Author’s Note: I wanted to apologize that this chapter didn’t get out at the regularly scheduled time of 10 a.m. (EST). As you’ve most likely heard or noticed, Photobucket has blocked photos used on third party hosting. While, for the most part, this site should be unaffected because I didn’t directly link from PB, it did set me back because there was a filter I was using in their editor. Now, when I try to save an image after editing, they block it on the assumption I will directly link it. In order to avoid this, they give the option of updating your account, but it costs a whopping $399.99 per year. That’s not going to happen.
So, as a result, my photos will look a bit different from now on as that filter is no longer available to me and I have not found another that is similar. For this, I apologize. The OCD in me wants to go back and update every single photo in every chapter since now they are different but that would be so taxing. (On a side note, if you are reading a chapter or see a page without the images or the images are replaced with the PB blocking image, please let me know either in the comments or in my contact form. Thank you!)
The other thing I wanted to mention was that, yet again, this chapter took on a completely different tone since the characters all decided to do what they wanted instead of what I wanted. lol So, it is what is is. I hope you enjoy and thank you for reading.
Cosette understood now, at least to some extent, why Dax had kept his past a secret. Winchester Farming Community may as well have been on another planet as far as she was concerned.
While the St. Cyr family was lovely and polite, it seemed to her they didn’t quite know what to make of their returned family member. The way things had been going, Cosette couldn’t blame them.
Since their arrival in this strange place, Dax was a different person. His easy, shy smile was now a sullen scowl. The dark, soulful eyes she’d grown to love were distant and brooding. Gone was the man she knew as if he’d disappeared as soon as they’d touched foot here.
Agathe, the family’s matriarch had greeted them warmly but her duties with the island’s council kept her away the rest of the time. Elliott and Audrey-Ann were nice enough but the furtive looks they exchanged whenever Dax said something made Cosette uncomfortable.
Elliott seemed completely bewildered by his younger brother. Every attempt to draw Dax into conversation was met with resistance. Cosette could almost read his mind regardless of the fact they mostly spoke English.
Is this really my brother? What has happened to him?
If she knew the answers, she would tell him.
The behavior of Elliott and Audrey-Ann’s children added to the strangeness churning in her stomach. They were very reserved, sitting quietly or attending to some type of studies. In her experience, children were usually lively and it was difficult for them to remain so still.
Laci was their oldest daughter. Cosette had come to understand that one day, she would take Agathe’s place as the head of the island’s governance. Although Cosette didn’t fully know what that meant, she didn’t envy the young girl’s position.
If Laci was the heir, she supposed the younger daughter Louise was the spare. At first glance, the child appeared fragile and dainty. Cosette thought perhaps it was her fine, blonde hair and china blue eyes that gave that impression. But Louise’s mouth was set in a firm line that matched Agathe’s, her expression serious.
There was nothing delicate or feeble here.
With each day, Cosette regretted that she’d pushed Dax into coming back to this dreadful place. She had never imagined that coming here would change him so.
“I just want to know what I can do. You are so different,” she told him in the room they were staying in.
“Maybe this is how I really am.”
“I don’t believe it. What has got you so upset?”
“Everything’s different!” he suddenly exclaimed. “Everyone has changed. It doesn’t feel like home anymore. This is exactly what I was afraid of.”
“Of course things are different now. You’ve been gone for years without visiting. What did you expect?”
Sighing, he said, “I don’t know. I realize I’ve been gone a long time.”
Silently, they finished getting ready for bed and settled in for the night. Although they were both exhausted, neither felt as if they could sleep.
After a while, Dax said, “I’ve never been good with words, so I’m sorry if I can’t explain myself in a satisfying way.”
“I love you, Dax, you know this. Please try.”
Looking into her eyes, Dax was moved by the tenderness and yearning in her eyes. He knew she had been wanting more from him and he’d been trying to figure out if what she desired was more than he could give. He never promised her there would be more, but if their relationship was to continue, it would have to advance in the natural way.
When they’d first begun seeing each other, it was all wonderful and new. He was embarking on a new life, exploring new frontiers and creating amazing art with the hopes of success. Now, years later, fame continued to elude him and he had not come home to Winchester with triumph and prosperity oozing out of every pore; a distinguished artist everyone adored.
Dax loved Cosette… or was she merely the person he relied upon?
Did he love her now as he once had when things weren’t a routine? Was she the person he was meant to spend the rest of his life with? How did one figure that out? Did you just marry the person you were with because you dated them for so long?
Then, always in the back of his mind, there was Blue. During his years in Paris, he often wondered what had become of her. There was a time he thought she was the one. The reasonable side of him never expected she would cling to the hope he would return. Yet when he saw her, he had the overwhelming urge to pull her into his arms and beg her to be his.
It was wrong of him and he knew it. Blue had a life of her own. She was married and had God only knew how many kids; he couldn’t begin to count them all because they were always running around so. He supposed it was because they were not St. Cyr children that they went without the same discipline his nieces had.
Crossing his arms in front of his chest thoughtfully, he came to the delayed realization that his life was no longer on this island, with these people. They would always be his family, of course, but everything was different now. He certainly had changed and so had Blue.
“Cosette,” he said, “if you will have me, I would like you to marry me.”
Her dark blue eyes widened in surprise, her lips curling into an ecstatic smile. “Yes! Yes, of course I will!”
The next day, Dax and Cosette announced their engagement to the family who all seemed to be happy for them. The couple decided that their place was obviously in Paris, and so they would return in the next day or two and get married once back.
As Dax wandered about the island, pondering what had so quickly transpired, he found himself on Blue’s street. Stopping in his tracks, he chided himself harshly for walking in this direction. What was he thinking? Or did his feet have a mind of their own?
Quickly, he darted into the field next to their house, hoping no one had seen him. The last thing he wanted to do was to cross paths with Blue.
Instead, though, he ran smack dab into her husband, Matthieu.
“Dax,” Matthieu said by way of greeting.
Dax wasn’t sure, but there seemed to be a current of some kind just beneath Matthieu’s hazel eyes. Was Matthieu aware that Dax and Blue had an argument the day before?
“Hey,” he responded.
Matthieu took three steps forward, closing the distance between them. “What brings you out this way? Are you here to see Blue?”
As Dax gazed at Matthieu, he could detect there was more to the question than actually asked. “Uh, no. No… I was just taking an aimless kind of walk. Didn’t even realize I was here.”
“Well,” Matthieu casually said, his stance relaxed, “why don’t you come in and have some breakfast, or coffee or something?”
“No, thank you,” Dax politely answered, cocking his head slightly to the side and trying to determine if Matthieu was just playing with him or something. He decided it would be best to just come out with it and admit everything. “I guess you heard about yesterday. I’m really sorry I upset Blue. I was just curious – but I never should have asked her those questions.”
Matthieu’s spine stiffened as he stared uncomfortably into Dax’s eyes. Dax looked away quickly, staring at the ground, but Matt kept steady with his gaze.
He knew Blue hadn’t been herself yesterday after taking the children on a picnic with Alice, but he wasn’t quite sure why. Normally, Blue spoke to him easily about everything, yet when he’d asked her why she was out of sorts, she shook her head and told him it was nothing. Now, he guessed, he knew.
“So, why did you ask her those questions then? Why not keep them to yourself?” he asked, hoping he would find out what the questions were.
As Dax stood there, he became painfully aware of how hot the sun was getting, beating down on him like a club. Wiping beads of sweat from his forehead, he averted his eyes from Matthieu’s again before answering. “Like I said, I was curious. Honestly, I didn’t realize it was that big of a deal. I thought maybe she was curious, too.”
Matthieu still didn’t know the exact questions, but now he had an idea of what they were forming in his head. Slowly, he shook his head in disbelief as he thought about Dax cornering Blue unawares and asking her if she ever thought about him.
“Did you really just wander here?” Matthieu asked.
“Honestly, yeah. I – I can see that I was out of line and maybe I should apologize to her. But I don’t think she’ll want to see me. She, uh, she got pretty mad.”
A slight smile tugged at the corner of Matthieu’s lips, but he managed to hold it back. He could only imagine how Blue had reacted.
“You’re a really lucky man, Matthieu. I never thought things would turn out the way they did.”
Matthieu breezily looked up at the sky, wishing he had his hat as he squinted at the penetrating rays of sunlight. “How did you think they’d turn out, Dax? You made a decision and you left. What did you expect the outcome would be?”
“I – I don’t know. I mean, I knew she wouldn’t wait for me, but – ”
” – But you somehow thought she would.”
“Are you accusing me of something?” Dax said hotly.
Matthieu turned his gaze back to the younger man. “Did I do that?”
“You’re so damn condescending! All right! So I messed things up with Blue, you don’t have to gloat!”
“Easy, Dax, you are out of control!”
“Don’t say that to me! You have no idea what I am! But I’ll tell you something! If I wanted, I could have Blue just like that!” he yelled, snapping his fingers for emphasis.
“What’s gotten into you?”
“You can’t even respond to that, can you? You know why? Because you know it’s true!”
“I’d suggest you remove that finger from my face, turn around and walk out of here,” Matthieu said. “We’ll just pretend none of this happened.”
“It’s easy for you, isn’t it? You can just pretend that Blue didn’t love me first? You know what they would call you in Paris? Sloppy seconds!”
That was all Matthieu could bear. Before he realized what was happening, he’d tackled Dax, bringing him to the ground with an oomph.
They struggled against each other awkwardly for a few minutes, but Matthieu was stronger from working on the farm.
It only lasted a moment but it was enough that Dax limped a few feet away. Matthieu, ashamed of how he’d reacted, tried to give Dax a hand, but Dax slapped it away, glaring at him.
“Dax – ”
” – Just shut up, all right?” Dax gasped, his chest heaving angrily. He wiped the dirt from his eyes as Matthieu uncertainly stood by. “Why don’t you just go home to your wife?”
Matthieu glanced to his house which was in plan view of the field and saw his sons watching from the window. His heart sank as he figured they’d most likely seen this sad display. “That’s not a bad idea.”
As Dax watched Matthieu walk home to his wife and children, he tried to push the thoughts of inadequacy out of his mind. Still, they overwhelmed him, making him feel as if was on a ship being tossed from wave to wave on the sea.
A sea of uncertainty.