Chapter Two

"Thank you, young man." William said as Adrian was returned to his side. "I've wanted to dance with my daughter all night…but I'm afraid to say I could not find her."

"Ah. Most welcome, sir. And my apologies for being so rude. Miss Adrian," he bowed and kissed her hand. "Please have a good night."

"He seemed a nice young boy." William said as he led Adrian to the floor.

"Nice enough, I suppose." She replied, looking over her shoulder. He stood with another now—a man—and the two watched her closely, talking every once in awhile.

"Grand party, don't you think?"

"You know how I feel about parties, father. If I had to comment on it, then yes…it is rather nice."

"I was thinking."

"Oh no, not again." She laughed. William smiled.

"We should host one at our manor. Just a small one, of course, since our property is not this accommodating."

"You know that no party can be small."

"Of course I know that!"

Adrian stumbled and stopped moving.


She laid a hand on her stomach. "I don't…"

"Adrian?" he repeated as she crumbled to the floor. William came with her, lowering her gently. People around them stopped dancing. Hushed whispers exploded like a brushfire, sweeping from one side of the great drawing room to another.

"What is it?" one woman asked, stepping forward slightly. Her companion kept her from going any further.

"Has she fainted?" another asked.

Roald appeared, kneeling beside William. His hands deftly checked for a pulse, then rested against her forehead and cheeks.


"I've no idea."

"We need to move her. You may stay here for the night—"

"No, no." William sighed. "I shan't intrude on your party. I'll take her home, but I'm in no condition to lift her, however light she may be. No, no. You aren't going to carry her, either."

Roald stood and looked around. He called a name and the young man Adrian had danced with previously stepped through the crowd.

"Yes?" he said, his voice a faint whisper as he looked down at her.

"Kindly take Miss Douglass outside. Maybe a touch of fresh air will do her good. Now, William, don't let this spoil your night." With that, Roald led William to another room, handing him a cigar—which was instantly lit.

The boy swooped down and picked her up. A path was made to the front doors of the drawing room. He carried her past the whispers and disgusted looks, past the fountain at the front of the house, and outside. He sat her on a stone bench and slapped her cheeks.

Her eyes shot open and she gasped, grabbing his wrist before he could pull it away. Anger flared in her eyes. When she saw it was just he, she sighed and let go, leaning back and fumbling to open her fan.

He took it from her, opened it, and gave it back.

"Why am I out here?"

"You fainted."

She groaned.

"Most charming way to get out of a dance."

"How did I get out here?"

He shrugged. Adrian's eyes scanned the ground quickly and she gasped.

"He let you carry me!?"

"Ah. That he did."

"Carry me!"

"Yes. Is it that horrifying."

"Carried me out here." She repeated. "Of course not, but what rumors will be flying come tomorrow!"

The young man shrugged and leaned against the stone pillar.

"What is your name, anyways?"

"Gabrielle De'Fere."

"Thank you, Gabrielle. Don't allow me to keep you from dancing with that stunning young woman over there."

"What woman?"

She nodded her head in the girl's direction and he looked. Then laughed.


"I haven't an idea what her name is."

"That's Liana."

"Then dance with her. Clearly she's got an eye for you."

"Not Liana, I'm afraid. No. She is…taken, at the moment."

"By who?"

"Roald fancies her his. She lets him."

"They're courting, then?"

"Ha! No. They're far beyond courting."

She scoffed and turned her head. Then she stood and began walking away.

"Where are you going?"

"To the carriage. I'm sure they'll be out soon."

"No. They're going to continue with the party."

Adrian spun around, her dress flaring. "What do you mean?"

"You just fainted. Roald told your father not to let it ruin his evening." Gabrielle replied, smiling smugly. Adrian began walking faster.

"Ruin? I'm ill!"

Strolling couples glanced at her, disgusted with her behavior. Less than a block away, Gabrielle grabbed her arm and spun her around.

"Leave me alone or I'll scream."

"We're too far away for you to be heard. You made sure of that." He whispered. Adrian opened her mouth, preparing to yell, but Gabrielle's hand cut her off. She tore away from his grasp and slapped him, hard. It stung horribly.

"How dare you be so bold!" she hissed. "You will be hearing from my brother when he returns. Have no doubt. He doesn't take lightly to matters like this. He never has."


"I said leave me alone!" she yelled, turning and walking back the way they came.

"Wait. It's getting dark. You're not safe if you're alone!"

"I'll be fine." She called over her shoulder, lifting the front of her dress and running from him.

Adrian slowed when she wasn't as close and grasped at her side. Women normally didn't run, so she was unprepared for the horrible ache on her right side. Plus her loss of breath. She could see the manor from where she was. It's lights, both inside and out, shone brightly and the music still played. It was a bit more upbeat than earlier in the evening, but still elegant.

"What're you doing out—alone?"

Adrian stopped and stepped back as a man emerged in front of her, a sinister smile on his face.

"Ah…what've we got here?"

His accent wasn't normal, with a slight lisp. It gave her the chills.

"What's wrong, girlie? Mute?" he chuckled and grabbed her arms before she could pull away. Adrian screamed before he could stop her, yelling as loudly as she could.

"Wench." He snarled, covering her mouth. Adrian bit down and squirmed free of him for a second, but he was fast. He grabbed her around the waist and pulled her back.


"She's mine, Gabrielle." He snapped, squeezing her wrist until she cried out.

"Claim her if you must," he replied. "But do you remember the rule, Geoffrey? You can't take Roald's guests."

"Blast the damn rules. She's mine."

"Then you must present her to him. You know all of this."

"I am no one's!" she yelled, trying fruitlessly to get free. "Take me back at once!"

"Listen to her." Geoffrey said, trailing a finger along her cheek. She jerked her head back.

"You're a dead man." She snarled.

"Let go of her, Geoff." Gabrielle commanded. "Now."

Geoffrey pushed her away and she stumbled before falling. When she looked up, the man named Geoffrey was gone and Gabrielle was standing over her, his eyes cold.

"I'll speak to Roald about this, but you are to say nothing to your father." He said. "Do you understand?"

"That man accosted me!" she argued, reaching out for his hand. He pulled it back.

"Do—you—under—stand? Or shall I call him back?"

"You wouldn't dare."

"Don't test my resolve, young lady."

She stood and wiped her dress down. "Well, youngman, I suggest you return me to the party."

"Your suggestion, while very helpful, is not needed. After all, you did get yourself here all on your own."

She shrugged and began walking away. Gabrielle sighed and went after her.

"I'll be a block away from your house tomorrow night. Be there and I'll tell you what Roald is going to do."


Adrian turned around to find he was already gone.

"What are you doing here?" Adrisa asked, setting her pistol on the counter. Kithara smiled and stood, walking to the counter and inspecting the gun.

"You know why I'm here, Adrisa. Don't you?" Kithara smiled and put the gun down. "Of course you do."

"How'd you know where this is?"

"Ah. That.Contour and I dated once, and he brought me back here for the night." The woman stretched, mewing as her muscles tensed. Her orange cat-eyes glittered teasingly. "I believe that was the night we split up. Ah. But it was so memorable."

"What do you want?"

"Your whole clan is gone, dear." Kithara said, tracing a long, sharp fingernail over her bare abdomen. "You can't live alone. Well, safely, at least."

"I'm making arrangements."

"Yes. Well. We are in need of you. No one else needs you more than we do."

"You expect me to join Timber?" Adrisa asked, removing her dagger. She heard a click and turned to see the Kithara had her gun out, pointing it towards the floor.

"Of course, dear. Why else would I have come?"

The black pistol rose until it was pointed directly at Adrisa's neck. She could see the orange cat on the side—Timber's mark.

"As I said before, Kithara, I have already arranged for something. Now leave, or I shall have to force you out."

Kithara sat on the counter instead. "Contour was quite the man, wasn't he?"

"As a leader, yes."

"Yes. Of course. But he was so…yummy, don't you think, Adrisa? Oh, come on. Don't hold back. You know. Tell me what he was like in the last few years of his terribly prolonged li—"

Adrisa pointed the barrel right between Kithara's eyes. The leader of Timber hadn't even seen it coming.

"I've always admired your skills, Adrisa." Kithara said. Adrisa cocked the gun seconds after Kithara had spoken.


"I'm going for a walk. Just down to the end of our drive." Adrian announced, wrapping her shawl around her shoulders. Regina regarded her coolly, knowing something was amiss.

"Of course, Adrian. Make sure you're home in an hour."

"May I come?" Regina asked. Adrian stopped in her tracks and turned.

"No, you may not. You're not properly dressed and it would take you too long to get there."


"She said no, Regina. Sometime, you will want away from everything also…even Emma."

Adrian left without another word. At the end of the drive, she stopped and glanced around the stone fence.

"I shouldn't be doing this." She whispered anxiously, looking over her shoulder at the house. She took a deep breath and started forward again, clenching the shawl tighter around her shoulders as she stepped forward.

"Why are you doing this, Adrian?" She asked herself as she walked down the street. She sighed when she could produce no answer, and settled for the fact that she wanted the man—Geoffrey—to get what he deserved.

"Oh—God, you scared me!" Adrian squealed, stepping back. Gabrielle leaned against a pole and regarded her for a few seconds. Then he stood.

"Did you talk to Roald?" she asked. The temperature had dropped several degrees since she had left.

"Yeah." Gabrielle replied.


"Geoffrey had talked to him before me. So Roald agreed to it. But only if Geoffrey could get your father's permission to marry you, in which case you would truly be his."


"You heard me."

"My father would never agree."

"Ah. There's where you are wrong. Although he may not look it, Geoffrey is a very well known businessman—and very rich. He lives in a large estate in France, one much bigger than Roald's. He's known for his promiscuousness. That means—"

"I know what that means!" she snapped.

"Don't be mad at me. I'm just the messenger."

"Oh, they're always just the messengers. Then they turn out being accomplices that you wish you had killed."

Gabrielle laughed. "I could talk to Roald again, if you'd like."

"No." she sighed. "It isn't my choice. If my father wants me to marry him, then I'll have to—"

"I wouldn't have that attitude, if I were you."

"Well, you aren't me. You're a guy," she waited for him to say something, but he didn't. "Fine. Why shouldn't I have this attitude?"

"You don't know why he wants to marry you. I'd get that brother of yours to convince your father otherwise."

She grabbed the sleeve of his tunic as he turned to leave.

"Please. Tell me why."

Gabrielle stared over her shoulder before his gaze rested on her. "I can't."

"Then do something to help me!"

"I am a stranger to you."

"You've helped me before." She argued. "Please…"

"What do you suggest I do, then?"

Adrian sighed. "I don't know. Just do something to stop it! If you can't tell me, it has to be bad. And Thom will not help me."

"I'll think about it."

She dug her nails into his wrist as he turned to leave again. "I forbid you to think about it. You'd better bloody do something."

"This is coming from the girl who didn't want to believe me?" he laughed. "You're ordering me to do things now? I'm sorry, but I don't take orders from women—or those of lower class."

Adrian inhaled and slapped him as hard as she could. Gabrielle pulled back, rubbing his cheek slightly where a red mark the shape of a palm was beginning to form.

"You self-righteous bastard! You think you can just say things to me—!" she pushed away and turned.

"I shall call for you tomorrow." Gabrielle called after her, a laugh-like tone to his voice.

"You've a visitor." Emma squealed, running into Adrian's bedchamber. Adrian looked up from her book, a smile on her face.

"Do I?" she asked, closing the book and standing.

"Yes. Father wouldn't let me and Regina see him, though."

"Regina and me."


"Never mind." Adrian sighed, straightening her dress. Emma and English did not mix. It was hopeless, trying to put the two together.

"Tell father to let us come!"

"Stay up here, Emma." Adrian ordered, walking down the stairs.

"Ah. You've a caller. I can only guess where you were last night." Regina said sourly, trotting up the stairs. Adrian glared, but continued to the drawing room.

"There she is." William ushered his oldest into the room. "Adrian. Meet Gabrielle De'Fere. He was the young man who took you outside when you fell ill at the party. You remember him, yes?"

"Of course I do."

"We were talking at the party…after the incident, of course, and I told him to come by to see you anytime he wanted. Isn't it grand?"

"Yes." She said, fingering her silver necklace. Gabrielle smiled at her. Olivia came in bearing wine for the men.

"Ah! Thank you, dear. Gabrielle, this is my wife, Olivia. Olivia, Gabrielle."

Adrian blushed, not meeting Gabrielle's eyes. So he had done it. What Adrian wanted to know is why. She had thought him to be jesting when she heard him yell after her.


Olivia placed the silver tray on the table and left, her dress swishing behind her. Adrian's left hand strayed to the bodice of her gown.

"William!" Olivia yelled. She only raised her voice on important occasions, so William hurried out of the room.

"I didn't think you'd come." Adrian said. Gabrielle held a hand up to silence her. Then she heard a squeal from Emma and her mother talking quickly. Then.

"Thomas!" Adrian yelled, running out of the parlor and into the main hall. Thom opened his arms and swung her around. She kissed her brother's cheek and stepped back.

"Wow. You've changed so much!" she whispered. The usual protocol when people came back.

"So have you." He replied slowly, looking over her shoulder. "Father?"

"Oh. Gabrielle, this is my oldest, my son. Thomas, Gabrielle."

Thomas shook Gabrielle's hand and a bemused look came over his face.

"A pleasure to meet you. Did someone leave the household?"

Adrian was immediately embarrassed by her brother's comment, even though she didn't care for Gabrielle that much.

"Adrian, entertain your guest. Thom, we have a lot to talk about."

Thom automatically realized what Gabrielle was doing here.

"Adrian, go for a walk. I need to help Gail in the kitchen. Regina, with me."

Regina groaned and skulked after their mother, shooting a glance back at Gabrielle, eyeing him appreciatively. Emma skipped after Regina, yelling a goodbye over her shoulder.

Gabrielle held his arm out for her.

"Why did you come?" she asked as she slipped her arm through his. They began walking outside, through the gardens and verandas.

"I told you I would. I do not break promises."

"Ah. Is that it?"

"Of course."

"You'd have a lot more luck with my sister, I'm afraid to say."

"And why is that?" he asked, smiling and casting her a sidelong glance.

"I'm not one you can just marry off. Regina, on the other hand, would be happy to marry a rich man. Perhaps you should speak to father of that. She is, after all, fifteen."

Gabrielle led her to a bench. She did not sit, but stood staring at the moon.

"She would make a brilliant wife, Gabrielle. A bit reluctant to do work, but that is all. And she is astonishing. Don't you think?" Adrian said, making idle chit chat. "Your children would be beautiful— "

"It is my choice, who I wish to call upon. You don't seem to be the kind that won't get married. And what use would I have for a wife who wouldn't do simple things? I do not need someone to plan my future with a girl I do not wish. I will choose who I marry."

"True. But I am allowed to refuse anyone I want to. My father has told me that."

Gabrielle sighed, as if with a bit of annoyance. "And if Geoffrey comes? What then? Will your father allow you to refuse him? I told you already, that man is very persuasive."

"I can take care of myself." She replied stubbornly. Gabrielle shrugged.

"If that is how you feel about it, I will leave. Right now."

She waited a few minutes. "Don't."

"Well, I still must go. But now that I know you won't turn me away, I must tell you something."

"And that is?"

"I am going away. For Roald. I will be gone for perhaps two weeks, three at the most. The ship I'll be traveling on is the Iron Maiden—"

"Those things are horrid devices!"

Gabrielle laughed. "Yes. It's her maiden voyage. I will write you when we dock, if you'd like."

"That would be nice."

"Stay inside at night, while I'm not here."


"Just do it, please." He whispered. Adrian nodded and looked away. Gabrielle turned her face toward his and kissed her softly. She closed her eyes and when he pulled away, it took her a second to realize what she was feeling was the memory. Her eyes snapped open and she blushed, though he couldn't see that through the darkness.

He walked her back to the house and said goodbye to everyone.


I am sad to say that I have been no help to anyone this past week. It has seemed forever since he told me he'd be leaving. I see my father looking at me strangely, as if he finally sees something different—a change, perhaps. I cannot see why he never thought of it before. I am, after all, almost seventeen. I shall be so in a few weeks. It is only appropriate that I should have beaus at this age—is it not? Mother says it is, and she knows more in those topics than I, so I shall believe her. Of course, if I had waited too long to show interest in a man, or he in me, it would have been dreadful. Women of that sort are said to be…I can't even write it. They end as old maids, however, and it is dreadful to end like that.

The Iron Maiden landed safely yesterday and I received a letter from Gabrielle. He told me of his trip thus far—mostly of being on the ship. He is astonishing in that way. Women can't learn things of the sort. His letter was full of information and I can say (embarrassingly) that I have read it over thrice, maybe more. Then he wrote of how much he wished Roald hadn't sent him on his trip.

I have been around travelers my whole life: father was gone when I was younger and when he got too old, Thomas went on his trips. I love them very much, you understand, but somehow this is different. It is not family, and I know this is why.

For the past few days I have been wandering around, most likely looking lost. Regina is not talking to me, and Emma is following her lead. How can one day with only one man make such a difference? Regina must know that she'll get better offers then I. I am not what men want. My mother use to tell me this everyday at lessons. I have black hair that no man wants to look at. I am taller than most women and very thin—almost too much so, mother says. Gail agrees. Men want women just right. Black hair is too foreign for most. And too thin provides nothing to show, including the bosom. I do not lack, but still…it is horrible.

Regina, however, is just as tall as should be. Her hair is fine and light, the color of wheat spun with silver. Her chest, of course, is not as big as mine. But men don't want horribly endowed women—that usually provokes others into thinking her a courtesan.

I must go. Father is calling.

Adrian walked, dazed, back to her bedchamber. She felt to be sick. How could father do this? How…he'd…Adrian shook her head, pushing the thoughts away. Betrayal? No. All fathers chose their daughters' husbands. Of course he hadn't meant for her to actually have a say in which she was to marry. The richest guy won, right?

Adrian stood in front of her window, playing with the necklace she wore, watching his carriage leave.

"Adrian! You've got a letter." Her mother said, entering her room. She smiled.

"He's a nice guy, don't you think?"

Adrian stared after his carriage.


"Oh—? Yes, of course." She agreed, taking the letter from her mother and giving her a kiss on the cheek.

Once her mother was, she sat on her bed and slid her fingernail through the wax. Unfolding it, she chuckled.

Dearest Adrian,

I hope you're doing well. I'm almost through with my business here and will head home soon. I can hardly await the return. I'll be going back on a ship called Fire Storm. The name makes no sense to me, since it travels upon water…

I hope you've been staying in at night. It's quite dangerous for you to be out, even during daylight—especially alone. I don't understand why they allow women out at those hours. Where I'm staying, women stay out however late they please. While I've been here alone, there has been one murder—a woman. What did the town do the next day? Stayed out all night. Of course.

I've been corresponding with your father, as well as with you, and the latest letter said something of our relationship. I believe that when I return, I shall ask him for the permission to marry you. Only if you approve, of course. I wouldn't want to be humiliated when you rejected me—as you said your father lets you.



Adrian slid to the floor, her dress surrounding her, and cried.