Chapter Two

Chapter Two

A Chapter by C. M. Ortega

CHAPTER TWO

 

AFTER THE FOOD HAD been cleared away, Jackson insisted on heading straight to the factory. The carriage was made ready and everyone climbed in. Alison was used to it being just her and her uncle; however, James insisted on sitting next to her, shifting slightly closer.

Alison tried not to be aware of how close their thighs were, but when he scooted even closer, she could no longer ignore it. James again chatted with her uncle, completely ignoring her.

This was how her life was going to be. Her husband would ignore her and he was only marrying her for her inheritance. She shook the thoughts from her head. She would not marry him, it didn’t matter what her uncle said. She would find her own husband, a man who was strong and confident, who didn’t want her just for her money. She wanted someone who was interested in hearing what she had to say, not ignore her.

She sighed.

Jackson eyed her from the seat opposite her. “Is something wrong?”

“Of course not uncle,” she said in a bored voice. No one commented.

The factory was a twenty-minute carriage ride from the manor in fair conditions, so her uncle rested his head back, closing his eyes. As soon as his chest started to rise and fall steadily, James glanced at Alison out of the corner of his eye. She was staring out the window in boredom. When he grabbed her hand, she looked at him in surprise, a blush creeping to her cheeks. He smiled back, trying to pull her closer.

Her surprise quickly turned into a frown when she resisted and he tugged her again. This time she pulled her hand completely out of his grasp. “Mr. Camden,” she said softly, not wanting to wake her uncle. “That is not appropriate.”

She watched his eyes darken. “Miss Forbush, we are to be wed by the end of the week.”

The color drained from her face. “What?”

Suddenly Jackson was awake, “I was going to tell you later today. The arrangements have been finalized.”

James grabbed her hand in a tight grip. “So, you see, it would be best if you get used to me now.”

Alison blinked hard, “But I never consented to this!”

“Alison,” Jackson said in warning.

James lowered his eyes in embarrassment. However, Alison didn’t care if she hurt his feelings. “I don’t want to marry him!”

“Alison,” Jackson yelled.

“This isn’t fair! My father wouldn’t make me do this.”

“Your father is dead!” Jackson yelled.

Alison pulled back as though she’d been smacked and the air in the carriage hung thick with tension. Right then the carriage stopped in front of the factory and the footman opened the door. No one moved for a moment, then Jackson stepped out, his face tinted pink with anger.

James stepped out next, contemplating whether to help Alison down or not. The gentleman in him told him he should, however he had just been thoroughly embarrassed by her. In the end, he stepped away from the carriage and allowed the footman to help her down.

She didn’t look at either man as she stepped down. Her uncle could be strict at times, but he had never spoken so harshly about her father before.

James only glanced back to make sure she was following a few times. Each time, Alison drifted farther and farther behind, deep in thought. The arrangements had already been settled. Which meant that she had one week left of freedom, and she was going to be forced to spend every spare moment of that time with James. She had been so sure that if she gave everyone a hard time, no one would want to marry her. Maybe she had to do something drastic.

James glanced over his shoulder again and she seized her opportunity. Once he faced forward again, listening to Jackson talk about the machines, she ducked onto a side ramp. She knew the factory almost as well as she knew the woods.

When she was younger, her father would bring her sometimes, allowing her to explore. The employees were so thankful to her father for their employment in hard times, that they didn’t mind keeping an eye on little Alison. Of course, sometimes Alison had purposefully lost her babysitters to get a better look around the factory.

 She climbed a small ladder and walked along the catwalk of the steel mill. She was over the heads of her uncle and James now. She glanced over the rail; they hadn’t realized she was gone yet. She smiled to herself as she quietly headed the other way, towards the offices.

Eventually, they would end up at the offices, but she had a good while to relax and think of a plan to get her out of this marriage. She could act so horrible that she scared James away, but she could just see her uncle having her examined for mental illness and having the judge claim her as unfit for her inheritance.

She could say no at the altar; that was always a possibility. Of course, she would embarrass herself, her uncle, and James in front of the many people that were most likely going to be in attendance. But who cared? She could run away. The idea sparked her interest. She could run to her father’s house and hide until this marriage blew over. She would have to be careful, there were things she’d need; money, food, clothes, and documents. If she ran, her uncle would deem her unfit and destroy the documents that named the inheritance to her. Therefore, she would have to take the papers with her until it was safe.

Her uncle kept them locked in a drawer in his study and he kept the key on his person at all times. If she could figure out how to get them, this plan could work.

Suddenly, someone opened the door. William, one of her father’s closest friends, peeked his head in. “There you are.”

“Hello Willy,” she smiled from the plush seat she occupied, behind her father’s mahogany desk.

“Your uncle is looking for you,” he said with a knowing smile.

“I know,” she smiled back.

“I heard of your engagement.”

She frowned. “You mean the one that does not exist? I’m not marrying him.”

“I figured as much…You know, your father would want you to be happy.

Alison smiled at the man. He seemed a lot older than the last time she’d seen him. Perhaps working with Jackson was adding to his stress. “I know. I will find happiness; only, I want to choose my husband.”

He nodded. “Should I inform Jackson that you are here?”

She mulled it over. “I would rather let him worry a little more…however, I suppose that would be too cruel.”

“I will tell him then Miss Alison,” William said with a slight bow of his head. He shut the door behind him and she made herself comfortable in the chair.

Moments later, the door opened and Jackson and James entered. Her uncle looked tense. “There you are,” he smiled tensely, trying to control his temper. “You should have told us you were leaving.”

Alison shrugged, straightening a few papers. “You were so busy. I figured I wouldn’t be missed.”

James’ brown eyes fell onto her in disapproval. She stared back, daring him to say something.

“Yes, well next time let us know.”

She leaned back in the chair, not saying a word, challenging both of them.

Jackson cleared his throat, “Lunch is to be held in the meeting room. Alison, come.”

She raised a brow. “I’m not a dog, Uncle.” She never did this. She never spoke back, but if he wasn’t going to play fair, neither would she. Having a plan had fully renewed her spark to rebel.

James stepped forward, offering his arm. “Shall we?”

Jackson glared at Alison, but walked out the door, grumbling to himself. Alison hesitated, earning herself another of the frowns that James seemed to be so good at giving. So, she threaded her arm through his. “Mr. Camden…” she began.

“Please, call me James,” he said, leading her through the door.

“Mr. Camden,” she said, just to spite him. “Why don’t you ever smile?”

His back straightened. “I smile, when I am happy.”

“I mean, really smile.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You never seem truly happy.”

James stopped, turning Alison toward him. His eyes scanned her face. “When we are married, I will be truly happy.”

She raised a brow. “Why?”

“You are a beautiful woman,” he said, matter-of-factly .

“So, my beauty will make you happy?”

He nodded, smiling as he thought she finally understood, however, she didn’t look pleased.

“My beauty will fade, what happens then?”

James blinked hard, trying to think fast. She shook her head and deciding this was a waste of her time, walked herself the rest of the way to the meeting room. Jackson stood as she entered, confusion written on his face. “Where is James?”

She merely shrugged and took a seat. James wandered in a few minutes later, still trying to regain his composure.

 

Alison had never been so relieved to see the manor come into view. Lunch had been so quiet that a pin dropped would have sounded like thunder. Once in the carriage, James took the seat by her again, but this time he didn’t grab her hand, or sit so close that his thigh was brushing hers.

Instead, he stared out the window, his chin resting in his hand as he mulled over her words. She, on the other hand, was itching to get out and escape to the woods.

Before the footman could even pull the small ladder down, she had hopped down. Jackson was quick after her. “Where are you going?”

“To bathe,” she threw over her shoulder, hurrying into the house. She would have to sneak out carefully. Before the men had even entered the house, she was in her room, waiting for them to be settled so she could sneak out. To her dismay, she heard heavy footsteps coming for her door. She would have to make it seem as though she were going to bathe, so she grabbed clothes from her drawer, tucking them under an arm and threw open her door, taking a few quick steps out into the hall.

To her surprise, it wasn’t her uncle at her door, but James. She froze. “Mr. Camden, can I help you?”

His eyes looked dark, as if he were angry. He took a step toward her, “You love to frustrate me, don’t you?”

Instinctively, she took a step back, “Excuse me?”

“You love to embarrass me, even in front of your Uncle,” he nearly growled, taking another step.

She stepped back, feeling the hard surface of the wall behind her and swallowing hard. James advanced another slow, dangerous step.

“You have ideas that are not normal for a woman. This will all change when we are married. You will worship me as a husband. You will do whatever I ask of you without hesitation,” his arms came up to brace himself on either side of her, boxing her in. Her heart raced as she clutched her clothes to her chest in an effort to protect herself. She couldn’t look away from his blazing eyes.

“You will be the perfect wife. Understand?” he asked. She nodded, trying to keep her breathing under control. One of his hands reached up to grip her jaw. “I didn’t want it to be this way, but you refused to listen. You need to get those unhealthy ideas out of your head; it is for your own good.”

She was trembling. No man had ever threatened her like this before. She didn’t know anyone other than Jackson and her father’s colleges at the factory. She prayed that someone would come up the stairs and see what he was doing. Even a maid could stop him.

No one came.

“Now, this marriage agreement can either go smooth or rough. Either way, you will marry me. Now that I’ve seen you, there is no way I cannot have you. We want it to go smoothly, don’t we?” he asked sweetly, loosening his grip slightly on her jaw, which was beginning to throb. His strength surprised her and unnerved her. She had always assumed that she was tough and could take care of herself, but he had her pinned and she had never felt so helpless in her life.

It made her stomach curl as she nodded purely out of fear. He smiled at her; however, his eyes remained dark. Before she knew what was happening, he pressed his thin lips to hers, fully pinning her now. Her eyes widened in surprise as her mind reeled. What do I do? She wondered. His hands gripped her shoulders, pulling her closer. It was as if the spell had been broken; she was still cold with fear, but she was no longer frozen. She pulled her now free hand back and balled it into a fist. With as much strength as she could muster, she punched him right in his mouth.

He released her, stepping back in surprise. His fingers found blood on the corner of his mouth. “You w***e!”

He took a menacing step toward her, but she was already running to her room and locking him out. He pounded on the wood. Adrenaline shot through her as she tried to catch her breath. She made little time throwing her clothes on the bed and opening the window. More pounding sounded at her back. She swung her legs out onto the ledge and scurried over to the floral ladder, slipping in her haste as part of the ledge gave out and sliding uncontrollably over the edge.

Her fingers clutched the now splintered ledge, halting her fall. She gasped in pain as the rough edge dug into her hands. She could hear the banging on her door still, now it sounded as if her uncle had joined James at the door. It was a good twenty-foot drop to the ground. She looked at the floral ladder, if she could just swing her body…

Suddenly, the door banged open with a loud shatter of wood and the men burst into her room, both sets of eyes searching for her. Her uncle spotted the open window and hurried to it. Jackson leaned out and, to his surprise, found her hanging on for dear life. “Hang on Alison!” he yelled.

Then suddenly James was shoving Jackson away and climbing out the window. He made his way onto the ledge, maneuvering carefully. Alison had knocked off a large chunk of ledge in her fall. Alison’s fingers screamed for her to let go. She tried desperately to pull herself up, but her arms were already shaking with fatigue from catching herself.

“Give me your hand!” James grit out, holding onto the windowsill for leverage.

Any other time, she would have refused to let him touch her, but at the moment, she had no other choice. She released the wall, her fingers desperately grasped his, and he pulled her up. He ushered her to the window and she climbed back inside. Jackson sent for bandages for her fingers and she turned her hands over to find that her fingers were bleeding badly from where the broken ledge had sliced into her skin. She winced just looking at them.

“What were you thinking?” James demanded as he too climbed into the window. He was glaring angrily at her. “You have to stop these immature games. You are to be my wife!”

Jackson stepped forward and cut him off. “Thank you for your bravery James, but I will handle this from here.”

Alison watched her uncle as he led James to the door that now had long splintering cracks in it. The force of them kicking it open had rendered her lock useless and knocked a chunk out, so that one could see directly into the hallway without ever opening the door.

The maid returned with bandages and Jackson closed the door. He turned to her, flipping her hand palm up to see the damage. The fact that he was being so quiet was beginning to make her nervous. He poured a cleaner on her gashes and she hissed in pain as she pulled her hand out of his. He grabbed it back, pouring more on the other hand.

“What were you doing on the roof?” he asked.

“Nothing…” she lied.

“You were trying to run into the forest again, weren’t you?” his dark eyes burned into hers as he wrapped each finger with a bandage.

“James scared me…h-he kissed me…” she offered, though she felt embarrassed that she couldn’t just deal with it herself.

“So you wanted to run? Stupid girl. He is to be your husband. He would have kissed you sooner or later.”

“But he didn’t have to be so rough…he hurt me.”

Jackson’s brows furrowed and for a second she thought he was going to take her side. She was wrong.

“You mustn’t make him angry.”

Her mouth went slack with astonishment. “But I-”

“Ever since he has arrived you have done nothing but act the opposite of a good bride. Normally women are excited at the thought of an engagement. I agree with him, you need to stop embarrassing him.”

Now her eyes went wide with disbelief. “You heard our fight? And you let him yell at me?” she asked, pulling her bandaged hand out of his.

“You needed to be taught a lesson Alison. He is-”

“Get out,” she said harshly. “Get out of my room.”

He shut his mouth, his eyes narrowing into a glare. “Very well. Don’t try to escape again, I will be watching.”

He left the bandages and closed the door. Alison fought tears. Though their relationship was far from perfect, she never thought he would betray her like this. The arranged marriage was bad enough, but now this?

She had to leave, now, or she would never get the chance again. First thing first, she finished bandaging her bloody fingers. Barely making a noise, she set a chair before her door, and then made her way to her closet. She grabbed the biggest bag she could find, that she could still manage to carry.

She stuffed clothes and anything she could into it; her stash of money, valuable jewels she could sell and anything else that could fetch a price. She made a plan to sneak to the kitchen for food and then to her uncle’s study to grab the papers. The best chance she could see to run, was at night when everyone was asleep.

All she had to do was wait; it was easier said than done. Her stomach twisted nervously as she paced her room. When she looked out the window, she found that her uncle had set up someone to stand guard on the ground below. She sighed to herself. This wasn’t going to be easy.

She hid her bag in her closet, covering it with blankets so that it wouldn’t be found. When there was a knock at the door, Alison peered through the damaged wood rather than open it. If it was James, she really didn’t want to be close to him, ever. Just having the door between her and whoever was out in the hall gave her some sense of security. The maid lowered her eyes. “Dinner is served. Your uncle wishes for you to join them.”

“Tell him I am ill and will not be coming to dinner, but I will take it in my room instead.”

She nodded and hurried away. Alison bit her lip, pacing her room once again. A few moments later, there was another knock at the door. She checked, surprised to find her uncle there, frowning down at her through the door.

“Come to dinner,” he ordered.

“I do not feel well. I will have dinner in my room.”

His frown deepened. “You will come down and honor the man who just saved your life.”

“It is because of that man that my life was in danger. I will not come down.”

“Alison-”

“No matter what you say uncle, I will not dine with that monster. Nor will I marry him.” With that, she walked away and flopped onto her bed before he could do anything. His angry eyes seared her through the splintered door. There was silence as she listened, then angry footsteps heading down the hall.

She sat at her vanity, looking into the mirror at her shaken expression and wide eyes. Alison let out the breath she’d been holding and ran her fingers through her long red hair, remembering suddenly that they were bandaged.

Ever since the fall, she hadn’t given herself a look over. She lifted her dress slightly to find that she had also skinned her knee. Her arms were still shaky from catching herself, but other than that, she was in one piece, for now. The closer she inspected in the mirror, the more she realized a shadow was beginning to appear along her jaw, a bruise from where he had grabbed her so forcefully.

 

₪  ₪  ₪  ₪

 

JACKSON STRAIGHTENED HIS CLOTHING as he walked slowly down the stairs, trying to get his head together. How could she be so foolish? James was of social standing, his family well known and the fact that he was still here even after she had embarrassed him, showed his good character. She had never rebelled like this before, and in front of a guest nonetheless. If word got out, he would be the talk of the town for having a shrew as a ward.

He walked back into the dining room, shaking his head. “She…doesn’t feel well,” he lied.

James stared down at his food. “I don’t know how to get her to listen to me…”

“She is very stubborn, but not scaring her would be a good place to start.”

The younger man frowned as he met Jackson’s eyes. “If I can’t control her now, how am I supposed to control her when we are married?”

Jackson took his seat, leaning forward. “Do not lose confidence. We stick to the plan. We need to think of a different tactic is all…maybe try more of a romantic approach, I hear women love that.”

James glared. “I’ve tried. She does not soften toward me.”

“Well, try harder,” Jackson growled. “She will have no idea what to do with the factory once it is given to her. It would be in her best interest if we controlled it.”

“Yes, I know,” James growled, throwing his linen down. “She is impossible to woe.”

“Try harder boy.”

The two glared at each other for a moment, before James excused himself from the room. He jammed a hand into his dirty blonde hair and tried to regain his composure. With a few deep breaths, he smoothed his jacket and climbed the stairs.

Alison’s door was shut and he couldn’t hear any sounds coming from her room. For a moment, he thought she had run away again. He licked his lips as he rapped his knuckles against her door.

To his surprise, she did not open it, but her beautiful green eye peeked through the splintered gap. She didn’t say a word.

James cleared his throat. “I came to apologize…I was out of line earlier.”

Again she didn’t speak. She just watched him.

“I should not have forced you to kiss me…,” he continued. It was strange to apologize when he was used to getting whatever he wanted; he was the youngest of the family. Even Jackson had selected him because he knew how to manipulate, but with Alison it was different. It was apparent that she didn’t want him. Most of the younger girls would die to have him, after all, he was extremely handsome and his family was very well known, but not her.

“I’m sorry,” he finished, standing their awkwardly.

“Forgive me if I do not feel well enough to discuss this with you right now,” she said bitterly, leaving the door.

He stood there for a few stunned moments in surprise. She was bold for a girl, and that wasn’t a good thing. His surprise was quickly replaced with an angry narrowing of his eyes as he marched off down the hall to his guest room. Jackson didn’t understand when he said that Alison was impossible to woe, she really was.

She hadn’t even had the decency to open the door, forcing him to talk through it. 

 

₪  ₪  ₪  ₪

 

ALISON PEEKED IN THE HALL ONCE more, just to make sure that he was gone. She breathed a sigh of relief and pushed off the door. She bet her uncle had something to do with his apology. Everything about his character told her that he wouldn’t apologize, unless he absolutely had to. And from the spark that she saw in his eye, she could tell that he didn’t think he’d done anything wrong.

There was a light rap at the door. She asked who it was this time, telling the maid to leave the tray by the door. When her footsteps disappeared down the hall, Alison un-wedged the door and pulled the tray inside, only to set the chair back into place.

She ate quickly, keeping one eye on the door. Who knew when her uncle or James would come back?

She double then triple checked her bag, making sure she had everything. She would venture to her father’s house. The keys were in her uncle’s study. The plan was falling into place.

 

The hours dragged by. She watched out her window as the sun set and the sky was littered with stars. Even then, she waited longer. Her stomach was churning dangerously with nerves. She had taken care of herself for as long as she could remember, but she had never had to fully depend on herself for shelter and food. She was sure she could handle it. She had planned a route to make it to the city and stock up on provisions then find her way to her father’s house.

She had to admit that excitement was also racing through her at the same time. However, the waiting was killing her. But she knew that the more time she waited, the less chance she had of getting caught. So, she waited. Neither of the men came to her door again that night.

 

 

 



© 2013 C. M. Ortega


Author's Note

C. M. Ortega
This story has been PUBLISHED to ebook! Click the links below to read a larger sample or the entire story!

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Added on November 16, 2013
Last Updated on November 16, 2013
Tags: Fantasy, Adventure, Marriage, Underground, War, Creatures, King, Romance


Author

C. M. Ortega
C. M. Ortega

Provo, UT



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I am definitely a people person who loves to laugh and create new things. My mind is always running and sometimes my characters take over the writing process, but that's what makes it fun. I'm definit.. more..

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Chapter One Chapter One

A Chapter by C. M. Ortega