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Tough

 
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Sofia DeMuer
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 10:17 pm    Post subject: Tough Reply with quote

“Oh my God. What the *** am I wearing?” Sofia muttered under her breath at her reflection in the full length mirror before her.

The seamstress looked up from the hem she was pinning in slack-jawed shock that was mirrored by the designer at her side. Nobody bothered to inform Sophie that it was a wedding dress as the question had an undeniably rhetorical ring to it. If a pin should have dropped from between the seamstress’s lips at that moment there was no denying that every one in the room could have heard it.

Katharine Rhovnik leaned back against the hard back of the bench she was seated on, exhaling heavily as she took in her cousin’s reflection. It wasn’t as if there was anything wrong with the dress. It was gorgeous. Strapless with a corseted bodice, the gown clung to curves that Kat did not even know Sophie had. Embellished Teobrec lace flared out past her hips into a full skirt. Lovely.

But absolutely not the Sofia Rhovnik that Kat knew. Then again the Sofia Rhovnik she knew was more likely to get married in full battledress than a tulle gown.

“Do you not like it, mademoiselle?”

The concern on the designer’s face drew Kat to her feet and she broke into the conversation before Sophie could say something to make the situation worse. “I fear, Madame Martin, that Sofia is just a bit overwhelmed at seeing herself in a wedding gown.”

Madame Martin looked ready to lose her lunch on the floor. Her voice was pained, her tone desperate. “But this is a couture gown designed specifically for you, Miss Rhovnik. We were already on a short time line since you would not commit to a design. We do not have time to scrap it and start fresh.”

Kat gave a reassuring smile as she ushered Madame Martin and her assistant from the room. “Perhaps you can give us a moment so that the bride can collect herself.”

When the door was shut behind them, Sophie turned to Kat while frowning down at the layers of fabric she was swathed in. “I can’t do this, Kat.”

“Of course, you can. You’ll put that dress on -- or perhaps a slightly altered version of that dress -- and will walk down the aisle,” Kat reassured in a firm tone as she stepped forward to examine the lacework.

Sophie’s pale blue eyes settled on Kat imploringly until Kat could not help but lift her much darker gaze to meet the look. It was then that Kat realized the issue was bigger than she had initially thought. This was not just about a dress with too much tulle.

“Seriously. I was Sofia *** Rhovnik. I was the heir to one of the biggest and baddest old families. I was a force to be reckoned with and my reputation spoke for itself. What am I now? I’m not Rhovnik anymore. I’m a girl without a last name and now I’m going to be a baroness?” Sophie shook her head firmly, squaring her jaw as she lifted her eyes back to the image in the mirror. “I’m not sure I can live such a boring life. I’m not the type of woman that can spend the rest of my life being followed around by guards while handing out citizenship awards to elementary school students.”

“Citizenship awards to elementary school students?” Kat repeated with disbelief as she took a step back, allowing the fabric of the dress to slip between her fingers. “Are you serious? You can’t possibly think that is the type of baroness and wife Alain is expecting you to be. He knows full well who you are and what you bring to the marriage.”

Sophie sunk onto the bench more than likely creating wrinkles in the dress that would panic Madame Martin but Kat felt it an inopportune time to warn her of it. Instead, she watched as Sophie’s shoulders curved inward around her chest, causing her body to slump forward. Several years ago it would shock her to see Sophie having a crisis of heart.

“I know,” Sophie acknowledged with a distant nod. “I just... I’m not sure I can do this. I’m not sure I can walk down the aisle of some cathedral in a fluffy dress with everyone and their brother watching. We said we were going to keep this small and simple and now every time we turn around there’s another adviser or councilor convincing us to complicate it further or invite more guests.”

With a soft exhale of laughter, Kat dropped down to a seat beside Sophie to lean in and nudge her with a shoulder. “Sure you can. I’ve seen you do some pretty incredible things. I think you can suck it up and get through one torturous day.”

“Remember when the Blood Tribe of Nuevello captured me in the Desert of Fools and tried to torture me into revealing the secrets of that old box they had stolen? Had they known my fear of white puffy dresses they may have made me break,” Sophie joked lightly, nudging Kat back in kind.

When their laughter died, an easy silence fell. Connecting with Sophie was suddenly easier for Kat. Alain’s impact on her cousin had started the ball rolling but no longer being the heir to the Rhovniks had been the key. Sophie was no longer her employer, no longer her master. They were on more equal footing. Her walls were down and, for the first time, Kat began to see why Yaya had loved Sophie so dearly.

“Grandmother asked me to ask you if you and Alain were exchanging wedding gifts,” Kat said finally, breaking the silence that had left them each to their own thoughts while side-by-side on the bench. “She said that it’s important to have something you can pass on. Perhaps a custom designed pair of cuff links?”

Cuff links. What did a man like Alain need with yet another set of cuff links? Sophie drew the fabric of the dress up and stretched out her feet to admire the one piece of her wedding day attire that she actually was in love with -- a pair of designer heels covered in iridescent blue crystals. “No. It needs to be something more practical.”

“Cuff links are pretty practical when you think about it,” Kat replied with a flash of a grin.

Sophie rose to her feet slowly, turning back to the mirror as she drew her hands down the fabric of the dress to smooth it out. A thoughtful smile slowly formed across her lips and she cut a glance over her shoulder at Kat. “What do you think about King Aleik the Great’s ring?”

Kat gave a laugh which died as she lifted her gaze to the reflection of Sophie’s eyes in the mirror. Sophie was serious. Her stomach rolled anxiously at the hint of trouble that the look threatened. “I think it's just a legend,” Kat replied warily.

The smile that was turned on Kat as Sophie twisted to take in her cousin was full of the promise of trouble. “Sometimes,” she stated slowly, “history is written off as legends by those who do not wish you to know the truth.”
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Sofia DeMuer
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2011 9:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

With the warmth of summer passing, the tourist season was coming to a close and the close of the season always brought Sofia around for a trip to her favorite city -- Paris. It was a pleasant coincidence that the ring of King Aleik the Great was sitting in a private residence in the prestigious 7th arrondissement and that she needed it right when the city was awash in a fire of autumnal reds, yellows, and oranges. Golden leaves clung from the trees that lined the path between the mighty Seine and the Jardin des Tuileries. They passed in a yellow blur as Sophie jogged on the sidewalk that edged the Voie Georges Pompidou headed towards the Notre Dame cathedral which was already beginning to loom in the distance.

The weight of her tension was slipping free of her shoulders with each passing step. Each step was one closer to freedom. The burning of her lungs was welcome as was the stitch that had begun to appear in her side. After all, there was always a cost for freedom. She was running away -- from the weight of everything she had given up, from her monstrosity of a wedding dress, from the wedding itself.

Not from Alain, though. Never from Alain. After this trip and this memory of freedom, she would go back and get through this wedding. But only for him.

The sight of a tall, leggy blonde stretching out her legs against the stone wall was not all that surprising but also not all that welcome. Nichole Plevan and Sophie had always been close. Their families had always worked on the same side. However, Sophie had been hoping to get into the city and get out of it without attracting too much attention.

She exhaled heavily as she slowed her pace to a walk, yanking her ear buds out of her ears to let them hang from the clip on her neckline. The blonde’s leg dropped and she turned to face Sophie with a sunny smile that was supposed to suggest surprise but instead read of self-satisfaction.

“Hello, Nik. I’m surprised to see you here.” Sophie said as she slowed to a stop, letting her hands land on her hips.

“Mais oui, je suis ici. C’est ma ville,” Nichole responded with a smile as she let her foot drop to the pavement. Of course, I am here. This is my city. Smoothly and with a fluency that left her merely with a charming accent rather than one that made her the least bit difficult to understand, Nichole switched to English. “I cannot believe you did not let me know you were coming!”

Nichole’s tone was light and teasing but there was a secondary warning beneath it. Sophie hadn’t called her friend to meet up for lunch. She wasn’t staying in the Rhovnik residence in town. She hadn’t used her name or passport to travel on. Nichole was aware of all of this by now and all of it suggested that Sophie wasn’t in town to pick up some fall fashions.

Sophie slowed to a stop, crossing her arms over her Duke hooded sweatshirt and offering a warm smile to her old friend. “I apologize. I’m actually only in town for a couple of days. I just needed to pick up a couple last minute things for the wedding and then I’ll be returning to RhyDin.”

“And if you were about to cause trouble in my city, you would warn me, correct?” Nichole tilted her head at her friend, looking over her warily.

Sophie gave a warm laugh as her eyes zipped out over the great river. Her fists dropped from her hips and her shoulders relaxed, adopting a non-confrontational posture. “I’m about to get married. I don’t have time for trouble.”

“I know you, Sofia,” Nichole responded in the same wary tone as she took a step to close the distance between them. “I know how you think. And I don’t want my city to become the stomping grounds for some sort of twisted bachelorette party in which you create mayhem by thieving your way through the city’s museums.”

A secretive grin found its way to Sophie’s lips as her eyes bounced back to Nichole once again. “Why, Nik! Are you accusing me of planning some sort of art theft?”

Nichole drew her lips into a thin, tight frown in response while stretching her right arm across her body with her left. Then both arms were dropped with a heavy exhale. “I’ll be watching.” And with the words hanging in the air between them, Nichole turned her back on Sophie and began jogging towards the cathedral beckoning in the distance.

“All the more fun, all the more fun,” Sophie muttered under her breath to herself as she watched Nichole’s purple-soled shoes fade into the distance.
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Sofia DeMuer
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2011 1:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Claude Vidalon needed a drink. Something stiff and old would take away the dirty feeling that piled up on his conscious over the course of the day as he proceeded from one business meeting to the next. Some would argue that he did not have a conscious. Those that knew him better would instead say that Vidalon did have a conscious. It was just soft-spoken and easily drowned out with alcohol.

Frowning over the quarterly reports of one of his hedge funds, Vidalon picked his way blindly through the hallways of his vast Parisian townhouse towards his study. He reached out as he stepped through the doorway to flip on the light.

“Bonsoir, Monsieur Vidalon.”

The unexpected sound of a woman’s voice startled Vidalon to the core, making his heart leap into his throat. He worried over the state of it for a moment. His doctor often said that he needed dietary changes -- less alcohol, more greens -- to lower his blood pressure. Vidalon had scoffed at the doctor’s orders but he silently promised his heart that if it would make it through this surprise then he would make the change.

His eyes lifted from the paper in hand to the woman seated in his chair behind his desk. There were many a beauty that he would look forward to seeing behind his desk but the brunette behind it was not one of these. With her legs were crossed one over the other and clad in a designer dress, she seemed harmless enough and leaned back in that great chair with a bottle of his 18 year old Auchentoshan scotch before her, she seemed ready for a friendly conversation. However, Vidalon knew Sofia Rhovnik well enough to know that she was never harmless and he was quite sure she was incapable of friendly conversation.

He squared his shoulders, snapping the report in his hand shut. “Comment allez-vous, Mademoiselle Rhovnik?”

With a flicker of a smug smile across her face, she reached out to set her half-empty glass down beside the bottle. So confident was she in her ability to not only beat his top-rated security system coming in but also in escaping that she was now enjoying his liquor. It was a slap to the face that Vidalon could barely stand. “Bien, et vous?”

“Je vais bien,” Vidalon answered curtly. He hated using his beloved French for dirty business. It was better to soil English. It was such a crude language already. “To what do I owe this pleasure, Sofia?”

“I just wanted to let you know that I am planning on stealing the ring of King Aleik the Great from you.”

With a husky laugh and a smooth shake of his head, Vidalon’s tone turned dismissive and nonchalant. “The ring of King Aleik is a legend, young lady. If someone has told you that I have it, they are... what is it that you say? ...yanking your chain.”

Sophie’s smile brightened into something dangerous as she rose to her feet. A fist that Vidalon had not realized was closed, opened slowly to reveal an ancient gold ring emblazoned with the legendary king’s crest. Held so casually it looked like a mere trinket rather than a priceless artifact created hundreds of years before the birth of Christ and made of gold more than twenty-one carats pure. “This is the ring which you do not have and which does not exist?”

The ring was laid down on the desk between the bottle and the glass. Vidalon followed the motion of her hand until she set down the ring and then his eyes jumped back up to her face once again. He felt the rising tension in his body square his bottom jaw as solidly as his shoulders now felt.

“Clearly you were able to get into my home and break into my safe. Why did you not just take it? Why did you not just walk out the door with it if you wish to take the ring?”

Sophie’s lips twisted into a smile as she rounded the desk and headed towards the doorway. The outside of her shoulder brushed against Vidalon’s and her voice dipped to an intimate whisper. “Because where would the challenge be in that?”

Then her presence left, drawing the air out in the room with it and leaving Vidalon to stare unhappily at the ring left on his desk.
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Sofia DeMuer
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The chattering of Paris’s vast communities of birds and the occasional passing cab were the only noises that broke the Saturday daybreak quiet that had settled over Le Sanz Sans -- an all-night sidewalk cafe. Sophie sat with coffee cup in hand and her back to the cafe as she kept a watch on the street. Flanked by a redheaded Australian and an overgrown Russian, she was sure that they would attract more second glances than she was comfortable with if it were not for the early hour.

English was seen as a rough, crude language by the French but in Pashka’s calloused Russian hands it was slaughtered even further. “It is too early in the morning. Why we are here, Sofia?”

Sophie’s eyes jumped from the street to Pashka’s over sized frame. Sometimes he just looked like a particularly hairy bear that someone had decided to put clothing on. After a stern look to lower his voice, she let her eyes bounce back towards the street. “We are waiting for someone. A cataphile.”

Kicks looked up from the sports section of the newspaper in front of him to follow Sophie’s gaze towards the street corner. “What is a cataphile? This has something to do with your exit strategy I assume.”

“Under Paris there are more than one hundred and eighty miles of tunnels. There are subways and sewers, of course, but there are older tunnels as well. Ancient tunnels. Some were used as catacombs to store bones. Some were mined for limestone. Some were used to raise mushrooms. Some were used as safe havens for the French Resistance fighters,” Sophie explained in a low tone as she narrowed her eyes at some movement at the opposite end of the street corner. “It’s illegal to be in most of them. Cave ins are not uncommon. However, the youth of Paris found that there were secret entrances all over Paris -- in schools, in libraries, in banks, in cafes. The underground became their home.”

“So it’s the place in Paris to go for drugs and sex?” Kicks questioned with a judgmental note to his tone.

The tone caused Sophie’s lips to tense into a brief frown. “And art. There are plays held down there. Dinner parties. Great pieces of art created against the rock. There are inspectors who map the tunnels and reinforce areas in danger of collapsing but even they don’t know it as well as some of the cataphiles.”

“You plan on escaping underground?” Pashka questioned, squinting his eyes as he attempted to follow along with the rapid conversation.

“I do,” Sophie shot Pashka a wide, proud smile at his ever improving English. The smile faded into a more serious expression after a moment “But there is no entry into the carrières from Vidalon’s home. We will need to create one."

A wide, dangerous smile slid across Pashka’s face. “I will blow up the floor,” he declared in a voice that was much too loud.

Kicks straightened suddenly from his lean and before Sophie even had a chance to remind Pashka to keep his voice low, Kicks was protesting the plan. “No, no, no, no! The last time we had a job in which Pashka had to use explosives, I nearly lost a finger. And now we’re doing it in an underground tunnel that you just admitted is prone to cave ins? Definitely not. We need an explosives expert.”

The heavy mosaic tiled cover of a hole in the sidewalk on the opposite street corner moved suddenly causing a sliver of a grin to settle on Sophie’s lips. A dark-skinned man with dreadlocks hanging to his shoulders appeared. His hands landed on the sidewalk and he lifted himself out before offering a hand to his blonde companion. After a cautious glance around, the man moved the cover back in place and began crossing the street. His companion remained a step behind with a lantern swinging in her hand at her side. “Here they are,” Sophie murmured beneath her breath as she rose to her feet.

“Sofia,” the man called with a singsong quality to his French accent. He reached his arms out for her for a quick squeeze. “It has been a long time indeed. I was pleasantly pleased to hear that you had called. I am intrigued by your plan and I believe the cataphiles may be of assistance.”

“Really?” Sophie slid to a seat in her chair, motioning for the cataphiles to take a seat at the table. The man eased to a seat but his companion remained standing at his shoulder, keeping her eyes moving at all times. “How so?”

“I have found the exact spot that you needed me to,” he responded with a sly smile. “And, even better, in four days time there will be a party in an underground old quarry not far from the spot. It will be easy to blend in with the crowd.”

In four days she’d finally have her hands on that ring. Again. It caused a sudden grin to split her lips. “Excellent. Let’s go steal us an ancient artifact, men.”
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Chase Rhovnik
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 20, 2011 10:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In a corner office of RhyDin’s Rhovnik Enterprises building, Chase Rhovnik frowned at the data on the screen of his laptop as a half dozen voices talked over one another in the phone he had wedged between his shoulder and ear. Conference calls were the bane of his existence. He had no idea how much of being the next head of the Rhovnik family would boil down to acting as referee between board members, between his family members, between client nations. Diplomacy had never been his strong suit.

The flash of movement spotted through the glass wall that looked into the hallway beyond caught his attention. His secretary’s jaw dropped at the trio of visitors that were approaching his office. The shock came not from who they were but that they were covered in mud. Pashka was grinning despite the layer of muck caked on his clothing, in his hair, and on his boots while Kicks seemed a bit sullen about the ordeal as he tracked muddy footprints through the building. Sophie was as impassive as always even though her cashmere sweater, designer jeans, and leather boots were most certainly ruined.

Chase couldn’t hear what was being said on the other side of the glass but his secretary’s attempts at blocking or at least delaying their entry seemed to be met with amusement by Sophie. He let out an exhale before interrupting the ongoing debate that continued to rumble on through the phone pressed to his ear. “I understand all of your concerns. However, I need you to come to a solution. We’ll try this again at the end of the day. Please come to an agreement that you can present to me.”

Without waiting for further argument, he set the phone down in the cradle as Sophie entered with Pashka and Kicks on her heels. The set of muddy footprints followed them. “Good afternoon, Chase!” Sophie’s tone was bright as Chase squinted at the streak of dried dirt across her forehead.

“What in the hell happened to the three of you?”

Kicks crossed his arms over his chest, shaking his head slowly. “We were practicing for a job. Pashka got a little over zealous with the explosives.”

Tension settled into Chase’s shoulders. He would not be pulled into these messes. Not anymore. Yet, he couldn’t help but weigh in. “Jesus Christ. Why is Pashka allowed within a hundred feet of explosives? The last time he had to blow something up on a job he nearly killed us all.”

“Yes. Well, that’s why we’re here,” Sophie responded in a breezy tone. She was in her element which meant she was up to no good. Chase braced for the worst. “We need you to help us get King Aleik the Great’s signet ring.”

It was just as bad as Chase had feared. He gave a humorless laugh as he leaned back in his chair. “By ‘get’ I assume you mean ‘steal’. You want me to leave my brand new pregnant wife to help you steal a legendary ring that supposedly has some sort of unknown, mystical powers against demons?”

“Exactly,” Sophie responded, twisting her wrist over to glance at her watch. She had to lift her opposite hand to rub the mud off its face before the time could be read. “We don’t have much time. We’re working on a limited time table.” There was a sharp edge to her tone. It was a reminder for him not to push the fact that she was skipping out on an entire schedule of fittings and rehearsals and last minute decisions.

Chase pursed his lips determined to refuse her. Caitlin had said she’d forgiven him for not telling her about her new title before they walked down the aisle but there was still a deep, unyielding tension in the air between them. It seemed he spent more time sleeping on the couch in his office than he did his own bed and she took refuge on the Island of Kalao to avoid having to even hear the word ‘Killdare’. But he was confident (or perhaps just hopefully desperate) that her anger was spurred by raging pregnancy hormones. “No way, Soph. Not this time. You take your crazy plans and your ragtag gang of thieves and all this mud and march your asses right on out of my office. I’ve got a marriage to salvage and a family to run in case you’ve forgotten.”

There was a silent pregnant pause as Sophie’s pale eyes studied the hard lines of Chase’s face. Then suddenly a grin swept across her lips as if his face said expression entirely different than did his mouth.

“I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist. We’ll see you in Paris.”
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Sofia DeMuer
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 1:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lights strung out on the arched ceiling of an ancient wine cellar cast a pale light on the cataphiles writhing, twirling, and bouncing to the hypnotic beat of Lorie, Riot in Belgium, and Yelle. The warm light from a fire thrower performing in an alcove bounced off the elaborate graffiti-art on the vibrantly colored ancient walls behind him. Most of the party-goers were covered more in body paint than they were in clothes as they swam in the freedom that they got in this supposedly off-limits part of Paris. On the surface there were too many rules. Here, they did what they wanted.

Sophie wormed her way through the crowd unable to see Kicks or Pashka or Chase any longer. She was sure that Kicks had immersed himself in the crowd of dancers, enjoying the thrill of the victory that had come from their successful theft and celebrating the money that Sophie would soon have wired into his account. No amount of body paint and casual clothing, though, could make the very uncomfortable Chase and the very large Pashka look like they belonged so neither had lingered long before finding an exit.

Now with the legendary and mysterious King Aleik the Great's signet ring in an interior breast pocket of a fitted leather jacket, Sophie slipped through the pulsating crowd. With a face full of heavy makeup, skinny jeans, the leather jacket and an elaborate butterfly covering her cheek by their cataphile cohort's surprisingly artistic hand, she looked like a young woman out for a night of fun, not escaping after stealing a fantastic treasure as well as documents that held the secrets to the illegitimate origins of quite a few pieces in Claude Vidalon's collection which would ensure his silence.

Turning a corner, she wound her way down a narrow tunnel in the darkness, letting her hand trail against the side of the wall. The music died into the background and her shoulders finally began to relax as the narrow tunnel opened up into the mouth of a slightly larger room. A small light was dug out of the back pocket of her jeans and she flicked it on, illuminating the catacombs she'd made her way into. The light bounced eerily off the bones that had been packed into tight stacks several centuries before when the cemeteries of Paris began to overflow. Her lips twisted into a sudden smirk in reply to a similar look staring back at her from one particular skull facing outward.

She was now home free. At the end of this tunnel sat a ladder that would lead up into the rectory of the Eglise Sainte-Rosalie. Within hours she would be back in RhyDin with a one-of-a-kind wedding gift for her groom secured.

The Parisian catacombs were new to Seamus, but he had used tunnels much like it throughout the Newbreton civil war. A few shakedowns had given him the information he needed: the rest was volunteered by a bitter young woman named Nichole Plevan who mistook him for Interpol. From there it was a matter of waiting for Sophie to come to him.

"Soph," he hissed, and his hands leapt for her arms to stay any pre-emptive strikes. "We've been trying to find you for three days."

Victory had fogged her brain. She hadn't taken a second in the darkness to listen for breathing or shuffling before flicking on the light. It slipped out of her hand and clattered at their feet but his hands were on her before she could attack and by the time she could mount a defense, the man's identity was pinpointed from the handheld light that now illuminated Seamus from below and she relaxed in his grip after a soft curse. "Jesus, Seamus. You could have given me a heart attack. I got the messages. I was just about to head home."

"Not everything could be sent, love. Kalao's been seized by a rogue Asitranian ship, that's public," he said, offering the flashlight back to her. "Our darling new Duchess made it back to RhyDin... also all but public. But our boy Al is the one who took her place. They've got him, Soph, and that's not all..."

He shook his head. Clearly this angered him, and it was all he could do not to go against the orders. "He's told us to maintain radio silence. On his orders we've been ignoring all their ransom demands, not even a peep. Last message we got from them, they said they're gonna kill him in..." He checked his watch. "Twenty-two hours now."

It was shocking how quickly all the joy could be drained right out of the night's accomplishment. She should have known the moment she saw Seamus that something was horribly wrong. There were members of her own staff who were far more comfortable in Paris and its underground to come to collect her if they felt she had been gone too long. Instead, her favorite knight came himself. Only Seamus would deliver this sort of news to her.

A hand fell to his arm to steady herself against the blow, inhaling deeply before letting go of a long, slow exhale. "Do we know how many men they have? If we can get an idea of their numbers, I can form a pretty good idea of how many we'll need to take in with us. I know the island really well. If we move quickly we shouldn't have any trouble at all in getting to him before then."

"About sixty, with assorted small arms. They've managed to barricade most ways on and off the island -- only Stingray Point's open now. We've got to be careful. If they see us coming, they could take him out ahead of schedule." Seamus reached out and squeezed her shoulder. "We should split up. I'll meet you back at the New Haven house in four hours."

Her lips pursed into a thin line at the mention of the timeline moving up. The bride wanted to curl up into a ball but it would do no good. The Rhovnik in her made sure to bury the thought deep. It was time to fight. Without realizing it, her hand tightened into an angry, defiant fist around his sleeve before she could force the fingers to relax and release her grip to take a step back.

"I'll have a plan together by then. I'll be damned if that man is getting out of marrying me so easily."
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