There simply were no words. There was, however, a lot of intelligible yelling and things flying at his head. Alexander Dukove ducked under a silver hair brush and held his hands up. “Beautiful, my love, this isn’t my fault.”
Her dark-lashed eyes went round with fury. A high-pitched growl erupted through her clenched teeth as she picked up a perfume bottle off the carved vanity. Delicate glass shattered across his sleeve. He hesitantly lowered the arm protecting his face. He stepped to her, hands up in surrender. “Kemiah, gorgeous, you have to understand that I have nothing to do with this.”
“Liar.” Kemiah hissed, tossing her head so her thick curls walloped his face. The scent of her hair surrounded him. For a moment Alexander reconsidered ever listening to his wife.
Her trunks and bags were already open on the bedspread. From a soft leather satchel she withdrew the heavy letterhead he recognized immediately. “Whose signature is on this? A letter, Alexander? You order me away with a letter? Coward!” She threw it at him, though much less effectively than the hairbrush, mirror, and powder box that had come before.
He sighed. “In my defense love, it didn’t work. You are here and as intoxicatingly vivacious as always. I am sorry, if there was any other way….” He trailed off.
“There is.” Kemiah heaved the bag over to the vanity, breathing hard with emotion. She upended her jewelry box into the bag before sending him a smoldering look over her shoulder. “Talk to your wife, explain that a cold mantis bitch like her can’t fathom the human connection we have.”
That was never going to happen. Alexander valued his testicles too much to be honest with his wife, much less try and defend one of his trysts. He dismissed her suggestion with a laugh, moving over to stand behind Kemiah and the vanity. Having successfully plundered the many gifts he’d given her, she was finally cooling down. He ran his fingers down the outside of her bare arms. “I am going to miss you beautiful.”
She stiffened at his touch, an angry pout curling her generous lips. Alexander countered with his crooked smile.
It worked. It always worked. The righteous anger melted out of her shoulders. She turned to look up at him as if finally understanding this was their goodbye. With fingers that sent shivers over his skin, she snaked her hands around his waist and smiled up at him.
Alexander took a moment to admire her amber eyes above dark cheekbones. There wasn’t anything to do about it. His wife had found out about the kept woman and would make Alexander’s life hell, perhaps even try to keep his still very young daughter away from him. Thus, Kemiah and her bright eyes had to leave. She did have the loveliest smile though.
“Two thousand crowns, if you never want to see me again.” She said.
Her words interrupted his internal farewell. Alexander couldn’t help it, he choked on a laugh. “What?”
Kemiah turned back to her packing, hips rocking beneath her dressing gown in a way that Alexander knew was for his benefit. “Two thousand crowns. I obviously cannot take a stipend; your wife wouldn’t like you staying involved. So I’ll accept a lump sum and you can be done with us.”
She began gutting one of the wardrobes, pulling gowns and intimate silks down by the armful. Alexander worked his tongue around his first batch of responses before attempting one. “Kemiah, my dear, don’t you think you’re being a little opportunistic. We had fun, but she found out, why sully what we had?”
Kemiah snorted. “Think of it as another parting gift Alexander. “
“You mean extortion.” He sighed and ran a hand through his dark blond hair. This was just his luck, him doing the right thing and then being punished for it. “Kemiah, take the clothes, take the jewels, sell them, keep them, whatever you’d—“ Alexander stopped, realizing he’d missed something very important. “Done with us?”
“Uhm hm.” She said, beginning to fold things into her trunks. “For more than a month now, by all reckoning. I even went to a midwife and she did a little spell. She said it’s a boy.”
Pressure grew between his ears. This was not good, so very not good. “Kemiah if this is a ploy—“ The anger in his voice surprised him. His wife would never forgive this; she’d assure that Alexander never saw his daughter, his legitimate daughter, ever again.
“I’m not an idiot! It was going to be happy news…but then I got your letter.” Kemiah’s jaw tightened with challenge for a moment before her shoulders slumped. She crossed her arms as if she was cold. “I’ll take care of him you know; he’ll have nice clothes and maybe even go to school. No one has to know, not your wife, not your daughter. I’ll even tell him his father was someone better than a silver-tongued cad.”
“You’re sure you’re…?” Alexander trailed off. He was going to have a son. His daughter would have a brother.
Kemiah raised a brow at him. “Do you want to talk to the midwife?”
Alexander shook his head. For a woman in Kemiah’s profession lying about something like this would be idiotic, there were ways to determine parentage. Bastards were not unheard of at court, but they were rarely completely welcome there or in their own homes. He couldn’t risk his wife finding out about a potential son. Kemiah and the boy might even be in danger if that happened.
He breathed again.“You’ll take care of him, no orphanages, no distant schools or sending him away?”
Alexander was relieved when Kemiah threw an insulted look at him. “I’ve always wanted a baby.” She said.
“Two thousand crowns?”
“Two thousand crowns and you’re free of us” Kemiah said with a small sigh.
Slowly, Alexander nodded.