Chapter 14

Screenshot-11When Estelle opened her eyes hours later, she sighed.

What a ridiculous predicament.

How she would manage to explain her way out of this situation tomorrow? She had no clue.

Screenshot-13Vaughn was elegantly sprawled in an armchair around the corner.

His features, usually held and checked so carefully, so often set in a crafted mask that disguised every weakness, every flaw, seemed so different in sleep that Estelle barely recognised his face.

Screenshot-14He looked so… young, so… helpless. The tension and calculation in his brow no longer remained, and those dark, predatory eyes were closed off from the world, seeing nothing but the rapturous darkness of dreams.

He seemed more handsome now than she had ever remembered seeing him.

Screenshot-16Even in sleep he tempted her beyond bearing.

She swallowed as her gaze dropped from his face to his neck, to shoulders that were broad, and arms that were surprisingly muscular, trying to ignore how much her fingers itched to touch his sun-kissed skin.

Screenshot-21It was only when her gaze reached a faded scar which had once torn part of his abdomen and chest, that she realised how ridiculous she was being.

She was acting as if she had never seen a man before!

Screenshot-25And yet, in all honesty, she had never seen a man like him before. For God’s sake, the specimen before her was practically oozing virility, even when he was unconscious.

No, she had never seen a man like him. And she had certainly never met one.

Screenshot-13“It’s rude to stare, you know.”

Her eyes snapped up to his, lazy but intent upon her. His mouth was slightly turned up at the corner.

Screenshot-32She reddened as she summized that he had been awake the whole time.

“I was…”

She stammered, flustered.

“I was simply— your scar, it’s…”

Screenshot-8Vaughn’s smile fell as he glanced down at the scar tissue. Almost absently, his fingers ghosted it.

“I fell into a river a few years ago. There were… rocks.”

screenshot-9Estelle swallowed, recalling the conversation she’d had with Charles earlier that day.

Falcon didn’t listen, stood too long on the thing and it broke beneath the weight of his horse. He fell into the river and drowned. Naturally, Vaughn jumped into the rapids after him, tried to save him. Smashed a few bones here and there…

Screenshot-10Estelle hastily tried to school the pity from her features. Before continuing, Vaughn regarded her for a moment.

He smiled mirthlessly. “You already know, don’t you?”

Screenshot-4To her bewilderment, Vaughn didn’t seem surprised, or even angry. He simply sighed and looked out of the window.

“Of course you know. Everybody knows. I suppose it was Charles who told you?”

Estelle nodded vaguely, not knowing what to say.

Screenshot-11She took a timid seat, quietly relishing the heat of the fire. For a few minutes, both of them just listened to the sound of the rain outside amidst the crackling of the flames a few feet away.

Screenshot-2“Have you…”

His voice caught Estelle off guard, surprising her with its sullenness, its tired air.

“Have you ever lost someone?”

Screenshot-10The question came completely out of the blue, and yet Estelle was not fazed by it. Instead, she spoke frankly.

“My mother.”

Screenshot-14“And were you close to your mother?”

“Well, yes, I… I suppose I was. But she… I lost her when I was nine, so I can’t say I remember all that much about her.”

“Do you… remember her face?”

Screenshot-25“Her face?”

Her fingers crept to the necklace hanging at her neck, as if it still held tangible traces of her mother.

“Well… I think I do, yes.”

c8246316-04a8-4f89-b9ca-5fc85ca42eab_zps2abe8f11Closing her eyes, she formed a picture within her mind.

“At least, I remember she was very beautiful. She had… long, wavy red hair… and her eyes were green.”

Screenshot-19Her eyes opened to find his gaze on her.

“You mean like yours.”

“… yes.”

Screenshot-3Something swelled between them briefly; something that, like so many countless other times, made Estelle shiver. Before she could ask herself what it was, Vaughn spoke again.

“What did your father do when your mother died?”

Screenshot-27“Well… he never spoke about it.” She answered, choosing not to divulge the complexities of her upbringing just yet.

The Viscount certainly didn’t need to know the truth.

Screenshot-9He would only look down upon the fact that her mother had been a Roma. A gypsy. And he would definitely look down upon the fact that she was the bastard daughter of Lord Venture, a revered and respected member of high society.

Nobody else knew, so it was entirely unnecessary that he should ever find out.

Screenshot-26“After my brother died, my father locked himself in his library for three days. When he came out, we’d assumed he’d been writing letters, sorting out the will… but it turned out he hadn’t done any of that.”

Screenshot-61“He’d just sat there. Sat and waited for somebody to force their way in and tell him it was all some kind of…  joke.

A week later, he still couldn’t bear to look at me. He still can’t, even though he knows that soon he’ll… even though he knows I’m the only hope for our family.”

Screenshot-4Vaughn let slip a sharp bark of laughter, a hoarse, terrible sound.

“Actually, now I think of it, that’s probably why he’s always so disheartened!”


Screenshot-12“You know, I can’t see his face anymore. I just… I try, but whenever I do I can only remember….

I can only remember the last expression he ever showed me.”

Screenshot-14“He looked so… betrayed. As if I had deceived him somehow. As it collapsed, as his horse started to scream, his eyes caught mine, horrified, terrified.”

He said nothing. He did nothing to try and save himself… but those eyes. They pierced me. They branded me. Brother. Traitor. Coward. They blamed me.”

Screenshot-9The Viscount sighed after a moment of unsettling tension.

“The truth is, I can remember his face. I can remember everything. I just…

I just don’t want to.”

Screenshot-6Estelle did not try to mask the compassion in her eyes.

“But you don’t have to.” She said softly. “You don’t have to remember all the time.”

Screenshot-24Vaughn sighed contemptuously and turned away from her.

“I don’t have a choice. My entire family thinks it was my fault.”

Screenshot-21“But it wasn’t! It wasn’t your fault. I—”

It was then that the governess thought to utter the words she had sworn she would never admit to him, the very same she’d offered to Charles…

Screenshot-5And yet in this secluded, almost otherworldly place, the words seemed oddly less… hollow.

“Vaughn I’m… I’m so sorry.”

Screenshot“I don’t know why I even told you about all this.”

Vaughn admitted, his voice hoarse.

“I never talk about Falcon. I’ve never…”

Screenshot-24His eyes flickered downward suddenly. When they lifted, his expression was once again opaque – guarded. It amazed Estelle how little time it took for him to gather himself into a ball that nothing could get into.

She felt a chasm of separation between them. Pointedly, she ignored the tinge in her chest.

Screenshot-15“The fire’s going out,” Vaughn announced, apathetic – collected.

And that, Estelle knew, was the last she would ever hear of Falcon. Vaughn had, wonderingly opened up, unprompted, about the death of his brother.

Screenshot-17Throughout their conversation, however, she’d had to keep reminding herself that, though terribly sad, the reason for his behaviour over the entirety of their acquaintance was not reason enough to forget and forgive all that he had done to her, said to her.

screenshot-120After all, the events of that morning still hung heavy in her mind; his callousness, his…

control over her senses.

screenshot-134What you feel now, sweetheart… that’s attraction. That’s lust.”

She bit her lip.

You feel it, don’t you?

He was still, in every interpretation of the word, a dangerous man.

Screenshot-22A moment passed. In that moment, Estelle realised they had shared too much. Now their relationship could never simply be as it had been.

Having shared their pasts, their losses and also in the intimacies… they were no longer simply strangers who had been tangled together in an unpleasant hiccup of fate.

Screenshot-3Now, it seemed impossible that they could forget the other. It was useless to deny the existence of…

Of what?

He had called it lust, but it wasn’t so base an emotion. It was something more… profound.

Screenshot-18Fortunately, neither of them knew just what it was.

Or what it may, in time, become.


A/N: So, originally this chapter was waaaaay longer, but rather than blurt every secret, I decided to tease with incomprehensible snippets.

I hope you appreciated my cruelty ^_^


6 responses to “Chapter 14

  • amberaura

    Great chapter! It’s amazing to see this whole other side of Vaughn developing, I just wish he could be so human all the time!

    • Becki

      Thanks! I wanted to try something just a smidge different in this chapter ~ glad you like it! Initially I feared turning Vaughn into an overly-brooding wimpy-femme boy, haha. (Hopefully this is something I avoided!)

  • Beth :)

    That was cruel. Vaughn is still mysterious as ever 😦 it was good to get to know a little more about Estelle though 🙂 really good chapter, it was really emotional rather than dramatic. 🙂

  • Becki

    For once, right? Usually I’m not one for overly emotional stuff, so I tried to avoid writing anything so heavy that it’d depress you guys to death, lol. I’ll be lightening things up in the next chapter 😉

    I’m glad you enjoyed the little Estelle-revelation. I admit, I have been abandoning here in favour of unravelling the enigma that is Vaughn… something that must change, and soon!

  • Becki

    *her not here, doh!

  • LilyParker

    Another great chapter! I love seeing the different sides of Vaughn and that you chose to let him open up … but just a little. He’s a complicated man, and I like him that way. 🙂

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