As they drew up to the gates, the carriage slowed and came to an eventual stop. There was a muffled exchange of words outside, then the door opened and a guard poked his head inside. Mid-twenties, well-built, with dark hair and lovely grey eyes.
“Good morning,” he said. “Mrs. MacInnes, Miss Fiona and Master Duncan?”
“Those are we.”
“No additional passengers today, marm?”
Sorcha gave her daughter a distinct sidelong look. “None…to my knowledge.”
The guard nodded and ducked back out. “Have a nice day,” he said before closing the door.
“I’m not pregnant, mam!” Fiona hissed.
Her mother smiled smugly to herself and looked away without saying anything.
“You and your jokes. He was cute, too.” Fiona sighed through her teeth and watched as the man returned to the guardhouse. “Wait, weren’t the gates always kept open during the day, before?”
“Times have changed,” said Sorcha. “And anyway, it isn’t proper to go pining after every nice-looking boy what crosses your path, now that you’re betrothed.”
The portcullis rattled slowly open, and the carriage started forward once more with a lurch.
“I wasn’t pining,” Fiona said bitterly. “I was merely appraising.”
“What’s a praisin?” asked Duncan as the carriage came to a final halt in the cobblestone courtyard that lay just inside the castle gates.
Fiona hardly heard him. “‘Hmm?’ What’s ‘hmm’ meant to mean?”
“Never you mind,” her mother replied, waving the question aside and getting to her feet. “Let us be free of this dratted vehicle.”
Henry Thomas Mantoux Edmund, Lord of Carvil, was leaning nonchalantly against a pillar on the edge of the courtyard, his wolfish guard dog, Lupe, by this side.
Fiona snorted at the sight of him. “Look at him lounging there like he owns the place.”
“Does he not?” Duncan inquired.
“No. He owns the entirety of the Carvil Valley—except for Carviliet.” Fiona glanced across the courtyard, to where His Lordship was still waiting, inspecting his fingernails. “I wonder what he’s doing here.”
“I’d imagine he’s here to visit with you, my dear,” her mother said. “Seeing as you are his fiancée.”
“There’s still more than two months until the wedding. He could have stopped by to chat at any other point. The fact that he’s here before us, awaiting our arrival, makes me think he’s up to something.”
On the other side of the courtyard, Henry shifted his weight to his other lanky leg and took out his pocket watch.
Fiona sighed. “I suppose I’d better go and see what he wants.”