A Musketeer's Heart - Chapter Four

Sebastien Reynaud hadn’t been sitting idly by as his wife’s cousin entered the musketeer corps disguised as a man. He’s been collecting favours all over the country, trying to find any clue as to the fate of Robert Hamilton-Burke. Who had taken him? Where were they keeping him? Was he still alive?

It hadn’t been only his wife’s plea that had prompted him to write to his friend Tréville to let Alexandra become a musketeer-in-training. And it hadn’t been only because he liked both the girl and her brother. He knew what Alexandra felt, he knew that feeling of hopelessness that enveloped a person when someone they loved could be lost forever. He knew that the only thing that combated that hopelessness, was being proactive, the knowledge of doing something to solve the situation.

Reynaud knew that Alexandra was more than capable of looking after herself, he’d helped in teaching her some of the tricks in her repertoire. He’d known from the first moment she’d taken his sword away from him during a sparring match, she’d only continue to improve, and learn. And he knew that she not only wanted, but needed to do something to discover what had befallen her brother, and he knew she’d do something, anything, with or without his help. And knowing no one would be able to sway her, he’d decided to help her the best way he could—guarantee she had allies watching her back, keeping a semblance of a leash on her. Because while she’d barely blink at the thought of risking her own life, she’d never risk someone else’s. Tréville and his musketeers would help her, watch over her, and by having her watch their backs in return, she’d take less risks.

And since a missing leg prevented his more physical involvement in Alexandra’s quest, Reynaud decided to help her the best he could. By cashing in the favours owned to him in form of information.

Today one of those favours has finally paid off. A man, whose description matched Robert’s, had been seen transported, in chains and under the cloak of night, to Château de Roquetaillade, one of the many properties owned by Cardinal Richelieu.

There could only be one reason for an English diplomatic emissary to end up in the hands of France’s First Minister. Richelieu didn’t want any sort of alliance formed between France and England. And he wasn’t yet done with his plan, if Robert was still alive.

Reynaud smiled cynically as he sealed the two letters he’d written. Richelieu, a man many said was infallible, had made a mistake. He should’ve taken someone else prisoner.

Aramis and Porthos were the last to arrive to Tréville’s office. Athos and d’Artagnan were already waiting. One look at their Captain’s face, and Aramis knew whatever had happened wasn’t pleasant. Only one person’s actions could bring that particular expression on Tréville’s face.

“What has he done now?” he asked with a sigh.

Whomever has done whatever they were in Tréville’s office for, didn’t have to be mentioned. Cardinal Richelieu was not a favourite for any of them.

Tréville leaned back in his chair, and crossed his arms over his chest. “Apparently kidnapped a foreign emissary.”

“Spanish? Austrian?” Aramis asked, meeting his friends’ eyes.

Tréville shook his head. “English.”

“Ah.” Aramis shrugged. “Can’t he keep him?”

“I’ll let you ask Alec Reynaud that.”

Athos leaned forward, eyes sharpening. “What does the kid have to do with it?”

“The Englishman is his cousin.”

“Sebastien Reynaud’s wife’s cousin,” a husky voice corrected from behind them, making Aramis stiffen.

Damn that voice that made shivers trickle down his spine every time the boy spoke. Damn those eyes that seemed to see everything. Damn these strange and unwelcome feelings Aramis felt every single time the boy was near. It made him angry, and when angry, Aramis needed a target. This time there wasn’t any. There were only the Captain and his friends. He’d never hit the Captain— Tréville would probably kill him, and Aramis had never before hit a friend in anger. He wasn’t about to start now, no matter how much he wanted to. It was either that or give in to the urge that’s been plaguing him more and more lately. The urge to grab Alec by the shoulders and—

He shook his head like a wet dog, trying to dislodge the thought. Dislodge the mental image that was becoming more and more vivid with each passing day.

“Semantics,” Tréville replied, and narrowed his eyes on Alec. “At least Reynaud’s intervention makes sense. You needed an inside track into our ranks.”

“You’re a spy?” Aramis asked between gritted teeth. While the thought of being attracted to a man—he shuddered—was unbearable, unnatural, being attracted to a spy was probably even worse.

Alec simply stared at them with that calm gaze of his. “I might’ve been at first. I needed to make sure, you weren’t in on the plan.”

“Of all the—”

Alec lifted a hand, stopping Porthos in his tracks. “We’re talking about an English diplomat here, discussing a peace treaty. For all I knew, the King had been the one having him removed.”

“That makes sense.”

Three pairs of accusing eyes focused on d’Artagnan, while Tréville looked unperturbed, as if he’d come to the same conclusion.

D’Artagnan shrugged. “Think about it. If it would’ve been the King, the musketeers would be the ones guarding this man. It made sense to infiltrate our ranks in search of clues. It’s a simple process of elimination. Once it’s clear the King didn’t do it, you’re left with only one option.”

“Richelieu,” Alec finished. “My cousin wrote me he’d informed you of everything as well,” he said, looking at Tréville. “I do apologize for the pretence, but if I could redo it all, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Tréville inclined his head slightly. “I understand. Now, what do you expect us to do?”

“Probably help him rescue the Englishman,” Aramis spat. “Not only did he come here to spy, he came here in order to gain our trust, so we’d help him in the end. It is, after all, one for all and all for one.”

“You would have done the same.”

Aramis chuckled mirthlessly. “I don’t lie to my friends.”

“Everybody lies.” Those pale eyes were sad as they bore into him. “To others and to themselves.”

Aramis couldn’t resist a shudder at the words, at the look in Alec’s eyes. Damn the kid and damn the night Aramis had told him everything about that moment of weakness at the monastery and the lie he’s been living ever since. And damn the lie he’s been telling himself ever since that first day they all met Alexandre Reynaud. What he felt toward the boy was unnatural. It wasn’t normal. And it wouldn’t pass. It was getting stronger with each passing day.

“You’re no different.”

Aramis scowled. “Yes, I’m no different. I’m a bastard through and through, so find someone else to help you. There are plenty of musketeers.”

As the office door slammed behind him, Athos, Porthos and d’Artagnan slowly stood, their gazes meeting.

“It’s one for all and all for one with everything,” Athos said. “Aramis is one of those all.”

Tréville nodded, motioning them out of his office.

“I’m sorry,” d’Artagnan murmured as he walked past Alec.

So was she. Sorry for deceiving them, sorry for doubting them, sorry for not telling them sooner. But she wasn’t sorry for wanting to save her brother.

Squaring her shoulders, Alec looked at Tréville who sighed. “I won’t order them to go.”

“I know, sir. I understand.” She’d deceived him as well. “For what it’s worth, I am sorry for everything that happened. Maybe I would change something, if I could do it all over again. I’d tell the truth.”

Another sigh. “It would’ve been appreciated. I’ll tell the others—”

“No.” It came out too forcefully, so she gentled her voice. “This is personal, it’s not official royal business. I don’t want anyone to die because you ordered them to come with me.”

“So you’ll go alone?”

“Alone is how I started, sir.” She donned her hat. “Thank you for everything, Captain Tréville. I wish you all the best, and hope you won’t think less of Reynaud. He only deceived you, because I begged him to.”

His voice stopped her before she could open the door. “Why would you risk your life for someone you barely know?”

“Musketeers do it all the time.”

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