Just in time, Aldrich Clairborne entered the Woods of Idralia. He had kept to the promise that he had made to himself. He had to see her again. He wanted to kiss her one last time, before she became another man’s darling.
He wasn’t afraid of the terrors of the dark. A man in love had no discretion, no consideration for safety. He was in love with Lucy Wesley.
As he neared the end of the Woods, he saw two figures awaiting him. From the silhouette, he could tell one was male and the other, female.
“I mean no harm, put down your weapons!” His stern voice reverberated through the Woods.
Lucy felt a chill run down her spine. Was she hallucinating? Was this a dream?
The commanding tone in the voice, reminded her of only one man; the Duke of her heart. Aldrich Clairborne
“Get off you horse!” Her guard fired back at Aldrich.
“I warn you my friends…” Aldrich caressed the hilt of his sword. He wasn’t a man, swift to violence. He was a man in love, heading for something important. He was impatient by the barrier, these two had created.
Lucy stiffened. He couldn’t recognize her because of the hooded cloak she wore.
“Get off your horse dammit!” Francis barked.
“Francis!” Lucy called with a sharp voice. And when he turned to look at her, she whispered.
“Put your sword down, he is a powerful man.”
Just in time, Aldrich jumped down from his sword and advanced towards them.
Angrily, he dragged the female figure by the shoulders and overpowered her. He pointed his sword against her belly.
“I came to see the woman that my heart beats for. You two will die first, before you stop me.”
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“I do not like the games that you play, Beauregard. I do not want to be a part of this plan of yours.” Elan expressed his angst as they moved into the castlette. Though he hissed, and complained, Beau seemed unperturbed by his discomfort. He had come for one thing, and he wouldn’t leave without accomplishing it.
Now that it was certain that Aldrich would be married to Ariana, Beau had decided to shift the date for the planned assassination of his cousin.
“You write poems don’t you?” He faced the baron.
Elan snorted, “How does that concern you? Is this what brought you to Ox-Dale?”
Beau laughed. The baron was a smart man. He was mouthful too.
“I know what you poets term a ‘poetic justice or ending,’ and I intend to employ that to our plan for Aldrich.”
“Let us be clear about one thing, I have no plan to hurt the Duke. That is all of your idea. He has done nothing to me. Unlike you, I do not have a greedy spirit and I am not blinded by unrealistic ambition.”
Beau felt insulted by the baron’s words. But he was a patient man. He had waited all these years, for the right time to strike Aldrich, when he would have easily done that when they were younger.
“Do not insult me. If you do not have a greedy spirit, why do you gamble? Or have you forgotten the road to Morglay Street?”
The baron rose to his feet, “I am getting tired of your games and threats. Do not for a second think that I am a weakling.”
Beau joined him standing, “I never said so. I came to tell you that we will shift the date of the assassination to the eve of the Duke’s wedding to Lady Beldon. This will take the suspicion away from me and to the nobles of Wandsworth, who have always wanted the throne. That way, you will have enough time, to find an assassin.”
“I do not want to be a part of this, please,” Elan begged.
“This is a little sacrifice that you must pay for greatness. You should be thanking me for coming all the way from Wandsworth.” Beau sighed and ran his eyes over the small castle.
He decided to spend the night here. He would see Lucy before leaving.
“Where is your sister?” Beau asked, quickly switching the topic, so that Elan wouldn’t have the time to argue.
Elan gritted his teeth. He was quite certain that Lucy would be in Islington by now; where she far from danger.
“She is asleep.”
“Fine. I shall sleep here. I’ll see her at first light. And don’t even think of harming me in any way.” Beauregard waved a hand across Elan’s face. He was no fool. Elan wasn’t down with the idea of killing the Duke, but he had to threaten him to submission.
“What if you made a mistake by coming to Ox-Dale? Nobody knows that you sneaked out of your Dukedom.” Elan replied with mischief in his voice.
Beau smiled, knowing that Elan intended to make him afraid.
“I do not fear you. You are a failed baron. If you failed to protect your wealth and means, you will also fail at killing a man like me.” Beau walked closer and patted the baron on the shoulder
“I will make room for myself in your little throne room. I’ll see myself out in the morning.”
With this, Beau tightened his hands around the hilt of his sword and moved confidently towards the baron’s throne room.
Elan’s jaw tightened as he watched Beau live. Sadly for him, the bastard was right. He didn’t have it in him, to murder any man. But he had it in him, to take advantage of a situation that would favour him.
He was still indebted to the Duke. But he knew that Aldrich would forgive him and his debt, if he saved his life. Aldrich was a just man. Elan pulled in a deep breath and snapped his fingers.
His guards surrounded him at once.
***
Days had passed since the Marquees ordered her daughter to be bounded by her guards. The woman felt remorseful and ashamed for what she had done before her servants. Ariana was her sweet and dear child. She was the pearl of Islington, yet she had treated her like a prisoner.
If Ariana had any love for her, it was set to be diminished after her wedding to Aldrich Clairborne. The woman felt alone in an enormous castle. All she had was a name and a castle of wine and food. She felt no love. She was possessed with power lust.
As she ran her fingers over the jar of wine, the Marquees realized how empty and unpleasing her life had been all these years. She had fallen in love once. She had known the sweetness and the delight that came with sharing every moment of your day with someone who cared. She had felt the ecstasy of stolen kisses. She had felt the thrill of sneaking out of the house, in the middle of the night. But her happiness was short lived. Like the girls of her class, she was married off to a man that she did not love.
Ariana’s father had done nothing to her; he had loved her genuinely, but she had resent him with a great passion. Their marriage had not been any fault of his. Like her, he was a prison of ancient rules and society. She imagined how unhappy her Ariana would be if this wedding between her and the Duke was finally done.
Unlike her, Ariana wasn’t that strong. She had taught herself to be strong at an early age; but Ariana wasn’t emotionally ready.
The Marquees abandoned the well embellished table of fruits and fine meals and decided to go see her daughter. As she marched determinedly towards Ariana’s room, greetings rolled from the tongue of her guards. She heard them, but like the Marquees of Islington that she was, she let the greetings fall to the Persian rug. All she wanted was her daughter.
The first thing that she noticed as she neared Ariana’s door was that there weren’t any guards. This troubled her.

To be continued…

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