A Musketeer's Heart - Chapter Twenty-Nine

She was the first, the only thing he saw when he pulled his horse to a stop. Alexandra. Tiny. Dishevelled. Beautiful...Pregnant.

He swallowed thickly, and dismounted, his eyes never leaving her. She blinked as if thinking he was an apparition, and he fought a smile. God, how he missed her. How has he thought it possible to live without her? To live his life without looking at her every single day?

She whispered something to her companion, a stout woman holding onto her firmly, walked slowly forward, and smiled. Aramis gritted his teeth as she offered a polite greeting, and then spat a curse, as she offered them tea.

Tea?!

He didn’t want tea. He didn’t want her to act as if they were mere acquaintances. They were much more than that. Weren’t they? Had she forgotten already? Had she forgotten him already? What about the child she was carrying, her hand placed protectively over her belly as she looked at him? He wanted to cry, to crumble to his knees in break down at the injustice of it all. He was too late, he’s waited too long, and all was lost. But then, he looked into her eyes, really looked into her eyes, and what he saw there, made it all worthwhile. The pain and darkness he’s endured in the past months, the meticulous plan set in motion and executed before he and his companions embarked on the journey to England, the jittery nervousness and fear accompanying him on the ride through the countryside...

The hope he saw in her pale green eyes—god, how he missed her eyes—mixing with tears of joy and fear, and so much love he thought his chest would burst, told him more than words could. All was not lost. She hadn’t forgotten him, she hadn’t stopped loving him.

He didn’t need words, the look in her eyes was reassurance enough. He took off his hat, threw it to the side, and then she was in his arms. Where she belonged. Where she’ll be for the rest of their lives, God willing.

Her companion let out a gasp of protest, but he barely heard it. Ignored it, as he lowered his head, his gaze glued to Alexandra’s. The first taste of her lips after eight long and lonely months, nearly brought him to his knees. He tightened his arms around her, conscious of her protruding belly between them. Their child.

Her mouth opened on a sigh, her eyelids fluttered close as she lifted her arms to circle them around his neck, and he let his own eyes close as he deepened the kiss with a groan. God, he missed her taste, her wicked little tongue dancing with his, the fingers playing softly with the hair at his nape, the feel of her body next to his. He wanted nothing more than to—

“Hold on just a moment!” A woman’s angry voice intruded, and someone pulled him away. Well, tried to. There was no chance in hell he was letting go of Alexandra. Ever again. “Let her go this instant!” the woman’s voice snapped, and he fought a moan as Alexandra, reluctantly, broke the kiss.

He couldn’t fight a smile, though, when she glared at the stout woman beside them. “You’re out of line, Cook,” she snapped.

The older woman would not be deterred. “I’m out of line, missy? I’m out of line?! Who’s kissing a stranger in the middle of the courtyard for all the world to see?!”

“He’s not a stranger,” Alexandra supplied with a smile.

“Not a stranger?!” The woman was slowly turning purple, prompting Aramis to rack his brain as to the appropriate procedure in case of an attack of the nerves. “Who is he?”

Aramis placed one hand on Alexandra’s belly, and grinned at the purplish woman. “The father.” His English was good, but there was no hiding an accent.

“He’s French?!” the woman screeched, turning pale as if she’d seen a ghost, and Aramis winced. Apparently him being French was worse than him impregnating her unmarried mistress.

“Is that why you’re here?” Alexandra asked softly, her eyes swimming with tears. “You knew about the baby?”

He cupped her cheeks in his hands, lifting her face so he could look her directly in the eye. “I had no idea, but you should’ve let me know,” he admonished.

“Then why are you here?” she asked, her voice small.

Only the truth would do. “Because I love you. Because I don’t want to live without you. I cannot live without you.”

The hope blossoming in her eyes was overwhelming, but it was quenched as quickly as it appeared. “You’re only saying it because of the baby.”

He wanted to pull at his hair and scream. He was entirely to blame for her thinking that. The way he’d acted, the things he’d said before she left Paris, could give her no indication to the contrary. “I’m saying it because I love you, Alexandra,” he told her. “I love you and I’ll spend the rest of my life proving it to you, if necessary.”

Tears welled. “But you said—”

“I was an idiot.” He smiled. “I don’t want to be an idiot anymore.”

“Good luck with that,” Athos said with a chuckle as his three friends joined them. They all bowed, and Athos grinned at Alexandra. “Mademoiselle, I’ll be the first to admit that my friend here is an idiot.”

Aramis glared at him, while Alexandra chuckled.

“But the idiot loves you. Believe me, believe us, he’s been impossible to live with these past couple of months.” The four musketeers exchanged glances, silently repeating their earlier vow of not telling Alexandra everything, and Athos continued, an earnest expression on his face, “Would you be so kind as to please put us out of our misery for having to bear with that side of him any longer?”

Athos grinned at him, his raised eyebrows conveying the clear message that Aramis should do the rest. Properly.

He softly took Alexandra’s hands into his own, and went down on one knee in front of her. He kissed her knuckles, and looked up at her, seeing tears spill down her cheeks. He hoped everything he felt for her, feelings that words could never describe properly, everything she was to him, everything she represented for him, reflected in his eyes. Some of it must have shown, because she gasped, and offered him a wobbly smile.

“Alexandra...” He had to clear his throat before continuing. “I love you. I love you more than anything in the world, and I’m sorry it took me so long to realize my life is empty without you. I’m nothing without you. You make me whole, you fill the gaps in my soul that I thought could never be mended. I should’ve never let you go, I should’ve come after you sooner. I know I hurt you, but if you’ll let me, I’ll spend the rest of my life making it up to you.” He cleared his throat once more. “I have no title and no land to my name, all I can offer you is my word, my body, my soul, and my heart that is beating for you and you alone.”

“That’s all I ever wanted,” she whispered, tears flowing freely.

He kissed her knuckles again, fervently, and returned his eyes to hers. “Lady Alexandra Hamilton-Burke, would you do me the honour of becoming my wife?”

Her face contorted and she burst into tears, and his hope plummeted. What if he was too late? What if she already belonged to another to protect her virtue? What if—He let go of her hands, jumped to his feet. “Alexandra...” He winced when she slammed her fist into his shoulder. He’d forgotten her strength. She punched him again. “Ouch!” He quickly caught her hand before she could deliver another blow. “Alexandra!”

“You cannot ride back into my life as if nothing happened, you bastard!” She punched him with the other hand, and he caught her other wrist as well. “You cannot just kiss me and ask me to marry you. What about your big excuse for us not to be together, huh? What about the Cardinal?”

“The Cardinal has been sentenced to death on charges of treason,” Athos helpfully supplied.

She looked at his friend, her watery eyes wide in surprise. “Treason?”

“It helps to have friends in high places.” Athos winked at her and Aramis wanted to strangle him. No one winked at her! No one but himself.

She turned back to him, her lips forming an ‘o’ of question, and he nodded. It was true. Once he’d finally pulled his head out of his arse, as Tréville had so eloquently put it, the four of them, along with the Captain, had to form a plan to ensure Richelieu could never have the opportunity to possibly hurt Alexandra in any way. The only solution was to get rid of the Cardinal, but they knew they couldn’t simply kill him, the possible repercussions of killing a head of state were too great. The only way was to find enough evidence against him to present to the King. It took them two months, but in the end they’d accomplished it, and it was Richelieu himself that had a helping hand in his own demise. The man was too cocky for his own good, thinking no one could touch him, that no one could find damning evidence in his abode, his own servants including. The man had paid a high price for his hubris.

“He cannot hurt Robert or you,” he murmured. “He cannot hurt anybody ever again.”

He rolled his eyes as she burst into tears again. He was getting tired of this. Whatever this was. If she didn’t want him she could damn well say it!

“Alexandra!” he snapped. “What is it? Don’t you love me? Are you betrothed to someone else? Talk to me. Why are you crying?”

She pulled her right hand out of his grasp and punched him in the shoulder. Again. “That’s for thinking I could possibly want to marry anyone else!” She glared at him and delivered another punch. “That’s for thinking I don’t love you. And this,” she growled, and punched him once more, “is for impregnating me which is why I’m so bloody emotional!”

He caught her wrist, and hid his smile by kissing her knuckles. God, he’d missed her. He never thought it was possible to miss someone that much. “I missed you,” he confessed.

“I missed you, too,” she answered with a pout.

“I love you, you know.”

She nodded. “I know.” Then rolled her eyes as he stared at her. “I love you, too.”

This time he didn’t bother hiding his grin. “Make me whole again, Alexandra."

Her answer, the only answer he needed, was a long, loving kiss.

The End


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