Adrianna was everything charming and gracious when she heard I chose to stay.
She even offered her carriage to deliver the Wanderer to the patron who had been keeping my flock at the price of two sheep a day.
Pulled by a team of four horses, the trip would take two days, and by the time the Wanderer collected my flock, I would be down fourteen sheep.
Adrianna and I stood next to each other in the courtyard, where the lavish carriage stood.
The Wanderer held Celia in a long embrace.
Apparently, Adrianna’s protégée had stayed with the Wanderer in his rooms the two days I was trapped in the DreamTime purgatory. I must have been in a dead sleep if their noisy lovemaking didn’t wake me.
Finally, the Wanderer kissed Celia on the forehead, stroked the side of her face, and let her go gently.
When Celia turned, I was pleasantly surprised to see the hint of tears in her eyes.
She stopped and curtseyed to us before passing back into the Casa.
I wondered if Celia used rose water as a perfume.
I caught a hint of roses as she passed, but the scent lingered long after she had gone into the house. I frowned and looked around.
Adrianna noticed too. She leaned her head back and smiled, her nostrils flickering as she inhaled.
Before I could ask her about it, the Wanderer approached.
“I’m not particularly fond of good-byes,” he said. “So I guess I’ll see you in a month or so.”
“Oh, you’ll see me much sooner than that,” I said.
“Not if I have anything to do with it,” Adrianna quipped.
The Wanderer chortled.
“Either way, Adrianna, I’m flexible. Maybe send word out every week or so, and I’ll roam circles around the Capital City with his flock.”
He kissed her on both cheeks.
“Adieu. And thank you so much for the splendid hospitality, and the comfortable ride. I feel like a new man.”
“You are a new man, darling Wanderer. The pleasure was mine. Not as much pleasure as Celia got to enjoy, but I loved having you as a guest.”
The Wanderer chuckled again.
I clasped his hand and the Wanderer pulled me in an embrace. I was surprised at how comforting it felt to be held by my friend. Really, this man was more than a brother to me.
“Don’t worry about the Shepherd,” Adrianna said flippantly. “By the time I’m through with him, he may be too coddled to return to the natural life.”
“I highly doubt that, Adrianna.”
With a salute, the Wanderer stepped into the carriage.
Adrianna and I stood there and waved, the scent of roses growing stronger as the carriage disappeared from view. My heart was heavy once he had gone.
“You are truly blessed in friendship, Shepherd.”
“I’m very pleased you’re staying. I didn’t think you would.”
“I take it the Wanderer talked you into this.”
“That is one way to look at it.”
The elder Courtesan threw her head back and laughed.
And yet again, I was disconcerted by the mannerism that seemed especially peculiar on her.
“Did the Wanderer blackmail you?”
“I wouldn’t go quite that far.”
“But you are not here willingly?”
I hesitated, and then shrugged.
“No, I’m not.”
Instead of taking offense, Adrianna sniggered. Her beautiful golden eyes sparkled.