XVIII. Running Away
She nudged Pine's sides as she wanted her mare to be at its best speed to arrive in Norkins. Her tears were mixing with the rain as she was trying to control her sobs over the things that have been done to her by James.
James called her ugly.
James took her first kiss in Hamptor.
James made her come when they were in the painting room.
It was horrible and yet...she felt right. She never thought that her feelings for the mortal enemy that she declared in her childhood turned out to be the one that will wreck her heart. It was too overwhelming for her to move forward.
Then, Darla spotted an old inn that was not far from Scatterford. It was on the outskirts of town before she nudged her mare to go there. Perhaps I will be better when I had a hot bath and sleep, she thought before she was dismounting the mare as the stable boy was coming to help her.
"How much for one night?" she asked the boy before he replied one shilling for the stable, add one more shilling for water and oat.
"Take care of him," Darla said before paying the stable boy two shillings and went inside the inn. It was early, considering there was no one in sight that got drunk on ale or brandy. Darla made her way to the innkeeper before she asked for a room. The innkeeper looked at her before she nodded.
"5 shillings for one night, add 5 more for a bath if you want," the innkeeper said before Darla paid 10 shillings and she went to the room. She felt dirty and exhausted before the maid was filling the copper bathtub with hot water and she was removing her riding habits and hung them to dry.
She sank into the warm water before washing away the grime and dirt that stuck to her skin. She washed her hair before she stepped out and looked at the dirty water. I hope your dirty trace on me was there as well, Flemington, she thought before she dried herself and put on her nightgown.
Darla's stomach growled before she was biting her lips. She did not eat much during the supper at the estate for she was focused on James sitting next to her. Never a good sign when you're not eating to the fullest.
She sighed and took out her dressing gown before she made her way downstairs to get some food. Then, she heard that the innkeeper was talking with someone. Darla hid and she saw that James, in his wet riding habits, was talking to the innkeeper to inquire about her.
"Please, there must be someone that comes in here and asked for a room tonight. She would not get far if she was riding in this weather," James said to the innkeeper as the lady was keeping a stoic face.
"I an't see anyone with golden mane and the description that you gave me. And I will not dishonor my clients to give you what you want," the innkeeper said as James was rubbing his face.
"Look, if there is anyone at a given moment—"
"As I said. None like you describe to me," the innkeeper's eyes strayed to the stairs that Darla was hiding before jerking her head to go upstairs. Darla obliged before she heard the desperation in James's voice.
"Please, I pay for your service if you would just tell me if there was a woman that came in here earlier that match the description that I told you," he said before the innkeeper was looking at her in the eyes. Darla shook her head.
"None came in here and you are to leave the establishment, sir," the innkeeper said before two buffy men came in from behind. James turned to look at them before he resigned.
"Okay, thank you for your help anyway," he said as he turned. Darla ducked away as she heard James' footsteps faded away before the front door was closing behind him. She sighed with relief.
"Is that your trouble?" the innkeeper asked Darla as she was helping her to stand. She nodded before the innkeeper was guiding her to one of the tables.
"You can say that,"
"I never like his kind. Always pursuing the ones that he cannot have. Anyway, the supper on the house. You need your strength, my dear," she said before a barmaid was putting a plate in front of her and she thanked the innkeeper.
Darla sighed before she ate her supper and afterward, she went to her room to get some rest, hopefully, James was back in Scatterford, giving up to find her in this faulty weather.
James was wiping the rain from his face as he stood on his horse under the shade of the trees that were not far away from the inn that he stopped by. He saw through the window that the innkeeper was helping Darla to eat her supper before she went to bed.
James clicked his tongue as he knew that he was being played by that old woman. But, he could not blame her if she felt protective over Darla for he was an ass toward her. He deserved to be kicked out from the establishment.
So, with a heavy heart, James went to pull up a tent high above the trees to get some cover from the rain that was pouring heavily. There was some lightning flashing above in the skies as he tied his hammock and set up for the night.
His horse was watered and fed before he looked at Darla's room. The candle was out and James closed his eyes, dreaming of how Darla would fit in his bed if everything that he knew now started differently when they were children.
Perhaps they would be married by now and entangled between the sheets. Or perhaps James was forced to camp on top of the trees as the rain was pouring down, making his life miserable than it already was.
The sun was shining when James was blinking his eyes as the sunlight was hitting his face. He grunted before he went to pack up and leave the trees that he was staying at last night. James heard some commotion at the inn that Darla was staying and saw that she was ready to make her journey.
"Shit," he cursed before James put everything in his satchel and went to retrieve his mount. He mounted the stallion before pulling his cloak so that Darla would not be suspicious that someone was following her.
She waved at the innkeeper as James was keeping to the off-trail that was filled with trees. He stood in the dark as Darla was nudging her horse, Pine, to go through the trail as she was humming in the forest.
What is she doing? She could be attracting attention if she continued to do that, James thought before he followed her in the safe distance as he did not want to alert Darla that someone was tailing her.
The morning turned into the afternoon as they were crossing the narrow trail that travelers from Scatterford would use when they wanted to go unnoticed toward Norkins. James remembered that Darla has a cause to be in Norkins but he never questioned what it really was about.
And this time, it was time to find out what secret she kept in Norkins.
And James wanted to see if what Darla said about Ladenhurst was true.
"Home sweet home," Darla mused as she was staring at the orphanage that was standing still, elegantly and proudly as anything that she could think of in Scatterford. The manor was filled with laughing children and she was dismounting her mare before she saw that one of her friends, Rosie, was coming after her.
"You're back! I thought you might be there for the whole weekend?" Rosie asked Darla before she was smiling at the young healer.
"Yeah, well. My plan changed and I think I cannot stay longer than one night in Scatterford before I run back here," she said as she was hugging her friend. Darla knew that she might be smelling like horse's dung but she didn't care right now.
This was her home, the place where she truly belonged.
"And there is someone to meet you here as well," Rosie arched her eyebrows before Darla turned to look at the man that was coming toward them. There was no mistake in his swagger that it was Baron of Ladenhurst has come to visit the orphanage after that time where he proposed to her.
"Lady Lockwood, Miss Page," Ruben said before Rosie asked the stable boy to help with the mare and went with him to give Darla and the baron some privacy.
"So, I see that you have been traveled this weekend. I hope I don't intrude on you," Ruben said before Darla shook her head.
"No, my lord. Actually, I have been meaning to meet you but you were gone to Red Cast when I went to visit you at your manor," she said before the baron pulled her hand and settled it at the crook of his elbow.
"Why don't we continue our chat in your office? Perhaps you might want to change first?" Ruben said before Darla blushed as they walked into the orphanage, not knowing that a pair of sapphire orbs were watching from afar.