Brayden kissed her and gradually moved closer, causing Ana to break into a wide smile as she set the cup of tea and saucer on the table. His handsomely knotted tie caught her attention second, after his gorgeous jawline. “Is it?” “How can I be sure you are in the right temperament, Mrs. James?” They were in the throws of canoodling when a little girl’s loud throat clearing was heard from the open study doorway, causing Brayden to smoothly stand and straighten his jacket. “Alice.” He glanced down at Ana and subtly indicated she had lipstick outside of the lines – obviously caused by him. She wiped her bottom lip before turning on the sofa. “Darling, come see mummy.” “Are you sure?” “Yes,” they both replied. “Because you seemed – ” “Mummy and I were just having a little chat, darling.” Brayden straigthtened one cufflink as he spoke. “If that’s what talking looks like at your age, I’m not saying a bloody word,” she muttered under her breath as she crossed the study. Alice reached her parents; Brayden standing as if to indemnify himself against any overt (read: need-to-get-a-room type of) advance on his wife in Alice’s presence. Anabelle smiled warmly from her place on the Chesterfield. “You finished early.” A look at his watch with a pair of matching raised eyebrows prompted the girl to cuddle into her mother on the sofa. “Father, whilst I appreciate you giving me the rest of the lesson to work on my PIP, I’m afraid one cannot box my creativity into a set period of time. The music simply stopped and so I must bend to its petulance.” “There is only one little girl in this household who bends when she is petulant, and I assure you it isn’t as a result of personifying her music.” “There is only one girl who bends for petulance in this house, Father?” She asked with a bit of faux innocence. She bit her lip and hid in Anabelle’s dress. The parents looked at each other and Brayden cleared his throat. It was the one and only moment thus far that Alice’s biological adult side peeped out for a bit of a cheeky comment directed at the two people she called her parents – it was an ‘I know what you two get up to’ sort of moment. Rightfully so, they all buried grins (except for Alice, of course) and moved on. “Now then, darling, are you going to tell Mummy about your new friend Pip? She sounds lovely.” Ana gave her husband a playful wink – as if parents didn’t talk to each other and report in on their children’s whims, fancies and often downright ridiculous conversations. The question was purposefully asked so that Alice had the opportunity to tell her mother, instead of discovering her parents exchanged information without her being part of it. Alice’s head flew out of its hiding place as she sat up. “Mummy! Pip isn’t a friend! Pip is my piece in progress.” “Ohhh, I see. I’m sorry, I must have mistaken your reference, darling.” She lovingly massaged a handful of the girl’s ringlets. “Father let me have the rest of the lesson to work on my PIP because I played my lesson today without any corrections.” “Did you?” Ana’s eyes sparkled with joy as if she had no idea of the girl’s accomplishment. “I am so very proud of you. Perhaps this evening you will play it for me.” “We shall see. If PIP pops up and decides to distract me, I must give it priority.” “I’m afraid I can’t disagree with that,” Brayden said. “If you feel inspiration to work on your music, Alice, you must tell us so that we can help you manage your time. Understood? We want you to have the freedom to explore this new thing, but you are still expected to mind your manners and be on time for meals.” “Yes, sir. Now may I ask something important?” Brayden and Ana looked at her. “When is the arrival date for Nana and Grandpop.” “No.” Alice looked at him. “No to Grandpop,” he clarified. “He is grandfather, young lady, and you know that was decided months ago.” “I was just trying to be a revolutionary.” “No more A Tale of Two Cities for you.” “Oh Father, do you really think I can’t pick up a bit of avant-garde from any of Charles Dickens’ other books? “Right, my little revolutionary. You can march yourself up to your room and have an hour’s lie-down.” “I need a lie-down? Or you two need a lie-down?” “I can see you’re tired.” “Prisoners never admit their weakness. And by the way, a revolutionary does not willingly march to bastille. I shall go under protest.” Brayden watched his daughter leave the study with her little nose in the air, like a martyr going to the guillotine. “Now her bedroom is a prison? She can be so dramatic sometimes.” “Dramatic, and the most easily broken revolutionary marching to bastille I have ever seen. She is also more observant than we give her credit for.” A little smiled crawled across Ana’s lips. He leant down and kissed her. “Yes, my darling, we were indeed the ones in need of a lie-down. It would just benefit all of us if she also had one.” Cheeky parents. They do what they have to do for alone time.