Celta Thursday, Heart Story from the collection Hearts and Swords
*The old woman is dead. Finally,* the cat said mentally. *Good riddance,* she sniffed.
Arbusca Willow stopped pacing the private dining room she'd rented for the first meeting with her HeartMate, her fated husband.
She addressed the cat, "Fairyfoot, you aren't even my son's Familiar Companion. You are my daughter-in-law's. You didn't know my mother."
*Saw her long enough to know she was a mean GreatLady. Had all of you under her paw.* Fairyfoot licked her own forepaw. *That's true?*
*Tried to live forever. Lied, killed,* the cat snapped down her paw as if on a bug, looked at Arbusca slyly. *Maybe even killed your husband, years ago.*
Arbusca didn't think so. Her mother, GreatLady D'Willow, descendant of a FirstFamily colonist, rich in psi magic, wealth and power, had only intimidated Arbusca's long-late husband to death. As the lady had intimidated everyone until Arbusca's son had claimed the title. She held up her hands. "That's past. She's been gone more than a year."
*You deserve your own life and HeartMate,* Fairyfoot said virtuously, repeating the oft-said phrase of Arbusca's son and daughter-in-law.
That was true too. Arbusca yearned for her HeartMate, and was nervous about meeting him. They hadn't connected in twenty-five years. Even then, they'd never met, but linked during hot, sexual dreams when their psi magic had been freed during fugue states.
But the cat had an agenda – getting Arbusca, the housekeeper with strict rules for Fams – out of the Residence. She tucked her hands into her opposite long, embroidered sleeves and resumed pacing. "Tell me why I brought you with me to this meeting again?"
Fairyfoot lifted her nose. *You did not bring Me, I came by Myself.*
"That's right." Arbusca stopped pointed a finger at the cat. "You're univited. Leave."
*No, I must report to your son.*
"You're just nosey."
The door opened.
Arbusca swooped down on Fairyfoot, avoided the cat's claws and teleported Fairyfoot back to her room in Willow Residence. "You are gone!"
Twenty-five years since the links had been forged between herself and her HeartMate. She'd known that her HeartMate had gone south, all the way to a different continent. But the bond between them had been the slimmest, she'd suppressed it – if not the yearning for her HeartMate – so long. In several hopeful moments over the last year, she'd given the bond gentle tugs.
Last month Dri Paris had contacted her, and now he walked into the room.
She straightened fast, hid her fisted hands behind the folds of her heavily emproidered silkeen tunic. She was in the far corner of the room, not graciously by the table ready to pour cinnamon caff. Typical of her luck.
His gaze focused on her. The emotional connection between them seethed with feelings. "Who else was here?" he asked.
"No one of any importance," she said breathlessly.
He was not the tall, lanky boy whom she'd watched from afar, but a solid man of broad shoulders and craggy face. Suddenly this venue seemed over-civilized as he brought the scent of the wilds into the place. Arbusca stilled to immobility.
He raised his brows. "No one?"
"Of any importance," she emphasized.
He hesitated, then his hard gaze softened and as he strode toward her, little flutters of more than attraction – lust – stirred within her. She wasn't a young woman, but he wasn't a young man.
His lips curved and a quick thought from him impinged on her mind. Both in our prime.
Her shoulders relaxed, her hands unclenched enough that she curtseyed to him. Deeply, as if to a GreatLord. Smoothly she moved to her place, near the caff set, ready to pour. Her hands were steady enough.
He stopped, bowed, one hand remained behind his back. Dri wore clean leather trous that were cut narrowly for a working man and heavy leather boots, both in dark brown. His matching leather tunic also was workmanlike with no frills, encasing him from a round neck to his waist. His shirt underneath was a warm cream color of a soft weave, the material itself showed it wasn't a work shirt, and the sleeves had a faint blouse of fashion.