"You need something to put a smile back on your face. Not that I approve of how your father spoils you rotten."
Darcy snorted, her mouth trembling upwards.
"But just to show you how much your happiness means to me, what say I find you a new master of swordplay to continue your lessons -- just until Roger clears away his troubles? Eh? How does that sound?"
"Well, it sounds like a waste of time, because I know everything will be back to normal tomorrow."
"Indulge a silly old man."
"You're not silly and you're not old."
"Ah, me, such flattery. You do have a way with words, my dear." He slid his arm around her shoulders and they walked around the corner in perfect step. "If I were a younger man, I'd lay my heart at your feet."
"Sounds kind of messy, to me."
He let out a bark of laughter and hugged her closer. "Promise me something while I'm out of town?"
When Darcy was a child, she would have instantly said, "Anything!" After all, he was her Uncle Karl, who gave her treats and made it possible to have adventures her parents couldn't afford, and now paid for her sword and self-defense lessons, and filled her head with stories about all the foreign countries and cities he had visited. Now, however, after the danger and heartache she had seen in the cities she had lived in with her parents, and the rescue missions they had renovated together, Darcy had learned caution. Even with her beloved adopted uncle -- who, now that she thought about it, had been the first to caution her never to make open-ended promises.
"If it doesn't get in the way of my classes and my work here."
"That's my darling girl. Always provide yourself a back door to escape through." Van Mournen stopped them, released her, and turned her to face him. "Check on the treasure room for me?"
"Like you have to ask?""Never assume anything, darling." He winked and patted her cheek. "Swords, even the most elegant and ancient, need regular handling. Until Roger comes back and your lessons resume, take out one each day and do some shadow-fighting, will you? Keep your hand in, learn balance, and let the swords know they're still loved, eh?"