Chapter Seven

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I sat in silence on the soft velvet sofa, the heat from the fireplace a warm comfort from the icy temperatures last night.

After I was seated, Nicholas had stomped into the kitchen and leant on the bench with both hands, head down between his arms. He breathed heavily and stayed there for a minute or so. I watched him with curiosity, until he eventually looked up and found me staring. He abruptly stood upright, smoothed down his shirt and sauntered back into the living room.

"I shall wait here with you until Constable Doyle arrives," he announced. "I'm not letting you out of my sight."

He plopped himself down on an armchair opposite me and glared at me, literally not letting me out of his sight.

This was the first time I had the chance to study him and I noticed he had sad eyes. I wondered if he had smiled or laughed at all since his parents passing. Although, it probably wouldn't be seen under that beard and moustache, anyway.

So we sat there. The only sound in the room was the crackling of the fireplace and the monotonous ticking of a wind-up clock sitting on the mantelpiece. I glanced over at the bare wall where the painting once hung, and sighed. Was it only that particular painting that sent me through time? Why did it not work when Nicholas or Mr. Valentine touched it? Should I try touching one of his other pieces?

I had so many questions.

I turned my head back to Nicholas, whose expressionless face was still staring at me. He was starting to make me feel extremely uncomfortable. How long was he going to just sit there?

My stomach grumbled with hunger and I was feeling light-headed from lack of food. Flopping my head back onto the sofa, I took some deep breaths, closing my eyes to stop the room from spinning.

"Are you well, Miss Fletcher?" I heard him ask.

"Oh, just fine," I answered, sarcastically, refusing to move from my position.

I could feel the throbbing pain of a headache starting and I massaged my temples with my fingertips. I stayed there for a few minutes, zoning out to everything that was happening around me.

"Here." His voice startled me and I jolted upright. Nicholas was standing in front of me, holding out a plate of bread and cheese. I hadn't even heard him get up. "Take it," he insisted. "I'm not going to let you starve. I could hear your stomach from across the room."

I took the plate from him. "Thank you," was all I said before stuffing a piece of cheese in my mouth.

He resumed his position on the armchair and watched me eat, making me feel self conscious and a little annoyed.

"Look," I said, "I don't want to waste any more of your time. Constable Doyle may not be here for hours. Like I said before, this is all just a misunderstanding. I wasn't going to steal anything. I'm not a criminal. Please, don't send me back to that horrible place," I begged.

Still no reaction. Moments passed.

"I thought a night in the cell would be enough punishment for you. Obviously, I was wrong. I certainly didn't expect you to come back the very next day and break into my home a second time."

This was getting old. What felt like the thousandth time in two days, I shouted, "I didn't break into your home!" He looked away, crossing his arms, not wanting to hear what I had to say. Shouting would get me nowhere, so I took a deep breath to calm myself. "The first time you found me I was feeling unwell. Like I told you yesterday, I am passing through town. I wanted to take a look around and familiarise myself with the place, so I went for a walk. But I wandered a little too far and I had no food or water on me. I was dehydrated and starving, and was on the verge of fainting. I had no idea how long I'd been wandering around for before I spotted your cottage in the distance. I desperately needed water, so I forced myself to go that little bit further and before I knew it I was pushing open your front door and stumbling inside. I made it as far as the fireplace and fell to the floor. That must have been when you heard me."

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