A/N: First off, before you begin reading, you should know I am not a super frequent updater, and my chapters are not long. The second thing you should know is that even though this is rated T, it's pretty close to being a mature fic. The rating could very possibly change, but only for some suggestive scenes and themes (No explicit love scenes or excessive language) and I will warn you before those chapters. I'm not the best at grammar, so please pardon any mistakes. I love reviews, so if you don't mind taking the time, please do!
When Love Speaks
"And when love speaks, the voice of all the gods make heaven drowsy with the harmony."
Austin hated nights like these. Rainy nights were the worst, and to make things worse, he was freezing. He glanced behind him to the Duke's palace, where the others were surely taking merriment, not out in the rain, making the night's rounds of security. He glanced to the east again. Surely Andrew would be here soon. His brother was never late in meeting Austin before they went back to the manor. Austin closed his eyes and leaned against a tree. Rosaline would be waiting for him, she, the one who could gather a room full of men around her had chosen him. He pictured her hair, hanging down to her waist in soft curls…
"Napping, Brother? Surely not you, Austin!" Andrew's voice startled Austin out of his reverie. He grinned and tossed back,
"Never, Andrew. Only imagining perfection." It was Andrew's turn to grin.
"Is perfection, perhaps, one called Rosaline?" Austin playfully punched his brother's shoulder and they turned back towards the manor.
Niccolo squinted at the papers in front of him. There seemed to be an endless amount of them recently. When his father had died, he had left a reputable name as a Duke, but he had left his son with countless debts and accounts to settle. That had been five years ago, but there were still issues. Niccolo had shown himself to be shrewd business man, however, and had significantly improved the manor's productivity. The fields and orchards were producing seemingly endless crop that very easily turned into money. That summer's harvest had been particularly successful. He shut his eyes and allowed his mind to wander. He had only been nineteen when his father had died, leaving him alone since his mother had died when he was very young. Her brother had stepped in and helped his floundering nephew get the once-still manor back on its feet and get the money to settle debts. That uncle had long since returned to his own position in London, but had left his daughter at the manor. Rosaline was certainly a beauty, and she was splendid at handling all the woman's duties. He looked out of the rain-dashed window and narrowed his eyes. He could have sworn that a hooded figure on horseback was making their way towards the manor.
Austin glanced at his brother. Yet again, he was looking behind them. Austin was soaked and cold, wanting only to get back to the manor.
"On my life, Andrew-" He started, but Andrew grabbed his arm to silence him. Through the driving rain, he could just make out a figure on a horse, clearly feminine. He looked at Andrew. Still hooded, she was unrecognizable. Austin started towards her, but Andrew stayed where he was. When he drew closer, Austin let out a called out, "My Lady," but stopped when she looked up, her face reveled. "Good God, 'tis Leona!" He whispered. Her face registered nothing, and she looked ready to swoon, but he saw her mouth his name. He barely had enough time to catch her as she slipped off the horse. No sooner had he caught her before her eyes fluttered open again.
"Austin? I must be dreaming if I'm already back." Leona whispered. "Awful night for a ride, don't you think?" She smiled, but Austin knew better. She was practically a sister to him, but clearly thinner and paler than the last time he had seen her. He heard Andrew come running up behind him, and watched Leona glance up. Their eyes met briefly, but she looked away and struggled to her feet, not taking Andrew's offered hand.
"What brings you here again, Leona? We all thought you'd be gone for more than three mere months." Austin said. "And you certainly haven't chosen the best night for a ride." She smiled again, but it seemed pained.
"No, I did not plan on such weather. I have ridden for far too long, and I am certainly ready to be inside. These trees cannot protect us completely." She winced again, and Andrew stepped forward to give her a lift back onto the horse. She hesitated, but took his arm. The rain came harder and she pulled up her hood. " Shall we gentlemen?"
It certainly didn't take a genius to see that she was not well. She may have put on a brave façade, but Austin could see she was ready to fall off the horse again. She had swooned once already. He knew his brother was floundering too. Andrew had hardly spoken, but she seemed to brush him off. And it was Andrew who had loved her, had never stopped, even when she had packed up and left, leaving only a note explaining where she had gone. He'd tried to forget her, but it was all rushing back. The Duke, Niccolo, had been furious, Andrew had been rejected, Rosaline had wept, and Austin and his sister Juliet stood alone. There was no better woman than Juliet, who had sent a note after Leona asking her to come back, calmed down Niccolo, comfort Andrew and stay close to Rosaline. Austin had watched Niccolo fall in love with his sister, after Leona had left, not knowing, as her brothers did, that the Duke was what drove Leona away.
Niccolo watched as Andrew and Austin rode the remainder of the way to the manor, hardly daring to believe that Leona was with them. She, the woman he had loved so easily, who had made him so angry just by leaving, who he had tried to forget. Only when they drew close, did he push open the doors and hurried out to meet them under the protection of a covered walkway from the main house to the stable. One look confirmed it, Leona was back. He extended his arm to help her down and she took it without hesitation, smiling weakly.
"On my life, Leona! It does us good to see you back again. We missed you sorely when you left!" He greeted her, although he couldn't help but notice how weak she looked.
"It's good to be back, my Lord. I spent all my time away wishing I had never left." She said, wistfully, looking around as if drinking it in again. Andrew shot them a glance and said something about tending to her horse. She smiled gratefully at him. He turned back to Leona and Austin, only to see her slumped on the floor, Austin keeping her from falling.
"Good God!" He exclaiming, kneeling next to her, and reaching for her wrist.
"She was like this when we met, Niccolo. She's utterly spent." Austin explained. Niccolo stared at her. She was sick, not just exhausted, and he knew enough about healing to see that. All the love he'd felt for her was coming back, and Juliet was fading out of the picture far too quickly.