© copyright 2012
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Brook poured a cup of tea. Her stomach still felt queasy. She had managed to bathe and dress for the morning. Any other plans she had had for the day was not an option right now and maybe even for tomorrow.
Sipping the warm tea felt soothing to her throat. The fresh morning air felt even better on her skin. A light breeze blew through the trees above her head. A butterfly fluttered in the wind.
It must be nice to be free to float where you like. No worries or thoughts other than to make it to the next flower. If I were a butterfly I may like to be blue. The color of the sky and the ocean on my wings.
“There you are my little girl,” Brook’s father John said. He kissed her softly on her forehead. “I was beginning to worry about you. I had stopped by the Price estate and Richards said you had left early in the morning.”
“I was not feeling well Papa. But I am better now,” Brook said.
“Lady Sarah and Lady Wilsbee paid a visit a short time ago. I told em you would be by when you felt up for it soon. They send their regards and hope for a speedy recovery.”
Brook smiled. “I will send word later to them.”
“Lady Wilsbee mentioned a trip to the country with her and Lady Sarah,” he said.
Brook looked away from him. “Oh yes. I am going to turn the invitation down. I do not feel comfortable being away from you for so long Papa. After all who will cook and tend to you while I am away.”
He removed his cap and scratched his head. “Well the thing of it is…I told Lady Wilsbee that you would accept. You see I have to go out of town and will be gone for a month or so.”
Brook gazed up at him and her mouth fell open slightly. “I see,” she said slowly.
“I would feel better if you were not alone in the woods. I asked her and Devon if they would not mind you stay with them.”
“Papa! I am a grown woman and am perfectly able to care for myself,” Brook said.
“Well being that as it may, you are still my girl and I need to do right for ya,” he said. “I will not be able to do me job if I’m worrying about you. Lord Price has given me the job of me dreams Brook and I must do me best at it. He depends on me to keep his estates in order.”
He let out a long sigh. “I’ll make ya a deal. You can stay here as long as someone can check on ya every night after your trip.”
Brook smiled up at him. “I can live with that. Thank you Papa.”
John gave her a kiss again on the head. “I am heading out now. I will try to write you soon. Devon knows where I’ll be if you need me. I left money for you in the jar.”
Brook gazed up at him. “Be safe Papa. I love you.”
“Ya are me heart little girl,” John said and then left.
Landon rode home slowly. He pondered last night’s events further in his mind. And scolded himself for it as he did. More than anything he thought about what Grams had said to him. He knew she was right.
Upon arriving home Quentin was waiting outside his front door on the stoop.
Landon pushed open the gate. Quentin stood up to meet him at the path.
“To what do I owe this pleasure that is not so pleasurable old friend?” Landon said jokingly.
“I have word on McMay,” Quentin said.
Landon’s expression changed. He led him inside and to his study.
“He has employed quite a few men Landon,” Quentin said.
“How few are we talking?” Landon asked.
“Few as in a small army. Some of the meanest men on the streets Landon. Hugh Dulling, Belford Short, Neal Maitland. The list goes on and on,” Quentin said.
Landon walked over to the window. “Any word on their plans?”
“No. That was all my brother had heard last night.”
Landon looked back at Quentin. “This stays between you and me Quent. Devon is already a mess as it is. I’m not even sure he could handle this news.”
“We should leave for my estate as soon as possible. How fast can we ready the women?” Quentin asked.
Landon rolled his eyes. “They’re women, not fast enough. I’m going to ride back out to Devon’s and talk with Richards.”
Quentin stood from his chair. “I will meet you there in about an hour.”
After packing Landon rode back out to the Price estate. He came to the conclusion there may be no way around not telling Devon of McMay’s new army.
Landon soon found Richards in the back of the house in the gardens.
“Richards we will need to leave for Quentin’s today,” Landon said.
“Why the sudden rush Sir?”
“McMay is planning something big with a large group of very bad men.” Landon sighed. “Let me put it this way. The condition we found Sarah in that night will be nothing compared to what these men would do to the girls if they had the chance.”
Richards’s eyes grew big. “Alright then I will start getting everyone ready.” He started to walk away.
Landon placed his hand on Richards’s arm. “One more thing. Is there any way we can do this without telling Devon. I just don’t think he can handle this. Something is going on with him lately and I’m concerned about him.”
Richards paused for a moment. “Yes I know just what to do. Leave it to me Sir.”
Devon came in the front door to see bags lining the wall and stairs. He went hunting for Richards.
“What is going on with all the bags?” Devon asked.
Richards stood up straight. He hated he had to do this. “I found Lady Sarah packing her bags earlier and she had thought we were leaving today. I did not want to upset her so I just figured we could leave today instead of later this week. My only fear is Sir, she will not remember doing so,” Richards said.
Devon nodded. “I will announce to the ladies I have decided to leave sooner.”
Richards smiled. “Smart. I do not see them having a problem with it. Do you?”
“No. They should be fine with it,” Devon said.
Landon sat in Devon’s study and waited for him. He wasn’t waiting long. Devon walked over to his desk and pulled out a notebook and jotted a quick note in it.
“I received word we had a change of plans,” Landon said from the study window.
Devon jumped nearly out of his boots. “Good God Landon!”
“I’m sorry Devon. I thought you had seen me.”
Devon ran his hands through his hair. “No I didn’t.”
Landon leaned forward off the windowsill and walked over to Devon’s desk. “What is going on with you Devon? You are not yourself lately.”
Devon shook his head. He wanted to tell Landon what was going on with Sarah’s memory but he had promised her he would keep it quiet for now. “I will not be settled until McMay is dead.”
Landon stared at Devon. “No, it is something else entirely Devon. I know you too well my friend.” He watched Devon gaze down at the surface of his desk. “Is there anything at all I can do to help?”
Devon did not answer right away and Landon waited patiently. Finally Devon looked back up at him and said, “I wish there were Landon.”
Grams and Sarah came in through Devon’s study door. “My boy you have surprised us.”
Landon saw Devon smile. He wondered what Richards had said to Devon about having to leave sooner.
Sarah stood behind Grams and appeared to look somewhat shy.
“Yes well I thought you might be pleased,” Devon said. “Sarah, are ready to go?”
Landon watched Sarah shake her head and smile with an odd expression. Almost as if she did not know him that well. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Devon’s hand tense into a fist. Landon was now really beginning to worry about Devon.
“Well someone will have to fetch Brook,” Grams announced.
“I will since you twisted my arm Grams,” Landon said as if bothered.
Grams giggled. “I did not twist as much as a hair on your head boy. Off with you. Go and fetch our beautiful Brook.”
“Oh Brook is coming also,” Sarah said with excitement.
“Well of course she is my dear. She is not feeling that ill,” Grams said.
Landon arrived at Brook’s cottage. He knocked on the door lightly. No one answered. He knocked a little louder with no results. Landon followed the path to the backyard. There he found Brook asleep in a hammock.
He leaned down and whispered, “Brook wake up.” She did not move. “Red, wake up.”
Brook heard Landon’s voice and answered him. “I’m tired.”
Landon stood over her and smiled. He blew gently on her neck. “Red I want you to come with me.”
“No I want to stay here with you,” she said.
A devilish smiled crossed over Landon’s face. “What shall we do here Red?” He saw Brook smile.
Landon ran the tip of his finger over Brook’s lips. She quickly licked them removing the tickle from his finger. He did it again and as he did she parted her lips. Landon pulled his hand back.
Brook’s eyes fluttered open. “What are you doing here?”
“Nice to see you too Red. I was sent by Grams to tell you we are leaving today for the country. I am to escort you back to the Price estate.”
Brook sat up. “Today? Now? Why?”
Landon said in a low loud tone, “Because we men say so woman.” He then smiled at her.
Brook smiled back and shook her head at him. “It will take me a few minutes if you don’t mind waiting.”
Landon bowed before her. “I am at your service.”
Brook looped her arm through his and said, “Good then you can help me.”
Landon chuckled. “I do not pack ladies things. I will carry them for you though.”
“Ah I see Lord Fields. Fair enough then come inside,” she said.