The Alpha and Lady Martin took an unholy delight in the exhaustion of their guests the following day at breakfast, so much so they hardly scolded their daughter for her behavior.
“Really, Lydia, must you have drunk so much? Most unlike you.”
“I do not wish to speak of it, Mama. I am feeling most unwell.”
Stiles laughed weakly. “I may never dance again. I secured a room full of suitors to attend a coming out ball and I may never dance again.”
John smirked. “What a shame; I suppose we shall just have to give your suitors and hour of attention to Lydia.”
Omega politeness and manners away from the table, Stiles threw a strawberry directly at his father, taking pride in the stain it left when it smashed against his chest.
John raised an eyebrow, and reached for the syrup, causing Stiles to shriek and flee the table. Lady Martin shook her head.
“You two are as puerile as any babe, surely.”
“I regret not getting to dance with you the night of the ball, but unfortunately I had some business to attend to.”
Stiles smiled at Parrish. “I understand, only you missed dear Lydia ingesting a small cask of wine and flinging herself about with half the room.”
The Colonel laughed. “I should very much have liked to see that; she is always so composed! Easier to believe she joined a nunnery.”
Parrish had proven himself to be quite the suitor in the weeks since their first encounter, calling on Stiles at the Martin Estate at least every two days, and the pair spent their time split between the fields of Martin Estate and the gardens of Eichen House. It was on one such stroll through the fields of the Martin Estate, escorted by a glum Allison and watched from inside by a threatening Lord Stilinski that the two spoke of the ball.
“I hear the Alpha Hale has taken a liking to you,” Parrish commented, attempting to hide his jealousy.
“Difficult to say, he is so very private. And of course, I am only permitted once dance per Alpha, it could be only friendship.”
“Instinct tells me otherwise.” Parrish stopped the two, grabbing Stiles’ gloved hands fervently. “I implore you, tell me now if it is too late to win your affection.”
Stiles looked up at him, taken aback by the statement. “Surely you know I cannot pledge my affection any, not until my coming out.”
Parrish stroked the omega’s hands, fingers brushing the sliver of skin between the gloves and the sleeves of his coat. “I know it, only I fear time will distance you from me, for I am bound to Eichen House and may not get to call on you in London until the start of your season.”
He stepped closer. “I would have you be mine, my Omega, and you would live out your days in those beautiful gardens you admire so much, and we would be happy. Stiles-”
Allison cleared her throat loudly, cutting off the informal use of the Omega’s name, and Parrish allowed some space between them, remembering his place.
Stiles looked uncertain. “Surely we wouldn’t leave Papa alone in London?”
“I don’t see why he should leave Parliament for the country.”
Stiles bit his lip. “You misunderstand, my father needs me. When my mother passed, it was only the two of us. It was hard on the both of us, losing her to such a painful disease, and we managed as best we could. Papa is getting older, and his health is declining as well.”
Parrish frowned. “He does not look ill to me.”
“It is an infirmity of the heart; it grows weaker without constant care. I attend to his meals, making sure they are of quality, and keep him regular on his medication. He may not want to admit it, and he certainly would not stop me marrying because of it, but his illness could claim him without my checking on him. I should not wish to leave London, for I love him and have grown to love my place in Parliament, limited though it may be.”
Parrish smiled. “Fret not, sweet Omega, for we shall find a medium that will content us both. Now, let’s leave the unpleasant conversations for solicitors and undertakers. Let us talk instead of how lovely you look in your finery this morning.”
Stiles smiled at the Colonel, but it did not reach his eyes.