What a ridiculous predicament.
How she would manage to explain her way out of this situation tomorrow? She had no clue.
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.
He 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.
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.
She was acting as if she had never seen a man before!
No, she had never seen a man like him. And she had certainly never met one.
Her eyes snapped up to his, lazy but intent upon her. His mouth was slightly turned up at the corner.
She stammered, flustered.
“I was simply— your scar, it’s…”
“I fell into a river a few years ago. There were… rocks.”
…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…
He smiled mirthlessly. “You already know, don’t you?”
“Of course you know. Everybody knows. I suppose it was Charles who told you?”
Estelle nodded vaguely, not knowing what to say.
His voice caught Estelle off guard, surprising her with its sullenness, its tired air.
“Have you ever lost someone?”
“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?”
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.”
“At least, I remember she was very beautiful. She had… long, wavy red hair… and her eyes were green.”
“You mean like yours.”
“What did your father do when your mother died?”
The Viscount certainly didn’t need to know the truth.
He 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.
“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.”
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.”
“Actually, now I think of it, that’s probably why he’s always so disheartened!”
I can only remember the last expression he ever showed me.”
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.”
“The truth is, I can remember his face. I can remember everything. I just…
I just don’t want to.”
“But you don’t have to.” She said softly. “You don’t have to remember all the time.”
“I don’t have a choice. My entire family thinks it was my fault.”
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…
“Vaughn I’m… I’m so sorry.”
Vaughn admitted, his voice hoarse.
“I never talk about Falcon. I’ve never…”
His 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.
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.
Throughout 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.
…control over her senses.
She bit her lip.
“You feel it, don’t you?”
He was still, in every interpretation of the word, a dangerous man.
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.
He had called it lust, but it wasn’t so base an emotion. It was something more… profound.
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 ^_^