A short bit for today, but I will have more this weekend. Doing my best to get this story across the finish line. :)
Holding her hand in his, Owen kissed Isabella’s fingers. He had no care for those who might be watching. His mother and father were observing from a distance. For a moment he thought of the tears that were in her eyes as she watched in helpless despair. There would be no miraculous solution this time, no sudden fount of wisdom from her that would make everything right with the world. Isabella was leaving, and all he could do was stand with her for the last time, knowing that the ship would depart at any moment.
Do not go, he wanted to plead. Stay with me.
All he wanted to do was wind his arms around her and never let go. The impulse to kiss her, to express every ounce of love and passion, was so strong that he nearly succumbed to it. But to do so was to put her on public display. And that, he refused to do. But he could not help the sound of a plea in his voice. Desperately, he tried to think of something that would sway her decision.
“What will Sebastian do without his mother?”
In an instant, he regretted using the subject of her son to persuade her. But just as quickly he convinced himself that it was a perfectly honest inquiry. How could she leave him this way? Looking into her eyes, he saw a great sadness shining there – but just as deep was the light of resolve. Her decision had been made, and she would not be swayed from it.
“He has grown accustomed to my absence from his life. If I could have him with me always, I would be more grateful than words can say. But he is happy at this moment. He is in a stable home, with people who can love and care for him. To uproot him from a life he is just growing accustomed to – to take him on a long and uncertain journey. I cannot subject him to that.”
“Will you write me?”
She nodded. “I promise. And I will think of you every day.”
“As will I,” he said, his voice soft and low.
William was to escort her home, but that was too small a comfort. He wanted to be her only protector. What right did any other have, when he was the one person in the world who truly loved and cared for her?
A shout from onboard, the sound of the captain’s voice, told them that the time had come. His last hope was that she would refuse to go.
Tell me that leaving me is impossible, he thought. Tell me you love me so deeply that you will defy every rule and custom.
But she was pulling away from his arms, and he could only watch helplessly as William escorted her across the gangway. His eyes remained fixed on her face as she stood at the side of the boat, looking back at him. All too soon, the ship was drifting away from the dock, and he could not watch it any longer. Turning away, passing by his mother and father, he found it difficult to look at them. Their expressions, particularly his mother’s eyes shining with pity, were nothing but a cruel reminder. His father had vowed to help him justify the wrongs that had been done, but that was still a task that remained in the future. What was it to him at this moment?
A purpose, he silently answered himself, his mind turning instantly towards the one thing that would bring him gratification. Reaching his horse, lifting himself into the saddle, he sat tall and determined. A dark look crossed his features.
“Let us depart for home,” he said. “There is much to be done.”
It was wrong, he knew, to leave without waiting for his mother and father. But at that moment, he could think of no one but himself. Urging his horse into a run, he wished nothing more than to be away from Toulon altogether. The feeling of the air stinging his face, the pulsing of his blood as he sped along, served to soothe him – if only in a small way. For several miles he and his horse flew on, until he came halfway to his senses and set a slower pace. His horse was loyal and strong, and Samson did not deserve to be winded because of his master’s wild emotions. Alone on the road, free to think and express himself as he pleased, he turned his thoughts to the hours and days ahead.
Days without Isabella.
He could already feel the weight of sorrow pressing heavily on him, but more so, he could feel darkness flooding his soul. A burning desire swelled within him, like a fever growing. A fever that would only be cured with blood.
Inside the carriage, Guy let out a deep sigh as he stretched his legs. He gave special attention to his ankle, testing it, turning it carefully to try its ability. Before the journey to Toulon, it had given him such pain that he had taken to the carriage for the trip, rather than riding horseback. Turning to look at Cassia, he now felt strangely glad to have made such a decision, for he saw that her eyes were shining with moisture. It pained him to see her so, fighting back tears, and he placed a hand on her knee, speaking gently to her.
“Beloved, do not cry.”
Her hand came to cover his. Her voice was sad as she replied. “I feel as though I have failed him, Guy. I have failed our son.”
Putting his arm around her, he drew her close to his side and pressed a soft kiss to the top of her head. In times such as this, he felt he held certain superiority over other men – a stronger sense of courage, in that he was not above offering her comfort, and found pleasure in doing so.
“There is no fault to be found in you,” he said. “What might you have done?”
Her voice rose slightly, a note of anger in her tone that expressed her self-frustration.
“I should have imagined something. Some way to bring them together.”
It was a pity to see her robbed of her hopes – something he could not recall having seen before, at least not to such a degree. She had always been the buoyant, vibrant force that bound the lot of them together. Everyone turned to her for wisdom and courage, and he so loved and admired her for it. Now she felt that her greatest strength was lost. Holding her more firmly in his arms, he let her spill her tears against his shoulder as he tried to ease her suffering with gentle words.
“My love, your romantic notions are admirable. But I am afraid even you, witch that you are, cannot conjure a spell that will alter fate. Isabella was wise to depart for her homeland. It is better for her sake, and for Owen’s. He will find another.”
“But he will suffer cruelly now. You know what it is to be without the one you love. And knowing his nature, will punish himself and those around him.”
He did not say so, but he knew the truth of her declaration, and he felt a pang of sadness at its realization. Owen was so like himself. So headstrong, so prone to anger and displays of rage. It was sad to imagine the path he would soon take. But for Cassia’s sake, he tried to downplay the grimness of the matter.
“Then we must do our best to support and care for him. We will see him through, my love. I swear it.”
He hoped to give her courage with his words. If only he could believe it himself.
The late afternoon was gloomy, the wind rising as the carriage made its way along the road. Cassia was asleep against his shoulder, but Guy’s thoughts were far away. One thought repeated constantly in his mind.
Owen will not act without my aid. He will not.
As the miles went by, he continued to say it to himself. But the closer to home they ventured, the more uncertain he became. Closing his eyes, he uttered a brief prayer of aid, hoping that Owen’s good sense would remain.
The carriage neared the house, and he prodded Cassia gently to wake her. As she yawned and stretched, his eye began a search outwards, towards the grounds. Owen’s horse was not in sight, and for a moment, he felt a sudden trouble nagging him. But he tried to brush it aside.
His horse is in the stable, of course, he told himself. Calm yourself, Guy of Gisborne.
But there was a feeling of dread that he could not shake. As he helped Cassia from the carriage, walking with her towards the front of the house, they were met in the usual way by the steward and housekeeper.
“Where is Owen?”
Emile looked at him with a blank expression. “Beg pardon, my lord?”
“Where is my son?”
The look of confusion remained. “Was he not with you, my lord?”
“He rode ahead of the carriage,” Cassia said. “Is he not at home?”
“No one has seen him, my lady.”
Guy felt his stomach drop, knowing with certainty where Owen had gone. Cassia, looking at him, seemed to read his expression of great concern. She tried to console him.
“Do not be concerned, Guy. I am certain he will return soon.”
He shook his head, turning away. “You do not understand.”
“What do I not understand?”
“He is intent on doing …” The word murder was just at his lips. But for her sake, he held it back. “I fear he has foolish intent. I must find him at once.”
Summoning a stable hand, he was soon in the saddle and on the road, on his way towards the Chateau LaCroix. Hoping he was not too late.