Missy leaned her head against Raven and fell asleep.
I never would have permitted this sort of behavior from Miss Farlington. So, why am I allowing her to indulge in it?
He gave the question a whole lot of consideration.
I am not her butler.
She is not my master’s daughter.
There are no walls between us, no societal expectations, no class divisions.
She is Missy.
I am Raven.
With her, I don’t have to be Arden.
I can just be myself.
She sobbed in her sleep.
He watched her tears fall.
I could steal those memories from her mind.
She wouldn’t feel it.
She wouldn’t notice.
She would never sense their absence.
He shook his head.
I can’t do that to her. She needs those memories in order to survive. She needs to remember who her enemies are.
He held her tighter.
I could take her home with me.
I would protect her.
I would keep her safe always.
Yet, to take a girl like her into a house of three active vampires…It wouldn’t be right.
I could bite her.
I could change her.
He closed his eyes.
He fell asleep.
May Rose Farlington sat in the parlor, practicing her embroidery.
Her back was to him.
She didn’t hear him enter.
He heard her crying.
“Miss Farlington?” He approached her stiff-backed chair. “Miss Farlington. Why are you crying?”
She rubbed away her tears with a shocking lack of delicacy. “It isn’t fair. Why should they choose who I marry? Why can’t I marry who I choose?”
“Miss Farlington, you’re only thirteen years old.”
She shot a death and murder glare at him. “Don’t you dare give me that ‘You’re too young to even know what you want’ speech. I’ve already heard it from father. I don’t need to hear it from you too, James Arden. Especially since you are only two years older than me.”
“Your father is right. You are too young to even—”
She rose to her feet. “If you finish that sentence, I will stab you with my embroidery needles and it will hurt.”
Her fierceness threw him for a loop. “That’s hardly ladylike of you to—”
“You don’t understand, James Arden. You have it easy.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t see how I have it easier than you. I am training to be a butler and you are—”
“What? What am I, James Arden? In training to be someone’s wife, that’s what I am. Someone I don’t even know. Someone I won’t even love. Oh, yes. I have it so much easier than you do.”
“That’s not what I meant at all.”
“Then, speak your mind, James Arden. Tell me what you really do mean.”
He smiled. “You don’t have to address me by my whole name. Just call me James and that will be fine.”
“And you don’t have to call me Miss Farlington all the time. My name is May Rose.”
“It is a beautiful name.”
A look of shock came over her face. She quickly returned to her embroidery.
He retreated to the kitchen, shocked and bothered by his own forwardness. I was too familiar with her. I need to…I need to…
His thoughts returned to her.
May Rose Farlington.
I like her.
The white-haired man examined his burnt hand and hissed a breath in between his teeth. It looked awful. Flexing his fingers would probably make them crumble right off.
The healers will be able to fix that, though.
He smiled kindly at the rundown school. “Don’t worry, XQ. I’ll let you hide in your warren. Be safe. Be content. Believe that no harm will come to you. Know it will not last. You and I, we both know the truth. You will return to The Institute. You can’t help it. The homing desire to return is there inside of you.”
He smiled just a little wider and it no longer looked so kind. “You will return, XQ. And we will fix you right this time. No more personality glitches. No more escaping.”
Snow fell in soft bits.
He walked through the snow – a white haired man in a furry, light gray suit.
“And no more voice.”