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datatime: 2022-09-29 03:58:42 Author:EslJDNdZ

"And then you can settle down to getting to know your bride," said Gerald. "Something to look forward to, eh? Eh?

William smiled and shook his head. "Sorry, but that's not on. Duty calls. The Campbell sets the rules, and we have to follow them. If we didn't, where would we be? In complete bloody chaos, and all the other Families would charge in like sharks scenting blood in the water. Or do they taste it? I've never been sure. Anyway, whatever else we may be, we're Campbells first. Always. If it's any help, I felt much the same before my wedding, and I've been happy enough. I suppose."

"And then you can settle down to getting to know your bride," said Gerald. "Something to look forward to, eh? Eh?

"Really," said Finlay. "I wouldn't know."

"Don't mind your Uncle Gerald, boy. He means well, but he should have been dropped on his head as a baby. It's not entirely his fault that he's about as much use as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. Is there... anything you want to ask me before the ceremony? I mean, I am a married man..."

Gerald blinked a few times and then moved away in the general direction of the punchbowl, looking just a little confused. As always. William looked at Robert and shrugged.

"Hello, Robert. I'm Adrienne, Finlay's wife. I'm the one you've probably been warned about, and you should believe every word. Mostly they try and keep me away from public functions on the grounds I embarrass them. Personally, I've never been embarrassed in my life. Fortunately for you, they couldn't keep me out of a wedding this important. You come with me, dear. There's someone I want you to meet."

Gerald, on the other hand, was the Family mistake. There's one like him in every Family. Too dumb to be entrusted with the important stuff, but too senior to be just ignored. The Family had been trying to find a place for him all his life, with absolutely no success. Gerald was tall, blond and handsome, and a complete bloody disaster no matter what he did, and everyone knew it but him. The Campbell himself had been heard to say, only partly in jest, that the best thing to do with Gerald would be to make a gift of him to a Family they were really mad at.

"You've been through the rehearsals," said William reassuringly. "Nothing to worry about. Just say the words, kiss the bride, and it'll be all over before you know it. Remember you have to lift the veil first, though. You'd be surprised how many people forget that. Sometimes I think we're getting a little too inbred. Brace up, not long to go now."

Robert smiled politely, and just a little desperately. He had the look of a small animal caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. He pulled at his frock coat to straighten it and fiddled with his cravat. His dresser had assured him he looked both dignified and fashionable, but he wasn't sure of either. He felt very much he could have used a stiff drink or several, but William wouldn't let him. Valentine had offered to slip him a little something, but he'd declined. He didn't think he was ready to deal with one of Valentine's little somethings. Probably no one but Valentine was.

"Really," said Finlay. "I wouldn't know."

"Keep on encouraging him like that, and we'll have to drive him to the altar with whips," said a loud, carrying voice.

"And then you can settle down to getting to know your bride," said Gerald. "Something to look forward to, eh? Eh?

"But you said he shouldn't have any."

"Damn right you wouldn't," said Adrienne. She looked back at Evangeline, who had to fight to keep from flinching. "It's time you were looking for a husband for yourself, my dear. Your father monopolizes your time far too much. Husbands can be boring, irksome and a general pain in the ass, but you have to have one if you want to get on in society. Personally, I wouldn't be without one, especially when it conies to picking up the tab. Now, if you'll excuse me, I really ought to have a word with our nervous bride and groom. Someone has to tell them the facts of life."

"Do try and at least look cheerful," said William to young Robert. "This is a wedding, after all, not the dentist's."

"Really," said Finlay. "I wouldn't know."

"That's all right," said Robert quickly. "A lot of people have already talked to me about that. Everyone's been very free with their advice. The only advice I could really use is how to get out of this."

"Don't mind your Uncle Gerald, boy. He means well, but he should have been dropped on his head as a baby. It's not entirely his fault that he's about as much use as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. Is there... anything you want to ask me before the ceremony? I mean, I am a married man..."

"But you said he shouldn't have any."

William smiled and shook his head. "Sorry, but that's not on. Duty calls. The Campbell sets the rules, and we have to follow them. If we didn't, where would we be? In complete bloody chaos, and all the other Families would charge in like sharks scenting blood in the water. Or do they taste it? I've never been sure. Anyway, whatever else we may be, we're Campbells first. Always. If it's any help, I felt much the same before my wedding, and I've been happy enough. I suppose."

"Then go and get yourself a bloody drink, and don't come back till you've drunk it"

Robert smiled politely, and just a little desperately. He had the look of a small animal caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. He pulled at his frock coat to straighten it and fiddled with his cravat. His dresser had assured him he looked both dignified and fashionable, but he wasn't sure of either. He felt very much he could have used a stiff drink or several, but William wouldn't let him. Valentine had offered to slip him a little something, but he'd declined. He didn't think he was ready to deal with one of Valentine's little somethings. Probably no one but Valentine was.

"Gerald," said William, "go get Robert a drink."

He was average height, as fighting fit as years of military training could make him, and at seventeen old enough to marry, but not old enough to object to the marriage. He was still trying to get used to how much his world had changed. One moment the Shrecks were a deadly enemy to be fought on every occasion, and now here he was marrying one. But he was old enough to understand politics and know his duty. Especially since William and Gerald kept explaining it to him.

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