Just after the Physician discovers the Captain in the Earl’s study. For a more complete version, read here.
“We have to leave immediately,” he says urgently.
Morgan, little more than a boy and newly hired as his valet, rubs sleep from his eyes even as he pulls on his outer clothes.
“Saddle Calyx and pack the saddlebag for a three-day journey,” Isaac says, his mind racing towards escape.
“Sir, am I to accompany?” Morgan yawns, dressed and trailing Isaac.
“No, Morgan, and you are to tell no one of my departure. You will wake up tomorrow as surprised as anyone by my absence.”
“Of course, Sir,” the young man replies, disappearing into his master’s rooms as Isaac nudges open the door to Sirena’s.
Her bed is empty, and he races down to the ground floor, finding the door to Felicity’s morning room open.
The sight of her, kneeling next to the Captain, her sleep-tousled curls tinted violet in the bluish light, stops his heart. Will she see her own pale skin and Titian hair reflected back in the skeletal and grimy features of the woman who sleeps on her aunt’s settee?
“Sirena,” he whispers, voice breaking softly.
“Papa,” she replies without turning, “she’s very dirty, and her hair. Did she have lice?”
He cannot help a small laugh. She is so young yet. Of course she doesn’t see.
“Where did you hear about lice?” he asks, crouching next to her.
“Miss Miller said if I wouldn’t wash and comb my hair like a civilized child, I should get lice and be forced to shave it all off with your straight razor,” Sirena says earnestly.
“Miss Miller is right in all things,” he assures her. “Now, back to bed.”
Sirena kisses him. The jig is up. Morgan may lie for him, but he cannot ask his daughter to do the same. Felicity will know before breakfast that he had a dirty red-headed woman in the morning room in the wee hours of the night. There is no more time to lose.
“Who is she, Papa?” Sirena asks from the doorway. Her small face looks tenderly back at the Captain. She doesn’t know, he reminds himself.
“No one, Sprite,” he says. “Good night.”
As her door closes above, Morgan appears.
“Calyx is saddled, Sir.”
“Back to your bed, Morgan. You’re a good lad.”
“Sir,” the boy nods, practically asleep on his feet.
“Captain,” he says in her ear, having no other name for her. She doesn’t stir.
“Captain!” he insists. She makes a soft sound in her throat but doesn’t wake.
Since the moment the Earl and Lieutenant Jennings left them in the Earl’s former governess’s room, he has been reacting on instinct. They were left alone, but not for long. The guests had gone down to dinner, keeping the household occupied, but he had been sure that Felicity would note his absence. His decisions to trade the gray and reeking linen shirt and filthy trousers on her body for a woolen dress stolen from the Earl’s housekeeper, to carry her down and out through the servant’s entry to the Earl’s home, and now to flee London weigh heavily as he thinks of Sirena.
It is a difficult ride to the Thames. Far easier, he finds, to book passage to France on the turning tide.
As the ship groans and heaves away, the Captain’s eyes finally flutter open. There is a flicker of hope and recognition in their depths and he realizes that he has, as much as he can, already brought her home.
You must begin your story with the words “We had to leave immediately” and end it with “And then we realized we were already home.”
The middle part is up to you.
I’ve taken some liberties with the opening and closing lines, but I think they retain the original intent.