The evening had passed without her seeing Xavier. Ever since she had insulted him after returning from the park, he seemed to be avoiding her. The thought of not having him nearby made her upset. Hearing his voice and viewing his smile had become a most enjoyable highlight to her day.
She began to miss his dreadfully brash manners, the way he set her at ease, and the friendly way he interacted with his sister. The man stirred something soft within her heart and she hated letting any of that go.
Shaking her head of such insanity, she refused to let him burrow anymore into her thoughts, for that path would get her nowhere. She had go to Rosalind, she had to remember her place and keep it that way. All of her energy had to go into making sure the girl would be raised in a genteel proper manner.
Opening the nursery door, she called out for her. Nothing but silence answered her response. Further striding into the room, she checked the bed first, it was empty. She searched under the bed, the closet, behind curtains, and even went into the connecting door in the wall of the nursery, thinking the girl might be there.
Her charge was gone!
Panic rising in her breast, she ran out of the room and down the stairs.
When she realized, in her haste to find her what Rosalind being missing meant, rational thoughts permeated her brain, made her halt and take calming breaths. Just yesterday she had spoken with the Marquis assuring him that his daughter would not be a problem. And, yet not twenty four hours later, she was missing. He would be most angry if she had somehow lost his child.
Trying to retain her composure, she carefully tread down the rest of the stairs. If she saw a servant, she inquired innocently about whether they had seen Rosalind going into breakfast by herself, because sometimes she did that, knowing she would be joined by her governess rather shortly. The excuse had been a spur of the moment, small white lie, that hopefully no one caught onto. And, they did not.
Every person she questioned gave the matter thought, before declaring that they had not seen her since yesterday evening during supper. She began to fear that something was terribly wrong and with each passing second that Rosalind was not by her side, she feared that her parents would find out and she would be tossed out from another residence.
No, that could not happen, she had to find the girl or die trying!
After searching many corridors, her eye grazing over with a distracted mien, trying hard not to rouse suspicions, she had sighed to herself, realizing that the girl still was nowhere to be found. She entered the main hallway with purpose. Xavier exited from a parlor near the front door and he tensed upon seeing her.
He nodded, anger in his gaze before shuffling past her shoulder. No, he could not leave! She was desperate and could not afford to let her pride or his stand in her way of locating the precious girl.
She yelled, “Wait!”
His spine clenched under the dark blue jacket he wore. Slowly, he turned, his eyebrow raised in question. “Did you perhaps forget something in which you wished to say? Because I am rather sure we have said everything we needed to one another yesterday. According to you I am an atrocious companion whom you wanted far away from you so I would not corrupt my sister.”
His chastisement ruffled her and any other day she would have returned his harshness with a pithy retort but, this was not an ordinary day and she needed his help. She would be wasting precious time if she chose to stand there arguing with him.
Swallowing any resentment she held toward him, she ambled over to where he stood. “We do not have the luxury of discussing hurt feelings. Rosalind is missing.”
Crossing his arms over his chest, he smirked. “Oh ho, I am amused that you admonish me for improper behavior, yet you are unable to perform the task of watching over my sister, that my father pays you for?”
She lifted her chin, frowning severely. “I have done everything I am supposed to do. But, I am human and can not watch her all hours of the day. The last time I saw her was last evening before we all went to bed. And when I went into her room this morning she was not there.”
Xavier shook his head, his voice came out exasperated. “That does sound terrifying. But, perhaps she is merely at breakfast?”
“I have already checked with the servants. No one has seen her that I know about.”
He sighed. “Fine I can perhaps help you? If my mother and father were to find out you misplaced their daughter, they would be very cross I would think.”
She stiffened with anger. Again, she reminded herself to ignore his rudeness. “I would appreciate the help.”
He pointed toward the doors along the right side of the room. “I will check the library, study and such. You take the morning room and parlors.”
Making herself nod, she said, “That sounds wise. Thank you, my lord again for your assistance.”
With a sharp nod, he said, “It is no problem.”
He parted ways with her and she was disappointed that he had not called her my lady again. She closed her eyes with mortification, thinking that. He had done exactly what she wanted, cleaving space between them and making things as they should be, treating her like a servant and he the master.
She missed his easy smile and candor. With heavy heart, she went on her search. And, moped the entire time she rifled through the morning rooms, then the parlors. Every instance that she could not find the girl, her heart grew heavier. A cry stuck in her throat, fear clutching her insides that she would not find her and that she would be gone within the hour when eventually the Marquis and Marchioness found out.
* * *
Xavier sighed as he went in search of his sister. The girl had become quite the handful. No wonder the last governess had left within six months. Of course the woman could have left for another reason, having nothing to do with Rosalind. If he knew if his father, which he was rather certain he did, the Marquis had most likely visited her bedchamber after drinking heavily getting his delights where he could.
Whether the women wanted his father's attentions would forever be a mystery to him. They had never voiced any objections that he knew of, nor had they turned him away. He never thought to ask his father the truth, he had always assumed they desired his advances. Why would they have turned away the master of the house when he always seemed to treat them so well?
A flash back to the governess he had tupped against the wall flooded his mind. When had lifted her against him she had not gazed at him once and he still did not know for sure what that meant. When she had asked if he wanted to poke her that he get it over with, he had been blinded by male lust.
But, he still recalled that she seemed to enjoy herself as she cried out against his neck.
With a frown, he shook away the old memory and kept looking for Rosalind. He had to collect the girl before his parents found out and cost the dark haired woman her position. Even though she made him angry with her complaints about his way of dealing with his sister, he could not in good conscious take out his frustrations on her by getting her sacked.
He searched all the places a nine year old might be. After checking under tables, behind curtains and even staring at walls for a half hour he could not find her anywhere. After checking the most obvious places, he decided on a whim to search the Anteroom.
In the middle of the floor, she sat with her back to the door, hiding her eyes trying to make herself as small as possible. He chuckled.
She must have heard him laugh because she gasped, her eyes widening as she stood, and whirled around. “Brother where have you been? I have been waiting to see you. But, you have not visited me in the nursery.”
Guilt assailed him. He had not paid much attention to the girl as soon as he had discovered the adult female form. Their relationship had suffered over the years because of his selfishness. Shaking off that terrible thought, he smiled. Scooping her into his arms, he spun her around the room.
She giggled holding tightly to his shoulders. “This is fun! Why hasn't anyone spun me about before?”
He knew the reason why no one had done so. Neither of their parents could be bothered with their own child.
Rubbing his nose against hers, he said, “I do not know. Maybe I should do it again?”
She laughed as he spun her around again and again. After he set her back on her feet, he twirled her by the hand spinning her in a circle.
“I hope you are enjoying our dance my lady?”
Her face lit up. He grinned, loving that he was making her happy.
“I am most honored sir. Thank you for asking me.”
Chuckling, he tweaked her chin. “I did not ask, I simply began dancing with you.”
With a frown, she shook her head. “This is pretend you dolt. You asked me to dance and I accepted graciously.”
Laughing out loud, he said, “You are not supposed to call your dance partners dolt Rosalind it is quite rude.”
Her lips pinched. “Sorry brother, I did not know.”
He kissed her forehead. “Now you do.”
A few seconds later, the governess walked in, placing her hands on her hips. She frowned. “You know good and well that I was looking for your sister. I was worried sick!”
His sister's lip quivered as she ran straight into the governess's waiting arms. She held her close to her chest, then held her away from her body. “Do not leave a room again without telling me. You gave me such a fright.”
Rosalind nodded, tears coming to her eyes. “I am sorry Miss, I will not do that again.”
Shaking her head with exasperation, she lightly chuckled. “You have said that before, but still you have yet to obey.”
Having the governess view his sister with love in her eyes made him uncomfortable. He had to amend his earlier thoughts that no one cared about the girl besides him. The lady wanted what was best for Rosalind, he knew that now.
The governess gazed his way, she gave him a proper curtsy. “I never thanked you for finding her, my lord. So, thank you. If you do not mind, I will now take her to the nursery?”
He bowed, “I do not mind.”
Before she got half way through the door with Rosalind in tow, he said, “You still have yet to tell me your name.”
Over her shoulder, she gave him a half smile. “ It is Althea. Now, stop bothering me about that.”
He smiled when she left, reminding himself of the kiss they had shared in that very room, one that they had not been able to enjoy, since his mother had rudely interrupted them. Then, he tried her name upon his tongue. Althea. It quite suited her.
In case you have missed the story from the beginning here are the links:
Not Quite A Lady Part One: NotQuiteALadyPartOne
Not Quite a Lady Part Two: NotQuiteaLadyPartTwo
Not Quite a Lady Part Three: NotQuiteaLadyPartThree
Not Quite a Lady Part Four: NotQuiteaLadyPartFour
Not Quite a Lady Part Five: NotQuiteaLadyPartFive
Not Quite a Lady Part Six: NotQuiteaLadyPartSix