I swallowed hard, hollowness welling in the pit of my stomach.
She scowled at him. If we’d known you were coming, we would have readied the house for you.He shrugged again. The motion seemed to embody the image he desperately needed to convey. It’s ready enough.
She hugged her arms to her body, effectively blocking his view of her breasts, which, he had to concede, was probably for the best. Well, you might have written, she finally said, her voice hanging sharp in the night air. It would only have been courteous.Francesca, he said, turning slightly away from her so that he could continue to rub his hands together by the fire, do you have any idea how long it takes for mail to reach London from India?Five months, she answered promptly. Four, if the winds are kind.
Damn it, she was right. Be that as it may, he said peevishly, by the time I decided to return, there was little use in attempting forward notice. The letter would have gone out on the same ship I did.Really? I thought the passenger vessels were slower than the ones that take the mail.
He sighed, glancing at her over his shoulder. They all take the mail. And besides, does it really matter?
For a moment he thought she would answer in the af-firmative, but then she said quietly, No, of course not. The important thing is that you’re home. Your mother will be thrilled.I gazed at River’s face, which now bore a clear expression of disappointment. Disappointment that I’d abandoned her, no doubt. Maybe she even took my leaving as a rejection.
I found myself drifting out of her cabin and into the empty corridor. Sitting on the floor, I stared unfocused at the opposite wall.I didn’t know what would ultimately become of me—I didn’t possess the emotional fortitude to think of it right now—but there was one thing I knew for certain: I had to stop haunting River’s dreams. It was utterly selfish. I had to limit myself to only entering her dreams if there was something that I urgently needed to communicate to her. And even then, I couldn’t give in to the urge to turn it into a love scene by kissing or embracing her. In fact, I ought to refrain even from touching her.
In the meantime, I would keep my promise.I would stay with River for as long as she needed me. And, with all that I had, I would fight to bring her back to safety.