It was pouring rain all around her, she was soaked cold straight to the bone, and yet she couldn't seem to run fast enough. She was running from them, everyone, her own family, her so called friends, and him. She wouldn't marry him if he was the last man on earth. She would rather be a spinster for life, and die. She didn't care who disapproved of her or who didn't, she just knew that he might be dead. Because of her. Because of what she had done.
As she finally reached a barely visibly outlined road, Norah stumbled and fell, skidding to the center of it. Cursing in pain and anger, she began to get up but fell down again in shock as a horse led carriage ran right at her.
" Whoa! Whoa, boys!" called the stumpy driver perched at the front of the carriage. The horses reared up and skidded to one of the most stressfully slow skids ever in front of Norah.
As her heart thudded madly, Norah crawled painfully to the side of the road and waited. Everything hurt and she just didn't want to care anymore. She just wanted to sleep and eat. Then she could keep running. She didn't want to stop, and yet, being human, she had to. She had finally reached that point. Right here. In the damn rain, on the side of a damned road in the middle of nowhere.
" Miss! Miss!" called the driver as he climbed down in panic. Norah stayed quiet, fighting within herself. She didn't deserve help, she didn't want it. But she was hurt, and hungry...desperate maybe.
" Miss! What are you doing out here in the middle of a storm?!" he shouted as the wind howled and rain began to beat down harder. Her tears came down and mixed with the plump raindrops that fell on her face. She shook her head and tried to get up, then gasped in pain, when a hard sting came all along her leg.
" What in the hell is going on out here!?" called a deeper, more angered male voice from the carriage. The carriage door was pulled open and a tall dark sculptured male figure stepped out in what seemed to be really expensive and fine clothing. He walked over to his driver, already in a bad mood for having to venture out into the storm.
" Guinn!" he called, his voice rough as he got closer.
" My Lord! This woman--" Guinn replied motioning towards Norah.
" What bloody wom--" Raphael cut himself off as he stared down at the drenched, dark haired woman sitting on the grass on the side of the road. Her dark eyes stared up at him with question and surprisingly, defiance. " What is this..?" he asked Guinn, as feelings of impatience swirled in him.
" She won't say, My Lord. I happened to see her fall in front of the carriage and managed to stop the team before we ran her over!" Guinn shouted into his ear, over the rain.
" Who are you?!" Raphael squatted down, giving up on any hopes of not soaking his clothes. Norah stared at him, " No need to bother yourself..My Lord." she answered, a bit sarcastically. He was a man of power, a noble, a corrupted idiot. She couldn't trust him, Norah decided, thinking about her friends, she just couldn't trust anyone anymore.
Raphael rolled his eyes at the anger in her tone. He should just leave her there, to get sick and run into someone far less kind than him. That would show the little twit. But he couldn't, he frowned. He looked at up at the dark soaked figure of Guinn. " Is she hurt?"
Guinn nodded. " Aye, My Lord. She tried to get up twice and fell!"
Without asking, Raphael swept her up and stood, walking to his carriage.
" What are you doing!?" Norah asked in a rush of interlaced anguish, fear and anger. She didn't want to be helped, she decided. Maybe, she could've just died there. She didn't want to involve others in her mess. Norah pushed at his shoulders and wriggled in his supportive and solidly entrapping arms.
As soon as Guinn opened the carriage doors and Raphael set her down on the seat next to him, her body hummed in this terrible gratefulness for warmth and dryness. Norah frowned, feeling tears well in her eyes for all the comfort. It had been days since she had been inside a decent place, where she hadn't run into trouble, or had to sleep outside with all the bugs biting at her. The rain, especially the rain in the places around England where she had been through.
Raphael sighed, running his hand through his wet black hair. He felt the carriage move a bit as Guinn mounted his position at the front and ordered the team onward. He looked at the mysterious woman next to him. " Tell me your name." He ordered, pulling off his heavy wet coat. He wasn't being inappropriate, he was just being sensible, Raphael decided.
" Why must you know?" Norah asked, unsure of whethor to give him her real name, just in case he had heard something about her.
" So that I can address you properly, and I think I deserve to know." Raphael answered crudely, his dark blue eyes flashing at Norah with disapproval. Nobody questioned his orders. Ever.
" My name is Norah Wesley." She answered. It wasn't her real last name, but She liked the name Wesley and she wasn't willing to risk all the miles in between her troubles for an act of kindness.
" If I can inquire, which I think I can, what were you doing out there?" Raphael stared down at her, trying to intimidate her with his size, just until she figured out how powerful he was and realized that she should respect him.
" Who are you? I don't know who you are." Norah stared back up at him, but couldn't quite take the intensity of his stare. She pushed aside the small velvet curtains and stared out the window. " I don't just tell my activities to strangers, you know."
" I am Raphael O'Connell, Earl of Westshire." Raphael stared out of his window and turned back to her. " We are now on my property, and we'll be arriving shortly to my home."
Earl of Westshire. Damn, Norah thought. She'd known he was nobility, but..but..Earl of Westshire? He was one of the most influential and respected political and noble figures in the country. He contributed greatly to parliamentary ideas and laws, with opinion and funds, but his family was one of the oldest, one of the most pure and long lasting in Englands history. How in the world had she run into this man? He wasn't someone to mess with, or disagree with, for that matter. Everything she'd done, of course.
" Now, I am less inclined to share, knowing who you are." Norah muttered, glancing up at him.
Raphael grinned in response. Seldom anyone said things like this to him. It was odd. As he planned his next move, the carriage came to a stop and Guinn popped open the carriage door. It was still raining pretty hard outside, Norah observed as she reached for Guinn's offered hand. The pain on her leg screeched, spreading complaints throughout her whole body. She grit her teeth in determination and took a few steps. Raphael being a gentleman, saw the strain in her expression and carefully swept her up. She didn't protest much this time as he climbed down the steps and Guinn opened the front doors.
" Makenna!" Raphael called out to his favorite maid. She was actually more than a maid to him, more like a nurturing mother figure.
Makenna, an older, plump blonde with kind hazel eyes appeared, drying her hands off with a rag. " Yes?!" She answered, " Oh! Dear! What do we have here?" She studied Norah with caring eyes.
" Guinn found her on the side of the road during the storm. Her name is Miss. Norah Wesley and she's hurt. I'm not carrying her because I think it's fun, Makenna."
" Raphael, you respect the young girl." Makenna frowned, motioning for him to follow her.
" I am." Raphael murmured, glancing down at a frowning Norah as he followed Makenna up the stairs.
" No, you're not." Makenna disagreed, opening a bedchamber door for him. " Lay her down on the bed."
Raphael did as she said, gently laying Norah down on the edge of the bed.
" I'm all wet." Norah frowned, looking at the mess they had left.
" We'll get you some clothes. Don't worry about it." Makenna looked from Raphael to Norah. " Alright, now where did you get hurt?"
Norah stared up at Raphael. " My leg, but I don't think it's appropriate to show you while the Earl of Westshire is present."
Raphael nodded, thinking he'd rather be in a tub full of hot water, thinking about nothing than where he actually was. " I'll be leaving then."
" Goodbye, then," Makenna called. " I'll be checking up on you later too. Wouldn't want you to get sick now, would we?"
" No." Raphael smiled at Makenna and closed the door. Makenna lighted a few candles and sat next to Norah. " Where is it?"
" Here." Norah lifted her skirts and saw the cuts. Her leg, from her shin to her knee cap was all cut up and bloody.
"Hmm.." Makenna stood up and walked to the door. " I'll be back." she promised as she left.
Norah stared around, she was in a big room, on a big bed and she felt so small. The walls were a light shade of purple, they were actually lavender. It was a pretty, calming color, she decided. There was a shadow of a bookshelf in the corner of the room and a closet.
" Who are you?" a small boy called from the door. His hand was on the door knob as he stared at her. He had eyes and dark curls. He looked to be less than seven years old.
She'd always had a fondness for kids, she thought. " My name is Norah. What's yours?" She asked, pulling down her skirts to cover the cuts.
" My name is Alfred. I don't like it though." Alfred walked in nonchalantly. He walked to her and studied her.
" You don't like your name?" Norah asked, with a smile. Children were so entertaining and their thought processes were so amusing.
" No. It sounds like an old person." Alfred stared at the flickering candles.
" Do you have a petname for Alfred? Like Freddie?"
" No." Alfred replied. " I like that name better, though." He turned to look at Norah again.
" ALFRED!!" Came a thundering voice that Norah remembered.
" Father! I'm over here! With Norah!" Alfred called, staying in his spot.
" Alfred! There you are!" Raphael stepped into Norah's room, his expression frustrated.
" Father. Look, it's Norah!" Alfred pointed enthusiastically at Norah.
" Father?" Norah stared from Alfred to Raphael in question. She'd never heard of the Earl of Westshire being married and having children..Where had Alfred come from?