With the fabulous NYLA team – Sarah Younger, Nancy Yost, me, Mélanie, Amy Rosenbaum, and Natanya Wheeler.

Three weeks until the release of Gilded Deceit! Mélanie and I just got back from a very fun trip to New York. I went to meet with the team at NYLA. We had a great visit (pictured above) and did some very productive strategizing about Gilded Deceit and future books and novellas in the series. Emails and phone calls are great, but it’s always wonderful to sit down with everyone in the same room and share ideas. Mélanie also told them about the stories she’s making up!

Here, in photos, are some highlights from the rest of our trip – lots of research inspiration and good times with friends!

New York Shopping at Columbus Circle

Mélanie really wanted to have dinner at Center Bar – she was fascinated by the piano and loved listening. She asked me how the pianist knew which notes to play.

 

We both love Belvedere Castle in Central Park.

 

The Metropolitan Museum is fabulous for research. This 1823 façade is in the American Wing, but I imagined we were walking into Malcolm and Suzanne’s house in Berkeley Square.

 

 

Lovely dinner with friends at Cesca, a favorite restaurant of ours.

 

“Home sweet hotel,” as Mélanie says, at the Milburn.

 

Brunch in Wonderland at Alice’s Teacup.

 

Dinner with some new friends we acquired on the trip.

 

I asked Mélanie what she wanted to do our last day in NY and she said “go back to the castle.”

 

Lunch at Isabella’s, one of our favorite NY restaurants, before we flew home.

 

With less than five weeks until the May 15 release of Gilded Deceit, it seems a good time for a game of “guess the quote.” Below are some quotes from the book. Guess who is talking, whom they are speaking to, and if you like speculate on the circumstances.

1.

“I don’t think I’ve ever claimed not to believe in love.”

“You’ve also never admitted to feeling it, so far as I can remember.”

 

“But I’ve always believed in change, haven’t I?”

 

2.

“Dear God in heaven, I could murder him.”

“Please don’t. I’ve grown quite attached to him.”

 

3.

“I’m not particularly worried about Britain. Britain can take care of itself.”

 

4.

“Some of my past was cover for my work.”

“But not all of it.”

“No, not all.”

 

5.

“Call it professional courtesy. I hate to see Carfax manipulate anyone. Least of all, those I’m fond of.”

 

6.

. “If you’re going to say you thought they were too old to indulge in such activities, you will seriously insult at least one person at table.”

 

7.

“I thought you’d be on my side.”

“If you imagine I’m fool enough to choose sides—”

Meeting Cinderella

Mélanie and I had an enchanting night last week attending the brilliant touring production of Into the Woods. It’s a favorite of mine and of Mélanie’s as well, thanks to the movie and a local theatre production last year. We play the CD all the time and she can sing most of the songs, which we sometimes act out at home. It was a treat to see this beautiful, inventive production (do go if you get a chance!) done on a fairly bare stage with a great cast who found new nuances in the songs and story.

 

The night  was made extra magical by Cinderella (the golden-voiced and very talented Laurie Veldheer who made the princess both engaging and multi-layered) coming over to talk to Mélanie before the show when some of the cast greeted the audience. Mélanie was in transports and waved to Cinderella during the curtain call. Later we ran in to Laurie Veldheer by the stage door and she couldn’t have been nicer. Mélanie kept saying “I can’t believe we met Cinderella!” Some kids meet Cinderella at Disneyland for the first time. Mélanie met her at a Stephen Sondheim musical. Definitely my daughter :-).

 

With this and Beauty and the Beast it’s a been a week for fairy tales. My characters often refer to “not living in a fairy tale” and yet there are echoes. The line in Into the Woods from the Baker’s song “No More”, “No more curses you can’t undo, left by fathers you never knew” always makes me think of Malcolm. Not that Raoul left him a curse precisely or that Malcolm didn’t know him. But Malcolm certainly is dealing with the often mysterious legacy of the older generation. And it occurs to me that though Suzanne would say she’s the opposite of Cinderella, she does meet her husband while masquerading, she worries about when he will realize she’s not who she claims to be, and she goes from living on the streets to the equivalent of living in a palace. Like the Into the Woods Cinderella, she finds living in a palace has its challenges (though Malcolm is certainly very different from her prince in the musical).

 

Do you see any fairy tale parallels in the Rannoch series?

 

On another note, we’re finishing up a very fun reread of the Rannoch books on the Google + Group. On April 1st we’ll have an Ask the Author thread, and I’ll be giving away an advanced electronic copy of Gilded Deceit to a commenter. Do stop by!

 

 

Melanie and I have seen the new Beauty and the Beast movie twice this weekend (there were are above at dinner after the second viewing, with some new B&B treasures). I haven’t felt such pure joy at a movie in a very long while (probably not since the Kenneth Branagh Much Ado About Nothing, a very different movie but the final images have a certain similarity and I left the theatre with a similar feeling).  It’s magical film, brilliant on multiple levels. It left me crying(to my daughter’s confusion), grinning with sheer joy, and and marveling at the craft. Mélanie loved it too (“I think this is my favorite Belle story.”).
It also left me feeling creatively inspired. I haven’t done much with a Beauty and the Beast story line I realize. Possibly Harry and Cordy – perhaps more than I realized. Harry might not call himself a beast, but he certainly has a caustic exterior and he tends to stay barricaded in his house with his books. Cordelia is certainly a beauty. Harry doesn’t keep her prisoner, but he does marry her knowing she loves another man and is desperate to escape her parents’  house (something he later regrets, not for his sake but for hers, because he wanted her so much he didn’t pay attention to what she wanted/needed). They bond partly over books and she has to leave him, know he will let her go, and then come back to him and have him almost die in her arms to realize she loves him. Harry’s transformation is less dramatic than Beast to Prince, but we do see him change from a bitter loner to a loving father and husband.
I’m gong to ponder more parallels. When Suzanne marries Malcolm she moves into a world almost as alien as the Beast’s castle and at times she feels trapped by her masquerade, but she goes into it willingly to spy on Malcolm. She is shocked to fall in love with him, but she knows he’s a good person from the first.
I will say Ewan McGregor as Lumière convinces me more than ever that he’s right for Bertrand in my fantasy casting and that Emma Watson is my image for Selena in Gilded Deceit.
Who else has seen Beauty & the Beast?
photo: Alexandra Elliott

photo: Alexandra Elliott

I’ve blogged before about the joys and challenges of being a writer and a mother and the “art of juggling.” I thought back to that blog yesterday. I had to give a presentation at meeting for my Merola Opera Program job, meet up with my daughter’s nanny to drop her off, and later that night finish going through copy edits for Gilded Deceit. It was raining. We were running late. I wasn’t sure I’d told the nanny the right place to meet. Finally, on the way into the meeting, I apologized to a colleague for running late, and she said not to worry and then added, “It must be hard being a mother.”

Later, sitting in the meeting (after I turned around the heel of my Wolford tights so a run wouldn’t show and fished out a blue crayon from my Longchamp tote to make notes because I couldn’t find a pen) I thought about that comment. Being a mother is exhausting at times. It’s rewarding. It can be challenging, especially when one tries to juggle the various parts of one’s life or simply get out the door with a sleepy five-year-old and all the things you need or both your days. But I don’t really think of it as hard. And more than anything else, I think I would call it fun.

Before I was a mother I didn’t play hide and seek tag, set up doll tea parties, or tell stories in the car. I didn’t get to share the wonder of seeing my daughter discover the world.

When I got to the copy edits, I thought about Suzanne and the way she juggles her life, which makes mine look simple. I think Suzanne would say the secret (along with “not minding if you fail”) is finding happiness in the moment. Which I’d agree with.

Mission for a Queen 2

Mission for a Queen will be out November 3 and is up for pre-order. You can find it here on Amazon, iBooks, Nook, and Kobo.

Excited to have it out in the world! Meanwhile, check out the teaser with Mélanie Suzanne and Hortense Bonaparte I just posted on History Hoydens.

Cheers,

Tracy

In the Merola offices with Mélanie the day she turned four and ten months

In the Merola offices with Mélanie the day she turned four and ten months

Happy Saturday from the delightfully gray and rainy Bay Area. I’ve been buried in the WIP (writing about sunny Italy), Mission for a Queen is up for pre-order on most platforms (I’ll post links early next week, but you should be able to search for it).

Meanwhile, for a quick break, a topic I’ve been wanting to explore. An interesting thread on the Google+ Group a couple of months ago got me to ponder the phrase “love of one’s life.” The term came up in regards to Raoul O’Roarke and Malcolm’s mother Arabella. i’m not sure it applies to them, but beyond that, I’m not sure what I think of the whole idea of a person having a single “love of their life.” Malcolm’s aunt Lady Frances says she’s never much cared for the phrase, and I’m inclined to agree with her. Or perhaps it’s that I think it’s less that a person meets the love of their life than that, ideally, two people grow into being the loves of each other’s lives, as they grow and change together over the course of a relationship. I think that has already happened to a degree with Suzanne and Malcolm – neither of them is quite the person they were when they married; each has influenced the other in ways that strengthen their bond. (I think that’s true of other couples in the series as well, but perhaps particularly of Malcolm and Suzanne).

I also think it’s hard to judge someone the love of someone’s life while that life is still unfolding. Right now in the series, Cordelia pretty clearly seems to be the love of Harry’s life – he fell hard for her when he first met her, wanted her under any circumstances, never got over her despite a painful betrayal, reconciled with her and is still desperately in love with her. She also seems to be the first and only woman he came close to loving (if he hadn’t met her, it seems he might have been a bachelor like his uncle Archie). But Harry is only 30. If Cordy died or ran off with another man, would Harry never love again to such a degree? Very possibly, but not I think inevitably. (Please note, I am only using Cordy dying or running off with another man as hypotheticals; they are not in any way intended to be spoilers).

In that sense, it’s probably somewhat easier to talk about Raoul’s place in Arabella’s life, since we can look back on her whole life, than Arabella’s place in Raoul’s life. We can look at what Arabella meant to him thus far, but even though he’s a couple of decades older than Malcolm or Harry, he could still have a longer relationship with Laura (or theoretically some other woman) than he had with Arabella.

What do you think of the phrase “love of one’s life”? And, turning my post on its head, given the limitations of the phrase do you think, up to this point in the series, the central couples (Malcolm and Suzanne, Harry and Cordy, David and Simon, Rupert and Bertrand, Raoul and Laura, any other couples you want to address) are the loves of each other’s lives? Why or why not?

Cheers,

Tracy

TracyMelMemberLounge

 

Greetings from Ashland, Oregon where Mélanie saw her first Oregon Shakespeare Festival play last night, a very fun production of The Wiz that she loved. Here we are afterwards, bathed in the green lights of the Emerald City.

TheWiz

Some friends and I also saw a fabulous matinee of Richard II yesterday. I was really struck by all the lines about exile in light of Malcolm and Suzanne’s current situation. It seems a good time to post this snippet from the next full novel, which is inspired by John of Gaunt’s “This England” speech.

Also, I just got my first look at a draft cover for the novella.

Mission for a Queen 2

 

“Darling.” Mélanie turned to look at her husband. The brace of candles cast flickering light over his face. The flexible mouth, the deepset eyes, dark now with concern and yet steady with confidence. “Has it occurred to you that when if they learn the truth, they may well see me as the woman who betrayed their country and their father.”
“I doubt it.” Malcolm’s tone was even and matter-of-fact. “Not given the way they both already question things. Besides, by the time they’re old enough for us to tell them, they may well not see Britain as their country anymore.”
She turned her head away. “Damn it, Malcolm—“
“There’s no particular reason they should,” he said. “Neither of them was born there. It’s not their mother’s country. Jessica won’t even remember it.”
Mélanie could keenly recall a moment on their first to Britain four years ago, after Napoleon’s first abdication. Colin had wanted one of the Royalist Bourbon flags vendors were selling in Hyde Park, and Lady Frances had bought one for him. The sight of it clutched in his small hand had cut her in two. So why did the thought of the children growing up alienated from Britain now tear at her with a physical wrench? “It’s still their father’s country.”
“Well, yes. And I suppose I want them to know that. Though at the moment I’m more aware that it’s the country I had to flee.”
“Because of your wife.”
“Because of my spymaster. Who claims to be working in its interests. I walked away once before.”
“Because of your family.”
“Mostly. I’d probably never have gone back if it wasn’t for you. So in a sense I’m where I might have been a year and a half ago anyway.”
“Malcolm—“
“I almost didn’t go back when I left the diplomatic corps, you know. We talked about where else we might go, and I came closer to considering it than I even admitted to you. A fresh start had an appeal. I wasn’t sure it was fair to inflict what I’d have to face in Britain on you. I was afraid of what it might do to us. Of the person I might become. The person I did become to a degree. At the same time, I had this absurd sense I had to face the past. And as much as I didn’t want to put you through that, I could never have done it without you.”
“Darling—“
He tightened his grip on her hand and carried it to his lips. “That’s the thing, sweetheart. For all we’ve been through, I’m not sorry we went back. If I never see Britain again, I won’t have to live with the questions I lived with before we returned. I’ll always be grateful to you for getting me through that.”
Tears stung her eyes. “I didn’t get you through anything you couldn’t have managed much better without me.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, beloved. And why I can be happy now. I wonder how Thurston and the contessa’s children feel,” he added after a moment. “There’ve never seen Britain and likely never will.”
“And yet their father’s still an Englishman,” Suzanne said.
“More than I will be in fifteen years, I suspect. Being an agent comes in handy when one has to blend into a new country.”
“Being an agent has to do with the surface.”
“And changing the surface can change what’s underneath. You should know that better than anyone.”
“In a way. But it hasn’t changed who I was born, as you just pointed out.”
“No. But you always believed in your cause more than I did in mine. If it can even be called that.”
“Oh, Malcolm. You’ve always believed in it.”
“What? If you mean the Crown—”
“The scept’rd isle, the little eden, the demi-paradise—“
“I’m Scots.”
“It’s the same island, darling.”
“We’d have to ask Shakespeare what he meant.”
She shook her head. She knew on some level that being away from his country would always tear at him. And she knew with the same certainty that he’d never admit it.
“The children won’t have the same view,” he said. “They may not be particularly attached to any country, which isn’t a bad thing.”

Dinner at Balboa Café

Dinner at Balboa Café

 

Happy August! The novella will be off the to the copy editor shortly. I’m mulling possible titles – Continental Escape, Continental Interlude, and Mission for a Queen are among the options. What do you think? The queen in question is Hortense Bonaparte, Josephine’s daughter and Napoleon’s stepdaughter, who plays a major role in the novella. If you haven’t already seen it, I blogged about her on History Hoydens recently. The plans for the series reread on the Google+ Group are proceeding with a September start – do check it out. I’m really looking forward to new insights as we go along.

Mélanie and I had a fun break last night going out to dinner at the Balboa Café and seeing a great production of The Little Mermaid at 142 Throckmorton. But I’ve been writing a lot this weekend, and the new novel is really hitting it’s stride. I’m very excited about the new directions it takes the characters, and the new characters it brings into the series.

Meanwhile, here’s another teaser from the novella, the first scene between Malcolm and Suzanne (who, in a sign of how their lives are changing, is thinking of herself as Mélanie).

Mélanie Suzanne Rannoch tucked a blanket round her son, Colin, on a bench in the tiny cabin, while holding her sleeping eighteen-month-old daughter, Jessica, a boneless weight against her shoulder. She touched the fingers to the soft head of Berowne, their cat, curled up on the bench beside Colin, then dropped down on the opposite bench, Jessica in her lap, braced against the rocking of the boat that was carrying them across the Channel. Away from the life they had built carefully in the past year and a half. The life she had thought would be the foundation of her children’s future.

The boards creaked. She looked up to see her husband stoop his head as he stepped into the cabin. He gave her a quick smile, a gleam in the yellow light of the single lamp. He touched his fingers to Colin’s hair, then dropped down on the bench beside her and Jessica. He cupped his hand round Jessica’s head for a moment. “Oh, to be able to sleep anywhere.”

“I thought they wouldn’t sleep at all for a while. So much excitement.” A day that had begun with a seemingly normal breakfast in their Berkeley Square house and ended with a midnight escape on a boat down the Thames. For some reason the image of the breakfast parlor, with the peach-colored walls she had chosen and her cream-and-rose breakfast china, brought a lump to her throat.  She’d bought that china on a shopping expedition with her friend Cordelia, while they carried their babies in their arms and Colin played in the china warehouse with Cordelia’s elder daughter. Mélanie rocked Jessica, willing her hands to be steady. “We’re going to have to talk about it at some point.”

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Malcolm said.

“Darling!”

“We took an action we always knew we might have to take. If our house burned down, and we had to flee, there wouldn’t be anything to analyze after the fact.”

“There would if it was my fault it burned down.”

He lifted a loosened strand of hair from her neck and let it slide through his fingers. “If Carfax hadn’t wanted to drive a wedge between David and Simon, if David and Simon hadn’t been my friends, none of this would have happened.”

“If I hadn’t been a former Bonapartist spy, Carfax wouldn’t have been able to use my past against David and Simon.” Her fingers dug into the soft wool of Jessica’s blanket. Simon’s gaze, when he had visited them in Berkeley Square hours before they left London, hung in her memory. The compassion in his eyes still seared her. But she had escaped with her family intact, whereas his had been shaken to the core.

Malcolm turned sideways on the bench and gathered her against him. “We’re spies. We deal in information. Some people are going to be hurt when we use it. Some saved.”

“My God.” She swiveled her head round to look at him. “Don’t tell me you’re saying it’s all relative.”

“Of course not. But guilt is inevitable. We have to live with it. You’ve always been better at that than I am. You need to go on doing so. For the children’s sake.” His fingers moved to Jessica’s head again. “For your own sake. For my sake.”

“I won’t let you down, Malcolm. Or the children. And I’m too selfish to let myself down.”

“You’re one of the least selfish people I know, sweetheart.” He pulled her closer and dropped a kiss on her hair.

She let her head sink back against his shoulder. “I don’t deserve you.”

“That sounds like the sort of idiotic twaddle you despise, sweetheart.”

“Simon would be horrified. Not at all up to the dialogue in his plays.” She swallowed. Better not to talk about Simon just now. They needed to focus on the future. “Darling— Now we’re out of Britain, there’s no hurry necessarily in getting to Italy, is there?”

He drew back to look down at her. “You want to see Talleyrand and Dorothée? I’m not sure that’s wise. Talleyrand is fond of you, but he’s also in communication with Carfax.”

“Yes, I know. That is, I would like to see them, but I agree it’s not sensible, not now.” She looked up at her husband. “You see, I can be sensible sometimes, darling.”

“Sometimes,” he agreed.

She twisted one of his silver waistcoat buttons between her fingers. “I was wondering about stopping in Switzerland.”

His gaze told her he understood at once. “You want to see Queen Hortense? To warn her?”

A mere month and a half ago, Malcolm hadn’t known of her connection to Hortense Bonaparte, daughter of the late Empress Josephine, stepdaughter of the exiled Napoleon Bonaparte. But last April a letter from Hortense to her former lover, the Comte de Flahaut, had gone astray at a ball Mélanie and Malcolm were giving. Mélanie had trusted her husband with her friendship with Hortense and the story of how she had once helped Hortense conceal the birth of her secret illegitimate child by Flahaut. “That’s part of it,” she said. “Hortense should know Julien St. Juste was in England, that he’s been working for Carfax, that he was willing to move against Flahaut, for all he swore he’d never touch Hortense herself. And if Carfax knows about me, there’s a chance he knows about Hortense and her child. I don’t want to scare her, but we should put her on her guard. Also—” She hesitated, fumbling for words she wasn’t entirely sure of herself.

“You’ve been shaken from your moorings. It would be good see someone from your old life.”

“I suppose so. Yes.” She looked up at him. Six months after he’d learned the truth of her past, sharing that truth was still uncertain territory for them. “I took Colin to see her once. After Waterloo.”

“I’m glad.” Malcolm’s gaze was warm and steady on her face.

“Malcolm—”

“Truly. You lost a lot from your old life. Colin and Jessica are exposed to little enough of it. They should know your friends. But are you sure you want to take me to see Queen Hortense?”

“Malcolm, you can’t doubt I trust you now.”

“There are different degrees of trust.”

Mélanie settled back against her husband. “I told you when I told you about her baby with Flahaut. You wouldn’t hurt a woman and her child. Besides—” Incredibly she almost laughed.

“What?” he asked.

She titled her head back to look up at him. “I thought it would be impossible to escape him. But you really aren’t working for Carfax now, darling.”

“No.” Malcolm’s gaze went still. “I only wonder how much I’ll be working against him.”

ViansaTMSunday Mélanie and  i spent the afternoon at Viansa, a lovely winery in the Sonoma Valley that always makes me think of Tuscany. Great inspiration for the new novel! I’m really delving into it, as the novella is in revisions.

path

 

Here’s a sneak peek at the novella, the first scene between David and Simon that catches us up on where they are after London Gambit.

winebarrel

I posted another scene (the reveals the identity of Lady Frances’s mysterious lover from the Valentine’s letters) on the Google+ Group. Do head over and take a look at it, and join the group if you haven’t already done so.

table

Speaking of the Google Group, Betty is planning a group read of the Rannoch books starting in September if there’s enough interest. If you’d be interested in participating (even without reading all the books again, you could still chime in) do post, here or in the group.

David Mallinson, Viscount Worsley, looked across the library at the man with whom he had shared his life for the past decade. “I wasn’t sure you’d come here today.”

“I wasn’t sure I’d be welcome here today.” Simon Tanner leaned against the window ledge, hands braced on the sill, the light behind him, tension writ in the lines of his shoulders. “Malcolm and Suzanne have left Britain.”

Shock drained the blood from David’s head. “How long have you known?”

“Since last night.” Simon stayed still, his face hard-cut in the shadows, his voice even.

“You went to see them.” The reverberation of the door closing when Simon had left the house the previous night seemed to echo through the room. He hadn’t slammed the door, but the click had echoed with finality.

“I wanted to say goodbye.”

David swallowed. His mouth was dry with the ashes of the two most important relationships in his thirty years. “You knew they’d leave.”

Simon met his gaze without flinching. “I guessed.”

“That I’d drive them away.”

“That the truth being out would.”

Malcolm Rannoch’s face, in the sitting room at Brooks’s where David had confronted him yesterday—God, was it less than twenty-four hours?—hung in David’s memory. Close on that came a memory of Malcolm huddled beside him at Harrow beneath a blanket, giving him a cup of hot chocolate, both their noses bloody thanks to a trio of older boys devastating with fists and words. “I never wanted—”

“No. I didn’t think you did.”

This time it was Suzanne’s image that shot into David’s mind. Laughing up at Malcolm as they waltzed. Holding her children. Bending over the pallets of the wounded who filled her house during the battle of Waterloo. The woman his friend loved, against all expectation. The friend David had come to love as well. Who he now knew had been an agent for the Bonapartist French. Had married Malcolm to spy on him and his country. David’s country. Who had been giving information to the French even as she nursed the British wounded from Waterloo beside David. “Where have they gone?”

“I don’t know,” Simon said. “I didn’t want to know.”

David nodded. He was so used to seeing his friends nearly every day that he could still scarcely comprehend it. “I wouldn’t have—”

“For what it’s worth,” Simon said, “once he knew your father knew the truth about Suzanne, Malcolm was bound to leave the country, whatever your reaction.”

“I don’t think even Father would—”

“You know as well as I do there’s no telling what your father might do.”

David nodded. His father, Lord Carfax, was the unofficial head of British intelligence. Even David could still be surprised by his ruthlessness.

“David—” Simon drew a breath as though weighing words he wasn’t yet sure he should speak.

“Father told me about Suzanne to drive a wedge between us?”

Simon stared at him. Dust motes danced in a shaft of sunlight between them. “You worked that out.”

“Once the initial shock wore off.” During the long night, when he’d paced the floor, first of the library, then of his cold and empty bedchamber. “I may not be an agent like Malcolm, but I know something of the way my father’s mind works.” And Lord Carfax, above all, wanted David to marry and father an heir to the earldom.

“I expected he wanted Malcolm away from you as well,” Simon said. “Malcolm’s always had a way of encouraging you to move in the opposite direction from what your father wants.”

“Perhaps. One way or another, if it wasn’t for me, Malcolm and Suzanne wouldn’t have had to leave.”

“David.” Simon look a half step forwards, then checked himself. “Malcolm and Suzanne left because your father knows the truth about Suzanne, not because you do. Your father has known for some time.”

“And they’ve managed to go on comfortably in Britain despite it. I’m the cause of the crisis.”

“I expect Malcolm’s glad to know Carfax knows.” Simon watched David for a moment. Of all the things David had thought to see in his lover’s gaze today, compassion wasn’t one of them. “For what it’s worth, I think they’d have left whatever your reaction had been.”

David drew a breath, the angry words he had hurled at Malcolm in a sitting room at Brooks’s yesterday echoing in his head. There were too many things he wasn’t yet prepared to discuss with Simon. “Are you coming up to see the children?”

“Am I welcome to?” Simon asked.

“Do you really have to ask that?” It was only three months since David had moved into this house to raise his sister’s four orphaned children, but in that time they had come to seem like Simon’s as much as his own. “And whatever I said, would you let it stop you?”

A smile curved Simon’s mouth, the first David had seen on his face since their quarrel. “You know me too well.”

David moved to the door. “In some things.”