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Lillian climbed into the car as soon as they arrived and waited for him to make his way around. She was so conscious that someone, anyone at all, would recognise them so she was keen to get moving away as soon as possible. In her mind, her their employers had followed him and found out he was lying, neither of them would have made it through the night at all. That was the only thing that was making her think that they might just succeed in their plan to make her disappear. As she expected, Frederick’s family would have been home and she was worried about that exposure. Of course he could easily make up another ridiculous name for her and lie about who she was, and she was sure he would, but that did not mean that she remained protected. The less people she saw, the better. Hopefully they would get in and out of there quickly.
Lillian looked down at her hand as he uncharacteristically tried to offer her some comfort. “Oh hello Mr and Mrs Lester. How do I know Freddie? Well it’s a funny story actually, we were both trying to steal the same diamond after we spent some time getting to know each other on a more [I personal] level. Then he dumped my body in a river to help me disappear and now I’m here to get changed so he can help me run away.” Her tone sounded sincere as she relayed the story back to Frederick as they drove towards his house and she ended with a laugh so that she could show him just how ridiculous it would be to say such things. “Believe me, I do not think that story makes either of us look good so I have no problem mentioning last night.”
Lillian thought about her destination a little longer after that. There were so many things to consider when it came to making herself a new home. Society put a lot of restrictions on women and it would make it more difficult for her to survive on her own. Most of the women who lived in the countryside were often married to farmers and worked the land with their families but women had a little more freedom in the city but it risked her being seen more. She could change her hair if she needed to. Lillian was comfortable cutting her hair but that would not do much to disguise her from the world that she needed to hide from but it would go some way to making her look a little different.
“As much as I would love to live in the countryside, I do not think that I would be able to live a normal life out there without having to set some roots and start a family and believe me that is the [I last] thing I want or even need in my life. I might be able to blend into the city easier. I can find work and get an apartment and avoid the parties that I have grown to despise. High society is [I not] where I belong or even want to be.”
Before long their conversation drew to an end because they had arrived at the manor. The size of it was not unsurprising and she was not wowed by it, especially after the size of the place they had spent their evening last night. His demeanour seemed to change to moment he laid eyes on a woman in the distance, unpacking some of his bags and as she climbed out of the car she tried to figure out what their relationship might be. Frederick was far too flirtatious and incapable of feelings for this woman to be anything more than a relative. Even as he took her hand she found herself looking at the woman who showed a similar excitement to seeing him. Lillian intended on taking back her hand, not wanting them to appear as anything more than acquaintances but he did not drop her hand until Florence pulled back from Frederick and looked her over. She attempted to smile and hide the nerves as Frederick introduced her, only looking up at him when he gave her another horrific cover name. She raised her eyebrows and gave him a look that suggested that she would be scolding him for that later. At least now she was beginning to understand a few things. This woman was his sister and the moment she mentioned her husband, he changed again and that was when she remembered the ring that Frederick had come back with. She promised herself she would not ask any questions and it was becoming very clear that she would not need to. Clearly she was part of the bargain that he had made in exchange for the diamond. Lillian nodded towards the woman as Frederick pressed his hand on her back and started to lead her away.
“I was nice to meet you Florence.” She said over her shoulder and when they had a good distance between them she turned to Frederick. “You might want to put that ring somewhere else unless you want to give yourself away.”
Freddie opened the car door for Lillian and let her get into the car before going over to his own side. He glanced around the street before getting into the car, trying to shake the nervous feeling that had crept up on him the moment they left the hotel. He started the car and pulled into the empty street, heading towards his home. It was understandable that Lillian was nervous to go to his house, his father would likely be in his study and not notice them. Freddie had used the excuse that he needed to get things for her but in reality, he was going home to ensure his sister was home. If his employers had held up their end of the deal then he would be able to focus on getting Lillian to a safe space. Until that was settled he could not commit to helping anyone.
“My family will be home, we will not tell them about your situation and I would appreciate if you do not mention last night to them either. They are unaware of what I have been doing and I would like to keep it that way.” Freddie glanced over at her and clocked the fear on her face. He smiled and reached over to awkwardly pat her hand, in an attempt to reassure her. Freddie didn’t feel the need to tell her that he had never bought a woman home before. They were normally taken to his apartment in the city, not wanting to involve his family in his scandals or put his female companionship in a position where his mother walked into his room.
“Would you prefer a busy city or the countryside?” He looked back to the road and removed his hand, placing it back on the steering wheel. Both options would work, a city far up north would mean she could blend into society, if she kept to the middle class then she would not draw attention. South to a countryside estate would give her solitude, not many people tended to visit the open spaces so there would be little risk of running into someone. Freddie couldn’t imagine living such a quiet life, he liked the bustle and noise of the city and rarely visited the green open spaces.
They would need to travel far, that much was clear. Their employers, or ex-employers now, would most likely have influence over most of the East Coast. Freddie had every intention of taking Lillian far away before he left her and returned home. It would mean lying to his family, giving them some reason for his absence that wouldn’t awaken suspicion.
As they drove, Freddie let the options turn over in his head, over and over again. Rural areas were quieter but it would also be unusual for a woman to live alone at such a young age. The country had not embraced female freedom as much as the cities had. It would mean working hard or marrying, both risky options. The city would never blink an eye at Lillian having her own apartment but with society constantly throwing large-scale parties and people travelling more often, there would be a higher chance that she got recognised.
Turning off the main road Freddie realised that they had almost arrived at his childhood home. Large houses with tall gates stood in rows, lined with neatly trimmed trees and clean sidewalks. The car pulled into a driveway that stretched down, ending with a large house. Outside the front doors, Freddie spotted his sisters driver, unloading countless bags. Freddie’s heart rate picked up and almost forgot about Lillian as he pulled up, turning the car off. He opened his door and practically jumped from his seat. He went round and opened Lillian’s door and grinned.
“Welcome to Lester Manor.” He said, taking her hand to help her out of the car.
Before he could drop her hand from his, a high pitched scream came from the front door. Freddie looked up and his smile only widened. Stood at the top of the stairs wearing the most ridiculous white dress and matching jacket with hair the colour of molten lava was Freddie’s sister. The red-head ran down the stairs, and straight into the arms of Freddie, ignoring his hold on Lillian’s hand.
“Flo, you’re crushing me.” He groaned and using his free hand pried his sister from his chest. Freddie’s sister stepped back and looked from him to Lillian, her face screwing up slightly. Freddie dropped Lillian’s hand from his own and straightened up a bit.
“Florence, this is my friend Kitty.” He looked down at Lillian and smiled, daring her to say something. “Kitty, this is my little sister, Mrs Florence Jacobs,” Freddie said, loathing his use of her married name. Flicking her bright hair over her shoulder, Florence almost ignored Freddie's introductions.
“It’s actually Lester, or will be when I’ve gotten back from seeing my lawyer. That scumbag left me last night. Nothing but a letter.” Freddie suppressed his smile and feeling the weight of the deadmans ring on his finger he quickly placed his hand on Lillian's back, making sure his sister did not notice the gold.
“Tell me about it at dinner tonight, Kitty and I are only popping in to change then we’re meeting friends.”
Lillian turned around just as she heard the knock on the door and contemplated going over to open it for him but she was still putting her hair up and she was already noticing that the door was beginning to open and he was commenting on his hair the moment he entered the room. Lillian finished placing the last pin in her hair and dropped her hands to her side as he moved towards the table to place down the tray. He offered her one of the cups and she took it quickly, allowing the smell of coffee to take over for a moment. As she took a sip from her cup she allowed her eyes to close and a smile started to threaten the corner of her lips and she looked back towards Frederick. “It may look nicer down but women who dress like this do not tend to allow their hair to fall down. If I have to play the part of your wife and I have to pretend I even belong in this society then I might as well follow some of the unspoken rules had I not?” She smiled once more as she took another sip from her cup.
She knew that they would be leaving soon but that did not mean that she was not absolutely terrified about what would happen after this point. When they left that hotel room she would officially be on the run and both of them would risk being caught for their lies and deceit. Perhaps she should not have asked for his help. It was not until he asked that she realised she had not even considered where she should go so she simply shook her head. Lillian thought for a moment before she answered him but even when she was ready he was already teasing her about the fact that she slept on the floor and he was taking the cup out of her hand and asking her if she was ready.
Lillian laughed and nodded. “That’s not the first time I have spent an evening sleeping on the floor. It’s not so bad when you get used to it.” She said softly before indicating that she was ready to go and made her way towards the door. Once they were out on the corridor and making their way towards his car she looked towards Frederick, ready to answer his previous questions.
“I have not really thought about where to go after this. It wasn’t exactly part of the plan. I mean, I was always going to leave town but I hadn’t planned on going on the run. Just…somewhere far away.” Lillian looked away for a moment. “Is it safe? Going back to your father’s house? What if someone sees me?” She looked back towards him, showing the fear that she started to feel upon her face. “I wanted to thank you. I know this was not part of your plan either and I know that you are risking a lot to help me.”
Freddie heard the door lock behind him and he took a few steps before pressing his back to the wall. It was a good move to leave the room whilst she changed, self-control only went so far. The night before it had been easier, his mind had been elsewhere and their flirtation had been a nice distraction from the horrible reality that waited for him. Freddie had never woken up with a woman, not one he would return to anyway. He had done his fair share of sneaking out or kicking out in some cases. Drawing in a deep breath, trying to push thoughts of Lillian from his head, he started to walk down the corridor.
The man at the counter had been less than pleased to see Freddie, especially when he asked for his name Freddie just mumbled something under his breath, not quite remembering his alias. The man handed him a tray and Freddie paid him for the room and the breakfast. It saved him having to so it with Lillian beside him, the last thing he needed was to draw attention to her.
Freddie walked back to the room with the tray, trying to balance the cups and pot of coffee without spilling it. Normally things like this just appeared in his room when he woke up.
Freddie knocked on the door with one hand before opening it. He was a little surprised to find it unlocked, did she not realise they were in a public hotel? Anyone could just walk into their room. His eyes found her as she was putting her hair up. “It looks nicer down.” He said and walked over to the small table to put the tray down. Two cups were filled and Freddie picked both up, holding one out to Lillian.
“We will be leaving soon.” Freddie took a sip of his drink and watched Lillian as he spoke his next words, trying to judge how she felt about his plan. “We are going to return to my father’s house. You’ll be needing clothes and money and new papers. I need to deal with some business before taking you to…” He paused then and raised his eyebrows at her. “Where is it I’m taking you, kitten? Have you thought about where you want to go?”
Freddie put his cup back on the tray and walked over to the bed, picking up his shirt. It was still warm from her and as he put it on he could smell her perfume and shampoo. He closed his eyes for a moment in frustration. Why had he let her borrow it? Driving home would now be torture. The sooner he got bathed and changed the better. Freddie started to button up the shirt and glanced back at Lillian.
“I won’t bother to ask you if you slept well, your snoring speaks for itself.” He said and grinned at her. “Though, I hope you ache today. It serves well as a punishment for sleeping on the floor like a mad woman.” Freddie teased and picked up his jacket.
He knew he probably looked worse for wear, his clothes were a little creased and he needed to shave. His hand ran across his jaw and then through his hair, pushing it back in a weak attempt to make himself presentable before he walked over to Lillian, standing closer than needed. He took the cup from her hand, not even checking to see if she had finished her drink and placed it down.
“Ready wife?” He asked.
Her sleep should not have been peaceful that evening. Her evening had not gone to plan and she should have found herself sleepless due to the decisions that she had made but she slept quite well overall. Lillian did not even wake straight away when Frederick started to stir that morning. She might have been embarrassed by the way that he glanced over her if she had been awake when he did. She could hear his cheerful voice in the distance as she started to awaken and slowly started to stretch her body out until she was conscious enough to remember that she was only wearing Frederick’s shirt.
Lillian opened her eyes and instantly looked down at the shirt to make sure that it covered her modesty and luckily, it did. After she was satisfied that there was nothing but her legs on show she looked over towards Frederick who faced away from her. She smiled to herself when she noticed that he had his back to him. Perhaps he did not feel the need to behave inappropriately now that he had a decent night sleep and she was grateful for that face, especially since it meant that she did not have to find the energy to fight back this morning.
Frederick moved passed her and claimed that he was going to find something for them to eat and drink and she was grateful that he was going to be giving her some privacy to change. “Thank you.” She said, her voice a little hoarse from her sleep. Lillian let out a sigh when he shut the door behind him and she moved to lock it much like she had the night before, not wanting to risk him walking in on her getting dressed. The last thing she needed was for him to see her in anything less than what she was wearing now, especially since it would likely fuel more inappropriate remarks.
She moved to the bathroom and went about her normal morning routine, making sure that she was fresh enough to put on the dress she wore the night before. Once she had it on, she ran her hands over it and checked her appearance in the mirror. She was supposed to be returning this dress to her employers but they would assume that the dress lay with her at the bottom of the river. Lillian told herself that she would she would dispose of it the moment she had chance. If she never had to wear something of this expense, again she would be glad.
As she moved back into the room, she unlocked the door and placed his shirt neatly on the bed, making sure that it would not get any creases. Lillian pulled her hair up into a loose bun and allowed some of the hair slides to hold it in place. She was not exactly happy with the way she looked and she was desperate for a new pair of clothes and a long soak but this would have to do for now. Soon enough Frederick would be back and the two would be on the road, starting her new life.
It was difficult to stay angry, or even be angry in the first place, at Lillian for kicking him. Whilst she had knocked the wind from him, any pain that had come from her foot had now vanished. Freddie kept his eyes closed and waited for the sounds of movement to indicate that she was going to do the sensible thing and join him in the bed. It was only a sleeping arrangement and Freddie didn’t plan to touch her... well he would try not to and that had to stand for something. The sounds of soft rustling and shifting came from the floor but after a moment it was silent, only the sound of their breathing in the room. Freddie sat up slowly and looked over the side of the bed. Damn woman, she was lying with her back to him in the same spot he had inhabited only moments earlier.
Freddie fell back onto the bed and let out a slightly irritated sigh. Was she really so stubborn that she would suffer sleeping on the floor rather than share a bed with him? A woman couldn't sleep on the floor. Deciding that it was futile to argue with her he closed his eyes and tried to calm his thoughts. It would have been much easier to sleep if she hadn’t been in the room, so close and wearing only his shirt. Perhaps it was a good idea that she stay on the floor.
Sleep came but it wasn’t peaceful. He spent the whole night dreaming of severed hands and running from the man he had met earlier that night and a blonde woman who stabbed him in the back. The sun had started to rise by the time he woke. Lillian was still asleep on the floor, it was not fair that she slept so soundly. Quietly climbing out of the bed, he walked around the sleeping woman on the floor and made his way to the curtains. The evening before had been such a rush, a mix of emotions that he had still not processed. He had a woman to hide and a sister who would need him now her husband was out of the picture.
Freddie stretched his body out for a moment and then, placing his hands on the curtains, opened them to let the rising sun fill the room. Maybe he should have let Lillian sleep a little bit longer, she deserved it, just as he did. However, they had so much to do to ensure she got away safely, sleeping in late would have to wait. He had a promise to keep to her.
“Wake up my dear.” He said in an unnecessarily cheerful voice. Freddie glanced over at Lillian and his words stuck in his throat. How was it fair that she still looked so beautiful after sleeping on the floor wearing only his shirt? She had been through the same thing he had and yet she lay there looking like an angel and he felt like death. Freddie turned his back to her then, not trusting his self-control which had, till this point, proved much more restrained than he had known.
“I’m going to find us coffee and something to eat. You should get dressed.” He said, ignoring all his instincts that were screaming to turn and look at her again. Freddie walked over to the door and unlocked it, ignoring the fact he was not wearing his shirt. "I won't be long. Don't let anyone else in."
Lillian was laughing so hard that she let go of the bed and allowed herself to sit on the floor, completely unaware of the fact that only moments ago she was so concerned with making sure that Frederick could not see her in his shirt. While her dignity was something she wanted to keep, she also had scars that she intended to keep hidden, mostly because she did not want to answer any questions and she certainly did not need him to pity her. She was not the only one to endure hardships and she certainly didn’t need to be reminded of her own. The decision to pretend that Frederick had killed her was supposed give her the opportunity to move on and forget about it all.
Either way, she was not thinking about that now and even though the hem of his shirt had uncovered the scar upon her thigh, he would not see it in the dark at least. Her laughter had been deepened by Frederick’s over-exaggerated reaction to his foot colliding with his stomach. Either he was a lot more sensitive than he liked to make out, or he was trying to make her feel guilty and it wouldn’t work. Her laughing began to calm but they did not subside completely but her eyes did come to settle on Frederick’s form now that he seemed to prop himself up on the floor.
She was glad that it was dark because it meant that he could not see how her cheeks blushed at the sudden realisation that he was looking at her. Suddenly the laughter stopped and she found herself swallowing hard as he leaned in close to her, close enough that his cologne filled her senses. For a moment she wondered if this closeness would lead to something else; something reminiscent of the time they spent getting to know each other earlier that evening, instead he seemed to use the opportunity to move passed her.
Relief swam over her, mostly because she was unsure that she would be able to stop herself should he suggest they pick up where they left off. It seemed that he had decided that he was now going to sleep on the bed as a way of punishing her for kicking him and not even apologising for it. Lillian sighed softly and shook her head, knowing that he must have expected her to simply take her place next to him on the bed but she was not about to give him the satisfaction.
Lillian watched him get comfortable on the bed and chuckled to herself slightly before setting herself down in the place where Frederick had intended on sleeping only moments before. It was not as though she had not slept on a floor before now. “And [I this] is a really comfortable floor dear husband of mine. This will do nicely.” Lillian adjusted herself slightly so that she was lying on her side and facing away from him but before she lay her head down she made sure that the shirt he had made her wear was positioned appropriately. When she was satisfied she lay her head down onto the pillow and closed her eyes. The events of the day had truly exhausted her and it did not take long for her to slowly start to drift off.
Freddie could hear her moving and when Lillian blew the candle out and darkness cloaked the room he wondered if sharing a space with her was a good idea at all. He had tried to do the right thing by sleeping on the floor and yet even the sound of her changing in the bathroom, the whisper of her dress falling to the floor, the image of her in his shirt, her hair fanned out around her shoulders, it was almost too much. Reaching up he put his hands over his eyes and silently let out a string of curses, awful enough that his mother would have washed his mouth with hand soap.
Divorce! Ha, she would be so lucky to be married to someone like him. Divorce would not be on the cards if their charade hadn’t been just that. Freddie replaced the fears and anxiety with daydreams of what it would be like to be married, not just to Lillian but to anyone. A proper housewife who was polite and could host the most wonderful parties, she would have to be beautiful and well dressed. Such thoughts were not necessary truly for Freddie was a playboy and unlikely to marry until he had no other choice.
His thoughts of a perfect wife were ripped from his head when a small foot came into contact with his stomach. The wind was knocked out of him and his hands flew to his stomach, hunched over. He heard Lillian fall to the floor and then after a second of silence she began to laugh. It was such a lovely sound and if he hadn’t been withering in pain, he might have even told her how lovely it was. He kept his hands on his stomach whilst he made groaning noises. Making it seem so much worse than it actually was. Finally, his eyes adjusted and he propped himself up on his elbows to look at the blonde who was still laughing.
“If you were truly my wife I would make you kiss it better until the pain stopped.” He said, his voice more of a reprimanding tone, though still soft enough that she knew he was teasing. Suddenly Freddie was very aware of Lillian, on the floor next to him wearing his shirt. She looked more tempting that she had in her expensive dress and jewels and Freddie’s throat went dry making anything he was about to say more effort.
“Laugh all you want, there shall be no divorce for you, young lady.” He said as he reached over and tapped her nose gently. “Whilst you may think it’s funny to kick a gentleman who has selflessly offered to sleep on the floor to retain your virtue, I do not.” He was smiling as he spoke his words and sat up and leaned in, close enough that he could smell her shampoo.
“Big mistake kitten.” He whispered and then, as if he had never been hurt in the first place, jumped up. “Huge mistake.” He continued, dragging out the word huge.
He climbed over her carefully, not offering to help her up off the floor, and threw the cover back on the bed. Freddie looked at her and grinned. “Ginormous mistake.” He said and climbed into the bed, sighing with relief in an overly dramatic way.
“Now I am too injured to sleep on the floor. There's a pillow next to you if you wish to remain down there, however, this is a really comfortable bed.” He teased, moving about to get comfortable.
While it was clear that a ‘married’ couple would have been given a room with only one bed, she wished that they would have taken more time to think of a better excuse because there was clearly an issue that would not be so easily solved around their sleeping arrangements. No matter how much she had been willing to flirt and seduce him she would not have taken it further than she had and this was making her feel uncomfortable. Frederick apparently knew how to press her buttons and that was exactly what he was doing and although her back was turned towards him she was sure that she felt his eyes watching her, judging what to say and how he can tease her further.
Although he had a point about her dress, she was not about to give in to him just yet, besides it was not as though hotel rooms usually had spare clothes in their wardrobe should anyone need them and if she had to wear this dress again tomorrow, sleeping in it did not seem like the best idea. Lillian let out a frustrated sigh as he continued to joke and simply shook her head. His ego was almost too much to handle but she would have to get used to it for now. The room seemed to dim slightly then and she detected movement from behind her where Frederick seemed to prepare himself for bed. Lillian genuinely expected him to climb into bed and expect her to do that same but surprisingly he took hold of a pillow and place it on the ground and for a moment the room went silent when he seemed to get comfortable.
“How long do you expect to keep up this charade of husband and wife? Tomorrow I would like a divorce.” She sassed, keeping her arms folding over her chest and maintaining her stance until she eventually gave in. His shirt would have to do but she was not about to give him the satisfaction of knowing that she was changing in the same room as him. Lillian stepped over him and moved towards the bed to pick up the shirt, not saying a word to him before making her way towards the bathroom, but not before blowing out of candle so that visibility would be even more difficult.
Once she was in the bathroom Lillian slipped off her dress and let it fall to the floor in a pool of silk material and pulled on the shirt, buttoning it up once the material covered most of her modesty. Lillian closed her eyes for a moment, trying not to let the scent of his shirt distract her and before long she was telling herself that she just needed to get the night over and done with. Tomorrow they would move on. Lillian picked up the dress and walked back into the room carefully, not to make too much noise in case Frederick had managed to fall asleep in the short time that she had been gone and draped her dress over the chair sitting near the dresser.
It was dark in the room now and she had to really steady herself so that she did trip over anything but as she neared the bed she misjudged where Frederick had set up camp on the floor and before she made it to the bed her foot collided with his stomach and she tripped. Luckily Lillian was able to catch herself on the bed before she fell to the floor completely and rather than apologising to him she simply let out a laugh. “Well, at least we have grounds for divorce now. That’s twice I’ve abused you this evening.”
Freddie almost laughed as she stood and told him she would be sleeping in her dress and not sharing a bed with him. It was as though he was a naughty child that she was scolding for suggesting something outrageous. Her blushing cheeks only made his smile widen. Though his hands didn’t move to unbuckle his belt he kept them there, enjoying how she had huffed and turned her back to him. He did not have any real intentions of taking his trousers off, in fact, if she hadn’t reacted in such a perfect way he possibly wouldn’t have even bothered to joke about it but Lillian responded with confidence and immunity to his attempts at charming her and it only made Freddie want to do it more.
It was forgotten that she had used him only hours ago, pretended she was attracted to him and then dumped ice water on any fantasies he may have had about the two of them when she had tried to cross him. Whether it was the completed exchange or the fact she had given up her freedom for him without really knowing his situation, he had pushed the whole experience from his mind. That did not mean he trusted her, by any means. He was certain that given the opportunity she would stab him in the back, but that was what was expected from a fellow thief.
“You’re being ridiculous. You cannot sleep in your dress it’s filthy and you need to wear that dress tomorrow. I can’t have my wife leaving a hotel in a dress that’s been slept in.” He picked up his shirt that had been placed on the dresser and threw it onto the bed. Freddie walked over to the side of the bed closest to him and blew out the candle, leaving on the one close to Lillian left. The room was darker and Freddie finally took his hands off his belt.
“Fine, I’ll leave my trousers on. Probably for the best anyway, I tend to have an irresistible effect on women.” Although the room was dark he could still see her enough to see her defiant stance, arms crossed and turned away from him. What a strange evening it had been. Freddie couldn’t imagine what the next day was going to bring, they had the task of hiding Lillian, finding a new life for her somewhere and before that, he needed to return home to see his sister. There was no chance in hell he would leave the city without ensuring the girl he had been fighting for was safe. Deal or not, his sister came first above the stranger he was to share a room with.
Letting out a loud and rather fake yawn, Freddie stretched his arms above his head and then sighed. “Blow the candle out and put the shirt on. Don’t argue just do it. My eyes will be closed the entire night and I won’t come near you. I promise.” He grabbed a pillow from the bed and dropped it onto the floor then sat down. He didn’t wait to hear a reply from Lillian before he laid down, ignoring the hardness of the floor and closed his eyes.
The room was silent for a moment and thoughts of the night started to fill Freddie’s mind. The severed hand, the lies, the stealing. All things that were threatening to never let him sleep again. He crossed his arms over his chest and sighed softly. Sleep would likely not come that night.
Lillian could see the anxiety that Frederick felt but she did not ask any questions about the exchange. When he was ready to talk he would. Even though she had not been there she was sure that it wasn’t exactly and ideal situation and knowing her employers they were likely to make it more difficult than it needed to be. At first Frederick continued to stick to his flirtatious mocking and she figured that this would be a regular occurrence with him. It was clearly part of his personality and it was something she would have to get used to until they were their separate ways.
Her eyes rolled at his comment. To her Gladys sounded far too sophisticated and old to be associated with her. While her clothes might have suggested she belonged amongst those who were considered sophisticated, that was far from the truth. Lillian resorted to shaking her head in response to him. She then moved towards the dressing table and leaned against it and nodded along as he spoke. “That’s good. It’s almost over then.” She said through another yawn although she had tried to stop herself from showing her exhaustion.
Frederick seemed to notice and simply pointed out the fact that she was tired and she laughed. “Well thank you captain obvious.” She said with her usual sarcastic tone as she looked down at her hand. The pain had dimmed over time but he was right about needed to get it cleaned as soon as possible. The last thing she needed was an infection because then she would need to go to a hospital and their cover would be blown straight away. She followed his gaze to the bed and wondered what was going through his mind and when she finally looked back up at him and noticed him getting undressed her eyes widened and the heat rose to her cheeks, making them turn a light shade of pink.
He raised his eyebrow and smirked towards her, clearly registering the shock upon her face. Within an instant she averted her gaze and turned away from him so that she didn’t have to watch him undress any further. While she had seen the body of a man before it wasn’t exactly by choice and she did not feel that it was appropriate to watch him undress. “I [I can] and I [I will] sleep in my dress and we will not be sharing the bed.” She said with a confident tone, knowing that her confidence was wavering slightly at his suggestive behaviour. She should have known that he was purposely making her feel uncomfortable but his personality had changed so much in the short space of time that they had known each other that she would not put this passed him.
She turned her head slightly. “Jesus, leave your trousers where they are! You’re not taking them off.” Lillian turned away from him again before letting out a frustrated sigh and crossed her arms over her chest. The situation was most definitely not ideal.
Freddie closed the door behind him, locking it shut again. The curtains had remained closed and the room was lit by candlelight. In another situation, he would have found the setting almost romantic, but his heart was still racing from the exchange. Releasing the diamond to his employers should have filled him with a sense of relief and yet he still could not shake the anxiety that caused his stomach to turn every time he heard a noise or saw a shadow. He would return home the following day and ensure that his sister was home. Perhaps then, he would feel some closure on the situation.
Of course, he still had Lillian to deal with. His eyes found her in the dim lit room and he forced himself to smile. “I rather like the name Gladys. I think it sounds sophisticated.” Freddie walked into the room leant against the window frame for a moment before he straightened up and started to pace the room with a restlessness.
“I told them you were dead, in the river, just like you said. They believed me. They took the diamond and said they would keep up their end of the bargain.” His thumb absently found the wedding ring that was on his right hand and twisted it around, subconsciously checking it was still there, that he hadn’t imagined the whole thing. The thought of the severed hand conjured up in his mind and he bit back nausea that rose in his throat.
“You’re tired,” He said registering her yawn, “You should sleep. We will need to get you clothes and some alcohol for that hand tomorrow but we can deal with it in the morning.” Freddie glanced at the bed and then back at Lillian, seeing the obvious problem. When they had arrived at the hotel he had been so hurried to get them somewhere private that he used the ‘marriage’ card. Now, for the first time in his life, he felt unsure about sharing a bed with a woman. Realising that she would probably feel much more apprehensive than he did, Freddie decided he would sleep on the floor. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t tease her before that.
Freddie started to unbutton his shirt and shrugged it off, placing it on the small dresser. He looked at her and raised an eyebrow.
“Come on kitten, you can’t very well sleep in that dress now, can you? I promise to try to keep to my side of the bed.” He smiled at her, pure charm, and moved his hands to his belt. It shouldn’t have been appropriate to make such jokes at a time like that. He wouldn’t have been Frederick Lester if he hadn’t used their sleeping arrangement as an opportunity.
Frederick wondered if it hadn’t been Lillian, would things have worked out the same way that night. She had been the one to give up the diamond, she hadn’t attacked him or ran to tell the police about him. His sister was safe because of her, because she gave up her chance at freedom, believing that Freddie could help her.
Lillian’s expression was nothing but amused at the reaction Frederick had to her cutting open her hand. “Be careful, it almost looked like you cared.” She said with a smirk as she watched him take the shoe from her hand. She might have guessed that he would come out with something wildly inappropriate and in true Lester fashion he did there and then. “Oh Mr Lester, the [I last] thing I want to do is take my dress off around you.” She said with a smile just as he inspected her hand. It wasn’t exactly an ideal situation to be in. They were in an unfamiliar hotel with only the clothes on their back and now she had a cut on her hand that they had no way to properly clean yet. It could wait a while because now they just needed the exchange to be done.
Lillian nodded as he began to make his way towards the door and she followed him so that she could lock it as instructed. When his form disappeared out of sight she closed the door and made sure that it was locked before turning around and pressing her back against the door. She was filled with nerves now. Something could go wrong and they might not believe him if he was not convincing enough but then he had been so convincing around her earlier that night. She could only hope that their employers would stay true to their word and that Frederick’s payment, whatever it may be meant that he could help her now.
She had thought about using this time to disappear now. Lillian had wondered whether she needed Frederick’s help at all since she would have to survive on her own at some point. However, she knew that realistically she needed a little more than to just disappear into the night and she would not get very far on foot and for her to disappear she needed to go far away from here. She pushed herself away from the door and made her way into the bathroom so that she could start to clean herself up. She was still covered in dirt from throwing herself from the window. After she washed herself down she took the hair grips out of her hair and let if fall in loose curls to her shoulders.
Now she made her way back into the bedroom she caught sight of her reflection in the mirror and for a moment she stood and looked at herself. She was no longer the same person and she wondered how long it would take her to get back to the woman she was before all of this happened; before she was forced to work for employers who had asked her to do unspeakable things. Lillian forced herself to look away from the mirror and started to make her way towards the bed, laying down on it and staring up at the ceiling. Exhaustion was taking over but she could not go to sleep yet. She might even have to sleep in the car if Frederick decided that they should go the minute he returned. That is, [I if] he returned.
The exchange did not take as long as Lillian expected and shortly there was a knock at the door causing her to sit up straight but she did not approach the door until she heard Frederick’s voice through it. Even though it was an involuntary response. She felt relief swim over her as she made her way towards the door and unlocked it. Lillian almost laughed at his greeting but shook her head as she opened the door. “We really should think more carefully about our names.” She said as a yawn escaped her.
Freddie’s smile only widened as she complained about her fake name. It was the name of his childhood horse and in a way, Lillian reminded him of her. Pretty to look at but willing to kick you hard enough to crack a few ribs. He would not tell her that, despite being willing enough to walk into a fight with a group of armed men, he did not fancy getting on the bad side of the little beauty in front of him. Instead, he focused on her name.
“Lillian, that’s pretty. Like the flower or the actress.”
It was almost too quick for Freddie to register, one moment she was suggesting that she hit him multiple times and the next her fist came into contact with his face. He took a staggered step back, more from the shock than the force of her hitting him. Freddie had not believed she would actually punch him and she was much stronger than he had anticipated. He lifted his hand to his face and rubbed his jaw, wiggling it a bit to check she had not done any damage more than the red imprint that would soon turn into a bruise.
“I think just once will be enough. Let us not get carried away now, kitten.” He said and walked into the joining washroom to check that she had done enough to seem convincing.
His jaw was red and only getting darker by the second. His hair was a mess and his shirt had a few tugs and dirt smudges from their window jumping activities anyway. Freddie turned to walk back into the room just as she sliced her hand open.
“Christ woman! What the heck do you think you’re doing?” He walked over to her about to drag her to the wash basin but she was letting the blood stain her shoe. He caught on quickly what she was doing and as she spoke it made sense. Dumping her in the river meant they would not have to produce a body and the shoe covered in her blood would be enough proof without giving away too much. After all, they were not supposed to know they were employed by the same person anyway.
He watched her rip the bottom of her dress and he shook his head, rolling his eyes.
“If you wanted to take your dress off you should have just said, you didn’t need to cut your hand over it.” The corner of his mouth turned up, a playful comment again to take the edge off. He took the shoe from her and took her hand in his own, turning her palm up to check her mishap bandage. He would need to get something to clean the wound with otherwise it would risk infection, especially as her dress was far from clean. She would also need new clothes if she were to get away without drawing suspicion.
“I won’t be long, hopefully.” He lifted the shoe and waved with it then picked up her purse, tucking it under his arm. “Wish me luck, don’t miss me too much and lock the door behind me.” He said and left the room. Getting out of the hotel was easier than it should have been and Freddie couldn’t help but wonder how many people had left the hotel with bloody shoes undetected before? He drove the short distance to the meeting and could see someone waiting for him by the docks.
The silhouette turned out to be the person he had spoken to once before, a young man with a more than sinister look to his face. Freddie walked over to him but stopped keeping a distance. He threw the shoe at the man, watching him watch it without flinching. Clearly, blood didn’t bother this man.
“She got in my way.” He said, watching the other male eye him with a distrust. He took in the bruising red mark on his jaw and his state of dishevelment. Freddie inhaled slowly trying to remove the fear in his voice. “I don’t take kindly to people who get in my way. Nor do I appreciate you sending someone to take over if I messed up. I’m a freaking Lester, we don’t make mistakes.” He said and held out the diamond that had been moved from the purse to his pocket, for the man to take.
“Where is her body?” He said simply, checking the diamond over in his hands. Freddie thought back to what Lillian had said and he rolled his shoulders, trying to seem as nonchalant as possible. “I dumped her in the river. I couldn’t have someone finding her, it would look bad for me.” He paused and then decided to push the boundaries. “Why? Was she important to you?” He said, narrowing his eyes at the man. The man put the diamond in his jacket pocket and raised his hand in a strange motion, signalling for the boat to collect him.
“She owed us a debt but that’s been paid in blood. I should thank you.” The man said, smiling at Freddie with a cruel smirk. If he had less patience, less self-control he may have hit the man, but the deal was almost over and so he said nothing, only put his hands in his pockets.
“We are done.” The man said and nodded to Freddie. It was that easy? The months of fear and anxiety all washed away with this man’s say so?
“My sister?” Freddie said, keeping his voice even. The man nodded again and threw something wrapped in brown paper at Freddie. He hesitated a moment before moving forward to pick up and open the parcel. It was a severed hand, one wearing the wedding ring that belonged to his sister’s husband. Freddie swallowed the bile rising in his throat and took the ring off the hand, loathing the feel of dead skin against his own. He slid the ring onto his right hand and dropped the parcel onto the deck.
“I didn’t pay for the hand, just the ring and my sister. I expect her to be home tomorrow, unaware of what has happened. That was our deal” He said and turned away, making his way back to the hotel.
Once back he knocked on the door and pressed his face close to the wood so he could call through. “Gladys my love, it’s your husband”
Within a matter of minutes the car started to move again now that they had some kind of solution. They just had to figure out the details now and they were running out of time with every second they spent sat stationary in the car. Lillian kept hold of the diamond and they drove and they remained in silence for the rest of the journey. He seemed to settle on a hotel quickly but she barely took notice of the kind of the place they were staying at. She had stayed in her fair share of questionable establishments and this would not phase her. Perhaps this would be her life now and she would have to get used to it anyway.
When they stopped she looked towards him and watched as he face changed from serious to cocky. His smile alluded to the Frederick she had met in the first instance; the Frederick who might have seduced her successfully if the two of them did not have ulterior motives. Lillian let out a frustrated sigh and she shook her head towards him as he helped her out of the car. “Oh no, I’m so disappointed.” Her tone was laced with sarcasm and her expression echoed the same. They walked arm-in-arm towards the hotel. “Is this really necessary?” She asked before she understood that the only way they would be getting a room was if they fabricated a relationship. Why else would a man and a woman need a hotel room? Any other excuse would have looked suspicious so she simply had to play along. When he referred to her as his wife she plastered on a fake smile and told herself that she would just need to get through the night.
Before long the two were being handed the keys to a room and they disappeared quickly. To an outsider they simply looked like a tired couple who just wanted to sleep when really their urgency was due to something else entirely. When they were inside he shut the door behind her and she rolled her eyes.
“Gladys, really? I do [I not] look like a [I Gladys].” She said as she turned to face him and watched as he prepared the room. “My real name is Lillian.” She sighed in frustration. “You’re right it is going to be hard to make them believe that I am dead. They will want proof and the story needs to be clear.” Lillian watched as the man took off his jacket and watched as his expression changed into something entirely different. For what he asked next seemed to humour him deeply. Luckily, Lillian was not opposed to hitting him and she actually smiled towards him. “Of course you can’t.”
Lillian thought for a moment before moving towards him, dropping the bag on the bed and clenching her fist. “I might have to hit you more than once to leave a mark on the [I perfect] face of yours.” She said just as she allowed her fist to collide with his face. This was not the first time she had hit someone but usually it was on the order of those who had taken control of her life. It felt good to let out some of her frustration and she did not shy away from letting the pleasure spread across her face in the form of a smile. Lillian looked him over and saw that his jaw was beginning to redden. “Do you think I need to hit you again or will that do the job?” She laughed slightly before starting to think about how they might prove she was dead.
She reached into her bag and pulled out and knife and sat down on the bed. “You should tell them you dumped my body in the river. That way they won’t look for me.” She said as she pulled the blade over her hand, clenching her teeth slightly to stop herself from crying out in pain. When there was enough blood she reached down to take off one of her shoes, knowing that the blood would stain the silk material of it. Lillian held her hand here for a minute, trying to ignore the throbbing that came from the cut on her hand and when she was satisfied there was enough blood to constitute a murder she ripped off the bottom of her dress and wrapped it around her hand.
“Here, this might go some way to proving you killed me.” She said as she rose from her bed and held out the shoe for him to take.
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