The woman kicked the door open and marched in. To her greatest surprise, the bed where Ariana was supposed to be tied against was empty. And the chains that had bounded were sprawled on the ground.
“No…” The woman’s lips shivered as she noticed that the only window in her daughter’s room was empty. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she saw a paper and the family sigil on it.
She took the letter from the table and it read:
Dear Mother,
You have raised me all these years with love and utmost care. I thank you for it. However, our last days together were filled with your cruelty and lack of care and understanding for my feelings. What kind of mother, chains her own daughter like a dog? Dog had more honour than me while in your home.
I have fled to a better place. As you read this letter, I am with the man that I love. And we are both heading to France. Do not look for me. You will never find me, unless I have a change of heart and visit you.
If you have any love for me, you will deliver the second letter on the table to my best friend, Lucy Wesley. Tell her that I love her. And I wish her and the Duke happiness.
I didn’t mean to hurt or disrespect you, but I meant to be happy. Goodbye Mother.
Love, Ariana.

“No!!!!” The Marquees let out a powerful scream that attracted all her guards. She had missed her daughter because of her mistake. She was too focused on her personal gains and she had ignored Ariana’s pleas to be left alone.
The guards quickly rushed into the room.
“Milady, what happened?” The oldest of them spoke.
“You all betrayed me! You connived with my daughter! I shall have all your heads!” She cursed.
The men were quite surprised. Nobody had connived with Ariana.
“Milady, we do not have any idea of what you’re saying.” The guard spoke for the rest.
“I do not care! Ariana is gone! She has eloped.”
The Marquees fell to the ground and broke down to tears. First, she had lost her husband and now her daughter? Her sorrows never seemed to end. She couldn’t blame anyone in this case; she had pushed her child to the wall. And Ariana had reacted by slipping through her fingers.
It was an odd sight, seeing the Marquees cry. The servants all surrounded her and whispered words of comfort. But the more they consoled her, the louder that she cried.
Her heart would be broken for a long time. She could only pray for Ariana to have a change of mind, and return to Islington. But what sort of woman would abandon the man that she loved and return to the place where she had been captive?
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As he placed the sword on the woman’s throat, he perceived a sweet and flowery scent that could only emanate from her. Aldrich’s stomach fluttered as he remembered the taste of Lady Lucy’s juicy mouth and the clean smell of her hair. Could she be the one? Why would she travel through the Woods of Idralia at night?
“Get your hands off the lady!” Her guard barked in a shaky voice.
Aldrich guffawed, “You seem afraid to me. I will do with her whatever I please…” He lowered his nose and sniffed Lucy’s hair.
Lucy’s body stiffened beneath his arms. She was no certain that the Duke of Wandsworth was the one behind her. Her lips trembled. And her face went white under the moonlight. How could she open up and tell him that she had been the woman he had kissed?
“Release her!” The guard staggered forward with the blade.
“Who are you two and where were you headed at such a time as this?” Aldrich whispered.
“I should be asking you that,” the guard replied.
Aldrich was enjoying this game. It will only delay his ride to Elan’s castlette. But he didn’t mind. He would teach these two a lesson for standing in his way of love.
“I see…” Aldrich released Lucy and tore the cloak that she wore with his blade. The garment slid off her shoulders and she was left standing in her undergarment before him.
The mass of her silky hair, tumbled down on her smooth body which was washed by the sunlight. He noticed that the guard had quickly turned his back, so he wouldn’t behold her naked body. His action was significant.
She wasn’t just any woman. She was nobility.
Aldrich’s throat went dry as he leaned forward. The night was a blessing and a curse. The moon was a deceiver and a prophet. She had deceived him at first, but had revealed Lucy’s true nature to him.
“My darling…” Aldrich’s lips trembled. He feared that he had hurt her with his blade.
Lucy blushed, but the darkness hid her shyness. No man had ever called her, “darling.” Her heart squirmed with joy. But sadness replaced it. The Duke would be married to her friend soon. What was the point?
“I am so sorry,” Aldrich fell to his knees and clung at her feet.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you. As a matter of fact, I was riding to Ox-Dale. I missed you darling. I wanted to see your face for the last time…” he trailed off, when he sensed that she wasn’t happy to see him. Was she so deep in love with her fiancé that she felt nothing for him?
Lucy couldn’t believe her ears. For a man to ride through Idralia, just to see her one more time before his wedding, meant a lot.

To be continued…

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