Flickering Embers

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 11: Revelations and a red dress

Walking down the stairs, arm in arm with Emelia, Mabel's legs felt awfully unsteady. The corset wasn't tight enough around her midriff to cause discomfort but enough to make its presence known, her breaths becoming quicker and more shallow the closer she got to the hallway that pooled at the bottom of the staircase. Her arm must of tensed against Emelia's, giving away her distress as she silently tried her best to stifle it.

"Mabel dear? Are you feeling yourself?" Emelia asked and Mabel nodded, her face stoic as she focused on her breathing. She counted her breaths by using the stairs as an anchor, something her father had taught her when she was younger. Each time her sole landed on another she inhaled deeply, exhaling when the next stair greeted her foot.

By the time her and Emelia were once again on solid ground Mabel had collected herself enough that her heart didn't feel like it wanted to escape her own chest. She allowed herself to be led back to the drawing room, Henry's still form standing with his back to her, eyes agaze out of the window, becoming a welcome distraction.

He turned to her slowly, his eyes still clinging to the beauty that lay beyond the window, his face the last to turn towards them both. Mabel heard the sharp intake of breath he took as if it were a grenade in a library, his eyes traveling her entirety before reaching her gaze once more.

"Mabel. You look simply-"

"Stunning. Doesn't she? I'm so happy we found a gown that suited her to such perfection," Emelia interrupted, happiness making her eyes sparkle as a smile danced across her lips. Henry nodded, his gaze floating over Mabel again as his cheeks started to turn a light shade of pink when their eyes reconnected, Mabel's eyebrow raised, letting him know she hadn't missed the repetitive motion. Mabel fought the urge to smooth out the dress again under her palms, feeling a little unsettled under his scrutiny.

"Yes, perfection. Anyway, mother, didn't you mention tea? I'm absolutely parched," he replied softly, as he lowered himself into the single green chair. His mother mirrored his movements, taking a seat on the double as she gestured to Mabel to fill the empty space beside her. Mabel appreciated his subtle change of subject, clearly reading her incredibly well considering how little they knew each other.

"You and your fondness for tea," Emelia chuckled, the motion making her stray curls bounce above her shoulders, "Sarah, would you fetch it for us please?"

Mabel tried her hardest to not solely keep her gaze upon Henry, no matter how tempting it was. She settled it instead upon the material that once again rested under her palms, the red silk fabric rather striking against her pale, smooth skin.

"So Mabel, are you to stay long?" Emelia asked, a lightness in her tone that suggested it wasn't a heavy question, merely an inquiry.

"I do not know. Hopefully no more than a day or two."

"It depends upon how quickly she grasps her training, mother. For she absolutely must get some semblance of control before leaving. She performed life magic...without proper incantation, sacrifice nor aid. She almost died," Henry replied, his gaze and tone heavy. Mabel heard as Emelia gasped, turning towards her, eyes wide with shock and sadness.

"Oh come now Henry. You are being rather dramatic. I did not do any such thing and it is unfair of you to suggest otherwise," Mabel retorted, gaze contorting to a glare at the accusation, especially infront of his mother. Mabel had merely rested in her father's arms. Granted she had somehow briefly visited her mother, but Emelia had stated her mother had been this powerful enchantress, so perhaps it was more due to her mother's gift than her own.

"We could not wake you," he replied sternly, his eyes holding hers with ease.

"For I was sleeping," Mabel answered, unable to resist the small smile that pulled at her lips as she spoke, her glare softening despite herself.

"You saw your mother. Which means you visited the veil. The living do not frequent the veil unless they are due to cross over," Henry replied, although his lips remained tight and thin, humour not dancing across them like Mabel's.

"You performed life magic? Without a coven? That is unheard of, if not impossible," his mother interjected, shifting in her seat so that she could look at Mabel head on. Mabel's gaze flicked between the two, feeling a little outnumbered.

"See Henry. It's impossible for me to have done it," Mabel countered, smile growing wider at his mother's accidental aid. Henry shook his head as he leaned forward on his breeches, his hands clasped Infront of him.

"It should of been impossible but therein lies my point. Mabel, you are able to do the impossible. But until we know to what extent and at what cost to yourself, you need to stay here, with me...I mean...with us."

Mabel resisted the urge to mirror his movements and ignored the bloom of heat that speckled her cheeks at his suggestion. She wasn't averse to staying here, if she was honest with herself she actually liked the idea of being in his constant company, away from the whispers and prying eyes of society. But she was also very mindful of the fact that he likely offered this out of concern for her well-being, not for any other reason.

Her mind briefly floated back to the carriage ride, to his assurances and promises of true intentions, despite their unfamiliarity. But everything seemed to be happening all at once, making the ground beneath her feel awfully unsteady. Mabel didn't yet know Henry well enough to trust him fully, nor trust the feelings she felt in his presence.

"Mabel," Emelia said softly, her hands finding Mabel's as they lay curled up in her lap, "Henry is right and if he is indeed right about your level of power, and I don't doubt his assessment, then it is much safer for you to be around others of your kind. Especially at a time like this and with Clara on the outskirts, no doubt eager to continue her attack on your character and possibly your life."

"I will stay till the end of the week. But come Monday I really must venture back home. My father isn't well and he needs me. Also, what will the town think, once they realise that I, an unmarried woman, has taken up residency here, with the Viscount?" Mabel inquired, despite knowing the answer. They would believe her to be a harlot. And she didn't know if that was worse than the word witch. The stain of witch carried a death sentence but the stain of being a harlot, well, that carried a life long title. And whilst Henry had been appropriate and already secured her father's permission, if this courtship truly turned out to be a means to an end on his part, it would be her that carried the blame for the failure, even if it had all been a rouse.

"You shall be my guest. The town shall have no reason to believe you and Henry are anything other than acquaintances," Emelia replied, giving her hands a squeeze. Mabel looked towards Henry whose gaze was artfully dodging hers.

"Well," Mabel started but it seemed the words did not come to her with ease.

"Well?"

"I have already sought her father's permission to court her," Henry answered, standing abruptly as he did so and walking towards the window. Mabel couldn't help herself as her gaze instinctively followed his movements, her heart hammering in her chest as an undertone to his footsteps that thankfully only she could hear.

"Henry darling. You did what?" Emelia asked and Mabel did not miss the slight tone to her words or the way her hand tensed upon her lap. Henry didn't offer anything other than silence, his gaze once again far beyond the window.

"I feel it was more necessity than anything else Emelia. After I came here after the market, well, it was all rather overwhelming and I was a little resistant in terms of aid. I was fearful and so I ran. I fear Henry felt the only way to ensure I returned was to force my hand...by asking for it," Mabel replied letting all of her insecurities form sentences. She was aware that a courtship was not a secure marriage proposal but it was a promise that one was likely in their future.

Mabel looked over at Henry who had at some point turned towards her. She wondered if he was going to refute her claim, his mouth parting slightly as he held her gaze but no words followed. Henry merely walked back slowly to his seat, lowering himself gracefully as Mabel's heart felt a little heavier believing her explanation to be true, as she had feared.

"I have stated my intentions to her father because I wish to pursue a relationship with Mabel," Henry stated, his gaze holding Mabel's with a depth she wasn't accustomed to, making her breath catch, "I know you will say it is sudden mother and that I shouldn't promise my forever to a woman I barely know. But from the moment I met Mabel, it was as if my forever has already been decided. Mabel has graciously agreed to consider my offer upon knowing me better, although I am now aware that she wasn't quite sure of my intentions upon hearing her explanation just now."

Mabel was left feeling bewildered and yet oddly hopeful after hearing his declaration, especially in the presence of his mother. If she was truthful with herself, the second she had felt his hand upon her at the market, something deep within her had been brought to life. Between his proposal of courtship and the events preceding their meeting, it was all incredibly overwhelming and so she had fought against the connection she felt. But perhaps that had been foolish of her. Perhaps he truly did feel the same connection she did?

"Consider how much has happened to Mabel in the past few days Henry. She has learnt she is more than she ever believed herself to be, had her life threatened without understanding why, met a handsome Viscount who then declares he wishes to court her and then is uprooted from her home. Surely you can excuse her having a few doubts," Emelia replied in her stead, eliciting a rather wide smile from Mabel. The woman had somehow put it all into words and validated everything she felt.

"I do not believe you to be untrue. I was merely unsure about the reasons behind the declaration. Were they due to your need to protect others or simply a way out of the situation we found ourselves to be in? I did not know you well enough to judge what your reasons might be," Mabel added, hoping to reassure Henry that it wasn't him that she doubted, purely what fuelled his reactions.

Henry lent forward, covering Mabel's and his mother's hand softly as happiness bloomed across his features, "It was because I feel a connection to you that I can not explain. A connection that was only deepened when I feared I had lost you and was forced to envisage what my life would be like without you in it. I know we have just met but for me that just reassures me that the feelings I have for you shall only grow and that there is the possibility of great happiness for us both together, if you chose to accept me."

"Well, now Henry. Let's not overwhelm the poor girl. I'm sure Mabel will consider everything you have said and give you her answer in due course. Until then, let's focus on the larger, more pressing matter at hand," Emelia interrupted before Mabel had the chance to reply, taking her son's hand an placing it back onto his own knee.

"And that is mother?"

"Control, my darling. Because if Clara has resurfaced then her father will not long be behind."









Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.