Chapter 31

Screenshot 1Estelle didn’t remember falling into dreaming; she felt like she’d been dreaming longer than days, longer than years, even… but her dream was nothing more than it ever was: shadows and the sense of feeling around for something.

Screenshot 2A lot of the time, she dreamt warmth and comfort and of being surrounded by gold and white angels. She always knew them, for their voices brought snippets of conversation that had no time or context or meaning.

Screenshot 3—it a secret, now he’s here. I do not understand what it is you see in him. I know he can be charming, fascinating and all that. But he has always seemed rather…

A moment’s hesitation.

“... cruel.”

Screenshot 4He is.” A male voice confirmed.

There was an expectant pause; finally the woman’s voice exclaimed incredulously:

What? No defence for your friend?

Screenshot-39_zps031cac44No… I think cruel is a good word to describe Vaughn.”

The voice paused, quietly searching.

“But I say cruel and think cruel; you are saying cruel and thinking mean or wicked or spiteful.

Screenshot vIt was quiet a good, long while before the female responded again.

I sometimes think if he might be some of those other things, as well.”

Screenshot 6Vaughn is a wild thing, much like a hart or a summer storm. If a storm blows down your house, or breaks a tree, do you say the storm was mean or wicked or spiteful? No, you say it was cruel.

It acted only according to its nature and something was unfortunately hurt.

Screenshot 7“A person is not a tree, Charles. 

Millerna really loved him, you know that. She would have done anything for him. But he left her, as all the others, with no explanation!

Screenshot chMillerna does not know the first note of the music that moves Vaughn.  Do you know how much good it does you when you chase a wild thing?  

None.

It works against youIt startles the hart away. All you can do is gently stay where you are, and hope that, in time, the hart will come to you.”

Screenshot 5Anyone can love a thing becauseThat’s as easy as putting a simoleon in your pocket. But to love something despite? To know the flaws and love them too? 

That is rare and pure and perfect.

Screenshot 9Estelle struggled, trying to make sense of the words, to turn towards them. She tried to find focus, to search for it in the heady black, but to no avail. Sleep stole over her senses once more.

Then there was only darkness, darkness for hours.

Screenshot-1Then, one day, another voice broke through.

“… the sky is dark tonight, and full of stars. One, I see, is shining brighter than the others, its light burns fiercer onto my flesh: GaeaPerhaps fate’s fingertips will pluck me from my sleep and lift me to her shadowed shores…”

Screenshot-3The voice was soft, as if it were reading her a lullaby.

Am I to meet my love upon that land? Does she wait for me there?” 

Somebody… was somebody speaking to her as she lay in this unfamiliar place?

Screenshot-4“… will she fade away with the morning? Will she fade into the sunlight, and blind me to the…

With time, Estelle caught the briefest of glimpses at this angel. It was imperfect, of course, with her keening in and out of consciousness, but it occurred to her that this dark angel of hers looked an awful lot like Vaughn.

Screenshot-5Of course, she did not pause to consider what it might mean if her angel was Vaughn; she simply hoped that he would return again soon.

And, for each of the seven days of her recovery, he always did.

Screenshot-74The weather was mocking him. Truly.

Vaughn Afonsine longed for storm clouds and thunder to gather, for lightning bolts to be hurled down to earth in haphazard chaos. He longed for a gale to come and sweep down the pedestrians strolling by the window.

Screenshot-77The Viscount was in a dark, dark mood. Yet the heavens were remarkably clear. The midday sun shone into the parlour, the bright flowers in the garden swayed slightly in the perfectly mild breeze, a little bird twittered softly upon the windowsill….

It was awful. Just awful.

Screenshot-99He felt like a complete and utter ass. Estelle lay unconscious upstairs in the guest bedroom for the seventh day in a row, her life hanging in the balance as far as he knew, and all he could do was sit and curse at the lovely sodding weather!

Screenshot-85He had been banished hours ago by Millerna who had returned to the governesses’ bed chamber at 8am sharp only to find him draped across the lower end of the bed, sound asleep. She explained that the governess suffered from a previously undiagnosed concussion, but that she should (god-willing) recover well.

Screenshot-16She had been prescribed a further three days of bed rest, which meant no movement and absolutely no visitors. Vaughn was told to go about his business until the governess awoke but, for the next hour, he had continued to pace up and down the corridor outside the door.

Just in case. 

Screenshot-81It was only when Charles had emerged from his study and threatened to push him down the chairs that Vaughn had actually retreated downstairs into the front parlour.

Screenshot-120The Viscount closed his eyes and sighed.

This was a complete disaster. He had come here hoping to gather his thoughts, but now they lay as scattered, as paper pamphlets on a gusty day.

Screenshot-121He had come here with the intention of speaking to the governess alone. He had thought that, mayhap, he could persuade Verity, Millerna or Eries to invite Marielle for tea. After that, he was confident he could find ample excuse to get her alone—

screenshot-1611Underhanded? Perhaps. But luring her unsuspectingly into his company was, Vaughn suspected, a necessary evil.

After all, his previous meeting with the governess had been rather… intense. His words, callous and cruel, had shocked her, stunned her. He doubted she would even look at him, let alone spend time with him.

screenshot-64But when she had told him she would leave he… he had panicked. All logical thought had fled his clouded mind.

And after he had seen her with Charles, well

screenshot-135He had told her to stay, but it had not been enough. So he had tried to persuade in the only way he knew. They way he had persuaded countless women in the past. And yet, this time, he had propositioned her like a desperate man.

Perhaps he was desperate. Who knew?

screenshot-174The slap had been deserved.

Of course, at the time he had been furious, utterly unforgiving and stubbornly self-assured that he had, in fact, not said or done anything remotely wrong or offensive.

Screenshot-99But the fact remained: he had wanted her to stay. He still wanted her to stay.

He wanted to spend time alone with her, to talk with her, to understand her. Dare he say it, having ruled out all other options, he wanted to be her friend.

Screenshot-117Christ, how utterly ridiculous this all was.

Vaughn Afonsine, once the ton’s most notorious rogue, wanted to be friends with a woman— and, for all his experience, he didn’t have a clue how to go about it!

Screenshot-97He cursed beneath his breath and drew himself up. The room was far too small to contain his erratic, nervous energy.

It irritated him, how worried he was. It was incredibly frustrating caring for someone who so relentlessly hated him, no matter his good intentions or heroic deeds.

Screenshot-100After the masquerade, he thought things would be different… he thought that if he had her then this (whatever ‘this’ was) would work itself out of his system.

And yet his heart continued to call out for her. It begged for some kind of… acceptance, and Vaughn did not know when, or if, it would ever stop.

Screenshot-101A knock on the doorframe startled Vaughn from his thoughts. It was one of the Landgraab’s maids.

“My Lord? Lord Landgraab thought you ought to know that Miss Murphy is finally awake—”

Screenshot-13—he had all but sprinted up the staircase before she’d even finished speaking. He exhaled slowly, his hand hovering over the doorknob. Why did he feel so bloody nervous?

Damn it, don’t be a coward, Afonsine. Just apologise

It was his only chance.

Screenshot-14She was standing by the window, staring out of it, her hair loose, the borrowed silk nightgown she wore pooled luxuriously around her ankles, baring a patch of creamy white skin he could not ignore. She looked like a goddess stood there.

Aphrodite.

Screenshot-91Vaughn swallowed.

She began to turn.

Their eyes locked. Widened.

Screenshot-31 And then…

“Where the bloody hell am I?”

Screenshot-28“I— Why are you out of bed?” Vaughn demanded angrily.

“Answer my question!” She barked.

“Oh, calm down, for God’s sake! You’re in Sunset Valley, Landgraab manor. You’ve got a concussion, the doctor says you have to stay in bed for three days—”

Screenshot-34She made an incredulous sound and stormed over to the armoire.

Landgraab manor—? Well, that is the most absurd thing I have ever heard! I don’t care what the doctor says, I’m leaving at once. Marielle will be worried sick! Where the hell are my clothes?!”

Screenshot-19“You are in no fit state be going anywhere. Stop cursing and get back in bed.”

She opened her mouth in objection.

Now!” He bit out over her refusal. Christ, but the woman made him furious with no effort at all.

Screenshot-25“I am absolutely fine.” The governess snapped. “In perfect health, in fact. Never felt better! Now, if you’ll just tell me where—”

“If you do not get back in that bed right now I will put you there myself.”

Screenshot-27Her eyes narrowed.

“You wouldn’t dare…”

Screenshot-22All in all, Vaughn knew he looked a complete shambles, unpresentable in any other circumstance (hair untamed, sleeves rolled up, jacket long abandoned in the parlour) but here it meant he could move without hindrance.

“Oh, but I would.”

Screenshot-29They glared at each other for a moment, unmoving.

After a time, Vaughn’s frown deepened.

“Fine. Have it your way.”

Screenshot-40Before she could object, he had swept her into his arms.

“Wh– put me down at once! Put me down, I— PUT ME DOWN!”

Screenshot-38She struggled fruitlessly, shrieking in his arms. “I cannot believe this! I am being abused! I shall notify the police and they—!”

“—won’t give a damn!” Vaughn finished for her. “Now for Christ’s sake, when I put you down will you please just lie still?!”

Screenshot-64Vaughn placed her, gently but distrustfully, on the cushioned mattress. To his surprise, the governess ceased her rebellious squirming at last and then said nothing.  He drew back, eyeing her with blatant suspicion.

A few moments passed, both sets of eyes narrowed upon the other….

Screenshot-58—and then she darted so fast for the other end of the bed that he almost didn’t catch her.

Faster than his mind could process, Vaughn threw himself bodily over the bed after her with an agility he didn’t know he still possessed.

Screenshot-56He managed to grab her shoulders just in time, pinning her back on the mattress, using most of his body weight as he leant over the bed. She fought back, limbs flailing for freedom.

“You won’t win.” He muttered.

“Damn you!” She hurled abuse freely at him. “Damn you!’

Screenshot-45A few more moments of struggling and then stillness. A stillness during which Vaughn pretended not to notice how flushed her cheeks were from exertion, nor the swell of her bosom as she panted… God, he was so close to her now.

“You will stay in this bed until I say otherwise. Understood?”

Screenshot-67 “A-alright.”

She conceded breathlessly. God, but she looked beautiful, tousled and dewy from sleep.

“You… you can let go of me now…”

Screenshot-50He exhaled slowly, nodded, and relinquished her.

Damned obstinate woman…

It was then that he briefly remembered something… something about coming to apologise?

Screenshot-53Vaughn glanced up to find the governess looking confused. “What’s the matter?”

Estelle blinked. “Do you know, I… I haven’t the slightest clue how I got here.”

“You what?”

Screenshot-60She turned to him, disquiet etched in her features.

“You said I was in Sunset Valley, but… I don’t quite understand. What exactly happened? I… wasn’t I supposed to be escorting Marielle to your house this morning?”

Screenshot-73Vaughn’s eyes widened slightly in disbelief.

That had been a little more than two months ago.

Screenshot-80“Estelle… what is the very last thing you remember?”

“The last thing I remember…” Frowning, the governess shook her head. “The very last thing I remember… is that Marielle had received your calling card, you had… invited her for tea… but Marielle thought…”

Screenshot-62He sat, thinking furiously in an effort to figure it all out before the chance passed.  Good lord, had she forgotten everything? Had she forgotten their argument? Forgotten how he’d insulted her? Propositioned her? How he had infuriated her?

Had she forgotten her decision to leave…?

Screenshot-8Of course.

Her lack of memory explained why she was being so polite to him. Or, rather, why she hadn’t slapped him in the face yet.

Should I tell her?

Screenshot-72His expression must have been one of absolute incredulity, for a moment later she uttered quietly:

“Vaughn, what is it? You’re worrying me.”

Screenshot-10No, he thinks, I can use this…

After all, would honestly really help the situation?

Had it ever?

Screenshot-75Last chance—

The Viscount smiling disarmingly.

“Nothing for you to worry about – nothing happened. I merely invited Marielle over for tea and we had a pleasant stroll in the gardens.”

Screenshot“And how.. how did I…”

Estelle’s hands found their way to her head. They skimmed over a barely-visible bump.

Screenshot-5“Good God, don’t poke it,”

Vaughn chided.

“How old are you? Five?”

Screenshot-4“Seven and Twenty, actually. Yesterday was my birthday.”

She was silent for a moment before she frowned again.

“… I think.”

A/N:  God, I must have rewritten this about a gazillion times. Originally, Vaughn wasn’t in it at all! But I’m happy with it. Hopefully you are, too ^^

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12 responses to “Chapter 31

  • LilyParker

    So excited to see an update! Am I happy with it? Oh, yeah! 😀

    I love how Charles really understands Vaughn. You can tell they’ve been friends forever. Charles accepts Vaughn for who he is and doesn’t try to change him. Vaughn … the wild thing. 😉

    I literally gasped when I first saw the back of Vaughn’s head in the room with Estelle. I love how he was laying across the foot of Estelle’s bed because he wanted to be there the moment she awoke. (And I’m sure Millerna was quite happy to be able to shoo him away.) I don’t know how you did it, but Vaughn is even MORE handsome in this update. *swoons* And his facial expressions are priceless! Can’t wait to see whether Estelle’s memory loss is temporary (my guess). I’ll bet Vaughn’s going to try and get back in Estelle’s good graces again — and not just as friends. If her memory comes back, though, he may be in big trouble. o.O

    • Becki

      I’m glad you appreciate Vaughn’s (sudden and hastily explained) re-appearance. Ah yes, Charles’ very brief appearance was… brief, haha. I’m about halfway through chapter 32 right now (work has been CRAZY, but…) I should have it finished soon, so you won’t have to wait too long to see where the story is going!

      On the topic: Where’s MY update, hm?

      • LilyParker

        Um, YOUR update? *imagines Becki with her arms crossed and tapping her foot* Er, this weekend perhaps? o.O

        I got distracted last weekend, and I can’t write at night after work. Brain turns to jello. It would take me 3 times as long and no one would want to read it.

      • Becki

        Hehe ~ I need inspiration, too! Didn’t you notice that I finished 31 right after your update? A good read is great for writing, I think.

        I totally sympathise – you should just chill after work. Whether it’s out this weekend or next, I’m eagerly awaiting it 😀

      • LilyParker

        Aww … you’re the sweetest. *hugs*

  • parabee27

    All I can say is, when is the next chapter coming out?!?! I loved this chapter and I was glad Vaughn was in it. I hope he learns that the baby is his… Dear god, she was out for so long, and yet she thought she was asleep for a couple of days. I smiled a lot when Vaughn was nervous about Estelle. It makes me think he cares A LOT. I loved this chapter and I can’t wait for another! I have been checking everyday now 😀
    LOL. Your Cantonese can’t be that bad. I grew up in America but I spoke 3 different Chinese dialects and then I picked up English. I learned a few more languages, but yeah I know it’s hard picking up new languages. As I said, can’t wait for another chapter, Chinese New Year is coming up so I have to prepare and I don’t have time for my story sometimes. Busy me 🙂
    I anticipate a new chapter eagerly! (LOL, I’ll be busy preparing but I’ll still post a chapter on my birthday this month XD)

    • Becki

      Soon! I swear! I just need to finish writing the second half, but I should be publishing it… Monday, perhaps? Truth is, I’m not sure how to approach the whole ‘baby’ situation… I’m glad you liked the chapter! You speak 3 dialects?! Whaat? *DIES at the thought* And yay! I’m excited for CNY too! I’m in a similar situation with business right now.

      Well, I’m fluent in… FOOD, haha! I’m honestly pretty terrible – especially considering how good everyone’s English is (on HK Island anyway – sometimes I feel like I’m in America when they start speaking)! But I’ve been here for a while now and my Chinese friend back home in England said my Cantonese is good it’s just my ‘accent’ (although I think it’s because I’m the only ‘Gwai-mui’ he’s ever heard speak it ^^)

      • parabee27

        I’m posting my chapter on Monday because that’s my birthday! 😀 LOL… You’ll improve XD I know what you mean by an ‘accent’ because when I grew up, I had a lot of American friends speak Mandarin (because they had the class) so I always heard flaws in their pronunciation (Not trying to be rude!) Chinese New Year is always soo busy. I have to go buy all the black sesame candy and all that stuff. I cannot wait though! It’s ALWAYS such a huge celebration for my family, so I have to get all the dresses and everything ready and setty 🙂 Lol so busy, but I still have to get the
        ‘Hong Bao’ ready for the occasion!

  • vampireXheart

    It gets really hard to form legible sentences when I’m excited, the words kinda merge together like, Vaughn!! He’s so handsome, and oh my god, Estelle! The memory loss! *Illegal sounds*

    The poses in this chapter though, they look so good. I know that vaughn is meant to be the wild thing, but he really can be quite sweet even if he doesn’t completely understand why. Falling asleep in her bed so he could be there when she woke up, pacing around nervously. I just hope that this memory loss doesn’t backfire on him, but if things can go wrong, they usually do. I loved that they fought, her trying to get away and him trying to force her to stay :p

    But that hair really agrees with him quite well 😉

    • Becki

      I’m hoping you didn’t expect the memory loss… or the sudden re-appearance! I’m gifting you with unbridled Vaughn/Estelle, for a few chapters at least ^.^ He is a sweetheart, deep, deep down. Frankly, I surprised no one was like: “He should have told her the truth – he’s manipulating her!” But I guess maybe we can understand this reasoning.

      I think so too! That’s his ‘unkempt’ or ‘natural’ hair (as I tried to explain it). Maybe I should call it his ‘pulling’ hair, because the last time he had it was the masquerade ball (and we all know how that turned out…)!

  • marsar2

    Sorry I’m so late commenting.

    I loved this chapter. I was missing Vaughan and Estelle’s interactions so much. Their arguments are always so funny, LOL.

    Wow, so Vaughan is willing to be friends with her, and Estelle has a temporary memory loss. This couldn’t get any more intriguing.

    • Becki

      Hey, no problem – sorry for replying so late, I guess ;P I missed them too, so I cheated and brought Vaughn back earlier than I intended to, but I’m glad I did!

      32 is in progress, so hopefully you’ll like the next chapter’s developments, too… 😀

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