The view of the sunset at camp was breathtaking to say the least. It painted the sky to be the color of fire. I was sure that the clouds would ignite at any minute; but it only would have added to the brilliance of the sky. I wasn't the only one entranced with the sight, though; Forbes had joined me several minutes ago to watch the sun dip over the horizon. Even Miracle seemed appreciative of the sunset; she didn't even seem to mind the fact that I was still on her back even though we had successfully arrived. I refused to get off by Forbes' hand, though, because it hadn't worked out so well the last time.
We had gotten to camp at least a half-hour before dusk, but the men were still frantically attempting to assign the recruits to their tents. Forbes was supposed to be helping the officers; but apparently had given up long ago. He was now by my side, scratching Miracle's neck affectionately. She seemed to enjoy that a lot and she pushed her snout towards his hand. Forbes smiled, rubbing her nose instead. Miracle lazily closed her eyes, a content sigh emitting from her.
"You have a way with animals, Major." I observed, a smile gracing my own features at the sight. It was the first time either of us had said anything. Forbes nodded, glancing up at me momentarily before turning his attention back to the horse.
"I just have a way with Miracle, actually," he admitted. "I've known her for a while now. She was my first horse." His voice took on a tone of laughter. "You know, he – Robert, I mean – used to tease me that Miracle would be the only woman who would ever love me."
"That's sweet." I declared, tilting my head, causing Forbes to raise his eyebrow up at me. "Cabot has a soft side. He really does have a heart after all."
Forbes looked up at me again, a mock-serious expression on his face. "First of all, never call me Cabot." I nodded feverishly and shot him a teasing salute. "Secondly, you are not to repeat anything that you have heard; and thirdly, I do in fact have a heart, but I may have to kill you now that you know."
"Oh, woe is me." I gasped dramatically, placing the back of my hand on my forehead. Forbes cracked a smile at that, but before he could retort (and I knew he was about to because he had that glint in his eye), another man halted in front of us. He was young – older than me but seemed to be around Forbes' age – with a handsome face and dark hair. His hazel eyes flickered nervously, shifting from Forbes to me.
"Cabot – er, Major?" He stumbled a bit over Forbes' title, causing Forbes to drop his hands from Miracle's nose and turn towards the newcomer. The two saluted solemnly, and I debated briefly whether or not I should do the same. Miracle huffed irritably, trying to get Forbes' attention again.
"Yes, Charlie?" Forbes replied effortlessly, seemingly at ease compared to the man – Charlie, I assumed his name was. Charlie swallowed, wringing his hands together anxiously, stealing a glance at me. Forbes noticed this and snorted, "For God's sake, Charlie, she isn't going to have you beheaded because you are in her presence. She's just a woman."
Charlie flushed deeply at this, but nodded curtly, placing his palms stiffly at his sides.
Charlie, do you know Adelina?" Forbes asked suddenly, motioning towards me.
"I've heard about her but we haven't personally met." Charlie admitted, smiling a bit shyly up at me. He seemed different from the other men; he wasn't against meeting me but wasn't quite sure how to treat a woman in the regiment.
"Is that so?" Forbes said, blinking innocently. "Wouldn't you prefer to properly meet her while she is at ground level?"
I wasn't quite sure where Forbes was going with this, but I glared at him all the same. Charlie seemed confused, but he glanced at Forbes and cautiously replied, "I suppose?"
"Right," Forbes smirked at me. "Adelina, would you be a lady and get down from your horse so you can greet Charlie?" He knew that I was still a bit cross with him for letting me fall, and this was either a way to see me fail once again or to…no, that was the only explanation I could possibly think of.
I stared at Forbes a bit longer, before twisting my mouth up into an attempted smile, but it probably ended up appearing like a grimace. "Of course, Major." I growled, positioning myself to slide off of the saddle. I peered down towards the ground, attempting to estimate the fall to the ground. Charlie glanced at me a bit guiltily before stepping towards me, both hands outstretched in an awkward offer to help.
"Miss DeWolfe, do you need any assistance?" he asked politely. Forbes had also started towards me, somewhat startled that I was going to attempt to get off of the saddle by myself. I took a deep breath, shut my eyes tightly, and jumped, just as a startled voice exclaimed, "Miss DeWolfe!"
My feet slammed against the ground, jolting my body in shock. The whole surprise of my soles hitting the rock-hard dirt caused my eyes to fly open. Pain shot up my spine, and I gasped. My legs suddenly felt like jelly and I lost my balance. I stumbled backwards, falling into someone, who gripped my arm until I had steadied myself.
My eyes landed on Forbes, who was standing oddly stiff and straight. My sight then shifted to the left, on Charlie, who was looking down nervously. It was then that I realized that I was still in the grip of whoever was holding me, and I immediately wrenched away. A pit was forming in the bottom of my stomach as I slowly turned around to face Robert. He didn't seem angry, exactly. He just seemed a bit rigid.
"Are you all right?" he asked softly, placing his hands behind his back. I nodded, feeling my own spine straighten out tensely. Oh God, he's going to yell at me, isn't he?
Forbes and Charlie were watching quietly before Robert turned onto the second man. "I take it that you haven't relayed the message yet?" He said icily, his composure completely changing. Forbes rolled his eyes, and I sighed.
"Of course," Charlie said edgily. "Colonel Shaw would like you to show Miss DeWolfe where she will be staying."
Forbes snorted again. "Ah, yes, because she will be sleeping in a bloody palace along with the rest of us, isn't she?" The sarcasm was dripping from his voice. Charlie chuckled a bit at this until Robert silenced him with a glare.
"We could do without the sarcasm, Major Forbes." Robert snapped, causing Forbes to blink. He opened his mouth to retort, but closed it on a second thought. "Just make sure she is aware about the living arrangements, all right?" Robert continued. Forbes nodded curtly, giving Robert a salute before turning on his heel and motioning for me to follow. He was muttering under his breath while we trudged through the mud and dirt. I practically had to jog in order to keep up with the much taller man.
"He could have told us himself, rather than have Charlie 'relay the message.'" Forbes complained bitterly once we were out of earshot. "Who does he think he is?"
"Forbes?" I panted, trying desperately to stay in step with him. "Forbes, he's the colonel."
Forbes let out a noise that sounded much like a feral dog. I opened my mouth to beg him to slow down a little, when my foot caught on a little dip in the ground and I flew forward. My face hit the muck, giving me the unpleasant taste of dirt on my tongue. I slowly lifted my face from the earth, Forbes' hearty laugh meeting my ears. My arms propped myself up and I glared at him, my stomach still against the soil. He actually sat down beside me, he was laughing so hard.
"My God, Princess!" He finally managed to gasp out, clutching his sides. I sat up, crossing my legs Indian-style. "You have the absolute worst coordination of anyone I know!"
I scowled. "Well, I'm happy I was able to cheer you up." I snapped sarcastically. Forbes was still guffawing loudly and a bit obnoxiously, so I shoved him playfully so he would shut up.
"You're such a gentleman, Forbes," I deadpanned, hoisting myself to my feet and brushing off the dust particles on my dress. Still chuckling, he stood up also, shaking his head in disbelief. Then, he took off again, this time much slower so that I wouldn't fall again.
"And you're such a lady." He replied. I blinked a little. Touché.
We finally stopped at a long house-like building with a porch. Forbes went up the steps, and we ducked inside of a door. Several officers were inside of it already, and they glanced up when we entered. I didn't recognize a single face.
"These are your roommates, Princess." Forbes motioned towards all the men, smirking a little at my horrified expression. I blinked a little, feeling a blush color my cheeks. Leaning towards Forbes so that the others couldn't hear, I whispered, "You're not serious, are you?"
"What exactly did you expect?" Forbes tilted his head, giving the impression of someone truly interested in what I had to say. There was a playful flicker in his eye, and I knew that he would tease me as soon as I replied.
"I didn't expect to have to have to bunk with all of these men." I replied heatedly. I honestly didn't know what I expected; I just knew that it wasn't this.
"You're the only woman in the entire regiment." Forbes pointed out quietly, turning so his back was facing the others. They didn't seem to care much that they weren't included in the conversation. "Did you really think that you would have a whole mansion to yourself?"
"Of course not, Forbes. I'm not that thick." I hissed. "I don't trust…them." It was true enough; I didn't really trust anyone in the regiment yet. Forbes was well on his way to gaining my faith, and even Robert was almost on his way there. The only one who I even remotely could rely on was Miracle, and she was a horse for God's sake.
"I'll be here too, you know." Forbes said, seeming a bit hurt. "Do you really think I would let any of them do something to you?"
"I've known you for about a day and a half, Forbes." I replied. "In that day and a half, you allowed me to fall off of my horse – by your own hand, mind you – and you laughed at me when I fell down a mere five minutes before this."
"That was all in good fun." Forbes retorted, taking off his kepi and running his hand through his hair. "I promise that I will not let any of these men hurt you." I must have seemed a little wary, because he looked me straight in the eye and repeated softly, "I promise."
He did seem sincere enough, and I knew that he wouldn't allow me to seriously get hurt. I still didn't completely trust him, though, but for his sake I said, "All right."
"Good." Forbes replaced his kepi on his head in satisfaction. "You really don't have anything to worry about, though. Robert would honestly kill me if I let anything happen to you. It's apparently not gentlemanly to intentionally harm a woman."
"That's a comforting thought," I whispered.
"I suppose." Forbes said slowly, glancing at me. "You just have to remember that some of these men weren't raised the way we were. Some men – right here in this regiment, too – don't care about being a gentleman. Not here, at least."
He paused a bit before continuing. "Its war, you know, and gentlemen are not rewarded kindly here."
"So what am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to run away because a few men are going to harass me?" I asked, my voice cracking. Forbes glanced over his shoulder at the other men; some of whom were scowling at me and others who looked like they really couldn't care less. "Goddamn it, Forbes, I don't have anywhere else to go." I said softly. Forbes gave me a sad look, shaking his head a little.
"I know." He finally whispered. "I know."
author's note: thank you to those who reviewed! i shall give the four of you who do review a chance to join my super exclusive club that is only for people who read and review this story! yeah! does anyone have any suggestions on getting more reviews, though? just asking. :D
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review, please. :D