WHEELING THE WAGON behind her, Laila set off on her route to collect baskets of dirty laundry. The gravel crunched underfoot, wagon wheels squeaking down the path. Carriage after carriage, she lugged heavy baskets into her wagon before following the gravel in pursuit of the next. She paused outside carriage 97, dropping the handle of the wagon to the ground as she made for the overflowing wicker hamper.
“—need to get her back. And no holds barred, this time,” Vivian’s voice snarled, carrying out of the cracked loft window of the carriage.
Laila froze, her heart hammering. She’d caught Vivian planning something at last. The evidence James so adamantly demanded was right at her fingertips. Abandoning her wagon, she darted up to the vast wall of the carriage, several feet below the open window. Inclining her head up towards it, only figments of broken sentences floated down. It was simply too far away and their voices too low.
“Need help?” a beautiful voice purred from behind.
She whipped around to see his bored expression not subsiding as a smile tugged at the corners of his lips. It was the Disappearing Man, standing before her once again.
Startled, she blurted, “What’re you doing here?”
“Here, you need a lift.” He ignored her, pulling the hamper from beside the front door and sliding it across the lawn below the window. It offered a perfect vantage to aid her in her eavesdropping.
“I’m surprised to see you,” she said.
He tilted his head, regarding her with a slant to his eyebrows. Then he nodded toward the hamper. “Here.”
“Thanks,” she said, withdrawing her leery gaze from his face. She climbed onto the basket, hovering mere feet below the window.
“—to turn James against me… Stand for that!”
Only figments of Vivian’s louder and harsher voice could be deciphered in snippets of their conversation, but the cohort couldn’t be made out at all.
“That’s an idea,” Vivian mused. But their conversation soon fizzled out, as if they’d walked away.
Dejected, Laila hopped back down to the ground. Of course, she had to be talking about Jodelle. And it was all too clear that she was using James to infuriate Jodelle. But it had to be more than that, or Vivian would’ve targeted herself, as well. Laila’s preoccupied eyes met his army green coat and flicked back to his face. She’d nearly forgotten he was there.
“Anything good?” he asked.
“She’s planning something, I didn’t catch what…”
“She’s a tramp.”
Laila’s eyes snapped to his face. “Yeah,” she agreed. “And she hates my friend.”
“What are you going to do about it?”
“What can I do about it?” she sighed. “Vivian hasn’t done anything.”
“Yet,” he corrected. “You’re going to let her carry out whatever half-brained plot she’s scheming in there?”
She hesitated, eyes narrowing on him.
“Well, if you need help…just let me know.” He smirked, inclining his head toward the still and quiet sideshow, looking rather desolate in the daylight.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish