to earn my ale sketching caricatures at posting inns on the Continent.”
Kit looked up at Jenny. “What did he say?”
“He said he’ll do a better job taking your likeness if you’re comfortable and having fun.”
Mr. Harrison sent Jenny a look over William’s head. His mouth conveyed humor, while his eyes conveyed… trepidation? He jostled William higher on his hip. “I suppose it’s time we boarded our magic carpet?”
Never had a handsome prince sounded less enthusiastic about starting his enchanted voyage, and never had William been so content to remain in one place for so long.
“I’m coming too!” Kit caroled. He darted to the hearth rug and plopped down, landing by chance in the direct path of an early morning sunbeam. Jenny took a place beside him, though her skirts made boarding the carpet a somewhat undignified business.
“Shall I take William?” she asked.
“My first mate is content where he is,” Mr. Harrison said, lowering himself so his back was braced against the raised hearth. “Though he’s plotting the downfall of our expedition, lest you be fooled by his handsome visage.”
“What’s a visage?” Kit asked, crawling closer.
“I’ll show you what a visage is, if you’ll challenge your aunt at Patience.”
At Kit’s age, Patience was an exercise in flipping cards face up, making quite the fuss over any random matches. Nobody won, nobody lost, and nobody tried to keep track of where any cards might lie.
Jenny, however, kept track of Mr. Harrison. He sat against the hearthstone, legs splayed before him. William contentedly straddled one muscular thigh, while the sketch pad was propped on the other. Mr. Harrison’s left hand absently braced William against his body as the right moved the colored chalk across the page.
Both of them, man and boy, looked at ease. William was examining a red pastel, dashing it against Mr. Harrison’s dark wool trousers and leaving jots of red powder. Mr. Harrison was dashing his colors against the page in more fluid motions, though his expression bore the same concentration as William’s.
“Your turn, Aunt Jen.”
Jenny flipped over two cards, the queen of hearts and the queen of spades. “A match. Where shall we put their highnesses?”
“Give them to me!” Kit propped the queens face out against Mr. Harrison’s outstretched leg and soon had a family of royal spectators aligned there.
Mr. Harrison suggested that the twos might also enjoy the view from the gallery and could serve as footmen to the royal family. He offered this casually, an aside murmured between glances at Kit, glances at the page, and glances at Jenny.
When William started bouncing on Mr. Harrison’s thigh, Mr. Harrison passed the child another color and put the red aside. “Nobody stays with the monochrome studies for long, but five minutes must be a record,” he muttered to the child.
While Kit flipped over one card after another in search of a match, Jenny’s heart turned over in her chest. The sensation was physical, painful and sweet, also entirely the fault of the man casually holding one of her nephews and sketching the other.
She’d resigned herself to never having children, and her art, paltry and amateurish though it was, was some consolation. Watching Elijah Harrison casually tuck William closer and retrieve the blue pastel from its trajectory toward the child’s mouth, her resignation came into sharper focus.
The children she’d never have might have been Elijah Harrison’s, or belonged to somebody like him—a talented, handsome man, capable of whimsy and patience. A man willing to sit on the floor and see his trousers attacked by a ferocious, pastel-wielding infant, even as he kept that infant safe and content.
“I found a match, Aunt Jen!” Kit waved the six of clubs and the nine of clubs around. “They can be coachmen!”
It was on the tip of Jenny’s tongue to point out the child’s error. A six and a nine were not a match, not even