XXIII. Long Journey to Red Cast
Darla never had a knack for dancing but since James was asking her to come with him, she could hardly refuse.
Since when I cannot say no to James Flemington? She asked herself as she was putting the best dress that she had into the traveling trunk that she would carry. She had told the others that they have to go to Red Cast with an emergency from their family. Rosie arched her eyebrow at her before she left them with more questions than answers.
Guess nothing will ever be the same again, Darla mused before someone was knocking on her door. She went to close the trunk and went to the door to see who it was. When she opened it, she did not expect to see that James was prepped and ready to travel now.
"Are you done packing?" he asked, making his way into her bedchambers. Darla closed her eyes as she was trying to control her anger when she remembered what Penelope said to her.
Walls have ears.
"And what are you doing here? I thought you were packing as well," Darla said as she took some books that she wanted to make a note for her classes after the ball and she would be bored when they travel in a carriage.
She had suggested that they travel by horses but James disagreed, saying that their parents would not agree to that and he was acting like a doting betrothed.
As if anything about them was real.
"I'm done. I'm waiting for you. The carriage is here," James said as he went to look at the courtyard that her window was facing. Darla went to look as well before she saw a black carriage without a crest or insignia was waiting.
"You should have said earlier. I don't want anyone to wait on me," Darla said before she was moving around the room and packed her stuff. She did not care what she took anymore for she felt it was her fault that the coachman was waiting for them.
"Well, we did pay him to wait on us, so...take your time, Darla. Don't rush," James said before she glared at him. He held his hands in surrender before Darla shut the traveling trunk and tried to carry it downstairs until James stopped her.
"Here, let me,"
"I can carry my own trunk," Darla said as she was huffing. James arched his eyebrow before he took the trunk from her.
"Sure, when it was less than 5 pounds," he said before he took the trunk and descended the stairs. Darla rolled her eyes before she took her reticule and went after him as well.
Once outside, the sun was about to rise. They did have anything else to be done but to get into the carriage. The coachman was holding out the door for Darla to get in. James was putting the trunk on top of the carriage.
"After you, my lady," the coachman said as he helped Darla to get inside the carriage. It was cold outside as she was draped with her traveling cloak before she settled on the velvet seat. James came in after her. The coachman closed the door before he went to take his seat at the front.
"Well, this is it," James said before he was smiling at Darla. Mind you, his smile might set her heart on fire now but then, her face said nothing about it.
"Let's go," she said before James tapped the roof with his hand and the coachman whipped the horses. They neighed before the carriage was moving forward.
The silence was deafening between them. Or so James thought. Darla was not looking at him as she was so focused on her reading as she was trying to ignore him during their ride to Red Cast. Well, you cannot ignore me longer when we're stopping to break the fast.
The carriage stopped as Darla turned to look up from her book and settled her amber orbs on James. He smiled before the coachman was getting off from his seat and opened the door of their carriage.
"We'll stop to break our fast for a while, my lord, my lady," he said as Darla turned to look at James. He shrugged before getting off from the carriage and helped Darla to get down as well.
"And where are we exactly?" she asked him as they were walking toward the inn that was located outside of Norkins. Not many visitors around these parts but the inn was there and it was good for them.
Especially when Darla's stomach began to growl.
She cleared her throat before she was looking at the inn as she was pulling at her gloves. Darla removed it one by one on her fingers before gripping the kidskin gloves and turned to look at him.
"So, shall we, my lord?" she asked James before putting her small hand at the crook of his elbow. Then, they walked inside the inn as the smell of baked goods and stew hit their nostrils.
The place was deserted except for couples of men that drown in their misery and snored around the table that they occupied. James led Darla to the bar where the innkeeper was looking at them, wide eyes.
Money, James can hear the sound of the crowns were cashing inside the innkeeper's head as he was smiling at him and Darla.
"Welcome to my humble inn, my lord, my lady. Shall it be two rooms or one?" he asked before Darla was clearing her throat and avoided looking at the innkeeper.
"We would like some food to break our fast please," James said before the innkeeper nodded at him then moved to the kitchen. James scanned the room as he found a table that was far away from the drunkards but not far away from the fastest exit on their right.
James helped Darla to her seat before she untied her bonnet and looked around. James removed his traveling coat and put it behind the chair that he occupied. Then, the maid was coming with two tankards of ale.
"Thank you," he said as he was winking at the maid. She blushed before running back to the kitchen, no doubt taking their food. Darla rolled her eyes at him as she was sipping on the tankard. She made a face after her first sip. James smirked.
"Not used to ale, I see," he said as James sipped his own.
Darla wrinkled her nose before she was looking at the inn again. "Well, I'm not usually drinking it but I can get used to it. It tastes like cheap rum, so it was okay," she said before she sipped on again as she was looking at the maid that carried their food. Her mouth watered.
"Here's the tip for you, dear," James said as he slipped a couple of shillings to the maid before she scurried away. Darla looked at him as he broke his bread and dipped it into the stew.
"What?" James asked when Darla was not making a move to turn away from his face. Then, she shook her head and went to eat her food. But James could have sworn that he saw her lips curved at the end, almost as if she was smiling at him.
That would be the first time in his life to see that Darla came close to a smile. And a smile just for him.
After breaking their fast together, they went back into the carriage as the coachman was watering the horses and got back on the road as soon as they can. The sun was rising slowly as they were hitting the road to Fiktown where they will be stopping at Flemington Manor.
At least that's what James told her.
"I see that you have some shillings to the barmaid," Darla tried to approach the topic of her fascination since she was traveling with James to Red Cast. The rake was looking outside the carriage before his sapphire orbs were turning to look at her. Then, he looked away.
"Surprised at my generosity?" he asked before Darla blinked her eyes. Then, she nodded.
"Yes, to be honest. I did not know that you would give some tips to the barmaid when you're—when you're..."
"When I what, Darla darling?" his smirk was plastered on his lips before Darla narrowed her eyes at James.
"You don't want people to know that you're being kind," she said before James's smirk was gone. Then, he turned to look outside the carriage again.
"Even if I don't show it, people would always presume what they want of me. Just like you, thinking that I would only tip when I have a lady on her back," James said as Darla blushed.
"That's not—that's not what I—"
James shrugged before he was sighing. "No matter. It's not like I want you to know the real me. Since you have your own opinion of me," James said before his crooked smirk was back on, leaving Darla wondered why Lord James Flemington portrayed that he was the rake that he wanted everyone to believe him.