Because, no matter how much she kept telling herself she was only seeing things because she was too emotionally attached, she just couldn’t deny the evidence.
So she kept looking for something – anything – that would tell her she was wrong about this. She kept looking for something that would completely reverse everything that she had been trying to hide from.
And Millerna hated herself for asking because she knew that she wouldn’t find anything, that what he’ll say will only further cement the conclusion that she’d come up with and subsequently pushed away, time and again.
It felt like an eternity since she had last seen him in such a way; his eyes, their depth, their unwavering heat. They made her feel breathless. Weak.
Vaughn’s fluid shrug was relaxed. “They used to be better.”
But it’s not enough to really convince herself; because while the debutantes of the season were still lost in their fantasies and daydreams, wondering if they had a chance, Millerna knew the truth.
Why, looking at them, one would think that the unremarkable, languid, pale creature were the only spot of colour left in the world!
Distantly, Millerna began to wonder if maybe she wasn’t a little jealous of the woman’s looks. It was a ridiculous idea, but so probable it drove home to Millerna just how badly things had spun off their axis. Conventionally, she knew she was far, far prettier than this woman could ever be.
Truly, none of it made any sense when she thought about it.
Millerna can’t help but wonder if Vaughn knows he’s almost smiling.
She can’t help but glance at Vaughn at every ball; futilely hoping that he’d lift his eyes and meet her own, that in that one moment he’ll see in her eyes all the things she couldn’t say, understand that he was worth so much more…
Of course, he never did.
The thing is, Millerna knows it’s a fool’s hope. All she can really do is watch, watch from afar and hope that that strange, dark look in his eyes will disappear; disappear and fizzle out as it had with so many other women countless times before.
It was at times like these when Millerna Landgraab truly hated being observant. She hated it because she could see the small, yet unmistakable swelling around the young woman’s abdomen, she hated that she knew what it meant.
It hadn’t been until that morning that the situation had truly reached breaking point.
Verity, the oldest of Landgraab siblings, had always been more prone to take on the maternal role with her siblings, but none more so than Charles – the youngest and only male. She took his announcement with the same doting acceptance as usual.
“Perhaps playing the hostess may even be to our benefit. It has not escaped notice that we have been almost entirely absent from this season’s balls and functions. Countess Afonsine seemed quite put out that you did not attend her end of season ball, Eries.”
“I know you are fond of the Afonsine’s, Charles,” Eries returned, “But I find the French entirely too vivacious for my taste. I am quite cured of seeking pleasure in their company – a sensible woman ought to find sufficient company in herself.”
“Really! Between the three of you, I fear the Landgraabs are getting the reputation of being a rather unsociable lot! And Millerna! I don’t understand why you’re being so awfully difficult regarding the situation at hand.”
As soon as the words left her mouth, Millerna knew she was being petty and childish by flinging it out like that, but the need to lash out at something was stronger.
Verity regarded her distastefully. “She is a human being, Millerna. Be more charitable: there are worse women than she is yet, and many you affiliate with on a daily basis.”
“I absolutely do not care!” Millerna retorted. “She has no claim on my charity.”
Tell me, why must we protect her, Charles? Because that is what you’re really asking us to do here. What is she to you that you would ask us to risk our good name and reputation, all for the sake of a loose woman?!”
Charles’ brow crinkled in confusion and it almost made Millerna’s mouth twitch into a smile. The power of the situation rushed to her brain, sparking off ideas and a dark, amused pleasure that Charles didn’t know.
“I’m going to tell you the truth, Charles. You’re old enough to hear it and I believe you’re finally strong enough: I had hoped that, after the last time, you would realise that this… affection for the underclass brings only pain and despair, for all involved!”
It is not I who will break your heart. If you continue down this path, you will break it again; and in breaking it, you will break our’s!”
“Miss Murphy’s residence is a temporary circumstance. How utterly ridiculous— it’s a wonder anyone would—- for you to even think that I intended to…”
He paused, his voice trailing off into silence. Low and oddly troubled, it seemed on the verge of something so peculiar that Millerna waited, silent and unmoving.
“Millerna, Charles is Count Landgraab and you will respect his wishes. His views may be liberal, but as I recall it if not for those views you would have remained estranged from us.”
Millerna stared at Charles stubbornly for a few moments, waiting for him to back down because Charles always backed off, either in mild laughter or angry silence. Instead, his face remained shuttered into an expression of scowling thoughtfulness.
“I have made my intentions known, Millerna.” He said eventually, “And have nothing else to say.”
Pausing and hating the ice that skittered through her middle Millerna couldn’t understand this. Charles wasn’t supposed to stare at her calmly, to wait there without reaction, he wasn’t supposed to look so… so…
“The three of you are birds of a feather. The Devil can take you all!”
All I’ve ever wanted is what she has.
Millerna can’t name this sudden, horrid urge to do something, anything, whatever she could to get rid of this itchy, uncomfortable feeling. An unidentifiable anger darkened her vision; she wanted to hurt something, break something.
People felt with their hearts: and since this woman was destroying what was left of her’s, Millerna had not the power to feel for her. Why, Charles had an awfully perverted taste to esteem her so dearly.
Would that she could be blotted out of creation, and out of her memory!
When it was she who, like a fool, had laid herself bare and given him her very heart!
— and in return?
Vaughn had taken it and pinched it to death; and then flung it back to her.
She squeezed her eyes shut, but even when she did she still saw them together so clearly.
The absolute worst thing about going back over all the memories is how fervently she wished she could manipulate them, change how she remembers them, so that it’s anyone but… him.
A/N: A belated Merry X-mas (and a futuristic Happy New Year)!
I know I’ve been away for ages (I won’t bore you with excuses), anyways, I just knew I had to release something before 2014, so I hope this suffices… for now.
Please don’t kill me, Chp. 31 is in progress!
❤ ❤ ❤