Chapter 19 - 96 Hours
Chapter 19 - 96 Hours
It was the day that Alexandria was scheduled to have her chaperoned visit with Lord Ronald Montego. Alexandria didn’t know what to expect, but hoped beyond hope that the man would be on his very best behavior.
Of all of the afternoons or mornings that she had spent with the men she had met at the ball, only one had been somewhat agreeable, Sir Brown. He was actually Prince Anton Viktor Marcel Egger, the youngest son of King Heralf of Rramnon. She had heard speculations regarding the supercilious attitudes of the Rramnon Royals, but was pleasantly surprised by the man’s character.
Prince Anton was seven years her senior, but he never once treated her like an arrogant child, and he constantly asked for her opinion on various topics.
His presence didn’t affect her as Noah’s did, but Alexandria couldn’t deny that she felt a sense of comradely between herself and Prince Anton.
“Pardon me Princess?” Mr. Thurston’s voice called, pulling her from her thoughts.
“Is my guest here?” Alexandria asked.
He nodded to her question “Yes, your Highness.”
“Who is chaperoning today?” Tilly had acted as chaperone for the last three suitors, but she had been sent to the market on an errand. Sky forbid she have to use one of her instructors again.
“The young Lord has brought a chaperon, for the occasion, your Highness.” He answered only partially putting her mind at ease.
“Is that appropriate?” She asked still somewhat concerned.
“His Majesty approved of the situation personally; however Princess, if you are uncomfortable I can ask one of your teachers to act as substitute.”
His response made Alexandria physically cringe.
“Mr. Thurston,” she wondered, “do you trust them?”
A frown appeared on the old man’s face. ” There is something about the Lord that irks me Highness, but his chaperon appears to be quiet a decent fellow.”
His words caught Alexandria’s attentions. “How do you mean?”
“The lad has kind eyes, your Highness.” He answered slight taken back by her reaction. “I know that your Highness isn’t use to male chaperons, but I have a strong feeling that everything will be fine.” He assured her.
“Thank you, Mr. Thurston.” She acknowledged distractedly. “I have full confidence in your judgment.”
Although her words were true, her thoughts were elsewhere.
It must be him.
They wouldn’t be able to forget their social standings.
Alexandria would have to adhere to the rules of social conduct.
It meant that she would be unable to speak to Noah, and he would not be allowed to speak at all.
Would she be able to disregard the person capable of captivating her?
Could she ignore Noah?
“You may let them in, now.” She informed calmly, while her mind buzzed with confusion.
When the door opened, her first thought was of Lord Ronald Montego. She couldn’t help but appreciate that he wasn’t wearing the atrocity she had seen him in at the Ball.
Alexandria’s next thought was how different Noah looked compared to Lord Ronald. When he intervened at the Ball, Noah had appeared so much taller than his masters. His very presence had demanded attention.
But that demanding presence had completely vanished, and Noah now seemed to fade easily into the background. He stayed ten steps behind his master, his shoulders were rolled forward submissively, and he kept his eyes planted on the floor.
If she weren’t looking intently for him, Alexandria would have overlooked him completely.
“The better we are at our job, the less members of Society notice us.”
She realized what he was doing.
Only moments ago Alexandria had been battling with herself, trying to figure out how she would be able to act like he was just another servant.
He was helping her do just that.
Noah was purposely avoiding her gaze. He wasn’t making eye contact so that he wouldn’t become a distraction.
But how did she know this?
“Good day, Crowned Princess Alexandria.” Lord Roland greeted immediately after he was introduced.
Alexandria was taken back slightly by his eagerness, and had to force herself to smile.
“I thank you, your Highness, for allowing me to be in your presence on such a lovely day.” He bowed very dramatically and Alexandria nearly laughed at his absurdity.
She decided to agree with his statement, “Yes,” she said glancing out of the window, “It is a lovely day. Would you care to take a turn about the garden” she offered, “and afterwards, we could enjoy some tea.”
“That sounds perfect, your Highness.” He agreed easily, apparently impressed by her idea.
He had no reason to be impressed. She had offered the same scenario to all of her other suitors.
On more than one instance during their walk through the garden Alexandria caught herself completely disregarding Lord Ronald. Even though Noah never drew attention to himself it was nearly impossible for her to fully ignore his presence.
Occasionally, she would silently start counting.
One. Two Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.
It didn’t matter how fast her and Lord Ronald were walking or how slow; it didn’t matter if the two of them stopped or started walking suddenly while trying to admire something new in the garden, Noah constantly remained ten steps behind them.
Even though she was only paying attention to him half of the time, Alexandria figured out Lord Ronald Montego’s personality rather quickly.
He liked compliments, and hated being interrupted. He could talk endlessly about hunting, and never missed a ‘your Highness’ at the end of one of his stories.”
“There I was,” he re-told dramatically as they rested on one of the garden benches, “in the middle of Lake Zesador, a storm rolling in from the Farfiret Mountains. I had ten minutes, before it reached me. After a day of nothing, I wished for a miracle, and with that wish, I cast out my line one last time.”
The story felt rehearsed to Alexandria. She chanced a glance pass Lord Ronald and noticed that Noah was unconsciously, and in perfect synchronization, also telling his master’s tale. She smiled and wondered how many times Lord Ronald had told that particular story.
“Then,” He paused dramatically, “right as a bolt of lightning shot across the sky towards me, my line went taunt.”
Alexandria couldn’t help but be drawn into the story.
“I started reeling as hard as I could. The rain started to poor and the situation was becoming more dangerous by the second. Exhaustion began to have an effect on me, but I wasn’t ready to give up, not yet. I pulled up on my rod one last time and was elated with happiness when the creature broke the surface of the water.”
“What was it?” Alexandria asked with actual curiosity.
The man smiled slyly in her direction. “A largemouth bass. It much have weighed at least 6 kilograms.” He sighed in remembrance. “My one fish ended up weighing more than brother’s three combined.”
“You must have been rather proud of yourself.” She guessed, not knowing how remarkable a fish that size might actually be.
“It was one of the best moments in my life, your Highness.” He admitted happily.
She smiled slightly at his enthusiasm.
Lord Ronald’s stories were well told, but they quickly became repetitive.
Alexandria was exhausted when the steward finally came to inform them that Lord Ronald’s time with her had come to an end. She had managed to keep him talking about himself for most it, glad that she didn’t have to share anything with him.
After a lengthy and overly sweet farewell, Lord Roland finally turned to leave.
As he walked through the parlor doors Alexandria allowed herself to look directly at Noah for the first time that day.
Her body instantly stilled as their eyes instinctively found each other.
Had he been waiting for this moment as well?
She noticed how Noah’s eyes lit up with an emotion that she didn’t quite recognize, but apparently her body did. Instead of the usually shivers that ran down her back a wave of heat washed over her. She felt herself blush under his intense gaze.
What feeling was this?
Before she could contemplate it any further, Noah bowed quickly, turned, and followed his master out of the room.
As he walked away Alexandria couldn’t help but count. Noah still remained behind his master by ten steps.
~~~ Change Character Focus, Four Days (96 Hours) Later
When Noah opened his eyes he was struck instantly by a sensation of panic.
He couldn’t see where he was.
He tried to take in a deep breath to steady himself, but was instantly met with the pungent smell of potatoes and burlap.
Noah gagged at the smell, and struggled to steady himself, but his hands refused to move from behind his back. He felt disoriented and the panic that had greeted him when he first opened his eyes only grew in intensity.
Where was he?
What had happened?
How had it happened?
Who did it to him?
The questions swirled throughout his mind, and Noah struggled to find answers.
He closed his eyes, attempted to steady himself, and tried to think beyond the overwhelming smell. Movement in the floorboards hinted that he was being taken somewhere. He tried moving around again only to realize that he couldn’t. His arms were tied to a post behind his back, and his legs were bound.
His mind raced with thoughts but nothing seemed logical.
Whoever was controlling the horses had very little experience doing so. One of the wheels hit a hole in the road. Noah’s head reared back and came in contact with the post his hands had been tied to.
He gasped slightly at the pain that shot through his head and again he was met with the overwhelming odor of potatoes and burlap.
It was the smell of burlap that particularly didn’t sit well with him. He knew that the smell meant that a bag had been tied around his head.
Noah’s breathing quickened and his heart started to race. He was well acquainted with the feeling of claustrophobia, and his initial panic when he opened his eyes to darkness didn’t help his condition.
Ever since he was little, Noah had a problem with dark confining spaces.
When he was young his masters’ had invented a game where they would chase him down and lock him in one of the linen closets. There he’d remain until his mother, or a housekeeper found him hours later.
Noah tried to remember how he had come to be in his current predicament, but he couldn’t think clearly and was drawing blanks.
The only thing he remembered was walking out the door, and then...it all went black.
The driver hit something in the road again. Noah couldn’t stop the curse that escaped him as a sharp pain flew through the back of his skull. Waves of dizziness rolled over him and his head fell to his chest.
It was hard to breath, and he suddenly felt uncomfortably hot.
Noah hoped that his inevitable panic attack would cause him to pass out. His condition was easier to handle when he wasn’t conscious.
Time seemed to have slowed down but Noah’s breathing sped up considerably. He tried to will himself calm but it didn’t seem to be working. He opened and closed his bound and aching hands fruitlessly trying to grasp at something, anything that would help him hold onto his sanity.
An image of Annabell suddenly appeared in the back of his mind.
For a small moment she was the only thing he could think of.
Her head was resting on his chest as they stood in the middle of the ballroom, neither of them caring about others opinions of them. Noah remembered how her hair smelled, and the wretched smells of potatoes and burlap were temporarily replaced by primrose and lavender.
Noah held onto his memory of Annabell as hard as he could.
Her smile was keeping his breathing even.
If he survived his current situation, she’d be the reason why.