Another short one. I'm posting as I write, so I hope you don't mind. Also, I've used Google translate for the parts in French, so if you see a mistake, feel free to kindly let me know.
The sun had long since descended, and the end of day saw the slight hint of a storm develop into a steady downpour. Cassia stood watching it from the arched vestibule of the house, her arms folded in a self-embrace. Sighing, her eyes fixed on the darkened road ahead, she spoke to her ever-present companion.
“Pourquoi pluie toujours semble accompagner cette tension?“
“Why does rain always seem to accompany such tension?”
Celeste, placing a hand on her lady’s shoulder, replied soothingly.
“Ne crains pas, ma dame. Sa seigneurie et Owen maître retournera bientôt.”
“Do not fear, my lady. His lordship and master Owen will soon return.”
She had only just declared it when a dark horse and rider appear from the blackness. But no second horse and rider followed. As Guy entered, Cassia questioned him nervously.
“Where is Owen? Did you not find him?”
He seemed hesitant, but answered. “No, I did not.”
“It grows late. Where in heaven’s name could he be at this hour?”
Guy’s manservant was waiting, quickly seeing his master removed of his wet cloak and offering him a towel to dry his face and head. All the while, Cassia watched him intently. After so many years of being married to him, she knew his mannerisms better than anyone, and at that moment, it was clear that he was withholding information from her. She could tell by the way his eyes moved, as though searching for something to focus on. Any old thing to look at. So long as he did not have to meet her eye.
“You know something, husband,” she said. “Something of significance. Tell me what it is.”
He would not look at her, but she knew he had heard her request. It became clear to her that he was waiting for the best moment to reveal what he knew – a moment when they were alone, away from the listening ears of servants. Dismissing Celeste, she waited for Guy to do the same with his valet, but he seemed to purposely delay the process, ordering wine to be brought to the bedchamber and giving voice to other orders. With impatience she followed him to their room, and when at last he took to his chair in front of the fire, she pulled another chair up close and demanded disclosure of his secret.
“Speak, Guy. I will know what you are keeping from me.”
At last he looked at her, and gave his answer.
“I fear Owen may have done the unthinkable.”
“The unthinkable?” She felt a terrible fear closing in on her. “What do you mean?”
“He left Toulon in such a rage. He swore that he would have his revenge.”
“Guy, you cannot mean…”
“He intended to kill Gilbert LaCroix.”
Cassia’s hands came to cover her mouth as she gasped. “My God!”
“He confided his intentions to me, and I swore I would help him.”
Her voice burst out in anger and shock. “How could you think to assist our son in such a heinous deed?”
“It was not my true intent!” he shouted back.
He turned his eyes to the fire. His voice softened, his fear and regret evident. “For a moment I considered it, but in the next moment it was my intention to somehow turn him from the act. Now I fear it is too late.”
He was afraid. And she shared in his fear, her first thought being a memory of not so long ago. Of her desire to help someone who was in need. Now, it seemed, her generosity had returned to haunt her. She took to walking slowly back and forth, wringing her hands as frightening thoughts haunted her mind. Guy said nothing, his mind certainly just as fraught with concern. The crackling of the fire, the only real noise in the room, somehow made the tension unbearable. What she longed to hear was the sound of her son’s voice, speaking in his bold and confident way. She longed for the sound of his footsteps as he passed by on his way to bed. She wanted him home, now. Coming to stand in front of the fire, she gave a deep and shuddering sigh.
Guy lifted his head from where it rested in his hands. “Your fault?”
“I should never have allowed Isabella to stay. If I had sent her away the night she was brought to us, none of this would have come to pass.”
“You are speaking while a veil of motherly concern clouds your eyes and judgment. You could never have turned her out.”
“What will become of our son if he has acted out his revenge?” Her voice cracked slightly, the sound of her fear growing. “It is one matter to kill a man in the defense of one’s self and the honor of a woman. It is another matter entirely to commit such a crime in cold blood. Oh, Guy, he might be arrested. Even executed or tortured!”
Rising from his chair, he grasped her hands and held her close against himself, looking down at her with eyes full of fire.
“We do not know for certain where he has gone or what he has done. We must wait and see.”
There was great power in his voice and his manner. Her heart felt as though it would burst, it was beating so. But the warmth of Guy’s hands holding hers, and his commanding presence, gave her hope. He often spoke of how everyone relied on her for wisdom and courage, but little did they know how often she doubted herself. Guy’s faith in her, his love and encouragement, were a source of strength that kept her going in times such as these.
A knock at this door broke the silence. The housekeeper entered a moment later, a relieved expression on her face.
“My lord, my lady. Master Owen has returned.”
Cassia gave a sigh of relief. “Praise God.” As Guy took her hand, taking her with him towards the door, she silently prayed that their son had not done a wrong he would forever regret.
Out in the gallery, they saw Owen as he came up the stairs. He was drenched, and they watched as he refused the attention of his valet. Misery was written in his every feature. Cassia wanted to rush to him, to shower him with motherly attention, but his surly demeanor held her back. And yet, she could not remain entirely passive.
“Owen, thank God you are home,” she said.
Without looking up, he attempted to pass by them. “I must be alone, Mama.”
“Owen, you will tell us where you have been,” Guy demanded. “We must know if you have…”
“Gilbert LaCroix is dead.”
Cassia felt her heart go cold with dread. She reached her hand out towards him.
“No, Owen. No.”
His reply was quick and abrupt. “It was not done by my hand.”
She felt Guy’s arm going around her waist, drawing her against his side. She could sense his relief, which she shared. But his curiosity was just as strong, as hers was. They gave Owen a moment, allowing him to reply in his own time. His answer stunned them both.
“The baron was found in his bedchamber, stabbed to death at the hands of his mistress. So you may both set your minds at ease. I have not done murder a second time.”
The burden was lifted. Cassia could feel the lightening of her soul, and of Guy’s. She could hear it in his voice.
“My son, you cannot know what a burden you have just removed from our hearts.”
Owen’s response was soft but harsh, his tone grim.
“I wish to be alone, Papa. I beg of you, please leave me be.”
Guy and Cassia watched as he made his way towards his room, leaving them relieved and troubled, both in equal measure.