Farren hadn't done her research on him? The notion was so absurd it took him a moment to digest the idea. He was certain her family kept track of everyone who was anyone in excruciating detail. He supposed that being Irish his family probably meant they didn't qualify for their usual level of scrutiny. The Abercrombies could be rather insular in their view of the world. As far as they were concerned the days of the British Empire had probably never ended. It had to be getting uncomfortable inside their bubble these days, watching the British sphere of influence of shrinking while others took their place. It was hardly surprising Farren's family had been radicalised.
Still, she hadn't even bothered to look him up? The corners of his lips lifted in amusement and he gave her a slightly lopsided smile. He recognised her admission for what it was, grand and big. She'd disregarded the established wisdom of their social set and just trusted him. It was delightful and unexpected. Of course she'd told him that she loved him, but hearing the words was not the same as seeing them substantiated through her actions. She didn't care who he was and wanted him just as he was. More or less. He was sure the expensive clothes, jewellery and implication of wealth had helped at least a little. Still, this was sweet and romantic.
Declan placed a gentle kiss on her forehead and brushed an unruly strand of her hair back behind her ear.
She was quick to make a little comment about wanting the diamonds now and he struggled to hold back a good natured laugh. "Yes, I know, I've been keeping you waiting. However, there are some things in life that just can't be rushed." He feigned an air of confidence he didn't really feel and tried to look relaxed. He had his plans for proposing to her and while felt a little itch to just be spontaneous here and now were neither the time nor the place. They would wait a little longer. It would be worth it.
Their ascent back up from the vaults was rather uneventful, but Declan enjoyed the moment for what it represented. The calm before the storm. He had mixed feelings about more time with his family. While he was certainly proud of them, there was no denying that they were an odd bunch and unlike anything Farren had experienced. So far she had taken the strangeness of it all in her stride, but that had been just his grandparents. They were easy to get along with. It was the rest of the lot that worried him.
They could hear the O'Dwyers long before they could see them. The voices of Pádraig and Muireann were almost drowned out by the rumbling baritone of his father and the hearty laughter of his mother. He could tell that Lorcan was complaining about something just from the cadence of his speech. The exact words didn't matter. He was being a moody teenager. There was another voice in the mix he couldn't place. Something sweet and syrupy that was unfamiliar to Declan.
"It certainly sounds like my parents are back from picking berries," he said with a sense of gravity that felt altogether wrong for the content of his statement.
And sure enough there they were. His grandparents, his mother and father, his brother and a rather pretty blonde that was not part of the family. She was maybe sixteen or seventeen and looked about as uncomfortable as could be. Lorcan's girlfriend? Declan hadn't known such a person even existed but welcomed the idea as he was sure it would take some of the family's scrutiny of himself and Farren.
They weren't entirely back at the table yet when Fintan, Declan's father, waved at them enthusiastically. He looked somewhat more relaxed than usual, a wreath of flowers woven through his hair, clashing spectacularly with his fancy blue duelling ensemble. His face sported a big smile, which was so alien to Declan he didn't even know how to react. His father never smiled at him. He probably wasn't smiling at him now either, but there was a possibility that he was smiling at Farren. How, well, odd.
"Miss Abercrombie," Fintan greeted with an unusual for him air of formality. "It's really our pleasure to have you here at Dromore Lodge. May I say that you look lovely this afternoon."
Declan was fighting the urge to elbow his father. It somehow felt like he was part of a play rather than his own life.
"You really do take after your mother," Fintan continued. "I can see the family resemblance."
Meanwhile Lorcan was trying to get his brother's attention from across the table. "Hey Dec!"
Weird. Point blank weird.
"This is Stephanie Selwyn," Lorcan introduced as though Declan was supposed to recognise the name. Ever polite he just offered a mild smile and courteous handshake, not wanting to make the poor thing feel more frightened than she already was.
"Declan O'Dwyer, nice to meet you."
Declan turned to Farren again giving her an expression that clearly said he didn't have much of an idea of what was going on either.
"Farren, my brother Lorcan, my father Fintan and well, Stephanie Selwyn." He had to bite his tongue not to make some sort of snarky comment, though he supposed Farren might pick his unsaid words just from the crooked facial expression he gave.
Declan's grandmother meanwhile was busy cutting cake and heaping way too large slices onto entirely too small plates.
"Cream?" She asked rhetorically, before pouring some onto a slice of cake and handing it over to Farren. "I'm sure you'll appreciate this one," she said warmly, "it's a family recipe. And the men decorated it."
A house elf brushed past pouring tea for everybody, milk and sugar included.
Declan caught Farren's eye only managing an apologetic shrug.
Fintan meanwhile continued to speak over the noise, keen to continue the conversation he had started with Farren. "Is this your first time to Ireland? Well, you've certainly chosen a great time to come and visit. We're all delighted to have you here."
It was a strange thing, but his father being nice set Declan on edge in a way him being horrible wouldn't have. It left him with an unpleasant sense of foreboding that something strange or unwelcome was about to happen. He leaned subtly towards Farren and whispered "Whatever they'll do, let me apologise before it happens."