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Elizabeth Francis Gordon. I savored the taste of the name. In all honesty, it didn’t sound too bad, but I still preferred my given name. Not that I’d tell Richard that. He’d become the Ice Monster again. Thankfully, I would not be marrying Richard for at least a year. My father wouldn’t approve of marriage at a young age.
The boy was back to his usual irritating self, bothering all the flustered old men and flirting with all the old women.
I watched the evening light dance on his fair hair, turning it to gold. There was a lively spark in his bright green eyes. He really was an expressive boy, his eyebrows knitting together and his hands rising and falling. His long fingers tapped imaginary rhythms in the air. There was a feeling of belonging. It felt like Richard belonged with people. He’d make a fantastic Earl.
Richard caught me studying him, smirked, and whispered something in an old lady’s ear. She nodded at me knowingly and shooed Richard away.
He slid next to me and wrapped an arm around my waist. I scowled at him and pushed his arm away.
“What did you tell the old lady?” I asked.
“Old lady? Why, she wasn’t a day over sixty!” Richard exclaimed.
“My point exactly,” I said.
Richard rolled his eyes. “I said that my wife was getting jealous that I was spending so much time in the company of other women.”
I hit him on the arm. “How dare you? I’m not your wife!”
“If you keep that up, never,” I said.
“Really?” Richard said, moving his face closer to mine.
“Land!” I cried, pointing outside. I was ready to be off this creation they call a ship.
I heard Richard sigh and I smiled.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I was distracted from your ungainly freckles by the sight of land, which, by the way, I’m ready to set foot on. I’m sick of ships,” I whined.
“My freckles? I don’t have freckles! Even if I did, how can freckles possibly be ungainly? That makes absolutely no sense!” Richard protested.
“Yes they can be,” I said.
“No, they can’t!”
“Rule number one, Richard: Never argue with a woman– especially one you conned into becoming your betrothed,” I stated.
“Conned? You agreed willingly!”
I raised an eyebrow and he fell silent. Oh, how I loved power.
“Ready to get off, eh?” a gruff voice asked.
“Lord Gordon!” I exclaimed. “No, not at all, I mean, I’m very grateful, but, it’s just...I’m a bit seasick.”
Lord Gordon chuckled. “No more of this ‘Lord Gordon.’ You’ll be Lady Gordon one day, m’dear, so just call me Robert. And don’t worry, Richard was never one for ships when he was younger. Neither is his mother.”
Lady Gordon was dropped off at the manor by Lord Gordon (I couldn’t bring myself to call him Robert) a few weeks before, while Richard preferred to get to know my life a bit more.
As soon as the ship docked at the harbor, I wanted to jump off the wretched vehicle. However, I was not aware of the wobbly leg syndrome that comes with ships. I would have tripped over my own feet had Richard not caught me.
“Careful there,” he said with a grin.
Lord Gordon accidentally elbowed Richard in the ribs, causing him to stumble.
“Careful yourself,” I replied with a wider grin.
He scowled at me and I smiled sweetly.
When we disembarked, multitudes of people stared at us, and the men removed their hats.
“What’s happening?” I hissed.
“Well, you know, my father is Lord Gordon, I am the heir apparent, and you are my future bride. It’s only natural they’d be staring at us,” he explained.
“Still,” I complained.
Lord Gordon bundled us into a carriage (somehow, we fit my miles of dress into one tiny carriage), and a few minutes later, we arrived at Gordon Castle.
The castle looked like something straight out of the Middle Ages. It was solid grey, its thin, fingerlike spires reaching into the reddening sky. It had an unearthly beauty, yet it was sinister.
Richard offered a gloved hand to me. “Elizabeth.”
“Why, thank you, Richard,” I said, accepting his hand and descending the steps of the carriage.
I took a deep breath and ascended the stairs of Gordon Castle with Richard by my side. Who knew his normally irritating presence would be comforting?
The imposing carved doors opened with an eerie squeak. The hallways were entirely empty. As we walked through, I stretched my hands out to brush the rough gray stones. The castle was absolutely ancient, and Gothic.
“I really feel like Elizabeth,” I whispered.
Richard gave me an odd look. “You’re always Elizabeth,” he said.
I laughed and swatted his arm. “No, I mean Elizabeth from 'Pride and Prejudice,' Richard. Like when she visits Pemberly for the first time.”
He nodded once and turned his gaze to the light at the end of the tunnel. I saw his eye twitch, and sensed he was upset about something. I didn’t ask him about it, rather, I touched his arm and gave him a small smile. He seemed to calm down a bit, but he still had the determined glint in his eyes.
Lady Gordon was waiting for us in the sitting room, along with another girl that looked about my age.
Richard threw his gloves on the table closest to him. “Why did the servants not line up to greet Elizabeth?” he demanded furiously, not noticing the other girl.
“Elizabeth? Why, she has no better social standing than a servant, so I did not think a formal greeting would be necessary. You, my son, deserve so much better,” Lady Gordon said in her obnoxious screeching voice.
Richard opened his mouth to say something more insulting, but, thankfully, I cut him off.
“He is a gentleman, and I am a gentleman’s daughter. So far, we are equal,” I stated.
“Do not quote from that book in my house!” Lady Gordon cried.
“First, I am pleasantly surprised that you possess the intellectual capacity to read 'Pride and Prejudice,' let alone remember dialogue from it. Second, I will be mistress of this house one day, and you shall not, by any means, tell me what I can and cannot do in my house! Third, we are being extremely disrespectful to our guest,” I said angrily.
I turned to the quivering girl. She must have been no more than fifteen years old. She had ice blonde hair elegantly gathered in some sort of elaborate style, with pale blue eyes that could stare into your soul. Her skin was so clear, it was almost translucent, and I found myself becoming uglier and uglier in the presence of her beauty.
“Who are you?” I asked her.
“I am Richard’s cousin and former fiancée,” she said softly.