Chapter 20

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Although he was right beside her, Olivia felt like he was very far from her. And what worried her was that she might never find a way to bring him back.

They were both solemn when they reached Remington hall. As it turned out, Lord Merrick and Winifred had won the treasure hunt.

Nobody questioned Olivia and Jacob about their whereabouts. Jacob quietly excused himself and disappeared into the room assigned to him, leaving Olivia feeling strangely alone and bereft.

"Congratulations," Olivia smiled at Wini.

"What's wrong now?" Wini whispered, not bothering to thank Olivia. Some people went straight to the heart of the matter and preferred to forego the inanities, Wini was one such person. And it never failed to surprise Olivia how very perceptive Wini was–this when they weren't even very close. She had to admit that that was entirely her fault. Olivia had stopped trusting anyone sometime back, after she'd witnessed how cruel her "friends" had been to her after she'd been jilted.

And she was so very grateful to Wini for being there for her.

"I wish I knew what is wrong," she whispered quietly.

"I'd guessed the man was complicated," Wini huffed impatiently, clearly put off with Jacob for upsetting Olivia. "Are you alright?"

Olivia nodded jerkily. "I just need some time alone to gather my thoughts."

"You're developing feelings for him, aren't you?" Wini's eyes widened.

"I sure as hell hope not," she tried to laugh but it came out as a choked sob. Wini tutted softly and squeezed her hand slightly.

"Your father's here," she said suddenly and Olivia turned around.

Her father was indeed here and she practically flew into his comforting embrace. Only, his stance was stiff and unyielding—anything but comforting. He awkwardly patted her back and Olivia pulled back to search his face.

"Aren't you happy to see me, papa?"

"I'm always happy to see you, my dear girl," he smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. "We need to talk."

Olivia motioned him to do so but he shook his head. "Someplace private,"

She mutely lead him to the library, unable to rid the sense of foreboding coursing through her. She'd never seen her father this way and his behaviour was worrying her.

Once they were inside, he began to speak, his tone harsh. "What is going on between you and that Townshend fellow?" he practically spat the name.

How did he know? And what was she to say to him?

"He is a good friend, papa," she said softly.

"Friend?" he laughed, the sound was ugly. "That's not what I heard from that bitch Melissa."

Olivia gasped. She'd known that her father and her aunt didn't get along very well but never had he stooped low enough to call her names—at least not in her presence.

"I want you to stay away from that bastard, do you hear me?"

Olivia was silent, shocked by his language. And not to mention, his callousness. Father had always been firm about his ideas but he'd never dismissed her feelings like this. She was deeply hurt by the lack of affection in his tone and so she remained mutinously silent.

"Answer me," he boomed, his hand slapping against the hardwood desk.

"Why?" she asked, finding some courage.

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