His dark blonde locks had been chopped off but he'd kept a light stubble above his lip. It seemed that everything about him had become unfamiliar, except those ocean blue eyes.

"Darren, is that you?" I smiled as I held onto the iron grills of the gate. "How did you know where I was?"

"You underestimate me." His voice had gotten a lot deeper since I last saw him. "I've got my ways."

"You're taller." I commented.

"You've just shrunk." The edge of his lips tipped up.

I chuckled at his response as I repressed my urge to give him a big hug. Absence definitely makes the heart grow fonder. I mentally cursed at the gate for being the barrier.

"I came to see you since you weren't able to write to us. How are you feeling, Lia?" Darren brought his hand over mine and we held onto the iron bar together. "What have they done to you?"

"I'm alright, Darren. A few ups and downs here and there but nothing major's happened."

"Nothing major? You mean you haven't been made to..." He trailed off.

"No." I assured him.

"Is anyone home now?" He leaned in closer, his voice was barely a whisper as he glanced over at the mansion.

"No, it's just me and the maid." I told him.

"That bastard hasn't made you sleep with him?" He went back to the previous topic.

I found myself narrowing my eyes at his choice of words as I shook my head. "It's complicated, but it's all good. It's something I don't have to worry about."

"I don't understand. That's wonderful, Lia. But why is he letting you off?" His eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

"Well, it turns out he isn't much like the other people around him." I shrugged.

"Then why is he still keeping you here?" His hand tightened around mine.

"The contract, it's still intact."

"That's bullshit." Darren cursed. "He could end it if he wanted to."

"It's not that easy. Harry has complicated family issues and-"

"And what has his family issues got to do with you? Are you telling me that you're somehow... helping him out?" He asked. "I don't know what he's said to you but just know that you do not owe that manwhore anything."

"Don't say that about him. I know what I'm doing." I retorted before I could even think.

"Why are you protecting him?" Darren's voice softened, so did his grip around my hand. "He is what he is."

"I- I'm not! You wouldn't understand." I rested my forehead against the iron bar.

"What wouldn't I understand? You know you can tell me anything, Lia. What's gotten into you?" Darren's hands dropped to the pockets of his trousers.

"You went away, Darren. For such a long time. I know you're trying to help, and I appreciate that but please don't assume things. A lot of things have changed and-"

"So have you." He shook his head a little. "That's what you're trying to tell me, isn't it? Lia... this Harry guy you're living with... he's a monster through and through. They all are. Don't be blind, don't be easily manipulated. And please don't tell me you have feelings for him."

"I- I don't!" I stuttered, my voice trembling. What Darren was telling me was true, but I was having a hard time accepting the part about Harry. "I know how these people are. I'm not an idiot."

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