A Christmas Rose:A Dusk Gate Chronicles Novella(2)

By: Breeana Puttroff

“I’m sorry, Quinn.” And he was. He had hoped, when they’d come to Philotheum for her coronation that living here would mean she’d find a connection with her father’s side of her family, especially since she’d been cut off from her mother, her adopted father, and her siblings when the gate had closed. But so far, her relationships with most of them had been cordial at best, and at other times, downright strained.

A surprising exception, most of the time, was Charles, her oldest uncle, who was rather pleased with the advisory position she’d asked him to take. He had even moved his family to an estate closer to the capital, and he spent much of his time at the castle, helping Quinn with some of the still-tenuous political situations in Philotheum.

The only thing everyone agreed on, and was excited about, was the pregnancy. For some – like Sophia – the enthusiasm was to a level that bordered on obsession. The little nursery room here in their apartment was already overflowing with gifts – knitted blankets, hand-sewn gowns and diapers, even a growing collection of wooden toys that the baby wouldn’t be able to use for several moons – all surrounding a beautiful hand-carved cradle.

Unlike his family’s castle in Eirentheos, which was practically overflowing with children, this castle hadn’t housed a royal child in many cycles. Actually, although some of the live-in servants had children, the last royal baby born and raised here had been Tolliver – a fact that William and Quinn both preferred to ignore.

“You know, love, even though it’s perfectly safe, are you really sure you’re up to traveling that far right now? Five days each way is a long time to be sitting in a carriage…”

“I am not going to miss Linnea’s wedding.”

“She would understand, Quinn. And it’s not like you won’t get to see her – she’s moving here.”

“I’ll be fine. The baby’s not due for another eight weeks.”

“Seven, by the time we leave.. Five to seven. We don’t know the dates for sure.”

She shrugged. “The trip will only be three weeks – even with the traveling. I’ll still have plenty of time to be stuck in this castle with everyone watching me like hawks.”

As if to illustrate her point, there was a knock on the door then, and William opened it to reveal an older woman with graying hair and sparkling blue eyes, holding a tray with several covered dishes. He stood to the side and motioned her in.

“Qu…Lady Sophia asked me to bring this up for you,” she said, setting the tray on the table. “It’s stew. She thinks you’ve not had enough vegetables to eat today.” She rolled her eyes, which made both Quinn and William chuckle. “I know you’re probably not actually ready for supper yet, but I brought these for you.” Ruth lifted a small silver cover from the tray, revealing a glass bowl full of green glasberries – Quinn’s favorite fruit.

“Thank you, Ruth,” Quinn said. “I appreciate it.”

“You’re welcome, sweetheart. Would you like me to tell Sophia that you ate every drop of the stew and that you’re napping now?”

“Tell her you heard me snoring.”

“That might start her to worrying you’re damaging the wee one’s hearing.”

William snorted.

“Then tell her you saw my eyelashes fluttering gently against my cheeks as I rested lightly on three down blankets, with an extra pillow just for the baby.”

“I will tell her exactly that,” she said, laughing along with them. “I am working on putting together the things that you’ll need for your journey, milady – is there anything special you need me to get you for that?”

“My husband here is worrying about my hands staying warm in this cooler weather.”

“I’ll have some gloves made. Anything else?”

“Some extra pillows and blankets for the carriage, maybe? So everyone can stop worrying about whether I’ll be comfortable enough.”

“Already taken care of, honey. You enjoy your afternoon – maybe even relax a little bit. Nathaniel should be coming back this evening.”

“Thank you.”

“Anything for you, Sir?” she asked, looking at William.

“Just for you to stop calling me that, Ruth. I’ve told you – it’s not necessary to be so formal, at least not here, when it’s just us. You’ve been a friend to us already, and I consider you as such.”

“All right, William. But do let me know if you think of anything.”

“I will.”

He watched Ruth close the door behind her, and then he turned back to his wife. “Okay. Point taken. We’ll go.”