"She looks happy," Jean murmured, as the newly-pronounced Mr. and Mrs. Tyneman left the chapel. "They both do."
Lucien glanced over at Jean and then back at the new couple. "Yes, I suppose she does."
They stood patiently, waiting as the rest of the wedding party proceeded out of the room. "One has to wonder what she sees in him," Jean admitted quietly.
"Besides his money?" Lucien replied, a smirk playing on his lips.
"Be nice, Lucien," she chided, nudging his shoulder with her own, but she knew he could see the amusement on her face, despite her best efforts. He took the opportunity to place a quick kiss on her cheek while her face was so close to his.
"I'm always nice," he whispered, his breath on her face. She felt the warmth of a blush spread where his lips had been.
"Besides," she continued, "what money? I think Patrick took care of that."
"Well, that's true," he admitted. The recessional ended, and the guests began to make their way out. "Shall we?" he asked, holding out his hand.
She stepped forward, taking his hand as his other arm wrapped around her lower back.
They followed the slow-moving crowd, and she relished the feeling of being so close to him. His side pressed up against hers, and she almost gasped. She still wasn't used to this—touching him in public. She found herself half-scared someone would notice their proximity, but she forced herself to relax, permitted herself to smile. They were engaged. She was going to be his wife. They were allowed to do this.
"He doesn't deserve her," said Lucien, pulling Jean out of her thoughts.
"Hmm?" She looked over at him, taking a second to process. "Oh, Edward." She shrugged. "Well, he's got the rest of his life to deserve her."
Lucien smiled at her as they reached the door. "I know the feeling."
Warmth bloomed in her chest as she caught his meaning, but she brushed him off. "Please. You're no Edward Tyneman."
She thought, for a moment, that she saw his smile turn sad, but then he shook his head, chuckling to himself. "No, that's true. Thank God for that."
"You didn't see how he reacted when I brought up class and money," Lucien was saying as Jean walked into the sitting room, where he and Matthew were discussing Milton Dunne. "Matthew, he was absolutely furious," he added, glancing over at Jean as she perched on the side of the chair, mirroring his position on the other arm.
"Well, maybe he doesn't enjoy being reminded that he comes from more modest beginnings than some people," Jean offered, with a pointed look at Lucien. She knew he had a tendency to miss how impolite he was being.
"Yes, perhaps." He pointed at the package she was holding. "What have you got there?"
She lifted it up from her lap, looking at the brown paper and string. "Oh, it arrived this afternoon, from your Aunt Dorothy."
"I didn't think you two spoke," said Matthew, eyeing the box with thinly-veiled curiosity.
"Well, are you going to open it?"
Jean simply held it out to Lucien—it was addressed to him, after all. "No," he said, "we're going to send it back."
"Are you sure?" asked Matthew. "It might be an early wedding present, and if it's from Dorothy Lucas, it might be worth a bit."
Jean looked at the package again, mentally weighing it in her hands; it wasn't very heavy. "I hope not."
"Maybe this isn't about the money," said Lucien, looking thoughtful. "With Milton, not Dorothy," he clarified. "What if he'd gotten to know the real Edward, and was having serious doubts about the marriage? What if he was trying to protect Harriet? If she was my daughter, I'd be terribly concerned," he said, eyes blown wide, "wondering what her life might...be like behind closed doors."
He looked at Jean, then, and she almost flinched at the intensity of his gaze. Perhaps he was a bit too invested in this particular case. "Maybe he was trying to keep her from making…" he shook his head, voice shrinking almost to a whisper. "The worst mistake of her life."
His words hung in the silence for a moment, and Jean was about to ask if he was alright, when Matthew cleared his throat, bringing Lucien's attention back to himself. "So, if that's the case, how'd he do it?"
Lucien leaned forward, putting his chin in his hand. "That's the question, isn't it?"
Jean stood up, sensing that it was going to be a long night for these two. "Should I put the kettle on?" she asked, and then looked at Lucien. "Or would you prefer scotch?"
He brightened at that. "Scotch would be lovely," he said, reaching out to give her hand a squeeze. "You know me too well," he added with a smile. He held her gaze a bit longer, and she saw the moment his mind went somewhere else. His eyes darkened, the smile faded, and he looked down at their joined hands with an expression she couldn't place. It wasn't pleasant, that was for sure, and she pulled her hand away before she could stop herself.
"I'll be right back with it," she said, and the moment ended as she made her way to where she knew he kept his bottles.
Jean sat on the couch, listening to the fire crackle in what was soon to be her bedroom—their bedroom—while she waited on Lucien, who was in the kitchen making tea. She'd offered, of course, but he insisted on making it once in a while, said he didn't want her to still feel like his housekeeper.
"Here we are," he said, entering the room with the tea on a tray.. He set it down on top of the short bookshelf behind her and made his way around to sit next to her. "It may not be a Jean Beazley cup of tea, but it will have to do."
She laughed as he poured some out for her. "Lucien, I've told you, we make it exactly the same."
He handed her the cup, which she took gratefully. "It tastes better when you do it," he softly insisted. She took a sip, and felt it warm her insides. Or maybe it was the way he was looking at her.
"If you say so," she said, looking sheepishly down at her cup. She looked back up at him after a second, and was surprised to find him frowning intently at her. As soon as they made eye contact, he smiled again, but it didn't reach his eyes. It had only been for a moment, but she was sure that look on his face was one she'd seen before, and it worried her.
He didn't seem to think she'd noticed anything was wrong. He just stared at her, and for a moment neither one spoke. "So, what do you-"
"Lucien, is something bothering you?" The words were out of her mouth before she realized she was interrupting him, but she didn't want to take them back. She needed to know.
He tilted his head in mild confusion, abandoning whatever thought he'd been about to express. "No, nothing. What do you mean?"
"I'm not sure," she admitted. "You just seem…" she searched for a word. "Distracted, sometimes. Like you're thinking about something sad."
He shifted uncomfortably under her gaze, and turned his face toward the fire, the glow of the flames reflected in his eyes. "Well, a lot has gone on lately," he said, "what with the Tynemans and Milton and everything. I'm sorry if I've been distant."
She shook her head, setting her teacup down behind her. "No, it's not that. I mean, I noticed it before any of that."
She sighed. "Lucien, sometimes, you look at me like…like I'm your whole world. But then other times, when you think I don't notice, you get this expression, and I-I don't understand it, but I can tell something's wrong." She winced at her own ineloquence, wishing she had his way with words. She reached for his hand, and he finally looked back at her as she took it. "We're about to be married," she said softly, stroking slow circles over his hand with her thumb. "We have to be honest with each other. Just a moment ago, you were looking at me like everything was wonderful, and then you stopped smiling. What were you thinking?"
He reached for her other hand, so that both were joined with his in her lap. "I was thinking-" he began, but it came out half-broken and hollow. He took a shaky breath and started again, his voice barely a whisper. "I was thinking that I don't deserve you."
"Lucien," she breathed, her chest tightening with the realization that this was what he'd been worrying about. On instinct, she lifted her hand to his cheek, and he leaned into her touch. "Lucien," she repeated, with a gentle shake of her head. "It's not about deserving me. I love you, don't you know that?"
"Of course," he replied, with no hesitation. "And I love you. More than anything. I've just been terrified of not…" he swallowed thickly. "Not being good enough for you."
"Don't be ridiculous," she said, and it came out perhaps more sharply than she intended, but she had to get this across. "You're the best man I've ever known," she told him, her voice firm with conviction. "Of course, of course you deserve me, but that's not the point." Her fingertips continued their gentle strokes along his face and jawline, and she smiled softly, her heart full of love for this man. "You make me happy, Lucien. Happier than I was for a long time. I cannot wait to be married to you."
He closed his eyes, putting his hand over hers and pressing it more firmly to his face. When he opened them again, there was a lightness that she hadn't seen in days, and she breathed a sigh of relief, knowing he was convinced. "Neither can I," he murmured, pulling her hand to his lips and placing a gentle kiss on her palm. "Thank you," he whispered.
"Anytime," she replied, sliding her hand around to the back of his neck. "And if you ever need a reminder, please let me know. Alright?" She asked him, her face mere centimetres from his.
He closed the gap between them with a gentle kiss. "Alright," he murmured against her lips, as his arms wrapped around her shoulders, and every insecurity melted away.