“So, you don’t want to marry me?” Bannoc was holding Mirren to him in the dark. They were in his room, in his bed, a space that had held so many dark thoughts alone in the time he’d occupied it that it had needed exorcising with evidence of life and a way forward.
“I’ve just never thought of marriage as one of my options,” she said slowly from where she was snuggled in next to his bare chest.
“Yannic’s married, twice now,” Bannoc pointed out, “and so are some of your other cousins, married I mean. Why not you?”
“You’ll notice that those married cousins of mine are all male,” Mirren responded tartly. “Us girls, well, we’ve lived in Perrenky Lane for at least three generations. A lot of us still work there.”
“Oh.” Bannoc thought for a moment. “But your house isn’t on Perrenky Lane.”
“You’ve only ever come in the back, along the old service path,” she told him. “The front entrance is two levels above that and on the other side of the building. Mother and some of the others use the top two floors for business.”
“But not you.” Bannoc stated that as a matter of fact.
“Yep, not me,” she agreed calmly. “Designated baby sitter, homework mistress and dealer with domestic trifles, that’s me. Ultimate support person. I can’t bring myself to sleep with someone for money and nothing else. It’s probably a character flaw and one I can only afford to indulge because my mother doesn’t have it.”
“Someone should have snapped your mother up years ago,” Bannoc said quietly. “She’s warm, happy, hardworking and determined that you’d all get chances she thought she didn’t have. She’d have made someone a fantastic wife – he’d have gone places, as they say.”
“Wives isn’t what men are looking for when they come to Perrenky Lane,” pointed out Mirren.
“True,” Bannoc agreed, gazing into the darkness in the direction of the ceiling, “but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t marry me. We could have the betrothal now, most of your family’s still in town for Yannic’s wedding. I think some of them are still drunk from the reception.”
“All right,” Mirren bargained, “if you can get my family co-ordinated and a booking with a Registrar before my rapscallion relatives disperse to their far-off niches, we can have the betrothal now.”
“You don’t think I can pull that off, do you?” Bannoc was grinning in the dark. “You forget young lady, I have friends!” And then he kissed her again.