Aidan cut his hand and watched his blood pool in the inkwell. When the flow came to a standstill, he cursed and squeezed until the crimson flowed again. “You’ve the pen?” he asked Tristram, the only person who would buy land from a wanted man.
Tristram passed the iron quill. “You won’t regret this, Aidan.”
“I never have regrets.” He pressed his lips into a hard, thin line and paused before dipping the nib into the blood.
Tristram laughed, a nervous sound. Aidan could imagine him raking his lily-white hands through his corn-blond hair. It took all of Aidan’s strength not to tear at his own dark locks. Below his breath, he swore.
For the last ten years, he’d lived in peace. That was before the money he possessed had run out, and he was forced to return once again to Breckstone. If Lord Dewhurst got wind that he was still alive….
After a moment, the scratching ceased, and the deed was done.
“There.” Aidan set down the pen and stanched the flow from his hand.
“It’s over.” When his friend said nothing, Aidan looked up. “Am I keeping you from some pressing engagement?”
Tristram stowed his timepiece in his waistcoat. “Not at all. We just need to be mindful of the time, that’s all. Jina’s due home in half an hour.”
Aidan’s brows drew together. He looked around the parlor. The Prewitts had painted again, and the pianoforte occupied a different position in the room. Other than that, the place had not changed since he and Tristram had snuck in there as boys for sugar cubes.
The aroma of baking bread wafted in from the kitchen at that moment. Aidan’s stomach rumbled and then clenched. He swallowed a mouthful of bile and nearly crushed the signed paper in his fist.
Tristram cleared his throat. “That should be dry now.”
Aidan nodded and extended the deed over to his friend. But before the other’s fingers could close on it, Aidan withdrew and said, “Money first.”
Tristram snorted. “You trust me so little?”
Clank went the pen into the well. Aidan looked up. “In my position, you can afford to trust no one.”
“And yet here you are, in my parlor, no exits but the window and the door.” Tristram laughed. “Don’t think I didn’t notice you making escape plans. Just in case, of course.”
Aidan managed to crack a slight smile as his friend opened his billfold.
“Of course.” The deed and money exchanged hands, and they shook on the deal.
“You won’t regret this.” It needed repeating, but it did no good. It was signed in his blood. No amount of regret could wash that magic away. Aidan sucked on his hand, which still oozed, and reached for the inkwell. “You keep a lot of iron in here,” he noted, Dismissing his lifeblood from the well and getting to his feet.
Tristram laughed. “I’ll never get over how you do that.” He waved his hand with a flourish. “Just simply willing objects away. Wish I was so able.”
“No, you don’t.” He clapped his friend on the shoulder. “Thank you, Tristram. This means a lot to me.”
Tristram made to cut him off. “Going so soon? How about taking tea with me?”
And risk having a servant spying him there? “No, thank you. I’ll just be going out the back way and—” He moved to the front window, having felt a human Pull. Sure enough, there was a woman coming up the walk. A middle-aged, wire-thin woman with a yellowing lace shawl draped around her shoulders. Aidan moved into the shadows. “What the devil is this?”
© 2020 Beth Overmyer
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