Troy headed down the hallway in the direction of the library where Inspector Fox had told her she would find Rory interviewing one of the suspects. As she neared the door she heard voices.
"Will you protect me strong, clever, Inspector Alleyn?" A female voice said in a simpering doll like squeak that made Troy want to be sick. Troy turned the corner into the room and found Rory up against a bookcase with a tall, blonde, very attractive, young woman wearing an extremely revealing gown, latched onto his neck. She had her arms around his neck in a tight embrace staring deep into his eyes. Then she kissed him deeply and Troy felt like someone had stabbed a dagger through her heart.
She watched aghast as the woman kissed Rory with enthusiasm pushing him further against the bookcase so she was flush against him in an very inappropriate manner. Troy had heard about this woman from her friend, Lady Cavendish the owner of the manor, and other members of the household; they had commented on how smitten Inspector Alleyn appeared to be with her. At the time Troy had just brushed it off knowing Rory too well to think he would fall for some floozy. She had convinced herself that when she accepted the invitation to come to stay with Lady Cavendish for a few days it was because she simply would grasp any opportunity to see him.
But as she watched the man she loved in a passionate embrace with said woman, all certainty she had about Rory's restraint slipped away. There was no denying the woman was very attractive. Troy stood there frozen. She would have sworn to anyone that in that moment she heard her heart crack in two.
She had travelled up to the manor that morning, Lord and Lady Cavendish knew that her and Rory were an... item and Lady Cavendish had invited Troy down because she was 'more than a little concerned' over how much attention a certain blonde haired, attractive, friend of her daughter was getting from the inspector. She knew she shouldn't really place herself in the middle of an investigation like this but before she could properly think it through she had taken up the offer to come to stay and was on the next train. She was simply coming to see him. Not to check up on him in the slightest. Rory wasn't that kind of man.
How wrong I was, she thought as she took in the scene before her. Rory didn't know she was coming to stay, she thought she would surprise him. But it was him who surprised her.
She couldn't breathe. The woman seemed to suddenly notice her presence and stopped kissing Rory and turned to her. Rory, who had the good grace to look shocked, also turned to see what the young woman was looking at. His face became a mask of abject horror when he saw Troy standing in the door way.
Troy stared back at them too shocked to move. But when she looked into his eyes tears blurred her vision and she stifled a sob with a hand to her mouth as she fled from the room.
She rushed down the hallway, past a bewildered Lady Cavendish and Inspector Fox, back out the front door. She stormed out across the grand driveway and into a wooded area to one side. It was only when she was in the cover of the trees did she allow her emotions to catch up with her. She let out a shaky breath as another gut wrenching sob started a steady streak of tears down her cheeks. With one hand on her mouth and the other on the trunk of a tree to balance herself, she let herself release the pain she was feeling.
A sharp, excruciating pain was stabbing through her heart as her mind relived the scene she had just witnessed. She didn't want to believe it. Rory, her Rory with such a woman. But was he her Rory? They certainly had an understanding... well she thought they had. Perhaps he didn't consider their relationship that serious. Not significant enough to think that sort of behaviour was abhorrent. Did she mean nothing to him? That last thought only made her sob harder. She had been pushing him ever so slightly away recently. She was becoming scared their relationship would sacrifice her independence. That it would become 'them' not 'her' and 'him'. Perhaps he had misinterpreted her actions as disinterest. The tears continued to stream down her face in earnest.
Then she heard the sound of running on gravel and Rory's voice calling out to her frantically. She refused to answer him. She wasn't interested in whatever excuse he had. She didn't want him to see her tears, to know how much this hurt her. She was embarrassed at how deeply she felt for him when he obviously viewed their relationship as something so trivial.
His panicked calling of her name became louder as he drew near and she stumbled further into the woods to avoid him. She couldn't see him right now. Couldn't look into his wonderful eyes or see his wretched handsome face and be reminded of what she thought she had. The dashing inspector she thought she knew.
The pain in her heart refused to ease. It felt like she was walking around with a dagger in her chest. Her breathing became even more erratic when she heard his voice even nearer. No, she thought. He doesn't get to explain himself. She wanted to run. Run far away and crawl into a ball. She wanted to run till her legs wouldn't take her any further.
His steps grew louder and she hurried to get deeper into the woods.
"Troy, please... wait." He was panting hard as he drew near but she didn't wait. She started to run but stumbled on a tree root and fell to the ground with a yelp. She tried to stand up quickly and continue her flight when Rory reached her, he stretched out grasping her arm to help her to her feet but she batted his hand away as she stood. As she righted herself she angled herself away from him; refusing to look at him because she knew if she did it would only make her sob again. The tears were still coming without any sign of stopping but she refused to break down in front of him. She took a step forward to place more distance between them.
"Troy, I... Troy what are you doing here? I... what you just saw wasn't..."
"Don't..." she said interrupting him. She was amazed at how steady her voice was.
"Troy, you need to understand..."
"I understand perfectly Inspector" she said with venom.
"No, no you don't" he said his voice strained, pleading.
"What else is there to understand. Miriam invited me down because she was concerned about the behaviour of a certain Miss Ruby Davenport around you, knowing that we... that I... well anyway I now see that she was correct so there really is no need for me to stay."
"Troy what are you talking about..."
"Oh don't insult my intelligence Inspector you know exactly what I'm talking about or did I just imagine finding you in a passionate embrace with the woman" she screamed as she finally turned to face him fuming. That was a mistake. Looking at him was a mistake, she wasn't looking him in the eye but just seeing his tall handsome figure stood before her made her heart ache even more painfully. She started to shake, uncontrollably. She lifted a trembling hand to the back of her neck finally lifting her head, looking at him fully. Her other arm wrapped tight around her middle protectively. As quickly as their eyes met she looked away again.
His face changed when he saw her tear stained cheeks.
His voice softened "Oh Troy..." he started taking a step towards her.
"Don't" she said again "Please... just don't" her voice was small. Fragile. Her face portraying the deep hurt she was feeling.
"That woman, Miss Ruby Davenport, is the most incorrigible flirt the world has ever seen. She forced herself on me just then in an attempt to evade my line of questioning. It was in no way accepted or appreciated. She kissed me not the other way around. She is nothing but a ridiculous young woman who thinks she can influence every man she meets with her feminine charms. But she was wrong. The only feminine charms I succumb to are yours. My dearest Troy..."
She looked at him then, looked into his eyes and saw no deceit, nothing but pure honesty and love. She gasped at the emotion she saw there and brought a hand to her mouth. Before she could stop herself the gasp started another bout of sobbing. She turned her face away from him but he stepped forward and gently took her into his arms and she buried her face into his chest, sobbing in earnest. He brought a hand up to her hair and softly stroked her locks. She felt him place a delicate kiss to the top of her head and she carefully pulled back to look at him.
Her tears were still falling but he brought one of his hands up to catch one as it fell.
"I'm sorry" she croaked her throat raw from sobbing
"I will never, ever, have eyes for anyone but you my dearest Troy" he whispered stroking her cheek.
"Oh Rory, for a moment..." her voice broke hardly able to say the words, "for a moment I thought, I thought that what we had meant nothing to you. That I had gotten it all wrong... that you didn't care... it was too much... my heart... Seeing you with her... I... I felt embarrassed that I was obviously so insignificant to you." She stopped, gasping for breath. Rory's face showed unmasked emotion as he stared down at her, love and devotion was etched into his features.
"You are my world Troy" he said with conviction. "You are the reason I wake up in the morning, you are all I can think about each day. I know you value your independence and I will never take that away from you. How could you think that I could ever see you as insignificant? I love you Troy, with every fibre of my being. The fear that ripped through me when I saw you running away was enough to break me in two. The very thought of losing you was too much for me to bear. Marry me Troy, let me show you that you are all I need in this world" he drank in her deep grey eyes as more tears threatened to fall from her lashes.
She stepped up and kissed him, gently, slowly, almost reverently. As she pulled away she whispered "I love you too Rory, of course I'll marry you, I never want to feel that pain of not being yours ever again."