“Elouise? I brought you some fresh clothes,” Hugh rapped the bathroom door. No answer. Was she washing her hair? But then he would’ve heard some water splashing. Instead, it was totally silent, not even water dripping on the wooden floor. “Elouise?” Hugh knocked again. Still no answer. He began to worry a bit.

“Elouise!” he called out louder this time, pounding on the door. When no reply came again, he jangled the handle of the bathroom. The door opened easily. It seemed that Elouise had so much faith in him she didn’t even bother to lock the door. But then again, she did love to tease him. Or was she just really tired she forgot? Hugh peeked in. “Elouise?” he called out.

The bathroom was illuminated with the electric light bulbs Mrs Wellens had installed shortly before he moved in. A nice choice, as the whole room was bathed in soft yellow light. Elouise was in the bathtub, her hair hanging wet off on side of the tub, where her head was resting on the edge. The bathtub was against the far wall, and she was facing away from him. From where he was standing, he couldn’t see any movement. “Elouise,” he called. No response, not even a twitch. “I’m coming in, alright?” he warned.

He placed the clothes for her on the washstand next to the door. “Is the water warm enough?” he asked. She didn’t move. “Montoya, you know we’re both too tired for games tonight,” he sighed. Was she even breathing? Hugh stepped closer. “Montoya?” Hugh inched closer and closer until he was at the corner of the bathmat next to the tub. He reached out a hand to tap her on the shoulder, but his eyes fell onto her bare arm resting along the edge of the tub.

It was covered in bruises and scars, stopping just where the sleeve of her dresses would. Purposely hidden wounds. And, judging by the size and shaped, quite recent and not sustained from fencing or climbing. Hugh’s eyes widened at the sight. He didn’t mean to, but his eyes began searching for more bruises, travelling to the rest of her naked body. But the bathwater was milky murky with soap, and prevented him from seeing anything below her chest.

Before his eyes could take in anything more, he grabbed a towel and draped it across the tub. “Elouise,” he whispered, leaning closer. Her mouth hung slightly open, and her eyes were closed. She was sleeping, even in the cold porcelain tub. She looked so worn out, but also at peace, like she hadn’t got to sleep in a while. Hugh straightened and cleared his throat. “Miss Montoya,” he said sharply, lightly nudging her head. She awoke with a little gasp.

Elouise opened her mouth to say something, but as the drowsy daze lifted, she noticed the towel across the bathtub and Hugh standing close.

“Why Lord Roxton! Giving in to your manly desires?” she teased. His eyebrows creased and his eyes squinted, unused to the quickness of her tongue, even when she had just obviously woken up. “You weren’t answering,” he said curtly. “I left some clothes for you there. It should fit,” he continued and promptly exited the bathroom, shutting the door behind him.

A little while later, Elouise emerged. She brushed at a plain white shirt hanging off her a little loosely, no doubt one of Hugh’s. It reached just past her hips and the sleeves went well past her longest fingers. She pushed the surprisingly soft fabric up her forearms and picked up fistfuls of trouser fabric to avoid stepping on the legs as she walked. His trousers, too were rather soft and very comfortable despite being almost three sizes to big for her. Definitely clothes that cost quite a bit.

Hugh was nowhere around. She shuffled over to a chair by the study window and sat down, enjoying the cool night air. For once she enjoyed not running away, not worrying who was going to come through the door. She even had the wonderful opportunity to take a bath, to wash off the soot and grime that clung to her running across rooftops and shimmying down drainpipes. She drew her knees up to her chest and hugged her legs. What would life be like if she were born with a silver spoon? To not struggle to live day after day running away and stealing and fighting? A lot less exciting, she concluded and chuckled. But then again, to be able to come back to a peaceful home, that was priceless. After all, the reason she started stealing in the first place was to keep the home she had now relatively stable. Hugh’s partnership was a bonus.

But today’s altercation meant that it could come to an end. She couldn’t let her world infiltrate Hugh’s, contaminate it. Finding out she was in league with the coppers was one thing, getting Hugh attacked because of her was another. She needed to solve this on her own, and soon.

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