Author Archives: Becki

Chapter 37

Screenshot-119Estelle didn’t give herself time to even think. She didn’t want to think. It bothered her to think and it bothered her that she didn’t want to think. She shoved all thoughts aside except one and continued walking. I have to leave.

Now.

Screenshot-112In the middle of her worry a door opened quietly. Estelle knew she hadn’t made any noise but as Charles entered the room his head turned toward her. She could see the curve of a cheek in the wan light and tousled hair. His eyes, attuned to the darkness, suggested he had been awake for some time.

“You should be sleeping, Miss Murphy.”

Screenshot-120The Count strode through the shadows toward her. Suddenly he stopped short; over here, Estelle realised, there was enough light to make out distinctive features.

He frowned briefly. “… are you alright?”

Screenshot-46Estelle let her eyes rise to Charles and nodded, speaking hoarsely. “I’m fine.”

“You don’t look fine. You look sick.”

“It’s nothing. It’s just… It’s just a fever. That’s it. It’ll go away soon.”

Charles moved forward with outstretched fingers. “A fever? Are you sure you shouldn’t—“

Screenshot-80Estelle jerked her face away from Charles’ hand. Something rolled over in her stomach and she couldn’t help thinking: What would he think if he knew what I have done?

“Don’t touch me, please don’t— I’m fine. Really…”

Screenshot-113Charles regarded her silently. A part of Estelle wished Charles would ask again, just so she could finally say what was wrong, maybe even talk about it. Paradoxically she was relieved when he didn’t.

“I don’t often take the time to chastise others,” he began eventually, “But there are two things that I would like to say.”

Screenshot-62“The first is that you were half-dead when you came here and you have clearly not recovered as of yet. I know that I cannot force you to stay but you are clearly are unwell; surely you comprehend that it is as inappropriate as it is cruel to worry others by needlessly putting yourself in danger.”

Screenshot-111“I suspect that you’ve regained your memory of recent events,” The Count concluded and Estelle flushed, her shame ignited. “Why else the midnight flight? Do you remember what we discussed the night you arrived here?”

“Um, just bits and pieces,” She admitted, carefully.

“But you do remember.”

Screenshot-45“And Vaughn still doesn’t know.” Charles appeared deeply dismayed by the news; a thousand ‘whys’ resounded in the pitch of his voice.

“Do you really think that’s fair?”

Screenshot-16“I know, Estelle. About the child.”

It struck her like a physical blow. Estelle knew she should show some outward reaction, but she couldn’t. She just stood there, helpless, wishing she had something to chase away the dull fear that was rising in her throat.

Screenshot-46He knows. About me. About Vaughn. About… everything. One breath and then another turned into a frustrated sob and she couldn’t stop shaking, couldn’t stop thinking—

Charles waited, watching her carefully. “It’s not too late, you know. You can still talk to Vaughn about this…”

Screenshot-37No,” Estelle choked out, “I can’t— I just can’t

Because to speak to Vaughn would mean that she would have to get near Vaughn again, and that was dangerous – the previous night – no, their entire acquaintance – attested to that.

screenshot-124_zps61e53bc6He’d raise a rakish brow and mutter something appropriately devastating that would niggle in her head until she was left with the half-attempted thought on how it could still work between them. Vaughn lied and manipulated her. And now she was doing the same: lying so he wouldn’t do something disastrous.

Screenshot-67“Maybe that’s for the best,” Charles conceded sadly. “Strictly between you and I Earl Afonsine is a domineering man, and is forever threatening Vaughn with disinheritance if he does anything even remotely against his wishes.

It would take a lot for him to sever those familial ties.”

Screenshot-101“Estelle, I know this must be difficult to hear but you will have to make some important decisions and soon. Arrangements can be made; these situations are not complicated, simply tedious. In fact, within the ton they are far more commonplace than you think.

Of course, I cannot force you to stay here, but I believe it would be in your best interest to do so.”

Screenshot-84“I have not been idle these past weeks. I have been tallying a number of contacts – influential people who can be persuaded to see the injustice of your situation – and some who may be willing to support your entrance in society. I have two options, which, if you accept either, would be more than enough to ensure your safety. But I’m afraid you might not like what I have in mind.”

Screenshot-87The Count swallowed, gauging, before continuing:

“We’ll need the backing of a particularly influential family to support you. Only they can make arrangements for a birth in complete secrecy and find you employment thereafter.”

Screenshot-17“In these circumstances, Countess Afonsine would be your greatest ally.”

As it sank in with icy teeth, Estelle heard herself gasp: “What?

“The Afonsine’s hold considerable sway within the ton. I caution you, many will not take action without strong inducement.”

Screenshot-2“The Countess is very family-orientated and will easily persuade the Earl to adopt his grandchild. Much like Vaughn, his mother can be very persuasive.”

Mother. The word touched something in Estelle so cold that it froze on the point of impact.

Screenshot-76Charles’ approach the to next topic was considerably more reticent.

“Then there’s the other option, which relates to the clause in Lord Venture’s will… the one that requires you to marry.”

Screenshot-38Estelle immediately spun round, scandalised. “What are you saying, Charles? No respectable gentleman would ever agree to such a thing. No promise of wealth will convince a man to take on a-a—”

She simply couldn’t bring herself to say the word. Bastard.

Screenshot-135“You do yourself an injustice,” Charles countered. “You are not low-born by any means. Your father was a respectable gentleman from an established family, which is always looked on favourably. Fiscal considerations influence on marriages more than you would believe. I doubt there’s a man in the ton who would not benefit from such an arrangement.”

Screenshot-62Estelle could hardly speak, she couldn’t words with emotion choking through her. “Just… just what are you proposing?”

“A proposal.”

Screenshot-30“Think about it: through marriage you would have your rightful inheritance, a powerful name and the independence that comes with it. You could keep your child, if you so wished – a child which would one day inherit the Venture Estates and a life of privilege.”

Screenshot-10A life of privilege. Not like me. Not alone and afraid, not growing up alone because it’ll have me

With the shock of recent events, Estelle had forgotten just how much Charles had done for her. Now he was offering her a way out – a new life. A life with him. Even knowing her shame. She wanted choices, she needed them. Now, if she wanted to, she could have them and the control over her own life she had always craved.

screenshot-14_zpsaa45439bUnbidden, his words reached her through the darkness, feral and frightening.

You are dirt.

You belong in the gutter.

You should feel honoured that I want to fuck you.

screenshot-384_zps080834e5Next, her own father’s words.

You are nobody.

Nothing. A motherless gypsy foundling. 

Screenshot-65What Charles was offering her… it was far more than she deserved.

“Estelle…” His eyes were immeasurably sad.

Screenshot-116“Estelle, you’re crying.

And she couldn’t stop it when everything came crashing down on her – frustrated tears blurred her vision and she couldn’t stop them. Everything felt so out of control; she felt hot, cold and nauseated all at the same time. A helpless, pointless hurt bruised up inside of her.

Screenshot-11“I don’t know what to do—”

Even as the words left her mouth, Estelle was horrified. She wished for nothing more than to stop the display of weakness, but her hands shook too much to cover her traitorous mouth. I’m worthless. 

“I don’t know w-what I should do, Charles.”

Screenshot-10I can’t go anywhere like this— not if I faint every second. I can’t stand this. What am I supposed to do?  She hated the fact that there was nothing –absolutely nothing – she could do.

And Vaughn will be here… everyday, he’ll be—

Screenshot-41I’m stuck here, Estelle thought bleakly,  And I’m not good enough, even if… I’m not good enough.

The hours stretched on, ticking away into silence.


A/N: The first update in foreverrrrr. Better late than never though, amirite?

If anyone is still out there, please let me know your thoughts. I need inspiration, so please give any suggestions.
Thanks for reading! x

Liebster Award

Hello everybody!

So I’ve been away for a while and in that time it seems I’ve been nominated for not 1, but 3 Liebster Awards!!! My thanks to LilyParker (Jill’s 100 Baby Challenge) , theeyesofbecca (Thornheartsims) and vampireXheart (The Ravenwood Legacy)!

b1e59-liebster2

Okay, questions – let’s get started!

Why do you write?
I think this is because I generally don’t have another creative outlet and, with The Sims being a sandbox type of play, I think creativity comes naturally to people who play in order to keep the game interesting. I’d been playing forever before I decided to turn one of my unpublished ‘legacies’ into a blog/sims story – for example, the Afonsine family from Suitor.

What other things besides writing do you do and enjoy?
I love to travel and I do this quite often (I’m talking real travelling here – it’s all about hostels and being on the move  -none of that poolside/beach stuff :P). I also enjoy the simple things in life, like reading and walking my dog.

What is your favourite book and why?
This is SO hard! I love books that really stay with you and the two that immediately spring to mind are Wuthering Heights and (more recently) The Broken Empire Trilogy. They’re both dark, bleak stories but there’s something in them that really resonates with me. I just love that bittersweet stuff.Broken-Empire

Is there a published writer you would love to meet and who?
Not one that springs immediately to mind, to be honest. I go to quite a few book signings so I think I’m good 😛

How does being nominated makes you feel?
Surprised, flattered, happy ^^

What scene in your story caused the most controversy among your readers?

I’m not sure about controversy (I feel like sometimes that can cheapen a story if done in an untactful way), but maybe the most shocking was in Suitor when Estelle was attacked by a nobleman and the aftermath.

Where do you find inspiration for story lines?
Imagination and, weirdly enough, expansion packs. Both Suitor and Curse of the Red Thread were inspired by the Supernatural expansion pack and Midnight Hollow, with it’s gothic/steampunk undertones and the introduction of magic. Also other bloggers and literature – I actually started Curse of the Red Thread because I liked the darkness of the Ravenwood Legacy and how it explored the occult.

Do you have any other story ideas brewing besides the blogs you’re currently publishing?

YES! I decided not to start it though, since I’m rubbish at updating the two stories I already started. It was about a college dropout who gets entangled in a complicated love triangle. I actually made two of the three main characters when I was procrastinating! See below:

Screenshot-3

The tagline was going to be something like: At the most inopportune moment in his life (boy) meets the woman of his dreams. Not too long after he meets the man of his dreams too (…strange, he never even realised he had one). Did love – and life – always have to be so complicated?

Screenshot-9_zpsqfxvzrbwIf you were to spot one of your male characters across the room without knowing anything about him, which one would be most likely to catch your eye?
Although he’s technically/physically too young for me I’d say Hiro from Curse of the Red Thread. Everything about him is almost too perfect – ethereal, unnatural and somewhat inhuman – that would make my eyes instantly seek him.

Have you written from both male and female points of view? If so, which do you prefer, and why?
I have! I honestly like writing both equally. I try to write female emotions more openly while my male characters brood inwardly. I have brothers and have noticed this difference between us (i.e. I tend to react to things more emotionally and they’re much less so). It’s fun (and challenging) to write like that sometimes as it can skew how people interpret a characters thoughts and feelings. I think a prime example is my introverted Charles Landgraab from Suitor. It’s a very ‘does he, doesn’t he?’ situation that I never expected to develop!

If you could recreate the sims 4 base game, what features would you include or change (graphics, seasons, open world, rating etc)?
The reason I didn’t purchase Sims 4 is because of the lack of open world. I feel like this is a huge step back for the franchise and it gave me horrible flashbacks to the Sims 2 and those long waits on each loading screen! Otherwise, I’m pretty much the only person who liked the change in graphics. I thought it looked unique and quirky. Lack of customisation of clothing kinda sucks though.

I’ve not been doing so much reading recently so I bet most of them have already been chosen, but my favourite stories are:

Jill’s 100 Baby Challenge
A Pair of Brown Eyes
Ravenwood Legacy
Twisted Colour
Bloodlust

This is hugely lazy, but I want to ask the same questions I was asked, so my questions are:

  1. Why do you write?
  2. What other things besides writing do you do and enjoy?
  3. What is your favourite book and why?
  4. Is there a published writer you would love to meet and who?
  5. How does being nominated makes you feel?
  6. What scene in your story caused the most controversy among your readers?
  7. Where do you find inspiration for story lines?
  8. Do you have any other story ideas brewing besides the blogs you’re currently publishing?
  9. If you were to spot one of your male characters across the room without knowing anything about him, which one would be most likely to catch your eye, and why?
  10. Have you written from both male and female points of view? If so, which do you prefer, and why?
  11. If you could recreate the sims 4 base game, what features would you include or change (graphics, seasons, open world, rating etc)?

Chapter 36

Screenshot-105“Estelle—” Vaughn’s breathing had picked up a notch but it wasn’t all excitement now. He sounded… uncertain.

“I want this, I really do.”

“You’re shivering.”

“I want this, alright? I mean… I thought you’d… maybe…”

Screenshot-132Vaughn took a long, unsteady breath before finally pulling away. “Perhaps just… not tonight, at least. Not right now…”

Estelle felt a bit of her excitement ebb, nervousness crept up her spine as she realised that time was ticking away and they—

Screenshot-154Tonight. Vaughn had said. Not tonight.

Do you really think… that there’s a future… beyond this? 

But she couldn’t ask Vaughn that question.

Screenshot-137I don’t understand you and I hate it. I hate you so much right now. I might never be with you like this again, so please….

Don’t take this away. Don’t take this away from the both of us.

Screenshot-31They watched each other silently, utterly still save for their ragged breathing. Every silent second that passed by, the tension grew between them, as did that unbearable heat and an indescribable, incomparable need.

Screenshot-11The sound of Vaughn’s rising breaths made her bones feel light, something warm had slipped into her ribcage and Estelle wanted to laugh – a dizzy kind of joy that it was. Her heart began to beat uncomfortably hard, something sinful fluttering within her; she could not help but release an audible gasp as his skin made contact with her own.

Screenshot-17She had not felt so desperate for another person’s touch in her life. She hated him. Hated what he had done, but…. but it was as if she could not go on breathing if he did not kiss her. As if she would die if he didn’t hold her…

She felt too weak to fight it.

Screenshot-15Estelle fought the urge to cry out as his lips took hers. All she felt in that moment, all she had battled tirelessly against him for months, was a longing for him so acute that when he finally touched her she was fit to burst, to blaze, to run away and yet hold him impossibly closer.

Screenshot-10She knew it was wrong, that it went against everything she’d ever swore she’d never do; she knew that tomorrow she would despise herself, despise him, but his kisses, all liquid fire and sinful promise, drew every shred of doubt and fear from her blood. She had to know him again.

She had to live just once more…

Screenshot-73“Vaughn… you know that I— I…”

But she couldn’t say it.

It hurt to breathe as she thought about it, saying it was simply impossible.

Screenshot-41In the end, there was only one thing she could tell herself:

Tomorrow I will run. I will run and never come back.

Screenshot-108Vaughn did not kiss her gently. Tonight there was no time for gentleness. Or hesitation. Tonight he understood was the only chance they’d ever have. She’d admitted everything to him. This chance was one he must take – now.

… or else face regret every damned day of his life.

Screenshot-18It happened fast; her fingers sliding into his hair, his hand at her breast, her unrestrained gasp of pleasure. He drank in her sighs as he began to gather up the white fabric up and over her thighs. He wanted to see her in the shadowed moonlight…

Screenshot-26But she suddenly froze in his embrace, her mouth leaving his bereft, breath coming light and quick. It was then he remembered that she was untutored, untainted by anybody.

Anybody but him.

Screenshot-31He watched the conflict burn in her eyes, watched as she waged battle within herself. He waited for her to flee.

He had no choice but to let her.

Screenshot-148Then the prim, proper governess who had berated him and slapped him for his desires reached for the strings that tied her nightgown together, fingertips shaking as she loosed them, one by torturous one.

Screenshot-34Vaughn swallowed as the garment began to gape open.

The silk slithered over her skin in the most hypnotic dance he had ever witnessed.

Screenshot-62And there she stood.

Silent. Bared to him.

A vision in the candlelight.

Screenshot-60She only looked at him, imploring, unknowing, unaware of how unbearably beautiful she looked in that moment. He had dreamt of this for months, and he drank in the sight of her.

All of her.

Screenshot-67He went to her, pulling her against him none too gently. His lips claimed hers hungrily, deeply, hands at her hips, her waist, her soft skin wielding to his touch. She was so warm, so smooth, he felt he might go mad if he had to let her go.

Screenshot-159Her breath was short and fast but Vaughn could think a bit clearer and a few things occurred to him: the first, that this was Estelle, and being with her – knowing it was her – was better than he could have imagined, to this, Marielle Harrington couldn’t even compare; but the second thought was vastly more real and devastating and it was that this might never happen again.

Screenshot-122Vaughn pushed that sliver of fear into the darkest corner of his mind and focused on Estelle’s body, kissing her back and shoulders. He wanted Estelle to enjoy this… he wanted – if possible – to erase from  her fraught nerves whatever it was that the solicitor had told her.

Screenshot-161He made it last. He drew every touch, every cry, every sensation as far as it could go, and stayed with her, all the while desperate to take her, to make her his. Estelle shuddered with every touch, as if she were torn between pleasure and something else that might have been pain, or nerves peeled rawly.

The noises she made, shocked, aroused, breathlessly carnal, would haunt him for years, he was certain.

Screenshot-123He relished every gasp, every moan, and delicately sinful sound he could draw from her. When his mouth close around her breast, she arched into him, into the evidence of his desire, and breathed his name.

It was his undoing.

Screenshot-168Without another thought, Vaughn gathered her in his arms as he had done just days ago.

This time, however, he did not intend to leave her side.

Screenshot-71He placed her before the fire. Finally, the tenuous hold he had over his self-restraint fractured, and he began to shed the last cloth barrier between them.

Screenshot-10_zps95b5dc40Then, with a tenderness he hadn’t known he could harness, he lowered his lips to hers and kissed her; soft, sensual and craving. Her response in kind was sweet permission.

He moved above her.

Screenshot-85One swift stroke, and they were joined.

Estelle cried out at the suddenness of it. A thousand sensations speared through every nerve ending in her body. She gasped for breath,  the feeling of the uncomfortable pressure shocked, stunned her.

Screenshot-87“Don’t—

Vaughn’s voice was rough, deep. The sound of it, thick with desire, made Estelle’s belly tighten. His eyes were darker, more animal than she had ever seen them.

“Don’t move…”

Screenshot-2Then there was friction—

Oh

—glorious friction

Oh God…

—as he stirred to life above her, inside her, and the tender sting melted away.

Screenshot-176She clutched his shoulders as undeniable pleasure bloomed. The pressure inside grew warmer, heavier, deeper, more feverish, more desperate, more… incomprehensible. He held her hard as he took her over and over until she began to learn the dance, began to rise and fall with it, shaping her body to his.

Screenshot-173With an earthly, desperate sound, he grabbed her hips and positioned her so she could take all of him—

They crashed through the burning, blinding zenith together bodies entwined every nerve-ending aflame, mouths searching, seeking, struggling for breath.

Screenshot-92When it gradually subsided, they could only hold each other —exhausted, elated, terrified— knowing that nothing would ever be as right, as sweet, as simple as this…

Two souls meeting in a storm.

A/N: Sooo… er… What do you think?

I know it’s not very long, but since this story is all desire and longing I felt like I had to do a proper love scene at some point. 


Chapter 35

A/N: I’M ALIVE! I was on hiatus, not dead; aren’t you glad? XD I hope you didn’t think for a MINUTE that I’d left this story in the proverbial graveyard!

Screenshot-46“Lord Landgraab hopes you don’t mind terribly that he took the liberty of moving you, you know. He knows the room is rather small, but there is some truly beautiful scenery in this area that makes him very fond of visiting this place…

When you’ve sufficiently recovered, I’d encourage you to explore the grounds.”

Screenshot-54Estelle looked around her ‘small’ room, at the soft feather bed with an enormous headboard and silk curtains tied back around the bedposts. On the other side of the room stood a luxurious vanity and two large dressers, all made of the same fine polished wood. There was also a sliding door which looked suspiciously ike the entrace to a walk-in closet.

All in all, the room was incredibly elegant, and certainly not one that a governess had the privilege to occupy.

Screenshot-41The professed reason for Estelle’s seclusion, according to Alice, was that Lady Millerna had not wanted to further hinder her recovery with anymore ‘stressful encounters’.

When Estelle asked what exactly that meant, the maid said that Estelle could probably answer that question much better than herself.

Screenshot-47“I must say, you have a very diverse circle of friends for a governess: Count Landgraab, the Lady Millerna, and then, of course, that dashing Viscount who has been residing here recently...”

Screenshot-34Estelle felt herself colour at the mere mention of Vaughn, like a criminal caught red-handed, and immediately resented herself for it.

“You exaggerate what are, in fact, three very minor acquaintances. The Viscount is courting my charge, whom I shall return to once I am sufficiently recovered.”

Screenshot-26No matter how Estelle tried, she could not stop her brain from constantly battling to reclaim the patches of darkness in its memory. To still not recall the events that had past, well, she felt more helpless than ever before.

There had certainly been a brief flash of… something when he Viscount had been reading to her earlier.

screenshot-134_zpsc5362b92In the depths of her subconscious she had seen his face barely inches from her own, felt his hot breath on her lips…

screenshot-193_zps48fda894But, more suddenly than she could comprehend, her hand had risen and struck him hard. That was all. She had seen nothing else. She hadn’t know where or how or even why these feelings had come upon her.

Screenshot-49But what was the point in wondering when they were nothing more than an illusion? Had Vaughn himself not told her he had no recollection of such an event?

Screenshot-14And, frankly, she believed him.

Within the past two days, no, longer than that, the past three weeks, he had shown himself to be kind, understanding and – dare she say it? – sweet.

Screenshot-42Of course, two days in particular could not erase the tempestuous history they shared, nor could it change the fact he had utterly disrespected her for much of their acquaintance. No, she would never forget that.

… but, perhaps, she could forgive.

Screenshot-33Moreover, his recent behaviour proved something that she had suspected for a while now: beneath the stubborn façade of arrogance, cunning and conceit that he had built up much of his life, there was a gentleman.

It was simply, very, very… very deep down.

Screenshot-60The involvement of Lady Millerna Landgraab in her rehabilitation was also quite the puzzlement to Estelle.

“It is not as strange as all that.” The maid stated when she expressed. “Lady Millerna is a physician, after all. Oh, it was quite the scandal back in the day, I assure you.”

Screenshot-86“Lady Millerna?”

Estelle repeated with astonishment.

“A physician?”

Screenshot-72Yes Miss,”

The maid sounded quite exasperated as she fidgeted with the hairpins that had been dislodged.

“The former Duke Landgraab, Lord rest his role, saw her disinherited for it…”

Screenshot-81Alice continued absently: “It wasn’t until Lord Charles inherited the Dukedom that he saw her titles rightfully returned to her. Lucky for her really, as that husband of her’s had up and died of consumption…”

Screenshot-83And such was the nature of Estelle’s next two days.

She was forced to be content with what little Alice could tell her and what she could deduce for herself.

Screenshot-76She only hoped that she might soon have one of those ‘stressful’ encounters or else she might so mad with boredom.

Little did she know just how soon she would get one.

Screenshot-302Estelle could not sleep. She had tossed and turned and cursed for hours.

She knew it had been hours because of the damned chimes from the grandfather clock out in the hall. She was growing more alert by the minute, the blankets growing more tangled, and her patience earning ever more thin.

Screenshot-306She sat up then and silently declared to herself that, if she did not fall asleep in 10 minutes, she would simply give up altogether and jump out of the window!

Well… perhaps not.

Screenshot-299Estelle had just laid her head back onto her pillow when rain began to tap, softly at first, then hard and heavy on the window pane.

Oh please, not a storm. That’s all I bloody need.

Screenshot-145She decided to ponder in an effort to take her mind off the ominous weather outside. Why on earth would a solicitor want to see her?

Oh, she did hope it wasn’t something awful – had something happened to Marielle’s parents on the continent? Or perhaps Liddy? If she had forgotten something like that she would never forgive herself. She simply had to remember.

Screenshot-88_zpsc5ead96bAnd that was when the thunder started.

Oh!”

This couldn’t happen now….

Screenshot-379_zpsd3376a26It was a dark, cold night.

Her mother was gone.

She was alone—

Screenshot-314_zpsd65a00f7No! She would not think of that time in her life. She would not break down. She would be strong.

The only way to get through it was to focus hard on other things. The smell of the duvet. The goosebumps on her skin. The sound of her breathing. The tick of the clock….

Screenshot-356_zps2cf6e009

… the memory of his face.

His eyes and the dark fire behind them. How well she knew those eyes, with thick black lashes that Liddy would say were wasted on a man. And yet no feature seemed wasted on Vaughn’s face Not even that stern, solemn—

Screenshot-102_zpsd08d8f68Another white flash.

“No!”

Screenshot-384_zps080834e5Dark. Rain. Alone. And her father…

He did not know her. He did not care to know her—

—so cold.

Screenshot-93Please… no more…

She whimpered, sinking to the floor. It wasn’t enough. It was never going to be enough.

… I can’t do this.

Screenshot-364_zps37a8b6dcIn one final attempt to pull through the darkness, she thought of his lips. His lips. Yes, yes. She knew those. She remembered the way they felt.

How could she possibly forget?

Screenshot-359_zpsfeddcbc3The way his wicked mouth had found hers so many times, had shared her breath. And made her head spin and her body flare and heat so desperately. With those lips, he was made her feel beautiful and feminine and…

And free

Screenshot-366_zps0ec0f0deShe kissed him softly, tentatively, desperately. He was holding her, embracing her throughout the storm.

Suddenly, she was deaf to the thunderous crash outside…

And then it all flooded back.

screenshot-542_zps4a3171ef “Your father’s fortune cannot be secured indefinitely.” 

“You will have access to all his land and estates…”

“…under my supervision, be given an extremely generous allowance each month…”

screenshot-791_zpsf1436f8cHer father— her father—

He had died.

And she was legitimate.

Screenshot-372“Oh my god.”

Her chest rose and fell erratically, panic gripping the edges of her consciousness , shaking her over and over until she was forced to comprehend that she was…

“Lady Venture.”

Screenshot-99“No!” She choked out, “No… no, I can’t! I won’t!”

She needed to breathe, to escape her past, escape her future, but—

 “If you are not married within these six months, Lord Venture’s estates will be passed over to his nearest male relative…”

Screenshot-313She couldn’t possibly… she would not marry! She would not sign her life away to a man to live a lie; She would not marry a man solely in order to live a life that was never meant for her.

She wanted – had – to leave Sunset Valley and Moonlight Falls behind, to leave the country, to—

screenshot-303_zpsecc4d4e0“Don’t go.”

Now another voice sang out in her memory. This time, far more familiar.

screenshot-134_zpsc5362b92“I can’t stop thinking, dreaming about having you—“

“We’ll have a place in the house just for us. A secret, away from the rest of the world…”

“Marielle will never know.”

Screenshot-91After a long, heavy moment, she forced a breath out amongst her tears, her shock, her confusion. Then another breath, and another, waiting until she remembered how to do it without conscious effort.

She lacked the energy, lacked the spirit to grow more upset by the fact that she had lied to her. Again.

Screenshot-324Of course he had lied about it. Of course he had. She had been such a fool to think he could ever change.

And Marielle? What would Marielle do now?

 Let me disappear. Just let me disappear.

Screenshot-321A second later, the latch on the door clicked.

She gasped and looked up towards the intruder.

Screenshot-106The Viscount’s eyes widened as he caught sight of her. “Jesus Christ, what the hell happened?!”

“Don’t!”

Vaughn faltered. Stopped two paces away from her.

Screenshot-176“Estelle? What—“

“I said don’t! Don’t come any closer!”

Screenshot-401She closed her eyes for she could not bear to look at his face. She heard him taken several unsteady breaths. Heard him swallow.

Heard him realise.

Screenshot-261“You remember.”

The words barely settled over the pelting of the rain upon the window.

Screenshot-183“Just let me explain—“

“I have absolutely no wish to hear anything you have to say to me ever again!”

“Please, I—” Vaughn took another step toward her.

Screenshot-164“You lied to me!”

She shouted over the thunder, in terror, in anger.

“You acted as if nothing was wrong, as if you were my friend—“

Screenshot-221“Estelle, I am your friend—“

“Oh please!” She shouted at him.“Do not insult my intelligence by pretending you considered me as anything more than a means to an end! That’s what I’ve bee all along, isn’t it?! Something you could use!”

Screenshot-209He stared hard at her.

“That is not true.”

Screenshot-202“It is!”

As her anger increased, so did her strength. She glared at his frustatingly handsome face, carved in moonlight.

“How many times have we been over this?! From the moment we met you haven’t thought once about the consequences of your actions, about who I am, how I feel!”

Screenshot-215“Forget the fact I could have died, you must have been so relieved when I couldn’t remember a thing about that day!

Your little—little proposition! Like I was some common strumpet off the street!”

Screenshot-236“Have the past few days meant nothing to you at all?!”

He snapped.

“Have I not shown you that I am not a monster?”

Screenshot-388“They meant everything!”

She shouted before she could stop herself, too dizzy, too distressed by unnamed black-fluttering panic.

screenshot-471_zps68495760After hours, days, weeks of shoving everything consisting of thought away from her consciousness, she shied from reason like a startled bird.

Because reason meant wallowing in the echo of Liddy’s words from what felt like forever ago.

Screenshot-402She didn’t want to think about the choices that lay ahead of her.

It simply hurt too much and Vaughn being here just made them all too real.

Screenshot-226“I thought you had changed, I thought…”

She hesitated.

“… b-but now I know it was all a lie and you will never, ever be anything but a conceited, arrogant—“

Screenshot-193“I lied because I didn’t want to upset you! Because I’ve reconsidered—

I have replayed that day in my head over and over, and I cannot stop thinking of—”

Screenshot-238“If you try to apologise to me, so help me god I—“

“Will you let me speak?!”

“I cannot comprehend why you continue to treat me in this manner!”

Screenshot-203“And what manner is that, exactly?!

Paying for the finest physician in this bloody country to attend you? Sitting by your bedside for days, reading to you for hours, telling you things I have never told anybody, giving you my brother’s book, the one thing I treasure most in this world?!”

Screenshot-393“I woke up to the sound of you screaming, and I ran here because I wanted to offer you some semblence of comfort through the storm! What I wanted—

What I wanted was for you to know that I was here for you, that you were not alone, that I cared about your well-being!”

Screenshot-251“Are you honesty trying to tell me that you care for me?”

Estelle demanded, incredulous.

“Is that what you’re saying? After everything you’ve done?! When I know for a fact that you have never once thought about me, never once considered—”

Screenshot-115“I think about you constantly.”

Vaughn interrupted, clearly frustrated by the fact.

“And if I could stop any of it, I would, believe me. But I can’t.

Screenshot-400“I—”

Her words faltered as she tried to repel his. She tried not to believe him, not to listen. His words… they were not real. This was not real.

Screenshot-392Enough is enough. Get away from him.

Now.  

“Get out.”

Screenshot-397The Viscount did not react, nor did he move. Outside, the rain continued to worsen.

“Get. Out.” She repeated, slower, sharper.

Still he did not move.

Screenshot-158“You feel it too.” Vaughn remarked, quietly.

“Get. Out.”

“Is that the real reason you’re so angry?”

Screenshot-387“GET OUT!”

She shouted, furious, confused, ashamed.

“JUST GET THE HELL OUT!”

Screenshot-367“What are you so afraid of?!” He hissed back, grabbing her arms.

“No!”

“Tell me!”

“No!”

Tell me!

Screenshot-351“I–I’m afraid of everything!”

She sobbed, struggling in his grip.

“I’m afraid of you, the way you look at me and what you— what you say to me. I’m afraid of everything you feel for me and everything you want.  Because… because I…!”

Screenshot-275“Because you what?”

Vaughn demanded.

“Because you what?!”

Screenshot-289Because I want it too!”  She cried, hating herself, hating him for making her admit it.  “I want everything that you want and it terrifies me!”

This was the last piece of herself that she could give to this frustrating, hateful man, knowing that there might not be another chance to do so.

Screenshot-271“A-and I don’t know what’s— and I hate you too, y-you stuck up bastard— I -h-hate—”

She tries to say with Vaughn’s hands sliding up her arms. His eyes are black now, bruised in the moonlight and Estelle shut her eyes so that she wouldn’t drown in the fear and insecurity and need they summon.

screenshot-108_zpsdf260c27Lightning flooded the room once more.

The kiss is accidental.

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
— Kahlil Gibran

A/N: So why did this take me so long? Many, many reasons, but mainly I decided I was terribly unhappy with my original chapter and completely re-wrote it. I really laboured over this one, so I hope you liked it!


Announcement and Vote

Hello everyone!

Firstly, I just want to say I’m sorry about my extended absence! I had actually planned to publish a Suitor and Theroux Legacy chapter at the same time to make up for it, but just as I was about to… the decrepit charger of my old laptop broke! (My other laptop – the one I’m using now – does not have Sims installed).

cm-22215-0505953d7445983

Anyways, I just wanted to let you know this blog is still very much alive (since it has been quite a while since my last post). Things are going to be delayed because I need to replace the charger/get some repairs done to the old girl.

While I’m here I felt I might as well post this vote, since I was planning to do this a while ago…

Once again, thanks for your vote/patience, and I’ll post the next chapter as soon as I can!

Becki xx


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-243This was the moment to seize.  He knew, of course, what he should tell her. 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-102That was when his 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-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


Chapter 33

Screenshot-11Estelle was, for lack of a better word, starving.

For breakfast she’d been given some kind of herb-filled broth that smelled so strongly of grass she could barely swallow it.

Screenshot-5If the house staff hadn’t been so wonderfully kind, she might have pointed out that she had hit her head on a table – she did not have influenza, measles or cholera.

In other words, her stomach was completely fine. And utterly empty.

Screenshot-8Daydreaming 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.

Lucky her.

Screenshot-20No. 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.

screenshot-124_zpsfe2aba19More over, if she wallowed in her thoughts any longer she was sure to go mad. She simply could not put the Viscount out of her head.

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…

Screenshot-4But he seemed… different just recently. More Mature. Earnest. Perhaps he was a fine match for Marielle after all. Perhaps the young girl could learn something from him. Perhaps she was wrong…

… perhaps they really could fall in love.

Screenshot-17Oh God. 

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.

Screenshot-33Donning a dressing gown, Estelle crept across the room and peered into the corridor. Thankfully, it was empty, but also full of identical-looking doors.

Which way were the stairs? Oh dear, this was a bad idea…

Screenshot-40Then 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.

Screenshot-50 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.

Screenshot-29“Did I not tell you that Vaughn was a poet of the piano?” Estelle recognised the speaker as Millerna Landgraab. “He makes a single instrument speak a language of infinity.”

“Indeed, it is true,” A jovial, plump lady in green silks replied, “But I have never before had the pleasure.”

Screenshot-26Estelle could not find it in herself to disagree, for the Viscount’s talent was obvious to any with ears.

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.

Screenshot-56Distantly, 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.

Screenshot-48She managed to tear herself away and further into the corridor where she found another set of stairs.

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.

Screenshot-52And that was when she caught the scent of something that made her mouth water.

Bread. Freshly-baked bread.

She was close now. So close. Just a couple more steps and…

Screenshot-71Her plan could not have gone any better. Firstly she had found the kitchens. Secondly, they were empty. Thirdly, there were leftovers of the house staff’s luncheon in the middle of the wooden table.

It was just what she wanted.

Screenshot-85She grinned, approaching the table, absolutely ravenous. Everything tasted delicious after days of eating liquefied grass, doubly so, in fact.

It was just right and yet… a bit of jam would make it perfect.

Screenshot-95Estelle 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.”

Screenshot-210“Would you like a hand, madam?”

Estelle froze. She knew the voice but hoped she was mistaken.

Anyone but him, please God…

Screenshot-159She turned to find Vaughn standing casually in the kitchens, a lop-sided grin on his lips, as if he had every right to be there, as if he were not the heir to an Earldom.

“Miss Murphy, I will give you to the count of three to convince me as to why you are out of bed.”

Screenshot-81He leaned against the doorframe, and his expression abruptly folded into something rather more serious.

One.”

“Well you see, I—“

Two.”

Screenshot-170“Oh, this isn’t fair! I only…”

Thre—

“I’m bloody starving, alright?!” Estelle finally snapped.

Screenshot-173The Viscount gaped openly at the outburst.

He paused, swallowing.

Screenshot-141And then…

And then he laughed.

Screenshot-135Estelle 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!”

Screenshot-184“You snuck all the way down here?”

Vaughn managed finally.

“How the hell did you get past Miggins? Either you’re spectacularly quiet or she’s losing her touch.”

Screenshot-101Vaughn laughed again, seating himself, and picked up a slice of buttered bread from her discarded plate.

“Was it the grass soup?”

Estelle blinked. “Well… yes, actually.”

Screenshot-100Vaughn’s smile widened before taking another bite out of the bread.

“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.”

Screenshot-178“So what, may I ask, were you pilfering from the larder of our host?” He continued.

Estelle frowned a little.

“I was not pilfering anything, I was looking for the jam.”

Screenshot-103Vaughn stood again, this time beside her and rather close. His breath was hot and Estelle was distinctly aware of it as it stroked her cheeks.

“Top shelf.”

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…

screenshot-130_zps4e11a41eFor a rather unhelpful moment, she recalled seeing him without a shirt on at all. The firelight had carved out the hills and valleys of him, dousing his smooth skin in an amber sheen And his scar.

She remembered—

Screenshot-163“Well? Do you want it or not?”

Estelle snapped back to reality. Vaughn was holding the jam out to her, gesturing for her to take it.

Screenshot-162“I… um…”

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.

“Thank you.”

Screenshot-134They returned to the table. Regardless of his presence, Estelle set to work and speckled a little jam on her bread. At one point, she glanced back at him to see him staring back.

His dark eyes reflected the candlelight and glinted with something completely unreadable.

Screenshot-114Estelle brought the bread and jam up to her lips and took a very large bite—

“You really should be in bed.” Vaughn said, rather seriously.

— and oh Lord, it was simply heaven.

Screenshot-158“Mmm…”

She took another bite, savouring it.

Mmmm!”

Screenshot-130The Viscount cleared his throat. When Estelle glanced up, she found he looked slightly uncomfortable. She swallowed her mouthful.

“Whatever is the matter?”  She asked, concerned.

Screenshot-192Vaughn raised his eyebrows slightly, clearing his throat again.

“I have never heard any lady enjoy their food quite so… audibly.”

Screenshot-128Estelle blinked, taken aback.

“Was I making noise?”

Screenshot-164Good God.

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!

Screenshot-87If only she could hear herself…

… would she even know how she could stir a man’s desires?

Screenshot-76_zps79b207efHis 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.

Christ.

Screenshot-169“Oh..”

He heard her say, rather surprised.

“Sorry. I had no idea. It just tastes so delicious, I—“

Screenshot-222“Don’t apologise.” He said, a little too tightly. He exhaled slowly, trying to release the tension coiled in his abdomen. Suffusing his blood. He closed his eyes for a moment.

Stop thinking about it.

Screenshot-74_zps53b752efBut 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.

Screenshot-200“Vaughn?”

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?

Screenshot-118It took all the control he possessed not to got to her then. Not to take her; touch her just as he’d imagined.

He wanted her more than anything he’d ever wanted in his entire life.

screenshot-94_zpsea1c8ad3“You and I have grown up amongst society’s gossip and intrigues, Vaughn. But Estelle has not.

Will you let it be said she is your concubine? Or worse, your whore? She will find herself an outcast among politely nodding people.”

screenshot-189_zps95ee153dAnd he remembered, suddenly, the confrontation she had forgotten. She had been disgusted at his proposition. Repelled by it. The very idea of being his mistress had repulsed her…

Screenshot-212_zps20907209She 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.

Screenshot-202But still… she was light and he was darker than black. He always would be. And he…

He wanted her.

Estelle’s eyes widened slightly as their gazes held.

Screenshot-168Abruptly the governess stood, breaking their eye contact abruptly, gathering her robe. Her expression was unreadable, somewhat distressed.

“I think I’ll go upstairs now. I’m… feeling rather dizzy.”

Screenshot-157Vaughn followed her to his feet. He cleared his throat again, trying to appear calm when his pulse was racing. Christ, what was he doing? He had to put a stop to this.

Let her go. He thought of Charles’ words. He thought of Lily. Now.

Screenshot-160“Would you like me to read to you?” He blurted out instead, tactlessly.

The governess blinked several times. “N-now?”

“I thought perhaps this evening.”

Screenshot-133Charles be damned, but she was his.  Fate, it seemed, had provided him with another chance. This time, he would earn her trust.

This time he would do it right.

Screenshot-175Estelle seemed to weigh up the offer momentarily, as if examining its contents for some sort of hidden trap.

“I….suppose so. Yes, that would be lovely.”

Screenshot-174“Good.”

Holy hell.

She had actually accepted.

Screenshot-172Their gazes held for a moment before she turned to leave.

“Oh, and Estelle…”

He spoke after her gently. She turned to look back to him.

Screenshot-166

“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 ^^

Cute, right?

Screenshot-238

Thanks for reading, as always. ‘Til next time!


Chapter 32

Screenshot-118Vaughn was staring at her as if he had just seen a ghost, his expression blank and yet confused.

“So… you really don’t remember anything?”

“Must you keep asking me that? I feel mortified enough as it is!”

Screenshot-82Vaughn turned his head, a wave of thick, ebony hair falling over an eye as he did so. Estelle watched in puzzlement and utter surprise as seriousness suddenly fell upon his features.

“… Sorry.”

Screenshot-72The Viscount heaved a deep sigh and walked slowly to the window. He turned from her to stare out of the glass plane so that she could not read his expression.

“I… really am sorry, you know.”

Screenshot-13Vaughn long remained silent. When he finally did turn back to her, Estelle could not help but swallow. With his cravat undone, sleeves rolled up and waistcoat unbuttoned, he appeared a perfect rake.

She imagined many women had seen him like this. Had felt this way.

Screenshot-19Estelle vehemently tried to ignore the fluttering in her gut.

“… what are you apologising for?”

Still, her voice came out a little more… unsteady than she would have liked.

Screenshot-92The Viscount’s expression remained unchanged, but suddenly Estelle wished she had not spoken, though she could not say why.  For a long, tense moment, he merely looked at her, dark eyes lingering.

Screenshot-50Abruptly he smirked and Estelle recognised that look. It was purposive and appropriately devastating. He about to say something calculated and evasive.

That expression… it reminded her of when they first met. She did not like it.

Screenshot-4“Why didn’t you tell me it was your birthday when you visited my house?”

“I… didn’t suppose you would care to know.” Estelle answered cautiously.

“And why did you suppose that?”

Screenshot-80Estelle sighed and sat down on the bed again.

“Because this is the first time we have held a conversation for weeks. I didn’t think it was appropriate.”

Screenshot-30“Ah, of course, propriety.”

The Viscount chimed in, tone light with amusement.

“My old nemesis.”

Screenshot-97Though tempted to challenge him on that little comment, Estelle found herself simply scowling and opted to take the path less troden.

“Indeed.”

Screenshot-79“Well, if you’re curious with regards to your little bump, Charles has informed me that you received some news from a solicitor that shocked you somewhat. Apparently you fell and hit your head on an antique mahogany table.”

“I… see.”

Screenshot-5It was all Estelle could manage, simply unable to remember a solicitor, an antique mahogany table or anything to do with the event.

The whole thing was rather infuriating.

Screenshot-17She closed her eyes, squinted into the darkness behind her eyelids, reaching out for any clues that placed her here in the guest bedroom of Charles Landgraab’s home. Anything at all that might have happened with a solicitor…

…but what on earth did a solicitor want with her?

Screenshot-89Caught up in her thoughts as she was, she barely noticed the Viscount approach the bed. It was only when she caught the scent of fresh cut grass, summer wind and that elemental male musk that she realised he had sat down beside her.

Screenshot-85Estelle looked away, resolute to avoid his gaze at such close proximity. She tried to summon a degree of aversion to him, but whenever she did in its place rose a longing she simply could not deny.

Screenshot-18All she had to do was keep calm, not panic, and avoid looking at the Viscount at all costs. She could do that.

… couldn’t she?

Screenshot-124She turned toward him. In an instant, something ignited between them. His lips parted, as if to say something, do something, Estelle heard his intake of breath, saw his eyes dart down to her mouth and back again.

Close as they suddenly were, she could feel the heat of his body…

16444638-38e9-45c5-866d-6fbc99fcfbb7_zps840d5019She suddenly remembered what it was like to have his hands on her, drifting over her skin, setting her flesh afire with need.

His kisses, so soft and tender and yet demanding, devastating….

Screenshot-27Abruptly he stood and walked, without another word, to the door. Estelle blinked wildly. Then, she remembering a question she had awoken with, she jump to her feet.

“Vaughn—!”

She had to ask.

Screenshot-22His hand on the doorknob stilled. His expression was intense, concentrated yet unsettled.

He said nothing, waiting for her to continue.

Screenshot-97“Did you.. did you speak to me when I asleep? Only I heard a voice saying the most beautiful things and I thought… I thought it sounded like…”

She swallowed. Breathed.

“It was you…. wasn’t it?”

Screenshot-119The Viscount stared at her. His mouth opened, and for a moment, Estelle thought he meant to answer a question with a question. Instead he simply nodded her affirmation.

“I… thank you.”

Screenshot-15Vaughn held her eyes a moment more.

“You’re welcome.”

Then he abruptly left the room.

Screenshot-24Estelle could only stare. Who was this man?

He was a conceited beast of a man, one who invaded her life, her dreams and plans unapologetically. He infuriated her. He complicated everything and thought nothing of it!

Screenshot-96… yet he was the same man who had comforted her in a storm, one that had saved her from ruin.

He was the same man who had told her she was beautiful and had spoken poetry so softly that it had moved her in ways she did not even want to admit.

Screenshot-71Who was this man?

Who was he?

Screenshot-108“Which waistcoat would you like to wear today, M’Lord?” When no response was uttered, the valet approached sheepishly. “M’Lord?”

“Hm? What?”

“I was just asking your Lordship which waistcoast he would like to wear today…?”

Screenshot-19Vaughn absolutely did not care. In fact, he did not care to such an extent that he was willing to forgo waistcoast and overcoats and any other bloody coat that there was.

He shook his head distractedly. “You choose.”

Screenshot-27“Very good, my Lord.”

The valet confidently marched over to the dresser and began to root through a selection of fine waistcoats in silence. For the past four years he had dressed Vaughn most mornings, ran his errands in the afternoons and was indeed the very same man who carried him safely to bed on his most inebriated of evenings.

Screenshot-44“Is there something on your mind today, Vaughn?”

The Viscount physically jolted out of his thoughts. He turned toward the familiar voice to see Charles lingering in the open doorway.

He flashed a tight smile. “Nothing at all.”

Screenshot-38“Nothing at all?” Charles repeated. “Not even thoughts of a certain woman sleeping soundly in the guest room at the end of the corridor?”

Vaughn caught Charles’ expression in the mirrored glass and found it odd, but he chose to ignore it. He was, after all, already choosing to ignore several things which were obstinately weighing on his mind…

screenshot-124_zps61e53bc6Namely, the moment he had shared with Estelle the day before, and the truth he withheld from her. After swearing to himself that he would apologise to her, treat her as nothing but a companion… he had felt a surge of lust for her so acute he could barely stand it.

Screenshot-113No… it was not simply lust, need, desire; there was no word that could encompass how he had felt just then. As he had stared into her eyes, the feeling that came over him was so peculiar that he saw no other option but to flee.

Screenshot-11

He’d spent the rest of the day drinking the Landgraab’s good brandy, trying to rationalise his reaction. He sat there mute and aching and thinking furiously in the effort to figure it all out.

Why ever was the governess even there? What was the reason for it? The truth of it? 

Screenshot-54Charles’ voice cut through his preoccupation.

“About Miss Murphy, your behaviour has been reprehensible. I cannot think what to say about how you deceive that poor woman, and lead her on, so I will simply say that, while under my roof, you shall behave honourably in every way.”

Screenshot-36“You’re clearly holding onto a misconception here, Charles. Miss Murphy and I simply need to straighten some things out. By talking together. Privately. I assure you, for your peace of mind, that is not at all what you seem to think it is.”

“This could become far more than a misunderstanding for Miss Murphy.”

Charles countered.

“Bear in mind who you are – you are heir to a Earldom and, as such, must observe certain customs, and practice certain discretions.”

“Will you let it be said she is your concubine? Or worse yet, your whore? For you this might be a mere misconception, but Miss Murphy may very well have a very different experience. She will find herself an outcast among politely nodding people.”

The words fell into a stretch of confused, angry frustration.

“Who are you to stand on moral high ground and point me out as an imperfect creature?” Vaughn replied coldly. “What you now condemn you did yourself. It is easy to practice virtue from a distance.”

Screenshot-45Grey eyes lifted and met Vaughn’s squarely and held. For a moment, Vaughn saw past Charles’ quietness and distractibility, into a soul more capable of pain and vaster regret than he had ever suspected.

“How do you think I could ever forget that?”

Screenshot-105“I’m not intentionally being cruel to you, Vaughn, but it far better to be cruel to you now than to let that poor woman suffer a lifetime of casual cruelty. I know you meant no harm, but we must now see that no harm will come of it. You’ve have behaved as a thoughtless boy.”

Screenshot-61“There are those within the ton who you are not on amicable terms with – I suspect you know who they are. If you expose her this way, Miss Murphy will become their victim for their aims of hurting you.”

Vaughn was rendered silent by the raw truth behind those words.

screenshot-14_zpsaa45439bHis mind drifted to Irving Linwood, with his slimy smiles and sly witticisms. Vaughn thought about how he could turn and speak softly to his hangers-on at a dinner and all would smirk to one another, adding soft, but acid-tongued comment’s to the lordling’s criticism.

Screenshot-79“Think carefully on how much you are willing to offer, Vaughn.  I shan’t let what happened to Lily happen to Miss Murphy.

I will not let it happen, Vaughn. Not again.”

A/N: Super late, super delayed but there you have it: chapter 32! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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 ^^


Interlude

Screenshot-256It was at times like these when Millerna Landgraab truly hated being observant.

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.

Screenshot-254So 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.

Screenshot-232“Are you enjoying yourself, Vaughn?”

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.

Screenshot-259“Of course,” His gaze is intense, dark and tempting. It’s enough to send shivers down Millerna’s spine. “I’ve had the pleasure of watching you.”

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.

Screenshot-231She let her eyes drift across the crowded room. “You’re very grand, Vaughn. So handsome. Looking at you tonight I could not help but remember how things used to be.”

Vaughn’s fluid shrug was relaxed. “They used to be better.”

Screenshot-230Even though he is purposefully vague, Millerna can’t help but grasp onto that small bit of hope

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.

Screenshot-237And she hated how Vaughn’s eyes absently drift back to the governess stood in the corner; who, so plain and ordinary, Millerna would have ever noticed had his eyes not shone their light on her.

Screenshot-244And how they brighten suddenly! As if that were where they always longed to be.

Why, looking at them, one would think that the unremarkable, languid, pale creature were the only spot of colour left in the world!

Screenshot-260Distantly, 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.

Screenshot-239Her gaze drifts down to his lips, watches them thin and draw up slightly at the corners as he continues to regard the governess.

Millerna can’t help but wonder if Vaughn knows he’s almost smiling.

Screenshot-258She 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.

Screenshot-164The 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.

Screenshot-205It 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.

Screenshot-197The governess’ presence had become an irritating and familiar itch to Millerna over the past several days, but she found that it had become easier to ignore the barb of it with time.

It hadn’t been until that morning that the situation had truly reached breaking point.

 

Screenshot-126“So, Miss Murphy is to reside here as our guest?”

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.

Screenshot-196Charles turned his attention to his less receptive sibling.

“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.”

Screenshot-141“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.”

Screenshot-60“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.”

Screenshot-191I am entitled to an opinion, am I not?” Millerna interrupted sharply. “Even if it is only within the confines of this house; which, as far as I am aware, is not yet a boarding house for servants.”

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.

Screenshot-133Verity 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.”

Screenshot-188“Really, you’ve always treated him as if he were still in swaddling!

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?!”

Screenshot-145Charles’ 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.

Screenshot-61It didn’t take much longer than a heartbeat for Verity to register the meaning behind those words; she knew more than enough about how the world worked.

Screenshot-160Charles had always been pampered just because he had the happy accident of being born male. Well, she had had enough of this tiresome arrangement.

“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!”

Screenshot-177“Oh, do not look at me so, Charles.

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!”

Screenshot-153“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.

Screenshot-194Both Eries and Verity stood then, quite literally flocking to their brother’s defence as they gathered around him.

“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.”

 

Screenshot-158Millerna snapped, finally losing the tenuous grasp on her temper.
“To father, my profession as a physician was only improper because I am not a man!”

Screenshot-157Millerna 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.”

Screenshot-176Pausing 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!”

Screenshot-199Millerna stared down at the prostrate woman. The resentment felt like flies in her body; buzzing and crawling.

All I’ve ever wanted is what she has.

Screenshot-207Millerna 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.

Screenshot-212People 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!

Screenshot-221Why should she get everything she wanted? Everything Millerna had worked for? Why, when it was Millerna who had gone to Vaughn, despite it all?

When it was she who, like a fool,  had laid herself bare and given him her very heart!

screenshot-258_zpsjibmqzt8— and in return?

Vaughn had taken it and pinched it to death; and then flung it back to her.

screenshot-226_zpsbo53vtqwShe 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.

Screenshot-211Truly, Millerna hated being observant, but more than that, from the very centre of her being, Millerna Landgraab loathed Estellise Murphy.

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! 

^_^

❤ ❤ ❤