Decided to continue what I started here.
The young man looked up in time to see a glowing figure rushing emerge from the trees. Her hair danced around her face as she rushed toward him, skirts billowing in the sudden wind.
His cheeks were already pink from the cold air, but the older man could swear that he saw them darken slightly at the appearance of the angelic figure. Claudia had only arrived a week ago, but the young adults become fast friends. They spent as much time together as possible, within the reasonable boundaries of etiquette, and were growing fonder every day. The old man could practically hear the wedding bells ringing. And it was a good match, surely. She came from an increasingly wealthy merchant family. Wealth that had probably paid for that rich blue dress and glittering hairpiece, but you couldn't buy that perfectly seasoned personality and blinding inner glow. She seemed to absorb the very sun as she moved.
"I'll take the horses to the stables," he said innocently, noting that Laurence didn't even blink when he had to dismount again. The black stallion pawed the ground, perhaps sensing the lack of proper attention being paid him, but allowed himself to be led off nonetheless as his master went to greet the golden maiden.
Laurence failed to notice his father's success at getting them alone together. In fact, he'd failed to notice many of his father's ploys lately.
All he seemed to notice was Claudia, who appeared to glow more with every passing day.
They paused within feet of each other, unsure of how to greet the other. Laurence opened his mouth to compliment her appearance, which was the only thing he could bring himself to think about, but she beat him to it.
"How was the hunt? Did you manage to corner some poor, defenseless beast in the brush?" she asked coyly.
Laurence shook his head in frustration, "No. We tracked it into a glade, but it slipped the dogs."
"Slipped them? How?" she asked, eyes wide with interest.
"Your guess is as good as mine. It doesn't happen often. A genuine defeat," he grinned. "No fault on the hounds' part, of course."
"What were you chasing?" she asked as they turned toward the house.
"We never knew," he said, brow furrowing. "Father said it could be a wolf, though."
"A wolf?" she gasped, breath catching with excitement.
Mistaking her fascination for fear, he shook his head, "No reason to worry. Wolves never come close to the house. You'd have to go far into the forest to cross paths with one."
She looked over her shoulder at the black forest behind them; a veritable wall of darkness.
"That's a relief," she lied, biting her lip. She'd been told stories of wolves during her childhood in the city. Beasts with glowing fangs and red eyes. Black pelts matted with mud and filth. Like nightmarish dogs that tore at flesh and crushed bone. She desperately wanted to see such a thing.
"I wish you didn't have to leave," Laurence said suddenly, bringing her attention back to the present. "I feel like I've known you forever and not at all."
Claudia lowered her head, smiling shyly. "I feel the same, but if my uncle says I must leave, then I must leave."
"Perhaps I could speak with your uncle?" Laurence said excitedly. "I'm sure an extra week wouldn't cause him any trouble."
"Then you don't know my uncle very well," she laughed, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear. "I'm sure such a request would give him a heart attack! Even the week we've spent here has been related to his job."
"But there must be some way." Laurence frowned in thought, crossing his arms. "I'll speak with him. I'm sure we can work something out."
Claudia laughed again as they neared the house, knowing full well that her uncle would never agree to such a thing. But she prayed for it. Another week in this paradise would be worth all the words in the world.