XIX. Honest Answer
You're too wild and free, that is why the gentlemen did not ask for your hand.
I'll show him that I can and I will be someone's wife, Darla thought, pushing the comment from her mortal enemy away from her mind. She went inside the office and Ruben was looking outside the window before he turned and smiled at her.
"Darla darling," he said before crossing the room and went to perk her lips. They did not officially betroth yet but Ruben was putting his claim on her already. Perhaps this what it feels like to have attention from a gentleman, she thought before her mind was reminded by someone else's kisses and caresses.
She shook her head before she went to sit behind her desk. Ruben took his seat in front of the desk as a tray of hot tea and scone was on the table. Darla was smiling at her potential suitor before she was pouring some tea into two teacups and handed one to Ruben.
"Thank you," he said before he was sipping on the tea. Darla put one cube of sugar as she stirred before she sipped.
"So, what business do you have to see me today?" Darla asked Ruben before the baron set down his teacup on its saucer and put it on the table. He turned his blue eyes on her as Darla was waiting for him to speak.
"I have been called on duty for some special mission. I will leave for Red Cast tomorrow and perhaps I will be away for a long time now," he said as Darla was blinking her eyes at him.
"Oh, where are you going?" she asked before Ruben smiled at her.
"I cannot say where I am going to you, Darla darling. It is a...special mission for the greater good of Caga," Ruben said as he was twisting his signet ring. Darla looked at the ring before she turned away from it.
"So, you're here because..."
"I want to know that if you're agreeing to be my wife, there might be a chance that I will be away for a very long time and you will be missed. But I serve the country first and it is my duty. So, I want you to give me the honest answer that you feel in your heart so that I can spare you from heartbreak. Both me and you," Ruben said before he focused on her face. Darla gulped.
"Do you want the answer now? Because I don't know if I can—"
"It would give me great pleasure if you are. But if you need more time, perhaps you can wait until I have returned from my expedition," he said as Ruben was smiling at her. Darla's heart beat faster.
"How long will you be gone?" she asked before Darla was looking at the baron. He smiled weakly before answering her question.
"I will be back before the Tempest Ball. I heard that the princess organized the ball personally this year for her brother, the crown prince. I am sure not going to miss it then," the baron said before Darla smiled at him.
"Until then, Ruben," Darla stood before she went to embrace the baron. Ruben returned her embrace.
"Until then, my Darla darling," he said as he was pulling her chin toward his face before kissing her. Darla did not know what to expect when Ruben kissed her on the lips. Perhaps the same feelings when James kissed her for the first time in Hamptor.
But unfortunately, it did not spark anything and before Darla knew it, Ruben ended their kiss.
"I see you then. Until we meet again at the Tempest Ball," he said before exiting the office that left Darla confused about her feelings more than ever.
"Bloody fucking hell!" James shouted as he was kicking the tree trunk. He was trying to surpass the anger that was building inside him right after when he saw that Darla and that...that...Ladenhurst were sharing a kiss in her office.
He was breathing hard and James felt the prick of tears behind his eyes. He blinked it away before he was taking a deep breath. He turned to lean against the trunk as the sun was shining in the sky.
"What am I even doing here?" he asked himself as James slid to the ground. He put his head inside his hands as he saw the replaying image of Darla kissing someone else. Someone that was not him and she seemed to enjoy it.
James shook his head as he was feeling laughter was coming up from his throat. He laughed and laughed until the tears were streaming down his face. He did not know when and why the tears were streaming down as he was closing his eyes.
"This is what you get for your arrogance, Flemington. Serves you right," he mumbled before he sighed as the sun was setting while James was contemplating his life and poor choices when it came to one Lady Darla Lockwood.
Darla was overseeing the preparation for supper at the orphanage when the news of someone's injured reached her ears. She went to see who has come to the orphanage but she cannot leave the dining hall until later.
She instructed the children to set the table in the manners where the court and the elite classes would have in their manors. She wanted the children to be knowledgeable in everything so that they will have so many options when they left the orphanage later in their lives.
"Okay, children. Places, everyone!" she said as she was clapping her hands. Darla was smiling and helping the young children to get to their places before they were sitting perfectly and she took her place at the head of one of the tables.
"Let us pray," Saul said as he was praying to the Lord, thanking for the food that was put on their table that night and hopefully more to come in the future. He also thanked Darla for making this orphanage and sanctuary to those who needed it and hopefully she will be blessed by the Lord for her kindness.
If that blessing was in the form of marriage, then I would rather die than being tied down, she thought but the memory of kisses assaulted her mind. And it was not coming from Ruben Jenkins, the one that proposed to her.
"Let us dig in," Saul said before everyone was eating their supper. Darla took the knife and the fork before she was looking at the roast meat. It reminded her of her last supper at the estate where James was sitting next to her and she was biting her lips. Then, Rosie came to her.
"Darla, a word?" her friend said before Darla excused herself from the table. She went with Rosie before they were going toward the infirmary.
"What is it? Was the patient? Are they alright?" she asked Rosie but her friend was grimacing all the way. Then, before they entered the infirmary, Rosie turned to look at her and sighed.
"There is something you must know before you go in there," Rosie said as Darla nodded at her. She bit her lips before decided that it was better to tell Darla than to keep it a secret.
"He claimed that he knows you and demanded that you are the only one that is allowed to treat him," Rosie said before Darla's hands went to her mouth.
"Is he alright? Why would you let him have his way—"
"It's Lord James Flemington," Rosie said as she was looking at Darla. She was staring at Darla before she nodded.
"Oh. I see,"
"You don't have to go in if you don't want to treat him," Rosie rushed on before Darla was looking at her. She smiled.
"Was he badly injured? Wounds that I need to stitch?" she asked. Darla didn't want to brag but she was damn good with a needle and a string. Rosie shook her head.
"He's not injured. He's just..." Rosie sighed, "Drunk. He wanted to see you and demanded that you will be here," she said before Darla nodded.
"I understand. I will be careful," she said before Rosie allowed her to pass into the infirmary as Darla can hear that James was shouting at the top of his lungs.
"Where is she? Where is Darla? I demand her to be here!" he shouted before there were some of her friends was holding him down.
"My lord. Please, restrain yourself," Jules said before he was strapping James to the bed. Darla sighed before clearing her throat.
"Leave us," she said before her peers; Jules and Kyran were looking at her as if Darla has grown horns on her head now.
"Surely you don't want us to leave you with—"
"I know him and I know that James will not hurt me, even when he's drunk like a rake," Darla set her eyes on James. His sapphire orbs were looking at her like a predator before Kyran and Jules went out of the infirmary. Darla crossed her arms in front of her chest as she looked down on James.
"Now you got my attention. What do you want, Flemington?" she asked as James was staring at her. Then, he gripped Darla's waist before he flipped her on the bed. She shrieked as her heart was beating so fast.
James was staring at her with hooded eyes. Darla can smell alcohol on his breath before he leaned closer and their hot breaths mingled.
"You do like to play me, don't you, Lady Darla Lockwood? You, with your attitude and your impossible freedom. You, with your ugliness shoved under my nose every time I see you when I went to Scatterford when we're children," he said as Darla was trying to push him off. James gripped her waist tighter.
"You're such a witch, bewitching me so that I could never forget you," he whispered and when Darla was about to protest, James dipped his head toward and for the second time after their reunion, they kissed.