The Fox and the Hound
The Jennings estate was expansive and beautiful. With a grand home made for the owner of a profitable steel business, Mister Jennings was always eager to show it off. Hence why he allowed the man he barely knew to come for a visit. He was all too pleased to invite him on a coach pulled by pure white Arabians with the coach of a just as brilliant white with gold accents. What was the point of money if you couldn't gloat a bit?

The way down the long lawns was lined with pink rose buses and a matching sculpted marble fountain on each side with a koi spitting water to the heavens. Inside, he checked his watch, certain that no one would ever be late for a meeting with someone such as himself. The older man kissed the foreheads of his eight year old son, Jacob, and his 10 year old daughter, Emma. He sent them to go play or have lessons with their governess, the lovely Sarah, whom he'd gotten to know very well during her stay there.

Walking towards the entrance, he stood halfway down the large staircase, and leaned against one of the mahogany railings as he had seen his guest approaching. He twirled his perfectly manicured mustache for a moment and his eyes sparkled in enjoyment at the idea of getting to speak with the man who seemed of great stock like himself. One of his footmen had arrived to open the door at the perfect moment as it would look terrible to make the man wait or heaven forbid, knock!

"I think perhaps I should invite him to go hunting or fishing. That is always great fun, don't you agree? " He said to the man as he put a pipe to his lips and puffed a few plumes of smoke out while his eyes remained fixed on the door. He hadn't told his wife about the visitor, but then he'd told only those that it mattered to. His governess knew he was having a guest so as to keep his kids out of the way, and his maids knew to keep the house perfectly clean and a room prepared encase the man wanted to stay the night or a few.
Ah, my pretty bird, my sweet little cousin, you have found a pretty nest in which to hide yourself this time, ey? Alex’s eyes took in the beautiful surroundings as the sumptuous coach took him the last leg of the journey up to the grand house. The place seemed truly fit for a king – a king of steel, he supposed, with a slight sneer – the nobleman’s contempt for the nouveau riche ingrained into his core. But no matter. A gilded cage or one old and rusted, I have you trapped, again! And this time, you will not escape!

With such pleasant thoughts, Alex smiled to himself, until the coach came to a stop before the steps of the gracious looking home. A footman greeted him by opening the door to the coach, from which he descended. And another opened the grand front doors of the mansion to him, whereupon he saw his host, standing there ready to greet him. He dipped into a half bow.

”Mr. Jennings. I must congratulate you sir! If your house is even half as beautiful as your grounds, you are living in a palace indeed!” Alex flashed the man one of his most charming smiles, as they shook hands.
"Oh it is! It is! Nothing but the best that money can buy, I assure you!" The man gave a low bellowed laugh as he welcomed the man, immediately grasping his hand in a strong hand shake. He pulled him along and patted his back, insistent on giving him a tour of the expansive place.

"As you can see, this place was built only about ten years ago. First big investment I made outside of my business you see. Had my first one born just as it was finished. So it was perfect timing, but that's me! Always good with timing and organization. I like things neat and in their place."

He walked along, past portraits in oil of him and his family, towards a long corridor. The left side lead to a parlor for intimate meetings with dark greens and easily shuttered but large windows. Up ahead opened to a conservatory. The dark iron used for the walls to hold up the thick slightly tinted glass. The room was lined with plants of all sorts of varieties and the man happily walked down the path that led to another small fountain with marble benches around. The floor beneath them was checkered with black and white porcelain.

Nearby there was a small child like giggle. A boy had been going down the hallway followed close by his sister. They had been playing some sort of game when they'd wandered too close to their guests. Their arms were caught by the governess who'd rushed to catch up. As they glanced around to see if they disturbed the lord of the house or his guest, the woman caught sight of the guest. Her eyes widened as she silently pulled them back to guide them to the nursery to continue whatever quiet game she'd had in mind. She hoped no one saw them, or at the very least, her.
OOC I wasn’t sure if I should say he spotted her or not. I hope this is OK?

Alex smiled pleasantly as his far from modest host boasted of this, the visible paeon to his successes. Inwardly, he was barely listening, as his eyes swept about, looking not in awe, but in hopes of catching some sign of the real reason that had brought him here. The tour lead them to a conservatory, replete with no doubt rare tropical specimens from the world over. A child’s laughter came to their ears and Alex’s in particular perked up for this was exactly what he was looking for – children…and their governess!

And there she was! He could not believe how easy this was. Of course, the tracking down of his elusive cousin had not been child’s play. But he had scarce been in the house twenty minutes, and here she was, practically presenting herself to him! Of course, it was only a brief moment, hardly more than one second, before she was gone, the children with her. It appeared that Mr. Jennings had not even noted their almost appearance. And Alex was unsure if Marie herself had noted his own presence. But in his eyes was the keen look of the hound which has run its prey to ground, and is eager for the end to the chase.

He interrupted his host with a polite gesture and said in a self-deprecating tone, ”I beg your pardon, Mr Jennings, but…the journey here was longer than I expected and…I perhaps drank one too many cups of your most excellent English tea before embarking. I wonder…might I trouble you to direct me to the nearest watercloset?”
The man nearly stuttered as he was not used to being interrupted. Had it been a servant or someone of lesser standing, he perhaps would have been angry. This was his guest, so he managed to remain calm and smiled nodding to him.

"Ah, yes, down the hall, third door to your left. Please take your time but do hurry back." The man gave a heartfelt chuckle. He idly gestured the other direction, "I shall be in the study making us both a fine scotch. You may perhaps prefer some sweet wine, but I think you will fall in love with a good smooth man's drink." He spoke with mild condescension as he was used to being in charge and speaking down to others. He turned to get his alcohol, leaving the Spaniard alone.

Molly, or Sarah as she was currently known, had hurried up the stairs with the children. To keep the man distracted, she was having the children recite their nursery rhymes while she snuck to the other room and immediately began to pack.
The chance to end this romp across England had been handed to him, and Alex wasted no time taking advantage of it. He made a quick half bow to his host, and murmured his thanks, and hurried off, uncaring of what Mr. Jennings would ultimately make of his departure. If all worked out well, he’d soon be carrying Marie off, away from this life of servitude,  and he’d not have to be in the near insufferable presence of the gauche man again. Alex bypassed the W.C. and walked rapidly back into the main part of the house, looking about and wondering where the girl would have likely gone. He had to hurry. There was a chance that Marie had not spotted him. But he wasn’t going to poke about leisurely only to find that she has escaped his grasp once again.

The house was huge, however, and he stood in the entrance hall, looking this way and that, when a middle aged woman appeared and regarded him with some surprise. But his garb and demeanor signaled to her that here was the guest her employer had put all the staff on notice about, and she approached with a polite smile, explaining that she was the housekeeper, and did he require anything.

With a charming smile, he led her to believe that he’d visited the W.C. and then, upon exiting, lost his way, as far as the directions that his host had given him – to join him in the nursery so that he could introduce his lovely offspring to his guest. The woman looked puzzled. This didn’t sound like something Mr. Jennings would normally subject his guests too. But she was too polite to question Alex. So she sensibly gave him the directions he requested, and he bowed and gave her a charming expression of his thanks, then hurried up the stairs. Bemused, the woman went about the chore that had brought her to the entrance hall to begin with.

It was the matter of less than a minute before Alex’s fleet steps brought him to within range of, once again, childish voices. Without hesitation – for he could not afford delay – he stepped into the nursery, looking around for his quarry. The children stopped their recitation, surprised, like the housekeeper, to see this well dressed and fine looking gentleman invading the sanctuary of their little corner of the grand house. Alex gave them one of his winning smiles and put his finger to his lips, and seeing that Marie was not within view, he crossed to the nearest door that led off the main room of the nursery.

”Miss Long! There’s a man in the nursery!” little Jacob called out in a half warning, as the children looked at Alex in confusion, as he entered the room in which they slept, and just as quickly reappeared again.
From across the hallway, Sarah's head perked up as she heard something. Footsteps. The children stopped their reciting. Her hands immediately hurried to finish packing. First the clothing she had procured while staying there, and then the documents and a few gifts her employer had so kindly bequeathed her.

Then the boy spoke up. Immediately, her hand slowly and quietly closed the door to just a crack left open. Her footsteps took her across the room to throw open the window. She called out to the boy, keeping her voice light and cheerful for the kids.

"Such a good honest boy, little Jacob. Keep him busy but don't let him get too close. He is quite dangerous."Honestly, she had no idea if he would harm a child but she had to be careful. After all, this man was a great danger to her. His family had poisoned her, tried to murder her. And now he was following her across the Earth. She could only believe he was there to deliver a body so they could get all of her father's money.

A frown came to her face though she had accepted what life had handed to her a long time ago. She took a deep breath and pursed her lips, her eyes drifting to the floor. Her fingers wrapped around the briefcase's handle and she immediately stepped back to hide in the wardrobe near the entrance to the room and closed the door silently. She leaned back to the wall and covered her mouth so that even the sound of her soft breathing was stifled. She only could open he would come into the room, see the open window, and fall for the bait. The only thing that would have worked better was if she had tied bedsheets to the bed, but she hadn't the time.
Her voice was enough to alert him as to her location and he immediately crossed to another room, stepping inside to see…an open window. With a low curse in his native tongue, he moved to the window with speed, looking down, and seeing…nothing. There was no tree with branches easily accessible, no thick, woody vine crawling up the side of the almost new house. And most importantly, no girl below hot footing it off. If she had jumped, she would have probably broken an ankle anyway. But Alex was sure her voice had come from this room.

He turned about quickly, scanning the furniture and furnishings, and spotted…the bed. It was certainly high enough that a small woman could hide beneath it. A small smile crossed his lips and he moved to it, crouching down to peer under it.
Marie peered out from behind the wardrobe, knowing that now her cover was fully blown and she couldn't stay in the house another minute. She peered through the tiny crack in the door as he looked out the window. She was about to quietly step out, but he immediately moved. She froze, fearing he'd check the wardrobe first. A silent sigh of relief came as the man knelt down instead. This was her chance.

She stepped as delicately upon the wooden floor as a ballerina and slowly slipped out, careful of any creaking the door might make. The second she was fully exposed, she rushed to the door, her briefcase firmly in hand. Her hand gripped the doorknob, and she stopped. The girl had been on the run so long, and she couldn't understand why he tried so hard to bring her back. Surely it would have been cheaper to stay home and simply wait for them to assume she was dead? The confusion filled her, but that wasn't why she stopped. She couldn't stand around and talk to him, he was one of them that tried to murder her.

She stopped, and she waited for him to turn. She wanted him to see that she had slipped past him again. The girl they thought was so simple and didn't love like family was going to best him. Marie waited for him to see her and she smiled.

"Goodbye again, please don't follow." She slammed the door and pressed her shoulder hard incase he tried to force his way through. She jammed in the key and turned the lock until she heard the satisfying click. Her head barely ducked into the door to tell the kids to keep up their studies and like that, she was hurrying down the steps and slipped out before anyone could stop her. She wanted to steal a horse and make a dashing get away, but had to settle for taking the cab he had gotten to the house to take her back after she flashed a small bit of money she had saved for such a moment in her pocket.

She climbed in side and told him to hurry, barely glancing back at the house as they trotted away to the city where she would disappear once more.
She was as quiet as a mouse, as she moved from wardrobe to door. But it didn’t take Alex long to look under the bed. So when he turned, he saw her, by the door. Immediately he was on his feet, but luck was on the girl's side. As she gave him that saucy look, and resolute words left her full, luscious lips, he practically leapt to lay his hands on her. But a stray corner of the bed coverings caught at his foot, and as Marie slid through the door, he went down on one knee, cursing in Catalan. It took him no more than a moment to rise again, but it was enough, for her to turn the key in the lock and prevent his pursuit. He heard her heels clicking on the wooden stairs and he cursed again, slamming his fist into the door in his frustration. Once, twice, he beat impotently on the oak, and then hurried to the window to look out over the vista if offered. From the vantage of this side window he could see little, but as his eyes scanned frantically, hoping against hope he’d catch some glimpse of her, he did see his conveyance moving off at a fast clip, exiting the drive and then lost under the trees.

With a hard face and a groan, he went to the bed and sat down, head in hands for a long moment. Was it some trace of her scent that lingered still on the bed clothes, that caused him to gather a pillow to his chest, and breathe in, then breathe out, ”Marie….”

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