Chapter 82

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August 1871

"Wait so you're saying Louisa, Marcus, Adrian, and Catherine all either know about us or have a strong suspicion?"

I nod. Jackson starts pacing, running this hands through his hair as his body strides across the small field in fluid steps. It's l like I can see him absorbing it all in. He thought he would be the one surprising me with the amount he got for my engagement ring; little did he know I had a bigger surprise when I shared what I saw at my cabin with him.  

"We need to go Ellie. Now. It's August already."

I nod again. I know it's time, but I'm just worried about Catherine. He can sense my hesitation and gives a slight nod, he understands.

"Okay, you just say when and I'll be ready to go, but it needs to be soon Ellie. You understand that, right? Obviously I won't be saying anything to Louisa now." He snorts, probably thinking of Louisa with Marcus, and then shakes the image out of his head with a laugh. "Makes me feel a little better though, knowing that her heart won't be broken."

I lean up and stroke his cheek.

"We're still doing this, right?" He asks searching my eyes. 

"We're doing this," I confirm smiling.

I almost get off scott free, making it home from seeing Jackson without running into anyone, that is until I hit the last mile on the road to the Akenbrand's home. That's when I hear a horse approach behind me. I turn around and groan at my unfortunate luck when I notice that the rider is Marcus. He trots up to me and dismounts. Grabbing the reins, he leads the animal next to him as he walks along beside me, all without saying a word. I flip my head over to him and glare. 

"Get back on your horse Marcus! We have nothing to say to each other!" I notice the slightest crack in his demeanor, but mostly I see that he just wants to play. Ignoring him, I continue to stomp down the road. 

"You're not very ladylike, you know that?"  

"Then go bother someone more ladylike," I mutter ferociously under my breath. He catches up to me and leans in with his hand cupping his ear.  

"What did you say?"

I've had enough of these games with him and swat his hand away. It's time to be brutally honest with him once and for all. 

"I saw you with Louisa at my cabin." I can tell he didn't expect to hear that. He seems at a loss for words, a first for him I think. I just study his face, waiting for his response; I'd wait all day for his explanation to this one. His cold mask hardens as he readies for battle.  

"I thought we already went over me and Louisa." He smiles, laughing it off, but I just shake my head. 

"I also heard you and Louisa!" I stare him right in the eyes and see him flinch ever so slightly. He knows I've got him. "So now you two are working together to keep Jackson and I apart? Why? Do you really think if he wasn't around I'd chose you Marcus? Because I wouldn't you know." I shake my head and step back from him realizing how toxic he'd be for me. "The only time I'd choose you is out of desperation." 

"I don't believe that," he whispers briskly. 

"It's true! You don't know the first thing about love. You just want control-- control of everything and everyone around you, including me!" 

"I wouldn't let any of them hurt you Ellie, including Louisa." He's serious and that scares me. 

"But it's you Marcus! You're the one who hurts me most of all. You make them all want to hurt me! It's over! It's done! I've made my decision. You're going to have to deal with being told no. Because that's my answer Marcus, forever, no!"

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