Relief flooded Evelyn as she walked into the dinning room and saw her father seated at the head of the table. Their eyes met and he motioned her over to him.
“Pierce, Daddy wants me to go to him,” Evelyn whispered.
Pierce looked down at where King Reginald was sitting. His sister was on one side and his wife was on the other. Lady Grisham seemed more concerned about her brother than Queen Maria did.
Pierce led Evelyn to her father. “Daddy, you wanted to see me?” Evelyn asked quietly.
“I wanted you and Pierce to sit next to my sister tonight. I only have so much time left with you before you leave.” Her father reached up and caressed her cheek. “I love you, Evelyn, and I am so proud of you.”
Evelyn’s eyes misted over. She and Pierce sat down and waited for dinner to begin. As she looked around the dining room, she saw Lisette and Richard were seated together, Thad was nowhere to be seen, and Philip was sulking at the far end of the table.
“How is Lily doing? I will miss her when I leave,” Evelyn asked Lady Grisham.
“She is doing well. My youngest son has been arrested for kidnapping and he will also face charges for his gambling debts as well,” Lady Grisham stated quietly.
“I had not heard this news. I am glad Lily is safe. I was worried that what had happened to her may have been tied to me somehow. I am very glad this was not the case,” Evelyn explained.
Lady Grisham looked at her quizzically, but her father saved her from further questioning. He was in an oddly chatty mood, Evelyn thought. She chalked it up to her leaving in a few days.
After dinner, Pierce led her into the small ballroom. There were already couples dancing. Lisette pulled Evelyn off into a corner of the room.
“I do not know if I can do this. I feel so exposed and I’m really uneasy,” Lisette explained.
Evelyn hugged her friend. “I completely understand. Would you like me to escort you back to your room?”
“No, King Richard graciously offered to escort me back to my rooms. He said he cleaned out my shop and apartments, and put the items on his ships.” Lisette was shaking and her eyes were welling up with unshed tears.
“That was kind of him to gather your items and put them some place safe. What troubles you, my friend?” Evelyn could tell there was more to this than Lisette was letting on.
“I do not know what he wants in return for his kindness. He said he could help me get back on my feet in Astonia or Scotland, whichever I wanted. He already has men repairing the building so that I can sell it or rent it out.” Lisette’s eyes were fearful.
Evelyn had never seen her friend act like this. It was disconcerting to see a woman so full of life and confidence brought down by a single act of violence toward her.
“Lis, that is just Richard being who he is. He is an incredibly kind man and king. He could never stand by idly when something of this magnitude befalls someone so undeserving of it,” Evelyn explained.
Lisette looked at her friend while dabbing her eyes with her handkerchief. “Is it alright if I go with you?”
“Yes, I would love nothing more than to have you with me on this grand journey,” Evelyn exclaimed.
Richard carefully walked up to the two women. “Princess. Lady Bourbon. I hope I am not interrupting, Pierce told me to tell you we will be leaving now. If you will please come with me.”
Richard offered an arm to each woman. Evelyn’s heart began to race. She hadn’t said goodbye to Father or Mother or any of the others. She began to frantically search the room as Richard led them onto the balcony.
“I thought I was going to get the chance to say goodbye,” Evelyn stated. “Richard, I want to at least say goodbye to my Father.”
Evelyn walked back toward the door, however, Pierce was there. Blocking her entrance back into the room.
“Evie, he said goodbye to you at dinner. We must leave now before it is discovered what we have done. The mastermind isn’t who you believe it to be,” Pierce gently explained as he guided her to the staircase.
Evelyn’s vision began to blur. She didn’t know why she was being so silly. It’s not like she would never see her father again. She could always visit. It’s just, she had never planned to leave her home under such terms.
Pierce handed her a handkerchief as he handed her up into the carriage with Richard and Lisette. He then closed the door, motioning the carriage to leave.
Terror filled Evelyn’s heart as she watched Pierce stay behind. Her men were surrounding the carriage, as were Richard’s, she was safe, but all she could think about was the danger that awaited Pierce.
“No, we can’t leave him,” Evelyn cried.
“His staying buys us time we need, Evie. Even if it’s just an hour or two, it is still time we need to escape,” Richard explained as he took her hand in his.
“He could be killed and we would never know until the ships arrive at port in Astonia,” Evelyn stated, choking on a sob.
Richard looked out the window and watch as the small shadow moved back toward the ballroom.
“I know, Evelyn. Do you know the number of times I have left my brother behind to handle a situation, not knowing if it would be the last time? We have to trust him, because at the end of the day, his duty is to protect the crown,” Richard explained.
Evelyn just nodded as the tears streamed down her face. Pierce’s life didn’t matter as much as her life or Richard’s life. She knew the truth of what he was saying, but it was still wrong.
The salt on the breeze and the bite in the air told Evelyn they were getting close to their destination. She looked out the window and saw the massive ships that would take her away from Pierce and the only home she had ever known.
The carriage door opened. Richard exited first, then helped down the two women. There was lots of commotion around the docks, as three of the four vessels prepared to depart. Evelyn looked around and spotted Jessica.
“Your Highness, I have your rooms prepared for you. Lady Bourbon, your lady’s maid is waiting inside your rooms for you,” Jessica began escorting the woman to ship.
Evelyn began looking around and taking in the chaos around her. Evan, Ian, and Robert were shouting orders. Peter and John began to usher the women onto the ship, when two of Richard’s ships began to leave.
“What the hell? One of them is supposed to stay behind for Pierce,” Peter commented.
Richard came running up the gangplank as his third ship began to sail away too.
“There was a miscommunication. My ships were told they were leaving first, while the one bound for Astonia was to stay and wait for Pierce. I got off my ship at the last second once I learned the news,” Richard hastily explained, while working to catch his breath.
“Damn him!” Robert exclaimed next to Evelyn causing her to jump.
A few of the other men also cursed under their breath. “It wasn’t a miscommunication,” Ian finally stated. “He was hoping we would all leave safely, and then he would figure out his own way to get to us.”
“Then someone go bloody get his stubborn ass now! The longer myself and Richard sit here, the more danger we are in,” Evelyn demanded.
Richard’s jaw was set in anger as he picked up Evelyn and began carrying her the remainder of the way. “No one is going back. He saw to that, all we can do is get ready to leave.”
Once Richard set Evelyn down on the deck, she began to run toward the gangplank being lifted up. “No, you lower that now and go get him! Someone go get him now!”
Richard grabbed her and held onto Evelyn as she started to climb over the railing. Evelyn turned and began screaming and hitting Richard, but he held firm. The ship began to move into the channel, readying to hit the open seas.
“If anything happens to him Richard I will start a war! Do you hear me? I will come for you,” Evelyn threatened as she collapsed into his arms, sobbing into his chest. “Philip will kill him, Richard, or Thad once he discovers I’m gone.”
Richard rubbed her back in a soothing manner, letting her cry out her frustration and anger. He knew how she felt. He too had been sucker punched by his brother’s plan, but he’d be damned if he let the sacrifice Pierce was making be wasted on sentimentality. There had to be a reason, he had learned that long ago with his brother. Nothing was ever done by mistake.
Richard noticed Lisette and Jessica had returned to check on Evelyn. She had finally calmed down and was now hiccuping as tears slowly trailed down her cheeks. “Do you want to go below to your rooms and rest?”
Puffy red eyes looked into his. “I love him, Richard, but so help me, I will kill him the next time I see him.”
Richard let out a bark of laughter. “You and me both, my love.”
“Can we just stay up here like this for a little longer?” Evelyn asked softly.
Richard squeezed Evelyn tightly to him. “Yes, lass. We can like this for as long as you want.”
Evelyn nodded into his chest. She turned her head and watched through the tears as Cobalt grew smaller and smaller.
Her heart was breaking knowing the love of her life was somewhere on the island she grew up on and there was no way of knowing if he was alright or not. In one month, she would be in Astonia and all she could do is wait for his return.
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