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"Jules, sweetheart!" Isla hugged him tightly, all smiles. "Oh, you look well!" She kissed his head and hugged him again. "What's different about you, dear?"
"My hair growing out, maybe?" He asked.
"No." She put a finger to her lips and tilted her head. "You're looking me in the eyes. Fully."
Jules instantly lowered his head. "I'm sorry."
"No, don't be," she coaxed. "I want you to."
Jules slowly lifted his head again. "I... My father's here," he said quietly as people moved around them. "He came to ask for my forgiveness. We're trying to learn each other."
Isla covered her mouth in shock, her eyes filling with water. "Oh, Jules," she whispered. She dropped her hand and hugged him a third time. "Jules, that's wonderful!"
"What's wonderful?" Adrian stage whispered, leaning in. He put his arm around Jules. "Halian hasn't gotten you in the family way early, has he?"
Isla slapped his arm. "Jules's father came to ask Jules's forgiveness," she explained. "He's here."
Adrian sighed and looked up. "A miracle at Christmas is the perfect gift. I'm glad for you, Jules." He hugged him one-armed. "We already had one, with Lucien getting turned around. Where is the boy, anyway?"
"At the cathedral, with Father Henry," Jules said. "Hal didn't tell you?"
Isla and Adrian stared at Jules like he'd grown another head.
"He didn't tell you," Jules said slowly. "Um. Surprise?"
Isla took one step forward, and fainted. Jules caught her quickly. "What do I do?" He asked Adrian, slightly panicking.
"Put her down so you can catch me next," Adrian said, stumbling for a chair.
"Hal!" Jules shouted up the staircase.
Halian and Felix opened their doors nearly at the same time, just as a flood of house servants descended. Hal didn't even use the stairs. He hopped the railing and jumped down, taking his mother into his arms, not a bit winded by the long drop. "What happened?"
"She fainted," Jules said. "Your dad's about to as well! I just told them Lucien's at the cathedral with Father Henry!"
Halian rubbed his mother's cheek with his own. "Mother? Mother?"
Isla groaned. "Halian... Is your brother..."
"He's not studying to be a priest," Halian said swiftly. "He's living with Henry in order to help the poor." He carried his mother to a low divan in the receiving room, and carefully stretched her out on it.
"What happened?" Keita asked, and Jules hadn't even known he'd come into the room.
Jules turned and hugged him so hard he lifted him from the floor. "I guess I just gave your new parents the best news of their lives," he whispered. "Their problem child is now helping poor people."
Keita wormed his way out of Jules's grip only to hug him back. "That's great," he said. "Isla and Adrian were so worried about Lucien they talked about him the entire voyage."
"Halian, what did you ?? to Luc?" Adrian asked weakly.
"Basic correction, then let him attend the charity drive," Hal answered, stroking his mother's cheek. "He mostly fixed himself. Jules was a large influence, too."
Felix walked past the knots of people. "Clear out, some of you," he demanded. "You're taking the air from the room." He had a little bottle in his hands, and opened it to wave under Isla's nose.
Isla came to with a jerk, eyes wide. "Thank you," she gasped out to Felix. "I haven't fainted in my life."
"That's not true," Adrian said. "You fainted when you read Halian's letter about finding an omega."
"I didn't faint," Isla snapped. "I got woozy." She allowed Halian to help her to sit up, and instantly grabbed his hands. "Oh, Halian, is it really true? Lucien is living with Father Henry and helping the poor?"
"Yes, Mother," Halian said, slightly smiling. "It was his idea, too. We shall all have to go see him together, but not without guards."
"We brought them," Adrian said. "They're flanking the manor and the cabins right now. Any new developments?"
Halian cleared his throat. "I may have slightly... disfigured... Cornelius Errgard."
"No loss," Adrian said calmly. "I trust you had a reason?"
"He and a contingent of landed alphas rode up here with their swords showing in their scabbards, thinking to intimidate me into stopping the relief aid to the poor," Halian answered. "I disabused them of their authority."
"Errgard insulted Madam Isla," Jules said, watching Adrian's eyes go cold and dark.
"I'll go finish what Halian started," Adrian growled, standing up, enervated by the affront.
"No, you won't," Isla said. "Not right now. Let's try to have a good Christmas. Jules has a new hope with his father, we have Keita, and Lucien is penitent. Let's not shed any blood unless we have to."
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"Yes, dear," Adrian agreed, but Jules saw he was furious, barely keeping control. The smell of him was pure wrath.
Felix took Jules and Keita by the shoulders and began leading them upstairs. "Let's leave the alpha representation to talk," he suggested. "My, Keita, you look splendid in that white kimono."
"It's authentic," Keita told him. "I haven't had to launder it yet, and I'm afraid to."
"Yes, well, I'm perfectly capable of sewing it back up the right way, so don't worry about that while you're here." Felix petted Keita's head. "Have you been enjoying becoming the new darling of the Novar family?"
"I'm happier than I've ever been," Keita said quietly.