“Is it sad how much I want to squee?” Jolene asked Heidi.
“Over the fact that I’m getting married–or over the fact that I’ll be moving out and you’ll have more closet space?” Heidi teased.
“Which do you think? Especially considering that Zahrah will be taking over your wardrobe space before the last of your stuff clears the stairwell.” Jolene stuck her tongue out at Heidi who laughed and stuck her tongue out back.
“Ah, well, then, no. I don’t mind if you want to squee over the wedding.” Victoria tucked a strand of her hair back into the updo and headed down the stairs.
“So, ten bucks says it’s six weeks or less before Kennedy’s firing up the old preg tester again.” Peyton was saying as she came into the living room of the barn.
“You’re betting on people’s sex lives now, Peyton?” Tiffany asked, a bit incredulously.
“Isn’t anything else to bet on. I wonder how hard it is to make slot machines.” She trailed off looking at the ceiling.
“Fairly.” Victoria pointed out as she took a seat in the empty chair to Peyton’s left. The blonde looked at her with an eyebrow quirked. “Think about it. Not only would you have to figure out the mechanics of making one, you’d have to figure out how to build a generator cause they need power to run. Besides, would you really want to dump all your money into something like that?”
“Not for me, I’d build a bank of them and everyone else could lose their money in them.”
“Right.” Victoria said. “And what would you do if someone won?”
“I’d think of something, don’t kill my buzz, Vikki.”
“Have you been drinking already, Peyton?” Jolene asked from behind them.
“Oh, you know. Just a little liquid courage.” Peyton stretched.
“For what?” Jolene sneered. “You aren’t getting married, after all.” If Peyton was in the room, Victoria would have sworn that it was her permanent expression. Granted this was the real world and not some place occupied by fuzzy little bears or ponies who were all bff’s all the time, but Victoria still didn’t know why Jolene was so disparaging of Peyton all the time.
“For seeing my ass in this dress.” Peyton waved airily. At least Peyton got as good as she gave very rarely letting the other woman get her goat.
“I take it,” Kennedy interjected before they could get any further into a disagreement. “That Heidi is ready to go and that we should head for the chapel?” Jolene looked at Kennedy for a long moment as if judging whether she’d win a battle with the doctor, but apparently she didn’t think so because she just nodded.
Heidi had decided that she wanted to have an outdoor wedding, something that was questionable, given that it was spring, and doubly questionable considering the dark clouds on the horizon, but, as Heidi pointed out, the king was a wizard. If he could bring people from the future, he could keep it from raining on one wedding ceremony.
Though she really didn’t know Heidi that well or Dolph either, the ceremony was very sweet and apparent to everyone that the bride and groom adored each other. After the vows were said, Dolph swept Heidi off her feet and spun her around, garnering applause from the spectators.
Then it was inside, after all there was no reason to tempt fate with an outdoor reception as well. The plants did need rain so if it decided to drizzle all afternoon, they should probably let it.
“Aren’t you going to have any cake, Lady Victoria?” A voice asked by her elbow.
“I want to be able to fit into this dress for the next wedding if I need to.” Victoria said turning toward Camden.
“I think it’ll fit fine,” Camden blushed then. Oh, my. Victoria stopped herself from giggling. He’d been checking her out! Maybe walking everywhere and not being constantly stuck behind a desk going over columns of numbers was helping put her curves back where she remembered them being.
“What about you?” Victoria asked. Camden’s green eyes widened for a moment. “Cake, aren’t you going to have any?”
“Oo-oh. Uh, no–I don’t think so.” Camden glanced around. “The young lady with Alistair, who is she?” She glanced over her shoulder in the direction that Camden was looking.
“Is that Alistair?” Victoria asked. For some reason she had been expect Alistair to be–the skeezy guy in the trench coat. Someone who looked like a rat. He looked normal. Handsome, even. Then her eyes flicked onto the girl talking to him. Zahrah. She was new to Shadowcrest too.
Of course Camden would notice her. Zahrah was young and very pretty, and her curves had the benefit of never having shifted out of position in the first place. She was probably closer to Camden in age than she was. Victoria stifled a sigh, as Camden would probably notice. Still, when she turned back Camden’s eyes shot up from where they’d been settled, which wasn’t on Zahrah.
“That’s Zahrah. She came a few days ago.” Victoria said, watching Camden’s face for a hint of his eyes leaping away to look at Zahrah again. Except they didn’t. Huh?
“Hadn’t you met Alistair?” Camden asked as if the girl was no longer anything he was concerned with.
“No. I wasn’t sure I wanted to. I can’t name a single complimentary thing that was said about him.” Victoria admitted. Camden looked thoughtful for a moment. “What?”
“I’m trying to think of a complimentary thing I’ve ever heard said about him.” Victoria stifled a giggle. Alistair had moved away from Zahrah, who sat on one of the benches as Dolph and Heidi took the dance floor.
Camden grabbed a couple of glasses of wine and handed her one. She twisted the stem of the glass in her fingers before taking a sip of the wine, as Camden’s eyes swept over her profile.
The peace was broken by the sound of someone angrily hissing their breath in between their teeth. Victoria glanced at Camden who was watching Dolph and Heidi. He looked at her with a raised eyebrow. Okay, it wasn’t Camden… who then…? She wondered taking a slightly larger drink of the wine from her glass.
A stir by the door caught Victoria’s attention. “Well, my loves.” Blake said, rubbing Raquel’s tummy in a way that made Victoria smile wistfully. “I think I should take you and your mommy home. It’s walk from here.”
Considering Victoria hardly knew Raquel and Blake even less, it felt somewhat wrong to watch the two of them leaving, so she turned her attention back to the wine in her glass. Whatever it was, it was a lot stronger than the wine in a box that was served at book club and it was seeming to go straight to her head. Just one glass shouldn’t have tipped her into “buzzed” but this stuff had managed.
“Lady Victoria?” Camden sounded concerned.
“I just need a little air.” At least she hoped that she only needed some air. She didn’t know how she’d live with it if she got too drunk to walk home off one glass of wine. The young knight fell into step with her, holding the door open as the still-slightly-chilly night air hit her arms and face and cleared her head.
They both stood looking up at the sky for a moment until a cultured voice speaking in a hushed but obviously angry tone caught her attention.
“Leave her alone.” She recognized the redhair and black embroidered clothes from the back.
“You–you don’t.” Whomever responded was obviously by the voice a lot younger–and a lot smaller as she couldn’t see him past Alistair.
“Oh please, come back and retort when you can do it without a stammer.”
“Go to hell.” The boy said. Alistair grabbed the younger boy and jerking him half off his feet.
“What was that, you little urchin?” The boy didn’t say anything and the redhaired man shoved him away, obviously prepared to walk away. Camden’s fists were clenched like he was about to lay into Alistair.
“Go get Sawyer.” Victoria suggested. Camden looked at her. “Please, Camden.”
“Yes, Lady Victoria.” He said turning and running back into the reception hall. Alistair stalked past her, sneering down his nose and Victoria found her own hands balling into fists. The boy, she thought for a moment, Tate had his face buried in his hands. She wanted to say something, or at least give him cookies and a big hug, but they didn’t even know each other.
And having a woman you didn’t know witness you getting bullied was sure to perk the old self-esteem back up.
“Heyla,” Sawyer said, rounding the corner, Tate pulled his hands away from his face in such a way that Victoria was sure he was brushing away tears. Sawyer didn’t act like he noticed. “What’s wrong.”
“Just–Alistair. I asked–it’s nothing.” Tate said.
“Ah, Alistair, is it? You know the first time Jarrett put him in charge of stirrin’ the laundry, he burnt his braises?” Sawyer said. “He did. He was stirrin’ the pot of laundry o’er the cook fire, and he stirs like a sissy, y’know, barely swishin’ the water an’ me an’ Jarrett are at the pond fishin’ when we smell something burnin’ Go back and there’s ‘is braises at the bottom of the pot, burned just like the tag end of a pot of porridge in a cheap inn!”
The young bard continued to tell what Alistair would surely find to be highly embarrassing tales about him until Tate giggled, just a little.
“Alistair’s a bully isn’t he?” Victoria asked.
“That’s about all I’d call him in the presence of a lady.” Camden agreed. “Why’d you stop me?”
“I hate seeing a kid picked on, but I also know that if you interfered he’d just do it again, sometime when you weren’t around. And that Tate’d feel lower than a worm’s belly.” Victoria sighed. Camden cocked his head to the side. “My brother was bullied when he was about Tate’s age.” She felt her stomach clench.
“I didn’t know you had a brother.”
“I don’t. But I used to.” Victoria said staring down at her hands.
“Oh.” Camden said.
“Lady Victoria, Sir Camden.” Sawyer bobbed his head as he sauntered past. Tate barely looked up as he murmured something that Victoria couldn’t catch.
As if that were some sort of a signal for people to start leaving, the doors pushed open only a few moments later, spilling Peyton and Ren out into the street. The two walked along for a moment before Ren caught Peyton’s hands in his. Not a drop of romance in her, my ass.
After Emanuel and Kennedy headed down the dark street toward the town gates, Sawyer, Tate, and Jolene followed.
“That’s quite alright, Alistair. Jarrett and I’ll see Zahrah back to the barn.” Nessa said as the doors pushed open a fourth time. Good, I wouldn’t want to see anything happen to Zahrah, and I’m not sure I trust Alistair any further than I can throw him. Especially not after what he did to Tate. Victoria thought. Not that anyone had asked her. But still it was always good to have one’s personal approval met.
Alistair followed a moment later, a snarl on his face. Lastly Wesley and Fox, followed by Tiffany, and Lock.
“If you’ll wait a moment, Lady Victoria, for me to say good night to Dolph and Lady Heidi I’ll walk you home.” Camden said, twisting his hand nervously. Victoria smiled and nodded.
The walk back was more quiet than talk, but pleasant still. And then they were back at the house with the familiar lanterns and the scarecrow watching lecherously over the crops. Maybe it was just her but that scarecrow was creepy.
“Thank you, Sir Camden.” Victoria tried to curtsy, not that it worked worth anything, but she tried. Camden nodded then raised his hand, tucking it under her chin and lifting it.