Chapter Fourteen

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As the horse and buggy pulled up in front of Clay's Cottage, I felt a swarm of butterflies in my stomach. This was an impromptu visit and I wasn't sure how Nicholas would react with me being here. I had changed my mind three times on the trip here, but decided it was too late to back out now.

Robbie needed supplies to fix the barn's leaking roof, and when I heard he was heading into town, I asked if he would take me to the cottage. Or rather, blurted out the question, obviously not thinking before speaking.

Even though it was half an hour out of his way, he was happy to take me, and here we were.

I climbed down from the buggy, foot avoiding the large puddle beneath me. It had been raining non-stop since our trip into town last week; today the first day of having a clear sky. It had been three weeks since I started the Governess job, and the cottage painting had yet to show up on the Valentines' doorstep. The bad weather most likely delayed its arrival, and I was beginning to feel like a kid at Christmas, counting down the days until the presents arrived.

I glanced up at my chauffeur and smiled. "Thanks, Robbie."

"My pleasure, Tilly. See you in a couple of hours."

After reaching inside the buggy to pull out Nicholas' mother's clothes, I straightened my new skirt I had purchased with the girls last week. It was navy blue and with it I had bought a white long-sleeved blouse, similar to Nicholas' mother's. I was quite proud of myself for what I had achieved.

As I was making my way down the path, Nicholas appeared out from behind the shrubs in the garden, clutching onto a handful of weeds.

I waved and smiled at him, and he met me halfway, eyebrows raised and mouth gaping with surprise. It was hard to tell if he was glad to see me or not.

"Miss Fletcher! What an unexpected surprise. If I had've known you were coming, I would've cleaned up," he said, as he glanced down at himself. "I seemed to have worked up quite a sweat."

For a moment, I was entranced by his appearance; his white long sleeved shirt rolled up to his elbows, baring his glistening forearms. His shirt clung to his skin, accenting his toned biceps and chest.

My brain finally remembered that it was rude to stare, and it forced me to drag my eyes up to his. "I hope you don't mind me dropping in like this," I said, finally managing to form a sentence.

"No, of course not. I just didn't expect to see you again so soon." He added the handful of weeds to a small pile alongside the path.

"Honestly, I didn't expect to see you so soon, either." I thought I'd be back in 2019 by now explaining my whereabouts to reporters. "But it's my day off today and after a week of being cooped up inside, I just felt like getting away from the house. Robbie said he was going into town, so... Here I am." He glanced past me to see the horse and buggy heading back along the road. "He'll be back in a couple of hours," I reassured him, in case he thought I was being dropped off here for good.

"I felt the same way. Thought I'd take a break from painting and do some gardening. Come inside," he said, gesturing towards the front door.

He allowed me to enter first and he followed me into the living room, where we stood, staring awkwardly at each other and then the floor. I was beginning to think maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all.

"Maybe I should go-" I blurted out at the same time he said, "I'll just go change my shirt."

Before I had the chance to finish my sentence, he had scurried off into the direction of his bedroom.

As I waited for him to come back out, I scanned the room, everything the same as when I left here three weeks ago. No, wait. Something was different. There was a new painting hung above the fireplace.

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