"Ophelia wait! It's dangerous! You shouldn't..." Mace runs towards me as I climbed the horse.
"Mace, don't" I glare down at him just to see him grit his teeth in frustration. After tying my loose hair in a high-up ponytail I grab the leather reins.
"Go Angel" the white horse starts galloping and soon the view of the Duke's mansion disappears.
'Let me make it in time' I thought as the warm morning sun bathed me.
Honestly, I would've let Ivy go but I know I have to get her back. Both Ivy and Olivia are new maids, young and pretty, with new blood for Terrel to stain. I could delude myself by saying that I am only doing this because I don't want any other girl to go through that nightmare, whether they are spies or not but that is not the real reason.
The fact that Terrel stole a maid from my servants without my consent is a way for him to mark his dominance. He wants to scare the women at the mansion using Ivy as an example, making sure they remain loyal and obedient to him while, at the same time, sending me a threat.
'You are mine. I can take everything away from you and you can't stop it,' is what he is saying, however, he got one thing wrong: I am the one who is going to take everything from his grasp and he won't be able to stop it.
As I reach half of the way I manage to catch the Duke's carriage, they were traveling slower than usual.
'I see' I understood that the coachman was considering Ivy's fear since he already knew what would become of her in the near future. Maybe, in his mind, delaying the trip would allow her to embrace that ideal fully and so, the outcome would be softer.
"Stop the carriage!" I yell and the man pulls the reins right after looking back.
"Lady Ophelia...? What are you doing here?" the man asks as I move down to the floor.
"You have something that belongs to me, don't you?" I open the door just to see Ivy holding back her tears.
"But milady, these were Lord Terrel's orders" the man was Terrel's servant.
"What is your name?"
"Then Edward please tell me, who owns you?" I glare down at him.
"Duke Wharton" he looked nervous.
"Correct. So did the Duke tell you to take away the maids he personally assigned to me?" Edward couldn't say anything, I am sure that Terrel had done this without asking the Duke for his consent. He knew that his father would've never agreed to such abuse of power for the sake of one's lust.
"I am sure that you know that stealing from me is stealing from the Criswell's" he flinches as he heard my words.
"But Lord Terrel told me to bring Ivy to him, I have to bring her milady" Edward was indeed loyal to a piece of scum.
"Oh don't worry, you will bring Ivy to him and a message from me as well" I smile politely as he looks at me confused. I point towards a stone wall covered in ivy.
"Make sure to fill it up" Edward finally understood and went to grab the plant that grew from the stone.
"Ivy, leave the carriage, you are coming with me" she looked scared but even then she obeyed me quietly.
After several minutes the inside of the carriage was now covered with ivy and as Edward sat to begin his journey I stopped him.
"Make sure to tell my fiancée that I am eager to meet him and that friendly guard of the palace again" after nodding Edward heads off and I climb on the horse.
"Let's go Ivy" I stretch out my hand and help her get on.
"Hold on tight" we then headed towards the mansion in absolute silence, being only able to hear the sounds of nature.
✽ ✼ ✽ ✼ ✽ ✼ ✽
"Milord, Edward has arrived" a servant enters the study room and interrupts the meeting between Terrel and the second prince, Donovan.
"Oh? Well if you excuse me, your highness, I have some business to attend" Donovan knew exactly what were the hobbies of the eldest son of the Wharton's and it sickened him but, even then, he needed his power.
"As you wish" Terrel takes his leave while the second prince stared at the entrance of the castle from the window. His dark caramel hair looked almost like a shining piece of copper while his hazelnut eyes made him look younger than what he was.
Terrel arrives at the castle entrance just to be greeted by Edward feeling nervous.
"I assume everything went according to our plan right?" he couldn't help but feel that something wasn't right. Edward had never behaved like this before.
"Well, milord... There was a problem..." after hearing these words Terrel frowns and quickly heads towards the carriage.
"Milord don't...!" it was too late, as the door was opened, Terrel saw the amount of ivy and vines inside.
"I am assuming there's an explanation for this, right, Edward?" his eyes were filled with anger as he tried his best to conceal the desire of beating up his servant. He knew that Edward was loyal to him, he would never do anything to betray him but, even then, he couldn't understand this situation.
"Lady Ophelia appeared and demanded Ivy back... I tried explaining that it wasn't possible but somehow she knew that Duke Wharton wasn't aware of this exchange... I-..." Terrel clenches his fist in frustration.
'How could that woman know? She doesn't even know the Duke but... Ah...' he tried to understand how she was able to predict the situation so quickly. Besides, not allowing Ivy to leave was a direct rebellion towards his power and Terrel knew it.
"That little black sheep is trying to play the wolf's part uh..." Terrel clicks his tongue as he pushes his short brown hair back.
"Milord, she told me to tell you that she is eager to meet you and the guard of the palace again... Do you think she knows?" Edward receives a slap from Terrel.
"Everything has ears and eyes in here, be careful of your words." quietly the servant asks for forgiveness.
"Clean up the carriage, I need to send a letter to an old acquaintance" Terrel grins as he walks towards the inner part of the castle.
'Could she know? There is no way, she wasn't in the room besides, she has been stuck with the Criswell's for fifteen years, she knows nothing' Terrel thought about Ophelia's message but, even after understanding that it could be a possible threat, he realized that someone like his fiancée wouldn't be able to have such knowledge. Even then, he now had this tremendous desire in ruining her after the little stunt she had just pulled.
'I'll make sure you regret it you little whore' he grins as he heads towards his chambers.
During this time, Donovan, the second prince was watching the scenario unfold from his office and, as he saw Terrel's face filled with anger and disgust he felt a little piece of warm amusement being created in his core.
✽ ✼ ✽ ✼ ✽ ✼ ✽
After Ophelia leaves the room Patricia calls for her servants.
"Bring me paper and a quill, I have a message for my father and Holly" she grins as the servants obey her orders.
'Ophelia Criswell... Who'd know you'd be so useful...' Patricia understood that Amanda's younger sister was a simpleton, to say the least, and she was well aware that what she saw the night of the ball was an effect of the drug.
It is not unusual to hear about nobles that ended up too drunk or drugged in Lady Catherine's parties and, for what she had seen today, she understood Ophelia was only a victim. She considered that the drug poured out her rough emotions, especially her hatred for Amanda which, to a certain extent, Patricia could understand.
'That's why she didn't do anything to us, the drug made Ophelia unfiltered and since she didn't know me...' everything made sense in her head.
"Milady, your writing material" Patricia smiles as the servant places her sheet and quill on top of the table.
[My dear father,
As you might be aware, my dear friend Amanda Criswell has been passing through some rough times and, in order to understand her better, I talked with her younger sister, Ophelia Criswell.
We will be hosting a tea party in the mansion next week. I would be happy if you would be so kind as to attend.
With all her love, Patricia Hillgarden]
I wish to invite you to a cup of tea tomorrow afternoon. I have so many new and exciting stories to tell you. Please find some free time in your busy schedule to visit your friend.
Patricia stretches her arms and back right before delivering the letters to her servants.
"Send them right away" she smiles and soon the day comes to an end.
"So, what are these exciting stories, Lady Patricia?" Holly grabs a piece of the carrot cake sitting on the table as her host drank some lemon tea.
"Lady Holly, I am sure you have felt it too... The tides are changing" Holly knew that Patricia was referring to Amanda's influence.
Ever since the ball, everyone in the high class was talking about The Black Rose, Ophelia Criswell. They say she managed to place her thorns around several noblemen already, being Amanda's fiancée one of them.
'The beauty that you can never touch' Holly thought as she reminded herself about what one of her maids told her.
"Only an animal wouldn't notice my lady. What is your point?" Patricia smiled as her guest brushed her short and curly blonde hair to the side.
"Ophelia Criswell came to visit me yesterday and I will be hosting a tea party next week" Holly looks at her confused.
"She's cursed Patricia, why are you even trying to approach a girl without any influence?"
"Holly, Amanda's falling out of grace while Ophelia has her hands full of wealthy men. You are aware that Layton Verne and Bradley Trace were seen courting her even though she is engaged to Terrel Wharton right?" Holly drinks a little bit of her tea while her light blue eyes glare at Patricia's evil smile.
"But even then everyone knows that the Duke despises her, she will never gain his power" Holly made a good point, however, Patricia had already anticipated this.
"Alone she can't but with the help of the other houses... Besides, I'm not saying to give up on Amanda but we should keep our options out in the open, you never know who we can use as a tool"
'She's right... It is true that Ophelia couldn't do it alone but would the noblemen help her?' Holly was conflicted since she had never spoken to the cursed girl.
"She's a menace Patricia, don't you remember the night of the ball?" reminding herself of the events of that evening, Holly becomes flustered but soon, Patricia explained everything that had happened during the day before.
"So you are saying she needs some knowledgeable friends to guide her?" Holly smirks as she understood the idea behind Patricia's mind.
'So we're going use her status to climb... Poor girl... She shouldn't be so easily tricked, may this serve her as a lesson for the future,' Holly puts down her cup.
"And who else would be friends of a cursed girl beside the kind-hearted Holly and welcoming Patricia?" she smiles as Holly focused her eyes on her.
"Indeed. Let's guide a lost puppy home" Holly smiles as they start talking about other trivial matters.
Holly had joined forces with Patricia a long time ago, they weren't exactly friends but they needed each other and, until that was a reality, neither of them would abandon the other. They were both daughters of Earls and that meant they were mere pawns in Duke Criswell's game. That's why they wanted to have more power, more status, more influence.
Patricia wished to marry someone like Bradley Trace that, for the time being, had more money than the Criswell's even if they were from the aristocrats' faction, in other words, the new nobility.
Holly's wish was higher than marrying into a Duke's family. She wanted to marry a prince and make him the next king. That's why she always played the role of a saint no matter where she went, not fighting back, helping the poor. She knew that if the people loved her beforehand then the other candidates would have a harder time dealing with her. Holly has been living for this sole purpose, for this unique dream and finally, the opportunity had arisen. She knew that if she managed to get friendly with one of the ministers at the tea party then she would be able to visit the palace and, from then on, everything would work just as she imagined.
Besides, this whole situation was extremely beneficial for both of them since, for the first time, they would be at the party by themselves and not serving someone else. Due to being around Amanda during parties and balls, they were never able to make any connections, in fact, they suspected that that devil woman would do it on purpose.
"Well then, I hope to hear from you soon Holly" Patricia takes her partner to the door.
"Of course, Patricia. I will let you know about any developments" Holly smiles right before leaving.
The cards were set, the players had been decided and as Patricia and Holly thought about the beginning of their new lives, Ophelia was already preparing the bait for her next target.