27. A Successful Distraction
She searched everywhere for her phone but to no avail. The thing had disappeared when she was almost certain she had placed it on her nightstand. She would be completely sure of it, if her mind wasn’t so hazy after she woke up. All that she remembered was that she texted her parents before sleep took over. When she woke up, she felt unnaturally confused and even took her a few minutes to realize where she was. Perhaps the trip had tired more than she had initially thought.
Emilia had searched the room twice before she abandoned the effort and went downstairs to find Theo. She was slightly irritated because she didn’t even know how long she had slept. Surely it was still daytime but not for very long since the sky was a little dimmer. She hated feeling disorientated and the fact she had managed to lose her phone the first day of her arrival.
She had been meaning to ask about it as soon as she walked downstairs. She truly did, but Theodore was waiting for her in the living room with a dazzling smile and asked if she had slept well. Even so, she completely forgot to mention the disappearance of her phone. Not that if she had, she would have been told the truth but she didn’t know that back then.
Theo offered to take her to the tour his brother had rudely denied and she was thrilled because she couldn’t wait to see the rest of the magnificent house. So, off they went to explore the two wings.
Truth be told, she was so mesmerized by the beauty of the place and by all the information Theo gave her on everything they saw, with his velvety voice, that she couldn’t focus on anything in particular. The place was so big, full of rooms and doors and stairs. What she managed to catch was that the east wing of the house was no longer used and remained locked and dusty for years. He said that he could take her there as well but she refused, revealing that she was allergic to dust.
If it was then the only other time, or rather the first time, that she had been shown the means of her escape, she couldn’t tell. She remembered the tour as a nice, colorful but blurred memory up to this day. Besides come to think about it, the place could have a dozen secret doors like the one the man showed her out from.
That evening, they had eaten a luxurious dinner together. Every dish was easily the most delicious she had ever tasted and she wasn’t shy in showing her enthusiasm. Theo’s brother was nowhere to be seen, though. She didn’t miss the unpleasant man’s presence one bit, quite the contrary, but she felt it would be the polite thing to do, to ask of his whereabouts.
“Your brother” she started lightly. “Doesn’t he dine with you?”
“No, if he can avoid it” Theodore smiled as if he didn’t mind and kept eating his dessert.
“You don’t get along with each other?” she asked, always curious about the wrong things.
She knew she was prying but she couldn’t help it. The man gave her the creeps since their earlier meeting and especially when she was alone with him in her room. There was a stark difference between them and that confused her because she took the man’s word that he wouldn’t warm up to her no matter how long she stayed.
“I wouldn’t say that” Theo replied slowly, pulling her out of her thoughts. “Me and Gage have our own modus operandi. But ever since I can remember, Gage has always been a private man. Too serious, leaving no room for games. It was really no surprise that with a character like that he left to join the army”
“Is he much older than you?”
“He caught your eye” he observed with a sly smile and she blushed.
“No, no” she denied quickly wishing she could tell him what transpired between her and his brother a few hours ago.
“I wouldn’t mind if I did. Gage is impressive in a way and despite his brooding nature it is not uncommon to be noticed by women”
Theo had spoken in a complimenting manner about his older brother, yet Emilia couldn’t help but think there was something off, like he didn’t quite mean what he said. She pushed that thought away. Maybe he felt a bit offended that she turned her attention to another man and focused on putting his mind at ease.
“I only noticed your brother because he is nothing like you” she murmured looking away but realizing that this could be regarded as suspicious she returned her gaze to him timidly.
“Nothing like me?” he raised a brow amused, looking very pleased with what he heard if his smirk was an indication.
“Yes…” she gulped, feeling suddenly uncomfortable for initiating this conversation “I am sorry to say, that he’s not quite likeable and he gave me the impression earlier that he doesn’t want me here”
This was as much as she could reveal without appearing as if she bad mouthed his brother.
He smiled a strange smile at her words.
“That is very accurate, my dove” he confirmed making her gape at him slightly. “He doesn’t want you here, but I do and that’s what matters. And to answer your question, Gage is six years my senior”
“Oh…” she breathed. “Why wouldn’t he want me here though? He doesn’t even know me”
“Gage is, to put it mildly, a strange man. He was always like that but he used to be a tad more sociable before he joined the army. When he returned, after a while, it became evident that his experiences there hadn’t worked on his favor. He was treated for his trauma, as it happens in cases like his but they didn’t allow him to go back”
“Did he want to go back?” she asked.
“I think he did. We never talked about it but fighting and killing was my brother’s reality. I expect that he got used to it and even craved it at some point. Yet, he was forced to stay here”
She shuddered, feeling her skin crawl on the thought that someone might crave to be violent. As if reading her mind, Theo added.
“He is medicated so he isn’t really a danger to anyone. However, there is no telling to what can trigger him. That’s why he is not very pleased whenever we have guests. Out of respect, I don’t bring many people here or throw parties like in the old days. But you are special to me and I decided it was worth it to make an exception”
He friend at her and her heart melted. There is something heartwarming in hearing you are special to someone you have feelings for.
She didn’t ask any more about the man because what she had learned only solidified her resolve on avoiding to cross paths with him during her stay. They didn’t talk about anything else either, as they had already finished dining. When Theo told her, he would have to spend a little more time in his study, she decided to retreat to her room for the rest of the night.
He escorted her there and after gracing her with a soft kiss on her forehead, he left.
Sleep seemed to elude her as her conversation with Theo about his brother came unwelcome in her mind. She didn’t know what time it was and she wondered absentmindedly, as she sipped some water, why they didn’t have a clock in the room. This question dissolved quickly as he eyelids shut closed and sleep came.
The next morning, her door was locked.