Chapter 11: The Shadows of Lovers
With that sound and image burning against her ears and cheeks, Carina rushed silently towards the back of the house and slipped out the servant’s entrance.
The fresh cold night air washed over her as she hurriedly set the piss pot down on the back porch, clutched the railing of the steps, and pressed a hand to her chest.
Carina’s ice heart continued its monotonous beat, unphased despite the revulsion and anger that flooded through her. She sucked in a clean breath of air and lowered her hand as she took in the serene nightscape of the quiet estate around her. A light flickered in the corner of her eye, and she turned, surprised to see Gus running towards her with a lantern.
“Miss!” His tone was both befuddled and panicked. “Are you alright?”
Carina quickly raised a finger to her lips in warning. “Hush, I’m fine. I simply had to deal with something.” She gestured to the privacy pot beside her.
Gus stared at it, identified its purpose, and replied slowly, “Oh.”
Carina tugged at her hair uncomfortably. “I’m sorry, Gus. You must have heard what happened to Ivy.”
He lowered the lantern and nodded, his gaze dark and resentful.
Carina moved down the steps and touched his arm lightly. “Don’t worry too much. A good physician has seen and treated her wounds.” He flinched but nodded in response. “And I will keep her in my room with me until we are both fully recovered.”
Gus raised his gaze to her and shook his head. “So, it’s true that the Young Master whipped you?”
Carina smiled ruefully. “Yes, but only once.”
“That pig-faced bastard!”
“Shh!” Carina hissed in alarm. “What will you do if someone hears you?”
He sighed as he set down his lantern and pulled off his coat. Carina blinked in surprise as he draped it around her shoulders. “It’s cold out, Miss,” Gus said simply. Then he bent down and picked up the pot. “I’ll clean this for you.”
“You don’t have to—”
The helpless frustration in his eyes silenced her as he turned mutely away.
Carina sank slowly down onto the steps beside the lantern he had left. A bitter laugh broke free as she buried her head in her arms.
‘No Ghost. Ivy was bedridden and in pain. Josiah is planning to sell me off to Lord Lennox. Meanwhile, he’s still fucking the servants while the rest of the Turnbells treat me like shit—and—Fuck, keep it together, Carina.’
She exhaled sharply and laughed again. Helplessness welled up inside her as she watched Gus rinse out the pot by the water-well.
‘I just wish I could take you both with me.’
Gus returned with a wet but clean pot and held it out to her.
“Thank you,” Carina murmured as she returned his coat.
He shifted awkwardly, as he always did when she thanked him for completing a task and bowed his head. Then he picked up the lantern and stared at the house behind her.
“You should be careful at night, Miss,” he said solemnly.
Carina nodded, needing no reminder of the dangers.
“Goodnight then, Miss.”
She slid silently past the study ignoring the lustful sounds from within as she spirited her way upstairs. With the door locked and the pot returned to its place unused, Carina sat down at the desk and blew out the candle. Then she turned and stared at the dark shadows in the mirror.
“Can I really do this?” Carina asked, but the ghostly reflection did not answer.
Lady Hana awoke to the familiar touch of her lover’s soft hands as they teased the fabric around her nipples. She turned to glare bleary-eyed at the dark beauty beside her.
“Your Highness, do you know what time it is?” Hana grumbled.
“I missed you,” Crown Princess Eleanora murmured as she snuggled closer, her sandalwood skin contrasting with Hana’s pale complexion as she interlaced their fingers together.
“You saw me right before you went to bed.”
“But I did not get to touch you—” Eleanora leaned in and kissed Hana’s protesting lips tenderly. “—or taste you.”
“Please,” Eleanora cringed, as she pushed back her ink-black hair, “You don’t have to call me that when we’re alone.”
“Your Highness,” Hana repeated sternly as she untangled herself from Eleanora’s arms and sat up. “When you dragged me from Vetrayna and asked me to be your lady-in-waiting, I was quite clear on the conditions.”
“I didn’t drag you here—are you still mad because I married him?” Eleanora asked with a pout as she rolled onto her stomach and captured Hana’s hand. “You know I didn’t have a choice. Between the Emperor, Mother, my Uncle, and the rest of the family—”
“I understand.” Hana pulled away. “But this—” she gestured between them, “—is even more dangerous now that you are to be Queen.”
“Why?” Eleanora asked with a coy smile. “Nicholas has his lover, why can’t I keep you?”
“That’s not what I meant—”
Hana flung the sheets aside and marched to the door. “I am too tired to rehash the particulars of your position as a woman and the wife of Lafeara’s future king. So—goodnight!” She opened the door, only to have Eleanora shut it firmly.
“You know I didn’t mean it that way,” Eleanora protested as she pushed Hana against the door and slid an arm around her slender waist. “And the selection for my other ladies-in-waiting will begin soon.” She traced her dark fingers along Hana’s side, up her stomach, and between her breasts to play with the drawstrings of her nightgown. “Are you really going to deny us one of the few opportunities we may have for the foreseeable future.”
“There is no us—” Hana’s protest was once more cut off by Eleanora’s lips, and this time, the future Queen was not so gentle.
Her head and heart in torment, Hana slowly slid her hand down the door and turned the lock. Then she kissed Eleanora back, giving in to her lover like she always did.
“You’re hopeless,” she whispered as Eleanora pushed her back into bed.
But it was herself Hana reproached for not being stronger.