Time for flash fiction! Here is our photo for March.
And here, for better or worse, is what I've come up with. 🙂 It's just a scribbled little short that may end up being something longer if I ever decide I want to try my hand at a historical. o.O (forgive any anachronisms and the like--as I said this was just something that stuck in my head and I quickly jotted down. 🙂 )
After stepping from the carriage, Ash closed his eyes and stretched his arms overhead as he let the quiet wash over him. The last several weeks had been utter hell. The peace a few days in the small cottage on the edge of his lands would bring him was exactly what he needed.
Or it would when he could send the servants who had accompanied him back to the manor. He’d wanted to set off on his own, but had agreed to having an escort to quiet his mother’s nattering. Though he hadn’t agreed to let them stay and soon enough would be sending them on their way. If his mother found fault in that…he would deal with it when he returned. Just as he’d dealt with her daily dissatisfaction every damned day for as long as he could remember.
With a sigh, he turned to the young man who was clearly awaiting instruction. Ash glanced at the driver, Henry, who was caring for the horses then nodded toward the carriage.
“Once you’ve brought in everything, have something to eat—cook packed enough in the basket for the two of you—before you return to the manor.”
“But, my lord, your mother insisted—”
“My mother is a visitor in my home, and her orders mean nothing,” Ash snapped.
“Thomas!” Henry said. “Get to it, boy. Once the horses are rested, we’ll be on our way. Please forgive him, Lord Aston,” he added more quietly. “He doesn’t understand, but he’s learning. He’s a good boy.”
Ash sighed and dragged a hand through his hair. “I know, Henry. Forgive me. I should have more patience.”
The driver, who had been with Ash’s family since they were both boys, grinned. “I understand why you do not, my lord. Perhaps you’ll find some while you’re here.”
“Perhaps I will.”
He clapped Henry on the shoulder then waked toward the cottage. Thomas rushed out and past Ash, eyes trained on the ground in front of him. Ash sighed and made note to be kinder to the young man in the future. It wouldn’t do to have those in his employ fearing him. He wasn’t his bloody father.
Crossing the threshold of the open door, he stopped short, staring at the dark-haired man crouched in front of the large fireplace. Ash schooled his expression and, stepping farther into the room, cleared his throat. When the man twisted slightly, Ash lifted a brow.
“I would have expected,” he said flatly, “having sent you here first thing this morning, that you would have at least gotten a fire started already. Very disappointing, Peter.”
“Ah, but I have.” Peter turned back to his task. “The fire in the kitchen is blazing and currently heating water. I know how cross His Lordship is after a long ride and thought perhaps a bath would be welcome.”
Fighting the smile that threatened, Ash ignored the gasp and wide-eyed stare from Thomas - likely in response to Peter's impertinent tone and words - and simply pointed where the young man could set the satchels he carried. Ash watched Peter light the fire and coax the flames higher as the rest of the supplies were brought in.
“Lord Ashton,” Thomas said haltingly, even stepping back slightly when Ash turned his gaze upon him. “That’d be all of it, my lord. H-h-henry wants to leave straightaway to get back before nightfall. If…if that’s all right, with you…my lord.”
“Of course,” Ash said, deliberately softening his tone. “Thank you, Thomas.”
The young man bowed and scurried out the door.
“And what did you do to frighten to piss out of that poor boy?”
Ash turned to find Peter on his feet and facing him. “I didn’t do anything,” he protested.
“You were cross, weren’t you?” Peter continued as if Ash hadn’t spoken. “I knew it.”
“Watch yourself,” Ash warned him. “I could send you back with Henry and Thomas.”
“You could…but you won’t.” Peter bent at the waist with a smirk, eyes sparkling and staying on Ash. “Shall I prepare your bath, then…my lord?”
Stomach clenching at the drawled words, Ash nodded, not trusting himself to speak. Not yet, not with the door open and the sounds of Henry and Thomas speaking outside drifting in.
Peter moved, but rather than toward the kitchen, he stepped closer to Ash. Angling his body away from the door, he let his long fingers brush against Ash’s.
“Of course, my lord,” he murmured. “Anything you please, my lord. I live to serve, my lord.”
He continued the soft mocking words as he walked away. Ash remained stoic until Peter disappeared through the doorway to the kitchen at the back of the cottage. Once he was out of sight, Ash’s lips curved, and he realized he felt lighter than he had in ages.
Yes, this had been the right choice, he thought. Here, he would find his peace. Peter would make sure of that. As he always did.