XAVIER TRIED TO NICELY bring up a conversation after all the ruckus Aden had caused. “Before you rest Lionsheart you need to tell us what exactly happened that night.” After ten pillows chucked in their direction, they desperately needed to think of a better way to approach her. “Whenever you’re ready to talk, I mean. No rush or anything.”
The blonde brother continued to follow his older brother’s last suggestion, “You can choose to sleep for a night before hand. It’s really up to you Miss Lionsheart.”
Charlotte shook her head. “It’s alright. It’s still fresh in my mind so it’ll be easier to remember it. Thank you for your concern though.”
“Do you remember anything past dinner?” Xavier asked when he knew they got the ball rolling. At least Aden knew to keep his mouth shut in these types of situations.
The auburn closed her eyes, she pictured everything that she could remember. “I don’t recall anything of that day at all. My Unc—” Charlotte paused, her eyes opened and her face flushed. She almost revealed that her uncle was the Fleet Admiral-which she didn’t deem appropriate given her current situation. She couldn’t trust these people with everything. It was unfortunate for the girl that the black haired Captain caught the stutter and pounced the instant she paused.
“Your Unc? If you’re lying I’m throwing you off this ship.” Damien gave a shocked look to his Captain while Charlotte shook her head. She had to convince them that it was merely a slip up and not important to discuss.
“Sorry, I was thinking about my uncle who works in the kitchen. I was going to recite everything then realized that it was irrelevant. What was relevant is that the Fleet Admiral called me to see him.” She let her excuse settle before she gauged their responses. It appeared she won over Xavier, but the other two looked like they needed more clarification. Or they flat-out did not believe her. “He sent me to dinner and then we ate dinner. Next thing I know I’m being violently awoken by the maids of the estate.”
She twisted the story around to fit her alibi but it still did not look like she won over the brothers. Xavier grasped his chin with his hand and looked lost in thought. Damien continued pressing for details. “Do you know if the estate hired any new help? Like a man, or chef, or maid in waiting?”
Charlotte raised her brow in surprise. “Yes. A couple days prior a woman was hired. She was hired to watch the Fleet Admiral’s nephew because the servants watching him mysteriously disappeared.”
“Did this woman have semi-long curly hair, and piercing blue eyes?” Damien asked Charlotte immediately. She nodded, his suspicions confirmed.
Aden scoffed, not exactly happy to let her story off without a hitch. “What about a man?”
Charlotte thought hard about this. She could only think of the whispers from the maids earlier that week. “Yes, a mercenary was hired but my uncle didn’t hire him.” She paused to think of how a mercenary was able to convince the guard. What she did not take into account were the three siblings staring at her for her slip up again.
Finally it was Damien who inquired about her previous statement. “Your uncle has the power to hire people at the Estate?” He was more curious to see why a mere chef would have such control over personnel. The auburn knew then that she messed up and began to violently cough.
Aden sighed. He knew that something did not add up. He ignored his gut-feeling, and continued his questions. “Didn’t the Fleet Admiral sense there was something off within his own estate?”
Charlotte’s cough died away as she flattened her hands on the sheets. She looked straight to him as she answered his question. “I realized at the last moment that Claire was indeed the same woman Un… the Fleet Admiral hired. I also did not know of the other man who was in charge of her.”
“Zaine is the other man you saw. Did they ask anything out of the ordinary? Maybe they mentioned something about stones or the whereabouts of one?”
“I don’t remember.” Charlotte gripped the sheets tightly enough to turn her hands pale white.
“So we can assume she was hired for a small boy’s aid as a means to get closer to the family. He was probably hired by one of the guardsmen patrolling the area. Everyone has been running around due to lack of personnel. The State is also suffering from cuts to financial budgeting.” Xavier probed lightly hoping not to entice the injured lass to further misery. Charlotte nodded grimly just as Damien started up again.
“If these two were there at the estate before the attack they must have slipped a heavy dose of sleeping potion into everyone’s food. They were hoping to catch the family and staff off guard with the attack. That would explain also why your memory is full of holes of the evening.”
The tapping of the Aden’s foot brought the attention back to the door, “You know Zaine and Claire are not the types to innocently plant sleeping potion in their food Damien. I feel that there’s more to this than meets the eye, and our only clue is this hapless girl.”
“Yet this hapless girl is here providing provincial information.” Charlotte lashed right back. She was getting sick and tired of Aden’s nicknames for her. “He was looking for something from the Fleet Admiral, killed him and exacted his revenge for something.”
Aden answered just as fiercely. “Was he looking for stones?”
“I don’t know!” She yelled back, the tears started to flow down her cheeks. “That man decimated my family and home in a matter of hours. How would I know if he was looking for stones? If I did not know any better, he was looking for slaughter!”
Damien jumped in concerned that this may turn into another pillow fight. “What my brother intends to say is perhaps we should let you think on it some more. Sleep for now, and we’ll have Sarah come in later to help you into clean clothes.” Xavier and Damien ushered themselves to the door.
“Goodnight Lionsheart, you’re safe with us. No need to worry.” Xavier winked over his shoulder before leaving her alone, with Damien following suit. The only one left in the room was Aden, but he was staring at her with intensity.
“Interesting ring.” He replied and she pulled her hands into her chest. “What family lineage is that from?”
The girl just fumbled with her ring before mumbling “It was a gift—I mean it’s the Lionsheart’s family ring.”
“If you’re hiding anything, just be out with it. It’ll save us all the problems later.” Charlotte scoffed at his rudeness.
“I told you it was my family ring. What more do you want from me, you—you— nasty jerk!” She had hoped her own derogatory comment to his character would draw attention away from her ring. If they were who they claimed to be, it would not take them long if they studied it more carefully. Given the time and chance, they would be able to determine the insignia as the Rothschild clan. And even if her Uncle told her that she could present her ring to those who work for the State to help her—like she thought earlier she wasn’t ready to trust anyone with her life.
Aden’s eyebrows shot up at her attempt to challenge him before he narrowed his eyes. “I ought to tie you to the mast and let you starve outside you stupid girl.”
“Oh yeah? Then why don’t you pointy eyebrows!” She huffed in anger, the auburn didn’t think he’d actually follow through. In those situations she assumed that any man would have given up and slammed the door behind him. That would not be Aden Summerfeld though.
Aden twitched his eyes in irritation. “You asked for it.” He stalked over to the bed, grabbed the girl within her blankets and all, and threw her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. She shrieked in surprise and pain, kicking and scratching where she could. Xavier came back into the room at this time with a smirk that meant only trouble for the captain.
“Addie, if you guys wanted to play love games you should probably wait until she’s healed up. Poor thing looks pale in pain.” The older Drummond had a strange feeling that his younger brother took longer than needed, so he went back. Fortunately he seemed to have saved the auburn from a brutal punishment.
Between the two of the evils presented before him, Aden decided that the worst one was probably Charlotte’s prolonged pain. He dropped the girl unceremoniously on the bed and walked away. “Be grateful you just survived from Zaine. I won’t be so forgiving the next time you decide to badmouth me.” Xavier offered a quick smile and wave before he and Aden were separated by a wooden oak door. She wasn’t surprised by them leaving, but the loudness of the door closing did rattle her nerves.
Charlotte rubbed the comforter between her fingers before she broke down into tears. She somehow was able to convince them that she was just some girl on the estate. Though it didn’t change the fact that her uncle was dead and her brother was probably in a similar situation. She was alone in an unknown area on some boat heading to who knew where with a jerk as a captain. How could she not worry? She couldn’t remember anything of importance, only that the day was fairly normal. Her uncle did call her, but that ended like any conversation did. Or was it? She was perplexed by the way her uncle told her to be strong.
“Did he know his death was coming?” She looked up at the ceiling, looking to nothing in particular.
“Why did he tell me to be strong? Why couldn’t it have been Skylar or did he know that this would happen too? I don’t understand, I just don’t understand.” She let her exhaustion take her into dreams unknown, unsure of what the future held for her.
What she wasn’t expecting was Aden, Xavier, and Damien listening outside the door.
“It appears there is more than meets the eye Aden. You need to keep an eye on her because this might be a trap.”
“Hm.” Aden gravely looked at the wood separating them from the lonely girl.
“I think we need to gain her trust before arbitrarily deciding if she’s a threat. Don’t you agree?” Xavier merely rubbed his chest in an older brotherly way. While he wanted to avoid spoiling the girl, he did want her to warm up to them. Hoping that this would ease Aden’s concerns, Xavier waved his hand to the direction of the stairwell. “No use worrying about things that have yet to happen. Let’s relieve Leo from his helm duties.”
Damien grumbled before following suit after Aden who had begun his trek up the staircase. Xavier walked slowly behind him. “I hope you’re right. I wonder who she really is.”
Aden grunted in his typical fashion. “I knew she was spewing lies the instant she stuttered. She’s hiding something and I will find out what it is.”
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