Had he really abandoned her, her long time friend?

   Bjorn let out a frustrated sigh.
The cape and hat were water logged and clung to her body irritated him.
He thought about throwing them away and being done with his irritation, but thought it would be more irritating without them, allowing the cold wind to bite at her skin.

   He watched Erna as she slowly drifted off to sleep and realised it was not her clothes that irritated him, it was her situation.
It was clear to him now that it wasn’t just forced marriage that pained this woman.
The moment he saw her bruised face he realised.
It was probably all the scandal that turned a ruthless man to violence against this beautiful flower.

   The first time Erna hid away from the public eye was soon after the first scandal hit the streets.
Now Bjorn figured out why.
Not out of shame, or to keep a low profile, but because her own father turned his maliciousness on her.
He scratched his most expensive and valuable wares.
Walter Hardy was a pitiful merchant and a pitiful man.

   Cold anger seethed through him. There was so much of tonight that made him angry, from the moment he saw Erna collapse under the clock tower, to the realisation of her father and no doubt the man she was waiting for.
It had to be a man, why else would Erna willingly wait out in the bitter rain?

   She was probably going to run away with this disgraceful man that abandoned such a sweet rose.
What hurt more was that this man was probably a close friend to Erna, or pretended to be, he probably took her money, promising to sort out all the travel arrangements and then flee the city at the last minute.

   Only thing is, Bjorn knew Erna didn’t have enough money to attract scam artists, she barely had money selling flowers to pay off her debt to him and that’s when he had a thought.
Erna had one other friend in the city, someone he had seen her with many times, an artist, Pavel, was it?

   Bjorn remembered seeing him at the Royal Academy of Arts, that’s how he knew he was an artist.
He was burly, red haired young man.
He seemed bright enough and not at all like someone who would go out of his way to harm a young lady.

   Bjorn suddenly thought of the Genius Poet of Lars.
It was an unexpected memory of the man that had taken Gladys from him.
He died a couple years ago, before he even turned thirty.
A talented artist who passed away young.

   With a cynical laugh, Bjorn scrubbed the thoughts from his mind and looked out the window.
The dark, empty streets were so quiet, save for the clopping of horses’ hooves and being drawn to the sound, he could hear the approach on the other side of the road and sure enough, a single horse  trundled past and driving was a burly red haired man.

   Pavel Lore, that was his name.
Seeing the face made Bjorn remember the name.
He had been wrong, Pavel had not abandoned Erna.

The perfect manner in which seemingly random events fell in line made Bjorn smile as he watched the man trundle past.
At least one thing was different from what he guessed, but it was not to Bjorn’s liking.

   Thunder rumbled over head and Erna stirred from her shallow slumber.
She looked about with a vacant stare, the brief nap fogging her memory.
She looked like a lost child and it rubbed against Bjorn’s nerves.

   The moment she looked out the window, Bjorn reacted instinctively and closed the curtains.
There was no way she could spot Pavel now, but he wasn’t willing to take that risk.
Erna looked at him blankly, but sank back into her seat.

   With the situation back under predictable control, Bjorn let out a deep sigh and closed his eyes.
They sat in silence for the rest of the journey.
It wasn’t a long before the carriage turned into Tara Boulevard, where the Hardy Mansion was.

   The driver knocked on the door to let the passengers know they were at their destination.
Bjorn moved to take Erna into his arms, wrapping a spare cloak around her as he did so, then he had a thought.

   He opened the door and gave the driver an order, who was surprised at the words spoken to him, but Bjorn was the Prince and so, the driver followed his order without question, confused as he was.

   Bjorn tried to put Erna back into her seat, but she nestled into him like he was a giant teddy bear, no doubt finding the warmth of him comforting.
She stirred a little as the carriage moved off again.
It did not go to the Schuber Palace, but to somewhere in the northern part of the city.

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