Authors: Mercedes Lackey
SEBASTIAN STOOD NERVOUSLY IN FRONT OF THE DESK
. Behind the desk sat Bella's father, hands steepled in front of his face.
Bella herself was not in the room, but her father had forgotten that she was a sorceress now, and that there were many reflective surfaces in his office. She was in the dining room, hands cupped around her own mirror, watching. And listening. Elena had enchanted the mirror to bring in sound as well as vision.
The reunion with her familyâextended family, really, since it had included the servantsâhad been intense. Her father had actually wept. The twins had been wild with excitement, especially when they got the bare bones of the storyâGenevieve had been the one that had surprised Bella the most, though. She'd taken Bella aside and tearfully made absolutely certain that neither Sebastian nor Eric had “interfered” with her. “Because if they have, I shall murder them myself, although that horrible Gamekeeper is dead, so I can't murder him, but I will do something unforgivable to him, I promise you! I don't know what, but I am sure that I will think of something!”
When Bella had assured her that nothing of that nature had hap
pened, Genevieve had relaxed, then dragged her off to the parlor and made her go into much greater detail. Long before Bella had admitted that she and Sebastian were in love and that he was going to come in person to ask for her hand, Genevieve had figured it out.
“Oh!” she exclaimed as Bella told her how Sebastian had started to teach her magic. “Oh! Don't tell me!” She clasped her hands together like an excited little girl. “You two fell in love, didn't you? He's asked you to wed him!”
Bella had stared at her, dumbfounded. Genevieve beamed at her. “That is exactly how your father and I fell in love! I was all in a muddle with my accounts. You know my first husband was in the Drapers Guild, and when I went there to look for help, there was Henri on some business or other and I dropped all my account books and he picked them up and asked why I looked so upset and I started to cry and he offered to help me straighten everything out and I said, yes, please, and he started to teach me to do the accounting properly and the next thing I knew he was proposing and I was saying yes!”
Bella had just blinked at her, a little stunned by the avalanche of words. “You said yes, of course, right?” Genevieve persisted. “It's lovely that he is a Duke and all that, but he seems to be the right sort of person for you! The King has already invested him on the Council! I can't think of anyone better suited to wed a sorcerer-werewolfâ”
Then she paused, and her brows creased with puzzled chagrin. “That didn't come out the way I meant it toâ”
Bella had laughed, and patted her stepmother's arm comfortingly. “I understand exactly what you mean, Genevieve. I'm not exactly a very conventional person, and I would need a rather unconventional mate.”
Genevieve's relieved smile had been quite genuine. “Of course, it is really rather good for the girls that he's a Dukeâ¦.”
Now there was one more hurdle to be dealt with. Henri Beauchamps.
“So. The King speaks very highly of you, Duke Sebastian,” said Henri. “But I have some concerns.”
“Naturally, sir,” Sebastian said politely, but Bella could tell from his posture that he was tense.
“You are a wizardâ”
“Sorcererâ” Sebastian corrected.
Henri waved his hand dismissively. “This is a dangerous profession. Things explode, or turn into frogs, or behave in other unexpected and not particularly pleasant ways.”
“Only when people do not take sufficient care, sir,” Sebastian said. “I am a very careful magician.”
“And this business of being a werewolfâ¦” Henri shook his head. “Are you housebroken? Are you going to dig up the flower beds hiding bones? Are my grandchildren going to be born with tails? Will I have to hire an obedience trainer for them? Is their first word going to be
Genevieve stormed in at that moment. “Henri Beauchamps!” she exclaimed. “What are you doing?”
“Seeing if this fellow is a fit husband for my daughter,” Henri replied as she set her fists on her hips and glared at him. That was when Bella detected a twitch at the corner of his mouth.
“Well, you can stop it right this instant,” Genevieve informed him in the sort of tone reserved for ill-behaved children. “You are terrifying the poor man. He doesn't understand your sense of humor.”
She turned to Sebastian and patted his arm.
“Now, no more of your jokes, Henri. It's settled. He and Bella are perfect for each other, and if you keep trying to test him, you'll
only delay matters, and do you have any idea how hard it will be to plan for a winter wedding as it is? Fitting it in around the Drapers' Ball, the skating party Lord Bellaire ordered, the Morescaeus' Hunt Fete, the Goldsmiths' Galaâand how I am to get proper gowns in time for all of us, much less a wedding dress that Bella will actually wear, I do not know. I am at my wit's end!” With that, she turned and swept out.
Bella stifled a giggle. The two men looked at each other, and finally, Sebastian shrugged. “I would listen to her, if I were you,” the Duke advised.
Henri Beauchamps nodded. “I think you just proved you are wise enough to marry my daughter,” he replied, then added, “and with my blessing. Just as long as there aren't going to be any explosions.”
“Only the ones that are on purpose,” Sebastian promised solemnly.
BEAUTY AND THE WEREWOLF
Copyright Â© 2011 by Mercedes Lackey
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