Some months later, as I sat in a carriage with my captor and looked out of its window to find my Uncle’s house, I was to remember that night when we first met.
I remembered it vividly as if it was just last night.
I was the most simple girl, living with my uncle and aunt and their daughter in their property right across Baker’s Street in London. My life was simple... way too simple for my own liking but that night it changed for good but I wouldn’t know it until the next day.
I wouldn’t have guessed it that evening as I got ready to go to the third ball that week. My auntie had been getting more and more aggressive with her plans to marry me off to a rich suitor as soon as possible. This was the reason she exposed me to as many social events as she possibly could.
She wanted to get rid of me and to be honest, I wanted to get away from that sadist woman as soon as possible but not by marrying. I simply wished to run away. I even dreamed about it and little did I know that my not-so-ambitious dream would be coming true that night.
“Is she ready yet?” I heard Aunt Wilhelmina’s voice outside my room before she barged in to find the maid squeezing the life out of me in the most legal way. She was making my corset tighter and tighter. I was sure that my stomach was in my chest now but it didn’t matter. The pursuit to make my waist appear smaller kept ongoing.
“We’re almost done,” The maid tried her best to sound positive even though the situation looked very dire. Aunt Wilhelmina’s eyes scanned me from head to toe with the most judgemental look she could muster. Anyone in my place would have cringed at the face she had made at me but not me because, well... I was me. I’d been living with this woman for almost seven years now.
“Maybe, if you start skipping breakfast from tomorrow, you’d be able to fit in that corset,” She commented.
“Maybe if you don’t force me to wear Liz’s smaller clothes, I wouldn’t have to be squeezed to death,” I spoke back shamelessly.
Even though I was the one being squeezed into the corset, I heard the maid suck in a breath behind me.
“You don’t talk back to me, Ophelia!” My aunt shot back instantly, pinning me with her burning eyes, “You don’t realize how generous we are to take you in after your mother’s death! Not only that, but we also take the trouble to feed and clothe you even though you have a father alive somewhere. The least you could do is be grateful to us for our generosity! Just like my own daughter, I want the best for you too that’s why you should consider me kind enough to find you a suitor before I could do that for my very beautiful and more eligible daughter...” she kept on going about her generosity and kindness towards me and by the time she was finished speaking, I was done getting dressed.
“Wait in the carriage,” Aunt Wilhelmina ordered me, making me wonder where her beautiful and eligible daughter really was.
“Where’s Elizabeth?” I asked.
“She’d be down in a couple of minutes. To the cab, now!” She ordered me.
We already hadn’t reached the ball and I was very much tempted to rip out the corset. I was now even more sure that corsets weren’t originally designed to make the women’s waists smaller. The reason behind the genesis of such a vile thing was to hold women back from achieving their full potential because I possibly couldn’t think how one could function in this.
I had to wait for more than a couple of minutes after Aunt Wilhelmina and her very beautiful and most eligible daughter, Elizabeth finally showed up. Just like her mother, she threw me a very judgmental look as she sat in the cab beside me with her mother.
“What is she wearing, mother?” Elizabeth asked as she eyed the dress she’d worn a couple of years ago. It was now wrapped around my skin and I wanted nothing more than to shed it like a snake would shed its skin.
“Why? You don’t recognize your own clothes? I don’t know anyone else in London who’d have such bad taste,” I answered back while playing with the lace border that was now coming off from my sleeve. I looked nothing less than a clown. If Aunt Wilhelmina was planning to marry me off to a rich suitor the very next month then I was afraid she’d have to wait for a couple more years because Lizbeth’s clothes were really hideous.
“Ophelia!” Auntie gritted at me, making me press my lips in a thin line. After throwing a glare at me, she finally ordered the driver to head towards Godwick’s house where the ball was taking place. The rest of the way, I tried my very best to keep my mouth shut while Elizabeth chatted away with her mother about the balls she’d attended earlier this week and how Lord Godwick danced with her thrice, and how she was so sure that he was going to ask for her hand in marriage in just a couple of months.
I was sure that Lord Godwick didn’t even look at her in the last ball least dance with her. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t know her name in the first place. It didn’t matter to me anyway because as soon as we’d reach the ball, I’d disappear from there like I always did. I was sure Aunt Wilhelmina wouldn’t mind my absence because it would provide her the opportunity to focus more on shoving her daughter in the arms of the wealthy suitors.
The carriage slowed down significantly as we passed the gates of the property, making me peek of the window. The carriage pulled up in front of a massive building whose shadow was the only thing that we could see in the darkness and the mist.
The servants of the house greeted us as we stepped out of the carriage. Our invitations were checked quickly before they lead us inside the house. Of course, I didn’t miss the nervous and strange glances that some of them threw at me because of the dress I was wearing.
I already wanted to disappear but I’d have to wait for the ball to start before I could do that. Fortunately, I was soon overlooked and shoved back as soon as we were met with the crowd of guests and my aunt introduced herself and her daughter to the new faces and greeted the already known ones. I used this moment to inch closer and closer to one of the doors in the ballroom which opened in the massive garden of the Godwick’s house.
Though I simply couldn’t sneak out yet. I had to wait for a while for the music to start playing and people to start dancing so that no one would have their eyes on me. It wasn’t as if people were paying any kind of attention to me either, thanks to Lizbeth’s hideous clothes but still, I needed to make sure that no servant saw me.
I scanned the crowd once. It was the same— the guests I had seen in the last ball at the Hutchinson’s. Some faces were new but I wasn’t very keen to learn their names either. I noticed Lord Godwick and one of his sisters among the guests.
Most of the female guests had their eyes glued to the former because well, he was the richest suitor in the room. Just a glance from him was enough for them to think about it for weeks but I couldn’t have cared less. Marriage and a man was the last thing in my mind.
Finally, I had managed to sneak out in the garden. It was slightly cooler here but my lungs did appreciate the fresh evening air and my ears felt free of that slow dragging music and the guests’ fake enthusiastic small talks about the weather, politics, and all the useless matters in this world.
The garden was fairly dark. The only source of light there was the huge windows of the ballroom but most of the garden was still drenched in shadows. It was a beautiful place in the daylight but in the dark, it harbored dangerous shadows.
I didn’t know what it was about that particular night which made me wonder deeper into the dark garden. The sky was somewhat clear that night and the moon was out too, casting enough light for me to see somewhat properly in the dark. I took a moment to see how this place had a different ambiance under the moonlight and that’s when I heard something in the distance.
At first, I thought it must have been some small animal in the bushes in the distance but my speculation was proven wrong when I saw a shadow in the distance. It seemed like the shadow of a man who seemed to be in a hurry. He kept looking behind him as if someone was following him and sure enough, someone was following him.
A very tall figure separated itself from the shadows of the trees that lined around the stables. On instinct, I stepped back into the barrier of the trees, blending myself in the shadows.
Then, I watched something I shouldn’t have.
The tall figure followed the man who was now heading towards the house. I was able to see the man clearly but the tall figure was still an outline in the distance. The man quickened his pace. His clothes gave away that he was one of the servants of the Godwick household and the tall figure chasing him was also a man, wearing a tailcoat and a top hat whose shadow covered his face.
His pace was faster than the servant and within a few moments, he was close enough for me to see everything about him clearly. He was carrying a cane in one hand and his other hand remained in the pocket of his tailcoat. If you asked me, this seemed slightly odd given that he was chasing someone but soon, the purpose of his other hand being in his pocket was revealed to me.
The servant was close enough to the Godwick’s mansion when the man following him, pulled out a gun from his pocket and pointed it at the servant. My eyes widened when the realization dawned upon me but it was too late. I waited for the sound of the gunshot but oddly, there was none. In fact, all I heard was a very muffled click, followed by a thud— the sound of the servant collapsing on the ground and laying there lifeless.
I was completely shocked and frozen in my place as I waited for that servant to get up but he never did. I looked at the man who was now edging closer to the Servant’s body. He bent down and took something out of the dead man’s hand. I couldn’t see what it was due to the dark but I decided that this was the time I should leave the darkness and join that ball and that happened to be the biggest mistake I’d made in my life.
No, scratch that. That was the second biggest mistake I’d made in my life. I was yet to commit my first biggest of my life in a few years but I was completely clueless about it at that time. But nonetheless, it could be easily concluded that this was the starting of me committing a series of mistakes.
Slowly and as quietly as I could, I moved among the shadows of the trees, edging closer to the Godwick’s house. I kept glancing over my shoulder to make sure that that man hadn’t seen me. I found him standing by the dead man and examining something in his hand. He looked very much focused.
I used this opportunity to break into a run and that was my second biggest mistake of that night. I was very close to the house, out of the shadows and the peripheral vision of the murderer lurking in the garden and that’s when it happened.
I tripped on my skirt and fell.
That damned corset was already squeezing the life out of me and as soon as I hit the ground, a loud whimper was squeezed out of my lips without my whim. My lungs were burning due to the scarcity of oxygen but I didn’t care. My head instantly snapped behind me to find that murderer frozen in his place before his body turned towards me and finally, in the moonlight I was able to get a glimpse of his face.
The sharp cut of his face was the first thing I was able to make out, followed by his beautifully sculpted lips which were slightly parted, and his slightly crooked nose. His eyes were still covered by the shadow but even after that, I could feel the intensity of his eyes burning on my skin. My heart stuttered in my chest and I heard him make a noise at the back of his throat which sounded like a combination of a growl and a groan.
I’d have stayed there and stared at him but then I decided that I didn’t feel like dying tonight because recently I had purchased this crime novel that I had planned to finish tonight. That was my sole motivation for getting up and running for my life. As I covered the few yards between me and the house, I waited for him to shoot me as well but that never happened.
I sighed in relief as soon as I stepped back inside the ballroom but little did I know that it was just the beginning of this story.
Welcome to my new book!
If you’ve been following me since 2018 then you’d find that this book is a very different book from what I’ve written so far. Though I promise you that it’s going to be much better and interesting than my previous works.
So what to expect from this book?
A historical romance between a rough man with a dark past and a heroine who leaves no opportunity to roast and outsmart him.
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