Chapter 15

Screenshot-4Estelle watched in silence as Vaughn put another piece of wood on the fire.

“That’s the last one.”

“The last one? But… how will we keep warm?”

Screenshot-74Vaughn flashed his first genuinely rakish smile of the evening, albeit more sombrely than she’d previously seen him do so.

One activity comes to mind.”

Screenshot-63Estelle made a noise of exasperation to disguise her blush at the insinuation.

Well, he’s certainly back to his old self.

Screenshot-65Vaughn’s smile widened.

“Well, I don’t see you putting forward any ideas. Frankly, I’m rather shell-shocked you haven’t start gibbering about my ‘crudeness’ yet.”

Screenshot-17Estelle frowned.

“Well there are bound to be more blankets somewhere. Or perhaps I should just throw you on the fire. That would save me a lot of trouble.”

Screenshot-136Her stomach dropped in terror a second later, horrified that she had spoken her thoughts aloud.

Screenshot-61To her surprise, an undeniably attractive laugh was drawn from the Viscount.

“I’m sure it would save a dozen people a lot of trouble. But I’m very boney, you see, and rather a waste of kindling.”

Screenshot-86The governess couldn’t hold back her amusement at the earnestness of his tone, and chuckled before she could stop herself.

She had never imagined being like this with him, laughing with him freely, as if they were… friends. She felt as if she must be dreaming.

Screenshot-22She noticed him watching her intently when she sobered.

“What is it?”

He continued looking at her. The moment stretched.

“Why haven’t you married?”

Screenshot-92“I beg your pardon?”

“I want to know why you’ve chosen not to marry.”

Screenshot-26Shaking her head, the governess guffawed. She couldn’t quite get her head round the turn in conversation.

“Well, I… you can’t really, honestly think that this… spinsterish way of life is a choice?”

Screenshot-137Vaughn merely shrugged, smiling still.

“Educate me.”

Screenshot-100Estelle sprang up, suddenly very irritated at his ignorance, at his nonchalant phrasing.

“I’ll have you know, my Lord, that some us have more pressing things to do than prowling ballrooms most nights looking for a spouse with a suitable dowry! Some of us have to work for a living, and don’t have the time to waste!”

Screenshot-110Vaughn didn’t look surprised by her passionate reaction.

“And, to be quite honest,” she continued, “after all the gossip I’ve heard about mistresses and abuse and the prison-like terms of engagement, I seriously doubt whether—”

“You’ll ever marry at all?”

Screenshot-106Estelle blinked a few times, opened her mouth, closed it again, and then swallowed.

“Well… yes.”

Screenshot-130“So… you have chosen not to marry then.”

Vaughn concluded after a moment.

Screenshot-97No, no, no. I said—”

“What you said,” Vaughnn interrupted, “Was that after considering all the gossip that, I must tell you, is only partly true, you had chosen not to marry.”

Screenshot-99No,

She spat.

“I never said that I had chosen anything; I said that I doubted whether I would marry, thus implying—”

Screenshot-115“—that you don’t want to marry.”

Vaughn finished for her easily.

Screenshot-102“Ugh! Well, what if I don’t!?”

She demanded, disregarding her previous argument and lack of clothing.

“What if I don’t want to be a man’s possession!?”

Screenshot-93What if I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in a man’s shadow? What if I want to do something, be something, be…”

She grappled for the words in the empty air.

“… independent?!”

Screenshot-104“What if I want to be loved,” she implored, “and not merely… kept?

Is that such a terrible thing?”

Screenshot-111The Viscount was staring up at her, his curious eyes dark and intent, watching as the firelight warmed the hue of her ivory skin.

“Surely if you married for love then all of those things would be possible.”

Screenshot-114Estelle smiled in spite of herself.

“It’s quite funny really, you know. The rich envy the poor because they can marry for love, but really…they must marry for love. There’s nothing else that binds them; no dowries, no titles… no demands save those of their employer…”

Screenshot-113“I… I have this wonderful choice that the gentry can’t have… and yet, at the same time, I have no choice because… because if nobody chooses to love me… then…”

She trailed off.

Screenshot-10“There are plenty of substitutes for love.”

She heard – or thought she heard – the Viscount mutter.

Screenshot-20A few moments later, the fire extinguished completely, the embers dying from orange to deathly black.

The speed at which Estelle felt the cold was startling. So startling that she quite forgot the thread of the conversation. She crossed her arms about herself in a sorry attempt to warm up.

Screenshot-109Vaughn frowned, watching her. “You can’t possibly be cold already?”

Estelle sniffed at his superior tones.

Well, forgive me for the inconvinience, but you musn’t forget that I’m hardly wearing—”

Screenshot-63—any clothes.

She failed to add, swallowing.

screenshot-90_zps98a45e26Suddenly, a bolt of lightning lit the room and a thunderous rumble shook.

Estelle let loose a high-pitched squeak, lost her balance slightly, and promptly began to topple over.

Screenshot-13She fell into a brick wall. Or rather, a person who felt particularly like one.

“Easy.”

Vaughn muttered, effortlessly stopping her from falling, bringing his arms around her to steady her against where she’d fallen; against his chest.

Screenshot-16Estelle turned away, thankful for the darkness, because she was certain she’d gone as red as a tomato.

“S-Sorry…”

screenshot-95_zpsf54320c0She was about to move briskly away when another bolt of lighting cracked the heavens outside. Estelle squeaked, inadvertently spreading her hands across the broad expanse of bare shoulders, clutching onto them for dear life.

In her petrified state, she realised that it was comfortingly… warm. Solid.

Screenshot-12She released a shaky breath, unconsciously moving deeper into his embrace. His arms tightened around her.

“Are you alright?”

screenshot-116_zpsd4672a41Forcing herself back to reality, Estelle remembered that she had been trying to move away. She had to get away. She must get away from him quickly. Otherwise he’d find out—

A thunderous boom broke the rain’s tattoo on the window.

Screenshot-5“Oh God!”

The governess cried, clinging onto the form in front of her instinctively. She didn’t even care that it went entirely against propriety, she was so frightened.

So lost in memories.

Screenshot-8“You’re just full of surprises, aren’t you?”

Came the low, apparently rather amused, rumble against her ear again.

“It’s alright, sweetheart, it’s passed now. It’s alright.”

Screenshot-126He attempted to move her away slightly, but the governess flung her hand towards him desperately, whimpering.

“No, don’t— don’t leave me, please…!”

Screenshot-22Vaughn looked down, with growing concern.

“Estelle, what—”

screenshot-44_zpsdb76d3c4Another deafening crash sounded. The governess squeaked a final time before suddenly collapsing against him.

Vaughn stifled a curse as he swept her into his arms, doing his best to ignore the complete lack of clothing between them.

“My back can’t take much more of this, you know.”

Screenshot-6Her face was an expressionless mask, the anxious crease between her brows relaxing with every moment. It appeared that the very consciousness had been drawn out of her by her own fearsome reaction to the storm.

Screenshot-31After securing her in his embrace, wondering what in hell’s name had just come over the most steely-nerved woman he knew, he turned to the sofa beside them and laid her down upon it.

Screenshot-76However, as he tried to peal back, she made a noise of distress and, seemingly still half-asleep, reached out in an effort to remain with him.

Don’t leave me…” She whispered, pleading.

“Come on, chick, it’s better this way, you’re—”

Please—”

Screenshot-64Please… 

—echoes in his head, over and over—

Please just…please don’t leave me behind please, awgod I’m sorry—!

Screenshot-77After a few seconds, he released an exasperated sigh.

“You never make things easy for me, do you?”

Screenshot-128Sighing again, he carefully sat. Immediately, she huddled against him, whimpering as another rumble of thunder shook the cottage.

“Shh, it’s alright.”

He murmured, not really knowing what else to say in the current situation.

Screenshot-81After a few more minutes of trying to settle her, he leant his head against the backrest of the chair, figuring there was little more he could do. Feeling the unmistakable claws of fatigue digging at his senses and dragging at his consciousness, he closed his eyes and felt himself falling.

Screenshot-80He was only awake a few moments longer, but before he dozed off, could have sworn he heard the governess mutter one last plea against his skin:

“Please come back… Mama.”

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6 responses to “Chapter 15

  • ahnpan

    Can’t wait for the next chapter! XD

  • amberaura

    Wow! looks like they both have a lot of issues from their pasts! How sweet of Vaughn to comfort her, I look forward to the new chapter:)

  • nuitssombres

    Sorry i havent commented in a bit i’ve been really busy with sports but anyways this was a good chapter because you see them really connect in this one, especially with their pasts coming out a tad and other things. I noticed you havent posted in a bit so i hope it’s soon because your story is amazing:)

    • Becki

      Well I’m glad you took the time to catch up 🙂 I’ve been pretty busy too recently (hence the lack of updates). I’m happy you liked it! The last two chapters were so tough – the whole ‘transition’ in the cottage was very, very delicate!

      Thanks for reading!

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