Chapter 13

Screenshot-3Estelle had never been good at riding. Riding gave her no pleasure, no feeling of achievement or pride in her ability.

Indeed, the only thing riding had ever given her was a sore bottom.

Screenshot-10She gripped onto the pommel and the reins, praying to god it would start raining sometime soon. Perhaps then there might be a chance of remaining indoors for the afternoon….

ScreenshotToday, the guests were out riding around the vast Afonsine estate. Estelle’s particular entourage was a party of seven, with Marielle riding up front with Charles, Lady Afonsine and an unknown gentleman.

Screenshot-5Lady Millerna dwindled slightly behind with Lord Dryden, who, according to the latest gossip, was absolutely set upon courting her.

Screenshot-11Vaughn, ever the elusive host, was nowhere in sight.

Estelle was especially thankful for his absence as the distance grew between her and the rest of the party, simply because, yet again, she felt she had nothing left to say to him.

screenshot-292She abhorred the fact that she couldn’t stop herself recalling it, remembering the way he’d held her in the music room the night before, re-living the sensuous threats he’d whispered into her reddening ears.

Screenshot-2But she did not believe he was falling in love with her; she was certain Charles was mistaken.

Vaughn was a practiced seducer, a Don Juan. Men like him did not fall. Indeed, rumours of his rakish career were rife within the ton.

Screenshot-6Vaughn was a powerful, enigmatic scoundrel. He was also filthy rich. For the mammas of the marriage mart, he was the piece de resistance, the must-have bridegroom for their eager, naïve debutantes.

Screenshot-62She knew of women, debutantes, wives and widows alike, smitten with his graceful negligence, who had given their bodies to him willingly, begged to be taken.

Once she had even heard that one of his mistresses had threatened to commit suicide when he’d tired of her company….

Screenshot-12All of this seemed to add up to one, key question in Estelle’s mind:

Had he ever been refused?

screenshot-99The tension and passion that arose between them every time she denied him seemed to point towards the fact that, until now, he had never suffered the icy barb of rejection. Vaughn had clearly never expected her to turn round and protest.

Screenshot-61The very mystery of their whole tempestuous relationship was so simple. Vaughn was not pursuing her because he was falling in love with her – he was pursuing her because nobody ever denied him anything.

The ridiculous man couldn’t stand the fact that she wasn’t falling in love with him!

ScreenshotShe looked up through the foliage and saw dark, deathly grey amidst the green. It was going to rain, and she was going to get absolutely soaking again.

Good god, why did the weather hate her all of a sudden? She sighed, urging her horse forward to catch up with the others.

Screenshot-8As she made her way through the trees, she caught sight of Charles trotting along, slowly. He turned his horse as he heard her approach, smiling easily.

“You seem to be taking in the landscape far more thoroughly than the rest of us, Miss Murphy.”

Screenshot-31Estelle stopped her horse beside his, returning his smile easily.

“I must admit that my head is still entirely elsewhere. In all honesty, the landscape is the last thing on my mind.”

Screenshot-17“Hm.” Charles regarded her warily. After a moment, he sighed: “I’m sorry.”

Estelle blinked. “What on earth for?”

Screenshot-60The blonde lord patted his horse’s neck absently.

“For drawing your thoughts back to Vaughn again. I can safely say that he is not worth your time.”

Screenshot-20Estelle blinked again, surprised at his openness for the second time that day.

“Oh, I’m not thinking about Vaughn.” She lied quickly. “It’s just I… I think I’m coming down with a cold.”

Screenshot-23“Shall I escort you back to the manor then? The others were going to stop and have tea at the summer house just on the other side of the forest, but—”

“Oh, no, please. I wouldn’t want to take you away from Marielle.”

Screenshot-22The Duke’s heir smiled slightly again. “I assure you it would be no great sacrifice on my part.”

“Please, I’ll be fine. I can assure you I’m quite capable of riding alone. I can find my own way back.”

Screenshot-9Charles frowned again, clearly considering the accuracy of her affirmations. Estelle naturally assumed he would be paranoid about female riders after what had happened to his fiancée.

She waited to be told of her incapability…

Screenshot-13“Alright, if you’re sure.” He said, after a moment, to her surprise. “But turn straight back, no dawdling. It’ll rain soon.”

Estelle nodded. “Tell Marielle not to worry, will you? Although I doubt she’ll mind terribly if she has you all to herself.”

Screenshot-32He smiled, turning his horse. “Indeed. Well, if you run into Vaughn on your way, tell him we’ve gone to the summer house. He should be riding up by now.”

Estelle nodded again, waving as Charles kicked his horse into an impressive canter, hoping against hope that she would not bump into their ever absent host.

Screenshot-20Vaughn loved riding in the rain.

Nothing could compare with how it felt to race his stallion against the downpour, to drink in the rain, to revel in the sturdy, steady beat of hooves upon the earth. He raced through the forest, barely looking where he was going.

Screenshot-21The world rushed past him in a blur of colours. He could hardly breathe, hardly think— 

He grinned to himself, letting the water catch and saturate his hair until it fell flat against his face.

Screenshot-18Then he heard a scream.

It took a moment for the world to stop spinning in front of his eyes, and when it did finally stop, the scene before him unfolded in torturous slow motion.

Screenshot-13The unmistakeable thud he heard over the sound of the rain was deafening. Another horse had momentarily blocked his path. Vaughn realised it had been carrying a rider.

A woman.

He cursed, as he saw her limp, unmoving body.

Screenshot-10Vaughn leapt off his horse, but his heart only truly sank when he saw her face.

“Estelle…” His arms reached under her to instinctively support her. “Estelle!”

She made no response.

Screenshot-24Vaughn began trudging through the downpour, swearing liberally and often. As the sky darkened he tried to move quickly, but didn’t want to worsen Estelle’s condition by mistake; for all he knew, her life could be hanging in the balance.

What in God’s name is she doing out here alone in the first place? Damned foolish woman.

Screenshot-16A part of him was shocked when the cottage came into sight. Vaughn’s back grew cold and tight with some odd feeling. It had been a long time so long  since he had been there…

The cottage had belonged to his brother, Falcon.

Screenshot-17With the utmost caution, Vaughn squeezed inside and quietly shut the door behind him. It looked the same as he remembered but it was so dark and silent and…

Empty.

Screenshot-60He placed Estelle down gently onto the sofa, realising, to his dismay, that her dress was absolutely soaked through.

Her lips were blue.

Screenshot-31Frowning, Vaughn picked himself up and went over to the fireplace and set about creating a fire.

In no time at all a healthy flame flickered to life, gnawing at the kindling.

Screenshot-32“Estelle?” He crouched by the sofa. “Estelle, can you hear me?”

When she made no movement, save the rise and fall of her chest, another soft curse passed his lips.

screenshot-52It was utterly bizarre to think that just that morning she had been shouting at him, apparently revolted by the mere sight of him. Afterall, he had only meant to apologise to her and ask her permission to court Marielle.

Yet she had denied him.

screenshot-45‘I hate you more than any man, beast or thing I’ve ever hated in my entire life. Here are the short, self-destructive words that you will relish in your angry, bitter little world:

I. Hate. You.’

Screenshot-61Vaughn realised that there really was no other choice; kept in the wet clothes, she would definitely contract a fever, and he wouldn’t be able to do anything to help her…

The woman would probably kill him if she woke up now, to an image of the man she most hated, divesting her of her clothing in a deserted shed.

Screenshot-58“Damned wench.”

Vaughn muttered.

“You’re more trouble than you’re worth.”

Screenshot-2Estelle awoke feeling rather like she’d been bashed on the head with an enormous, sharpened rock. She groaned, blinked, then realised that she was not, in fact, in her own bed.

Screenshot-6She shot upright, terrified, and then let out an ear-splitting scream when she saw that somebody had undressed her.

Screenshot-3That same somebody leapt out from around the corner, looking round hastily.

“What?! What is it?! Wh— Stop screaming, for God’s sake woman!”

Screenshot-6Estelle did. She blinked again, several times, her eyes adjusting to the soft glow from the fire. She recognised that voice. Indeed, it was the same voice that had been invading her dreams only moments before.

“V-Vaughn?”

Screenshot-19“The very one.”

“What on earth… Where the hell am I?! What happened? Is Marielle alright? Where is everyone? If you’ve—”

Bloody hell, slow down will you?”

Screenshot-4“But I don’t—”

She broke off, paling rapidly, her eyes wide and unblinking as she stared down at her disclothed body in undisguised terror.

“Did we…?” She trailed off, aghast.

Screenshot-11Vaughn scoffed.

“Don’t look so terrified; please, it’s insulting. You fell off your horse, I simply found you and brought you here. The others have doubtless returned to the manor.”

Screenshot-12“And before you ask, I assume that Miss Harrington is absolutely fine, and no, we can’t go back until morning. The rain is so bloody heavy that it’s sheeting out the landscape.”

Screenshot-19“Fell off my…”

Estelle clutched her head and found a bump somewhere round the back. She swallowed, looking up at her supposed saviour.

“But how?”

Screenshot-10“Lucifer frightened your horse.”

Estelle raised her eyebrows. “Lucifer?

“My stallion.”

She frowned. “You named your horse after the Devil?!”

Screenshot-7Estelle sighed and slumped back. It was still raining heavily, and the low rumble of raindrops on the earth was punctuated only by a thunderous crash.

She flinched as the whole cottage seemed to shake, trying to calm the nerves which cinched tight at the thought of an ensuing storm.

Screenshot-5Vaughn looked over at her. “I assure you, you’re quite safe in here.”

His gaze then briefly flickered down to her bodice before returning. Estelle looked down again, horrifyingly aware of her state of undress.

Screenshot-21Why, waking up here, alone, with him, in her undergarments, went against practically every rule of etiquette she’d ever thought to remember!

“Was it… was it entirely necessary to undress me?”

“Entirely.” Vaughn muttered, unmoved, with no further justification.

Screenshot-15The governess fought the urge to harrumph… but Vaughn seemed disjointed, as if in a separate place far removed from the room.

“Well, surely my clothes are dry by now. How long have I been asleep for?”

Screenshot-65The Viscount looked out the window, to where darkness loomed, black as death, on the other side of the glass.

“Approximately five hours. I would urge you to stop talking, but I know you’ll continue, so there’s really no point. What you must do, however, is lie down.”

Screenshot-24“Don’t tell me what to do!”

Estelle snapped.

“Well, I— it is appalling that you did not wake me sooner!”

Screenshot-14Vaughn smiled slightly.

“I wouldn’t dream of telling you what to do. Now shut up and go back to sleep.”

Screenshot-17She really should have argued, but Estelle found herself drifting back into the abyss almost immediately.

How curious, She thought, to be saved by the man I most despise…

Screenshot-31After everything she’d said to him, Estelle couldn’t believe he still had the capacity to be kind. Indeed, she’d thought him incapable of showing anybody sympathy.

She’d thought him heartless….

ScreenshotAnd just before the darkness claimed her, she cursed fate, because now she owed him her life…

…and God only knew what he would ask for in return.

A/N: Regarding this chapter, I made it especially long to make up for lost time. I’m not happy with it at all, but I thought I should just, you know… GO FOR IT, as they say.

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7 responses to “Chapter 13

  • nuitssombres

    Don’t worry i thought it was hilarious and great haha! Poor Estelle falling off her horse that would hurt thankfully she wasn’t! I thought it was so funny how Vaghn named his horse Lucifer and she was appaled at it, or the situation at the cottage;) I thought she would’ve been more furious at the thought of him undressng her and such but she still was a little mad. Can’t wait to see how it turns out!

    • Becki

      Thank you, I’m glad you found this chapter satisfying! I do try to inject a little humour into the situation… ‘try’ being the keyword there =P

      Thanks for reading x

  • kathleen

    Brilliant as usual! The old wet, cold, unconscious and now he has to undress her trick. A classic that never gets old. Loved this chapter!

  • amberaura

    I really liked this chapter, I love how you add more character depth to Vaughn each update. He seems really confused about his emotions towards Estelle. I don’t usually like blondes, but Charles is a very handsome sim as well! Sometimes I sense that perhaps Charles has feelings for Estelle, too. But anyways, thanks for a wonderful chapter and I can’t wait until the next one:)

    • Becki

      It’s so weird you say that, because Charles’ looks have been growing on me, too (hence his increasing part in the story)! So glad you enjoyed this installment, especially as I was a bit worried that the whole chapter seemed a bit… random.

      (Gah… is it really obvious? I thought I was being so subtle!)

      Anyhu, thanks for reading! Much appreciated feedback x

  • hellohannah2

    *squeals* this is just so good, and it’s so witty and clever too, you truly have a talent for writing. I’m not sure how i feel about Vaughn right now, he’s so damn arrogant but I guess he’s all brooding and damaged and handsome too, which kind of makes it okay *sigh* i can’t wait to see what goes down between him and Estelle.

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