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Heart Of Stone

Chapter Text

It was a beautiful summer day in Saint Denis. The wind was blowing softly giving a chill to a young lady, who was standing on her balcony, focusing on finishing her latest painting. There was a buzz in the streets, but she was too busy to notice. It was her moment. Only she and the canvas while nothing else mattered to her.

A strand of blond hair fell on her face as she turned around suddenly when she heard the sound of a firing weapon. Another day in Saint Denis she thought, returning to work and ignoring the sounds of the fight. But with a name like mine, I will be just fine.

However, after a long while, the street noise started to upset her. Annoyed, she put down the brush and went inside, closing the door behind her. It was very hot, even though she was only wearing a thin, embroidered dress. She laid down on the bed and tried to relax when her peace was interrupted by someone knocking at the door.

“Miss Valerie?” A male voice asked when the doors were opened. “Your uncle told me to tell you that he wants to see you tonight. È importante.”

“Mr Jones, you know how much I hate when you talk to me in Italian.” She said without getting up from the bed. “And according to you, everything my uncle says is important… Anyway, just tell him I will be there.”

“Yes, ma’am.” The man disappeared, leaving the door ajar.

Valerie sighed grimly. She was tired of constantly following orders from her uncle. However, that was the price for the protection he provided. And whether she liked it or not there was no other way, but accept it. She closed her eyes almost immediately fell asleep, temporarily shutting off all the problems she had.

The rest of the day passed calmly. The sun was setting when she left the residence and went to the park near her house as she still had some time before meeting her uncle. There were a few people strolling around out there, but it was much quieter than in the morning when the city was full of merchants, passengers and criminals who were just waiting for their opportunity to rob someone. In the afternoon, Saint Denis was getting calmer, preparing itself for another exciting night. This city never slept and at night it became extremely vivid.

She walked along the path when she noticed a man sitting under a tree. He stood out among the men present in the park. He sat there focused, sketching something in his journal without taking his eyes off the page. At the same time, Valerie’s eyes were drawn to the blue plaid shirt he was wearing and the hat that was covering the upper part of his face. What an unusual view. She approached him uncertainly, guided by curiosity and glanced at what he was drawing. The stranger raised his head unexpectedly and looked at her, laughing under his breath.

“Do you know that it’s rude to watch someone like that?“ He asked.

“I-I’m sorry, I–.” Valerie managed to say before her cheeks turned red. “I didn’t mean to offend you, I… You have a great talent.”

“And how can you possibly know that?” The man chuckled, took off his hat then looked at her with his blue eyes.

“I’m interested in art, and sometimes… I paint myself. It calms me down a lot.”

“Oh, I see.” He replied. “What’s your name, miss?”

“Valerie.” She smiled at him. “Valerie Bronte.”

“I’m Arthur. Arthur Morgan.” He said smiling back at her. “Pleasure to meet you, miss Valerie.”

There was something extraordinary about Valerie that instantly brought Arthur’s attention to her. He couldn’t have thought exactly what it was. At first, he wanted to tell her off but as soon as she started speaking, everything has changed. The gentle beauty of the girl was captivating, making him suddenly forget about the whole world. It has been a long time since he felt like this. It’s been a long time since he actually felt something different than anger and grief.

Arthur closed his journal and moved aside, making a free spot beside him.

“Wanna sit down, miss?” He asked, his hand pointing at the place next to him.

“Oh, sure…” She replied, sitting down and leaning her back against the tree. “But please, don’t call me miss. I’m just Valerie.”

“Valerie, it is.” He looked at her and then ahead, scratching his neck. “So what are you doing in Saint Denis?”

“I live here. But from what I can see you’re not from here, right?”

“Yeah, you’re right. I’m not.”

“So what are you doing here, Arthur?”

“Well, I can just say I’m new to this place.” He said. “But clearly I don’t belong here.”

“Me neither.” She sighed, pulling her knees to herself and leaning her head against it. “This place overwhelms me. Makes me feel like I was in a cage. I didn’t choose to live here, but here I am. Living the life I’ve never wanted to have.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s a long story. A story that is not worth ruining a beautiful evening like this one, for sure. But to satisfy your curiosity, let me just say that the life you see here, in that city… It’s an illusion. All those perfect people, dressed in exclusive dresses and suits… Oh, those people… And their beautiful lies.”

“Aren’t you one of them?” Arthur pointed out, making his partner smile shyly.

“I am. That’s why I see it’s all just one big game.” She agreed. “And it scares me. Makes me feel like an incredibly lonely person, Arthur.”

“I’m so sorry you feel this way.” It was the only thing that came to Arthur’s mind. He didn’t expect that such a beautiful girl could feel lonely, even though she was surrounded by so many people. And probably even more suitors.

“You don’t need to.” She shrugged. “I guess… That’s the way things are.”

The sun has already gone down, leaving the darkness behind, illuminated only by the street lights. Out of sudden, she reminded herself of her uncle who was probably already waiting for her.

“Oh, crap.” She murmured out of sudden, quickly getting up from the ground and smoothing her skirt in a rush. “I’m sorry I completely forgot about something important. I have to go…”

“Hey, wait up!” Arthur stood up right after her and managed to grab her hand, stopping her from running away without even saying goodbye. “You shouldn’t walk alone after dark.”

“I will be okay.” Valerie was getting nervous with every second passing, knowing her uncle would not be pleased that she made him wait for her. “I live in this big house around the corner, you must’ve seen in on your way here.”

“Okay.” Arthur smirked. “Then I guess I'll see you later?”

“Yes, sure.” She had said before her hand slipped out of his and walked away, leaving Arthur alone under the tree. “I will see you.”

A few seconds later she disappeared from his sight, her silhouette slowly fading away in the darkness of the streets of Saint Denis. Arthur picked up a journal from the ground and went to his horse, which stood in front of the entrance to the park. Suddenly the streets became quieter, a few people rushed by trying to get home after a long day of work or other duties.

He stood there for a moment and a small laugh escaped his mouth when he realized he couldn’t wait for the next time he sees that mysterious girl. Indeed, she was a mystery, a puzzle he would intend to solve. But not today, he thought. And with that in mind, he mounted his horse and rode away, leaving the city lights behind.

Chapter Text

The Angelo’s cabinet was spacious. By the walls there were wooden shelves with books, the mahogany desk was placed by the window, and in the middle of the room, there was a burgundy sofa with golden ornaments on its ends. In the night, the only source of light was a candle which flame illuminated the darkness of the room.

Dove sei stata?” Valerie has just entered the room when she heard her uncle’s enraged voice.

Nel parco.” She replied, closing the door behind her. “Spiacente, zio.“

“I do not care about your apologies, bambina.” The man got up from the desk and slowly approached the girl who was trembling with fear, her fists clenched.

Before she could explain herself, his hand abruptly hit her cheek, leaving a burning, red mark on her flawless skin. Valerie didn’t move a muscle, humbly accepting a blow to her face. She knew that any kind of opposition would only enrage him more, so despite the humiliation, she’s just experienced, she didn’t say a word.

Ottimo.” Angelo said like he just forgot about the situation that took place a few seconds ago.“You must be wondering why I wanted to see you, Valerie. I need you to attend the party I am organising in two days… I need everyone to see how beautiful my niece is. How happy she is being a member of the Bronte family.”

For what? Lies. Terrible lies. The game she had to play never ended. There were days when she hoped she wasn’t born as Bronte. That name got her a position and protection but the cost she had to pay for it was often too high. Yet, there was no other option. She was obliged to forget about the remnants of dignity that she possessed and carried on playing this sick game of her uncle.

Valerie faked her smile and nodded, trying not to reveal the real emotions that she had in herself.

Naturalmente.” It was hard for her to keep her face straight. “Anything else?”

“No. That’s all I want from you.” He said calmly. “Comportati bene, Valerie. Non deludermi.

As he finished speaking, the door suddenly opened and Mr Jones stood in the entrance, his arms folded. Angelo nodded at him, giving him permission to take his niece back to her house. Valerie never wondered why Bronte didn’t want her living with him in one house. In fact, it was a better solution for her as she didn’t have to see his face on a daily basis and all important messages from him were passed on to her by his associates.

Buona notte.” She said emotionlessly and joined Mr Jones on her walk home.

It was late when they went outside of Bronte’s mansion and started walking down the street. They keep walking until they stopped in front of her big white house. It was the mayor’s house, but since Bronte owned the whole city it was also his house. It was up to Angelo to decide where his niece was supposed to live.

Mr Jones turned his face towards Valerie’s. He had been staring at the mark on it for a moment before he asked:

“Why do you let him hurt you like that, Valerie?” 

“What other option do I have, Mr Jones?” She fired back, shaking her head. “My uncle is a cruel man… But he’s my family. He… protects me.” 

“Protects you?” The man chuckled ironically. “That’s what you call protection? Besides, please, call me Bennet. No need to be official since I’ve been calling you by your name from the day I met you… 8 years ago? Though I never really had an opportunity to introduce myself properly… Look at you know. I remember you as a teenage girl, now… You’re a woman.”

“Yes, I remember. We met the year my mother passed away…” Valerie smiled, feeling the tears coming to her light blue eyes. “I was just sixteen back then. Later you went to Italy… Though I won’t hide, it was a wonderful time without my uncle in Saint Denis.”

“Indeed,” Bennet replied. “Now when I’m back I can’t watch the way he treats you. You don’t deserve that and he… He has changed. He’s not the man I met a long time ago…”

“No, he’s always been an awful person.” Valerie pointed, a small laugh escaped her mouth. “Any kind of disobedience ended like that. But no one ever noticed. No one would have believed me If I say a bad word on him. It was easier to hide, I guess.”

Valerie opened the gate and sneaked through it, closing it behind her and looked at Mr Jones with eyes filled with grief.

“I guess from that point I’ll go home alone.” She said.

The man nodded approvingly and left. Without losing time, Valerie went inside the house and took the stairs to her bedroom. She slammed the door behind her and leaned her back against them, bursting into tears. No one would hear her crying, no one would see her hurting. She was on her own, feeling lonely as never. Nobody to count on, nobody to seek help from. It was a trap. A trap she couldn’t find the escape from.

The morning came, making her feel slightly better than last night. Her eyes were swollen from crying, but there was no sign of the red mark on her cheek. Valerie got up from her bed and approached the mirror that stood in the corner of the room, near the door. She looked at her reflection and tilted her head, watching it closely. She didn’t change her clothes since last night and clearly needed a warm bath. Her body was slim, but she was not a very tall person, but no one could say that she was short. Her blonde hair was reaching to the half to her shoulder blades, naturally emphasizing her beauty. She tied them in a bun with a hairpin and left the room to prepare a bath for herself.

When Valerie finished her morning pleasures, such as taking a long bath and reading on her balcony, the sun was already high in the sky and the morning mist covering the city has already fallen down. She dressed in another of her favourite embroidered dresses. This one was red with a beautiful flower pattern on its edge. Then she loosened her bun, letting strands of hair fall on her exposed arms before she brushed it properly.

She went outside and after talking to a few servants who were taking care of a beautiful garden around the house, she sat down on the stairs, looking ahead and enjoying the sounds of the streets.

~~~

Arthur Morgan was just coming to Saint Denis, nervous and excited at the same time. Deep inside, he was hoping he would see this alluring girl, he met the day before but at the same time, he didn’t want to give himself great hopes. This was a big city and she could have been anywhere. Nevertheless, he took his first steps towards her house, the one she had pointed to him yesterday before she left. He had nothing to lose. If there was a chance that she would be in there, it was worth a try.

He tied his horse to a post near the gate to her house. Never before had Arthur seen such a big property and he started wondering if he hadn’t misunderstood her earlier. However, after a moment he noticed her sitting on the stairs that were leading to the door, sad and thoughtful.

He went through the gate and slowly approached the girl. When she noticed him, she smiled brightly, instantly changing her mood.

“Oh, Mister Morgan.” She said, giving him her hand. He squeezed it gently and returned the smile.

“Miss Bronte.”

“It’s so good to see you,” Valerie remarked. “I was hoping you would come.”

“It wasn’t easy, but I managed.”

“I’m glad you did. Please, join me.”

“In what?”

“At the back of this house is a gazebo, right next to the lake. We could talk there, away from the prying eyes of my neighbours.” She stood up and lead the way that Arthur instantly followed. He couldn’t understand why he was doing it, why he unconsciously wanted to spend time with a girl he barely knew, but it didn’t stop him from following her to the place she mentioned.

The gazebo was round, made of wood and surrounded by beautiful, blooming flowers. Valerie sat on the bench with her face turned toward the lake. Arthur joined her and looked at her stealthily. For a long moment, they sat in silence while Arthur admired her beauty. He didn’t remember when he last met a girl so beautiful and subtle, who was moving with such lightness and grace. He could only dream that ever a woman like her would pay attention to him, but at that moment she was right beside him, her dreamy eyes looked far ahead, and he wondered if this was a dream. He was a bad man and there was no way good things could appear in his life.

“Arthur?” Her soft voice interrupted his thoughts.

“Yes?”

“I’m really glad you came.” She looked at him discreetly and blushed as he caught her staring at him.

“Pleasure is all mine.” He replied. “I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t sneak on me yesterday.”

“I didn’t –” She tried to explain herself. “I didn’t sneak… I just glanced, ugh!”

“Oh, you did.” Arthur laughed under his breath. “It’s was very bold of you to approach a stranger. An armed stranger.”

“I noticed you have two revolvers on both sides of your legs. I’ve seen guns before.” Valerie pointed. “But somehow I was sure you wouldn’t hurt me. The moment you looked at me I saw the good in your eyes. Thought that you’re a good man.”

“I need to disappoint you, but I’m not. I’m far from being good.”

“I’ve seen bad guys in my life, Arthur.” She said as their eyes met again. “But I also have seen good guys. Of course, there are less good guys than bad ones, but still… I would never tell you’re the bad one.”

Arthur didn’t know what to reply, so he kept staring at her, his mouth slightly opened in shock. For all his life he’s been feeding himself with a thought that he couldn’t be good. He would never be good even if he tried. It was out of his reach. However, in one moment that certainty was destroyed by the words of one girl. Maybe deep inside he was good? At least he wanted to believe there was still hope for him.

“Did I say something wrong?” Valerie asked, seeing the concentration on his face.

“Nah, it’s me,” Arthur replied, shaking his head. “I’m not used to people telling me I’m a good person. That’s it.”

“Oh, I understand.” She paused for a moment. “That’s a shame. I just wanted to ask you to do me a favour.”

“What kind of favour?” His lifted his one brown, interested in her request.

“I know we barely know each other, but… Would you consider joining me at the party my uncle organizes this week?” She asked. “To be clear, it’s nothing obliging.”

“Do you really think it’s a good idea?” Arthur sighed. “We barely know each other.”

“Well, we can get to know each other.” Valerie smiled and Arthur was sure her fingertips touched his on purpose. “In a company of a few good drinks and the elite of Saint Denis.”

“Interesting… Keep talking.”

“It won’t be long. I just need to be there for my uncle. I have to show up, make other people see me and we can go.”

“Alright… You got me at a few good drinks.” Arthur smiled as he saw her face lighten up with a grin.

“It means a world to me, Arthur. Thank you so much.”

She’s so different. Different than any girl he used to have before. For a short moment, it crossed his mind that maybe she was the one he’s been looking for all his life. A reason why the other relationships didn’t work out. Maybe it was a sign? Maybe he should try again? He wanted to give himself another chance, he wanted to do that - but a part of him was scared. Scared of rejection and an eventually broken heart. But for these eyes… This smile… He was willing to try.

Chapter Text

There is this thing about love, it always hits us when we least expect it. Always catches us off guards, making us do things we normally wouldn’t have thought of. And Arthur… Oh, he wasn’t ready to feel this weird feeling again, after all these years of feeling nothing, but pain. However, he couldn’t do anything to stop his heart from racing every time he looked at her. Valerie appeared in his life so unexpectedly and was someone so kind, so pure, so different from other girls he used to know before her. She smiled and looked at him with her light blue eyes and he forgot about all the world around him. There was an unspoken connection between them from the day they met. It was something odd for him - something he has never really experienced before. How could someone, who he hardly knew, mess with his mind so much?

The change in his behaviour was quickly noticed by Hosea when Arthur got back to Clements Point happier than ever. He used to come back from his journeys angry or in a neutral mood, so seeing him smiling from ear to ear was something Hosea wasn’t expecting. Immediately, it made him wonder what must’ve happened to Arthur, the man he treated like his own son, to make him so happy he didn’t care about Micah antagonising him for all day long. He was waiting for the right moment to ask him about this rapid change in his mood and behaviour when he noticed Arthur sitting under the tree, as usual, drawing something in his diary.

“Where have you been, boy?” He approached slowly him and asked, leaning his arm against a tree. “And what happened to you that you’re smiling from ear to ear like a youngster?“

He didn’t reply at first, absorbed in a drawing he was working on. Hosea crouched and looked over his shoulder, making Arthur flinch, startled by his presence.

“Fuck, Hosea, you can’t just sneak on other people like that!” Arthur said, looking up from his journal.

“I didn’t sneak on you, I asked you a question but you didn’t reply.” He said in his defence. “The girl you were drawing before I interrupted… She’s really pretty. Who is she?”

Arthur shook his head in response and a short laugh escaped his mouth.

“I ain’t gonna talk about it with you, Hosea. My teenage years are long gone.”

“Are they? Cause you’re acting like one goddamn teenage boy, Arthur.” Hosea said, joining him under the tree. “Spill it. What’s her name?”

“Valerie.” Arthur sighed, knowing he would never win with Hosea’s stubbornness. “I met her a few days ago in Saint Denis.”

“What were you doing in there?” He kept going with his questions. Old, curious man.

“I simply wanted to check if there is anything to be enchanted about.“

“Looks like there is.” Hosea chuckled, looking again at Arthur’s drawing. “She looks pretty young.”

“I guess, it’s because she is young.”

“Oh, Arthur. Be careful there. Young girls like her… They can be sweet and bitter at the same time. And might not give you what you really want at the same time.” He said and shrugged, but Arthur knew exactly what he was trying to say. “I really like to see you this happy, Arthur, just… Watch out.”

Hosea knew exactly how much Arthur was hurt the last time he fell in love. He remembered how much it broke him and how long it took for him to move on, though he always claimed he was just fine. Even though he clearly wasn’t.

“Ah, I will be fine, Hosea.” He assured him, closing his journal then standing up. “I don’t care about this nonsense. You don’t know her.”

“Do you?” He asked. “Hey, where are you going?”

“Someone’s waiting for me in Saint Denis, Hosea.” Arthur replied before he mounted his horse and rode off, leaving Hosea alone under the tree. The heart is not a servant. This Hosea knew that too well.

~~~

Valerie couldn’t stop thinking of the mysterious man she met the other day in the park. This feeling was something new to her as she has never felt that way before. She couldn’t get her thoughts off Arthur and spent almost a whole day thinking about him, counting minutes till she would see him again.

The sun was already going down when Valerie eventually finished making her hair. Suddenly, her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of knocking. She put the comb back on the desk and looked at the mirror again, making sure she looked good. She chose to wear a cream-coloured lace dress with a cut-out neckline that was revealing a piece of her breast. The dress was unusual itself, standing out from the others usually worn by women, but so was Valerie. One of her kind.

She quickly ran down the stairs to open the door. Arthur was standing in the entrance and she clearly didn’t expect him to put so much effort into his look as she opened her mouth from an impression he made on her. He was dressed in a white shirt on which he put a burgundy vest and dark grey jacket that was matching the colour of his pants and shoes.

“Hi, Arthur.” Valerie managed to say, smiling shyly.

“Hey, I… You look beautiful.”

“You don’t look too bad either.” She teased him. “Thank you one more time for coming. I really appreciate it.”

“Yeah, please, it’s nothing.” He said, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. “Are you ready or…?”

“Oh, yes.” She nodded and closed the door behind her.

“So, where does this party take place?” Arthur asked her when she joined him on their way.

“Well, actually it’s a charity party. My uncle really wants to show he runs this city the best way possible.” She replied, holding his arm so they were walking pretty close to each other. “It takes place in the public park near here. But don’t worry it will take just an hour or two and you’re free to go.”

“Do you want to get rid of me this fast?” He chuckled.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” She laughed. “I thought you’re not into high society’s parties. Besides, I don’t want to risk and let these monsters eat you alive.”

Arthur smirked and looked at the girl who was walking by his side. She pulled him closer to her instinctively when they arrived at the party. Many people were already there, drinking champagne and chatting in their inner circles. Some of the women present there glanced at them both, surprised as Valerie Bronte showed up for the first time with a partner.

Before they entered in, Arthur handed over his guns then grabbed two glasses of champagne from a servant.

“Are you okay?” He asked her when she took her glass from him. “Valerie?”

“Yeah.” She replied but her eyes were looking for someone in the crowd. “It’s weird, but my uncle is not here yet. It’s unusual… He should be here.”

“At least you don’t have to worry about him now.” Arthur placed a hand on her cheek and turned her head gently, so she focused on him. “In the meantime,  let’s have some fun. Shall we?”

She nodded and raised her glass in order to make a toast. “Here’s to… a pleasant evening. Cheers.”

However the fun didn’t last long. Valerie had to leave Arthur for a while to fill duties for her uncle, who didn’t show up for the rest of the evening. One hour turned into three while Arthur was still keeping an eye on her and the amount of alcohol she was consuming. He didn’t mind it until he noticed she’s had enough for the night.

“Valerie, are you okay?” He asked when she leaned on his shoulder. “I think you’ve had enough…”

“Really?” She giggled, ignoring strangers looking in their direction. “Oh, come on, Arthur. You wanted me to have fun, didn’t you?”

“Let’s get you out of here, beautiful.” He took her hand and dragged her out of the crowd. “This party’s over for you. You’ve done enough for your uncle, now let’s do something for you.”

They started walking back the same way they were going earlier, but this time they didn’t exchange a sentence as Valerie needed a moment to cool down and sober a little. They eventually stopped right in front of her house and stood there in awkward silence for a while. The night was cold so Valerie shivered uncontrollably as the dress she was wearing wasn’t thick enough to keep her warm enough.

“Here, take it,” Arthur said and took off his jacket then helped her put in on.

“Thank you.” She whispered and instinctively reached out for his hand. Surely, it was the alcohol speaking through her, but at that moment she didn’t mind it. “Would you like to come inside?”

“Val…”

“Come on.” She came closer to him. “I don’t want to be alone.”

Isn’t it a weird coincidence that every time a heart says yes, a brain says no? Arthur knew it would be better if he rejected Valerie’s offer and headed straight back to camp, but a part of him wanted to stay with her. And this night, that part has won.

“Alright.” He said and let her guide him upstairs, right to her room. It was a middle of the night and a party that was supposed to last two hours turned out to last longer than anyone expected, so everyone in the mansion was already sleeping. There was no risk that someone would catch them together, sneaking through long hallways of the house.

They entered her bedroom and quietly closed the door behind them. A burning candle in the corner of the room was illuminating Valerie’s face when she took off Arthur’s jacket and put it on the chair, then laid herself down on the bed.

Arthur sat down at the edge of her bed, which was big enough for at least two people to sleep in. She raised herself up and before he could protest she sat comfortably on his knee and put her hands around his neck. The tip of her nose rubbed his cheek, bringing their lips close to each other. Her breath smelled alcohol, but the only thing Arthur could think about was how desperately he wanted to kiss her. So when she slightly parted her lips, he couldn’t hold himself back any longer and kissed her gently, letting out a short groan when she bit his bottom lip teasingly in return. Suddenly he remembered the conversation he had with Hosea earlier and stopped kissing her, pulling away to give them both some space.

“What’s wrong?” She asked confused. “Did I do something wrong? I’m so sorry, I… Damn.”

“Valerie…” He sighed. “You did nothing wrong.”

“Then what happened?”

“I… I can’t believe such a beautiful girl wants to kiss me.” Arthur shook his head and looked down. “I don’t want to get my hopes high, I… don’t deserve you.”

“Arthur…” She cupped his face and made him look at her. “You’re talking silly.”

“I’m not. Look at you. You’re so young…” He huffed. “Why such a young, pretty girl would want someone like me?”

“Why wouldn’t I? You’re an incredibly handsome and good man.” She caressed his bottom lip with her thumb. “I don’t care about your age, about things you’ve done in your life… I don’t even think of it.”

“Valerie… I don’t want you to do something you will regret in the morning.”

“There’s nothing I could do to regret it in the morning…” She smiled at him, showing her white teeth.

“You don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, beautiful.”

“I do.”

“You don’t —” Her lips touched his and stopped him from talking. He wanted to pull away, but despite all the doubts he had, it felt so right. One of his hands wandered under the material of her dress and ended up on her thigh while the other one rested on her waist. He lifted her slightly and laid her on the back, without breaking the kiss. This one was more passionate than the previous one and as they finished Arthur laid down beside Valerie, giving him and her some space. She crawled closer to him and placed her head on his shoulder, hugging him tightly.

“Arthur?” She whispered suddenly.

“Hmm?” He hummed, caressing her cheek with a free hand.

“Thank you for that…”

“It was a pleasure.”He said and pecked her forehead. “I think you need some sleep, beautiful.”

“Oh, I guess you’re right.” She yawned and closed her eyes.

Arthur was watching her fall asleep before he unbuttoned his vest and shirt to make himself more comfortable. The girl was sleeping by his side and kept him distracted and unable to sleep. Maybe it was too fast, maybe he really shouldn’t have agreed to stay with her. But when she murmured his name through her sleep, Arthur was sure that he did the right thing.

~~~

Valerie woke up a few hours later with a terrible headache, though the memories she had from the night remained untouched. She opened her eyes and soon realized Arthur wasn’t by her side anymore. Her eyes wandered around her bedroom and saw him sitting on the chair next to the easel, near the half-opened balcony door.

“Good morning.” She said and got up from the bed, realising she was still wearing the dress from yesterday. “Please, never let me drink this much again. I look awful and feel horrible.”

“You always look stunning.” He turned around, so she could see his muscled torso under his unbuttoned shirt. “A little bit tired today, but still…”

“Yeah, sure,” Valerie smirked and approached him from behind, placing her hands on his shoulders. She squeezed them and Arthur leaned his head back, closing his eyes in pain and pleasure at the same time. “Try to relax.”

When she finished, she leaned down and kissed him gently, making him grin. He was worried she was too drunk to remember events from last night, but when her lips touched his in a passionate kiss for one more time, he was sure she remembered it all.

“I may have had too many glasses of champagne yesterday…” She murmured, looking at him from above. “But if I didn’t, would we be together today?”

“Guess we’ll never know.” Arthur chuckled but got serious after a moment as there was one question bothering him. “Do you regret anything?”

“Not even a single thing.” Valerie replied.

Before Arthur could say anything more, they were interrupted by someone’s knocking at the door. He looked at Valerie then got up and quickly put on his vest and jacket, took his guns and escaped through the balcony in no time. Meanwhile, Valerie smoothened her dress and made up her hair and with a stone cold face, she opened the door.

“Uncle?”

“Where were you last night, ragazza?” He asked calmly at first just to shout at her later. “Rispondetemi!”

“At your charity party… But you weren’t there, zio.” She stammered, scared of her uncle’s wrath. “I was there until midnight, then…”

“Then you disappeared! Even though I asked you to be there for me!” Angelo bellowed and took a step towards Valerie. “Did you have my permission to go home?”

She didn’t answer and remained still, trying to control her fear.

Si o no?!” He asked her one more time.

No.” She replied, looking down to avoid his sight. “Sono molto dispiaciuta.

No, no, no, Valerie.” He hissed, his hand grabbed and lifted up her chin. “You disobeyed me and I can’t allow that to happen.”

Unexpectedly, he hit her hard, cutting Valerie’s cheek with one of the rings he wore on his fingers. The girl collapsed on the ground and the blood covered her face. She was in shock at first, but when her hand touched the cut and she saw the red liquid on her fingers, she froze. The tears streamed down her cheeks and she started to feel the pain as Angelo stood over her and shook his head.

“Clean the blood from the floor.” He said dryly, not paying attention to what he had just done to her. “Questa è la tua ultima possibilità, Valerie.”

After these words he left the room, leaving her alone on the floor. A whine escaped her mouth as she crawled to her bed and leaned her back against it. Valerie didn’t know what to do, didn’t know who to turn to for help. It was just her against the monster her uncle was. And when she glanced in the mirror in the corner of her bedroom, she felt an unimaginable shame. How could this happen?

“Valerie…” Mr Jones appeared out of nowhere right after Angelo left. “What did he do to you…”

“No-nothing.” She murmured, covering the cut on her cheek with her hand.

“Let me help you.” The man approached her and helped her stand up. “It’s gonna be alright.”

Chapter Text

“Ouch, Bennet.” Valerie hissed when a man almost finished cleaning her cut. “That hurt.”

“Valerie, Valerie... It feels so weird to hear you calling me by name.” He smiled and put the gauze bandage away. “At least that cut of yours ain’t deep. You won’t have a scar from it, I hope.”

“Me either.” She replied then stood up and approached the mirror in the corner of her room. “I thought it would look much worse.”

“Yeah, it isn’t this bad.” Jones joined her so his reflection also appeared in the mirror, right next to hers. He was a man in his fifties, well-built and almost a head taller than she was. His hair was dark brown and his skin was almost as pale as Valerie’s. “What did you do this time?”

Valerie huffed then winced in pain as she tried to smile and moved her cheek. “I was disobedient, I guess.”

“Still, he has no right to hurt you, Valerie.”

“He’s Angelo Bronte and he rules this city.” Her brows furrowed. “Why wouldn’t he have a right to rule me too? I’ve always been just a puppet for him and you’re the one who should know it best.”

 

Indeed, Jones knew she was right, so he left her with no answer then backed off to pack things he used to patch her up back to the aid kit. The silence became overwhelming after a moment as suddenly neither of them wanted to talk about the way Bronte was treating other people.

“Hope you don't mind me asking, but... this man who was here with you last night...” He couldn’t help his curiosity and eventually, decided to ask her about it. “Who was it?”

“I do mind. Besides, I don’t have to explain myself to you.” She replied shortly as she was almost offended that he even dared to ask.

“I didn’t want you to do that...” He shrugged, pretending he didn’t care about what he just asked her. “It was just unusual to see you with someone, that’s it.”

“Sure.” She nodded, but the truth was she didn’t believe him at all. He might’ve helped her when she was in need, but still was her uncle’s associate. Valerie knew too well what that meant. Sooner or later, everything she would tell him would go straight to Angelo. “Thank you for your help and concern.”

“Always, Valerie.” The man had assured and looked at her before he left, closing the door behind him.

Valerie sighed and lied down on the bed. Almost immediately she started thinking about the night she spent with Arthur and a smile appeared on her face. She has known him for a very short time but felt something so extraordinary, something she had never felt for anyone before. All these years after her mother passed away she was on her own and at that moment when she kissed Arthur, she felt like all these years of loneliness were over. Was it possible for her to fall in love with him so fast?

The wind started to blow gently, filling her room with fresh air. Maybe it was all going to fast? Maybe last night shouldn’t have happened? What if Arthur has thought bad of her? She was the one to invite a man she barely knew to her bedroom and even though she blamed it on the amount of alcohol she had last night, it wasn’t a good excuse. She was more lucky than wise this time as Arthur seemed to be a man of honour for her; a man who would’ve never took advantage of a drunk woman. She laughed under her breath, amused by her own lack of common sense.

She got up from her bed and approached the balcony window, closing it as it was getting cold. Then she sat on the chair, the one that Arthur had been sitting on before they were interrupted, picking up the brush from the easel and dipping it in the paint, but she hesitated before she started drawing. She reminded herself of the cut on her cheek and hoped the next time she would see Arthur it will be already gone. But even she knew it wasn’t really possible.

~~~~~~~~~~

Arthur laughed under his breath as he couldn’t believe he has just escaped from Valerie’s room and jumped off the balcony. He couldn't find words to describe how exactly he felt right then. He regretted that he hadn’t kissed her one more time before he left... then another one and another, until they would find themselves into her bed again. There was no need to rush things but at the same time, he couldn’t stop thinking about her body on his, closer than they’ve ever been together so far. After all, he was just a man, ruled by natural desires for intimacy with a woman who... Right, it was too fast for him to even think like that. He was attracted to her, but couldn't have fallen in love with her... Could he? He wasn’t the type who believed in love at first sight, but neither he was the type who would escape through a balcony. As it turned out, some things could’ve changed drastically in no time.

As he was riding back to the camp all he could think about was Valerie. It just wasn’t possible for him to get her out of his mind, even though he desperately tried to focus his thoughts on something else. He had seen her a few hours ago and he was already counting hours until he would see her again. What has happened to Arthur Morgan and his heart of stone, huh? After what happened to Eliza... Mary... After what they both did to him he thought he would never fall for someone again. He promised himself that the next time he would be rational, but with Valerie... He couldn’t think straight. He didn’t even want to think straight. The feeling of happiness mixed with excitement every time he saw her was something he didn’t want to get rid of. It felt too good.

Just as Arthur got back to camp, he immediately noticed that something was wrong. He dismounted his horse and quickly joined the other gang members who have already gathered themselves around Dutch’s tent and soon realised they were talking about little Jack.

“Where’s my son, Dutch van der Linde?” Abigail bawled, looking at the man with sorrow in her eyes.

“We will find him, we will bring him back to you...” Dutch assured her, instinctively looking at Arthur. “Abigail, you have my word.”

“Just get me back my son!”

Dutch nodded and moved forward his horse, followed by other gang members who have already heard about Jack and wanted to help get him back. Suddenly the thought of Valerie became distant as it was replaced with fear and uncertainty. Who could be so crazy to kidnap a little kid? They needn’t have to look long for an answer as recently they weren’t saints either. Braithwaites. They must’ve taken Jack in payback for what the gang did to them.

In no time they were already heading to the mansion, all of them filled with anger and a need for revenge, but also with the main purpose: to get the boy back.

~~~~~~~~~~

The sun was setting down as Bennet Jones knocked on Angelo Bronte’s cabinet door, waiting for an invitation to come inside. He entered the room and closed the door behind his back then sat on one of the chairs that were placed in front of Bronte’s deck.

Angelo didn’t even turn around to look at his companion. He was sitting with his back towards the door, smoking one of his favourite cigars.

Che cazzo vuoi?” He eventually asked, his voice hoarse from the smoke.

“We have a problem, capo” Bennet replied. “Did you know about Valerie’s guest who visited her last night?”

The man chuckled in response, exhaling smoke from his lungs. “I did. What’s the matter, Bennet?”

Joseph didn’t know how to respond at first as he was surprised that Bronte knew about her niece’s guest, but did nothing about it and let him stay the night with her. “You did? That’s it? You knew and let her spend a night with him?”

“That’s what I did.”

“It wasn’t a part of the deal, Angelo.” Bennet hissed as the anger started to grow inside him. “Or somehow your deal included a random man sleeping with her in the meantime?”

“Maybe I just didn’t want my niece to end up with an old prick like you.” A small sigh escaped his mouth as he saw his comrade’s face. “Rilassati, I don’t care about that stupid girl. You can have her anytime if you really want.”

“See... I can’t. Her new friend is a problem.”

“Oh, Jones, you fool.” Angelo stood up from the chair and approached the window, turning slightly in Bennet’s direction so he could look at him. “He’s nothing to worry about, I can assure you. My men told me it’s just another dumb cowboy. I will get rid of him, but give me some time, amico. All good things are worth waiting, aren’t they?”

“Better do it quick or else...”

“Or else what?” He asked, clearly amused by Bennet’s boldness. “Remember, I can say a word and you will be gone. This time for good. So better watch your mouth.”

Bennet looked down like a dog, hiding from his owner angry sight. He got up on his feet and was almost ready to leave when Angelo approached him and patted comfortingly his shoulder. “Just do what you have to do and let me take care of the rest. Trust me, Arthur Morgan is not a problem.”

Chapter Text

What kind of a man would kidnap a child? A bad one, for sure. A man with no morals, no consciousness, no decency. A man like Angelo Bronte, even though he didn’t actually kidnap Jack, still he was the one to help Braithwaite and send him away later in the process. The clock was ticking, time was running out and eventually, Arthur decided to tell Valerie about what happened. The truth was bitter and hard to accept, even though she knew that her uncle has never been a saint.

“I can’t believe my uncle did that... I can’t believe he would be such a monster to kidnap a child, Arthur.” She sighed and sit down on the bed, letting her head rest on his shoulder. “I’m glad you told me, I really am... It’s just... I know he’s a cruel man, but this...”

“It’s a lot to process. I know... I just want your safety, alright? My friends, including the father of that boy, are pretty mad right now. I’m not quite sure how far will they move to get Jack back.”

“Do they know about me?” She asked, raising her head then looking at him. “Do they know I’m... his niece?”

Arthur sighed, searching for right words to say. There wasn’t a good time to tell anyone about her and honestly, he didn’t feel a need to share it with anyone. “I haven’t told anyone yet... about us.”

Wait, was there any of “us?” He thought and bit his tongue. You’re a fool, Morgan, one big fool. “I think I’m gonna wait for a better moment."

“Yeah, you’re right.” She replied, slowly getting up from the bed. Then she approached the window, looking blankly at the view. “I haven’t told anyone about us... yet. However, I think there’s one person who might’ve already started digging.”

“And who’s that?”

“Bennet Jones, a close associate of my uncle,” Valerie said, turning herself around to look at Arthur. “The one that helped me with that cut of mine...”

“Do you know what exactly is he looking for?” Arthur approached her, putting his arms around her waist and bringing her closer to him. “Besides, you should be more careful, beautiful. Handles can be deadly dangerous.”

Valerie smiled gently, not being sure if he really believed in her story. Hitting the balcony’s door handle? Really? But as long as he wasn’t asking any additional questions, she could live with her small lie. Was it really small? Maybe she should’ve told him the truth about her abusive uncle? But what could he do about that? There was no need to put Arthur in danger, no. She could handle this on her own... Or at least she thought so.

“They definitely can.”  She nodded then got on her toes so her lips would reach his. Arthur cupped her face and kissed her back, making her cheeks blush. He was her first man, no wonder why everything connected with him was so new and exciting for her.  “Though I’m not sure what he’s looking for... I guess he wants to know who you are and what are your connections with me.”

“Mhmm...” Arthur hummed, not letting her out of his embrace. “And what are those connections? What do you think is he going to find out?”

Valerie laughed nervously, looking down and trying to hide her abashment. Clever move, mister Morgan, but I ain’t gonna say it first, she thought. “It depends on how deep he is going to dig. Do you think he will find out something... inappropriate? “

“Oh, so that’s how we’re gonna play, Valerie” Arthur thought and a small chuckle escaped his mouth. “Maybe. I don’t know if your uncle should know that you’re seeing an outlaw instead of some fancy gentleman who regularly attends all the parties in this city.”

Touché, mister Morgan, touché.” She placed her hand on his rough from stubble cheek. “He would probably go mad if... He’d find out what this outlaw does to me.”

With a spare hand, she grabbed one of his and placed it on her bare chest, making him feel her fast beating heart. She noticed his cheeks getting slightly red as he felt her soft skin under his hand. She was glad that she chose to wear that brown low-cut dress today. “That’s what you do to me, Arthur. You don’t even have to do anything and my heart wants to rip itself out of my chest.” 

“Is that how you confess your feelings for me, miss Bronte?” He asked, watching her in awe.

“I don’t know, maybe.” She replied then winked at him teasingly. What a woman. “Anyway, I think I should help you with getting your boy back. I can be helpful if things won’t go as you planned...”

"I can’t risk anything happening to you, Valerie, so please stay out of this.” His face got serious as he really meant what he said. “It’s... Once a person close to me paid for my imprudence and I can’t... I just can’t risk your safety.”

“Okay, Arthur... I will stay out of this. You have my word.” She wasn’t even trying to argue with him. At the same time, she began to wonder who was he referring to, but it wasn’t a good moment to ask him about it.

“Good. When we will be done here I’m gonna take you somewhere, Valerie.” He said shortly, still thinking how she would react when she would see where he was planning to take her. “You really look like you needed a break from this city.”

“Oh, and where are we going?”

“It’s a surprise.”

~~~

The last rays of the sun were shining through the clouds as Arthur and Valerie were riding down the path in the woods. The night was almost there, the moon waiting for the sun to go down to take its place; the air getting colder as the wind was gently blowing.

“I’m really glad you agreed to come with me, Valerie,” Arthur spoke suddenly, breaking the silence. “It means a lot.”

“There’s no need for you to thank me.” She replied. “Since you got Jack back there’s no reason why I shouldn’t go with you. Everyone’s safe and sound, right?”

“For now.” He smirked as she turned his head to look at him and grimaced. “Don’t look at me like that. Maybe I’m paranoid, but trouble has been following us for... A while now.”

“You’re definitely paranoid, Arthur.” Valerie pointed and adjusted her position as she was sitting in the saddle in front of Arthur. “You know that if I was sitting behind you it would be more comfortable for both of us?”

“I know. But I enjoy the view much more when you’re in front of me.” Valerie smiled, feeling his chin leaning on her shoulder. “Besides, we’re almost there.”

“Arthur?”

“Yes?”

“Was there a problem with my uncle?” She asked out of nowhere.“I forgot to ask you earlier...“

Arthur sighed and took a moment to gather his thoughts before he replied. “As I told you, your uncle wasn’t the one to kidnap Jack. It was one crazy lady we messed up with not so long ago. Angelo didn’t make any problems, actually... He turned out to be a man of his word. Took care of Jack... Probably better than we ever could’ve.”

“Yeah... I’m just glad he wasn’t hurt.” She replied harshly, fighting her need to tell him the truth about Angelo. It was too soon. Besides if nothing serious happened, he didn’t have anything to worry about it.

They continued riding in silence until they eventually stop in front of a big old house. It looked rather abandoned with some of its windows broken and a neglected yard. On the right side of the house, a few tents were placed, creating a small camp. The flames of the fireplaces were shining in the darkness, illuminating space around them.

“Hi, Arthur.” Someone said as Valerie dismounted Arthur’s horse. The man looked at her precisely, his eyes scanning her from the tip of her head to the toes. Blonde hair stuck in a low bun, white shirt and brown skinny trousers matched by dark brown boots... and such a pretty face.

“Javier.” He turned around and automatically stood by Valerie like he was trying to protect her from his friend’s piercing gaze.

“Who’s that?” Javier smirked and winked at the girl. “Hermosa.

Gracias.” She replied, smiling confidently at him. “I’m Valerie and I guess you’re Javier.”

“Oh, then you must the one who keeps Arthur awake at nights.” The man chuckled looking at Arthur then back at the girl beside him. “Nice to meet you, Valerie.”

“Likewise.” 

“Well, well, well...” Another hoarse voice came from behind. “Who do we got here?”

Valerie looked at Arthur instinctively, before she turned towards another man approaching her. He was tall and impeccably dressed. What drew Valerie’s attention first was the number of rings he was wearing as he lifted a cigar to his mouth, inhaling the smoke to his lungs. He was accompanied by another man, a good few years older than him as his hair was already grey, but his face was radiating with kindness and empathy. The second man smiled at her, letting his friend do the talking:

“Arthur’s one lucky bastard to have a lady like you by his side. Maybe that’s why he didn’t want to talk about you much earlier, we wouldn’t have believed that such a pretty girl could’ve laid her eyes on him!”

“Dutch...” Arthur shook his head whilst Valerie chuckled seeing him embarrassed like a little boy. “Enough.”

“I’m just getting started...” He teased, but before he could add anything else Arthur grabbed Valerie’s hand and pulled with him aside. “I’m gonna tell her everything, Arthur, you can’t have her for yourself forever!”

“Well, I think I’m gonna try anyway!” Arthur shouted as they were moving away from his friends. He led her inside the house, trying to avoid other gang members on the way there. They entered in and a moment later they were already upstairs, in Arthur’s room. He closed the door and leaned his back against it, feeling the relief they were just in two again. He sighed and said: “I’m sorry for ‘em.”

“Didn’t you want me to meet your friends?” Valerie asked, looking around the room. It wasn’t her bedroom, it wasn’t even close to it. A simple bed in front of the door, a desk with a map and a burning candle, which was illuminating the whole room, a barrel with a small mirror on it and a shelf... With a photo of a woman on it. “Who’s that?”

“I wanted you to meet them, not them to eat you alive.” Arthur laughed but got serious again the second he saw Valerie looking closely at the photo. “That... That’s my mother.”

“She’s a gorgeous woman...”

“Was.” He corrected her, approaching her from behind. “She died when I was very young. I can’t quite remember her now... Her image in my head is becoming blurred, her voice is fading... But she was a good woman. I guess she wouldn’t be proud if she saw me living a life like this one. She would’ve wanted me to be a better man.”

“You’re a good man, Arthur. I’m sure she would be proud of her son.” Valerie said turning towards him, her hands wandering on his chest. “My mother... She passed 8 years ago and... I miss her sometimes, you know? When she was with me, life was somehow easier. I even miss the times she was shouting at me without a reason...”

“What happened?” He asked carefully, stopping her hands with his in the middle of his chest.

“She was really sick and... at some point she was done with fighting,” Valerie replied, sighing heavily. “Enough of this sad talk, Arthur. Your friends seem pretty nice, even though one of them clearly wanted to eat me alive.”

“I saw it. He was lucky you were there with me, otherwise, he would’ve gotten punched. Besides... I had no idea you speak Spanish?”

“I don’t, but see... Growing up in a house of Bronte, I saw many things. I learnt even more.” She replied, smirking at him.

“You got me curious...” He leaned down and whispered to her ears, then started to leave small kisses on her neck. “You’re a mystery woman, Valerie.”

“Is that bad?” She breathed out, not being able to focus on her thoughts. All her attention was on Arthur, on his stubble scratching her skin as he moved his head leaving trails of kisses on her neck then collarbones.

“Not at all.” He said between kisses then lifted her and she crossed her legs behind his back, holding one hand onto his neck and his arm with another. Arthur moved and sat on the bed with her already sitting on his knees and began to unbutton her impeccably white shirt.

Her breath became uneven when he unbuttoned them all, leaving her shirt hanging open as his hands began to caress her breasts, his fingers playing with her nipples, making her moan quietly into his ear. She rested her hands on his arms and leaned her forehead against his, closing her eyes and enjoying the pleasure he was providing her. With time, his hands were travelling all over her upper body, indulging in the soft touch of her skin till they stopped at the clasp of her trousers.

“Arthur...”

“It’s okay, no one is gonna disturb us here...” He assured her, feeling Valerie’s trembling body under his touch.

“It’s not that...” Suddenly she pulled away, her eyes still fixed on him. “I... I’m sorry, I can’t... I didn’t have anyone before you and... I’m scared.”

“Hey, beautiful...” Arthur stopped touching her back and cupped her face, bringing himself closer to her. “Don’t be sorry, alright? There’s nothing to be scared of...”

“O-okay...” Her voice cracked and her hands began to tremble as she started to unbutton her pants. “Damn...”

“Stop right there, hey, Val...” His voice was calm and he grabbed her hands, folding them with his. “I don’t want you to feel pressure, alright? I don’t want you to have sex with me when you’re shaking and are unable to unbutton your own pants. I can and will wait for you, Valerie, as long as you want me to.”

She took a deep breath feeling the tension slowly leaving her body then smiled at him in the gesture of gratitude. It was this smile, the same one that took Arthur’s breath away the day he saw her for the first time.

“I love-” Arthur said but was interrupted by the sound of creaking doors as someone opened them without knocking. It was a little Jack who standing in the middle of the entrance.

“Uncle Arthur?” He asked with his high pitched voice. “Have you seen my momma? I can’t find her...”

Valerie flinched uncontrollably and was back on her feet in no time, covering her breasts with a shirt. Arthur blushed, feeling as he was just caught red-handed, but shook off this feeling quickly. He stood up then approached the boy, crouching next to him. “What about your dad? Where is he?”

“I can’t find him too... Uncle Arthur, will you read me something to sleep?” Arthur looked back at Valerie and she nodded approvingly, showing him that she wouldn’t mind it at all.

“Come on, boy.” He had said before he effortlessly lifted Jack and left the room with him. “Let’s find us something to read.”

Valerie was alone in his room and right after they left, she sat on the edge of the bed, covering her red from embarrassment face in her hands. She laughed to herself, feeling the warmth of her cheeks. Oh my, did he really want to say it? Maybe she’s overheard something or unconsciously wanted him to say these three magical words. Or maybe it was real? She looked around the room again before she laid down on the bed. What a day. First, she sneaked out of the mansion to come here, to the abandoned house in the middle of nowhere to meet Arthur’s friend and almost ended up in bed with him. It could be a dream. She pinched her skin and hissed, but didn’t wake up. Nothing has changed. It was real.

~~~

Babysitting Jack took more time than Arthur expected and before he realized, it was almost 2 am when he left the sleeping boy alone in his bed. He just managed to close the door when John bumped into him, surprised to see him there.

“Jack was looking for you,” Arthur said emotionlessly, covering his mouth as he yawned. He was too tired to even argue with him, even though he had a concrete reason to be mad. “But he’s sleeping now. You will thank me later.”

“I’ve heard your girl is here tonight... Tilly told me when I was passing her by downstairs.” John said carefully as he didn’t want to provoke him. “I can’t help but ask, why did you even bring her here? It’s not like you to bring girls to the camp... It’s not like you to even look at ‘em.”

“What can I tell you... She’s... she’s different, John. I really care about her, you know? She... makes me so happy, so alive...” He told him, feeling like a teenage boy who was confessing his feelings to his friend. “This time I really don’t want to fuck this up, you know? I want to show her how much she means to me and... I just wanted her to meet you. Show her my world.”

“I see. That’s... nice of you, I think.” John said, rubbing the back of his neck, suddenly feeling guilty he’s disappeared for the night. “I’m sorry you had to take care of my son instead of... taking care of her.”

“It’s alright. She didn’t want me tonight anyway.” He replied and waved his hand. “Thing is that she’s much younger than me. Actually, I think she’s even your age and... You know.”

“A virgin, huh?” John asked straight away and smiled, but Arthur’s facial expression made him regret this question almost immediately. “Nice, brother, pretty nice. I can’t see your problem though.”

“I don’t want to rush her... I want it to be special for her, something to remember.” 

“You usually remember your first time, you know that? And it never goes as we want it to.” John pointed then patted Arthur’s arm comfortingly. “God, you must really care for her. What has she done to you, Arthur? I’ve never seen you act like that before.”

“I have no idea.” He laughed under his breath. “Alright, gonna go and check on her.”

“I ain’t gonna stop you.”

“Besides...” Arthur had asked around before he walked away. “Where were you all night?”

“Uhm...” John hummed, trying to figure out the answer. “With Abigail... We...”

“Alright, I can imagine what you two were doin’. Spare me the details.” Arthur chuckled, feeling this conversation was going in the wrong direction and it was his duty to end it. “G’night, Johnny boy.”

He went back to his bedroom, quietly closing the door behind his back as he entered in. Valerie was already sleeping on his bed, her face towards the door. God, she was beautiful. Heapproached her and gently moved her to the side, making himself some space to lay down next to her. Soft light of a burning candle was illuminating her face as Arthur caressed her cheek and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. She purred, cuddling up to him instinctively.

“Shhh... Sleep.” He whispered when she moved, opening sleepily her eyes.

“Took you a while...”

“I’m sorry... I’m gonna make it up to you tomorrow.”

“It’s okay, I ain’t mad...” She grinned and turned her back to Arthur, adjusting her sleep position. “Uncle Arthur.”

He put an arm around her and hugged her tightly. She fell asleep easily, feeling the warmth of Arthur’s body beside her. On the contrary, he couldn’t fall asleep, thinking about the words he had almost said to her before they were interrupted by Jack. What if she didn’t feel the same? What if he would’ve only made a fool out of himself? He had to be more careful, he couldn’t be this reckless. He wished he could read in her mind just to be sure whether she felt the same. Things would be much easier this way. He’s been thinking about whether he should’ve confessed his feelings to her till the sun sent its first rays through the window. Then he let himself rest.

Chapter Text

Valerie opened her eyes, realising Arthur was no longer by her side. She slowly got up, stretching her sore muscles. The shed of light was falling through the broken window and she started wondering how long she was sleeping. Then she approached the door leading to the balcony and opened them gently.

“Good-mornin', beautiful” Arthur said, exhaling the smoke from his lungs. The cigarette was slowly burning between his fingers. “How did you sleep?”

“Oh, I’m wondering how you can sleep on your bed on a regular basis, it’s hard as stone.” Valerie yawned, leaning her elbows on the balcony’s railing. “My back is killing me. Next time we’re sleeping in my bed. You will see what it means to have a good night sleep.”

Arthur chuckled, throwing away what was left of his cigarette then crushed it with his shoe. He approached the girl from behind and put his arms around her waist.

“I wish this moment could last forever.” He whispered, but Valerie heard him clearly. She smirked and caressed his forearms that he placed under her ribs.

“It would be a pretty nice eternity.” She replied, looking ahead. It was so quiet out there. So peaceful. This place was so different than everything she knew. She was tired of Saint Denis, tired of her uncle watching her all the time. Back in the city, she felt like a bird in a golden cage - but it was still a cage. Though theoretically, she could do whatever she wanted, each moved she made was controlled. The vision of a life without boundaries, fear or control was something she’s always dreamt of.

Valerie turned around so she could look at Arthur’s face. She placed her hands on his shoulders and got on the tip of her toes so her lips could reach his. He kissed her back and lifted her up so she sat on the railing. He held her hips tight, making her grin. She broke the kiss and put her legs around his waist, pulling him closer.

“You won’t let me fall, will you?” She asked, moving her hands to his neck.

“Never.” He assured her then smirked. “You’re safe with me.”

“Good mornin' guys.” The other door opened and there was John, lighting up a cigarette. “Pretend I’m not here, alright?”

Valerie startled as she didn’t expect anyone would interrupt them here. A blush appeared on both of her cheeks, making her embarrassed like a little girl. Arthur helped her get down and when he made sure both of her feet were on the ground, he turned towards John.

“You’re so fucking subtle...”

John laughed ironically, ignoring Arthur’s jeer. He had approached him then patted his friend’s arm before he turned back to Valerie. “You must be Valerie.”

“Yes.” She said, looking at him closely. He seemed to be way younger than Arthur, dressed in a black shirt and dark jeans. His voice was so hoarse, so characteristic that Valerie could swear she’s never heard anyone speak this way. “And you’re...”

“John. Dad of this little boy who interrupted you last night.” The man smiled at her gently. “I’m sorry for that.”

“It’s fine. Your kid must really like his uncle, hm?”

“Yeah... He loves him.” John shrugged, breathing out the smoke. “He’s a good kid. I wish I could provide him with a better life... than this.”

“He has you. All of you. So many people he can count on who really love him. What else might he need?” Valerie tucked an annoying strand of hair, that has fallen on her face, behind her ear. “He’s got more than you think he has, John.”

“That’s comforting. I might not be that shitty parent as I thought I was.”

“John!” A high woman's voice came from the inside of the house. A few seconds later a young lady appeared in the entrance. First things Valerie noticed was that she had dark hair, light skin and was dressed in a simple white shirt and brown skirt. “John, whe— Oh, hi. Sorry, I didn’t think you all would be here.”

Valerie smiled at the women who had just shown up behind John’s back. “No need to apologize.”

“I’m Abigail.” She smiled back at Valerie. “I was curious who was that mystery girl Arthur wanted to bring here... And there you are, Valerie.”

“Yeah... Here I am.” Suddenly Valerie felt a little bit awkward, but kept smiling, hiding her embarrassment. “I was surprised Arthur wanted to bring me here... He’s kinda mystery man too.”

“Oh, he is.” Abigail looked at Arthur, seeing him nervously rubbing the back of his neck. “Anyways... Arthur, John... Dutch was looking for you. He said he’s got something to tell you, but I don’t know the details...”

The men looked at each other then Arthur turned to Valerie and said: “I’m gonna be right back, okay?”

“Don’t worry, Arthur, I will be fine.” She had caressed his arm before he had joined John on their way to Dutch.

Abigail waited a moment then leaned herself against the wall. After she was sure the boys disappeared somewhere downstairs, she broke the uncomfortable silence and asked:

“What have you done to him?”

“What?” Valerie seemed confused at first. “I haven’t done anything.”

“I’ve been a part of this gang for a while now and I can’t remember Arthur acting like this. Not that it’s something wrong, no, actually... He is happy. It’s been a long time since I saw him smiling.”

“Well, I...”

“Whatever you do, please don’t stop. He deserves some happiness in this cruel world he’s been living in for almost his all life.” She was playing nervously with her fingers. “We all care about him. I just want you to know that he cares about you... a lot. When he first told us about you, well... We were sceptical, but you turned out to be just as he described you. Pretty, kind and... something tells me you’re really a good person. Besides, you’re the first girl he’s ever brought here, I think you can consider yourself the lucky one.”

She raised her sight and approached Valerie, placing a hand on her shoulder. “I should be going back to Jack. If you ever wanted to talk... You know where to find me.”

”Thank you.” Valerie replied, smiling at her gratefully.

Then she disappeared into her room, closing the door as she went it. Valerie was alone on the balcony and smiled uncontrollably, suddenly feeling an excitement growing inside her. So she was the first one Arthur has ever brought to his camp? He must’ve really cared about her...

“Sorry, you had to wait...” His voice dragged her out of thoughts. “I’m all yours now.”

“Was it something important?” She asked as they both went inside into his room again.

“Actually... I hadn’t told you earlier, but we got an invitation from Angelo. He hosts a party in two days and wants to see us there.”

“What? I thought you were done with him. What has suddenly changed?” Valerie huffed, shaking her head and trying to think of the way to tell him that her uncle wasn’t the person he seemed to be. He was one sneaky man, not worth trusting. “Arthur... he’s a dangerous man...”

“We’re dangerous men too, Valerie, and yet you’re sleeping with one,” Arthur replied, sitting at the edge of the desk. “We were done or at least I thought so, but Dutch had different plans.”

“But... Just be careful.” She leaned against the desk right next to him, knowing he probably wouldn’t have believed her anyway. “Can you do this for me?”

“Of course. I’m always careful.” Artur said then smiled at her cheerfully. “Don’t think about it too much, Valerie. Besides, there are still some people out there who would like to meet you and I think we shouldn’t let them wait too long, should we?”

“Yes, we shouldn’t.” She made herself smile back at him and joined him as he left the room and started walking downstairs. Oh, Arthur, if you only knew...

~~~

The rest of the gang members seemed very kind and Valerie spent a pleasant afternoon in their company. Who would’ve thought they would be so welcoming to the girl they barely knew? Even if they were doing it just for Arthur, they didn’t let her see it. She felt wanted and appreciated. These feelings have been distant for so many years and it was amazing for her to experience them again, after such a long time.

When Arthur brought her back home late at night, no one seemed to notice her absence at Bronte’s mansion or maybe no one wanted to notice though she was gone for almost two days. Yet, she couldn’t complain about it - she wasn’t in the mood to argue with anyone, especially her uncle. She felt great and wanted this feeling to last as long as possible. This carelessness was something she couldn’t get enough of.

She managed to sneak inside the house unseen and crawled into her bed. She was tired and needed some rest, but instead, she kept thinking of all the things that happened during the last two days. It was all happening so fast, maybe even too fast. In her dreams, Valerie wouldn’t have thought Arthur would introduce her to his friends. It was almost like he introduced her to his family. It looked like the next level of commitment and Valerie wondered if she would be capable of doing the same for him. But to who would she introduce Arthur? To Angelo? There wasn’t any other member of her family here in Saint Denis. Besides... she wouldn’t like to introduce him to what’s left of her family, anyways.

At some point it was impossible for her to keep her eyes open as she was too exhausted so she covered herself with a blanket and fell asleep, indulging in her sweet dreams.

The next days passed quickly and suddenly Valerie found herself trying on the new dress she had bought herself for the upcoming Bronte’s party. This time she chose to wear something classy, something that many women her age would wear. A simple, long beige dress with a high neck collar. She brushed her hair and made a low bun, letting one, short strand fell on her face.

“You look perfect.” She turned around, realising she hadn’t closed the door and out of nowhere there was Bennet, leaning his arm against the wall. Valerie flinched as she realised he must’ve been standing there for a while.

“What do you want?”

“I was passing by... saw you dressing up.” He said and started walking towards her. “Forgive me. I didn’t want to disturb you.”

“Yeah...” She froze as he leaned over, his head above her shoulder. “What... what are you doing?”

Bellissima.” His hand wandered to her chin and grabbed it, turning her face towards him. “I’m just gonna say it once, Valerie. Stay away from Arthur Morgan.”

“W-what?” She couldn’t hide her surprise.

His fingers dug into her skin painfully. “You don’t want anything bad to happen to him, do you?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about... Besides, I think you forgot who you’re talking to.”

“Don’t lie to me, I know you sneaked out of the mansion a few days ago. I know where you were and with who.” He tried to keep his voice quiet and calm, but inside his anger was growing.  “I’m loyally telling you to keep away from these men. From this one in particular or else...”

“You’re not telling me, you’re threatening me.” She interrupted him, getting up from the chair. What was he thinking? That he could threat Valerie Bronte? “You can take your dirty hand off me, I ain’t scared of you. I was growing up surrounded by worse men than you.”

He suddenly realised himself what he’s done and withdrew his hand, letting go of her chin. “Valerie, I...”

“I wasn’t expecting that from you, Bennet. But turns out you’re just like them. Rotten to the bone though I thought you were better.” She hissed. “Now forgive me. I have a party to attend.”

She was shaking as she quickly left her room, not turning back to see if he was following her. What the hell was that suppose to mean? Since when he was spying on her? Was he always her enemy... mistaken for a friend? She told him she wasn’t scared, but at the same time was aware of the danger she was putting Arthur in. What was she thinking? It was obvious from the start he couldn’t be safe near her. There would always be someone, someone who would revenge oneself on her loved ones.

The sound of music interrupted her thoughts and she took a few deep breaths to calm herself down.

“Champagne, miss Bronte?” A servant asked as she appeared in the entrance.

“Of course.” She faked her smile and took a glass in her hand. There were already so many people there, in the garden behind the mansion. So many fools, who were thinking her uncle was the good one here. “Thank you.”

Valerie took a sip and looked around, searching for familiar faces in the crowd. Arthur wasn’t there yet so she had some time to figure out the plan. What would she tell him, what would she do and how would she bring her uncle and associates down.

Chapter Text

“And then…” Her voice cracked as she spoke, feeling the tears coming to her eyes. This was the plan she figured out a few moments earlier and an only thing she must’ve taken care of making Bronte believe her. “I didn’t know what to do, I… was so scared when he threatened me… I couldn’t quite believe that. I couldn’t believe that he was capable of this…”

“He did what?” Angelo was clearly surprised, the anger grew in his body with every word he heard from her.

“He threatened me…  after I caught him staring at me while I was getting dressed,” Valerie said, brushing away the single tear from her face. “So I told him, no one threats Valerie Bronte. I had to tell you… You’ve always wanted to protect me.”

Angelo didn’t say a word, just keep walking around the room. He stopped next to the window and looked through it, thinking of what he should do. After a moment, he shook his head and glanced at two of his men, standing on both sides of the door. “Find him and bring him here.”

He had waited for his men to leave the room, then he turned to Valerie, who was standing in the middle of the room. “Did he hurt you?”

“He didn’t manage to.” She replied harshly, knowing exactly what would happen. She knew it from the beginning, from the moment she chose to tell her uncle about Bennet’s threat. After all, she was sure of one thing - her uncle was a ruthless man. He would never let anyone insult any member of his family. The family was the value he put in the first place - just as loyalty, but Bennet didn’t respect neither of these two things.

“Good.” He said just as the door opened again and the same two men dragged Jones inside. The man was struggling but his opponents were stronger and held him in a tight grip as they brought him to his knees.

Bronte approached him, crouching right in front of his face. He punched him, aiming at the nose. The blood streamed down on his mouth, covering it with the dark red liquid.

Imbecille!” Bronte shouted angrily.

Valerie…” Bennet had murmured right before he got punched again. “Smetti...”

No.” She slowly shook her head. “Nessuno minaccia Bronte. Nessuno.”

“She’s right.” Angelo grabbed the hair on the back of Bennet’s head and titled it, making him look at her. “She’s damn right.”

Then he let go of him, standing up and getting out of the room. Valerie looked at him questioningly, but he just nodded at his men. “You know what to do.”

Suddenly, she felt bad for Jones. She felt bad because she knew he didn’t really deserve it - but somehow the power she had over him… It made her feel stronger. The power she’s always had but never used before - the power of her name. But the decision was made and there was no turning back - she could only stand there and watch what she’s done to him.

“Valerie, get out…” Bennet hissed as they raised him up. Bronte must’ve hit him hard, the blood was still running from his nostrils.

“I want to stay.” She replied, looking at her uncle.

“I have to agree with him, bambina… Get out. You’ve done enough here.” His tone was firm, unmoved. “Why won’t you join me at the party or entertain other guests?”

Valerie clenched her fists and huffed, but listened to him and left the room with him, leaving Bennet at the mercy of Bronte’s men. Angelo was accompanying her till they reached the backyard of the mansion, looking at her from time to time. When they stopped, he placed his hand on her arm, patting it comfortingly.

“You did the right thing, Valerie.” He said as she looked back at him. “Telling me was the right thing.”

“Uncle… Just… promise me it had nothing to do with you.”

“I didn’t.”

She knew he lied the moment these words escaped his mouth. Yet, she smiled blankly at him and watched him walk away without a blink of an eye. Not that she didn’t expect him to lie, because she did. However, the part of her wanted to believe it was true. Lies, lies, lies. She realised that all her world might’ve been built on lies. But this time the worst thing was that she might’ve accidentally hurt the innocent man because of that. Even though she was just trying to get to the real villain.

She shivered as the cold wind blew, making her realise it was getting late. Where was Arthur? Would it be possible he didn’t make it? Or something stopped him? She wandered between the guests, trying to look for him in the crowd. He wasn’t there. Resigned, Valerie came back inside the mansion and went straight to her room. What a night. First Jones, then Arthur apparently stood her up… What was she even thinking herself?

“Valerie…”

How surprised she was when she saw him sitting at the edge of her bed, dressed in a white shirt and suit’s trousers, his hair and stubble fresh cut. The soft light of the candle illuminated his smiling face as he saw her - looking beautiful as always.

“Arthur… I thought you bailed on me.” She closed the door behind her backs and locked the door. “How did you get in?”

“Through the doors. I couldn’t find you after we had finished making business with your uncle and I thought… I would wait here for you.” He approached her and then saw the concern on her face. “What’s wrong? Rough night?”

“It’s an understatement.” She said, looking at her reflection in the mirror that was standing in the corner of the room. “I might’ve done… Something awful. Someone got hurt. Not that he didn’t deserve to be punished, but… He didn’t deserve to be beaten up like that.”

“What happened?”

“I’m too tired to talk about it tonight.” Arthur put his arms around her from behind. “Do you think… that… it’s possible to become someone who we thought we would never become? Who we never wanted to become…”

“I think… You shouldn’t think about it too much.” His hands wandered to the buttons of her dress, unbuttoning it one by one. “Look at yourself. You look gorgeous.”

“Arthur… I’m horrible. Turns out, no matter how hard I will try, deep inside… I will always be a Bronte. An awful person, just like my uncle…”

“I don’t know what happened, Val, but…”

“I’m just like him. Tonight I used my power to hurt someone… And I would’ve almost watched him suffer because it would make me feel even more powerful. Am I cursed or what? Isn’t there any way for me to stop being… this?”

“You’re not cursed.” Arthur chuckled, caressing bare skin on her back. “You’re… wonderful. There’s nothing I would change in you.”

“This man I told you about… He was watching me while I was getting dressed then… He threatened me… He told me If I won’t stop seeing you he will hurt you. So, not thinking much, I told my uncle about it. Not the whole truth, of course. Just a part, but it was enough to make him angry.” She turned around to face him. “No one threatens me or my loved one…”

“He might consider himself lucky… If you told me first I’d kill him without blinkin’.” He replied and cupped her face. Then he lifted his brown in disbelief like he just overheard something. “Loved one?”

“Alright, you got me here, cowboy.” She smiled brightly letting it overshadow her sorrow. “I might feel something for you and I realised that when Bennet threatened he would hurt you…”

She barely held back her tears. Her eyes were fixated on him, their lips were getting closer to each other and eventually, they met in a kiss. Valerie instinctively started to unbutton Arthur’s shirt while he took care of her dress, sliding her sleeves down her arms, exposing her naked breasts. He stopped, gasping for air then he gazed at her half-naked body. She took off the rest of it slowly, letting the material fall on the ground. There she was, standing there just in her undergarments, looking at him with her blue eyes. Innocent, blue eyes…

There was silence in the room, broken only by their heavy breaths. She made the first move, placing her hands on his chest and pushing him gently on the bed. She straddled his lap, letting her hair fall on his face when she leaned over him. Arthur kissed her hard, his hands on her waist started to move down, sliding her undergarments with them. He turned her on the back without breaking a kiss and started to caress inner sight of her tighs, making her shiver under his touch.

“If you want me to stop, just say a word…” He murmured between kisses he was leaving on her neck, sucking her skin gently.

“Don’t.” She blurted, not being able to focus. “Don’t stop.”

Arthur smirked then teased her wet folds, brushing them with his fingers for a moment before he slid one finger in, making her gasp and tremble. He didn’t want to cause her any pain, even though it was inevitable. After a moment, he added another finger and she moaned, louder than she probably intended. She shut her eyes and bit her lip as Arthur’s fingers started to move rhythmically, providing her with a completely new sensual experience.

“You’re so beautiful, Valerie…” He whispered to her ear. “There’s no man in this wide world as lucky as me.”

“Mhmm…” She hummed in response but then he shushed her with a kiss, speeding up a bit, causing her to groan despite her lips were covered with his. His fingers were spreading her walls, making her feel almost uncomfortable at some points. 

He suddenly stopped and slid his fingers out, wiping them out against her thigh. Valerie looked at him confused, wondering if she could’ve done something wrong. Why would he stop?

“Arthur?” She asked while he moved further on the bed, leaning his back against its frame. He unbuckled his belt, unzipped his trousers and kicked his shoes on the floor before lifting his hips and pulling his pants down along with his underwear.

“Come ‘ere.” She did what he said and sat on his lap, feeling his hardness brushed against her clit. She moved her hips, her eyes fixated on Arthur as she waited for his response. “God, you really want that, aren’t you?”

“I want you, Arthur.”

“It’s gonna hurt, you know?” He moved his hands to her back and held her still. 

“I know, but I’m sure you will be gentle with me.” She replied, feeling a sudden surge of courage. Her heart was beating fast, her breath was shaky, but she was sure she wanted that. She wanted him to be her first.

He nodded approvingly as she lifted her hips, hanging above his manhood. His hand brushed her folds, making sure she was wet enough before he positioned his member at her entrance. “We’ll go as far as you want… As long as you want.”

Arthur took her hands in his, squeezing them gently, almost comfortingly. He watched her in awe as she licked her bottom lip and took a deep breath before she slid down on his length. She cursed as it was painful, the feeling of fullness was almost overwhelming, even though she was only halfway there. Arthur, instead, threw his head back, groaning loudly in pleasure.

Valerie moved herself up and down a few times, trying to adjust to his size before she slid further down at his all length, feeling an unexpected pain between her legs.

“Easy there, beautiful.” Arthur saw her trying too hard, going beyond her boundaries in order to please him. Tears appeared in her eyes, she didn’t expect it to hurt this much. “Hey, hey… Lay on your back.”

She did what she was told, laying down on her back obediently, her head resting on the white pillow. He hovered over her for a while, breathing heavily. Then he kissed her, slipping his tongue into her mouth. In the meantime, he positioned himself between her legs and she instinctively put them around his waist, bringing him closer to herself.

“I’m gonna go really slow, alright?” He asked and she nodded in response, closing her eyes. He thrust up into her once, twice, thrice, trying to adjust her to his size slowly. Her nails dug into the skin on his back, leaving red marks all over it. Yet, Arthur didn’t care about that, he could only feel the uprising pressure with every move he made. She felt so good to him, he almost forgot himself and wanted to speed up, but then reminded himself - he promised he would be gentle and he intended to keep that promise. He buried his head in the crook of her neck and kept thrusting up into her - slowly, passionately - giving her the time she needed.

“How does it feel?” He lifted his head to look at her, quickly noticing the red blush on both of her cheeks. “Oh…”

“It hurts… But don’t stop, Arthur…” She moaned as he started thrusting up into her faster than he used during the last few minutes. “God…”

She writhed beneath him as he turned up the pace more, getting lost in the pleasure he felt. He’s been wanting her so bad from the day he saw her for the first time. This beautiful blonde her, hypnotizing eyes, the beauty that was one of its kind… Her smile, her touch, her body… Everything connected with her was exceptional for him. He was getting close as Valerie’s hands ran through his hair, stopping at his face and cupping it gently. She wanted to kiss him, but he was far from it. Out of sudden, he grabbed her hands, pinning them on both sides of her head. A few deep, rough thrusts before he pulled out, cumming on her belly. He had breathed before he kissed her, brushing single tears from her cheeks with his thumbs. She craved his touch more than ever at this moment, but as she moved closer to him, he pulled away.

“Let’s get you cleaned up first… Before everything else gets dirty…” He said but soon he realised there was already a red stain on perfectly white sheets. “Fuck…”

“It’s okay. It’s just blood,” Valerie replied, leaning on her elbows. “Pass me that piece of cloth from over there, please?”

“There you go.” Arthur fulfilled her request then put his underwear and trousers back on. He watched her cleaning herself and after she finished she got rid of the sheets, kicking them out of the bed.

“Oh hell no, don’t tell me you’re leaving…” She whined.

“I ain’t going anywhere,” Arthur smirked and lifted his shirt from the ground then passed it to Valerie. “Here, take it. I already know you love wearing my shirts.”

“Fair enough.” She laughed as she put it on her bare shoulders, searching for her undergarments. “But I’m gonna get dressed too, no way I’m gonna be the only one naked here…”

“You’ve got my shirt, what else do you need?”

“Take off your trousers, then we can talk.” She joked, lying back on the bed.

He lied down and put his arm around her, bringing her closer to him. She caressed his chin in silence, wondering what she should say. Is there even something to add so she wouldn’t ruin the mood? Oh right, the blood stain on sheets already ruined it…

“I’m sorry for the sheets,” Arthur asked, putting his hand under the shirt she was wearing and scratched her back gently. “And for the pain.”

“I’ve heard it gets better with time… So I guess you will have more opportunities to redeem your sin.” She laughed, but then got serious again as she thought about one thing. “Or was I just a one night stand for you?”

“If what you’re asking me was true, I would be gone by now.” He replied, stopping his hand from scratching her back then moved it to her face, rubbing her bottom lip. “I want to spend every night with you in my arms.”

His words flattered her, making her realise she was not just another girl for him. She breathed a sigh of relief, constantly looking into his eyes. After a while, when the silence became overwhelming, she asked:

“Arthur?”

“Yes?”

“Promise me, you won’t leave.”

He had caressed her hair and swallowed loudly, letting himself think for a moment before he replied. “I promise.”