As if James did not know what was happening right under his nose.
His grandmother was trying to matchmake him with one Lady Darla Lockwood. The last time that James met her was when she was visiting his grandmother's townhouse back in Hamptor 6 years ago.
As well as the fact that they shared their first kiss together there when James was trying to undo her. But instead, he was being undone by the softness of her lips and the curves of her lithe body.
James gripped the velvet seat of the carriage even more.
"Is something bothering you, my dear?" Lady Ashley asked before James turned to look at the old dowager. Her eyes were shining before he cleared his throat and smoothed his coat.
"Nothing, grandma. I was just thinking," he replied before Lady Ashley arched her eyebrow.
"About girls, I presume?" she asked before James grunted. As if I would answer that question, grandma, he thought before he was looking at the visible buildings that notified James they were approaching Scatterford.
"Is this meeting long? Why do I have to pack my trunk? I hope you're not staying more than a weekend, grandma," James said before the old dowager was smiling at him.
"Why? Do you have to be somewhere else?"
"No, I don't have to—"
"Then, perhaps it will be a good time away from Hamptor and your study. I know that you're one of the faculty there, Will told me, and I think it is time for you to marry as well," Lady Ashley stated before James was pinching the bridge of his nose.
"Now, we're getting somewhere. You want me to marry Lady Darla Lockwood, isn't it?" he asked before the old dowager was staring at him. She was silent.
"Well? Am I wrong?" he asked before the old dowager countess was looking outside the carriage. They have reached the city limit and there were lots of people that were going on. People were walking down the streets of the cultured city of Scatterford and James can see that the arts were being preserved and displayed all over the city.
It was no surprise that Scatterford was the city of culture and art among its patrons.
"No," his grandma stated before James was looking at her, startled by the answer that she gave him. Then, he grimaced for he thought that his devious grandmother was trying to rule his love life.
"We're here because Lord Lockwood has taken ill and I was hoping that a friendlier face would cheer him up," Lady Ashley stated before she was looking at James. He blinked.
"Did you mean—"
"Yes. Lord Lockwood was very fond of you when you visited them with your parents when you're younger. And it has been a wish from him to meet you again after so many years you have been away from Fiktown. He would always acquire about your whereabouts," his grandma explained before James arched his eyebrows.
Well, that was something that I never thought I would hear in my life, James thought before they were quiet again as the clatter of the cobblestones against the hooves were the only sound that filled their eardrums.
As well as the shouting of the vendors and their customers as they were passing down the markets and the streets that led to Lockwood Estate.
Darla was looking at the city of culture and arts, her home Scatterford. She smiled as it has been a long day as she was riding from Norkins, leaving instructions and homework for her students to do when she was out of town.
And of course, the 'gram that she had to send to Ruben but ended up sitting in her drawer in her office back at the orphanage.
Darla thought that it would be unfair for Ruben if she sent her answer through 'gram since he was taking his time to come to the orphanage and let her know about his feelings and what he intended to do.
I would be happy if you're going to be my wife, my darling Darla, Ruben had said and then left for Red Cast the next hour.
Darla sighed before she was reigning her horse to walk down the streets that were filled with vendors and customers on their regular day. They were shouting about their sales and some were negotiating the price of the products that caught their eyes. She smiled before breathing in.
This is my home. I'm finally home after 6 years, she thought before she kneed the horse's sides and urged Pine, her mare, to go home.
Darla had the hood on to conceal her identity when most of the citizens of Scatterford knew her father, Lord Lockwood, Baron of Cascadian. Her mother would always show her around when she was little and her name, Darla, has been common enough for the commoners to attach to their newborns.
"Miss, want to sample some tarts?" a vendor approached her when she was passing by a small vendor. The owner was a middle-aged woman and Darla, blessed her heart for having empathy, stopped and asked for the tarts. She tasted it and it was delicious.
"How much for those?" she asked, not drawing her hood for this woman might know her even after 6 years she left Scatterford.
"10 tarts for 2 shillings," the old woman stated before Darla produced 1 crown and asked for 100 tarts. When the old woman was asking for her to wait while she went to get her balance, Darla shook her head and asked her to keep the change.
"Bless your heart, Miss," the old woman prayed before Darla urged Pine to move forward toward the estate that she had grown up in. She was still trying to look around the streets where everything has changed when she last visited Scatterford.
The arts that were displayed were being replaced by the newer ones that she did not know who was the painters were. The sculptures were fresh and new as well as the designs. They were not the ones that she used to look at when she visited the city with her parents.
"Better get going then. I think I will explore later more with my mother. Perhaps she would love to go around the city," Darla murmured to herself before she whipped Pine and her horse was running toward the private street that led to Lockwood Estate.
The wind was caressing her face as she was smiling. It has been so long since Darla was running through the forest with Pine and took a morning stroll around the estate. Her horse agreed as it galloped across the courtyard before she was pulling the reign in. Then, she saw the carriage that was parked near the estate.
It was a black coach that suggested the visitors were from the elite class of Caga. Perhaps someone from the court of Caga that her father knew and they decided to visit their dying peer. Pine neighed as Darla was rubbing his neck before she dismounted. The riding habits helped her to get around the horse easily as she was wearing a skirt with slits that showed her pants underneath it. The stable hand came to help her with Pine.
"How may I help you, Miss?" he asked before Darla drew back her hood and the stable hand was looking at her, gawking when he just realized who he was talking to.
"My lady! I am so sorry. I did not mean to be rude to you. If I have known—" he stammered before Darla smiled at him.
"It's fine. No harm done and I am excited to be home. Is my mother around?" Darla asked the groom before he nodded.
"Mistress is in the drawing room. She was entertaining the visitors from Fiktown. Your father seems well enough to leave the bed as well to greet them, my lady," the groom stated before Darla nodded. Then, she was off to be greeted by the butler that was standing in front of the huge oak doors.
"Welcome home, my lady," the old butler stated as he bowed at Darla. She smiled before she hugged the old Mr. John before he flustered.
"My lady, it is not—"
"It's good to see you, Mr. John. Say, how is Mrs. John doing?" Darla said before the old butler was smiling at her.
"The housekeeper is doing great, my lady. She was wondering when will you come back home," the old butler said before Darla smiled.
"And her wish has come true. I wish to see my parents immediately," she said before the old butler took her cloak and went to show her where her parents resided. Then, Lady Darla Lockwood was asking about the carriage that was parked in front of the estate.
"Oh, that? It was someone that your mother was excited to receive as well as your father. He has been wondering about them lately," the old butler stated before Darla arched her eyebrow.
"Yes, there are two of them. One was a lady and one was a gentleman. Good lad, I heard," the old butler said before she was ushered into the painting room and Darla came up short when she knew who it was that the old butler was talking about.
Just her luck that Lord James Flemington was visiting her home when it has been the first time in 6 years since she was home.