"Oh, Austin, we thought you'd never get here!" Rosaline's voice greeted Austin when he pushed open the door to the study. Cozy candlelight lit the room against the dreary evening outside, and small fire crackled in the corner. "Austin, tell us, is Leona really here and your brother is not just playing a trick on us?" She asked, cocking her head to one side and making his heart beat faster.
"Yes, I will confirm the rumors. Leona is here, but was far too tired to visit tonight." He told them. Rosaline smiled prettily and stood up to take his hand and pull him over to sit next to her. It was just Andrew and Juliet with them. Austin wanted to tell his brother that Leona had waited to faint until after he had left, and that she was resting now, but now was not the time or place, not with Rosaline's fingers intertwined with his and her thumb stroking his thigh in the most distracting way. He let their chatter flow around him and studied the girl next to him, drinking her in, with her hair long and loose, and her lips slightly parted. He really wanted to lock her up in some closet and kiss her senseless.
Niccolo looked at Leona. He'd carried her up to her old chamber and laid her on the bed, not caring that it was rather improper. He knew more about healing than any doctor he could call, thanks to his mother. He slipped her out of the soaked cloak and put a hand to her forehead. No fever. It could have been safe to assume she was just exhausted, like Austin had said, but he had also said she avoiding telling him and Andrew anything, not even why she was back. She just looked so beautiful, resting peacefully on the bed. He'd already forgiven her for leaving so quickly. He'd woken up one morning, only to have Rosaline tell him, rather tearfully, that she was gone. She left no explanation in her note, and Niccolo had been furious. He'd finally gotten her to love him, finally made her forget all about Andrew. But then she'd left, with no explanation.
Andrew made his excuses and left the others alone. Rosaline spent far too much time flirting with Austin, and it just made him remember the days when Leona had flirted with him. Juliet came out behind him.
"She'll be our sister before long, you know." She said, but Andrew got her meaning. She'd asked him a few months earlier the same thing; only it was Leona she was talking about, not Rosaline. "Is Leona well, Andrew?" she asked. Juliet always knew what to say.
"Not really. She admitted to being exhausted, but seemed like she'd been sick for a while." Juliet gave him a pitiful look.
"For your sake, I hope Niccolo can do something about it." It was Andrew's turn to pity his sister. Juliet spoke of the Duke with high regard, not knowing that, with Leona's presence restored, she would be left behind.
When she had left, Andrew made his way to his chambers. With Leona back, the world and everybody in it seemed to be spinning out of control. Niccolo would break Juliet's heart, and Leona would break his. He remembered Austin's account of going into Niccolo's chambers, only to find Leona' dress upon the floor, evidence of her betrayal. She hadn't spoken a word to Andrew later, he hadn't known until his brother had told him. He shut his eyes and tried to think of when he had thought Leona had loved him, of happier days. And nights.
"Goodnight, Andrew." Leona whispered, squeezing his hand gently. Andrew felt for the door to his chambers in the dark, the candlelight down the hall providing scant light. He turned back to face her.
"You know, we don't have to part ways here." He whispered, bringing her hand to his lips. One eyebrow raised, and she tucked a stand of hair behind her ear.
"Andrew—" She began a protest, but Andrew stopped it by pressing his lips to hers. She was readily willing to kiss him back, quite passionately. He felt her hand upon his chest, traveling down, past his stomach, coming to rest between his legs. He pulled towards him, running his hands over her body. When he pulled away, it was only enough to ask "Is that a yes, then?" Leona grinned and pushed open the door, pulling him in after her.
Austin got his wish. The moment Juliet shut the door behind her; he wrapped an arm around Rosaline's waist. She met him with a kiss. Her lips, soft and full, were always absolutely perfect, in Austin's mind. His own lips found her cheek, her neck. She wrapped her arms around him and flopped backwards, taking him with her.
"Gracious, Austin, one would think you'd been without a lover for all eternity!" She teased.
"I have you, dear Rosaline. And all eternity has past since I last saw you." He tossed back, finding her lips again. And I shall never let you go. He thought.
Disoriented, Leona sat up with a jolt. She blinked to clear her vision as everything came flooding back. The last thing she remembered was trying to hold out until Andrew had left. She glanced to the left, seeing Niccolo dozing in the chair beside her bed. Thanks to his mother, he had learned some skills of doctoring, which explained why he was there. She reached out and shook him, whispering his name. There was no getting around it. She was going to have to tell him.
Niccolo woke up immediately, to see that Leona was awake. She smiled at him, although still looking pale.
"I suppose I overdid it, although it's not the first time. You've been ever so kind to worry about me, Niccolo." She said, evidently wanting him gone. He rose from the chair.
"Nay, Leona. I know an ill person when I see one." He waited for her to speak, but she only sighed.
"You might as well sit down again." She said softly. Niccolo complied. "I suppose I'll have to tell you sooner or later, so I might as well tell you now. "
"What?" He asked, wishing she'd just get on with it.
"To put it bluntly, I'm with child, Niccolo, which is why I'm back here again. I would be disgraced staying with my parents, so here I am." She blurted out. Niccolo stared at her, mind reeling. He cleared his throat.
"And the child is…?" He asked. Leona gritted her teeth. "It's yours."