Kadelyn had a smile that spoke more firmly than a shout: You don’t know me and you never will. And it was the politest expression Noach had ever seen.
Somehow she slid it into place without anyone around her catching one of its sharp corners. Somehow it reminded him to keep his distance without offering any offense. Perhaps, it said, it is not that you are not allowed to step inside and chart my mind, it is that you are not able to draw those lines. Perhaps, I am unknowable. It was a statement without a challenge. It was a warning without a threat. She wore it as if it were the lightest silk, like one of her morning gowns that floated around her as she strode down the hall, but he understood that there was weight to it. It couldn’t hold that much elegance without something inside it to give it substance.
It was a perfect smile, fitted to the daughter of a Lord, to a woman who would forever be out of reach. So far out of reach, she was almost out of sight, except for that brilliant shine on her that kept her visible.
That smile might have kept Noach safe for a lifetime, if he hadn’t caught what was underneath.
He was never meant to see it. He stood at the door, shoulder to her, watching everything but her. He was meant to give her protection, not attention. Her sister swept into the room, a little whip of energy, all shine, tailed by her own sober guard. It was the same brilliance coming off Kadelyn, but wider. There was no restraint to it, no focus to give it a hard shadow. She rolled across the room, wrapped Kadelyn in a hug and the smile fell away over her shoulder.
“Where have you been all morning?” Kadelyn asked. “You look like you’ve been rolling in the wind.” She touched the tangled curl of her sister’s hair where it fell out of its ribbon.
Noach heard it in her voice before he saw it: a sudden tangibility. He looked at her in surprise while her sister gave a hesitant, embarrassed laugh and dragged her by both hands to the couch. They sat with their feet up, their skirts spread around them and tumbling toward the floor.
“I took Reedi out and she ran off,” her sister said.
“She’s not trained yet…” Kadelyn said, a small question.
“No,” her sister agreed quickly. “Definitely not. Barked like mad at a butterfly. She ran off and wouldn’t answer my call. Took me an hour to convince to her to come back with me.”
If Kadelyn felt Noach’s eyes on her, she didn’t react quickly. She let her sister keep talking, let her tell her all the places she looked, all the things she tried to tease the dog back to her side, and slowly Kadelyn slid her gaze across the room. She met Noach’s eyes so gently it took him a moment to realize that he should look away. Touchable. The lines that had seemed elusive were suddenly traceable if he could get close enough to draw a finger along them.
She gave him no invitation to do that, only a quiet, unreadable question. Noach looked away, unable to decipher it, unable to give an answer in the same language.
But he wanted to.