Chapter 30 — The Lady

The wedding went on until the small hours of the morning, and we got back to Fidele closer to dawn than to midnight. The two light still burning were the two lamps on either side of the front door.

The dark gave me courage — as soon as Noel parked the Jaguar in the carriage house I lunged for him, and kissed him with desperation and hunger. Noel held me by the hips and kissed me back, his mouth open, his hips arching up. I whispered, “Thank you for being my date,” and he laughed low in his chest.

“Anytime, sunshine.”

I kissed him more, then said, “Why do you call me that?”

He looked at me through his lashes. “What, ‘sunshine’? Because you keep me warm.”

For a moment, all I could do was blink — and then I hugged him tight, my arms around his neck and my face in his hair. “You never stop amazing me.”

His arms went around me. “It’s just a nickname.”

I lifted my head to look into his eyes. “I’ve never been anyone’s sunshine before.”

Noel held my face and stroked my cheekbones with his thumbs. “I find that hard to believe. Maybe I’m just the first one to say it out loud.”

“Maybe,” I said and kissed him, and was ready to settle in for a good long smooch when he laughed again, low, and pulled back.

“I want to check on Caleb before we get anything started. We’ve been gone all day.”

“All right.” I kissed his mouth quickly and we climbed out of the Jaguar.

We let ourselves into the house, and climbed the stairs as quietly as we could. The house made its usual sounds, creaking as the old floors settled, the tick of the grandfather clock. We went down the passage to the nursery, and Noel peeked in.

“There’s no fairy light,” he murmured and pushed the door open, then said, “Christ,” and went into the room.

“What is it?” I whispered, my eyes not yet adjusted to the dark. “Noel?”

“Malcolm, turn on the light,” Noel said in a tight voice, so I reached into the room to find the light switch.

The bed was empty.

The pillows and bedding were thrown to the floor, as were Caleb’s Teddy bear and other stuffed animals. Tumnus was not in her basket. Noel knelt by the bed and peered underneath. “Caleb? Caleb, honey?” He reached under the bed, but instead of pulling out Caleb like I hoped, all that emerged was the cat. Her eyes were enormous and her ears alert, and her claws dug into Noel’s chest as he cradled her in his arm.

“No Caleb?” I said.

“He’s not under his bed.” He looked away a moment with an uncharacteristically vehement, “Fuck.”

“I’ll wake Willie and Mrs. Bell,” I said and started down the corridor.

Noel shoved his hand through his hair. “Not yet. Do you remember how to get to the slave cemetery?”