XI. The Cause for Survival
Every one of her peers was chipping in to help. Rosie with her healing skills, Penelope with her etiquette and painting skills. Darla was one with the brains so she helped the kids to learn about the world.
Not everything was about magic these days, except for Science. Yes, science and innovation would bring those children further in life, above their stations as well.
Baron Laderhurst would come and help as well since he did not have anything else going on in his life. She knew that the baron barely have time to look after his tenants but he made sure that he would come to visit the orphanage once every two weeks or a month. That was more than Darla could ask of him.
As well as her feelings for him.
Darla did not know if it was some infatuation that she worked up with the generosity from his help to keep her orphanage alive—which was known to be her legacy and such. But perhaps, she could see that she did not want to be alone in her future now.
She could imagine that Ruben's handsome face was the one that she would wake up to and the last one when she went to sleep. But the real question remained, has Ruben felt the same thing toward her, or was it one-sided after all?
One day, when she was alone in her garden for she loved to attend to her herbs, Darla was approached by Ruben as he was calling after her.
"Darla," he said before Darla turned around on her heels as she was smiling at the baron.
"Ruben. What a lovely surprise. I thought you would be coming next week?" she asked before she was brushing her dirty hands against the apron that she wore. Even when she had known Ruben for a year, she was still conscious of how she presents herself in polite company.
Madam Flemington taught her well enough.
Ruben smiled before he was putting his hands behind his back as the baron was regarding Darla.
"Well, I hope I was not interrupting your session with your lovely greens," Ruben said before Darla smiled at him. she knew that the baron loved to tease her whenever when they were alone.
If only she would know the content of his heart as well...
"What can I say? My greens will never be neglected. They know that they have a loving mother to care for them," she said before Ruben was focusing on her face.
"Yes, with no doubt, they would. I know you would make an excellent mother, Darla,"
The way that he said her name, the way that his blue eyes were locking against her amber orbs. It was too much. Darla did not know how much longer will she be able to control herself—and her feelings—around the baron without him having suspicions against her.
"Well, I'm sure you have something to tell me if you're here without telling me first," she said before the baron smiled. Then, he was ushering her to the house.
"As a matter of fact, I am. Shall we retire to your study then?" Ruben said as Darla was following him into the house, not knowing that she would be hearing something that she had longed for.
And today might just be the lucky day for her.
Well, there was something about today that Darla cannot comprehend in her little mind.
Good news and bad news mashed together as she was looking at the 'gram that has been sent by her parents. And the offer that was made by Ruben a few hours ago.
Í don't usually say this to many ladies but you, my darling Darla, I wish for you to be mine if you would say yes.
Be mine, she thought as she was tapping the 'gram on the table before Darla was biting her lower lips. She would not hope that Ruben was having the same affection for her but if her heart was beating and she was dizzy from his declaration, then Darla knew that the baron was not joking to have her hands in marriage.
Now, time to read the gram from her parents.
She broke the seal before she was opening the 'gram and read what was written by her mother. She read and read it again before Darla stood up as Rosie just entered her study, looking at her in confusion as Darla was gripping the 'gram.
"Is something bothering you, my dear?" Rosie, ever sweet Rosie who was concerned for her friend, came to hold Darla by the elbow. Darla could not breathe when she was reading the 'gram from her parents.
She did not expect that it would be summoning her home to Scatterford for her father was not in great condition. Darla wanted to sob but shock and surprise overruled her brain as she turned to look at Rosie.
"I... I don't...my father..." Darla did not have to say anything as Rosie was hugging her closed before she was bursting her tears. She did not know that she had been missing her parents for this long as she was driven to focus her mind on her cause.
And now, the 'gram was everything that she needed to push that she was missing them.
Oh, how Darla missed them as she could remember the echo of the manor as well as how her father would smile at her when she was advancing in her studies that her tutors praised her.
She missed him and her mother, with her rattling and babbling about the new café and tarts as well as teas.
Darla has to go visit them and she had to tell Ruben that she will be absent for a very long time as well.
She told Rosie that she will go meet with Ruben as her best friend did not ask anything about it. Rosie knew that Darla was closed with the baron but she did not know about the news that he told her today.
That Ruben was intended to marry her.
Darla changed into her riding habits as she did not want to ride the carriage. It was taking too much of her time with the coachman and the footman and all that. They don't have that luxury even when Ruben wanted to give it to the orphanage.
But no, she was comfortable enough to ride to Warydeval and back in Norkins before the sun was down. So, with her blue riding habits, she mounted her mare and rode off to the outskirt of Warydeval.
She did not think much of her predicament as well as the moment that the butler was opening the door and told that Ruben was away in Red Cast, Darla did not dare to show the disappointment in her face.
She thanked the butler and turned down his offer to get some refreshment for her. Darla made an excuse that she would be in town to get some supplies for the orphanage. Even when the butler suspected that she just wanted to get away, he did not question it.
Darla mounted her mare and went to Warydeval with a heavy heart.
First and foremost was because Ruben did not tell her that he will be going to Red Cast and left her standing in front of his estate like a goon.
Secondly, she did not encounter the mortal enemy that she had been avoiding for so long that she forgot how James Flemington, Viscount of Kent looked as well as her old mentor, Lady Ashley Flemington as she was stopping by her favorite café in Warydeval.
Even the town has the reputation of being an elopement town, they made killer tarts and teas.
Darla almost wave and called after her before she noticed the brunet hair and the laughter that was coming from behind Lady Ashley. Then, she was shocked that her heart was kicking in her chest as the memory assaulted her brain at that moment.
The teasing and the taunting.
The smirk and the glistening of his sapphire orbs upon her.
The kiss that they shared in the townhouse as Darla was supposed to be having etiquette lessons while James was trying to make her forget she was a proper lady.
Too much, it was too much.
She did not know what to do but to run away. Darla darted from the café as fast as she could as she was walking on the side of the road to the stable where her mare was taken care of.
"Miss?" the groom asked before she paid him and she mounted the mare. Darla was leading the horse away from the café where she'd seen the old dowager countess and her two grandsons were getting ready to get into the carriage that was waiting for them.
One last look as James was smiling charmingly at the ladies around him before Darla hardened her heart and whipped the reins. The mare snorted before it galloped away from Warydeval, leaving a trail of dust to the sight that Darla knew that she would never want to face that Viscount of Kent ever again.
Until it was too late when she realized that her destiny intertwined with one Lord James Flemington for the rest of her life.