She coloured in her lips with red, dark red.
The witch came to the city and had already fallen in love with it. Yes the people and ministers and witch hunters may be searching for her, desperate to hang her, but she was not afraid or will be stupid enough to get caught again.
“Miss Harlington, the carriage is ready,” a servant’s voice rang out.
“Yes I will be a moment longer,” She replied and smiled at her reflection, her red lips stretching out wide. “Miss Elise Harlington, do I look like an Elise?” She peered closer. “Yes perhaps I do, anyway Miss Elise Harlington has lost her tongue along with that ridiculous father of hers Vincent. Now I must take her place.”
James hadn’t realise he had drank so much, his vision blurring if he moved his head too fast. He struggled up from his chair, the alcohol sloshing about in his stomach.
The men were all laughing about some business thing that bored James and the fact Mr Ragner was a main participant.
“Unfeeling, sly bastard,” James thought, clenching the glass in his hands like he was going to shatter the glass.
Another round of softer laughter interrupted the men’s conversation and through the door at the far wall came the Ladies. All of high standing and dressed elaborately in expensive silk dresses and priceless jewellery that glittered light.
James’ eyes landed on Fay whose blond hair was curled and twisted upwards, she wore a pale pink dress that suited her pale skin and brought a light blush to her cheeks.
“Fay,” he mumbled under his breath. He staggered across the room and leaned heavily against wall beside her. A well-placed laugh escaped her mouth in the conversation with the other ladies. He waited until the conversation had died down.
“Hello,” he said in an expectant tone. Desperately wanting her to acknowledge him.
She was still staring ahead, perhaps she had not heard him.
“Hello,” he said loudly.
Fay turned her head. James waited for the smile just a small one but she gave him an almost blank look. He stared at her unsure of what to do next.
“What do you want sir?” she asked as if addressing a common person not someone who shared her bed last night.
“I thought you-,” words began to fail him. He started to panic at his lack of control over his tongue. “Last night.” He pointed to her then tapped his own chest.
“Yes,” Fay said impatiently.
“We…met,” James said, he needed her to notice him to drop this whole pretence of coldness. He hoped it was pretence.
She sipped from the small glass in her hand. “Perhaps we met briefly last night, I am Miss Fay Gartner.” She curtsies slightly.
“James,” he said, his eyes pulling together. He went to say something else, anything but she had already moved away from him.
She went over to one of the other gentlemen in the room, greeting them more warmly than she did James a moment ago. He slumped against the wall feeling broken, why did he feel so broken it was only for one night? But he did and he hated the feeling.
“She reminds me of my mother.”
James pull his eyes away from Fay and saw a beautiful woman standing beside him in a golden dress. Her startling red lips smiled at him for a moment before it disappeared.
“You mean Fay?” he asked, god why did he sound so heart-broken, it was one night.
“Yes,” the woman replied.
“That a good thing being like your mother?”
“I hated her,” the woman said bitterness dripping from every word. She put her white gloved hand out and said “Elise Harlington.”
James took her hand hesitating for a moment, he kissed the glove the material rough against his lips.
“James Freeborn,” he said, letting her hand go.
“The witch hunter that I have heard so much about,” she said. A silver tray went past and she took two small glasses from it. She held one out to James, he took it immediately. “The one who claims to know how to spot a real witch.”
James knocked back the alcohol and replied “The very one.”
“It is an honour to meet you sir,” Elise said, he was too busy staring at the empty glass to see her roll her eyes.
“Yes,” he said glumly.
“How do you catch a witch?” she asked
He put the glass to one side. “I just know when I see a witch, some details that gave them away. I can spot one straight away,” he boasted. He was clearly drunk and Elise grinned. He was gazing at Fay from across the room with the love-sick look.
“Is Fay a witch?” Elise asked and was greeted with a horrified look.
“Of course not,” he answered loudly like he was shocked by the very idea.
Elise laughed. “She might as well be considering the spell she’s casted over you darling. Broke your heart?”
James clutched his chest as if he could feel the ache of the broken pieces. “It was one night but she was the best.”
“They always are,” Elise said, knowing the taste of that bitter fruit. James was seeing her with new eyes, an understanding.
“You have a broken heart?” he asked.
“I wouldn’t say I have a heart darling,” Elise replied, she moved so she was blocking his view of Fay.
“You are beautiful Elise,” he thought. Without a second thought to the action he leaned forward to kiss her but she neatly side-stepped him so he fell forward. His face reddened in embarrassment.
“James I am not interested,” she said, watching him grabbed hold of a chair and carefully sit on it. His shoulders hunched forward and his hand went to his mouth. The taste of alcohol mixed with stomach acid could be tasted at the back of his throat. He seemed to remember Elise was still standing there.
“I’m sorry, I think I am…”
“Intoxicated,” Elise finished.
He stroked the scar absentmindedly.
“A witch did that?” she asked.
His hand fell from his face, his eyes were slightly glazed over.
“Yeah a long time ago,” he answered.
Elise peered closely, a shudder went through her. She became out of synch with the room, heat and blood entered. A boy she could not kill, could not finish the job. She stepped away feeling dizzy.
“Are you alright?” James slurred.
She steadied her feet, her eyes widened in recognition. She should kill him he was a witness after all.
“I am fine, the drink is a little strong,” Elise replied.
He didn’t reply, his head in his hands to avoid being sick.
“I must kill him, rip out his tongue,” Elise thought. A plan was forming in her mind to lure him away, it would be a tragedy. Something stopped her from acting out the plan, she could use him. Here the man was vulnerable, she could manipulate him and keep the witch hunter close. Hide in plain sight, a perfect camouflage like Vincent was.
“I should help you to your room, you have had quite enough,” Elise said, helping James to his feet.
“Thank you,” he muttered.
“That is quite alright,” she replied, linking her arm in his. “I have another thing in mind for you witch hunter,” she thought.