“Boscailo, excuse me.” It was Terrence who spoke and he had an odd expression on his face. “Did you say that you had gone with them to put in the name change and marriage paperwork?”
“Yes, I did.” Boscailo looked back at him blandly. “Is it important?”
“Then you must have gone straight in to see Count Bartolo when you arrived there.” Terrence was obviously building up to something, Tertia looked worried and others in the room looked interested.
“Yes, I did.” Boscailo didn’t quite shrug and his expression, if anything, became even blander.
“Boscailo,” Terrence sighed, “If we might pretend for a moment that I have been displaying your exquisite good manners and avoiding finding out anything about your business, what is it that you do in the Canis Hadis, exactly?”
Boscailo drank from his mug again. When he put it down, holding it on his palm to protect the table his expression was sharper and, perhaps, mildly amused. “Sotto capo to Don Matteo. Is that a problem Count Terrence?”
“No,” Terrence gave a wry smile, “But it would please me if the tale of my idiocy didn’t leave this room. I thought you were a foot soldier, nothing more.”
“I went to some trouble to give you that impression, sir,” Boscailo smiled, “When we first met the Strefagii were beginning to make some curious noises about the smaller, younger groups. I wanted to give you as few grounds as possible for objecting to my marriage to Tertia – insignificance seemed the best remedy.”
“That issue,” said Terrence carefully, “Was a result of policies instigated on advice my late brothers received that suggested suppression of the smaller families, gangs and proto-Houses would be in our best interests. I disagreed.”
“We are aware that you did a great deal of fence mending and bridge building with the smaller groups when you became Count,” Boscailo said judiciously, “Apparently we were a little too large to attract Helena’s attention.” He smiled beatifically. “If she were ever to lose your protection, she might find life far less comfortable than she can imagine.” Terrence smiled back at him.
A little while later Rodolfo was carefully replacing his collar around Starflower’s neck. His collar, not Bartolo’s. She was his and Bartolo had asked it of him as a favour. He pulled her into him and kissed her again. Part of his mind could see that this might have been what Bartolo had intended all along, ever since he’d asked him which of the Strefagi girls he’d prefer, but that wasn’t the part that dealt with pack dominance and mating privileges and it was baying in triumph. The dark haired little thing seemed to like him too, which was good. Her hands were going there-.
He grabbed them. “We don’t have time to do that again now,” he growled as much as whispered in her ear. “Later. I have to go out now. I’ll see you at dinner. There are things I have to arrange.” He kissed her again. “A place for us to live, I am not sharing the town house with my siblings,” another more fleeting kiss, “There’s somewhere I’ve had my eye on, I need to arrange for us to see inside.” A final kiss on the lips followed by one on the forehead. “Think about what clothes you need and about what you want to wear at the wedding.” Then he left, locking the door behind him.