Silverhaven was the place the children of Kanaalzijde and the manors solved their arguments. The canal was where Fitz rescued Peninna and fell in love. Amice loved Fitz in silence, but even when Peninna fled to the human world, Fitz remained devoted. Now Amice has her chance, but she can’t take it. Instead, she deals with the rackety Prem Montmorency, his peculiar plans, and his maman’s outrageous scheme. She can’t mend Fitz’s broken heart, but she can do something to ease the pressure.
Amice is good at problem solving, but the only way out of her multiple complications might be a proposal by proxy.
As Amice stepped into Der Kaffeetanz she felt her muscles relax in the comforting atmosphere. It wasn’t home, but at least in the café there were no cars roaring by and no reek of fumes. In this warm room, it smelled of stollen and pastry.
Amice knew she should be used to traffic by now. She’d been visiting her friend-in-exile in the human-side city of Sydney for months, but she still jumped like a startled filly every time a car revved its engine.
The buses and trains weren’t much better, but she had to use them to get from the castle bridge gateway to the café.
It was too far to walk, and going didn’t work this side of the gates, even if one knew the way. That was really odd, because conjuring did work here. She could still cast a glamour if she chose, but visualising a destination and translating herself there simply didn’t happen. It was disconcerting.
Amice felt uneasy among the humans—not at all her sensible, capable self. They were all so restless. How could Peninna live among them?
But of course she knew the answer to that. Peninna had exiled herself from her home at Kanaalzijde because of Fitz.
Fitz was Thorold Fitzmaurice. Not even Amice, who loved him devotedly, could bring herself to swoon over his name.
Thorold Fitzmaurice. Try saying that after taking a sip of poteen. It sounded like a mouthful of pebbles. Amice thought Thorold was a fijordfee name, intended for one of those roughhewn men with sinewy arms and storm cloud eyes permanently squinted from peering through the icy air of the northlands.
Whatever had Mistress Fitzmaurice been thinking when she chose that one? She couldn’t know her baby son would grow into—well, into what he was—but she should have had a good idea.
If you’re wed to a willowy gentleman with courtly manners, a vaguely gentle gaze, and a sweet smile, then you must suppose your baby son will turn out the same way, Amice thought. She could have told Birdie Fitzmaurice that, if Birdie had asked her opinion. And if Amice had been born at the time of Fitz’s naming.
His sisters had excellent courtfolk names. Iseut was the eldest, followed by Edith and Flavie.
Thorold. It didn’t suit him. No wonder everyone except for his maman referred to him as Fitz.
Amice settled at their usual table, well away from the window. Peninna hadn’t arrived yet, and the mädchen with the notepad was interrogating someone at the other end of the café.
There was time to think while she waited.
Amice went off in a little daydream of Fitz.
He wasn’t nearly as flimsy as his papa. He was handsome, with eyes of a perfect courtfolk blue-grey, fair hair that was always a bit ruffled, and a chin that held promise of a strength Master Chauncy Fitzmaurice lacked.
Must have got it from his maman. She’s a strong-looking lady.
Unusually among courtfolk men, he wore a neatly trimmed beard a shade darker than his hair.
His mouth was well-shaped and good-tempered, and firm.
A small frisson went through Amice as she considered how firm those lips were.
Heat rushed into her face. Blushing was gauche in anyone, but especially in a lady of her age. She conjured her fan to cool her cheeks. That was, she tried to conjure her fan. It didn’t work. One could conjure on the human side of the gates but not through the gates, and her fan was in her chamber at home in the manor.
She picked up a menu and used that instead.
What would I name him if it was my right?
Fidele would do, perhaps, for he was exceedingly faithful.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t faithful to her, except in the general way, as an old and trusted friend.
I don’t deserve that trust. I’m keeping secrets.
Rossignol, from the nightingale, might do. He sang most beautifully, accompanying himself on the lute. A lot of gentlemen sang, but Fitz had a strong tenor voice as true as a sweetwood flute.
Soleil, for the sun.
He was her sun. She was his helpless planet.
The street door jangled its cowbell as two more customers came in—a tall, full-figured woman with springy fair hair and a blond giant.
The woman, clad in a rather shocking short wool dress and thick green stockings, was much bigger than Amice, but her companion stood a head taller still. The head in question was turned down and sideways so he could watch his woman. He looked at her as a man might look at something infinitely precious.
Envy flooded Amice. Not that she wanted the giant, but if only Fitz would pay such attention to her.
He always looked at her kindly, in a friendly, familiar way, but not as if she was special.
On the heels of this thought came the realisation that the newcomer was Peninna Baan, the woman Fitz loved, and the friend she had braved the human realm to visit.
The man—well, he wasn’t Fitz, and he wasn’t human. Neither was he courtfolk. He was blond enough, but everything else was wrong. That was all she could ascertain. She stayed where she was, waiting.
Her sudden distress troubled her. She might be envious, but she didn’t grudge Peninna her lover. She was pleased for her. Peninna was a fine-looking woman, broad-hipped and deep-breasted. She needed a lover, and the one she had found looked robust enough to satisfy her—probably several times over.
It was a serious courtship. Peninna had a ring on her finger, opulently gold with deep blue stones.
A betrothal ring with sapphires...or are those azuures?
Her companion wore a matching one—the man’s version—sized to fit his long-fingered hand.
It was a very big hand, Amice noted. Surely it was large enough to encompass one of Peninna’s generous breasts.