I hurried across the flat to hug him and he brushed his hand over my hair before I heard Fred offer him some tea.
"I can't stay long," he admits when I pull away and lead him to the couch. "I have to make sure Coza returns to Romania in one piece."
"I'm sure a missing limb or two won't hamper his travel," Fred replies sharply as he puts a kettle on the stove to boil water. "What about a few broken bones?"
Randelli grins despite the less than pleasant topic of conversation. "I already had to heal a broken jaw and two broken ribs. But physical pain heals...he'll not have learned anything if I simply cut off his body parts."
"Depends on which body part you cut off," I say simply and shrug when Randelli lifts a dark eyebrow toward me. I sit on the couch and he follows, sighing as he turns to me and takes my hand.
"I've stripped every memory of what happened at the cabin from his mind and the goons he had brought with him have been Obliviated. I've also altered his mind so that he will soon go to his father and request that your impending engagement be terminated."
"And his reason being?" Fred asks as he dumps tea leaves into a tea cup.
Randelli glances at Fred. "He does not find Gabrielle acceptable as a wife. He feels she is too young and too naive to please him and provide worthy heirs. The Minister will agree because Nicholas is his only son, and he will inform Babette of the situation."
"She's going to be furious," I whisper, paling at the thought of my mother returning home to find my "engagement" is over.
"She may be, yes. But it is Nicholas who finds you unacceptable and Babette cannot find fault with you. For all she knows, you had begun to fall in love with Coza and he broke your heart." Randelli squeezes my hand in reassurance and Fred crosses to me from the kitchen and sets a cup of tea on the table for me. I want to vomit at the thought of being in love with that...what does Fred say? Wanker...he was a disgusting human being.
"There's more," Randelli continues, his voice serious as Fred settles into the chair across from us, his hands clasped loosely together as he focuses on Randelli. Fred has been restless ever since Nicholas was taken by Randelli. He was protective and very nearly followed every step I took...it made me feel safe, but I wanted this to be over so Fred could stop worrying so much. Randelli releases my hand so I can sip my tea and it seems he is speaking to Fred now, though I am still in the room. "I have used my magic to see into Coza's mind. He is guilty of many crimes including rape and murder. His intentions toward Gabrielle were anything but pure."
I clutch my cup tightly and see Fred's jaw clench in anger, but he maintains his calm demeanor as he speaks. "Will you turn him in?"
"I would but he is the Minister's son and I have no solid proof. If I were to voice my beliefs, the Minister would staunchly deny the accusations, as would Nicholas, and using his influence and power, nothing would come of it but a quiet ripple through the community that would soon fade."
"He can't get away with these things," I protest loudly, drawing Fred and Randelli's eyes toward me. "If he's caused pain to others, he has to pay!"
"He will, Gabrielle. He has. I have gone through his mind and I have destroyed all of his lustful feelings toward you. I have destroyed his thirst for blood and flesh and I guarantee you he will no longer be hurting anyone, man or woman."
"So...you've destroyed everything that made him the vile piece of shite that he is."
Randelli looks toward Fred. "He will be unable to pleasure a woman who is unwilling...or willing."
My smile breaks out before I can stop it and I feel a slight sense of satisfaction. "Good. He deserves to be castrated."
Fred's eyebrows lifts but Randelli nods. "He might as well be, young one. He will send your mother an owl, informing her that he is embarking on a tour of Romania with you by his side. This will ease her worry for you, and keep her at bay for awhile longer until I can get Coza home and put into motion my plan. In a week or so, she will receive another owl from the Minister informing her of his son's intention of breaking off his relationship with you and he will tell her that you have been sent home to Fleur." Randelli looks to the both of us. "This buys you a bit of time to decide how you will approach Babette about your relationship."
I set my tea cup down and throw my arms around him as I close my eyes tightly. "Thank you, Randelli. I don't know what I would do without you."
"You will never have to wonder," he whispers into my hair and he holds me for several moments before I pull away. We stand and Fred shakes his hand heartily. "I must return to Phyllis. She is cooking pork and baking apple cobbler and it has been awhile since I had a decent meal. I will check on the both of you in time and keep you updated on my progress."
I hug him again when we walk him to the door and once he is gone, I turn to Fred who stands next to me, both hands on his hips. I step forward and instantly we wrap our arms around each other. "I'm sorry I put you through this," I tell him, rubbing my cheek against his t-shirt. "I never knew this would happen..."
"Don't apologize to me. We got through it and that's all that matters, Gabs." I look up and smile softly as he kisses my lips. I hold him more tightly against me and when he deepens the kiss, his tongue flicking against my own I pull back and take his hands, leading him to the bed as my smile turns seductive. He follows eagerly and we tumble onto the mattress together, our hands pulling at buttons and zippers and our mouths pressing together hungrily. I finally felt as if I could be with Fred without worrying if someone was watching us, and this time, there would be no one breaking down the door. With Nicholas finally out of the picture, there was nothing holding me back from telling mother about Fred. Things were going to be okay...and my future with Fred could finally begin.