“Pleased to meet you.” Emma wore a faded dress and her shoes were shabby but clean. Regardless of her attire, she was pretty with a slightly upturned nose and large eyes. Pretty enough to make Cymbeline jealous. I wondered if Viktor liked her or if he was only playing it up for Cymbeline’s benefit.
The evening was growing dark enough that I lit the lantern I’d brought. Neil also had a lantern and did the same.
“It’s about time we head down,” Viktor said.
“We have wood in the truck,” Isak said. “I’ll run and get it, and then we can all walk down to the river.”
Viktor said he’d help, and the two brothers left, loping across the grass in perfect step.
“Where have you moved from?” I asked Neil.
“We were living in New York before this. Working to save enough to come west.” The Hartman siblings were from England, given their accents. Papa would be able to tell me from what region of the country they’d come from.
“You’ll have to come out to the house for dinner sometime,” I said. “My parents would love to meet you.”
“Yes, we’ve heard a lot about Lord Barnes and his wife,” Neil said. “Everyone we’ve met so far has shared stories about how your father helped them get started or lent a hand when they needed one.”
I warmed from his comment. Such kind words about my parents made me swell with pride and love.
Neil turned his attention on Poppy. “Dr. Poppy, it’s nice to see you again. The pups are doing very well.”
Poppy laughed, bubbly and flirtatious. “I told you I’m not a real vet.”
“You have me fooled then,” Neil said.
“I’m glad to hear the puppies are doing well,” Poppy said.
“Yes, but so wee I’m afraid I’ll hurt one of them,” Neil said.
“How will we ever get rid of them all?” Emma asked. “There are eight altogether. We can’t afford to feed them all.”
“They’ll go fast,” Poppy said. “Border collies are hardworking dogs.”
“Except we’ve no idea who their father was,” Neil said. “Or what they’ll look like.”
“All dogs are pretty,” Cymbeline said. “I’ll help you get them into the right homes.”
Isak and Viktor returned, each with a stack of logs for the fire. “You all ready?” Viktor asked.
I told the others we might come join them later. Louisa had grown quiet. I wanted to ensure her agreement over joining the rest before we packed up our dinner.
After the others had gone, I took Louisa’s hand. “Would you like to join them or rather remain here? Or we could go for a drive?”
“No, I’d like to go. For a few minutes anyway.” The lantern cast shadows across her lovely face, making it hard for me to see her expression.
“As long as you’re sure,” I said.
It’s nice to be included. Father would not have wanted me to be out this late.”
“What about your mother?” I asked.
“I’m not sure, but I don’t think she’ll mind, only because it’s you I’m with.” She pointed up at the dark purple sky. A lone star twinkled at us. “The first star of the night. Make a wish.”
May I win Louisa’s heart.
That was it. Simple words. Harder to do.