But he never came.
It was only when dawn broke over the skies when her eyes started to sting, but she hurriedly blinked them away. Stop being a baby, Arabella. He had to have a reason for doing this. No doubt he would come tonight, he would apologize and explain, and she would pout and play hard to get a little, but after that all would be well.
And so she waited.
But another day came to pass, and he still didn’t come.
THE COLORS OF THE SKY gradually changed, and as the sun rose and set for yet another day, the pall that hung over the mansion only threatened to grow gloomier. Although Arabella had done her very best to hide her misery from the staff, they knew that things had changed. How could they not, when the master had gone back to his old ways?
Once again he spent most of his hours working in isolation, once again he was living in the darkness and shunning all else.
And more often than not, they would hear him moving about in the other wing, the one place in the mansion where all of them were forbidden to go, and that was not a good thing.
Not a good thing at all, Mr. Flamme thought with a disapproving sniff as he entered the kitchen just before his shift began. Everyone looked up hopefully when they saw him –
The night butler slowly shook his head.
Their faces fell, and even Mrs. Bouilloire appeared crestfallen.
“What could have gone wrong?” the housekeeper asked sadly. “They had seemed happy not so long ago.”
“It’s that tower of his,” Mr. Flamme said darkly.
The older members of the staff crossed themselves at the words. Even now, they still remembered the carnage from that day they never spoke of, but as bloody as it had been, what saddened them even more about that day was how their young master had retreated into himself after—-
Like he was once again doing now.
“He shouldn’t spend so much time there,” Mr. Flamme went on disapprovingly. “As long as he does not have that place torn down, the master will not be able to forget the past—-” The butler broke off when Nana came running into the kitchen, a panicky look on her face.
“It’s bad,” Nana whispered. “Ms. Blume told me to pass a note to Mr. Temps, who would then make sure that it reached the master, and I accidentally dropped the note and as I picked it up—-”
Mrs. Bouilloire interrupted impatiently, “Oh, don’t bother with the excuses, child, and just get on with it! What was written on the note?”
“Ms. Blume wants to leave the island now, for good.”
AN ICY STORM RAGED on the island as darkness fell, and as rain began to lash against the windows, it was as if the weather had chosen to mirror the mood within the mansion. A moment later, the lights went out, and shrieks of surprise echoed throughout the house.
But inside Arabella’s tower room, all was quiet until—-
Something hard struck the wall of her room from behind. It sounded very much like a powerful fist striking a heavy mass, but that couldn’t be, since then it would mean Aurélien Sauvage was as strong as – well, certainly as strong as a dozen men.
And that was way, way beyond any low-key Superman could do, Arabella thought. She knew it should be a cause of concern, but she just couldn’t make herself care. It had been the only way to survive the past few days. To pretend that she didn’t care—-
But she was nearing the breaking point now, and so Arabella knew it was time to leave.
“Arabella.” Aurélien’s voice was grim.
Mm. Seven minutes, Arabella thought. She had started counting the minutes the moment she gave her note to Nana, and it had taken Aurélien Sauvage seven minutes to get to her.
She should be flattered, oui?
The beast waited for Arabella to face it, but she remained with her back to the beast, facing the windows, her shoulders stiff and her arms wrapped around her body. Something was different about her. Something about her scent—-
The beast’s nostrils flared, and it said harshly, “You’re drunk.”
“How observant.” Arabella’s voice was steady enough, but as she turned to face the beast in the darkness, it noticed her swaying a little on her feet.
“Before I leave,” she started in a haughty voice.
The beast shook its head. “You are not going anywhere.” Not when she was like this, with anyone able to take advantage of her.
“Of course I will.” Arabella’s words played out in a breezy, singsong voice, but the beast was far from fooled. It heard the hurt and resentment underneath, and it inhaled deeply, knowing that it had no one to blame but itself.
Arabella covered her ears. “No!” She did not want to hear the regret in his words. Not now, not when it was too late. “You don’t have the right to speak,” she said bitterly. “Not after what you’ve done.”