Part Sixteen

     "What did you think of Miss Maxwell?" Barnabas asked Angelique after listening to Sarah's favorable report.  He had sent Sarah out to the kitchen with Willie, and fixed his gaze on his wife, waiting for her reply.
    "She seemed a bit young -"
    "According to these papers, she's twenty - six."
    "But she SEEMED younger," Angelique insisted.
    Barnabas picked up the papers that Claire Maxwell had left.  "The reference from her last family is exemplary."
    Angelique sat down.  "Barnabas, I can't explain it, but I have a strong feeling that she's wrong for the job -"
    "I'll call the agency tomorrow," Barnbas announced.
    Angelique looked at him.  "You're going to hire her, aren't you?"
    "Perhaps," was all he would say.
    Willie stepped into the room, Sarah at his side.  "Excuse me, but you're due at Collinwood."
    "Thank you, Willie."  Barnabas helped Sarah into her sweater, then placed Angelique's light coat over her shoulders.  "I don't know how late we'll be, Willie."
    "Enjoy your evening."

    Julia was just beginning to come out of her state of shock.  Seeing Nicholas Blair had been such a surprise, and now she was trying to find some way to get to a telephone, to warn Barnabas and Angelique that he was here.  Finally, she found her moment.  Smiling at Roger, she said, "Excuse me, but I have to call the hospital -" she saw Nicholas smile in her direction, lifting his glass.  He knew where she was going -who she was REALLY going to call.  "I'll be right back."
    She had just entered the foyer when the front door opened to admit Barnabas, Angelique and Sarah..  Barnabas took note of the expression of concern on his friennd's face and was about to ask what had caused it when a familiar voice hailed him from the drawing room doorway.
    "Well.  Barnabas.  Hello, Angelique.  You're looking very lovely.  I suppose marriage agrees with you."
    Angelique pulled Sarah against her -although the child had already edged closer to her mother.  "And YOU look much better than I expected," she commented dryly.  She noticed Carolyn in the doorway, watching their exchange.
    "I understand that best wishes are in order.  Congradulations, Barnabas."
    Barnabas' face was a mask of carefully controlled anger.  "What are you doing here, Blair?"
    "I came to call on Roger and discovered that my dear sister and neice were here."  He lowered his dark gaze to the child who stood between her parents.  "I don't suppose you remember me, Sarah.  It's been some time since I last saw you.  You were little more than a baby."
    Sarah looked up at Angelique. "Mother?"
    "It's all right, darling," Angelique said with more assurance than she felt.
    "I'm looking forward to continuing our little family reunion," Nicholas told Angelique before turning to go back into the drawing room, his hand on Carolyn's elbow.
    Elizabeth came forward.  "I'm sorry.  I didn't think about letting you know he had arrived, Angelique.  I should have-"
    "It's all right, Elizabeth.  It was just such a - surprise to find him here.  I'll be fine."
    "Why don't we all go into the drawing room?"
    Angelique met Barnabas' eyes, knowing he could read the fear and concern in hers.  She silently begged him not to think she had anything to do with Nicholas' presence, but she had no way of knowing whether or not he did.  He took her hand and squeezed it gently, and she felt more able to cope with Nicholas' presence.
    The sight of Nicholas Blair had made Barnabas aware of the need to protect not just Sarah, but Angelique as well.  Without her powers, Angelique was vunerable to any vengence Blair might care to enact.  To lose her again - even having Sarah would never ease the pain.
    He watched, at Angelique's side, as Nicholas apologized to Roger for his part in any scheme that concerned Cassandra.  Downplaying his own role, he placed much of the blame on Cassandra's unreasoning jealousy of Angelique.  Once finished, Roger invited him to stay over for the wedding.  After a suitable hesitation, Nicholas  agreed.
    Elizabeth looked toward the doorway for the tenth time.  "Quentin should have been here by now," she said.  "I hate to start without him -"
    "Here I am," that man announced, checking his shirtsleeves as he entered.  "Sorry to be late -" He looked up and his blue eyes glittered with ice.  "Blair."
    "Hello, Quentin."
    Having had a lot of practice in hiding his feelings, Quentin quickly glanced to where Angelique sat.  Sarah was on the chair's edge, and Barnabas stood behind his wife, a hand resting on her shoulder.  Seeing that Angelique looked a bit pale, Quentin knew that she had to be in shock.  Smiling, Quentin turned to Elizabeth.  "Where's the champagne?" he asked.  Time enough later to discover why Blair was back at Collinwood.
    "Waiting for your arrival," Elizabeth explained, smiling indulgently at him.  "Would you do the honors?"

    By unspoken agreement, Barnabas and Quentin prevented Nicholas from being alone with Angelique for the remainder of the evening.  Both men breathed a sigh of relief when Nicholas rose from the heath bench.  "If you will all excuse me, it has been a long day.  I'm going for a walk before turning in."  He smiled down at the blonde woman on the bench.  "Would you care to join me, Carolyn?"
    "Yes.  I would.  I'll get a sweater and meet you at the door.  Good-night, everyone."
    Nicholas paused.  "Again, Roger, congradulation.  And best wishes to you, Julia."  He left the room, and moments later, the front door closed behind him and Carolyn.
    Sarah had fallen asleep on her mother's shoulder, and Barnabas decided it was time they went home.  After putting on his coat, he lifted the sleeping child into his arms.  "Are you ready, Angelique?"
    Quentin helped her put on her coat.  "Yes.  Good night, everyone."
    "I'll walk you out to the car," Quentin offered, wanting to talk without being overheard by Elizabeth or Roger.

    At the car, Barnabas laid Sarah on the back seat, then fastened the seat belt around her before Quentin said anything.  "I wonder why Blair has come back?"
    "I wish I knew, Quentin," Angelique said, sounding tired.  "I was so certain that he had been destroyed."
    "Whatever his reason for returning," Barnabas said, "it can't be good.  I don't understand why Carolyn when with him.  After what Blair did to Jeb -"
    "Nicholas can be very charming when he wants to be," Angelique reminded him.  "That's why he is so dangerous.  He convinced Roger and Elizabeth that Cassandra was totally to blame for what happened here that summer.  I've no doubt he placed the blame for Jeb Hawke's death squarely on Sky's shoulders.  Willie told me that Carolyn hasn't seen anyone since Jeb's death."
    "She hasn't," Barnabas admitted.  "Let's home she doesn't fall too far under his spell.  I'll try to talk to her tomorrow."
    Quentin looked around.  "This isn't a safe place to talk.  I'll you go so Sarah can get to sleep in her own bed."  He waited while Barnabas helped Angelique into the Mercedes.  As Barnabas moved around to open his own door, Quentin said, "Take care of her, Cousin."
    "I will, Quentin."

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