Hettie had told Geneve.
Geneve had told her fake mistress.
Her mistress, being a gossip, had told everyone.
Within two days, Benedict was back at Temper Mints.
He all but ran into the shop, gathering Hettie into his arms.
"Oh, love, I'm so glad you changed your mind." He whispered into her coppery curls. She hugged him back.
"But why did you?" He pulled back, looking into her steel-colored eyes. She was silent, a small smile on her lips.
What is she thinking? He wondered. Ah... I've been a fool. This isn't because she misses home or me. She's still loyal to these shopkeepers and mechanics.
No mind. He decided. I can press the matter later. Or perhaps never. Thank forge she's safe. Benedict eyed her split-lip and black eye. Mostly safe.
"Let's get you home." He smiled.
Something flashed in those grey eyes. Regret? Fear? But she smiled and nodded.
On the carriage ride back to the manor, Benedict studied Henreitta.
She was dressed in a low-cut gown that was a bit too small, thread-bare but clean. She still had her tattered slippers. The silver disk glittered on her throat.
Hettie was beat-up, worn-down.
But she was stronger.
She had always been witty, but she seemed to have an edge to her smarts now.
She's no longer some diddling lady. He smirked slightly. Not that she ever was. I wonder if the Crease's mark will ever leave her?
He realized Henrietta was watching him just as closely. Their eyes locked.
Benedict paused. This moment should be awkward. She despised what he had done, and therefore him. But he had kept his end of the deal and would, even though she hadn't come home the first time.
There was nothing worse than being hated by the person he loved most.
Henrietta stood precariously in the jolting carriage and slid beside him. She put a hand around his neck, tilting her head up and pressing her lips to his.
The torment of the past month melted from his mind.
* * * * *
Henrietta didn't know what to think.
Does he really love me? Can any amount of remorse make up for what he's done? Particularly if his remorse is that he hurt me, not that he killed Lord Tael. Or is he just after the key? Nylisle guards dragon magic zealously... making a copy would be difficult. Or does he really just want his trophy wife back?
But when she noticed him looking at her, Hettie's heart fluttered like when she was sixteen. His dark eyes gleamed with happiness at her being with him once more.
For a moment she forgot everything. She moved beside her husband and kissed him.
They arrived at the mansion too soon.
She tore away reluctantly when the carriage stopped, heart racing.
The house seemed more alien after two and a half years than Temper Mints did after a month. It was cold and empty.
I wish Geneve were here. She mused. Spy or not. Henrietta chuckled grimly. Now I'm the spy.
Ironically, she hated the luxury, the lies. She missed people finishing her sentences and answering her question from across the house.
Mina and the maternal care Hettie never had.
Carl and his calm.
Drake and his keen observation.
Even Becca's cold passion.
Hettie wandered trance-like around the house. Hardly realizing she was doing it, she began to construct a fantasy in which Benedict was good and they all lived happily ever after in Temper Mints.
She stopped, hand on her bedroom door handle.
No. Henrietta thoughts sadly. Whatever happens, it will not end happily.
On that prophetic note, she went inside.
* * * * *
"Yessir." The maid bobbed her head, blonde curls bouncing. "Looked like a ghost, she did. Starin' right through us an' thinkin' deep."
Benedict waved his hand. "Thank you, Morgana."
She curtsied deeply and left his office.
Benedict smiled bitterly at the irony. Keeping tabs on his wife when she was most likely just here to spy on him.
He hated this mistrust. But she didn't trust him. Benedict frowned.
So does not trusting her because she doesn't trust me only fuel the fire? He wondered.
Benedict stood and paced on the quiet carpet.
"I just wished she loved me again." He murmured.