Chapter 2

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I didn't have to open my eyes to know I was in a carriage traveling at a fast clip along a rough road. The cabin rocked and bumped violently, tossing me about on the seat upon which I half lay. My feet were on the floor, but my body was covered by a blanket. Both the blanket and my clothes smelled of damp wool, possibly the worst smell in the entire world. No, not entirely true. Whatever had been soaked into that rag and caused me to blackout at the cottage was now the worst smell ever. Still, damp wool was unpleasant and, along with the rocking cabin, made my stomach churn.

"Here, use this," a voice said.

I cracked open my eyes to see a young woman of about my own age sitting across from me. It was dim in the cabin, but I could see she was quite pretty in a quiet way that didn't strike you immediately. She had a wide mouth and bright eyes that sparkled even in the dimness. I guessed them to be blue to go with her hair color, but it was impossible to tell if they were dark like mine or paler.

She was beautifully dressed too in a pale pink gown trimmed with black lace and a tall black hat perched loftily on her blonde head. She emptied the contents of her reticle in her lap and passed it across the gap between us.

"I'm fine," I rasped, my throat dry.

The carriage lurched again and my stomach dipped and rose. I took the reticule just in time to throw up in it. Good lord, were all carriage rides so turbulent?

When I finished, I closed the reticule and hesitantly held it out for her. She screwed up her nose and shrank into her seat.

"Please don't take offense," she said, "but I don't suppose you'd mind holding it until we reach our destination. It won't be long now."

I slowly sat up and lifted the green velvet curtain edged with gold lace. The landscape whipped past at a rate that had my stomach rolling again. I'd not thought anything could move so swiftly! I let the curtain fall back into place, but not before I'd seen that it was still raining, albeit with less ferocity.

"Do you feel better?" the woman asked.

"Not particularly."

Her face fell. "Oh. It's just as well you still have my reticule then."

"Most fortuitous."

She must have heard the sarcasm in my voice because a small crease appeared between her eyebrows. "I know this is very trying for you, Lady Violet, but I want to assure you that you have nothing to fear. We don't intend to harm you."

Did I just imagine the slight emphasis on the word 'intend,' and the shifting of her gaze so that she wasn't quite looking me in the eyes? "Then you won't mind answering my questions," I said, sounding bolder than I felt.

"I don't mind, but unfortunately I'm forbidden to do so."

"Forbidden? By whom?"

She gave me a tight smile. "All will be explained when we arrive, Lady Violet."

Hearing Vi's name only deepened my sense of dread. What would they do when they discovered I wasn't Vi? What did they want her for in the first place? Ransom money? Yes, that must be it.

"Don't worry," she said as I shrank into the corner. "It's nothing sinister, and our reasons are noble. Indeed, we wish to help you." She squeezed her lips as if trying to hold back more words. I got the feeling she wasn't supposed to have said that much.

I swallowed. The lingering taste of bile burned my throat. Bile and fear. My heart hammered in my chest and I desperately wanted to go back, to see Vi again and Windamere. I'd even settle for seeing Miss Levine and my small bed. Just something, or someone, familiar. I wished I could take back every moment in which I'd craved to be far away from the attic. I suddenly felt terribly ungrateful for everything I'd been given.

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