For breakfast she’d been given some kind of herb-filled broth that smelled so strongly of grass she could barely swallow it.
In other words, her stomach was completely fine. And utterly empty.
Daydreaming of bacon and eggs, she looked to the ceiling and sighed. It must have been past lunchtime, but the doctor had given the house staff strict orders not to disturb her. Inevitably, at some point she would receive another course of grass-soup.
No. She would not stand for it. Something had to be done. She no longer felt any pain or dizziness; in fact she was practically energetic. She simply hated lying in bed all day and, without any visitors, she felt quite disconnected from the world.
The look they shared only served to remind her of her feelings for him. Of the passionate moments they had shared together over the past few months…
… perhaps they really could fall in love.
Estelle did not even realise that she had started wincing. All she knew was that she had to get out of this bedroom! Damn it all, she just had to. Dark-haired Viscounts be damned!
And she had to do it without anyone else noticing, or else it was grass-soup for the rest of her days.
Which way were the stairs? Oh dear, this was a bad idea…
Then she heard noises— A piano? — and she followed the direction of the sound without much thought. There was something fundamentally… personal and at the same time so very masterly in this playing that whomever the pianist, Estelle was sure that they may be called a really perfect virtuoso.
As she tiptoed across the shining floors, she heard maids were gossiping about the footmen in the rooms she passed, in another the footmen were gossiping about maids. In the last room she crept past, she heard the same beautiful music she’d heard from upstairs.
She couldn’t help herself. She glimpsed inside.
“Indeed, it is true,” A jovial, plump lady in green silks replied, “But I have never before had the pleasure.”
Very single note was played with the highest degree of taste, in the noblest sense of the word. When he embellished, which he rarely did, it was a positive miracle of refinement.
Distantly, Estelle remembered an encounter in the Afonsine’s music room. She remembered playing, and only the vocalisation of his disgruntled discontentment had made her aware of his presence in the room. Suddenly she felt very, very embarrassed, for she knew herself exposed as rather inept.
Her heart had swelled with victory as she descended, when she realised she was in the front hall. The servant’s kitchens should be at the bottom and back of the house.
Bread. Freshly-baked bread.
She was close now. So close. Just a couple more steps and…
It was just what she wanted.
It was just right and yet… a bit of jam would make it perfect.
Estelle searched eagerly for the elusive jam. Of course, it just happened to reside on the top shelf. Although rather tall, Estelle was sure that, even en pointe like some kind of voracious ballerina, she would be unable to reach it.
“Damn it all.”
Estelle froze. She knew the voice but hoped she was mistaken.
Anyone but him, please God…
“Miss Murphy, I will give you to the count of three to convince me as to why you are out of bed.”
“Well you see, I—“
“I’m bloody starving, alright?!” Estelle finally snapped.
He paused, swallowing.
And then he laughed.
Estelle was annoyed that he had intruded on her little picnic, and yet the sound of his laughter, low and gentle and free, made her see the humour in the ridiculous situation, and she began to laugh too.
“Well I am! Oh, I was desperate!”
Vaughn managed finally.
“How the hell did you get past Miggins? Either you’re spectacularly quiet or she’s losing her touch.”
“Was it the grass soup?”
Estelle blinked. “Well… yes, actually.”
“I, too, have had that unfortunate honour. You see, Mrs. Miggins is my housekeeper. She was also nanny and physician, when called for. I had her accompany me here.”
Estelle frowned a little.
“I was not pilfering anything, I was looking for the jam.”
She tried not to notice the way the muscles rippled slightly in his forearm as he leaned on them, nor the bulge of bicep underneath his shirtsleeve…
Estelle snapped back to reality. Vaughn was holding the jam out to her, gesturing for her to take it.
She took it and quickly averted her eyes. She didn’t dare glance at his face, not when it was so close to her own.
His dark eyes reflected the candlelight and glinted with something completely unreadable.
“You really should be in bed.” Vaughn said, rather seriously.
— and oh Lord, it was simply heaven.
She took another bite, savouring it.
“Whatever is the matter?” She asked, concerned.
“I have never heard any lady enjoy their food quite so… audibly.”
“Was I making noise?”
He had never heard a more erotic sound in all his life. The governess, the same governess who always insisted on propriety above all things, was now sitting in front of him, mewling in subtle ecstasy.
All thanks to a bit of jam!
… would she even know how she could stir a man’s desires?
His imagination suddenly conjured images of laying her down on the table, touching her everywhere, his palms grazing gently over her, his tongue tracing the pulse at her neck, drawing desperate, fevered, frenzied sounds from her lips.
He heard her say, rather surprised.
“Sorry. I had no idea. It just tastes so delicious, I—“
Stop thinking about it.
But his imagination had moved on. It simply would not cease. She breathed his name, reached for him, and he would splinter her into a thousand shards; teasing, touching, over and over until they both shattered into ecstacy.
She was his.
Unthinking, his gaze rose to hers before he could banish those sinful images from his mind. He watched as she saw the look, undisguised, in his eyes. Watched as her lips, impossibly full, parted as she drew breath.
She blushed, but he doubted she even knew why. How could she possibly know?
He wanted her more than anything he’d ever wanted in his entire life.
Will you let it be said she is your concubine? Or worse, your whore? She will find herself an outcast among politely nodding people.”
She was too good for somebody like him, he knew that. He’d had many women. He’d even grown rather fond of a few, but… she was everything, and all at once. She was beautiful, intelligent, witty, brave…
And stubborn, of course. Stubborn as they came.
He wanted her.
Estelle’s eyes widened slightly as their gazes held.
“I think I’ll go upstairs now. I’m… feeling rather dizzy.”
Let her go. He thought of Charles’ words. He thought of Lily. Now.
The governess blinked several times. “N-now?”
“I thought perhaps this evening.”
This time he would do it right.
“I….suppose so. Yes, that would be lovely.”
She had actually accepted.
“Oh, and Estelle…”
He spoke after her gently. She turned to look back to him.
“If I see you out of that bed again, I will tell Miggins to put you in a straightjacket.”
A/N: This was quite soon after the last update (for me anyway), right? I also discovered Mermaids are a part of IP, so I gave Vaughn and Estelle a little shipwrecked pirate/mermaid makeover ^^
Thanks for reading, as always. ‘Til next time!