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Chapter 4 - Recovery

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They had taken a slow walk down an almost invisible path. The winding trail started near the mansion's large kitchen back doors and led them to a small cottage nestled in a nearby thicket. The front was overgrown with weeds. Creepers had conquered the walls and the windows were stained with moss and algae. It sat in the shadow of several large trees.

The five minute walk had taken them a good twenty minutes. It was slow going. Jace hobbled along gamely but his bruised legs still felt the pain of twisted muscles. The sun was too bright; it hurt his eyes. Ash had to support Jace most of the way. He refused to let anyone else touch him. Small animals scuttled away as they neared the shed. He stopped in relief when they finally reached their destination and climbed the short steps onto the small porch.

Jace sat on the cold wooden bench on the porch outside the little shed feeling a little disgruntled. They had literally ganged-up against him. Lady Jayne and Nikki had recruited Ash into their scheme. Together the trio had plotted and badgered him, steamrolled any objections he might have had even before he could open his mouth to protest. He eyed each of them in turn glaring from one face to another. They were looking very pleased with themselves. Smug, he thought. Nikki giggled at his odd expression.

"Stop laughing at me."

"I'm sorry," she tried to sound contrite, "but you look so funny." She dissolved into giggles again.

"Yeah, he does doesn't he?" Ash grinned.

Even the Lady was smiling impishly at him. Jace shook his head ruefully, outnumbered. He knew when he was beaten.

"There now, it's not so bad. Emily has cleaned up the place for you." Lady Jayne nodded at the maid. "There is food in the kitchen. Ash has brought down all your things. You can call us or yell if you need us. The main kitchen is really quite near. There is always somebody there."

"Any chance you're on my side?" Jace asked hopefully glancing at the maid.

Emily blushed prettily at the handsome youth,"No, Sir. I'm on their side."

Everyone laughed. Jace raised his hands in defeat and grinned at her. Might as well relent in good grace, he really did not have a choice at the moment. He understood they had only good intentions but the blatant charity rankled at him. He did not want to be indebted to anyone. Hmmm, he will have to think of a way to repay them.

"No need to call me Sir ... it's Jace. And thanks for tidying up the place, Emily."

He smiled at her. Her blush deepened.

"Now, now, don't fall for his charms", Ash teased the maid. He turned to Jace "She is smart, she knows who is on the winning side."

"Let's have a look inside, shall we?"

They took a tour of the cottage. It was a one bedroom, one bathroom affair with a cosy living space. There was also a sturdy worktable which ran the length of one wall. On it was various tools and drawing materials. Lady Jayne trailed her hand on the surface. A small functional kitchen took up the back. Next to the kitchen was a door which led into a glass room.

"My green house, well, what is left of it anyway," she said.

"Very nice. Thank you, ma'am," Jace held her gaze. "I really appreciate you letting me stay here for a while."

"You are very welcome."

Good boy she thought. He was accepting the situation gracefully. Hopefully, he would make the most of it.

As they talked, Lady Jayne noticed Jace becoming quiet, encouraging Ash to reply for him. His best friend knew him well and could easily answer most questions thrown at him. Only an occasional nod or shake of his head was needed to guide the blond youth. They seem to be of like mind.

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