Chapter 13 - Bombarded
Chapter 13 - Bombarded
Lady Jade, found herself whisked onto the dance floor the moment that she retreated back to the ballroom.
“Pardon my forgetfulness Sir Brown,” she said the moment he found her at the edge of the dance floor, “I was unaware of how quickly the time had gotten away from me.”
Sir Brown offered her a small smile, “No trouble at all, Lady Jade.” He assured adding a grand bow after he spoke. He stood and straightened his attire, “The wait, I assure you, was well worth it.”
She couldn’t help but notice that his manners were the epitome of perfection. It felt odd to see a man act that way after what had nearly happened with Lord Coal on the garden steps. Sir Brown offered her his arm and led them to the dance floor once the music began.
Alexandria couldn’t help but breath a sigh of relief as a fast paced song rang throughout the room. She barely had to touch Sir Brown during the entire dance, which was nice since her heart still fluttered at the mere thought of her earlier actions.
Unlike the slow dance that she had enjoyed with Lord Coal, her dance with Sir Brown seemed more real, less like a stolen dream.
She realized that time always felt fleeting around Lord Jenkins. They only shared a few minutes here, or an hour there, and even though everything stood still when she was near him, time flew by. She never felt satisfied with the few moments they had together.
Why had she left him on that balcony?
She should have stayed.
“Forgive my manners,” Sir Brown said apologetically when the dance brought them close enough to talk, “but I must tell you Lady Jade, you look very beautiful.”
His words pulled her out of her thoughts about Lord Coal. “Thank you Sir Brown.” She managed to say with a smile, although the dance made her slightly breathless, “That’s kind of you to say.”
The dance soon ended and Sir Brown moved to escort her off of the floor when a cough alerted her that someone was behind them.
Feeling flustered at having danced with another person, she turned quickly to apologize. But Lord Coal was not behind her. Instead of the blue-eyed sandy blond haired man in a dark green suit, there was a brown-eyed, mousey brown haired Tilly, in her formal work attire staring up at her.
“Forgive my interruption,” she interjected, “but Lady Jade is needed elsewhere at this time. Alexandria couldn’t help but notice Tilly’s agitation. Was she uncomfortable about something?
“Must you take her away?” Sir Brown asked with a sad frown, but still handed her over to her escort, “Very well, it was a pleasure meeting you Lady Jade.”
Alexandria curtsied to Sir Brown, and allowed Tilly to lead her to a small hidden alcove where her mother sat watching the Ball. She wasn’t surprised that her mother called her over to talk. She heard the music start up again, and found her eyes looking off in the direction of the balcony doors, surely he would come back soon, or perhaps he already had.
What would he think about seeing her dance with another man?
“Are you looking for someone?” Her mother’s voice cut through her thoughts.
“I’m just looking at the guests in general mother.” She answered a bit too quickly.
“It brings back memories of the night your father and I met on this dance floor.” Her mother divulged, surprising Alexandria. She new very little about her parents’ past.
Queen Valerie smiled fondly at her memories, but she didn’t say anything more on the matter. The smile on her mother’s face eventually faded and she asked, “Who is he?”
“I beg your pardon?” Alexandria blurted out, unprepared for the question.
Her mother gave her a pointed look, but a knowing grin appeared on her face. “Who is he?” She asked more deliberately.
“Who is it that you are asking about, Mother?” She wondered hoping for clarification.
She looked out in the same direction that Alexandria had and scanned the crowd. “The man you were out on the balcony with.” She said, her back still facing her daughter.
“Do you mean Lord Coal?” Alexandria inquired quickly.
Her mother nodded, and turned back to face her daughter. She looked Alexandria over carefully before saying; “I must thank him for his actions earlier. I almost had to send in the guards to rectify the situation between you and those degenerates.”
It took Alexandria a moment before she realized that her mother was referring to Mr. Bronze and Mr. Brass. “I thank you for not revealing me just yet.”
A silence hung between them for a few moments until her mother’s words surprised her. “You should go change your gown now.”
Alexandria couldn’t hide the shock from her face, “What’s wrong with my dress?” She asked confused.
Her mother surprised her again when she rolled her eyes at her, “Lady Jade’s action’s on the dance floor earlier this evening were quite gossip worthy. I’m sure that you wouldn’t want the entire Social Community to instantly recognize that you are that Lady.”
She realized the social implications that her actions but for some reason Alexandria couldn’t bring herself to regret them. Still, her mother was right. It was safer for Alexandria if Lady Jade disappeared.
~~~ Same Scene, Change Character Focus
Noah stared down at the handkerchief that Annabell had given him, with a smile. After she had handed it to him she disappeared swiftly back inside.
He was a bit hurt that she left without saying anything else, but he was glad to have the moment to himself. He needed to process everything that had just happened.
He couldn’t think straight when it replayed over and over again in his head, so he shoved all thoughts related to what had nearly happened between them to the back of his mind. Instead, he focused on her first answer.
Her favorite color... the color of his eyes?
How could she like his eyes? He was positive that his eyes would end up giving him away during the Ball. His eyes were exactly the same as those that served others their entire life. Each servant had a downtrodden gaze, and a hesitant expression. What did she mean, by not knowing what color they were? Noah had ordinary blue eyes, nothing truly spectacular about them. Annabell had eyes that danced with silvers, and gold.
Her eyes were beautiful.
Looking back down at the square piece of white cloth Noah noticed a small fox sleeping peacefully in the corner, and frowned at it. He had seen it before, but he couldn’t place where it had been.
He took the other clothes from his pockets and studied them as well, some were better stitched than others, but they all had a design on them. There was a flag of some sort, a humming bird, a family crest that he didn’t recognize, an oak tree, a horse, a pair of doves, and the rest had different flowers on them.
He neatly folded Annabell’s favor, placed it securely inside his breast pocket, and then shoved the other ten favors into his jacket pocket.
The start of the music called Noah back towards the ballroom doors, but he was caught off guard when two nobles blocked his way.
“Good evening, good Sir.” One of them spat in his direction.
“Perhaps with the Lady now gone, we can become better acquainted.” The other threatened.
“Forgive us for not properly introducing ourselves earlier. I’m Mr. Brass-.” Ronald introduced.
“And I’m Mr. Bronze.” Johnathon continued.
Noah stilled at their proximity. He had gotten on their bad side before, and knew what a standard punishment was for crossing them. Even though he was masquerading as a noble, he had blatantly refused them their prize, and as hunters that made them angry.
“How can I help you gentlemen?” He made sure that his voice was the same lowered pitch it had been when he opposed them earlier.
“What are we to call you sir?” Johnathon’s voice was tense; he’d be the first to snap.
“Lord Coal.” He said easily giving them his ‘name’ this time, “It’s been a pleasure Gentlemen, but really I must go.” He gave them a slight bow and tried to head back up the stairs towards the ballroom.
“Ah, coal.” Johnathon interjected, holding out an arm to block Noah’s path. “It fits you so well.”
“You are no better than the dirt that we walk on.” Ronald added with a laugh.
Noah looked at them pointedly but didn’t respond. He knew that it was the quickest way to infuriate them. He had grown up with their tempers and knew that once they blew off their steam, they would leave. It was the same way every time.
He shifted to go around Johnathon’s outstretched hand but Ronald blocked his path completely. It was a message to him that they weren’t going to be ignored.
“What is it that I can do for you, Mr. Brass? Mr. Bronze?” He asked remembering use their personas.
“Well there are several things that you can do for us.” Ronald persisted eagerly with that idiotic laugh.
“First and foremost,” Johnathon declared, “we want every favor you collected tonight.”
“Excuse me?” Noah was puzzled by the request, what would they want with that many handkerchiefs?”
“Low and slow, aren’t you Coal?” Ronald said with another laugh.
Noah didn’t understand the humor so he didn’t respond.
“Well Dirt, if you weren’t busy stealing people’s partners, perhaps you would have heard the announcement.” Johnathon informed vilely.
Noah looked at them skeptically and eventually Ronald finished his brother’s explanation, “It seems that the young Princess is looking for a husband.”
“What does that have to do with me?” Noah asked trying to remain unaffected by the verbal abuse they were throwing his way.
It wasn’t that he was scared of them or that he felt threatened. No, he always experienced the same feeling, pure anger. Servants aren’t allowed to get angry with their masters, but the Nobles in front of him were allowed to speak their minds in front of other nobles until their hearts content.
“Look Firewood,” Johnathon explained further, “the favors are connected to their maker, when the chart is revealed at midnight, the ten men with favors from her royal Highness will get invited to return.”
“You two think that I have one of Princess Alexandria’s favors?” He asked skeptically.
“We both agreed when we first saw you that, you were a threat to our chances.” Johnathon stated.
Ronald finished the statement, “And as usual, we were right.”
Noah reached into his pocket, and tossed the ten favors at Johnathon. If they were all the Twins wanted, he wouldn’t deny them.
“You were able to seduce all of these women?” Ronald actually seemed impressed.
Even though Noah was offended by Ronald’s words, he decided that he had pushed his luck enough for the night. He just shrugged at the question and started to walk past them.
“Hold it, Coal,” Johnathon held up his arm again to stop him, “we weren’t done.”
“You have what you came for.” He reminded them.
“There’s still the matter of your lesson.” Ronald informed as Johnathon counted the handkerchiefs that Noah had thrown at him.
“What lesson is that?”
Johnathon tossed half of the favors to his brother before stuffing the rest in a pocket and cracking his knuckles. “The lesson, of what happens when you take another’s property.”
Noah didn’t have to fake his confusion, “What are property are you referring to?”
“Lady Jade.” Johnathon stated harshly.
Noah knew exactly how to play along and what they would do to him if he didn’t comply. Still, a basic instinct within him didn’t take lightly to the Twins’ insults. “Forgive my confusion gentlemen,” he snapped unable to hide his anger, “but I was under the assumption that, Lady Jade did not belong to anybody.”
Ronald and his brother laughed venomously. “Then you assumed wrong.”
Noah’s anger at the twins, had transformed into something else. It was the same feeling that had built up inside of him when he saw Annabell being, cornered by those two, and he knew that he was about to do something stupid.
“I believe that it was you, Mr. Brass and you Mr. Bronze, who were under the wrong assumption.”
Noah was lucky enough to see the first punch coming. He dodged out of the way quickly, but when the other brother joined in, it was clear that he wouldn’t get out of the situation unscathed. They chased him halfway up the stairs before they caught and slammed him against the palace wall.
The ‘lesson’ was over quickly, and there attacks focused on his shins and stomach. He knew that they hadn’t figured out that he was actually their servant, other wise they would have put more effort into their attack. Still, one of them hit him hard enough in the jaw to split his lip open, and he could feel the impacts against the jagged stonewall cutting into his back. He had survived worse ‘lessons’ from the Twins, but he had never been pinned against a wall when it happened.
Thankfully the two left as soon as they were satisfied with themselves.
Noah sucked in a breath, regretting yet loving every second of it. He could taste the metallic flavor of blood in his mouth, and knew he couldn’t go back to the Ball looking like he did. His time at the Masquerade had come to its end.
He closed his eyes to ready himself for the track to the stables to change, before remembering that he had to return the now damaged suit, to Willaminia. His legs weren’t happy at that prospect of having to find her.
One of the palace servants rushed past him towards the palace doors, but apparently stopped and returned to check on him.
“Lord Jenkins? Is that you?”
Her voice was more timid than usual, but Noah was still lucid enough to place it.
“Yes.” He grimaced at the effort it took to speak.
“What happened to you?” Tilly asked clearly worried about him.
Noah looked up at her cautiously then glanced around to confirm that they were alone, “The Twins.”
“They found out?”
Noah managed a small smile to calm his friend’s nerves.
“No, this is just them, being upset at Lord Coal for stealing Lady Jade away from them.”
“You mean they have no idea that...?”
“None.” He answered.
She released an audible sigh. “If you were an actual Lord they could get reprimanded for their behavior.”
He noticed her shift awkwardly, “You’re needed elsewhere,” He deduced.
Tilly looked back towards the ballroom doors, “I am.”
“Go on then,” He said using the wall to steady himself.
She looked at him anxiously for a moment before leaving.
Noah groaned as he struggled back into uniform. It had taken a while to get out of the suit that Willaminia had given him earlier. The dark colored fabric hid most of the damage from his scuffle with the twins, but his busted lip continued to bleed and he couldn’t hide the bloodstains that dripped onto the shirt.
He didn’t need to worry about the twins recognizing his busted lip as one that they caused. Those two wouldn’t be sober enough later that night to notice. Lady Cathliene might reprimand him for it later, but she wouldn’t know who caused it.
He silently prayed that the Twins wouldn’t remember anything when they sobered up the next morning, it would make it easier for him if they didn’t.
He buttoned up his vest and Noah couldn’t help but release a groan as the fabric tightened around him. He hadn’t noticed any blood on the back of his undershirt, so he knew that the palace wall hadn’t cut into his back, but he could feel the bruises forming from each of the Twin’s punches.
“How’s it going?” A voice asked.
Noah turned around to see Travis standing behind him. A confused yet concerned look appeared on the man’s face. He offered the man small grin, and used the back of his hand to wipe the fresh blood off of his lip.
“I’ve had worse.” He said nonchalantly.
Travis nodded in agreement. “What does the other guy look like?” He asked as Noah buttoned the top button on his vest.
“I didn’t fight back.” Noah informed as he tested his altered range of motion.
“I know you can take a hit, but why not throw one every now and then?” He scoffed. “Was the other guy better than you?”
“It was two against one.” Noah informed satisfied with his range of movement. He’d still be able to drive the carriage in his condition. “If you mean, were they physically better?” He asked with a smirk, “That’s debatable.”
Travis grinned, but it faded once Noah turned to put the suit Willaminia had practically forced him in, back into the box.
“However,” Noah continued when he noticed Travis’s reaction. “If you mean, were they socially better? I’d have to say yes.”
The man gave him a disapproving sigh. “Anyone see you come here like that?” Travis asked, surprising Noah with his question.
“Not that I noticed.” Noah answered truthfully.
They stayed silent for a few moments as Noah finished folding the dark green suit. Eventually Travis asked, “Was this the last time?”
“Travis,” Noah replied irritated, “I know. I never should have been that careless, but-.”
“But?” Travis asked concerned.
Noah couldn’t help but remember the moments that he and Lady Tompson shared that night, including the one moment they almost shared. “I can’t regret it. Any of it.” He sighed and raked his hands through his hair. “Travis,” he continued, “I can’t promise that this was the last time because part of me doesn’t want to admit that it’s over.”
“Noah.” He warned. “This charade puts you in constant danger. What happens when someone realizes what you actually are?”
“I’m not doing this because I got bored.” Noah countered. “I didn’t mean for any of this to happen!”
“But you didn’t stop it from happening!” Travis yelled back.
The two of them stood there in a heated silence.
Eventually it was Noah that broke the tension, “You’re right.” He said defeated.
“What are you going to do?”
“Nothing.” Noah realized.
Travis nodded at Noah’s statement. “I got to go get the carriage ready, Lord Montego apparently wants to leave just after midnight. The rest of the drivers are in the kitchen if you want the company.”
“I have to return this first.” Noah informed motioning to the boxed up suit.
“Have fun with that.” Travis joked sarcastically, as he went to fetch the carriage.
Noah watched as his friend walked off before he himself stood and left to find Willaminia.