“Match me…” Gemma stopped herself from rolling her eyes. Grandmother Guri had explained the saying to her a hundred times.

“Love is like a pair of horses. They need the same gaits and to be going in the same direction. Our Ostfold boys are handsome, but I don’t think none of ‘em are heading in the same direction as you,” Grandmother Guri said, tilting her head so she looked like a curious owl.

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“I don’t want marriage right now. I don’t feel particularly inclined to have children, either,” Gemma said.

“I suppose you’ve had the experience already, taking care of your parents as you have,” Grandmother Guri said, squinting up at her roof as the muffled footfalls of her goat moved across the house. “Oh—snow beans! If you want an easier but equally as thankless task, get a goat,” she advised. “Jo-Jo! You get away from that chimney this instant!” Grandmother Guri shouted.

Gemma finished her milk, her eyes crinkling with untold humor.

“Still, I am surprised no young men have taken to flexing their muscles at you,” Grandmother Guri said.

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Gemma snorted. “With the town as critical of my job as it is? Any son that looked twice at me would be paddled by his mama.”

“You’re too critical.”

“You always say a critical person is a sign of weak bones.”

“It is. I wish you wouldn’t be so hard on yourself.”

“You also say if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

Grandmother Guri swatted a hand in Gemma’s direction. “You need to start listening to the important things I say, my girl!”

“Everything you say is important, Grandmother.”

Grandmother Guri gave a great cackle of laughter. “I wish you realized that as a child,” she hooted, but her smile was pleased. “I’m glad you have dreams, my girl. You are a talented seamstress—better than I am, in fact.”

“Grandmother, no—,”

“Now, now, I can recognize a gift when I see it. It’s true. You have a mind for patterns and clothes I have never seen. I would hate to see you waste it, but I would also hate to see you throw love away if you happen to find your matching partner.”

“I’m not going to find anyone in Ostfold, Grandmother.”

“When did I say you had to? Hm? I didn’t! No, what I mean is…you are driven, Gemma. You might not realize you’re looking at your love until it’s too late. So while I’m glad you don’t act like a silly girl and swoon over every boy your age…just be open to it.”

“Be open to being silly?” Gemma pertly said, her eyebrow jutted up in a look of disbelief that Grandmother Guri often wore.

“No,” Grandmother Guri said, smacking Gemma upside the head. “Be open to love!”

“Fine, I will. But Grandmother, I am telling you it will take a man of magic to love me.”

“Don’t make such oaths, my girl,” Grandmother Guri chortled. “Life has a funny way of twisting things.”

“As you say. So, about the dress…”

Chapter 3

“Come in,” Gemma said when there was a knock on her workshop door.

The door swung open. “Oh! My apologies, Gemma, My Lady,” Sissel said when she got a look inside the room. Lady Linnea was as still as a portrait painting, looking out the window. Gemma stepped around the dummy Lady Linnea’s dress hung from. The violet gown was almost finished—Gemma was merely fussing with the fur cuffs on the wide, drooping sleeves—but the elaborately embroidered kirtle was barely started.

“Excuse me. I will return,” Sissel said, almost stumbling over her feet in her effort to flee.

“Your timing is perfect, Sissel. I have something for you,” Gemma said, retreating to a chest of drawers.

“What?” Sissel asked, lingering in the doorway out of curiosity.

“Here,” Gemma said, pulling out what appeared to be a shawl. It was made of small squares of blue and purple fabric—Lady Linnea’s favorite colors—and was warm and thick.

“Yes?” Sissel blinked when Gemma held the shawl out.

“It’s for you,” Gemma said. “I had it mostly finished before I measured you, but I needed to make sure it was long enough.”

Sissel stared at the shawl—a patchwork of expensive, beautifully patterned fabric. “I can’t. It’s too grand for the likes of me. Besides, what would My Lady say?” Sissel whispered, her eyes darting in Lady Linnea’s direction.

“I made it with fabric scraps that are too small to use any other way. I was being thrifty. You wear it like this,” Gemma said, looping the shawl around Sissel’s shoulders and neck. “There are three buttons, here, here, and here, so it will stay on your shoulders and leave your hands free,” Gemma said, buttoning the shawl.

“Thank you, Gemma. It’s beautiful—I’ve never owned anything so soft,” Sissel said, reaching up to stroke a square patch.

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