving suddenly became essential.
Miller immediately snapped the grimoire shut, but his quick attempt to hide it inside his jacket was clearly not going to pass muster.
“In here,” Monty said, speedily opening the clasps on his case, where they just about managed to squeeze the grimoire, much more substantial than the Greens’ own, inside.
“Come on,” Miller said, leading the way with Wells and Monty right behind him.
Before Bellamy could follow suit, Clarke hissed, “The necklace.”
He looked at his hands with a start, where he still held the dazzling item. Expecting that Bellamy would do the sensible thing and hide the necklace in one of his pockets, Clarke was quite taken aback when he unceremoniously reached forward and dropped it over her head.
She had little time to react, as he took her hand and started following their companions at a steady pace. As the voices behind them grew louder, Clarke remained silent, matching his pace and using her free hand to try to cloak the gaudy piece of jewellery with her hair.
Once they were outside, their progress unchecked by staff, who were likely too busy trying to sort the tumult further inside the building, Clarke waited until the other visitors were well past them to whirl on Bellamy.
“Why did you put it on me?” she asked, gesturing to the necklace.
“I panicked!” he admitted. “And then I thought to hide it in plain sight, like the grimoire at the library.”
She raised a sharp eyebrow at him, hands on hips. “You think this was blending in?”
He frowned. “Rich people wear jewellery like that all the time.”
“But they wouldn’t wear such a fancy piece in the daytime—to a reading room, no less! I mean, look at me,” Clarke exclaimed, looking down at her brown trousers and flowery blouse. “This doesn’t go at all.”
“I think you look nice. I mean, not that you need the necklace,” he mumbled. “Uh— Never mind,” he shook his head and looked away, embarrassed.
That made her feel a little guilty, so she quickly scanned their surroundings to check if their companions, or anyone else, had been paying attention. Miller was busy peering through the windows to try and see inside the library while Wells was occupied (or at least politely pretending to be occupied) with gently prodding his bruises. Monty, however, had his eyes fixed quite intently on Clarke—a little lower down on her neckline than was appropriate, in her opinion.
“Monty?” she prompted. Bellamy’s attention shifted to the other man’s gaze and its focus. Bellamy’s severe frown would have been comical if Clarke didn’t immediately realise what Monty found so riveting. “Do you see something on the necklace?” she asked, reaching behind her neck to remove it.
“Not exactly. You see, my mother has a brooch she always wears,” Monty began, taking the necklace from Clarke to inspect it more closely. If the stones had glimmered in the dim light of the corridors, in the midday sun, they practically burned. “I thought I was drawn to it as a child because of how the gem sparkled. But when I was older she told me that the gem had once been part of something our family had lost long ago, in the war. Something magical.”
“Of course,” Bellamy said, eyes widening. “The jewels.”
“They’re the same shape as those on the gauntlets,” Clarke remembered. It was hard to get a true idea of scale from the sketch that was in the grimoire, but it looked to Clarke that the largest stones on the necklace were a match to the ones drawn.
“They’re the key,” Monty finished.
Clarke gasped. “I have an idea.”
Without even realising it, Clarke instinctively held her breath as she tiptoed past the room where she’d been held captive not even a week prior. Of course, her husband had been subjected to a much lengthier ordeal, but a quick glance to Clarke’s right confirmed his expression had not changed since they’d entered the mansion. Which was to say, he looked extremely wary, his shoulders taut as they crept down the corridor before heading up the spiral staircase and onto the first floor.
They knew the mansion was likely to be quiet, had tried to ensure that by Miller and Wells creating a distraction to lead the four men they’d encountered at the National Library off in the other direction. However, despite their planning, it still felt like a stroke of good fortune that when Clarke, Bellamy and Monty arrived, the mansion seemed deserted. Good fortune that Clarke wasn’t about to waste.
“Any chance we could go any faster?” Clarke wondered.
“I’m sorry, did you want to have a go at combining two ancient spells?”
“I wasn’t trying to criticise,” Clarke hurriedly backtracked, concerned she’d upset Monty, without whom their only hope of finding the gauntlets involved tearing up all the floorboards in the entire house. “Sorry.”
“I didn’t mean to snap.” Monty shook his head. “I’ve only used this spell combination to find the pieces of something I knocked over. There’s a lot less pressure in putting a vase or a glass back together.”
“You’re doing great, Monty,” Bellamy reassured him. “And, if it helps, maybe you should try to think of it as putting the pieces of a vase back together.”
“Sure, it’s just the same,” Monty retorted. “Only that at any point a crackpot and his armed men could turn up because they want that vase for themselves.”
“Never mind about vases,” Clarke said. “Just keep going.”
Clarke and Bellamy continued behind Monty, who was following the path taken by the floating gemstones hovering a few paces in front of him at shoulder-height. Using Monty’s magic to find the gauntlets was a little risky, but time was catching up to them, and he had been eager to help when they’d first discussed the plan. That enthusiasm seemed to have waned once they reached the mansion, and despite a peak in excitement from all three of them when the jewels from the necklace started floating in front of Monty’s raised hands, he had grown more irritable the further into the mansion they went.
As they passed another open door, this time on her left, Clarke peered into what appeared to be a grand living room. She didn’t think she had seen it in her short ‘visit’ last time, and aside from appearing somewhat run-down, nothing would have stood out to Clarke if not for the glint in the corner of an object behind an armchair. She stopped walking, trying to ascertain if the item was what she thought.
“What’s the matter?” Bellamy whispered.
“Nothing,” she replied, but didn’t move on just yet. She didn’t want to share her hunch in case it wasn’t correct. “You go on without me.”
“No, I don’t think it’s a good idea to split up,” Bellamy said, and Clarke could tell he was slowing his pace.
“I second that,” Monty piped up, “but I can’t actually stop right now. I am being led by otherworldly powers, in a manner of speaking.”
Glancing over her shoulder, Clarke told her husband, “Go with Monty, I’m just going to have a look around.”
“Clarke…” If Bellamy didn’t look so concerned, she would have found it funny that he seemed to have finally grown comfortable using her first name, but only when he disagreed with her.
“I’ll be fine,” she reassured, and slipped into the room without waiting for him to argue.
She went straight to the armchair, but was disappointed to find that the object behind it was merely a waste bin, and not a briefcase as she’d imagined. It was probably a vain hope to think that it would be so easy to find Bellamy’s briefcase, but as it was the only item he hadn’t lost en route to France, Clarke would have liked to return it to him.
When she stood back up, Clarke surveyed the room, wondering what Cage’s plan for this building had been. Despite there being some furniture in the room, it lacked the telltale signs of a regular inhabitant and clearly had been without one for some time. The worn bookcase and desk were both empty while the dark, heavy curtains, though closed, still let in enough sun by way of the large tears in the fabric to light Clarke’s path. However, the fireplace seemed to have been used recently; scraps of paper that hadn’t completely burnt lay at the front of the grate.
Wondering if in some mad rage Cage had decided to burn something useful, Clarke stooped to pick up the burnt ends of paper. She righted herself quickly when the armchair cast a shadow over her in that position, making it too dark to inspect her find. As soon as she straightened, Clarke gasped. One of the paper edges bore Bellamy’s handwriting.
Perhaps his briefcase was not so far away after all, if Cage had thrown Bellamy’s notes in the fire. Clarke could only hope that he hadn’t decided to destroy everything of Bellamy’s in an attempt to cover up his tracks. The local police had supposedly paid a visit to the mansion, after they’d all given statements following their escape, but claimed to have found only an empty building—not that different from many others around here, apart from being somewhat grander. Although clearly no one was living here, there seemed to be too much left in the building for it to be truly vacated.
Clarke turned at the sound of footsteps, slipping the scrap of paper into her trouser pocket. She was just in time to see Cage Wallace leisurely stroll into the room, as if he had not a care in the world. It would have been less worrying had he not kept up the same casual manner when he set eyes on her.
“Clarke,” he said, smirking as he came to a stop opposite her. “How nice of you to return.”
Had he just been lying quietly in wait while they entered and snuck through the house, biding his time? Surely not. Clarke had never considered Cage a patient man.
“Cage,” she seethed. “You won’t get away with what you’ve done.”
He looked down his nose at her rather pityingly. “I rather think I already have. Why do you think I took your husband for this venture? It wasn’t just his expertise, I assure you. It’s because he’s not the kind of person anyone would care about going missing,” he finished, without waiting for her to respond. “I heard it was a while before you even noticed.”
Inwardly, Clarke raged, but she knew he was just trying to rile her. She forced herself to keep an outer façade of calm, not wanting him to know he’d struck on a particular regret of hers.
“You know who my mother is,” she stated. “She’ll come after you if anything happens to us.”
What she hoped would be a blow only made Cage laugh. “Oh, Clarke. I know your mother much better than you do.”
A sinking feeling growing in her stomach, Clarke dug her fingernails into the armchair in front of her for support before demanding, “What have you done to her?”
To her dismay, Cage only laughed louder. “Who would be foolish enough to touch Lady Abigail Griffin? I haven’t done anything to her; I don’t have to.”
Clarke’s mind raced as she tried to understand his meaning, and he tutted.
“You know, people always talk about what an intellect you are—for a woman. If only they could see you right now. Your mother already knows everything, Clarke.”
“Do you really expect me to believe my mother knows you kidnapped us?” Clarke snapped, incredulous. She and her mother may not share the close bond Clarke had felt with her father, but she knew the woman would not simply accept the kidnapping of her son-in-law, not to mention her own daughter.
“No,” Cage said, waving a hand dismissively. “Of course she doesn’t know that. But my family history—the true family history, not the polished version dear old Papa presents to everyone? She knows all about that. After all, she’s the one who helped my father cover it all up.”
The colour drained from Clarke’s face as she processed Cage’s words, a fact that he seemed to relish.
“All I was trying to do was recreate some spells, but then a few lousy maids got hurt and suddenly father took it all away! Hiding everything from me, everything that was rightfully mine!” he exclaimed.
Clarke began to feel physically sick as she recalled her last conversation with her mother, just a few days ago.
“I treated some of the Earl’s staff when they were ill, that’s all,” her mother had said. “He didn’t trust his doctor so well after that…”
Ill because Cage had hurt them, Clarke thought, trying to recreate magic he didn’t have the power to control. And the Earl couldn’t trust a regular doctor not to spread rumours about the circumstances. But Lady Abigail knew what a person’s reputation meant in society. She was good at keeping secrets. Clarke wanted to sit down as the revelations swam about her head, but she couldn’t show Cage any more weakness than she had already revealed. At least if she kept him occupied here, Monty and Bellamy would be safe.
Thinking back to her own age then, Clarke realised Cage Wallace must have only been a teenager at that time. Had he spent all these years trying to find more about his family’s past?
“But then you found an old diary,” Clarke realised, remembering what Bellamy had told her the previous day, “and it told you just what he’d been hiding.”
Cage glared. “He should have sold this place off if he really wanted to keep it all from me—but it’s worth too much for that, even dirty and rotting like it is, and father always cared about money above all else. That and his precious reputation,” Cage seethed. “Even now all he cares about is who you might talk to. He should have thought about all the power we could have had if he just stopped running away from our history!”
“You’re delusional. You don’t even have the gift!” Clarke taunted. “If you did, you wouldn’t need to force anyone to search for your past for you—you could have found it all yourself!”
“So what if I can’t recite a few spells?” Cage sneered, “They’re just simple tricks. When I wear the gauntlets, it won’t matter; magic will finally bend to my will, and all I need is my blood.”
The way he uttered that final word sent shivers up Clarke’s spine. Partly from the relish he seemed to take from it and partly from the horror stories she had read about blood magic. Not wanting him to see how shaken he was, she retorted, “You’ll never find them.”
“I think I will, and you’ll take me to them—that’s why you were foolish enough to come back isn’t it? You and your husband?”
It might have been a guess, but Clarke couldn’t rule out Cage having seen them enter. She tried to take a step to her side, wanting to get between Cage and the only door out of the room, but even the slight movement had Cage lifting a hand and gesturing towards the door.
A man entered, gun cocked and pointed directly in front of him. Right at her. However, it was the man himself and not his weapon that caused Clarke to pale.
“Thought you’d given us the slip, eh?” Emerson said.
He should have been far away from the mansion right now. Outside the National Library, Clarke, Bellamy and Monty had hidden and watched Wells and Miller drive off, drawing the attention of Cage’s four men, Emerson among them, with them. If Emerson was here, it could mean that he had gotten sick of the chase—or that something had happened to Miller and Wells.
“Now,” Cage said assuredly, “Let’s go join Mr. Blake and get what’s rightfully mine.”
Despite her growing concern, his words made Clarke realise that neither of them had mentioned Monty. If they weren’t aware he was here too, maybe they didn’t know as much as they pretended. Clarke might still be able to gain the upper hand.
She looked between them, trying to match Cage’s confidence. “I don’t think so. Did you really think we would come back here without enlisting any help?”
The men frowned, and when they furtively glanced to each other, she took the opportunity to bend down and push the armchair in front of her with all her strength. It creaked forwards, but managed to strike Cage’s legs before he could react.
With a loud groan, he fell, planting face-first into the seat. Emerson yelled and cocked his gun towards Clarke. Still on one knee a few paces behind the chair, she held her hands up calmly, hoping that the noise, short-lived though it was, had been loud enough to alert the others.
Cage was angrily recollecting himself when Emerson took a step forwards. “Don’t try anyth— Gah!” Emerson yelled. Through the open doorway, a large candlestick had flown in and hit him squarely on his left shoulder blade. The force, not to mention the surprise, caused him to drop his gun on the floor.
Reacting quickly, Clarke picked up the gun and, after a moment’s consideration, the candlestick as well. She stood, grinning when the person she’d been hoping was outside stepped in with a pistol aimed squarely at Cage Wallace.
Cage frowned. “You!”
Raven smirked. “Not so fun when someone gets the drop on you, is it?”
Emerson glanced between the two women, eyes fixed on the careful way Clarke held onto the gun without aiming it at anyone since she didn’t actually know how to use it. “You’re not going to shoot us,” he sneered, clearly liking his chances of regaining the upper hand.
“We don’t have to,” Clarke said, her calm less of a façade now she wasn’t on her own.
“The gendarmes are on their way,” Raven informed them. “In fact, they’re probably already outside.”
“You’re lying!” Cage shouted.
Keeping her gun steady even while she raised her shoulder in a slight shrug, Raven replied, “Look out the window and see for yourself.”
Cage was nearest the window and whipped open a curtain, brightening the entire room. It wasn’t nearly evening, the sun still high over the neighbouring rooftops, but even from where Clarke stood, she could make out the artificial lights from cars flashing against the windowpane.
He whirled on Emerson. “You were supposed to have a lookout!”
“The rest got tired when we were chasing after the other two.”
“Tired!” Cage roared. “I don’t pay you to get tired!”
While the men were busy yelling at each other, Clarke passed Emerson’s gun over to Raven and took out the dagger Raven had given her earlier, just in case.
Yelling something about not going back to jail, Emerson turned and tried to make a break for the door. Although Raven moved to prevent his exit, it was Cage who charged after him first. Clarke wouldn’t have minded letting the two men thrash it out between themselves until the police could get them, but in their scuffle, they started to knock over the few remaining objects in the room. When they nearly caused the bookcase to topple, Raven moved to break up the fight. Cage clearly had anger rather than skill on his side, and was dislodged rather easily, which was when Emerson took the opportunity to make his escape.
Being nearer the door, Clarke sprinted into the corridor and saw Emerson was already racing down the staircase. She ran after him, but soon realised she was unlikely to gain on him. Looking around herself for a way to stop the man from leaving the mansion before the police could get to him, Clarke realised she was holding one.
As hard as she could, Clarke hurled the heavy candlestick over the banister and down towards Emerson as he reached the bottom of the stairs, hoping her aim was true. Just as the object started to approach him, it seemed to lose momentum. Clarke looked on, disappointed, as it fell too slowly to reach its target, until suddenly, it rose. Her eyes widened as the object arced upwards until it hit Emerson squarely in the back, causing him to fall face first onto the hard floor.
Shocked, Clarke blinked, unsure how to explain what she had just seen, unless—
She looked up and saw Monty leaning over the banister on the floor above her. He looked rather sheepish with his arms stretched out in front of him, palms facing forward. “Sounded like you could use a hand.”
By the time Clarke got to the bottom of the stairs, three policemen had already reached the entrance. Miller’s friend Bryan, who they had met the evening of their escape, was among them. Clarke started to explain everything that had happened as the other men went in to deal with Cage and Emerson.
Bryan had stepped away to speak to a colleague when Clarke heard someone come up quickly behind her. She turned around just in time to glimpse Bellamy’s face before he enveloped her in his arms.
“Are you all right?” he whispered into her hair.
“I’m fine,” she said into his chest, wrapping her arms around his back.
“Monty said— I didn’t know if Raven got to you in time— I—“ he cut himself off, and she could feel him breathing into her hair slowly.
“I’m okay. I’m not sure about Wells and Miller though,” she admitted. When Bellamy pulled back just enough to see her face she added, “If Emerson is here then maybe—”
Just then, the police brought both Emerson and Cage from the house, Raven following behind, in conversation with another police officer. Bellamy glared at the two men, manoeuvring himself and Clarke away from the entrance. Emerson was still too dazed from his fall to take any notice, but although Cage looked angry at being handled by the police, when he caught Clarke’s eye, he smirked cruelly at her. The look made her shudder and she reburied her face in Bellamy’s chest.
“We’ll find them,” Bellamy soothed, a hand coming up to brush through her hair. “If Emerson was the only one here with Cage, maybe he just separated from the others. Wells and Miller could still be fine.”
Clarke nodded, hoping it was true. “Did you find the gauntlets?”
“Yes, the jewels led us right to them; started knocking against the floor when we got to the right room. Your idea worked perfectly.” She could hear the congratulatory tone in his voice.
“And they can’t be used anymore?” she checked.
“Monty’s just finishing up with them,” he said, lowering his voice a little. “They’ll be purely decorative now. They can’t hurt anyone anymore,” he added, clearly concerned by the way she remained nestled against him.
It was such a relief that they’d at least accomplished their goal. But there was still one last thing troubling her. “There’s something else.”
“What is it?”
“Cage said— He said my mother knew all about their family’s history, that she’s helped the Earl cover up for Cage in the past—“
“You shouldn’t listen to his lies,” Bellamy said quickly, but Clarke shook her head, her nose grazing against the collar of his shirt.
“That’s just it,” she sighed. “I don’t think it was lies. I think it’s true.” She forced herself out of the comfort of Bellamy’s embrace.
“You don’t know the whole story,” Bellamy insisted.
“But it makes sense. Maybe she was the reason Marcus knew where the grimoire was.”
Bellamy sighed. “Maybe. That doesn’t mean we should jump to the worst conclusion just yet,” he reasoned, reaching out to brush some of Clarke’s hair from her face. “It might not be as bad as you think. See?” he added suddenly, with a smile as he looked further up the driveway.
Clarke followed his gaze, and, with some relief, noted he was right. For there was Miller’s car driving straight towards them.
As Clarke explained to the police when they separated her from Bellamy for her official statement, after they had left the library, she, Bellamy and Monty headed to Raven’s apartment. There, Maya helped them to figure out the fastest route to the mansion—having been tasked with providing Cage supplies while she was in his employ, there was no one better prepared to help on that front—as well as which entrances they could most likely slip in unnoticed. Raven then insisted that she was well enough to provide them with what turned out to be much needed backup.
She had first driven them to a phone box, where they’d left a message with the Wallace offices to hopefully lure Cage out of the mansion, but, just in case, had also left a message with the police. Then, they had made their way to the mansion, though Raven stayed hidden to keep a look out in case anyone arrived once the others were inside.
Meanwhile, Wells and Miller had gone after Cage’s men to try to recover the library’s stolen grimoire. At least that was what everyone told the police. In reality, that grimoire was safely with the Vies at Raven’s apartment while Wells and Miller had hoped to return the Greens’ book to safekeeping before anyone else got their hands on it.
After the fact, Miller informed Clarke that although Emerson had driven away, presumably back to the mansion where he found Clarke and Cage, when they had gotten into a fight with them, he and Wells indeed managed to safely rescue the grimoire and left the other three men with the local police officers.
Clarke was looking for Monty and heading back towards the mansion when she saw Bellamy approaching from the other direction. He wore a look of concern that unnerved her. She thought their immediate concerns were finally coming to an end, but his expression suggested otherwise.
“Miller dropped Wells off at Monty’s house on his way here,” he started, which assuaged some of her fear.
“I know, he walked past when I was talking to the police, so I asked him what happened,” Clarke replied. “He seemed to think Wells would be fine once the swelling had reduced a little.”
“Yes,” Bellamy nodded curtly, “but apparently when they went back to the house, the servants said Octavia has been ringing all day.”
“Oh!” Miller had neglected to mention that detail to Clarke. “Did she leave a message?”
“Just for either one of us to call her back as soon as possible,” he said gravely.
“That’s all?” Clarke wondered.
“And that she and Aurora were fine and not to worry,” Bellamy added dismissively, shaking his head. “How does she expect me not to worry when she calls ten times?”
“Ten times!” Clarke exclaimed. Considering that the girl didn’t even have a telephone of her own, that did seem excessive.
Bellamy had the grace to look a little sheepish. “Well, I don’t know if it was as much as that. Miller just said she had called ‘many’ times. But it must be urgent for her to call so often—and to ask for either of us!”
He clearly didn’t mean it as an insult, and Clarke didn’t take it as such. Instead, she placed a gentle hand on his arm in what she hoped was a comforting gesture. “I understand why you are concerned, but I think if Octavia took care to mention that she and Aurora were both all right, then I’m sure that they are.”
“Maybe someone made her say that!”
If not for their (mainly his) recent predicaments, Clarke would have sniped that he was being ludicrous. Instead, as calmly as she was able, she replied, “Or maybe she’s just worried about you and wanted to reassure you. Weren’t you telling me something earlier about not jumping to conclusions?”
He glanced away but seemed to begrudgingly accept this. “Either way, I need to return her call. I don’t suppose you have Octavia’s card with her friend’s number in your bag, do you?” he asked.
“No, I’m sorry,” Clarke said, apologetic. “I left it on the dressing table in our room.”
He didn’t seem disappointed. “Not to worry, I didn’t think you would. But in that case, I want to get back as soon as possible. Miller said he was willing to drive back now.”
“Of course.” Clarke nodded, unsurprised. “You should go, then. We can finish here without you. I’m sure Raven will take myself and Monty back later.”
“Oh.” This time Bellamy’s face did fall. “You’re not coming now?”
Clarke was surprised by his response and the sudden downward turn of his lips. She’d believed he was simply informing her of his departure. She didn’t realise he had expected, or perhaps wanted, her to join him.
“All right, that’s fine,” he said, quickly recovering as he stepped back. Away from her touch. “I’ll see you later on, then.”
“I would come,” Clarke began, unsure how to explain her true motive for staying. Before she could attempt to add anything more, he shook his head.
“It’s perfectly all right,” he insisted. “And as you said, everything is probably fine. Octavia never liked being the last person to know things; she must want an update on our whereabouts,” he added with forced joviality, turning to walk away.
“Bellamy.” Clarke reached for him, this time taking a firmer grip on his arm so that he couldn’t run from her. “I am sure Octavia and Aurora are safe. And I will join you as soon as I am able. I promise,” she added, hoping he recognised the sincerity behind her words.
Clarke couldn’t tell what he gleaned from his guarded study of her face, but when she impulsively leaned up and kissed his cheek, Bellamy blinked in surprise.
“Be safe,” she added, loosening her grip on his elbow and trailing her hand down until it lingered at his wrist.
“You as well,” he replied, giving her hand the lightest of squeezes in return. And then, he walked back down the driveway towards Miller’s car.
After his departure, Clarke returned to search the mansion, allowed in by the police on the understanding that she had left her handbag inside (true) and didn’t know where it was (false). She had been rummaging through one of the rooms that looked out onto the driveway for about ten minutes, looking through the window every now and then, when she caught sight of Monty, apparently finally finished speaking with the police.
She went back outside and found Raven standing at the entrance where Monty had only just joined her.
“There you are!” Raven called when they saw her approach.
“Where have the others gone?” Monty asked.
“Bellamy had an urgent call from his sister, and Miller drove him back so he could check on her.”
“Are you ready to go as well then?” Raven checked.
“Not exactly.” Turning to Monty, Clarke said, “I was wondering if you could help me with something.”
“What is it?”
Reaching into her pocket, Clarke fished out the singed scrap of paper and explained how she had found it in Cage’s fireplace. “I thought maybe you could use your abilities to find where the rest of Bellamy’s things are?” she asked, giving the scrap to Monty to analyse. “They left some of it behind before they even got here, but he told me they’d brought his briefcase along since it had a few magical items that they liked the look of. Perhaps we could find it the same way we did the gauntlets. It looks like they might have burned the papers, but I’m hoping the briefcase and some of his things are still here.”
That hope faded as Monty frowned, looking apologetically at Clarke. “I don’t think my spell would work on this. If it’s just a bit of loose paper, then a spell to put it back together would lead us to the fireplace for the rest of the charred fragments, not the case it was stored in.”
“Oh, of course,” Clarke said, crestfallen.
“I can still help you look for Blake’s briefcase though,” Monty said easily.
“I can too,” Raven added.
Clarke looked between the pair, moved by their generosity. “Really?”
“It might take a while doing it the old-fashioned way,” Monty noted, “but at least we won’t have to pry up all the floorboards.”
“Thank you, both of you,” Clarke smiled. “I really appreciate it. But, Raven, you’ve already done more than enough today, coming out to help us, even with your leg—“
“My leg is fine,” Raven interrupted, clearly displeased by the reminder. “I just needed to rest it a bit, which I already did this morning. It’s not a problem,” Raven finished in a tone that clearly would not brook any arguments.
“As long as you’re sure. And you rest if you need to.”
“I won’t,” Raven insisted. “Though,” she allowed, with a wry tilt of her head, “I may leave the top floors to the two of you.”
The extra help meant the search progressed faster than Clarke had hoped, and it was only some thirty minutes later when Monty called out, “Clarke? I think I’ve found it!”
She was on the top floor by then, one above him, and raced down the stairs towards his voice. When she entered the room, an old bedroom turned storage area apparently, so many various items had been dumped in there, Monty held out a brown leather case towards Clarke. “Well, I’ve found a briefcase, anyway,” he said. “Is it Blake’s?”
With a start, Clarke realised that although she recognised the colour, she couldn’t recall exactly what style of briefcase her husband carried. Nonetheless, she took it from Monty and laid it on a clear corner of the bed, speedily unlatching the clasps so she could yank the bag open.
A few loose papers matching the scrap in Clarke’s pocket fell out alongside some pens, allowing her to see what else was left in the case. Apart from one old stone—a rune that Clarke assumed was too plain to entice Cage’s interest—there was no sign of the relics Bellamy had mentioned. However, Clarke did recognise one precious item still in the case; a small leather-bound book that matched the ones she’d found lined along the shelf in her husband’s study—Bellamy’s latest journal.
Closing the bag in a hurry, she spun round, beaming at Monty. “Thank you so much, Monty,” she said, smiling.
Monty shrugged. “It was nothing.”
“No, it is. I owe you a great deal.”
“I’m sure you would have got to this room eventually.”
“That’s not what I mean,” she said, shaking her head. “Not just for the briefcase. I mean everything—taking us I in, helping in our search, stopping Cage before he hurt anyone else. We couldn’t have done that without…” she trailed off, remembering there were still some police around, and they had all been careful to leave out the fact that Monty’s gift had been the key to finding the gauntlets. “Without you,” she settled on. “I’m sure we couldn’t have done any of this without you.”
Monty looked a little embarrassed, but pleased all the same. “I was glad to help. And I enjoyed it actually. I mean, it was awful what happened, of course, but,” Monty paused, thoughtful. “It was nice to get a chance to use my—what I can do—for something worthwhile. I rather feel like I should be thanking you for that. It will be strange to go back to hiding it now,” he added, and some of the brightness from his expression faded.
“Not from everyone. You have friends who know your secret now,” Clarke reminded him, “some of them based in Paris too.” He nodded at that, though it didn’t seem to raise his spirits as much as Clarke would have liked. Maybe the return to more mundane uses of his gift bothered him more strongly than she suspected. Then, a thought occurred to her. “Have you had chance to speak to Bellamy yet, about your… mutual interests?”
“No,” Monty said, “not yet.”
“I think you should speak with him—and Mr. Miller—about it,” Clarke advised. “They are the experts, and Miller works in Paris. He must know a lot more about the community. Maybe they could tell you about… places or opportunities you might find interesting.”
A slow smile grew on Monty’s face. “You know, I think that sounds like an excellent idea.”
“Good,” Clarke smiled back. “Well, if Miller is still with Bellamy when we return, then you could speak to them both this evening. We could head straight back to your house.”
Nodding, Monty agreed, “Yes, we should get back soon, even if we can’t discuss things tonight. I’m not sure how you feel, Clarke, but I am famished!”
The drive back to the Green household seemed to take longer than Clarke remembered. Now that she wasn’t running on adrenaline, her stomach took the opportunity to remind her that she had not stopped to eat anything since breakfast. However, Clarke very much enjoyed both Raven and Monty’s company, and their pleasant conversation was enough to distract her from the niggling concerns about both the Griffin and Blake families momentarily.
Raven declined Monty’s invitation to come into the house for a drink when they arrived, though he did not let her depart without a promise to come back later with the Vies in tow for a celebratory dinner. Once inside, Monty went straight to the kitchen while Clarke raced up to the library, which she was quite surprised to find empty. The previous long day spent there had made her think of it as their favoured room, but she supposed there was no reason for Bellamy to be waiting in there now. She placed her handbag and Bellamy’s briefcase by her trunk in their, also empty, bedroom before making her way back downstairs.
Approaching the sitting room, Clarke realised that if she had paid closer attention upon arrival, she would have heard the faint sounds of conversation coming from behind the door. Knocking first, she heard Bellamy and Miller stop their conversation abruptly, but when she opened the door she was relieved to note Bellamy did not look troubled as he had earlier.
“I take it Octavia and Aurora are safe?” Clarke ventured.
“Yes,” Bellamy nodded, smiling. “They’re both fine—thanks to their neighbour, it turns out.”
“Miss Indra?” Clarke recalled. “Who you were worried was working for Cage?”
Miller snorted, leaning back on the armchair as he held in true laughter, clearly hearing that for the first time. “Of course you thought that,” he remarked, shaking his head. “You always were paranoid when it came to Octavia.”
“I was right to be paranoid!” Bellamy countered from his chair, nearer to where Clarke stood. “Cage did have someone spying on her.”
“Not a very good spy,” Miller pointed out, wryly.
“So, the spy wasn’t her neighbour?” Clarke guessed.
“No,” Bellamy revealed, turning back to face Clarke. “That lady caught him trying to follow Octavia this morning and made short work of him. Apparently, she is highly skilled in self-defence and makes most of her living teaching martial arts. Cage’s man did not stand a chance next to her training.”
“Oh my.” Clarke liked the sound of this lady immensely. “And this man is in police custody now?”
Bellamy nodded. “That was why Octavia kept calling; she wanted us to know he had admitted it was Cage who hired him.”
Knowing none of her friends or family were in immediate danger lifted a weight off Clarke’s shoulders. She stayed a few minutes more with the men, making sure to mention Monty’s dinner plans as well as his apparent interest in a more serious discussion with them on magic, which both seemed to think was an excellent idea. When Clarke wondered what the police would do with the gauntlets, which had been left in their care, Miller revealed he had suggested to his friend that they be donated to the French National Library when they returned the grimoire.
It was nice to talk freely, and to see her husband with a close friend, but Clarke couldn’t feel truly comfortable when she was a bit dirty and sticky after everything that had happened today, so she excused herself to clean up. She didn’t allow herself a luxurious bath, just a quick wash and change, after which she ventured to Wells’ room to check on how her friend’s bruises were coming along.
He already had a visitor. Monty sat in a chair by his bedside with a small tray of refreshments between them as the pair related their afternoons’ adventures. Clarke joined them, tempering her hunger with the biscuits as she listened to Wells’ side of the story, grimacing at the relation of the fisticuffs he and the significantly less bruised Miller endured. At least Wells did not seem too put off by the blows he had taken.
When Wells began to yawn, Clarke and Monty thought it prudent to let him nap before dinner, but Clarke lingered after Monty left, examining Wells’ bruises.
“It looks to me that they will heal,” Clarke observed, “though I’m sure Thelonious will make sure to take you to at least two of London’s top physicians as soon as you get back home.”
Wells groaned, knowing the truth of it. “Perhaps I should ask Monty if he would be willing to put up with me for another week.”
“I’m sure he would love to have you.”
“What about yourself?” Wells wondered. “How long do you think you will stay in Paris?”
“Oh. Not long.” Clarke thought for a moment. “I would like to go home soon, though I will need to speak to Bellamy about it first.”
Wells sighed, “Father will be worried, so I should return home as well, bruises and all. I may travel back with you, though that will likely not become a frequent occurrence. Considering the result of this one, I think I may have to cry off on joining your future adventures.” Clarke felt the urge to apologise for unwittingly dragging her friend into danger, but before she could do so Wells had continued, “Of course, I suppose you won’t be needing me for those now that you have Mr. Blake.”
Clarke frowned. “Just because I am married doesn’t mean I won’t need you in my life.” She thought Wells had known that.
He looked at her kindly. “I know. I just meant you would need me less frequently.”
“What do you mean?” she asked, confused.
“Well, you have Blake to confide in now. And to drag into your schemes.”
“Schemes!” Clarke pouted, only partly in mock-outrage. “I don’t have schemes, never mind ones I would drag Bellamy into.”
“Of course not. I’m sure such a devoted husband would follow you quite willingly,” Wells said cheekily.
“W-what,” Clarke sputtered. “Are you sure you’re feeling all right?”
“I am perfectly well, thank you, Clarke. You know, before you came in, Monty was telling me what a sweet couple you and Mr. Blake make.”
“He didn’t say that,” Clarke denied.
“Actually, it was something more like the two of you were distracted from your research at the library because you were too busy staring adoringly at one another.”
“Hush,” Clarke chided, red flushing her cheeks even though the remark filled her with a small amount of delight. Although she now considered him a friend, Monty was in some ways an impartial outsider to her relationship with Bellamy. It pleased her to think that despite the pathetic performance he had witnessed as they distracted the guard, Monty had still considered them a convincing couple, let alone a sweet one.
“You know, I have thought myself that you and Blake were not what I expected,” Wells observed.
“How do you mean?”
“Well, in your letters to me, you’d always spoken of him in a… perfunctory way,” he explained. “I could tell that you cared for him, at least as a friend, when we were in London, but once you were together I could see there was something between you. A connection.”
Clarke remained quiet. She could never keep the truth from Wells, but she still struggled to articulate her thoughts.
“I don’t mean to upset you,” Wells added at her silence.
“I’m not upset,” she assured him, instinctively glancing to the door to confirm they were still alone. “I— I have long admired Bellamy, but I suppose over time I have begun to feel… more than I expected,” she finished in a rush. It was hardly a declaration of love, but verbalising even such meagre reflections to her most trusted confidant gave them a weight she had not anticipated.
When she looked up to meet his eyes, Wells was smiling warmly. “I’m delighted to hear it. I do worry about you, the way you guard yourself.”
“Wells,” she started, in a chiding tone.
“You know you do,” he interjected firmly. “But I am very glad you two have grown close. I think he is a good match for you.”
“Well, I don’t need your blessing,” Clarke said with a smile that Wells returned. Despite the truth of her statement, they both knew she was pleased to receive it. “Now get some rest before dinner,” she instructed.
As Clarke shut the door to Wells’ room and stared out onto the empty landing, she realised something. Her mind was still awash with thoughts and plans about everything that could happen next: with her new friends in Paris, Octavia back home, the Wallaces, and, not least of all, her mother.
In the face of all that, suddenly, the one thing that Clarke felt absolutely sure of fell into place: Bellamy.
I've had part of this chapter written for roughly a year when I was writing Part 1, so it's exciting to finally get to share it with everyone. I hope you all enjoy it :)
The item now at the top of Clarke’s agenda was obtaining passage back home. Despite her unpleasant travel sickness on the sky ship to Paris, she was willing to subject herself to that brief discomfort if it meant returning to London sooner, though she was not sure Bellamy would feel the same.
Thankfully, when she had broached the subject with him just before everyone arrived for dinner, Bellamy suggested the sky ship before she could, so he obviously was willing to face his phobia in order to finally return home. She had hoped to discuss their plans in further detail once the guests departed, but even though Raven, Miller and the Vies all made an early exit, neither Clarke nor Bellamy had the energy for much conversation afterwards. Tired after a filling meal and merriment with their new friends, to say nothing of the events leading up to their celebration, Clarke did not even think about the awkwardness of sharing a bed. Instead, despite the early hour, she fell fast asleep soon after her head hit the pillow.
She was the first to rise again in the morning, and it was with a strange mixture of both relief and disappointment that Clarke realised they had both kept within their assigned sleeping boundaries. Bellamy slept flat on his back, with his head tilted slightly towards her so Clarke took the opportunity to study her husband’s face unhindered.
He looked peaceful as he slept, and younger too, though neither observation was particularly surprising. Less surprising still was the blossoming affection that she felt for him. Now that she had little to distract her, Clarke allowed herself to acknowledge the overwhelming fondness for Bellamy that curled in her chest, the itching in her fingertips to touch the soft curls of his hair. She couldn’t recall the moment she first began to feel such a longing to be close to her husband, but she could admit, at least to herself, it was something she wanted to act on.
Bellamy’s eyelashes fluttered, the first sign he was beginning to stir. It was the perfect opportunity to speak to him about their relationship in private, a chance to find out if he still wished their marriage was more than just platonic.
Instead, Clarke quickly extricated herself from the bed and ran to the bathroom before her husband awoke.
Clarke cursed herself for her cowardice as she washed, but once she emerged from the bathroom, he only shared a quick morning greeting with her before dashing into the bathroom himself. Once they were finally discussing their plans, it was over the breakfast table, with company present, so Clarke could not venture to anything more private than travelling logistics.
As it turned out, there was a sky ship departing that very evening for London, so when Monty left for work, Clarke, Wells and Bellamy left with him to obtain tickets. Once that task was complete, they still had most of their last day in Paris to spend as they wished. The previous night Raven had offered to take them sight-seeing, so it was not long after that Clarke was knocking on the door to the lady’s apartment.
“Morning,” Raven said, moving aside to let Clarke and Wells in. “Is Blake not with you?”
“Bellamy is spending the morning with Miller,” Clarke explained as they stood about the living room.
“I thought Miller was working today?”
“He is,” Clarke replied. “But they wanted to discuss some work matters while Bellamy is still here. He promised to join us for lunch though.”
She was disappointed not to see more of Paris with Bellamy. He was a frequent visitor; surely he had an interesting perspective to share. Still, they would have some time to be tourists together after lunch, provided he didn’t feel the need to dash back to work.
“I think you need to teach your husband how to take a real holiday,” Raven observed.
Clarke smiled. “I do plan to try.”
“Are you feeling all right?” Wells asked suddenly of Raven, gesturing towards her position across from them. She stood tall, but her posture seemed to favour her stronger leg more than usual. Clarke suspected he wanted to inquire after her injury, though he stopped short of outright mentioning it. She then observed that he seemed somewhat flustered, which was a rare enough look on Wells Jaha to pique her curiosity.
The lady frowned. “I am perfectly well, though I can’t say you look the same,” she commented, eyeing Wells’ bruises, some of which had purpled and swelled overnight. “Did you not keep a cold compress on that like I advised?”
“His constitution couldn’t take it,” Clarke revealed with a giggle.
“That’s not it!” he protested as both ladies laughed at his expense. “I just went to bed early because I was tired and forgot.”
Clarke shook her head. “Wells absolutely hates the cold. Can’t stand it.”
“But you live in England!”
Wells pouted, leaning back against the wall as Clarke and Raven chuckled some more.
“Go, take a seat,” Raven said, gesturing to the settee. “I’ve got something you can put on it for a short time before we go out sight-seeing. If your face swells up any more, you won’t be able to see anything out of that eye anyway!”
After they had settled Wells with a cold compress, Clarke followed Raven back to the kitchen, ostensibly to help her carry refreshments back.
“I don’t have much to choose from,” Raven admitted. “Haven’t had much chance to go shopping these last few days, and what with having the Vies over—Maya is an exceptionally tidy houseguest, at least.”
“Just water will be fine for me,” Clarke assured. “And that was actually something I wanted to speak to you about,” she added, her voice instinctively lowering even though they were well outside of Wells’ earshot.
Raven shot Clarke a wry glance from across the counter, eyes taking in Clarke’s outfit, a delicate cream dress with red flowers printed all over. “You know, I think quite well of you Clarke, much better than I expected I would of a lady of your sort, but I fancy our ideas of shopping are quite different.”
Clarke laughed. “No, not shopping. It’s just… I never gave you the rest of your payment.”
“Oh,” Raven realised. “You don’t have to.”
“We had an agreement—and you more than held up your end of the bargain,” Clarke stated. “It seems only fair that I pay you.”
“I know how you can repay me,” Raven suggested as she began opening cupboards. “Make sure that all of your rich friends know to come to me and Sinclair when they’re in Paris and need mechanical services. Or guide services, I suppose—but none of the snobs for that one,” she added seriously.
“I can certainly do that,” Clarke agreed with a laugh. “But I still feel like I should pay you as well. You can’t refuse to take my money just because you feel sorry for me.”
Raven snorted then. “I’ve no reason to feel sorry for a lady of your means, but I don’t like to take money from friends.”
The matter of fact way she spoke as she poured water into a glass made Clarke beam even more widely. She was glad to hear that Miss Reyes considered her a friend. Not that it would deter Clarke from her object. “At least let me give you enough to cover the cost of the repairs to the garage. And all your expenses for this last week. I insist.”
Raven shook her head, laughing lowly. “Well, if you insist on giving your money away, I suppose I’d be a fool to stop you.”
After they settled on a sum, Clarke joined Wells on the settee so Raven could store the cash in secret while she waited for the hot water to boil.
“How’s the swelling?” Clarke inquired, causing him to frown. He had kept the compress on in spite of his obvious discomfort with the chill.
“It’s not that bad. We don’t have to wait around just for me,” Wells said. “I know you were eager to do some sight-seeing.”
“So were you,” Clarke pointed out, “but it’s not as important as you getting better.” She reached forward to adjust the way he held the compress, tutting at Wells’ technique. “This side of your face is going to stay swollen for days at this rate.”
“I don’t look too ridiculous, do I?” he worried.
“No, not ridiculous,” Clarke replied quickly. “I’m just worried that it is very painful.”
“Monty gave me something for the pain this morning—a herbal remedy,” he added, at Clarke’s look. “Is the swelling very noticeable if I stand like this?”
She had never thought her friend to be a vain man, so the questions felt a little out of character. “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about Wells; you were injured.”
“I’m not embarrassed. Only I—“ Wells took in a breath, glancing over Clarke’s shoulder carefully before saying in a low tone, “I have been thinking of asking Miss Reyes if I may call on her when I’m next in Paris.”
“I’m sure she would be happy to see you,” Clarke replied instantly.
He brightened. “You really think so?”
“Oh! You mean… ” Clarke trailed off in surprise. It had never occurred to her that Wells had any interest in Miss Reyes other than friendship until that moment. Despite all their years of friendship, the few times Wells Jaha had expressed a romantic preference for anyone, it had been in the years they lived apart. Clarke had never seen him thusly in person, had never learned the signs. She was quite at a loss as to how to respond.
Wells’ face fell imperceptibly. “So, you don’t think that she would be interested in me that way then?” he supposed.
After a moment’s pause, Clarke replied honestly, “I don’t know.” Although it seemed to her Wells had made an excellent choice, she didn’t know Miss Reyes well enough yet to judge that lady’s feelings. For all Clarke knew Wells better than most anyone, she still hadn’t spotted his growing romantic interest. How could she possibly recognise what Raven’s feelings were? “But she might be,” she added encouragingly. "You should just make sure you let her know how you feel.”
“I will. I just said I was going to ask her,” he reminded.
“Don’t put it like that, asking if you can call on her. Just be open about your feelings,” Clarke advised. It wasn’t a matter she had given much thought, but suddenly she had a very strong opinion on the subject.
“I’m not about to give her a proposal, Clarke,” he said, blushing. “I just—I think she is a remarkable lady and I would like to get to know her better.”
“So tell her that. And make sure she knows you mean it romantically.”
Wells was clearly trying very hard to hold back a roll of his one good eye. “It is implied, Clarke.”
Clarke shook her head. “You must make it plain.”
“All right,” Wells relented. “I will be clear. Very clear,” he added at her look.
“Good,” Clarke nodded.
Now she just had to make sure she followed her own advice.
When they finally set off, Raven insisted on taking them off the beaten path. Clarke enjoyed being shown around by a local, though she didn’t want to leave Paris without seeing any of the more famous sights. (She wasn’t counting the National Library, after their thievery.) At times they had seen the Eiffel Tower from a distance, but Wells insisted on paying it a proper visit before he left, which suited Clarke well enough. Raven allowed that it could be their final stop after lunch.
When Bellamy arrived at their agreed upon meeting place for lunch, they were pleasantly surprised to see he had convinced Miller to join them for the meal.
As they had been a bigger group at dinner the night before, and Clarke sat on the other end of the table, she had not yet had a chance to properly speak to Miller in general conversation. She seized this opportunity to sit nearer to him and finally get to know her husband’s best friend. He was much harder to pull into conversation than she had expected, but by the end of the meal she had a clearer picture of him and begun to decode his sense of humour. She couldn’t tell what he thought of her, but Clarke tried not to let that bother her.
Miller declined their invitation to join them for the remainder of their sight-seeing, citing work commitments, but inquired after their plans. Clarke was surprised when Miller chuckled at Wells’ declaration of the Eiffel Tower and then murmured to Bellamy, “And you’re going to visit as well?”
“What’s wrong with that?” Raven asked with a frown, before Clarke could voice the query herself.
“Nothing,” Bellamy said immediately. “I had just hoped to pay a visit to the Louvre.”
“The tower’s too new for Blake. His landmarks have to be a hundred years old at least, just like him,” Miller joked. Bellamy rolled his eyes in response and laughed along with the others, though a slight flush tinged his cheeks and Clarke wondered if he was embarrassed by the truth of it.
Raven was dubious that there was enough time for a proper tour of the Louvre in the time they had left; they had to get back to the Greens’ and finish the last of their packing before catching the ship. Despite her objections, Bellamy decided he would prefer a short visit there regardless, and Clarke expressed a preference for seeing the Louvre as well.
As this meant they were headed in three different directions, they bid their goodbyes to Miller and Raven outside the café, while Clarke and Bellamy agreed to meet Wells back at the Green house.
This left Clarke and Bellamy standing alone on the pavement, though they could still see Wells and Raven in the distance when Bellamy said gently, “You know, I won’t mind if you want to go with the others to see the Tower. I don’t want you to feel like you need to keep me company.”
“No, I really would like to see the museum with you,” Clarke replied honestly, though she frowned when a new thought struck her. “Unless you would prefer not to have company—I should have asked first if—“
“No, I don’t mind, I—“ Bellamy stopped to collect himself. After taking a breath, he continued in a more measured tone, “I am honoured to have your company, my lady.”
Clarke couldn’t hold back the decidedly unladylike scoff that left her lips, followed up by a roll of her eyes. “Bellamy,” she chided. “There is no need for that.”
His smirk of old was tinged with a spot of delight. “No need for what? I thought this was the proper way one should escort a lady in public,” he said with an exaggerated bow as he held out his arm to her.
Clarke bit back a giggle before resting her hand on his proffered arm. As they started walking side by side, Clarke allowed herself to take in the little details she had never indulged in on the few occasions they’d had to present themselves as a united front: his warmth, the strength of his arm, the way he altered his pace to match hers exactly.
“We are hardly courting, Bellamy,” she stated, even as her heart beat a little faster at the thought of spending the entire afternoon in only her husband’s company when she had nothing else to take her focus, albeit in public. “We are already husband and wife.”
“Indeed we are.”
She may have imagined the way his voice deepened at that, but the shiver it sent down her back was undeniably real.
Clarke had been to the Louvre once before, on her trip to Paris with her parents the year before her father first fell ill. She remembered finding some of it interesting in the vague way that everything new and different captured her attention back then, but nothing had stood out to her. Certainly, not in comparison to the looming Eiffel Tower.
Visiting the Louvre with Bellamy was an entirely different experience.
Raven was right that they did not have the time to explore it thoroughly, but even the shorter visit felt so much richer with her husband for company. Bellamy had a wealth of knowledge about all the areas they visited, not just the magical exhibits, and his excitement and passion for the history held within was clear throughout.
Clarke saw more than one visitor cast an appreciative eye over her husband, and she couldn’t blame them. Bellamy didn’t seem to notice the attention, but it made Clarke worry that it wouldn’t be long before he did. And if they didn’t properly discuss their… situation soon, then she might lose her husband’s affections entirely. If she hadn’t already.
In spite of their numerable arguments, he seemed fond of her still, but she couldn’t be entirely sure of how he felt. Before, when he’d only professed his love for her in his journal, he had acted only ever in the way of friendship. Now that he behaved much more openly towards her, what if it was because he had settled into that friendship? Had he given up on ever earning her affection and put his romantic feelings behind him?
Clarke couldn’t blame him if he had after some of her behaviour – she had read his most private thoughts! Still, she fervently hoped that was not the case – that Bellamy had not closed himself off to affection the way she had believed her own heart to be.
Of course, given their history, she did not expect him to volunteer to discuss anything remotely related to their relationship. No, if Clarke wanted an answer, she would need to have the courage to be the one to bring the matter up.
Clarke spent much of their journey back to the Green house deciding how to broach the subject. When Bellamy commented, not long before they arrived, on whether she thought they had returned to the house before Wells, Clarke decided to mention what she had learnt that morning. Perhaps it would allow her to turn the conversation back to themselves.
Hopefully Wells would not mind Clarke discussing his feelings in order to segue into a conversation on romance in general.
“Did you notice anything between Wells and Raven at lunch?” she questioned, adjusting the position of her hand on his arm. It was growing more uncomfortable to hold after walking so long, but she also rather liked it.
“What sort of thing do you mean?” Bellamy wondered.
“Just anything… romantic in nature.” Clearly, she was woeful at this.
“Are they courting?”
“No, not yet. I suppose I don’t know if they will be, either. I just perceived that Wells had an interest in Miss Reyes, but could not tell if she felt the same.” It was a stretch of the truth (to put it mildly), but it would save Wells some embarrassment if it sounded like Clarke had just guessed at his feelings.
“Oh. I couldn’t say for Miss Reyes either, but for Wells, I suppose it makes sense.”
“In what way?”
“Yesterday morning, I thought it was odd when Wells offered to go stay with Maya and her father,” he explained. “There wasn’t any need if Raven was home, and he had seemed so curious about our plan at the library. But if he wanted a reason to see Raven, then it makes more sense.”
That did make sense. How had Bellamy picked up on that, but Clarke hadn’t?
They turned the corner, and Clarke realised they were much closer to the Greens’ house than she had first thought. She’d counted on having more time. They were only a few feet away from the entrance and she had failed to do what she had planned. Clarke frowned at her own incompetence, but Bellamy misunderstood the reaction.
“It doesn’t bother you, does it?”
Clarke blinked as it took her a second to realise what he was asking. “Oh, no, of course not!” Clarke cried once she understood. “They’re both excellent people, why would it bother me?”
Bellamy shook his head, then said with a slight smile, “I suppose when you put it like that… ”
It seemed to Clarke that he was about to say something else, but she was prevented from asking by their arrival at the front door. Clarke remained quiet while they were let inside and she took off her jacket, but she hoped to recover herself, and the line of conversation, once they were safely in their bedroom. They had returned in good time, so she could pack at leisure, which surely meant they also had plenty of time to fit in a conversation before leaving.
As they walked up the stairs, Bellamy offered to collect the books they’d left in the library. Clarke agreed, and went into their shared guest room alone to start checking that everything would fit into her single trunk, despite the additional clothing purchases she had made for Bellamy. In moving things around, she located the one thing of Bellamy’s that was already in her trunk.
After she tamped down the initial burst of shame at the sight of that blasted journal, the book gave her an idea.
The previous evening, Clarke had been waiting for a private moment to show Bellamy that she had recovered his briefcase, but it never came. She was so tired following their dinner that it completely slipped her mind as she got into bed. Tucked in the corner behind her open trunk as it was, Bellamy hadn’t noticed it on his own, but Clarke realised that now was the perfect opportunity to show him. It could also give her an opening.
She had just tidied up the contents of the briefcase and relatched the clasps when Bellamy came in with a stack of books carefully balanced in his arms.
“I promised to leave a couple of volumes here for Monty,” Bellamy began, setting the books down on the bed, “so there should be — Is that my briefcase?” he asked, eyes settling on the object in Clarke’s lap.
Nodding, she stood and held it out to him.
He took the case from her gingerly. “You found it?”
“With Monty and Raven’s help. I don’t think everything is in there, and I know some of your papers were burnt— I found the scraps in the fireplace,” she explained, her anger over the state of his belongings taking shape on her face.
However, Bellamy looked calm as he shook his head. “Still, to have any of it back— I thought I’d lost all of it. Is this what you stayed for yesterday?” he wondered suddenly.
“I didn’t want to say in case it wasn’t there,” Clarke admitted.
“You didn’t have to do that. I’m sure with the police searching the mansion, they would have found it eventually,” he noted, putting the case down next to the books on the bed and undoing the clasps.
“I didn’t want you to wait that long, not after everything else. Not that it makes up for—“
“You don’t have to make up for anything,” Bellamy reassured, looking up.
“Maybe not for everything,” Clarke allowed, “but there are some things… I might have added to its contents,” she said finally, gesturing to the case.
Confused, Bellamy lifted the lid, revealing the same items she had found yesterday with one significant addition. Next to the current journal he had brought originally sat the older volume.
“I should have returned that— no, I should never have brought it with me—“
“And I promise I didn’t read anything from your case,” Clarke added quickly, realising how her secret of the night before might be construed.
“It’s fine, Clarke,” Bellamy cut in, red on his cheeks from embarrassment. “I told you before, we don’t need to talk about it—“
“I think we do,” Clarke said in a rush, before she lost her nerve. “We should talk about it.”
“About my journal?” he said slowly, eyes fixed on the item in question.
“Yes. No.” Clarke shook her head and took a deep breath. “We should talk about… our relationship.”
His hand stilled before he looked up at her. “I see. What about it?”
“I just want us to be honest with each other, Bellamy. You must have thought me very heartless back then, to have proposed the way I did,” she wondered, but he immediately shook his head.
“No, of course not. I had never given you any reason to think that I might feel more— Well, I never tried to, anyway,” he admitted.
“Why didn’t you?” Clarke couldn’t help but ask.
“There didn’t seem much point in it.”
Clarke wanted to grit her teeth at how veiled Bellamy was being, but she didn’t want to get angry while they talked about this.
She was trying to collect her thoughts when Bellamy asked, in the same tone one might ask about the weather, “Is that all you wanted to discuss?”
“No, I— I want to know what you think.”
“About our relationship?” he supposed, tone flat, not giving anything away.
“About me,” Clarke amended hesitantly. She looked away, turning back to the open trunk before she finally asked, “Do you still feel the way you did before? The way you wrote?”
The pause that followed was the tensest silence Clarke had ever experienced.
“No?” Clarke parroted, immediately wincing at the way the word sounded soft and weak on her lips.
“If you want me to be truly honest, then I should admit that my feelings now are quite different to what they were in England.”
“I see,” Clarke said quietly, trying and failing to sound even half as composed as he did and hating herself for it.
“I’m not sure that you do.”
Was that a playful tone she detected? Had she truly kept herself so closed off that he thought she would find his change of feeling amusing? Clarke couldn’t bring herself to look at him, but shook her head as she attempted nonchalance. “It’s all right, I understand. You’re not obliged to still be in love with me.”
“If our time together this week—” he began slowly, “these last few days, really—has shown me anything, it’s that I didn’t truly know you before. Not fully. I never realised just how amazing you really are. Clarke, if what I felt for you before was love, then I don’t know how to put into words the way I feel about you now.”
It was hard to say at what moment in his speech that Clarke dared to turn and look at him. The many times she would later relive the words, she could never pinpoint it. What she did remember was that when she did, the warmth, the hope, that lit up his face mirrored the emotions twisting up inside of her chest.
The slight upturn of his lips proved he had wilfully misled her, but in the moment she couldn’t even bring herself to be annoyed at his deception. Clarke only had the overwhelming urge to kiss that smirk from his face. Drawing on her courage, she crossed the distance between them, intending to do just that.
Bellamy’s eyes followed her as she moved in close, right up until their noses brushed. His eyelids fluttered shut just before hers did. Pulling him down harshly by the collar to meet her, Clarke had intended this kiss to be a passionate affair, but Bellamy kissed her back slowly, tempering her haste with something infinitely more patient. Between his soft lips and warm skin, Clarke would have had no complaints were it not for her sense that Bellamy was still trying not to overstep his bounds. She let one of her hands lift to his cheek in the hopes that it would inspire Bellamy to do something with his. When that didn’t work, Clarke licked his top lip, just before catching it between both of hers.
That at least provoked a reaction: a low groan from her husband. However, before Clarke could discover how he planned to respond, there was a loud rap on the door, causing Bellamy to jump two steps backwards in surprise.
“Clarke?” a voice called from behind the door. “Blake?”
A blushing Clarke realised Bellamy had not completely closed the door behind him—why would he when he had planned to go right back out to get the remaining books?—and if not for Wells’ impeccable manners, he may have easily walked in on them.
“Yes, Wells?” she asked, yanking the door open wide. There was nothing to see anymore, after all. “Is something wrong?” she added, noticing his expression.
In measured tones, her friend explained that he had returned to the house some twenty minutes before them, just in time to answer a telephone call from Marcus Kane who had rung up to provide a warning.
“What sort of warning?” Bellamy asked.
“Apparently, the Earl of Weatherly is claiming he doesn’t know anything about what Lord Cage has been up to.”
“What?” Clarke practically shouted.
“It’s possible, isn’t it?”
Clarke whirled on Bellamy, surprised it was her husband rather than Wells, the son of the Wallace family’s biggest fan, that posed the question.
“Don’t you think so?” Bellamy wondered in response to her open shock. “Not that I want to give the family any credit, but while I’m sure Cage needed his father’s help to foot the bill, I could believe that Dante Wallace didn’t know what he was paying for.”
“He might not know all the details, but Dante knows Cage is up to something—Cage told me so himself!” Clarke sputtered. “And he’s known about at least one past incident—who knows how many others there were!”
“Marcus seemed to believe that he was lying,” Wells informed them. “He only called to ask if there was anything we could think of—anything we’d seen that would specifically link the Earl to it all. At least, I think that’s what he meant. He tried to stay a bit vague on the phone so it was a little difficult to keep up.”
“Clarke, do you remember what our phone number is?”
Clarke turned to look at Bellamy, surprised by his change of subject. “Not from memory, but it’s in my notebook.” Before she could form a question of her own, Bellamy had another for her.
“Did you give Andrew and Fox leave when you came?”
“There didn’t seem any reason not to,” Clarke admitted. “I wasn’t sure how long I would be gone though, so I asked if at least one of them could be back by…” she trailed off as she mentally calculated the number of days it had been since she left England.
“By?” he prodded.
Only then did he move to the dresser, where Clarke’s notebook still sat. Wells caught Clarke’s eye, and she shrugged in response.
“What’s the matter?” Clarke wondered to Bellamy’s back. “Do you need them to look for something in the house?”
“No, not ours, I thought—“ He shook his head then put the notebook back down. “No,” he said, resolute. “It’s too dangerous.”
He wiped a frustrated hand over his face. “I thought they could help, with finding evidence.”
“We can’t ask Fox and Andrew to do something like that,” Clarke replied, astonished that the idea had even entered Bellamy’s mind, even if he had quickly given it up. “It’s one thing to ask Marcus, but to expect them to go hunting for—“
“Oh,” Bellamy said, suddenly realising. “You don’t know.”
“That’s my fault,” he admitted, shaking his head, “I must have not mentioned it.”
“Mentioned what?” Clarke prompted, now agitated.
“The household where Fox and Andrew previously worked was the Earl’s.”
There was a moment of silence while Clarke stared at her husband, completely flabbergasted. She dropped to sit on the bed, trying to process this.
“For how long?” Wells wondered.
“Andrew worked there for about two years,” Bellamy recalled. “Fox had worked for Dante Wallace’s aunt first, and when she died, was taken on by Dante. Apparently, the aunt was a very nice lady.”
“Yes, she was,” Wells agreed. “Very kind.”
Clarke gasped, her hand flying to his mouth. “Yesterday, Cage said he’d tried something before and the maids got hurt— Was Fox—“
“They didn’t hurt her,” Bellamy reassured her quickly, bending in front of Clarke and taking her other hand.
“Are you sure? She only told me how unhappy she’d been in her last employer’s—“
“I’m certain. The family was unkind, but they didn’t harm her. And she knew what my work involves,” Bellamy added, when Clarke didn’t look convinced. “If there had been anything to do with magic, then Fox would have known to mention it.”
As she thought it over, Clarke remembered that at the time of the incident Cage had mentioned Fox would have been too young to have been in service. Clarke herself had only been a child then.
“Forgive my saying so,” Wells ventured, “but if you think your maid had no idea about the family’s history with magic when she worked there, why did you think she would be able to help now?”
“Because she, or Andrew, might have seen something that could be useful,” Bellamy replied, standing. “Or know some of the Wallaces’ secret hiding places.”
Wells crossed his arms, thoughtful. “They’ve been working for you for a while now. Won’t they have forgotten?”
“Possibly,” Bellamy relented. “But Andrew is still in touch with two of the boys who work there, meets up with them on his day off. Maybe they could help.”
“I think Bellamy has the right idea,” Clarke said. She could recall all her own mother’s comments on the importance of having trustworthy help. Servants were privy to far more than most liked to think about. It was important to make sure they wouldn’t give away any secrets they came to learn. “But even if they have an idea of where to look, we can’t risk sending Fox or Andrew, or one of their friends, to go searching the house for evidence. And it would certainly seem suspicious if any of us went to pay Dante Wallace a visit once we’re back.”
“I know someone who is a frequent guest of the Wallaces,” Wells noted. “It wouldn’t seem suspicious if my father paid him a visit.”
Bellamy laughed. “I can just picture Thelonious wanting to support the Earl in his time of need.”
“But I can’t imagine Thelonious wilfully spying on him,” Clarke pointed out. “At least, not until he sees you and you’ve told him everything,” she said to Wells. “But the longer we wait, the more likely it is that Dante will get rid of more evidence, if there’s even anything left.”
“Perhaps Thelonious could take a guest with him?” Bellamy suggested. “It wouldn’t be that suspicious for Kane to join him would it?”
“Marcus could say he wanted to provide some legal advice under the current circumstances,” Clarke mused.
“If Marcus agrees,” Wells said, “that still means he has to spy around their house.”
“It seems he’s done a lot of investigative work these last few days,” Bellamy noted. “And there’s a much better chance of him smoothing things over if he gets caught, than if one of the servants did.”
“We can tell Marcus to go to our house,” Clarke proposed, “and talk to Fox and Andrew, just to begin. It’s somewhere to start at least.”
They all agreed that this was the best way forward, so Bellamy returned to the dresser for Clarke’s notebook, this time for Marcus’ number, while Wells returned to his bedroom to finish packing.
When Bellamy turned back around, he noticed the flat look on Clarke’s face so he stopped to ask, “What is it?”
Clarke gave a humourless laugh. “I was just thinking that my mother would say I was not adequately managing my household if I didn’t know who my servants’ former employers were. And then I thought of my mother.”
Clarke shook her head. “I still can’t believe that she didn’t tell me.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but— I can.”
Clarke frowned. “How do you mean?”
Sighing, Bellamy ran a hand through his hair. “Well, whatever she learnt about the Wallaces, it’s only natural she would have tried to protect you from it.”
“Well, you love secrets. I suppose it’s no surprise you would side with her,” Clarke pouted.
“I’m not siding with her,” he said, and Clarke could hear the current of exasperation running through his voice. “But, Clarke, how old must you have been back then? Could you really blame her for not talking to you about it?”
Clarke huffed out a short breath. “I can understand her not doing so then. But what about in all the time since then?”
“I’m not saying you don’t have a right to be upset, but knowing what we do about the kind of person Cage is, maybe we should wait until you can talk to her about it before you judge her too harshly?”
It wasn’t an unreasonable suggestion, but Clarke didn’t have to like it. Still, she resolved to cast her mother’s role in this predicament from her mind until they returned to London.
Of course, trying not to think about that gave Clarke more time to think about her husband, and their unfinished conversation—and that kiss.
It wasn’t a very lengthy chat that Bellamy had with Marcus over the telephone, but by the time he had finished, Monty had returned from work to see them off. In between packing, goodbyes, and getting to the sky ship, there was no opportunity for Clarke to speak with Bellamy alone until they were on board.
Then, once they were on board, her sickness set in, somehow even worse than the first time, despite being prepared for it. Clarke took herself below deck very quickly, hoping that she could pass the time by sleeping, but her nausea was too strong to allow her any rest. The best she could hope was to pass the journey without embarrassing herself in front of anyone. So, she was not entirely pleased when her husband entered the cabin some thirty minutes into their journey. It was nice to see him, even if he was likely hiding from the dizzying heights, but he was the last person she wanted to vomit in front of.
“How fares the patient?” Bellamy asked cheerily, closing the door behind him.
“Haha,” Clarke deadpanned. “After what you told me about your fear of sky ships, I’m surprised you stayed out on deck for so long.”
“I am too,” Bellamy admitted, setting down a dish with some crackers on the small bedside table. Before she could thank him, he continued, “But I wanted to take the opportunity to get to know Wells better. I know how important he is to you and I—“ He glanced out the window before confessing, “I admit I had been a little jealous of him, seeing how close you both were.”
“Bellamy.” Clarke was so stunned she didn’t know what to say. “You can’t have thought that I— It was never like that between Wells and I.”
“I didn’t think that at first,” he said, taking the chair, “not from the way you spoke of him. But at our wedding, Thelonious told me he’d always expected you to become his daughter-in-law,” he revealed. “It made me wonder.”
“What?” Clarke exclaimed.
Bellamy smiled. “So, you didn’t know?”
“I— Well, our parents used to talk about it when we were children, but I made it clear to my mother and father that I didn’t think of Wells in that way when we were still quite young, and they never brought it up again. I’m not sure if Wells ever spoke to Thelonious about it in such certain terms, but he had no right to tell you that. And at our wedding!” She scowled at the thought of it.
Bellamy laughed at her outrage. “It didn’t offend me. I was only worried you might have preferred to marry him.” At Clarke’s stare, he looked away sheepishly. “I did tell myself that if you really liked him, you had plenty of time to propose marriage to him instead of me.”
The comment amused Clarke. “And what if he didn’t want to marry me?”
“Well, I had heard so much about how intelligent Mr. Wells Jaha was. Of course I thought he couldn’t have been so foolish as that.”
Clarke’s breath caught in her throat. She kept her lips pursed not from nausea, but from her unwillingness to interrupt her husband.
“I wrote it off as a fancy of Thelonious’ at the time, but when I realised Wells had come all this way with you I thought— I was glad you had him with you,” Bellamy added earnestly. “Truly. It was bad enough to think you had been put in danger by coming to find me; it would have been worse if you’d been alone. But it only reminded me of that exchange and made me wonder whether it had any merit. It seemed like such a ridiculous time to be jealous, and I decided it would be easier not seeing you at all. Or so I thought anyway.”
“I would say kidnapping and illness had addled your brain,” Clarke joked, “but it’s not as if I wasn’t unreasonably jealous myself either.”
Before Clarke could continue, the ship rocked and Clarke instinctively clutched the bed.
“Do you need some water?” Bellamy asked, rushing forward to the bedside table. “Or biscuits?”
“No, it’s fine,” she said, closing her eyes tightly as she fought back the nauseated feeling rising in her throat.
It was difficult to settle until she felt the bed dip beside her and rough fingertips press gently against her scalp, brushing through her hair. Opening her eyes, Clarke saw Bellamy perched on the bed at her shoulder, his knees pressed up against the bedside table.
“Does that help?” he asked, continuing with the slow, gentle motions.
“Yes.” After a few minutes of this tender treatment, Clarke moved her head across the pillow. Bellamy halted his movements until he realised she was adjusting so she could rest her cheek against his leg and continued. The fabric of his trouser was not more comfortable than the pillow, but she still relished the feeling of being close to him.
“Thank you for taking care of me,” she whispered.
“You don’t have to thank me for that.”
“Because I’m giving you an excuse to hide down here so no one else realises you’re scared of flying?” she teased.
“Because I want to take care of you,” he said earnestly.
Clarke’s smirk stopped short, and she met his eyes. He seemed more conflicted than she would have liked. “Bellamy,” she began, “About our conversation earlier—”
He nodded, clearly steeling himself, and jumped in, “Yes, well. You know how I feel about you, but I want you to know that I understand if you don’t—if you can’t—feel the same. I don’t want you to think that I suddenly expect anything more from our arrangement than what we previously agreed.”
Blinking, Clarke stared up at him incredulously. “Bellamy. You remember that I kissed you, don’t you?”
“I do. And if you are interested in something purely… physical we can—“
“Bellamy,” Clarke cut him off with a sigh. She really would have to spell it out for him. “I’m not very good with words, so you’ll have to excuse me if I borrow some of yours.”
He furrowed his brow. “What do you mean?”
“There was something you wrote in your journal that stayed with me,” Clarke admitted. “You said you thought I could be a true partner to you. Do you remember that?”
“Yes,” he said roughly, with a slight nod of his head. “I remember.”
“That’s what I want for us—a true partnership. Not just in your work, but,” she took a deep breath, lifting a hand to touch his cheek before finishing, “in your life. In your heart. The way you are in mine.”
“Oh.” His lack of response would have given Clarke pause if he didn’t look so entirely overwhelmed by her statement.
“I know it’s not what we originally agreed, but I hope that’s all right,” she teased.
Bellamy smiled softly down at her, the hand not in her hair moving to rest over hers against his cheek. “Yes. I would like that very much.” Then he moved her hand to kiss her open palm with such gentleness that, for a few blessed minutes, Clarke forgot her discomfort entirely.
I thought turning my work trip into an extended stay with Octavia would be comforting, but my sister knows me too well. I tried to distract myself with little Aurora—at least she was happy to see me, and she’s grown so much in only a few weeks!—but Octavia would not be deterred. Despite my denials, she immediately deduced that I have been avoiding Clarke since the wedding. I didn’t think it was so obvious that I was feeling sorry for myself, but then Octavia brought up her own loss. She has struggled to discuss her feelings since Lincoln’s passing, so I must have seemed completely miserable for her to willingly bring him up.
It was an underhanded tactic, but I suppose she is not wrong. Clarke is not so lost to me, even if she does not return my affection. And how can I call myself a friend to Clarke if I am purposely putting distance between us? And at a time when things are different for her too—living without her mother, in such a smaller house, for all that she is finally in command of her own wealth. She must feel as if she is practically living alone, I am so often away. I didn’t think Clarke would mind considering marriage is merely a tool to gain her independence, but even in the darkness of last night, I could see her disappointment when I mentioned my trip. I can’t bear to be reason for that look in her face.
I must stop avoiding her. I will, starting from tonight. I am going to go home early instead of hiding out with my sister and niece. (And that is my own decision, whatever Octavia wants to say about it.)
I do not dare hope that her feelings will change, only that time may dull my own and that we may become truly friends.
The skies were already dark when Clarke and Bellamy arrived in London. Marcus had promised to arrange for a car to meet them in his last phone call. This had seemed like a relief to Clarke at the time, one less thing to worry about, but it turned out to be quite the annoyance. Granted, it was still a kind offer. Only, Clarke would greatly have preferred if the car took them home instead of to the Kanes’.
Although Clarke liked Marcus and his mother immensely, she was not in the mood for polite chitchat, even if she wasn’t suffering from lingering nausea. As she most certainly was, the thought of having to dine with company made her even wearier. Actually, the thought of dining at all was too much.
The sole bright spot in this situation was that since their open conversation on the ship, Bellamy had been all that was care and comfort. It seemed that now that he had Clarke’s permission, he couldn’t stop touching her, his hand on her back or playing with her hair. During the car ride, once she’d accepted she wouldn’t be going home as soon as she liked, Clarke rested her head on Bellamy’s shoulder and closed her eyes, his arm a warm presence about her waist. When the car stopped, Clarke nestled closer for a moment, and Bellamy brushed his lips across her forehead.
“I can run in and tell Marcus that you are too unwell for company,” he offered.
“No,” Clarke said, a little mournfully. “It is just travel sicknesses. It will pass soon enough. And besides, after Marcus looked into everything, and even sent his driver for us, it would be rude to just leave without speaking to him. But I’m not staying for dinner.”
“That’s fair enough.”
Bellamy helped Clarke out of the car, and she kept her hand around his arm while they waited in the hallway. Strangely, when his butler announced their arrival, Clarke heard a sound of surprise from Marcus’ study. She only had chance to share a curious look with her husband before they entered the room themselves.
Marcus straightened his jacket as he walked around his desk to greet them. Glancing at the clock, he commented, “You must forgive me for not being more prepared for your arrival; I completely lost track of time.”
“Not at all. We don’t need to stay long, I hope,” Bellamy ventured. “Is there much we need to discuss?”
“Well, no, but you are welcome to stay for dinner,” Marcus offered. “It is a bit late perhaps, but I haven’t eaten myself yet—and I don’t know what they offer you on these sky ships.”
“Thank you, but we should—“ Clarke stopped short at the realisation that it was not just the three of them in the room. “Mother.”
In the far corner of the study sat Abigail Griffin, mouth set as she studied her daughter and son-in-law. It was perhaps a little odd that the lady so well versed in social etiquette made no move to greet her daughter, but under such circumstances, Clarke was glad for it.
“What are you doing here?” Clarke wondered.
“I’m here to see how my daughter is faring after her kidnapping,” she stated. To someone who didn’t know Abigail Griffin, she may have sounded calm, pleasant even. But Clarke could hear the anger lurking underneath. “Not that she deigned to tell me about it herself.”
Huffing, Clarke crossed her arms and turned to face her. “I planned to tell you when I arrived home; I didn’t think it was something to share over the telephone. And Marcus agreed with me,” she added, though she felt a little bad for doing so when Abby’s eyes darted to him.
“I am aware,” Abby said coolly.
“Clarke, Blake,” Marcus began gently, “You should both know Lady Abigail has been very helpful in my investigation.”
“I’m sure,” Clarke commented under her breath.
It wasn’t quiet enough. Though Marcus’ study was significantly larger than Bellamy’s, all four occupants were sufficiently close together that Clarke’s remark did not pass unnoticed. Abby’s eyebrows raised while Marcus tugged on his sleeves uncomfortably, but Bellamy merely inched closer to her side, resting a warm hand at the small of her back. The small gesture of support eased some of the tension.
“Why don’t you both sit down?” Marcus suggested, but Clarke shook her head.
“I’d rather not stay long. Did you manage to find any evidence on Dante Wallace?” Clarke inquired.
“I went to your house this afternoon, spoke to your servants. They were quite unwilling to tell me anything at first, so I decided to share some of the details of what happened to you, Blake. That did motivate them, though I’m not sure the information they provided will be of much use,” Marcus replied. “They didn’t see anything suspicious of that nature—at least not that they would reveal to me—and without proper reason, legally, we cannot just go searching it.”
“It’s Cage’s home, and he’s been arrested,” Clarke noted. “Is that not reason enough?”
“An inspector from Scotland Yard went to the house this morning and was told that it has not been Lord Cage’s permanent home for some months now.”
“Let me guess: they said he has been living in France?” Bellamy assumed, to which Marcus nodded wryly.
“Well, of course they would say that, but we’ve all seen him in London—you invited him to our wedding celebration dinner,” Clarke added pointedly to her mother.
“It was an invitation to the family,” Abigail said, a little stiffly.
“He was there, though. And at plenty of other events over the last few months.”
“Clarke, I know the inspector who went to the house, I have worked with him before—“
“You worked with Miss Tsing as well, didn’t you? And she sent Wells and I straight into a trap.”
Marcus nodded unhappily. “I believe she has been feeding Cage a lot of other information, though I have yet to discover who her sources are. It seems she has been connected with the Wallaces for some time. You must know if I’d had any idea on where she was leading you, I never would have recommended her services. I am sorry about that, truly.”
Clarke softened a little. “I don’t blame you,” she clarified, “I just wonder who else they have doing their dirty work.”
“Unfortunately, the police.” At Clarke’s confused expression, Marcus explained, “I do believe the inspector is an honest man, but the Wallaces still hold quite a bit of influence with the higher-ranking officials. He was told in no uncertain terms that he was to drop all further lines of inquiry into the Wallace family and leave it at that.”
Clarke stared open mouthed.
“They’re going to hush everything up?” Bellamy assumed. “What about Cage?”
“Cage will still go to court—and jail I’m sure, there is too much evidence against him,” Marcus clarified. “But they will do their best to keep the… family name out of it.”
Clarke scoffed, “So, that’s it? They’re going to pin everything on Cage and his father gets away with covering everything up?”
“No,” Abby said firmly. “I—I have some information, Clarke, that I’m going to share with the police. Marcus is advising me on how best to do so. I can’t promise what they’ll do about it, but they’ll have to take some notice. The Wallaces aren’t the only ones who hold sway with the upper echelons of Scotland Yard.” Clearly, she tried to finish on a lighter tone, but there still followed a few moments of silence while everyone digested this.
Clarke could feel everyone’s eyes on her. “I see. Well, if you have your own information, then I don’t think there’s anything else you need from Bellamy and I then, is there?”
She started turning on her heel when Abby stood up. “Clarke, won’t you stay for a little while longer to talk about this?”
“I don’t think that’s necessary,” Clarke said, clipped, before heading out the room without looking back.
She heard Bellamy’s quick steps following behind her, but Clarke wasn’t sure of his reaction until she felt his hand on her shoulder. The move was clearly meant to be delay her.
“Clarke,” he began, and his understanding tone caused her to whirl on him.
“If you try to tell me to see things from her point of view—“
Bellamy held his hands up placatingly. “If you would let me speak before you decide what I’m going to say, you’ll find out I’m on your side,” he reminded her, a hand reaching up to cup her cheek. “You know that don’t you?”
Clarke nodded, leaning into his palm.
“Then know that I say this with what I feel would be best for you, and not your mother, on my mind.” He waited until Clarke met his eyes again to finish, “I think you should talk to her.”
Clarke frowned, even though she had suspected that would be his position.
“I’m not saying you need to spend hours with her, or be understanding or even forgiving. Just hear what she has to say; ask her the questions you want the answers to so you’ve heard it from her, and not just from Cage Wallace. It might not make it all better, but at least you’ll know. There are so many things I wish I could have asked my mother about.”
“Well, that’s not fair,” Clarke pouted, her hand moving up to rest over his. “You know I’m going to feel bad when you play the dead parent card.”
Bellamy smirked. “And I’ve got two of those.”
She let out an unladylike snort then shook her head wryly. How did he make her laugh with comments like that?
With a sigh, Clarke took a step back, breaking contact with him. “Very well. Do you mind waiting a bit longer before we go home?”
Shaking his head, Bellamy replied, “Not at all. I can discuss proceedings with Marcus in the meantime.”
Clarke made Bellamy agree to fetch her after a suitable time had passed, in case she wanted an excuse to leave, and then they returned to the study where Marcus and Abby were in close discussion.
Abby seemed pleased when Clarke agreed to talk things over after all, and Marcus immediately offered them the use of his sitting rom. It seemed his mother was having dinner with friends that evening and was not expected home for a while, so at least they wouldn’t be interrupted. Not until Clarke had arranged with Bellamy at the very least.
Upon entering the room, one where Clarke had previously spent many evenings, both before and after her father’s death, Lady Abigail took her usual seat on the plush teal chaise by the fire. Clarke’s usual seat was close by, but today she chose to perch in an armchair further away. If Abby noticed this change in behaviour she did not show it. Instead, she cleared her throat delicately before launching into her story.
If a part of Clarke had still hoped Cage had been lying when he spoke of her mother—stretching the truth just to hurt her—that part dissipated as Abby spoke. The story took shape much like Clarke had imagined—feared—it would. In some ways it was worse, as it appeared Abby had been called to aid the family after multiple incidents, not just the one Cage alluded to.
It seemed each started similarly: Cage trying to recreate magical spells and never quite managing. Over time, the spells grew in complexity, as did the methods for enacting them—or attempting to enact them in Cage’s case, since he continually failed. And then in the aftermath, he would take his anger out on anything and anyone in his way, uncaring of what or whom he harmed.
Even though this account only confirmed what Clarke already knew, the details were unsettling to hear.
“Dante made changes after that last attempt,” Abby explained. “He sent Cage to a much stricter boarding school, and when he came back, he seemed so much changed. Dante never confided anything else to me, and from what I saw it seemed there was nothing to tell.
“You must believe I never imagined that Cage would force Mr. Blake to help him, that he would take any of you, I… “ Abby trailed off, and after a few moments Clarke realised this was less from a lack of words and more from a need for a response.
Listening to her mother’s story, it seemed that Clarke’s mouth had dried up, but she could at least respond, “I know you didn’t.”
“I wish you had told me, Clarke,” Abby declared.
“I could say the same to you,” Clarke commented.
“Clarke, I had every reason to believe it was all in the past. And you must see why I didn’t tell you back then, you were a child. You don’t know how it hurt me to know my daughter hadn’t told me that she had been kidnapped.”
“Well, that wouldn’t have even happened if you had done something about what you knew!” Clarke snapped.
Abby, who had been leaning forward pleadingly in her chair, jerked back as if struck by Clarke’s words.
Clarke screwed her eyes shut, still upset but not wanting to see the pain in her mother’s face. This was why she had wanted to avoid this conversation.
“You must know that I dearly regret what has happened to you and Mr. Blake—and poor Wells—“
“Not just to us!” Clarke cut in. “Bellamy’s friend Miller was taken too, and Maya; she worked for Cage and tried to help Bellamy when he fell sick, so Cage locked her up with them too. And there’s Raven; she helped Wells and I find them all. These are just the people I know about. Who knows how many others Cage has hurt along the way. You only care because I was hurt, but what about everyone else?”
“Clarke, please. I—“
Abby started to reach for her daughter, causing Clarke to shrink away slightly. Her mother seemed on the verge of tears, but Clarke looked away, resolved. “I just need some time.”
Nodding, Abby replied, “Of course. Well, you should get some rest. My car is outside, I can—”
“That’s not necessary. You don’t have to take us back if you want to stay for dinner,” Clarke hedged. She didn’t want to have to explain her disinclination was more due to not wanting to share a car than anything else.
It seemed, however, that Abby could read between the lines. “I’m going to stay to discuss things with Marcus actually. About what I’ll have to do,” she explained. Bellamy walked in then, so Abby directed her next words to him, “I was just telling Clarke that my driver is available to take you both home.”
“Thank you. That would be very helpful, if you don’t mind,” Bellamy replied.
She shook her head and explained her intentions of remaining once more.
As much as she wanted to go back home, Clarke told her husband, “We don’t have to leave yet if you haven’t finished with Marcus.”
“It’s nothing that can’t keep until morning. And you need to rest,” he added, moving closer to help her rise from the chair.
“I’m not an invalid, Bellamy,” she said, but she took his hand anyway. Annoyingly, she did wobble a little when she had reached her full height, but Bellamy simply put his other arm around her waist, making no comment on her stumble other than a pointed smirk.
Clarke rolled her eyes, but checked herself from making a quip of her own since her mother was present. She glanced over to find Abby watching them with undisguised interest, but Clarke ignored the look and bid her mother a subdued farewell.
Their journey home was mostly quiet, which on Clarke’s part was mainly down to growing fatigue. Bellamy, it was clear, suspected another reason when he inquired after the Griffin ladies’ conversation, careful to speak in low tones to avoid the driver’s attention. When Clarke replied cryptically that it had gone about as well as she had feared, Bellamy responded, “I am sorry for pushing you on it.”
“No, it’s all right,” Clarke said, catching his hand for a reassuring squeeze. She slid closer to her husband so that she could whisper, “I did want to put it off, but… we do that a lot with the important conversations. Ever since we lost my father,” she realised. “It may not have been what I wanted to hear, but I am glad that I finally know the truth. And now I would like to sleep for the next week,” she finished loudly.
Bellamy smiled and brushed her hair away from her forehead. “I know exactly what you mean,” he commented wryly.
A teasing response that he was welcome to join her formed on Clarke’s lips, but she tamped it down at the last minute. In the short time since their feelings finally had been let out in the open, Bellamy had not been shy about showing Clarke his affection, but they had yet to resume the kiss that Wells had interrupted earlier that afternoon. As much as Clarke would have liked to do so in theory, in practice, she didn’t mind waiting. Currently, her nausea from the boat still rumbled down the back of her throat. Not to mention the exhaustion that was taking over her limbs.
Bellamy too seemed to be feeling the need for slumber. He was nearly as slow and stiff as Clarke when they exited the car. He had borne the trip back to London well, his own fear of flying seemingly put to one side once he assigned himself the task of taking care of her, but he hadn’t exactly had a restful few weeks. Clarke supposed the time difference, with France being an hour ahead, likely wasn’t helping matters.
When Clarke entered the front hallway, she was struck with a fondness for the house that she had not felt or noticed before. It was much smaller and plainer than even the Greens’ home, never mind the lavish residence of the Kanes or her former home, but there was something about it that Clarke found very charming. Or maybe she simply was happy to be back at long last.
Andrew and Fox welcomed them both back warmly, but they did not converse long before Bellamy led a groggy Clarke up the staircase and towards her bedroom.
Her bedroom, Clarke remembered suddenly, when they were only a few steps away.
“I hope you feel better in the morning,” Bellamy said as they came to a stop outside the door before pressing his lips to her forehead. It seemed he was rather fond of that gesture. Clarke rather liked it too.
He took a step back, his hand sliding from her waist, but Clarke caught it between hers before he could move far. “Come to bed with me,” she whispered. When Bellamy’s eyes widened at her statement, she added, “Just to sleep.” She was far too exhausted to even contemplate anything else.
Bellamy looked surprised, and Clarke was disappointed that he gently squeezed her hand before stepping away from her. However, he followed it up with a nod. “I’ll just be a few minutes. To change,” he clarified.
Clarke glanced down, tempering her smile, and nodded her assent before slipping inside the room.
She washed quickly—although because of her queasiness Clarke did take care to clean out her mouth thoroughly—before slipping into the first nightgown she found in her dresser. Then Clarke turned her attention to hurriedly picking up the items she’d left carelessly strewn about the room in her rush to pack and leave for Paris, throwing them into drawers and cupboards and places where they hopefully wouldn’t be obvious. She assumed Bellamy would be too tired to pay close attention to the state of her bedroom tonight, but, having witnessed the order in both his bedroom and study, Clarke didn’t want him to think she was slovenly.
As she settled into bed, it seemed that the frenzied tidying had partially revived her energy. Unfortunately, that only gave her an awareness of how nervous she was as the minutes ticked by and Bellamy had yet to join her.
Clarke had just rolled onto her side when there was a knock on the door only moments before it slowly opened.
Now clad in one of the pyjama sets she had bought him in Paris, Bellamy took a soft step into the room. When he hesitated at the sight of her, Clarke realised the tangle of her hair obscured her face enough to convince him she was asleep.
Brushing the errant curls away from her face, she called out to him quietly, “Bellamy.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you,” he apologised, shutting the door behind him.
“You didn’t. Is everything all right?” she asked, adjusting her position. “You seemed to take a while—I wondered if perhaps you changed your mind,” Clarke admitted.
He quickly shook his head. “I just wanted to speak to Andrew about a few things, I didn’t realise it would take so long. There was—” he cut himself off to yawn, bringing his hand up to cover his mouth.
Clarke lifted her arm out towards him over the covers. “Come, sleep,” she said gently. “You can tell me in the morning.”
Bellamy smiled softly before taking the few short steps to the bed. Lifting the corner of the covers, he slid onto the mattress, though only barely. The bed was slightly narrower than the one they had shared at Monty’s parents’ house, yet when Bellamy tucked himself in, he was so close to the edge that Clarke worried he would fall off. He certainly felt even further away than he had been the past two nights.
“Bellamy,” she said, stifling a laugh.
“You don’t have to stay all the way over there.” After she spoke, Clarke realised she didn’t know what his natural sleeping preferences were. Maybe he didn’t like to cuddle. “I mean, not if you don’t want to,” she added, just in case. Though Clarke clearly remembered the ways he had spent as much time as he could in contact with her since her confession on the ship.
“I just don’t want to make you uncomfortable,” he replied, turning to face her, “especially if you still don’t feel well.”
“I’m mostly just tired,” Clarke said. “And I asked you to join me because I want to be close to you.”
He studied her face intently. After a few moments, it seemed he was satisfied with whatever he found there. Shifting on the bed, Bellamy closed the distance between them, shifting onto his left side to face her.
“I would like to be near you as well,” he admitted, reaching out to brush back the strands of hair that had fallen onto Clarke’s face again.
She didn’t often sleep on her side, but when Clarke dozed off she thought, in the right circumstances it was something she could get used to.
When Clarke woke up, it took a few moments for her to remember where she was: back in her bedroom, alone. How strange to have been away such a short time and yet find her own room so unfamiliar. Perhaps it was not the room itself, but the lack of its other occupant. Waking up without the warm presence of her husband was more than a little disappointing. Still, she cheered herself at the thought of seeing him soon now she felt completely recovered.
That excitement dissipated when Clarke realised how late she had slept in and, when she went downstairs, that her husband had already breakfasted and left the house without her.
It was only from the years of etiquette lessons that Clarke did not let the crestfallen feeling in her stomach reflect on her face upon hearing this news. “Did Mr. Blake say when he would return home?”
“No, ma’am,” Fox replied.
“Oh, I see. Well, thank you, Fox.”
Fox nodded dutifully. “Would you like your breakfast at the table ma’am? Or perhaps you’d prefer to take it up to your room?”
“That’s all right Fox, it’s quite late now. I can wait until lunch.”
The suggestion appeared to upset Fox, and Clarke suddenly felt that she had made a faux pas.
“I don’t mean for any of the food to go to waste,” Clarke said quickly. “Only to save it, and I will have it at lunchtime instead.”
“But you must eat something, ma’am.” Before Clarke could argue, Fox added, “Mr. Blake insisted.”
Fox flushed suddenly. “I don’t mean to be rude, ma’am, only Mr. Blake gave very strict instructions. And he gave me a list of what to make today; things that would make you feel better when you’ve been sick. He said while he was out we had to make sure you ate and rested.”
“Oh. Did Mr. Blake also tell you not to wake me even if it got very late?”
Fox nodded. “Yes, ma’am. He said you needed rest, and we were not to disturb you for anything.”
Clarke had to bite back a smile. “I see.” Feeling somewhat better about her morning, she decided to take a small meal at the dining table. Fox didn’t seem entirely appeased by this but was clearly not about to talk back to her mistress any more than she already had. However, when the girl went to get the food, Clarke stopped her for a moment. There was something she just had to know for certain.
“Fox, I know we didn’t discuss it fully last night, but I imagine Mr. Blake may have spoken to you this morning about Mr. Kane’s visit yesterday and… Well, about everything that has happened with the Wallaces. I recall you mentioned to me how unhappy you’d been with your last family before Mr. Blake, but I never asked—“ Clarke stopped herself. It wasn’t the time to focus on her own failings. “I just wanted to make sure that you weren’t treated very badly—that you weren’t harmed.”
Fox was already shaking her head before Clarke finished. “No, ma’am,” she said quickly.
“I know you won’t want to tell tales,” Clarke assured, “but if anything happened, you can tell me—or Mr. Blake,” she added, thinking that Fox might prefer to speak to him.
“Really, ma’am, it was all right,” Fox said, and the small smile on her face seemed genuine. “They weren’t very… nice to us,” she settled on. “And it was a bit of a shock for me— I mean, I know the Master is an Earl, but after his auntie was so generous and kind to everyone, I didn’t think him and his wife would be so—different. I was unhappy working there, but I was never hurt.”
Clarke nodded, understanding. “Well, if you’re having any difficulties, or you need anything, please know you can come to me and Mr. Blake.”
“I know, ma’am. Thank you.”
She went to leave again, but paused in the hallway, this time of her own accord. “Actually, if I could ask one question?”
“Of course,” Clarke replied, unsure what had come to mind so quickly. She remembered hearing some of her mother’s so-called friends commenting that it didn’t do to be too kind to servants because they would only take advantage of it, but Clarke didn’t think Fox was the type to suddenly request favours.
With eager eyes, Fox asked, “Is it really true, ma’am, that Master Cage has been arrested? And he’s going to prison?”
Stifling a laugh at the animation in Fox’s face, Clarke responded evenly, “He’s been arrested, but they still need to have a trial first.”
“But he won’t get away with what he did to Mr. Blake, will he?” she asked, eyes narrowing.
“No, I don’t think he will.”
Fox nodded. “Good.”
After her meal, Clarke went into Bellamy’s study, taking the last of his books from her trunk to return them to their proper places. She spent a few minutes recalling which shelves she had taken them from and trying to put them back in the right order. Being in the room reminded her of her husband, but that feeling was tinged with melancholy. Despite his sweet gesture with breakfast, Bellamy’s absence only served to remind Clarke of the first few weeks of their marriage when he had been distant from her. Now that she knew how he had felt during that time, Clarke suspected some of that distance had been self-inflicted, rather than work-related as he had claimed. It was disappointing to think that he might revert to that habit even now. She tried to reassure herself that Bellamy must have had good reason for going out, but it still hurt that he hadn’t left any message for her.
As her eyes cast about the room, Clarke noticed that one book Bellamy already returned to the study was his latest journal. It currently sat in the middle of his desk, as if he had already written in it before he left. She let out a little laugh at the thought that he might have taken the time to do that this morning but had not remembered to leave her a note.
From the study, she wandered into the sitting room, deciding to look through the letters that had arrived while she was away. Clarke had only made it through the first two—both uninteresting bills—when she heard the distinct sound of the front door opening.
Clarke stood up and moved to put the letters away. Then, she thought that it would be better if she didn’t. After all, she didn’t want Bellamy to think she had done nothing but aimlessly wait around for him.
In the end, she was busy cursing her own silliness when Bellamy entered the sitting room, looking smart but relaxed in his usual work attire, though he must have shed his jacket in the hall. He was rolling up his sleeves as he walked, displaying his toned arms. It annoyed Clarke that she could feel so physically attracted to her husband while still so irritated with him.
“Clarke.” He grinned broadly at her, making him seem even more handsome, which she hadn’t realised was possible. “Good morning. Are you feeling better?”
She dropped the letters on her writing table before giving him a measured smile. “I am, thank you.” As Clarke debated whether or not she could ask him where he had been without sounding like a nosy, nagging wife, they lapsed into an awkward silence.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” he asked, frowning. Bellamy took a step forward, though they were still separated by the chaise.
“Yes, I’m fine,” she said quickly, and brushed down her skirt absently. The action drew Clarke’s attention to her clothes, and she blushed. When dressing, Clarke had chosen a favourite of hers, a dark blue dress with delicate gold trim on the hem. She’d always considered it a touch too nice to be worn on a day spent at home, but she thought it flattered her appearance, and she wanted Bellamy to see her in it. Now, that decision made her feel a little foolish.
Bellamy didn’t seem convinced by her statement. “Have you eaten?”
“I’m fine,” she repeated, snappish. “You don’t need to mother me, Bellamy.” His frown faded into something more downcast, and Clarke sighed, immediately regretting her outburst. Hadn’t she decided they needed to be more open with each other only yesterday? She should tell Bellamy how she really felt. “I’m sorry,” she said, stepping away from the table. “When you weren’t here when I woke up, I thought maybe you were avoiding me.”
Now, he seemed confused. “Why would I do that?”
“I don’t know!” Clarke exclaimed. “But after our wedding you were hardly ever around, and I— I supposed I just thought things would be different now.”
Bellamy softened, walking around the chaise so that he could take her hand in his. “They are different.” He leant down to kiss the back of her hand, as if in apology, which made Clarke smile a little. “I’m sorry I made you feel like I was avoiding you. I didn’t wake you because I thought it would be best for you to rest, but I also wanted to let my colleagues know what had happened. I decided to go to the museum and tell them in person,” he explained, still holding her hand. “I thought the earlier I went, the sooner I could come back and spend the rest of the day with you, but then I saw Marcus while I was in town, and we got to discussing everything again, and I lost track of time. But that’s done now, I’m yours for the rest of the day—if you’ll have me,” he added. The hint of uncertainty in his voice melted Clarke.
“Of course,” Clarke replied, her chest lightening. “And you don’t have to wait for me to wake up every morning. If you need to leave early, just leave me a message before you go.” She soon realised that this implied they would be sharing a bed more regularly, but the suggestion did not appear to faze Bellamy.
He nodded. “I will.”
Twining their fingers together, Clarke was about to inquire after his colleagues and Marcus when she noticed a parcel tucked under his arm. “Is that something from work?” she asked.
He glanced down, and Clarke was surprised to note he blushed. “No, actually—it’s for you.”
Clarke only stared as Bellamy used his free hand to take the parcel out and offer it to her. “For me?” she said dumbly.
“Yes,” he replied, chuckling at her disbelief. “It’s a gift.”
Even as she took the item, Clarke shook her head. “You really didn’t have to get me a gift.”
“I wanted to,” he said simply. Tugging on her intertwined fingers, Bellamy led them around to sit down on the chaise.
Clarke leaned in close to her husband as she placed her gift on her lap. “It was just a little travel sickness,” she said, feeling even worse for her short outburst. “You don’t have to make a fuss with gifts and breakfast.”
“I’m afraid it’s in my nature to make a fuss,” Bellamy admitted.
Clarke smiled up at him. “Gifts included?”
He glanced to the floor then, clearing his throat. “I… I realised I never courted you.”
She giggled, warmth flooding her chest. “And you decided to start after we were already married?”
“Better late than never. You did say not to hide my feelings,” he added with a smirk.
Clarke bit on the side of her lip to stop her smile from overtaking her face. “So what is this?” she asked, examining the parcel, wrapped neatly in plain brown paper.
“Open it and see.”
She ran her hands over it, feeling the edges. “It feels like a book. Is it a book?”
Bellamy laughed at her. “Can’t it just be a surprise until you open it?”
“I like to guess and see if I’m right.” She peeled open the paper and grinned knowingly when she saw the spine. “I am right.”
“It wasn’t a difficult shape,” he said grudgingly. “Next time I will wrap your gifts awkwardly so it’s harder to guess.”
Clarke smiled softly at the mention of a next time, but she remained quiet until she had removed the rest of the paper and examined the title. It seemed to be a work of fiction, but nothing else was familiar to her. “I don’t think I’ve heard of this,” she admitted. “What’s it about?”
“It’s about three friends who all realise they have the gift when they’re a bit older than is customary. It’s not exactly highbrow literature, but I read it when I was young and it’s what made me interested in magic. My copy was damaged so I don’t have it anymore, but I thought you might like to read it.”
“I would love to,” Clarke assured him. “Thank you.”
Before she could over think the gesture, Clarke put the book to one side and embraced her husband, going so far as to situate herself somewhat in his lap.
“Maybe you should wait until you’ve read it to thank me this much,” he said with a laugh into her hair, although he adjusted her to sit more fully across his legs and kept both arms wrapped firmly around her back. He clearly wasn’t complaining.
“I just…” she started, speaking into his neck. “I feel so annoyed with myself.”
“For what?” he asked, stroking her hair.
“For how I treated you. Bellamy, I—I was so unfeeling—“
“Clarke,” he said firmly, tilting her head so she could meet his gaze. His eyes were gentle, but the set of his face was serious. “If anyone should have changed their behaviour, it was me. I told myself it was wrong to try to court you once you’d made it clear you didn’t want that, but that’s no excuse for not being a better friend to you. I tried to keep my distance, but you were always open and honest when we were together.”
“I know that, but then I think about how I came so close to losing you—to losing what you have become to me, I—“ Clarke broke off and buried her head in the crook of his neck, as Bellamy held her tighter.
“It’s okay. It’s the same for me,” he said, roughly. They were silent for a long moment, simply taking comfort from one another. “Letting go of past mistakes isn’t something I’ve been very good at,” he admitted finally, “but I want to move forward—together. Maybe we should stop worrying about what’s happened so much, and start enjoying the time we have now.”
Clarke inhaled deeply before turning her head up to find his intense stare fixated on her. Heeding his words, she lifted her head to kiss him.
This time, Bellamy clearly didn’t have any doubts, matching her intensity from the moment their lips met. She pressed even closer to her husband as one of Bellamy’s hands moved to curl through her hair.
Clarke’s anticipation of where the kiss might lead was just building when a strange noise cut through her thoughts.
When Clarke broke away from Bellamy, a quick glance confirmed that they were still alone in the room. It must have been Fox or Andrew somewhere else in the house. Still, it ruffled Clarke, so she got up from Bellamy’s lap and went to investigate.
The hallway was empty, though Clarke did find Fox in the next room dusting. It seemed the source of the noise was nothing more than a dropped candlestick, but everything else looked fine. The girl was too busy with her task to notice Clarke’s arrival until she called out to her.
Once Fox turned she said, “If anyone calls this afternoon, could you please tell them Mr. Blake and I aren’t able to receive any visitors today.”
Fox nodded. “Of course, ma’am.”
After a quick thank you, Clarke rushed back to Bellamy, who was sitting where she had left him with a somewhat confused look on his face. He seemed to expect her to join him when she returned, but Clarke put her right hand out instead.
“I think we should go somewhere more private.”
He smirked but took her hand and followed her silently up the stairs. Once they reached the landing, Clarke came to a sudden stop, so Bellamy moved until he was standing before her.
Mistaking her pause for reluctance, he put his free hand on her arm. “Clarke, you know we don’t have to do anything,” Bellamy said quietly. “I don’t expect anything more to happen between us yet.”
“Well, I do,” she replied bluntly, triumphing in Bellamy’s shocked silence. “We are already married, after all. I see no reason why we should wait, only I couldn’t decide which bedroom we should retire to. Do you have a preference?” she asked.
He beamed at her, though his eyes held more than a hint of mischief. “I must confess,” he whispered, “I have often thought of you in my bed.”
Clarke grinned back, laughing as she took hold of his hand once more and tugged him along towards his bedroom.
As soon as they entered his room, Bellamy moved to take Clarke into his arms, but she twirled away from him. Locking the door firmly behind them, Clarke gave it a test tug before turning to face him.
“So that we won’t be interrupted again,” she explained straight-faced.
Bellamy’s grin grew wicked. “Aren’t you clever?”
Clarke commented cheekily, “I’ve always thought so.”
He chuckled at her remark, drawing her into his arms once more. Clarke went eagerly. This time he kissed her languidly, as if he knew there was no reason to rush. Without breaking the kiss, Clarke tried to walk them back towards the bed. However, she didn’t know the bedroom well enough to manoeuvre them with her eyes closed, and she ended up pushing Bellamy back into one of the bed posts.
He grunted in pain as he broke away from her, dropping to sit on the bed.
“Sorry!” Clarke rushed to sit by him, one hand reaching out to touch the back of his leg where he had been struck. “Does it hurt?”
Bellamy shook his head. “It’s fine—really,” he added at her look upon hearing her own words from earlier repeated back to her. “It just surprised me.”
“I should have been more careful,” she said, closing the distance between them to press a soft kiss to his lips in apology. When Clarke began to move away, Bellamy kissed her again, bringing a hand up to her back as he gently moved her to lie down on the bed.
He then lay on his side next to her, reaching out to tuck a lock of hair behind her ear. “Perhaps you just need a little more patience, my love.”
Bellamy’s tone was only lightly teasing, and he seemed quite confused by Clarke’s reaction. He clearly hadn’t meant to make her giggle quite so much.
Drawing his brows together, he wondered aloud, “Something wrong?”
“No,” she said, biting her lip to stifle her laughter. Then, she added with a smile, “I’m just surprised not to hear you call me ‘wife of mine’.”
Bellamy groaned and hid his face in her neck as Clarke continued to laugh, recalling his awkwardness at the BnF in acute detail.
“I was hoping you had forgotten about that,” he murmured against her skin.
Clarke shook her head as her fingers started to play with the soft strands of her husband’s hair. “No. I am never going to forget about that.”
He harrumphed, but then placed a soft kiss to her collarbone, sending a spark down Clarke’s spine. Clearly noticing the way it made her shiver, he repeated the action before smirking up at her. “I think I could make you forget it.”
Clarke grinned, feeling light and joyful even as she shook her head once more. “I’m not so sure. But you’re very welcome to try.”
Well. The last few weeks have certainly not gone as I planned—far from it. It is hard to know where to start putting any of it into words. I can barely even remember why I decided to take up a journal in the first place—to keep a record of things I didn’t want to forget I suppose, but it seems unlikely I will ever forget recent events.
And yet, the experience has had such an impact on me that I feel I would be remiss in skipping over it entirely. Perhaps I will detail that story here later. Right now, there are some things I need to resolve this morning, and I would like to return home before Clarke wakes up. So for today, all I will record is this:
For the first time in a long time I can truly say I am hopeful—excited, even—for what the future holds.
I can't believe we're so close to the end! :o I always enjoy hearing your reactions so let me know what you thought :)
Chapter 19: Epilogue
Apologies for the delay - I didn't plan for there to be such a gap between posting for this final chapter, life just got extremely hectic for a while there! Though as there is a few months between last chapter and this epilogue in the story as well I suppose that inadvertently fits...
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
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.
And that's a wrap! I didn't expect the little idea I had early last year would evolve into such a long fic, but I have enjoyed writing it a lot. Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to leave feedback, I really appreciated getting every one! Knowing that even a few of you were enjoying the fic definitely helped me keep working away at it even when life got very busy and stressful at times!
Now we've reached the end I am a little sad to see this universe go, so I won't rule out revisiting it at some point. That said, I am a slow writer (as anyone following this from the beginning is well aware lol) and I've got lots of other ideas I want to write out first so don't expect anything for this 'verse anytime soon! If anyone is interested my next project is getting back to my first Bellarke story, a multi-chapter superhero AU that I ended up neglecting for this fic. I've completed a draft of the next chapter, but as I haven't updated it in years I'm going to wait until I've got a few more chapters ready to start posting again.
Thanks for reading everyone :)
ETA December 2018: I just wanted to say a massive thank you to the people who nominated/voted this fic for Best Historical/Period AU at the 2018 Bellarke Fanwork Awards, where it was a Semi-Finalist. That was a lovely surprise and I really appreciated it! :)
ETA October 2019: I 've created an edit for this fic which lives here on my tumblr if you want to check it out or chat with me about fic, Bellarke or anything else!