XIII. Reunion at Last
And how much has changed when he first saw 12 years old Darla in her skirts and her ugly face was showing to him.
James was not being rude when he told her that she was the ugliest person that he ever met. Of course, being the second born to Flemington was like having a vacation when his parents would bring him around the country to visit their peers of the realm. And James was tagged along with them when Magnus was busy at the academy in Hamptor.
Lady Darla Lockwood, with her blonde mane and amber eyes, was extraordinary. But her lack of attention to how she represented herself when they first met was something to behold. James was staring at her and Darla did the same. He was planning to greet her with grace as a gentleman would speak to a lady but what got out of his lips was something else entirely.
"Are you playing in the mud before the dinner because it would seem that you're stinky with that mess on your face," he said before Darla's face was blushing and she ran away from him.
But this time, there was no Darla to meet him. No one for him to throw his insults at since Lady Lockwood was the one that greeted them both.
"Ah! You're here. I have been worried sick if you're getting stuck in the bad weather, my lady," Lady Lockwood was the epitome of grace and elegance. Unless Darla would be like her mother, James doubted that she would ever catch someone's eyes or marriages in her hands.
"As if they could keep me away from visiting you, my dear," Lady Ashley stated as they were hugging each other before Lady Lockwood turned to look at James.
"My, oh my! How you have grown! It has been forever since I last saw you, James," she said with her angelic voice before James bowed and took her hand before kissing her knuckles.
"Thank you for having me into your presence, my lady," he said as he was smiling at Lady Lockwood. She chuckled.
"I can see why they assumed that you're the rake of the Flemington family, James. You're silver-tongued," Lady Lockwood stated as she wiggled her finger at him. James smiled before Lady Ashley was clearing her throat.
"Shall we get inside? My rump is stiff from the ride," his grandma said before Lady Lockwood was escorting them into the estate. The footman took their trunks and brought them to their chambers.
"As you can see, my husband is unavailable to greet you in the front. He had been bedridden—"
"Who says that will keep me from greeting them, my love?" Lord Lockwood's voice boomed across the hallway before his wife was rushing to help him. He was carrying a cane to help him stand as they were coming to greet Lady Ashley and her grandson.
"Ah, James! My boy, you've finally decided to visit your godfather after he was bedridden, I see," Lord Lockwood hugged James as he was patting James' back. The young lad was stiff but he was smiling as the master of the estate was smiling at him.
"I have been busy with work lately. I'm sorry if I never managed to visit you earlier, my lord," James said politely before the baron waved his hand dismissively.
"Better be late than never and we are about to have luncheon together. Shall we?" Lord Lockwood asked before his wife was escorting him to the dining hall. James walked beside his grandmother as they were trailing behind the master and mistress of the estate.
"Where's Lady Darla?" James asked his grandmother before the old dowager countess was looking sideways at him. She smirked at James.
"And may I know why would you like to know about her?" his grandma asked before James grunted.
"Forget that I ask about her then," he mumbled before Lady Ashley chuckled softly. She put her hand inside the crook of his elbow as James led his grandma to the dining hall.
"The last time I heard was that she was away doing her cause to help the poor and the helpless in Norkins," Lady Ashley stated before James turned to look at her. He blinked his eyes, doubted that Lady Darla Lockwood would dirty her hands to help the commons.
"Are you sure about that, grandma? Cause the last time I heard, she would never be in the dirt for a second," James said before the old dowager shrugged her shoulders.
"Who knows? People have changed for the better when they have a good cause in their bones to help the community. Maybe Lady Darla has the same effect as well," Lady Ashley stated before they were seated at the table. James helped his grandma before taking his seat next to her. Lord Lockwood sat at the head of the table and his wife was on his right side.
"Shall we dig in?" he asked them before James smiled and the servants were serving their plates for luncheon.
It has a different effect when you're eating after your travel. It was more satisfying and it tasted better. I don't know what was it that they put in this meat but I am stuffed with it, James thought as he was sipping on the wine when he was alone in the painting room. His grandma has entertained Lady Lockwood as her husband was back in bed for he complained that he was tired.
James was staring at the fire crackling inside the fireplace as he was leaning against the mantle. His heart was pounding loudly as he was hoping that he would catch a glimpse of his mortal enemy. It has been 6 years since they met in that townhouse.
And it has been six years since he kissed her.
That kiss has been taunting his dreams for almost every night for the last 6 years. He knew that Darla would unlikely to think of him like he did when she laid in bed at night but James could not erase the softness and the eagerness in their kiss.
Darla was not immune to his charms after all.
James smiled as he was staring into the fire before he turned to look at the skies outside. They were dark and it was rumored to be raining later that night. So much for me sneaking away, he thought sourly before he was sipping on his brandy that he asked a maid to bring for him after luncheon.
The silence in the painting room was filled with the crackling of the firewood as well as his own breathing. James did not know what to do about this madness inside his head that pictured him and Darla entangled in his bed as their kiss would lead them somewhere.
Somewhere Darla will be beneath him and panting his name as he made her come again and again until there was nothing to be said between them.
James shook that thought away. Darla and him? What a ridiculous notion that his mortal enemy would ever share his bed! She was the ugliest lady in Caga and surely, he would not be married to her.
Not in the long run for he was a rake and he would do anything to stay that way. He will never be a besotted person like Magnus with his wife, Casey, the princess of the realm. The last time James heard, they were happy, back at Flemington estate in Fiktown.
He sighed as he drained the brandy and went to the decanter to refill his glass. He was looking at the liquor before he heard some commotion outside the room and someone walked inside the painting.
James thought it was his grandmother, away from Lady Lockwood as she was trying to find him but when James turned to look who was at the door, he blinked before the brandy in his hand slipped.
No, it cannot be!
James blinked his eyes a few times as if trying to make the hallucination of Lady Darla Lockwood standing in front of the door in riding habits that fitted her body perfectly went away. But no, they were here to stay as it was trying to taunt James into thinking that Darla was back in Scatterford.
Back on his radar again.
"Well, isn't this a sight to behold? You with your brandy in my father's painting room," her sweet angelic voice was filling his eardrums as Darla was removing her gloves. She smelled of fresh air, hay, and horse.
Perhaps she was not a hallucination after all.
Darla looked around the room and grimaced when it was only James in there. Then, her amber orbs were looking at him before she tapped her gloves against her palm.
"Where is my mother?" she asked James and before James can answer, Lady Lockwood, burst into the room and hugged her daughter.