It was comfortably warm in the living room and the fire crackling in the grate bathed the room in gold. He was quite comfortably seated in the old over – stuffed wingchair, a cup of tea at his side and the mornings newspaper on his lap. It was quite understandable then that when the doorbell rang, he groaned in resignation and very reluctantly left his nest.
The doorbell rang again, the person at the door punching the ringer repeatedly as if there was some urgency to the matter of the visit.
“Oh, alright! Hold on, will you? I am coming!” he called irritatedly, hurrying along the hallway. He opened the door, prepared to give whoever was on the other side a good telling off. His words died on his tongue when he saw the small face framed in the all-tag familiar chestnut curls. She smiled tentatively at him and he felt his earlier irritation return and he scowled.
“What are you doing here?”, he demanded stiffly, making no move to allow her to enter his abode. The soft smile on her lips faltered and she reached up to brush her hair behind her ears.
“Well, I ………..” She tapered off and frowned severely at him, ‘I see that you have not learned any manners at all.”
“I do apologise,” he replied just as sneakily, “I was in the bathroom when they were handing out manners and etiquettes.”
“Are you not going to invite me in? It is cold out here, Dravian.
“What are you doing here?” he repeated, blocking the doorway with his bulk and crossing his arms across his chest. “We will talk about it over tea,” she snapped back and pushed him aside roughly. He scowled at her back as she carefully dusted the snow off her coat and hung it in the closet. She turned and caught his eye. She grinned teasingly at him and lifted an eloquent eyebrow. “The usual then”
His features settled into a neutral expression and he stared back at her silently. She laughed and shook her head and headed for the kitchen. He stood motionless for a moment as a small spark of forgotten longing tugged his heart. He ran a hand distractedly through his dark hair and sighed.
He went to tidy his study, putting away the scattered books and closing the drawer of his desk properly. He smiled when he thought back on her aggravation on his half-open drawers. He glanced at the clock and exited the room, closing the door firmly behind him.
Dravian stirred his drink moodily and they both kept their silence. At last he put aside teaspoon and cleared his throat. “I presume you wanted to see me for something?”
She nursed her drink before answering, “I had quite a shock yesterday, Dravian. I know our marriage has long been over and annulled, but I still have to know; do you really plan on marrying that girl?”
He sat up straighter in his seat. “Marry whom?” he demanded very surprised. As far as he knows he is not engaged to anyone. He did not relish being bagged down by a wife or something similar.
She searched his face, looking surprised, “Heather Biglow, of course!”
“That mindless twist? You have to be joking!”
Cosatte frowned and sipped her Earl Grey again, “This is all very confusing business, Dravian. An attorney visited me last night and told me” She stopped herself. “I had better show you the letter,” she said at last and dug into her purse.
He leaned forward to take the envelope from her and as he did, his fingers brushed hers and it was a disconcerting moment for him. He felt the jolt of electricity run down his spine. He masked his awkwardness by coughing.
Dravian pulled several sheets of paper from within the envelope and began scanning them. His eyes grew steadily wider at each line and at last, he threw the stock onto the table. “An arranged marriage?” he spluttered indignantly, his face red. “I cannot believe it!”
“He did it before, “ she said dryly.
He took a steadily breath. Yes, she was right. His father had done this before. Silently, he cursed the old man’s will. His father had arranged a marriage for him. The terms of the contract was simple; marry the woman Dravian Senior had chosen or lose the estate.
He grabbed the papers again and began riffling through them in desperation. “There has to be something we can do!”
He missed the small smile on Cosette’s lips. “Well, yes. There is one thing…..”.
He turned questioning eyes to her. She pushed back her chair and stood, brushing off the crumbs from her dress before making her way over to him. Gently, she pulled the documents from his trembling fingers. She silently selected a page and handed it to him. Quickly, he read the page. “What?” he asked blankly. “Dravian, read this line. It says that you have to marry the woman your father chose for you”.
“Yes; Heather Biglow,” he said glumly.
“Her name is not printed here. Think, Dravian,” she emphasised “think”’,
“Your father was an intelligent man and a horribly good schemer. “The woman”, Dravian, not “Heather Biglow”.
He stared at her as comprehension downed. She smiled at him and nodded. His father had caught him in a similar trap before. Dravian was forced to marry. Dravian Senior had chosen his first wife, and it was Cosette.
“I did not think he even liked you .”