Chapter Nine

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I awoke the next morning with the sun in my eyes. Flinching from the brightness, I rolled away, wondering what the time was. Nicholas wanted to be gone by first light, but from the looks of it, first light had well and truly passed.

Reluctantly dragging myself out of bed, I peered out the window. It really was a beautiful place; not much had changed in a hundred and fifty years.

As I stretched my body, I was surprised at how good I felt. The big meal and long sleep had done wonders for my headache and aching muscles.

Curiosity got the better of me, so I headed for the door, wondering where Nicholas was. Why didn't he come and wake me at the crack of dawn?

As I wandered into the living area, my eyes scanned the open space. No Nicholas. Was he still in bed? There was no way I was going to check, so I made my way towards the back door. Taking ahold of the handle, I swung the door open and just as I stepped out, Nicholas stepped in, resulting in our bodies crashing straight into each other.

"Ow!" I cried out at the same time Nicholas exclaimed, "Bloody hell!"

After we recovered from our collision, I prepared myself for another scalding. Sure enough, this was somehow going to end up my fault.

"Apologies, Miss Fletcher. I wasn't watching where I was going. Did I hurt you?"

"Uh, no, no. I'm all right. Did I hurt you?"

"Goodness, Miss, of course not. You're tiny. I was just coming in to see if you were awake."

"I most certainly am now. I think I slept in. Sorry, I know you wanted to leave early."

"It's quite all right, Miss. I tried to wake you twice, but you were dead to the world. I thought it best to let you sleep. Fully recover from the past two days' ordeal."

He was being nice. Why was he being so nice? He still seemed nervous around me, but there was definite improvement.

"Well, thanks. I appreciate it. I'm feeling much better, actually."

"Good to hear. Would you like some breakfast?" he asked, heading towards the kitchen.

"Oh, I don't want to trouble you."

"No trouble. I haven't eaten yet, either."

"Well, all right, then. Breakfast sounds amazing, thank you."

I watched him as he pulled a handful of eggs out of a basket, then held them up. "Freshly laid this morning. You're lucky I wasn't holding the basket when we collided."

Did he just attempt a joke? It was hard to tell with him, but either way, I was liking this Nicholas much better.

I giggled. "No, that would've been a disaster."

"Perhaps you would like to go get dressed while I make breakfast?"

I looked down and realised I was still wearing the night dress and jumper. "Oh," I said, folding my arms across my chest. "About that. Would you mind if I washed my clothes? I don't think I could bring myself to put those dirty things back on."

"There's a dress on top of the chest in the spare room you can wear. If the nightdress fit, then that should. You look about the same size as Mr. Valentine's daughter." He must have seen the look of shock on my face for he quickly added, "Uh, she and Mr. Valentine stayed here a couple of weeks ago. She accidentally left a bag of clothes behind."

"Oh, none of my business," I said, trying so hard not to laugh at his uncomfortableness. "Thank you, though. That's kind of you to loan it to me. I know I'm just a nuisance to you." I was about to scurry off to the bedroom when he stopped me.

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