"Who would ever forget that?"

"There were men who'd been goin' after me," she continued, ignoring his comment. "We all thought they were Osegod's men, aye?"

Ralph's jaw tightened and his arms loosened over his chest, dropping to this side. "They were Durley's?"

Alex nodded. "Aye. And the man I saw outside yer apartment in Wickhurst. 'Twas him—Durley." Before Ralph could draw more conclusions, Alex rushed on, not wanting to spend more time answering Ralph's questions or hearing his outbursts. "And ye took me te Lord Hasting's estate after that."

"And that was when you began acting odd," he pointed out.

"I told ye I was attacked."

"And you were not?"

"Oh, I was, guv," she said with a shake of her head. "Only not in the way ye thought."

"Not in the way you led us to believe," he corrected, voice etched with bitterness.

Alex sighed with no desire to discuss his damaged feelings. She was guilty, yes, but she knew she did what she only thought was best at the time. "There were two men who came to Lord Hasting's estate that night," she began again. "One of 'em was one of the two men who'd been chasin' me. The other was Durley. I thought the other man was goin' te kill me. I was the reason one o' his friends are dead, anyway." Alex swallowed, eyes on Ralph who was intently listening, waiting for her next words. "But Durley ordered the man te step 'way from me."

"And he talked to you."

"Aye," she said, nodding her head. "He'd been try'na get te me but I keep gettin' 'way, he said. And he told me 'bout Osegod and Aurora and how the bastard knew Aurora's been te Meriwether." Alex paused to take a long breath. "The night Durley came te me was two days 'fore Osegod was plannin' te attack me village. Osegod didn't know she's dead and he believed Meriwether's hidin' her."

Ralph remained quiet while Alex talked.

"Durley offered me a deal," she continued. "He said he can help protect Meriwether through his influence on Osegod. "He said he can protect me father in return fer a small favor." She shrugged, remembering that night Durley tried to give her a picture of what Osegod could do to her family and the entire village of Meriwether. It shook her that night and it had the same effect even until now, but there was no reason why she ought to tell Ralph the details of Durley's manipulation. Back then, she barely knew Durley. She merely saw him as a great, evil player who was desperate for something. She had been scared of him. Perhaps she was even still scared of the man after seeing what he was capable of.

Mentally shaking her head, Alex scoffed, feeling quite incredulous. "In return fer protectin' me father and Meriwether from Osegod, Durley said he'll someday need me help. And he left after I gave him me word."

"And the bloody bastard followed us all the way to Willowfair to rescue his sister," Ralph said, voice gruff. "And when he finally had her back, he came collecting debts!"

"That's what happened, aye," Alex murmured, staring at nothing as memories of what happened in Osegod's study flashed before her once again.

Vega Trilby.

Durley and the gun in his hand.

Osegod falling on the ground, blood pooling around his head.

"Durley is the perfect manipulator and you ought to have seen it!" Ralph's angry voice shattered the images in her head. She snapped her eyes back to him. "You could have said something to me, Alex. I would have done something to ensure Meriwether's safety."

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