A/N: Thanks for voting everyone! It was horrendously close but in the end the result (51.85%) was that Estelle should be pregnant!
Given that I got feedback from a number of hopeless romantics I’ve changed the original plan slightly, hoping to appease them, so it won’t be apparent straight away.
The best physicians in the country were mystified by its manifestation. In the end, he had decided that it was simply easier to make his peace with his condition.
Undoubtedly, his insomnia came in handy at times when his restless craving for knowledge got the better of him. On any other night, he would have been sitting quietly, nose already buried halfway through a novel…
However, on this particular evening he was able to get very little reading done.
“Well?” Charles had asked. “Who is it?”
The footman sniffed in distaste at that. The man had always been comically rigid and snobbish, surpassing his employers in both respects.
“Should I send her away?”
Charles set his book aside. Only one woman in his limited social circle could possibly fit that description.
“Bring her in.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
The footman quickly returned with Estelle at his heels. Charles’ eyes widened as he caught sight of her dishevelled appearance. Her face was a ghostly white, her hair a tangled mess and there were vivid dark circles below her eyes.
She looked ready to collapse at any moment.
After writing so many times, I became familiar with this address and I—”
Charles motioned for her to sit in the armchair by the warm fireplace. The servant re-entered the room and offered some tea, which was gratefully accepted.
“Take your time with that, why don’t you?”
“I apologise if I seem rather shaken, but I received some rather shocking news earlier this week. You see… my has father died.”
“I… see. I’m sorry there is nothing I can do to ease your pain, other than offer you my sincere and deepest condolences, Miss Murphy.”
Estelle’s voice grew tight, as if forcing herself to speak.
“I—I don’t know how else to say this, so I’m just going to speak plainly.”
And she proceeded to enlighten Charles as to all the shocking developments that had transpired so recently. She began with her mother’s obscure origins, her childhood in domestic service and then later concluding with Mr. Cressingham’s rather queer revelation.
But then, they do say that blood is thicker than water, do they not? Maybe that is why we battle our own with more energy and gusto than we would ever expend on strangers.”
“Leave us.” He commanded quietly. “I would talk to my guest alone.”
“As you wish, my Lord.”
Estelle had difficultly keeping her features unruffled as she watched the man leave. She knew a servant’s penchant for spreading gossip faster than wildfire. No doubt that particular lot of information would be the talk of all the pub common rooms by tomorrow morning, known to ten noble Houses by midday, all of them by nightfall.
Estelle’s mouth dropped in utter mortification. “No! I should never have come here in the first place! I couldn’t possibly—!”
“May I be frank with you, Miss Murphy? I think it would be in your best interest to stay here at least until this news is more widespread within the ton.”
A silence fell upon them and stretched.
“You think some kind of ill would befall me should I leave? He would not dare do something so drastic.” Least of all to his own relative.
“I daresay your faith in mankind is greater than mine.”
Estelle shook her head.
“I-I refuse to believe it. A man of his stature wouldn’t risk doing something so illegal!”
“I have been acquainted with the man for many years, Miss Murphy. I do not mean to sound ungracious, but please believe me when I say I can assure you that the man takes full advantage of his position.”
Frustration was mounting under Estelle’s skin.
“I’ve done nothing to make an enemy out of him. Don’t you think it would be quite unreasonable of him?”
But, as she really thought about it wondered if Charles might be right. This man had, no doubt, spent most of his life worming his way into his great-uncle’s good graces to secure himself as the man’s heir.
Then, after all those years, he had been cheated out of his inheritance by an unknown. The fact that she was a woman and a lowly governess would no doubt be the icing on the metaphorical cake.
And as I’ve said, Irving Linwood is not a genteel man.”
Was she still breathing? She couldn’t be sure. Her chest was slowly expanding up and down, but she felt so disjointed from her body that she wasn’t certain it was aptly performing its vital functions.
Her blood suddenly felt like it had been replaced with icy water, circulating through her system with an indescribable dread.
Was that man truly her father’s closest male relative?
All she wanted to do was release the backing well that was mounting inside her chest.
But her mind was so dispersed right then that she needed to be cared for.
Her veins ached and crooned for it.
Charles lowered his eyes abruptly.
“I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
There was not a single trace of fear in her body.
But she felt so cold.
For a moment Charles looked rather hesitant, his lips folding in as if trying to fortify his next sentence.
“… I’m… concerned for you.”
It was one of those rare moments when Charles’ wariness was completely visible. There was a knowing look in his eyes that told Estelle that he had witnessed his sort of unethical behaviour many times before. He knew better than anyone what incensed members of the ton were capable of.
It would not sensible to doubt him on this; he was clearly trying to help.
The Landgraab heir flashed one of his disarming white smiles.
“So, you see, you really must stay, if only to ease my conscience!”
With his fair, angelic coloration and pensive, amiable expressions Charles formed a rather sweet picture. Maybe it was wrong to feel this way after only knowing this man for mere months, but the tangled heaps of Estelle’s mind prayed for a saviour.
“I… I thank you for your kindness, Charles.”
Estelle nodded again in thanks.
The fire was burning low and Estelle shifted closer to it for warmth. She was just beginning to realise how cold she actually was after the long journey to Charles’ manor. The walk from the port had been farther than she had expected.
But it was a relief to be here: warm and looked after.
She wavered as the world darkened.
Distantly, she thought she heard Charles’ voice, as though muffled through silk, calling out her name in frantic tones.
Barely conscious, her mind pricked at that, fighting to stay awake for a moment, helplessly reaching as she fell foward into something solid, but warm. Every fibre of her being yearned to collapse and sleep until all the pieces of her mind waded back into their respective slots.
Charles’ voice faded into nothing.
He held onto her nevertheless.
A/N: An update! At last! Also, I just realised that this blog is over one year old – crazy!
Also, just some shameless advertising: if you want something else to read in between Suitor updates I’ve began working on my other Sims story which can be found if you CLICK HERE.
Thanks for reading, as usual!