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It was a good thing that Lillian didn’t comment on what Frederick had said because whilst they drove in silence the scared childlike part of him that wasn’t used to, or ready for, feelings started nagging away at him. The woman was infuriating and frustrating and made him want to tear his hair out because every time they started to make progress with their friendship he would say the wrong thing and she would become snappy. Despite all that, despite him wanting to shake her daily, the times she was kind and happy, smiling and teasing was enough to make him want to be a better person than she believed him to be. Thoughts like that were dangerous because Frederick Lester was not a good person.
Frederick was not ready for a response yet. If she simply said nothing then it meant his comments, the opening of a tiny, tiny, slice of his heart, were nothing more than an answer to a question. It didn’t matter that he had realised that he had feelings, what mattered was that he had only realised twenty-four hours and having gone from shouting to running away to trying to save the life of the woman who had caused those feelings, he was not ready for a comment.
They finally pulled up at the hotel and Freddie couldn’t have been happier to get out of the car. Between not sleeping and being emotionally exhausted, the last few minutes of driving had been a struggle. Before he could get out of the driver's seat Lillian was trying to get out of the car, resulting in struggled breathing and a surge of panic in Freddie.
“Just sit still would you woman otherwise last night would have been all for nothing.” He said, shaking his head, before getting out of the car and moving around to the passenger side to help her out of the car. Shrugging off his jacket he helped her put it on, glad that the weather was a still cold enough that she wouldn’t be questioned and helped her out of the car. It wasn’t an easy task and Frederick was scared to rip open the stitches with every time she moved. His arm slid under her legs, the other around her waist carefully, ignoring any inappropriate comment she would throw at him and helped to lift her from the car before setting her down beside him.
With as much care as he could he wrapped one arm around her waist, keeping her pressed close to his side so that much of her weight could be taken by him, hopefully elevating the pressure on her side. “We’ll be in the hotel room in just a moment, if you can’t smile then just rest your head on me. At least that way people will just think we’re… honeymooners.” Frederick couldn’t help but laugh at the last words, thinking how far from honeymooners they were. A fake couple, one with a hand-stitched wound and the other so afraid of his own feelings that even touching her in that way, to stop her from hurting wound, was making a million thoughts race through his head about how she would react.
She was glad that she had decided to keep the fact that she had also felt slightly jealous upon seeing him kiss a stranger at the bar, mostly because she knew that she had no right to feel that way. Frederick had given her no indication that the pretence between them was anything more than a façade and she was sure that he would mock her if he knew there had been a moment of envy. It was likely spurred on by the fact that she thought that Frederick was making a gesture when he bought her the ring. Of course, she was not naïve enough to think that it was anything more than a ring, but she had thought there were good intentions behind his motivation in buying it and calling her a gold digger after accepting it had thrown her off completely. It had hurt her more than she cared to admit, knowing that was what he thought of her.
Lillian was not really expecting any kind of explanation. Frederick was well within his rights to kiss whoever he pleased, yet he still seemed to feel the need to address it with her. While he spoke, she continued to look forward, focusing on the road so that he could not read any expression if he decided to look towards her at any given moment. Hearing him say that he wished he had never done it in the first place stirred something within her, but she decided to ignore it, not wanting to give herself any false hope. The truth was, either way Frederick would be leaving her at some point and she did not want to make it any more painful than it had been the night before.
When he started to explain why he had come back in the first place, he stated that he had mentioned some of his reasons last night and in honesty, through her will to keep herself awake while he stitched her up, she was barely able to remember anything else but he still explained himself rather than simply expecting her to remember something that was said to her while she was losing blood and fighting consciousness. Lillian detected the fact that Frederick was feeling uneasy about his admission and while his words seemed to require some sort or reply, it was obvious he was not ready to hear one as he quickly jumped to his charming self. Instead she allowed the words to resonate with her as they drove, trying to figure out what they meant.
They drove for a few more hours before settling on their shelter for the night. Lillian had made Frederick stop a lot earlier than normal because he had not slept the night before and she was confident that they had managed to put some distance between them and her brother. He would likely have started on the road the moment he woke up, thinking that they would have been going to find a hospital. It was likely he was looking in all the nearby hospitals to find her, so they would be safe in a hotel for tonight.
“Give me your jacket. It’ll hide this mess.” She said with a laugh as she gestured towards the ripped dress. Lillian reached for the door and felt a pain shoot through her abdomen, causing her to sit back in her seat and take a few deep breaths. “I think I might need your help getting out.” She said, trying not to show that she felt foolish for needing him.
It was hard hearing Lillian explain her reasons for sending him away. Immature as it was, he liked to think she had sent him away in pure anger, to hear that there was guilt behind her words only made him feel worse. They had argued before, many times in fact, but that night had been far the worse. Frederick still couldn’t completely admit that it was because seeing her with a ring had scared him, knowing that he had wanted it to be real and not just a game and forced him to push her away and everything had only gone downhill from there.
“Kissing that woman, that wasn’t me trying to catch up on my ‘missed freedom’. I kissed her because I was angry and although I know that makes no sense to you right now, I can promise I really wish I hadn’t done it.” Frederick knew that his words would mean little to her, especially as he was not ready to explain that he had kissed that woman wishing it would stop the feelings that were forming. Nor was he going to tell her that the moment she had touched him, he had wished for nothing more than it to be Lillian he was kissing.
Now came the difficult questions. [I Why ] had he come back. When he had turned the car around to drive back to her he had known that there was no future for them. He would still need to leave her and even if somehow, some small part of her ever returned his feelings, it would only be for a short time and he would spend the rest of his days in pain, knowing that the first woman he ever truly cared for was making a new life for herself without him. It hadn’t mattered last night and it didn’t matter now, Frederick owed it to himself, after years of self-sabotaging any true happiness with parties and alcohol and negative people, to see where these feelings would take him. Of course, the difficult part was telling Lillian.
Swallowing hard he kept his eyes on the road. For once Freddie would give a serious answer because it was better to say it now than say something that he would regret during one of their fights.
“I told you last night. There’s something about you Lillian, I’m not sure what it is, if it’s cabin fever and exhaustion or if this tension I feel between us is something more and I don’t really know what it means but I’m not leaving until I figure it out.” Freddie bit down on his lower lip and tried to keep from looking at her. He did not want to hear her next words, whatever they may be. If she thought him crazy or shot his words down instantly it would be painful and if she gave him the slightest bit of hope it would scare all the more.
Feeling that same panic as seeing her put the engagement ring on the previous day, Frederick sucked in a breath and forced a charming smile onto his face.
“Plus, I made a promise to help you, didn’t I? What kind of man would I be if I couldn’t keep my word?”
It seemed silly to her that it almost took her dying at her brother’s hand for her to realise how much Frederick meant to her and even if he did not admit it aloud, he must have cared for her in some way. Perhaps not in the same way she was learning to care for him, but he was here; he came back and that told her all she needed to know about whether her feelings were worth it. She could get through another week or two knowing that she felt things for him she did not want to feel, knowing that he would eventually go back to his life for good this time.
Lillian turned to look over at Frederick who was smiling at her now after claiming that their time together had not been as bad as he had made out and she knew that she had perhaps over-exaggerated how their time together had been filled with nothing but arguments. The truth was, even though she would never tell him this, the arguments were just as exhilarating as their ‘good’ days. The only one that had truly troubled her was the argument that they had last night. She still did not fully understand where his anger had come from or why he had said such harsh things towards her, but now was not the right time to ask him about it. They needed to find another hotel and they needed to get her cleaned up properly.
His apology was the last thing she expected and as he spoke she found herself shaking her head, knowing that he wouldn’t have left if she had not told him to do so in the first place. This was just as much her fault as it was his. When he finished speaking he pulled out from behind the barn and the two of them began on their journey once more; a journey she was sure was over when she told him to leave. Lillian smiled as his hand found her forehead and they both seemed to relax at the fact that she had not gained a fever from her injury. In honesty, it was a miracle that she hadn’t. After all, they had not exactly found themselves in sanitary conditions and she had refused to go to a hospital where they would have done a much better job of stitching her up.
“You’re right. We are in this together and I should never have asked you to leave. I guess being your fake wife for so long made me forget that you are still free to spend your time with whoever you please.” She looked over towards him and offered him a smile. “I was afraid that you would grow to despise me for making you do this with me. When…when I saw you kissing that woman last night…” She looked away from him for a moment trying to find the right words, words that did not alert him to the fact that she had found a moment of jealousy within it. “I realised that you had given up so much to bring me this far and I felt guilty and while my intentions in sending you away were to give you back your freedom, I guess it did not come across that way.” Lillian shifted herself in the seat and allowed a hand to rest on the stitches that Frederick gave her. “Why [I did] you come back?”
Sitting in the car was much better than the ground that he had spent most of the night sprawled out on, yet he still ached. Frederick wouldn’t complain about his lack of sleep or stiff muscles, not when Lillian was sporting a hole in her abdomen. There would come a time where he would tease her about this, how he gave up his beauty sleep to ensure she stayed alive but that time was not now. Frederick was still wrought with worry and wanted nothing more than to get her to a hotel where he could clean her up.
“Don’t apologise. If I could choose to do this all again, I would. Maybe not the stabbing or us arguing last night, but the rest hasn’t been so bad.” Frederick looked at Lillian before starting the car and smiled knowing that his words were true. Though things were uncertain and alien to him, he wouldn’t give up those memories or feelings for ignorance. Even if such feelings would never be returned. “I’ll only say this once Lillian because I’m not the kind of man who finds apologies easy but I am so, so sorry I left you. I was reckless and didn’t think about what could happen to you if you were stranded in a strange town on your own. Even if it wasn’t your brother it could have been any man because lord knows, there are some horrible people out there. I made a huge mistake and you had to pay for it.” Frederick pulled the car out from behind the barn and slowly pulled onto the country road, all the while keeping an eye out for any other cars that could hold her brother. He reached out and rested her forehead once more, ensuring that there was no rise in temperature before relaxing into his seat slightly.
With his eyes still on the road, he continued to speak. “It does not matter if we’re in this situation because of you or me or any choices either of us has made, we’re in this together. If that means stitching you up or going without sleep, if it means saying I’m sorry for being a complete idiot, then so be it.” Frederick let his words fall into silence and tried to steady his uneven breathing. Admissions of regret and expressions of feelings had never been his forte. The words had to be said, either to reassure her that it was not her fault and this was as much his choice as hers, or to soothe her worries that he was going to leave again.
Finally, he looked over at Lillian, a smile forming on his lips. “Don’t think this means I’m going to let you get your own way with things. Not only are you injured and in need of Doctor Lester but you’re still my fake-wife for the time being.” Freddie winked at her before looking back to the road.
She was glad that this did not turn into an argument between the two. She was sure that she was running on empty and she was not sure she could have found the energy to argue with him. Lillian wished to protest his desire to make a move now, especially since he had not managed to get a wink of sleep, but he was right in that they did need to make a move because her brother would not have stayed unconscious for long as she knew that he was probably already looking for them.
As he moved himself into an upright position she found herself wondering how the two would move forward now. Although she had claimed that they had nothing to talk about the night before, she had only done so because she thought that she would never see him again, yet she was not sure that she had the courage to tell him that she had been hurt when she saw him kissing that woman. Lillian had no right to feel that way and she was not exactly sure why it had in the first place. Frederick was helping her out of obligation, because he felt as though he had to in order to repay Lillian for saving his sister, not because he felt anything for her. Frederick would probably laugh at her for her foolish thoughts if he had any understanding of what had been going through her mind when she had packed his bag the night before.
Lillian looked up towards him as he moved to look her over and she followed his gaze down at the wound. She had no idea why her heart raced slightly as he moved the ripped material of the dress, but he looked back at his face and saw the conflict upon it. If she tried to reassure him again he would likely ignore her or try to blame himself further, so she decided against saying much else, instead she waited for him to close the door of the passenger side and make his way around to the driver’s seat so that they could set off to their next destination.
“Frederick, I’m sorry for bringing you into this. If I could find a way to make this right I would. I never meant for anyone to get hurt and I certainly never meant to put you in any danger. That was never my intention.”
As Lillian spoke Freddie only rolled his eyes, thankful that she could not see him do so as it would surely be met with a slap to the head. This was just like her, here he was trying to take responsibility for once in his life and she was telling him no. If they had not just endured possibly the most hellish of evenings, he would have argued with her. Instead, realising that it was better for her to save her strength he just sat there silently, letting her continue her efforts to stop him feeling sick with guilt.
“I can sleep later.” He said softly, swallowing back a yawn that surfaced at the mention of sleep. “We’re not safe yet, I didn’t just spend my evening trying to keep you alive for your brother to find us and finish the job.” Her hand leaving his hair almost made him protest but Frederick did not want to push his luck. Instead, he stretched out his legs and sat up straight, putting some distance between the two of them. His feelings for her were still confusing and the last thing he needed was to form a physical attachment to her as well as an emotional one. Frederick hadn’t decided at that moment if he was going to tell Lillian about these new things he was feeling. Part of him knew that she was right to send him away, he did have a life to return to at some point and Lillian had a new one to start. Although he was willing to give up a few months to get her safe and settled, and was willing to put himself in harms way and stitch up her wounds, Frederick was not sure if he could permanently leave everything for her. After all, these feelings were one-sided. Lillian had made it perfectly clear she had no interest in a playboy like him.
Frederick turned to face her then, resting on his knees so he could see the wound.
“It doesn’t look inflamed which is good. It will need cleaning again and we should find something to dress it so that it doesn’t catch and rip open.” His words were really just instructions for himself. Reaching out he gently pushed the rip in the dress back so he could see the stitches and bit down on his bottom lip to stop himself cursing. He had made a mess of the stitches, although they were efficient they were not straight. If he had been calmer and there had been enough light then maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad.
“We can get you a nicer dress when you’re cleaned up. I’ll even let you pick it yourself this time.” He said and flashed her a quick smile before standing up.
It was clear to Lillian that Frederick blamed himself for her injury and she wanted nothing more than to reassure him that it wasn’t his fault except he very rarely listened to her. They were both as stubborn as each other really and that was likely the cause of most of the friction between the two. However, as much as there was an amount of friction there was also something else there but she was not sure whether is was mutual, which is why she had asked him to leave in the first place. There was no way that her feelings for him would be returned by him.
“You are not responsible for any of this do you hear me? If I hadn’t suggested this is the first place you would be home with your sister now enjoying the fact that she was safe. Instead here you are, sleep deprived and feeling responsible for something neither of us could have predicted. My brother had that knife on him, which meant that he intended on using it anyway. Please, stop blaming yourself.” Lillian’s voice was soft, unlike her usual harsh tone when she was scolding him for something. This situation called for reassurance, not anger and that was the last thing she felt towards the situation.
“I’m real grateful that you are here.” She added, just to let him know that she was. Lillian removed her hand from his hair and squeezed his other to add further reassurance. “Come on, get some sleep. I’m awake now so at least you don’t have to worry about me dying.” She said as she worked up the courage to look down at her wound. It still surprised Lillian that he had been able to stitch her up himself and she was lucky that he managed to do so without her bleeding out. She was still pale from the loss of so much of it and she felt considerably weaker than she normally did but she was alive and she was sure that she would be lucky enough to continue to do so without any infection. They had been careful to keep the needle and the stab wound sterilised.
Lillian swallowed and looked away from the stitches and turned her attention to the dress and shook her add with a smile as she attempted to lighten the mood between them. “It’s such a shame to have ruined such a beautiful dress don’t you think?”
The sun had peaked over the horizon casting a soft glow across the landscape. It was beautiful and after the night he had endured it was enough to quieten the mind, if only for a while. Frederick had not slept a wink and yet he still felt wide awake. He put it down to the adrenaline and fear that they were within grasp of her brother. The sooner they found somewhere safe the sooner he could relax. To top it off he had a wounded woman in his car who was more stubborn than him and he was sure that she was not going to make it easy to look after her.
Lillians voice surprised him, not having sensed her wake. Her words caused his breath to catch in his throat. Frederick didn’t want to think of the possibility that things could have been worse no more than he wanted to think that he was the cause of the wound. It had been an irrational and thoughtless thing to do to attack her brother and there were no amount of words that would ever make up for it.
“You were stabbed because I was tactless. Your brother meant that knife for me because I provoked him.” Frederick kept his voice quiet, not wanting to upset Lillian. It was still difficult to believe her brother would do such a thing, especially after everything she had done for him.
Fredericks face turned a shade of red as her hand touched his hair. His chest seemed to tighten with an unfamiliar weight. His mouth opened to answer her question and yet all he could do was bring himself to nod his head in confirmation. This was not a man often lost for words and yet he could not trust himself to speak. It was the first time that Lillian had voluntary touched him as herself and not whilst playing the part of his wife. Silence filled the air and Frederick sat as still as possible, not wanting to give her a reason to move away from him. A thousand thoughts raced through his head, each one only confirming that his realisation from the night before that his feelings for Lillian were more than just attraction were real.
Finally, after what felt like an endless stretch of time, Frederick trusted himself to speak.
“I couldn’t have you dying in your sleep, could I, kitten?” The words still came out shaky and held little of the mans normal teasing tone. Lord! What had she done to him, he was nothing more than an inexperienced boy. No one else had ever made him react in such a way before. He was truly doomed because deep down, he knew that his feelings were only going to get stronger now that he had started to accept them.
Sleeping went against her every instinct. A part of her knew that it was not safe for her to sleep so soon after being inflicted with such a wound, but she had dispensed all her energy trying to keep herself conscious while Frederick attempted to save her life and she couldn’t possibly keep herself awake any longer. Lillian fell into a deep sleep, one that she would not wake up from until her body had time to rest but at least she would survive and at least they had not risked everything taking her to a hospital. She would never be able to forgive herself if she were to put Frederick in danger, especially since she now knew that their previous employers had learned of their deception. She would have to explain it all in the morning and she expected Frederick to leave her again, knowing that she had caused far more trouble than she was worth.
There was not a single movement that seemed to stir Lillian throughout the night, despite the fact that he was constantly checking on her and making sure that she did not have a fever. She might scold him in the morning when she realised that he had jeopardised a night of sleep simply to keep an eye on her while she rested, especially since they would need to travel some distance the next day and it would not be entirely safe to do so while he was deprived of rest himself.
It wasn’t until the sun started to rise that Lillian began to stir and she felt someone reach out for her hand. While her eyes remained closed for the time being she tried to comprehend why her abdomen was causing her so much discomfort and who was holding her hand and why she felt a breeze dancing along her skin as though she had spent a night sleeping outside. However, when she heard Frederick’s apology her memories of the night before came flooding back and suddenly everything started to make sense.
Lillian squeezed his hand affectionately as she started to open her eyes. He was facing away from her and leaning his head against her leg as he remained on the floor outside of the car and she couldn’t help but smile to herself. “You do not know that. Perhaps if you had stayed away, I would not be here now.” Lillian shifted in the passenger seat slightly, using her free hand to hold her throbbing abdomen where her new scar would form and when she was comfortable her hand found his hair. “Have you been sat here all night?”
Frederick would never have called himself squeamish and yet it took every ounce of concentration to stop himself from turning away to throw up as the needle pierced the skin. It was only made worse as Lillian cried out in pain, causing his eyes to sting. He wished there had been more time to numb the pain or at least make her more comfortable but they were on the clock. If he could have taken the pain for her he would have. It was not easy to stitch the wound up as the blood was still flowing and due to the number of times, he dried his hands on his trousers they had turned a darker shade with blood. Once the slightly messy stitches were finished he sat back, sighing with relief. She would have a scar but she would live.
Lillian was already half asleep before he could open his mouth to tell her that sleeping was not a good idea. One look at her face and his bossy demeanour dissolved. It was only natural that she was tired, they had argued, her brother hand turned up and stabbed her and now they were once again on the run. It was enough to exhaust anyone. Freddie stayed sat on the floor next to the car for a moment, waiting for the nausea in his stomach to settle. They would have to move at some point, the longer they stayed the more likely it was that her brother would find them. Frederick ran a hand through his hand and sighed. They would leave at first light and providing Lillians wound didn’t open and she didn’t catch a fever they would be able to make their way to a hotel to clean up.
The air was silent, not even the sound of a car passed them. Frederick could hear Lillians gentle breathing as she fell asleep and although he wanted nothing more than to close his eyes and try to forget about the day, he sat propped up on the grass watching Lillian for any red flags, occasionally standing up to check her temperature, running a hand across her forehead, praying every time that it was a normal heat. Somehow he managed to make it through the night without falling asleep, though it was more likely due to worry than stamina. Every part of him ached and just when he was about to complain to himself or close his eyes he remembered that the pretty blonde sat in his passenger seat had just been stabbed trying to protect him.
“You know,” He whispered to himself. “It is supposed to be the Knight saving the Princess, not the other way around.” Freddie couldn’t help but smile at the sleeping woman. It was just like her to selflessly put herself in harm’s way. It was one of the reasons he admired her as he did, everything she did was out of kindness, unlike him. Frederick did only what he wanted, never told what to do, never listening to others needs. Lillian had told him to go and he had come back. Suddenly feeling terrible he reached out and took her hand.
“I’m sorry I came back. This would not have happened if I had stayed away.” He said and dropped his head, resting it against her in defeat.
Lillian knew that she couldn’t let herself close her eyes. With every passing second she was finding it harder to stay conscious and she was losing the ability to think clearly. Maybe it was a bad idea refusing to go to a hospital but now she wondered if it was too late for her anyway. Her body grew weaker and her thoughts betrayed her, telling her to give in; to let her eyes close and go to sleep. She wouldn’t wake up again if she did and she was starting to accept the fact that she might not survive this. She didn’t even have the energy to laugh or scold Frederick about his joke or the fact that he was wrapping a belt around her and picking her up.
Lillian grit her teeth for a moment as she braced herself for the pain to come. She was numb to it now and had seemingly accepted the fact that she could not protest Frederick’s actions. While it was becoming increasingly harder for Lillian to think straight, she knew that they needed to get away from her brother. The last thing she wanted was for Frederick to get hurt too. She wanted to tell him that he should have left her there, that he should have got himself away from Sam while he still had the chance but Frederick would likely argue against her anyway so it would have been wasted energy to tell him to leave.
It was not until she heard his voice that she realised her eyes had drifted shut. She opened them slowly and looked up at him trying to comprehend what was happening but all she could take away from his words was that she needed to stay awake so she nodded and fought against every instinct that was telling her to rest and let her body fall into a sleep. From that moment on she focused so much on staying awake that she didn’t even realise that he had put her in the car and that they were driving somewhere, not until he stopped again near a barn where Frederick concealed them from sight.
He moved around to the back of the car to retrieve something and when he came back with a bottle of alcohol she reached out and took it from him. Lillian nodded but before she took a drink she poured little bit onto the wound. Her thoughts were cloudy but she knew that if he was going to try and save her, the wound needed to be cleaned and this was the best way to do it. She gasped as the wound began to sting but at least now it wouldn’t be too much of a shock when the needle entered her flesh. She moved her head slightly so that she could drink some of the alcohol, screwing up her face as it burned her throat and when she finished she realised that Frederick had already started to get to work.
Her hand moved to his shoulder as she cried out in pain and she found herself fighting back tears that were threatening the corner of her eyes. How the evening had taken a turn. After a minute or two of Frederick getting to work she found herself calming, controlling her reaction to the pain and when Frederick was finished she sighed with relief and looked down at the wound that was no longer open. It seemed that he was able to work around the material of the dress and it was now sporting a hole around her abdomen and she laughed quietly before resting her head back.
“Now can I sleep?” She asked, her voice barely a whisper as her eyes already began to close, unable to keep herself awake for much longer.
The blood wasn’t slowing. Frederick pressed down on the towel, ignoring the damp red smears on his own skin. His mind was racing, trying to come up with any solution that didn’t involved Lillian bleeding out, going to the hospital or her psychotic brother waking up to finish the job. They needed to move that much was clear. Without telling Lillian what his plan was, it would have only wasted time and she was in no position to protest, he took the belt off this trousers and gently tied it around her waist, making every effort to move her as little as possible.
“See, I knew you wanted to get me out of my trousers” he said softly. Once the towel was secured by the belt he grabbed the bag off the floor, slinging it over his shoulder and scooped Lillian up in his arms.
They were going to have to go out the back to avoid any unwanted attention. Freddie left the room, locking the door with the hotel key from the outside to keep the murderous sibling inside whilst they escaped. Leaving unnoticed was harder in reality than it had been in his head, people bustled about in every corridor, meaning they had to stop often, slowing them down. Frederick had not imagined he would be smuggling anything again after that night with the diamond and yet here he was, only this time he could have walked away and didn’t.
Every time Lillian’s skin brushed his, Frederick could feel the heat and prayed silently that she did not have a fever. After an endless stretch of corridors they were outside in the car park.
“You need to stay awake, Lillian. I’m going to take us somewhere safer so we can get you stitched up.”
With careful movements, Frederick helped Lillian into the car, trying to keep the belt tight around her waist.
Driving was much harder when you had a wounded woman next to you and Frederick could hardly keep his eyes on the road in fear that Lillian would lose consciousness any moment. The drive was short and the car pulled around the back of an abandoned barn off a side road. If Lillian’s brother were to chase after them, which would be a huge mistake, he wouldn’t find then parked in the dark.
Frederick got out of the car and opened the boot, taking out a half empty bottle of alcohol and went around to the passenger side. Gently he took off the belt and removed the towel, trying not to cringe at the sight of the open cut. Holding out the bottle he forced a weak smile.
“Drink this. You’re going to need it.”
Wiping most of the blood away with the towel he took out a needle and thread from the bag and inhaled a deep breath. Having never sown someone’s skin before he wasn’t sure he could do it, the colour drained from his face and his hand shook. Frederick was more nervous now the adrenaline has settled and yet the moment the needle touched her skin he found the courage to carry on.
Lillian couldn’t help but wish that she had the energy to actually enjoy Frederick’s company. She wished that the situation was different. If Sam hadn’t turned up out of the blue they might be having a very different conversation now. Perhaps she would have told him how much she had grown to care for him and that was the real reason she sent him away. Lillian cared far too much about him to keep ruining his life by keeping him here, away from his family and the life he had made for himself back home. A life she couldn’t return to which mean they truly had no future.
She glanced over at the unconscious body on the floor and she felt nothing but disgust for him. The brother she had once loved so dearly had broken the last bit of trust that existed between the two. While she did not wish him dead she wished for him to be out of her life for good and she was angry about the fact that he had followed the here. At some point Lillian would have to explain their situation to Frederick but now was not the time but she was sure she would never forgive herself for allowing Frederick to put himself in danger by embarking upon this journey with her.
As his hand found her hair she pulled her gaze back to his face and she nodded. The last thing she wanted to do was have to go to a hospital. It was perhaps a good thing that she had agreed to stop talking because she was not sure that she knew how to respond to his next words. Instead she simply smiled and allowed the emotion she felt to swim over her. Maybe he was simply trying to calm her but even if that were the case, she did not seem to mind in that moment.
Lillian gathered as much energy as she possibly could to press down on the wound so that Frederick could get what he needed to help her. While he was gone she allowed her head to fall to the side and she let her eyes close so that she could work on steadying her breath. Her body had started to shiver slightly but she focused on pressing down on the open wound until Frederick returned. The feel of his warm hands upon her cheeks forced her eyes open.
“Frederick…I…” Lillian started to cough again and she shook her head. “I’m sorry.”
The sickness that had flooded Frederick when Lillian was stabbed only increased as she spoke. Her voice was weak and her face had lost all colour. The jacket stayed pressed to her stomach but the warm wet feeling on his palm was increasing as it absorbed the blood flow. As she spoke, trying to make light of their situation he only shook his head. He would have laughed had he not been so worried, stabbed and still teasing him. It was getting harder for him to stay calm, the emotions that he had felt earlier that day, the realisation that he cared for her more than any other only heightened his fear and concern.
A hospital was their only option, how could she tell him not to. There was a risk that someone would question them or recognise either of them which would ruin everything they had worked for the previous three weeks but she was bleeding and Frederick was no doctor.
“Lillian, I can’t just let you bleed out.” He said, his voice laced with worry. To make things worse there was an unconscious sister-stabbing man on the floor and Freddie was sure that if they were still around when he woke up that he would likely kill the man. Lillian may have hated him but killing her brother was not something he was willing to do, down the line she would resent him, even if she didn’t realise it yet.
Her hand touched his cheek and heat flooded over his face as she spoke. He would have kissed her if she hadn’t started to cough and contort in pain. Frederick shifted closer to her and softly ran a hand over her hair.
“I’m not going to let you die, Lillian, you either need to stop talking and try to relax so you don’t cause more damage or I’m taking you to a hospital.” Although he was being bossy his words were still soft. The last thing he wanted was to upset her.
“As if I could forget about you. You are possibly the most interesting, beautiful, frustrating woman I’ve ever met.” He said, lifting the jacket slightly to assess how quickly she was bleeding.
“I tried to leave but there’s something about you, something about us, which I’m not ready to let go of yet. So until I figure that out, you need to stay alive, okay kitten?” Freddie took her hand and kissed it briefly, hoping that she would be too weak to slap him for being forward with her, then replaced it where his hand had been, pressing down on the jacket.
“I need you to press down hard on this. I’m going to get towels and something to clean the wound with.” He said and stood up off the bed. It only took moments to grab the damp towels from the bathroom and return to her side but it felt too long. He sat down and placed his hands on her cheeks, tilting her face to look at him, checking her. She was still too pale. He took her hand off the jacket and replaced it with one of the towels.
“Just my luck isn’t it, I find a girl I actually care about and she gets stabbed.” He said, smiling at her through the worry.
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