“So why the change of heart?” the old man asked, though in truth he didn’t really need to hear the answer, the bruises spoke for themselves.
“I….. my…. Abel… “ Ailana mumbled from her seat across the desk.
“You’re not making sense” Orrick soothed, He didn’t know Ailana well in fact it could easily be said that he knew the girl not at all. She was a figure at social events and gatherings but men of his age rarely had cause or reason to speak to the young unless they were a relation. Still this was perhaps the least together he had ever seen her, known for her grace and slight aloofness she was now positively in pieces.
“Im sorry” she apologised, seeming unable to prevent herself from crying.
Orrick had never been good with tearful girls, standing he roughly pulled a handkerchief from his pocket before coming around the desk to greet her. “Here” he offered “It’s clean”
“Thank you” she nodded accepting it gratefully.
“Let’s move to the couch” he offered “It will be more comfortable”
Nodding she stood and followed settling beside him. It was better here, his wound still pained him slightly and while he couldn’t complain he knew he was lucky to be alive. He still wasn’t sure how he’d survived when the doctor had seen so certain he wasn’t going to make it. Bah it just went to show that doctor’s knew nothing.
Still since his brush with death he had found a new purpose to his life, nothing had been clearer from the people that had visited his bedside than the simple fact that he had a lot of people to live for.
His son was dead, revenge was not going to change that, but he had daughters living that needed him.
“So what has happened to change your mind?”
“I love my brother” she explained, “And family is very important to him, he would have seen it as a terrible betrayal. So I thought I couldn’t”
“Go on” he pressed understanding that she was talking about Abel and not Gabriel.
“But now I know I must… or… “ her voice trailing off as she began to sob to heavily for the words to make it out.
“Or he’ll hurt me and my life will have no meaning” she reasoned, “Even Abel knows it now.. and he said I should…. Besides I can’t stay and watch what Gabriel is doing to…”
“To Maegan” Orrick finished for her. “Is it bad?”
“Mostly he ignores her, but sometimes …. At least last night, he got drunk”
“He hit both of you”
“Yes” she replied, “But it was worse for her”
“Did he force himself on her?”
“Yes” the young girl nodded, sobbing all the louder “He wanted me to tie her down, but I wouldn’t … Then hit me”
Orrick felt sick and utterly useless. Christopher would have wanted him to protect Maegan and now he couldn’t even do that.
The King had forbidden him from taking action against Gabriel. Not that the King’s command meant anything to him in this instance, but still Raeanne and Daniel had tried to make him understand why Maegan had done what she’d done.
She had done it to save his estate and as much it was not a sacrifice he would have ever let her make given the choice, it made the situation was difficult. Now was time for careful planning, Gabriel was powerful enough to destroy his entire estate and while a few weeks ago he would have said the price of watching the bastard die would have been worth it.
He needed to be more cautious, two servants had died in the fire at the Hallows, a warning perhaps but it could just as easily been Brenna or Emily. Rash action was going to see people he cared about hurt, he would take Gabriel down if it was the last thing he did but he would do so with care.
“I’ll still marry you” he agreed, “but the agreement will have to change”
“Change?! How?” she asked seeming panicked, “Abel said he would give money if needed, I don’t think it would be much but some?”
“I don’t want money” he replied, “You’ll need to sneak out of the house with your things, yes?”
“Yes” she nodded.
“Bring Maegan with you, pack her in the coach.. kicking and screaming if you need to, but bring her back here where I can take care of her”
“I-can’t” she mumbled, looking down at her knee.
“He lock’s her up” she explained.
“Is there no limit to that man’s malice!” he growled unable to contain his shock and disgust. “What in the hells does he need to do that for? She married him willingly didn’t she?”
“He’s worried she’ll do what Jaedyn did” the young girl explained “It’s the only way he can be certain no other man gets near her”
“So he makes her a prisoner in her own home?! Damn the snake, I will gut him myself!”” he hissed, kicking out and sending the stool at his desk flying. It landed with a clatter and only when it did, did he notice Ailana flinch with fear. Suddenly realising his mistake he reigned in his anger “I’m sorry” he apologised, “I didn’t mean to scare you”
She didn’t answer, she shook her head in some manner that seemed to indicate it didn’t matter but her body language said differently.
“I really didn’t mean to scare you” he soothed, instinctively putting a fatherly arm around her. “I suppose you’ve spent your life surrounded by angry men” he reasoned suddenly feeling a strong urge to protect her.
Looking up though the tears she suddenly kissed him, unexpected it took him quite by surprise. Pulling away he was momentarily confused, did she find him attractive? Then noting the look on her face he suddenly understood.
She had simply misread the situation; she’d thought the comforting arm the same tool a younger man may have used to get closer to her. Eager to show she was willing to be a receptive wife. had reciprocated in the manner she thought he was seeking.
“No dear…. You don’t have to” he explained, “I might be an old fool but I’m not going to take advantage of you”
“But…” Panic and uncertainly flickering in her face.
“I’m an old man, not a young buck with his brain in his dick” Her eye’s widened at the crass language clearly not used to it. “I’m sorry” he chuckled, you’ll have to get used to it I’m afraid, I’m a dirty old man with no time for nicety’s”
“It’s alright” she nodded, still looking embarrassed.
“Still I will need for you to get Maegan out of the house, bring her here. Do you think you can do that?”
“I can’t” she protested, “The door is locked and there are guards at all time”
“Ailana I believe you to be an intelligent and resourceful young woman and I may be an old fool but my conscience can’t allow her to stay there”
“But Gabriel will come after her… after you?!” The young girl warned “And the King… he will too”
“I’m hoping Daniel will not be as sympathetic to your brothers situation when he sees the bruises on his niece” Orrick dared to hope, “If they are anything as severe as the ones your brother has left on you then, no decent man could let it go unpunished”
“The King is not a decent man” Ailana replied.
“Then perhaps it’s time for a new King” Orrick decided.