„Da!“ Brianna called from the hallway. She sounded a little breathless, Jamie thought, taking his eyes off the letter he was writing.
„Aye, in here, mo nighean,“ he called out to her, and seconds later she stormed into the room, a sight to behold. Tall as she was, her red hair freed from hat and bonnet, face flushed, she looked like a fierce warrior, a true Scot, his magnificent daughter. Jamie felt a wave of affection for her as he cocked his eyebrow at her flustered state.
„What is it, Brianna?“
She paced a few steps around the room before finally deciding to sit down on a chair opposite him. „I met John Grey today,“ she said.
„Oh? Weel, how’s he been?“ Jamie asked, pleasantly surprised, but still distracted by the letter in front of him.
„He wasn’t alone.“
It was her tone that made him look up at her again, and her face – in a testament to her mother’s heritage – that made him understand immediately. He dropped the quill and waited for her to go on, keeping his face blank. He had known that this might happen, if not consciously, he was still aware of the possibility. It was something he wouldn’t let himself dream about, a reunion of his children, his family coming together. It was something he would have avoided at all costs, had he a say in the matter.
„Were you ever gonna tell me?“ she finally asked, unusually quiet, her temper giving way to a variety of other emotions that neither of them could quite place yet.
Jamie shook his head, whether to say no or to signal that he didn’t know, he wasn’t sure.
„He’s here?“ he finally inquired, his voice sounding weak to his own ears, less sure than he had spoken in a long time.
„He looks exactly like you,“ Brianna confirmed, and after a moment of hesitation added, „like us.“
She had expected him to be defensive. Angry, possibly. She did not expect for her stoic, strong-willed, dependable father to start crying.
He didn’t look at her and he barely made a sound. If not for the unusual glint in his eyes and the tense set of his shoulders, she might have mistaken his reaction for refusal to explain himself.
Brianna stood, frozen in place and unsure of how to react for a moment, until finally crossing the room to lay her hands on his shoulders.
They remained like that for quite a while, until she felt his tremors die down and he reached out to cover her right hand with his left.
„I hope ye ken that I do trust ye, Brianna,“ Jamie finally said, voice rough but grounded, sure. „It’s not that I didna want to tell ye; I kept it from ye for his sake. And maybe mine.“
„Because he’s the Lord of Ellesmere,“ she stated, „John told me.“
„Aye. He’s the Lord of Ellesmere and I most definitely wasna.“
It still seemed odd to her, this persistence to leave a young man in the dark about his ancestry, to never have him truly know his heritage and family, just because of social status and appearances, but she begrudgingly had to accept that her objections to the situation sprang from her own history, and not only that – her own time.
„Tell me about his mother,“ she asked instead of arguing, curious and wary at the same time. Jamie raised his eyes to her at the unexpected question, as if checking whether she really wanted to hear the truth, whether she was prepared for it, could handle it.
„Her name was Geneva Dunsany,“ he finally began, slowly. „She... was an extraordinary person. Young. Very willful and stubborn.“
She could see the memories playing behind his eyes, his gaze far removed from the dark and stuffy room they sat in. Brianna watched him closely, a spectator to his remembrance, her scrutiny going unnoticed. She couldn’t quite place his look, she thought, distantly fascinated, but she was sure of one thing – it wasn’t the look he wore when he talked to Brianna about her mother.
„I think we both kent it was a mistake, especially after...“ His voice trailed off and for a short moment he seemed conscious of his surroundings and his audience again, for a slight hue of pink tinged his cheeks. „But she was determined and so scared of what was to come, and I was weak and angry, and frankly scared too...“ Jamie trailed off again and this time, Brianna knew that he would not continue talking. He had rejoined her in the present and left Geneva Dunsany behind, shielded from her prying eyes.
„I left Helwater when the resemblance became too obvious,“ Jamie continued after a few quiet minutes and turned to face her. „You canna tell him, Brianna. He’s safer this way. He canna know.“ His voice was firm, resigned. He was hiding behind the carefully erected wall of composure again and she took a moment to scan it for cracks, tells to reveal what was going on behind it.
Finally, she nodded. „Fine, Da. But I want to see him again before Roger and I leave. I promise, I won’t tell.“