Chapter 34

Screenshot-5“… and so the marriage was not born out of love. It was a deal. A debt. A price to pay. Fate led them both to the altar with a heavy hand, and eclipsed the once heady glow of choice…”

Screenshot-7Vaughn had been reading to her for the past two hours, and it had been wonderful. As he read, his voice flowed over each word with the poise of a skilled actor, each syllable carried through an array of tones and timbres.

She had never heard his voice like this before; it was beautiful as his piano.

Screenshot-204But the book he had chosen was so very sad, and Estelle had begun to grow rather upset at the fate befalling the characters in their distant little world.

She sighed deeply, shaking her head.

Screenshot-11At the sound, the Viscount looked up from the tattered book resting in his hand, his features etched with concern.

“What’s the matter? Shall I stop?”

Screenshot-134“Oh, no, please don’t. It’s just so… tragic. With the young girl separated from her world, her family, and the King torn so cruelly from his kingdom, his brother, his father.

And now the young Princess has been forced to marry the warlord… it… it’s…”

Screenshot-95“It’s life, I suppose.”

She concluded sadly.

“Fate – and duty – demands what it will, and sometimes we have no choice but to obey.”

Screenshot-233“There is always a choice.”

For a minute Estelle thought Vaughn had began reading from the book again, yet when she looked up she found he wasn’t. His gaze was on her, dark and intent.

screenshot-134_zps1e16185c

I have no choice. 

There is always a choice, Estelle.

Screenshot-66_zps22734d60Her eyes widened in recollection.

There was a flash; a slap.; a memory; a face.

His face.

Screenshot-52She stood, pointing a finger at him, before she even realised what she was doing. Her eyes narrowed as she tried to remember.

“… when did you say that to me?”

Screenshot-56The Viscount’s expression did not change. “Say what to you–?”

“Did I… did I hit you?”

“Estelle…”

Screenshot-108 The governess’ eyes narrowed further. “Did I hit you?”

“What in Gods name are you—”

Tell me!”

Screenshot-241“However much you may have wanted to hit me in the past, you are yet to manage such a feat. And indeed, if you had, I’m sure it would sit most profoundly and steadfast within your memory.”

Screenshot-185“You should sleep,” he suggested. “Your head is seemingly not healed. I’ll bid you goodnight.”

Dear lord, had she actually managed to offend the man? She hadn’t done that in quite a while.  “No… wait.”

“You need rest.”

Screenshot-165“Please, Vaughn! I-I’m sorry. I just… thought I’d remembered, that’s all. I didn’t mean to insult you. I simply…”

Her words trailed off as she glanced up at him, catching his eyes again. The candlelight, somehow, made his gaze impossibly darker.

Screenshot-177She averted her gaze again, unable to look into his eyes for more than a few seconds. Ever since that afternoon in the kitchen, she had not stopped thinking of them.

Of that one look.

Screenshot-244_zps326b4ff9She’d had to leave the room because of it. To run away from the sin that those eyes had promised…

And it didn’t make the slightest difference that she had tasted that sin before.

Screenshot-138She swallowed and settled back down on the bed, unsure.

“You would tell me if you knew anything… wouldn’t you?”

Screenshot-155He met her gaze, eyes edged with something too foreign for her to read.

“You can trust me, Estelle.”

“Oh, but I do!” She hurried to explain. “It’s just that…”

Screenshot-247Then, eyes bright and creasing, he was unavoidably smiling at her – truly smiling – and it produced such unexpected and crystalline shock for the way it made her feel to see it.

Screenshot-214He’s never smiled like that before —never seen it on his face, not for me, no one has ever… 

He’s never looked at me like that.

Screenshot-226She looked away, trying to forget the sight of it and unable to—

“… I’m sorry. It must have been my head playing tricks on me.”

— unable, it seemed, to even think anymore when it came to Vaughn.

Screenshot-39This was killing him.  She’d called him a coward once; well now he was certainly acting like one.

Even so, he simply could not bring himself tell her.

Screenshot-75If she remembered everything he’d said to her, how he had propositioned her in such a way… well, needless to say he would probably get another slap at the very least.

And the rickety bridges he had rebuilt between them would surely collapse into dust.

Screenshot-149He closed his eyes for a moment, schooling his features into blankness.

No, she didn’t need to know. Things were… simpler this way.

Better.

Screenshot-68He turned to face her. The candlelight was casting a golden sheen upon her porcelain skin, her green eyes glowing with concern.

“Please, won’t you read to me a little longer?” She implored.

Screenshot-219Vaughn swallowed, glancing down at the book in his hands and then away.

“I really should leave you alone. Tomorrow we will continue–”

“But supposing we do not see each other tomorrow—” She interrupted earnestly.

Screenshot-235The Viscount could not help it; he smiled faintly.

“I’m almost certain you will live to see another dawn. And so, once more, I bid you goodnight.”

Screenshot-132“Yes, but… I am almost recovered! Should I leave in the morning… If I don’t hear the end of the story by then, I will never hear it and… and that would be…”

The governess trailed off and began to grow more and more restless.

Screenshot-63“That would just be… awful.”

Vaughn stared at her, knowing full well that he should definitely exit the room for both his sake and hers, but knowing that he would also take great pleasure in reading her the rest of his brother’s novel.

Screenshot-284After all, she was the only person he had ever shared it with…

“We will finish it next time.”

He said softly.

Screenshot-189“Next time?”

The governess released a mirthless laugh.

“Surely you know as well as I that we will not see each other again.”

Screenshot-45His reaction was, he feared, visible. The flash of surprise that lit his eyes, the way his entire body went taunt for a moment, the way his lips parted slightly…

He knew she had seen it.

screenshot-241_zpsafc3fe69She had talked of this in his parlour before she disappeared from his life. Indeed, it had been the very reason why, the very spark that had set the fire ablaze between them. He had asked her to remain her, he had implored her to stay on as his mistress.

And what had followed, he did not wish to re-live again.

Screenshot-83His lips moved, as if to say something, but he found he could not utter a word.

If she were to remember…

Screenshot-130Estelle laughed weakly.

“Oh, do not look so shocked, my Lord. You’ve always known I couldn’t stay on in your household after you married Marielle.”

Screenshot-27He sat, continuing to hold her gaze in silence. She was looking at him almost… expectantly.

Perhaps in her subconscious memory she was awaiting his plea for her to stay.

screenshot-120_zpsbbf8382e“Is that all you have to say?”

“Don’t go.”

“I have no choice.”

“There is always a choice.”

Screenshot-147The memory induced his stomach to drop. No, this time would be different. He wouldn’t let things escalate. They weren’t going to fight about this. They had to talk

Vaughn searched his mind, trying to find the right thing to say at a time when everything had to be said.

Screenshot-276“Have you ever seen the sea, before the sunrise?”

Estelle blinked, once, very slowly.

What?

Screenshot-188“Back home in Barnacle Bay, the lights go out one by one, the stars fade, then the horizon glows, almost like it’s on fire. It spreads… first to the sea, then to the sky, brighter and brighter until everything glows.

It’s really very… beautiful. I know you’d like it.”

Screenshot-202“I’d like to see that.”

The governess said quietly.

“… someday.”

Screenshot-118“But you can, Estelle.”

His mind was a roaring void, and he willed it to stay like that. He didn’t even know what he was saying, except that he had to say it.

“We can both go.”

Screenshot-96Estelle’s eyes flickered shut and Vaughn feared that he’d overstepped, somehow, that those words were the wrong ones even if they were true; but he couldn’t look away from her – he didn’t think he’d ever win at that game – and watched her pale face twist and struggle.

Screenshot-243This was the moment to seize.  He should tell her that he wanted her more than anything; enough to walk away from all of it, enough give up everything he had ever known…

Marielle Harrington, the ton, his inheritance…

Screenshot-102Vaughn’s mind did an odd little twist. Briefly he set to wondering what his mother might think if he abdicated and turned merchant after this night, never to be seen within society again.

What would they tell his father, that old man imprisoned by illness in his dank rooms?

Screenshot-72Something akin to sorrow – or even anguish – rose in him. Reality seemed to fragment around him as he found himself torn in two directions, incapable of moving without destroying an integral part of his self.

Mother… Father… I don’t want to… but…

Screenshot-289“…. I can’t. I’m sorry… but…”

Estelle resolutely avoided his gaze, her face hidden in the heavy fall of her hair.

“I just can’t, Vaughn… I can’t go.

Screenshot-46And, absurdly, Vaughn thinks she’s serious she said my name— something just as odd and strange and meaningful.

“… of course.” He said, barely hearing the words.

Screenshot-4The moment in which to tell her, he realised, had passed. 

He wondered what she’d taken of his sentiments, half-formed and unfinished. Did she think he had meant to recruit her merely as Marielle’s lady’s maid? 

Screenshot-215He approached the bed where she lay, gently resting his brother’s book on the bedside table.

“Then, in case my predictions are inaccurate: this belongs to you now. Consider it a token to… remember me by. Take it.”

Screenshot-213The governess gaped. “But I didn’t mean for you to— I couldn’t possibly—!”

Take it.”

She moved, but her hand faltered as reached for the book. “A-Are you quite sure—?”

“I will not offer again.”

Screenshot-93She took it gingerly and stared at it before closing her eyes. She held it close to her, as if it were a most precious treasure.

“I will cherish it.”

Screenshot-283“… thank you.” She uttered, almost shyly.

The words, said with such sweetness as he had ever heard, made him want to take her face in his hands and kiss her until she was breathless.

Screenshot-103At that moment, Vaughn could not honestly say why he had decided to give Falcon’s book to her. It was the object he had taken no small amount of solace from since his brother’s death, the words scrawled in Falcon’s own meticulous hand.

Screenshot-287… and yet, it seemed only right to give to her as they parted, since she had expressed such fondness for it. But why it seemed so right, he simply could not say.

He only knew that the sight of her with his brother’s book made his chest contract painfully with something he dare not acknowledge.

Screenshot-252Looking back, there were, without question, many things he could have said in farewell that day. Perhaps “you’re welcome”, or “please do not thank me,” maybe even “it’s been a pleasure”…

But only one thing had seemed right, slipping from his lips as they brushed against her lily-white knuckles.

Screenshot-295The door closed with a soft click.

Au Revoir.”

Until we meet again.

A/N: Phew! So I thought this was another swift update, but it turns out the last chapter was published 19th Feb? What. 

(09/03/14: So this post had comments disabled for some reason unknown to me (annoying!), but that’s sorted now! Feel free to comment away ~)

Thanks for reading x


16 responses to “Chapter 34

  • parabee27

    Lol. When I checked, it said comments were disabled. Well anyways, great chapter. I don’t even know what to say. I guess there is good and bad in Estelle’s memory loss/gain. If she pieces everything together, then Vaughn is in big trouble. Amazing chapter!

    • Becki

      I know! I really don’t understand why it disabled comments suddenly. Took me a while to even realise… Stupid wordpress! Yeah, I know what you mean – not much really HAPPENED here to comment on, I guess.

      Anyways, thanks for reading (as usual, lol) x

  • marsar2

    Wow. Vaughn was really thoughtful in giving Estelle such a present, which obviously means so much to him. It’s very telling of how much he’s growing.

    I loved the character development in this chapter <3.

  • Taina

    OMG…where’s the rest!?! This is so very good! Estelle doesn’t notice that she’s “fatter” than usual? She’s almost 3 months now…and Vaughn, wake up! Tell her. Ugh!!! I LOVE this story!

    • Becki

      Hey Taina, thanks for reading (and all of your lovely comments ^^)! I’m working on the next chapter as we speak! You shouldn’t be waiting too long for the drama to continue!

  • vampireXheart

    Aw if Estelle thought that the book was tragic, she obviously has never read this chapter. My heart goes out to Vaughn, he needs to find the words to say to her, and make her listen. His character has really grown though, you can really see it in this chapter, he was willing to throw it all away for her, not just ask her to be his mistress.

    Even Estelle’s character seems somehow softer, and calmer.

    Great chapter, I can’t help but think this would make like a great, book or tv show.

  • Leah

    When will there be an update?

    • Becki

      Hi Leah,

      Not 100% sure yet! I’m writing the chapter still, so next week probably. Sorry, but life is soooo hectic right now.

      Thanks for reading ^^

  • parabee27

    I don’t mean to be rude or anything, but is there going to be another chapter soon? It’s been quite a while, and I understand that life might get in the way, but will there be an update soon?

    • Becki

      Hey! I’m so, so sorry! Hopefully I’ll have one out in the next fortnight. I’ve been travelling throughout Japan this last month and I only have access to internet via my mobile phone, but when I get back home I promise that I’ll get started asap! Thanks for your patience x

  • Becki

    Okay, so I’m finally back home and I have internet access, beautiful internet access! Yup, Japan is b-e-a-utiful! Not sure what my favourite place is: Kyoto or Tokyo. Sapporo (which everybody raved about) was actually kind of meh. We also met some… interesting people. How were your travels?

    Also, update on it’s way! Laptop is in the repair shop as we speak ^^

    • parabe27

      Hi! That’s great! I love them all equally. Did you go to Hokkaido?

      • Becki

        Yeah ^^ Sapporo is the ‘capital’ of Hokkaido. It was surprisingly cold. Food was the best thing – the ramen and sushi there really is above par than anywhere else in Japan.

        Anyhu, I’m FINALLY back. I had a few graphical issues but I resolved them and a Cursed and Suitor update is underway ^^

  • Kimberly

    update coming soon? I’ve missed this story immensely.

    • Becki

      Hi!

      I’m soooo sorry! I’ve been away travelling with only my phone for internet, but I’m back now and I’ve started working on an update. Early next week, for sure!

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