Chapter 17

Screenshot-13Vaughn made his way into the dark room.  It had been so long since he had last made a visit that he had almost forgotten how much he hated it in here.

The air was oppressive, hot. The darkness clung to the bones and weakened the will.

Screenshot-52Bartholomeus Afonsine had been a big man before age robbed him. His hair, flat, desaturated in the sparse light was silvery grey, almost white. His skin was washed out, and bleached by age.

A faded shadow of his former self, it was difficult to fathom that he had once been a respected and dashing nobleman.

screenshot-614_zpsdb09367fFalcon’s death had affected all of them, and yet it was the Earl who had fallen to the deepest, darkest depths of grief. Days of suffering became weeks, weeks trailed into months and those months dragged on into years of melancholy.

Screenshot-53He was near-bedridden now; it seemed whatever his illness, it had worsened to a point of no return. Now, the doctors said it was the end.

Now, they could only wait.

Screenshot-48A part of Vaughn wondered if he should feel relieved at the news, but his chest was too tight for him to remember what being relieved was supposed to be like.

Screenshot-3He remembered, in the weeks after Falcon’s death, he would look at his father and desperately yearn for the man to utter something fatherly and soft, the kind of thing that would make everything less terrible.

But the Earl couldn’t even look at him.

Screenshot-17Falcon had been his favourite. He had been everything good about their family, with none of the bad. The Earl had prepared Falcon, groomed him to take over the responsibilities that came with such a prestigious title. If he had still been alive everything would have been different.

Better.

ScreenshotFor his part, Vaughn had always been too wild and wayward for a favourite; too fickle to carry the family burden.

Now his father was left with no choice.

Screenshot-27Even in the years since they had never discussed what had happened. The Earl had blamed him – most likely still did – Vaughn knew that. It had made the knot in his chest tighter still, and their relationship an unresolved hurt he could not deal with.

Screenshot-44Vaughn dreaded every word he exchanged with his father. Every instruction, every piece of advice he received from the man seemed to be laced with a disappointment so acute it made his heart ache.

“I am running out of patience, Vaughn.” The Earl’s voice was like sandpaper to the ears, rasping terribly. “It’s time for you to marry. You must find a wife.”

Screenshot-45It was a shot in the gut. Vaughn had thought the old man would have forgotten. He himself almost had.

“You say it like it is a chore, Father.”

Screenshot-32“It is a chore.”

The Earl rasped, more forcefully.

“It’s a chore sifting through countless, mindless women until you find one who makes you so furious with yourself, you don’t know whether to strangle her or kiss her.”

Screenshot-47“Supposing you were just lucky?”

Vaughn muttered in an attempt to make light of the situation.

Screenshot-16Vaughn!

The Viscount flinched at the authority that remained in the barked syllable of his name.

“This is your duty. You must secure an heir.”

Screenshot-21“I have, perhaps, four years. Give me three sons and perhaps one of them will have a spine on which I can rebuild this family. You cannot and will not run from it, do you understand me, boy?

You cannot run this time.”

Screenshot-26Those words rang hard in his ears. But he was running, at least for now. And he would run until he forgot what he was running for, and then he would stop, and breathe, and break all over again.

And then?

Screenshot-14Then he would pick up the pieces and return to reality, take up the untimely responsibility that had fallen upon his shoulders. He had to; for his father, but more importantly for his brother, who would have done the same.

Duty had finally come along to enslave him, and smother the final dregs of his spirit.

Screenshot-100More than ever he began to remember the oddest things:

Falcon’s soft panting breaths, his laughter, as they antagonised their tutor that one time.

Screenshot-173He remembered the odd sensation of goosefeathers brushing against the skin of his cheek, unleashed from the pillows of his brother’s room as they batted one another into oblivion.

Screenshot-106He remembered those arguments and fights Grinwoody had had to break up with his own bare fists. He remembered competing about the stupidest things…

Screenshot-36He remembered Falcon’s sobbing breaths, holding him so tightly it hurt even after he had stopped breathing.

He remembered a time when Falcon was everything.

Screenshot-117“They say you’re the hero of the hour.”

Vaughn barely glanced up at the sound of Charles’ drawl.

Screenshot-124“Geoffrey’s here.” The blonde lord stated. “He says he has news from Twinbrook.”

“Hm.”

Important news.”

“Hm.”

Screenshot-120“You’re not listening to a word I’m saying, are you? What the devil are you reading that’s so immersive?”

Peering at said tome, Charles read the title aloud.

“An encyclopaedia of phobias…?”

Screenshot-130Charles scoffed.

“Don’t tell me, you think there’s a goblin under your bed again.”

Screenshot-127“Not since I was eight and you told me there was a goblin under my bed, Landgraab.”

Vaughn replied.

Screenshot-138The Landgraab heir chuckled with nostalgia.

“Your brother was so furious when you stuck a candle beneath your mattress and almost set it on fire.”

“… that he was.”

Screenshot-126“Actually, this has nothing to do with me. It’s for a… friend of mine.”

“Oh? And what is this friend so frightened of?”

“… storms.”

Screenshot-155“Interesting.”

Smoothly, he shifted position in the chair.

“Almost as interesting as the story I just heard from your mother. Enlighten me.”

Screenshot-151“There’s really nothing to tell.”

Vaughn said, simply.

Screenshot-136Charles arched a sceptical brow.

“Are you telling me, that you spent nigh on sixteen hours in the company of the same attractive woman who you practically mauled not two nights ago in the music room… and ‘there’s really nothing to tell’?”

Screenshot-114“Nothing happened. You told me not to go near her; I simply heeded your advice. And besides, she doesn’t matter anymore. I’ve changed my mind.”

Screenshot-153“Changed your mind about what?” Charles asked, warily.

The Viscount sighed. “My father has… decreed that I must marry before he dies. Something about begetting an heir…”

Screenshot-139“A veritable deadline, indeed. But Vaughn, what does that have to do with your taste in women?”

“Do you remember how originally I wanted to convince my parents that I was courting Marielle Harrington?”

“The little redhead… yes, I do remember.”

Screenshot-157“Well….” Vaughn fought the urge to grimace. “I think I’m going to have to marry her.”

“What about the governess?”

“What about her?”

Screenshot-146“Don’t play the fool, Vaughn. You’re researching her damned phobias, surely that tells you something.”

Screenshot-140“It tells me that I have too much time on my hands, that’s all.”

Vaughn replied dismissively.

Screenshot-129“Well, if you’re deadly serious about marrying Miss Harrington, I would cut all ties with the obstinate chaperone. You could vye for the spinster’s blessing. Convince her of your… inherent good qualities.”

Screenshot-152“I think it might be a little late for that.”

“Then convince her you’ve reformed.” Charles replied easily. “Beguile her with your generosity, your compassion. And, for God’s sake, apologise for your appalling behaviour thus far.”

Screenshot-144After Charles had left, Vaughn contemplated the idea. Of course, it would be easy for him to play the gentleman, outwardly, at least he had always been one.

But convincing the governess he had inwardly changed over the last twenty four hours..? That might prove… challenging.

Screenshot-147However, he had to do it. He needed her blessing and eventually her permission to court Marielle, otherwise his father would never approve. He would have to demonstrate his ‘new-found morals’ with finesse and charm.

The ball was the perfect opportunity to start.

Screenshot-113But his mind seemed to be screaming only one thing:

Run.

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8 responses to “Chapter 17

  • nuitssombres

    No he’s suppose to be with Estelle:( I don’t like his dad no wonder Vaughn is like how he is. Great chapter and looking foward to the next one!

    • Becki

      I’m glad you find the Earl is so despicable; that’s exactly what I was going for! As for the future of Vaugelle (Estellghn?), who knows what the future holds? Mwahahaha!

  • Beth :)

    Poor Vaughn! If his father is like that I can understand why he is sometimes an idiot. I hope, for his and Estelle’s sake, he doesn’t marry Marielle.

  • sarcastic smiler

    I so badly want to hit the like button for this chapter, but his dad is such an arsehole that I feel ‘liking’ it isn’t appropriate. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore this story, I just want to smack his father. Hard. Preferably with something like a heavy duty frying pan. The sour old git.
    (Sorry for swearing, by the way, I just couldn’t think of any other word to describe him)

  • Lorin

    There is no way Estelle would fall for ant acy he plans on pulling, and I would be in shock if she allowed him to court Marielle. Estelle can deny it to herself all she wants but it would rip her heart to shreds seeing the two of them together as a couple. Him even considering marrying Marielle is twisted, he has to know what that would do to the one woman who has actually stirred up some sort of feeling within him.

    I can’t wait for the next chapter!!

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