The drover’s cart seemed to come out of nowhere. The panicked horse running driverless all over the road, sending the enormous wooden barrels careening everywhere. The empty ones rolled haphazardly into things like cannon balls before they shattered in a spray of wood. The full ones exploding like beer-filled grenades where they landed. Several men chased the cart as the blessedly few night-time pedestrians ran for cover.
It took all of Evan’s strength to control his pair of horses, steering them at breakneck speed out of the way a split second before the cart could veer into them. As it thundered past with inches to spare, he hit a curb stone, and as he came to a shuddering stop, the carriage lurched ominously to the left.
He didn’t need to see the damage to know they’d thrown a wheel, and the missing wheel was the least of his worries when he feared for his passenger more.
“Lily! Are you alright?” He wrenched open the door in a blind panic then almost slumped double in relief when he found her wide-eyed and pale in a puddle of petticoats on the floor.
“I think so.” She gingerly stretched out each limb to check for breakages, then winced as she touched her forehead. “The door handle broke my fall.”
He helped her out and dragged her towards one of the lamps at the front, then wrestled with the ribbons of her bonnet so he could examine her head. “Do you feel dizzy? Light-headed?” The single bump he could find felt small and hard. Thankfully there was no blood. At least none he could see.
She flapped his hand away. “I am absolutely fine, Evan.” Then she frowned. “Which I suppose I have to thank you for. When I saw that cart careening towards us…” She shuddered then offered him the ghost of a smile. “A knock to the head is a small price to pay when I consider what could have happened. I think the carriage bore the brunt of it, don’t you?” Two men were rolling the lost wheel towards them. By the lopsided way it moved, it was obvious the rim was cracked.
The men helped him unhitch the horses and they manoeuvred the carriage to the side of the road, using one of the runaway empty barrels which had survived to prop it up in the void where the wheel was supposed to go.
“Can you repair it?”
Evan huffed out a breath. “Not here and not quickly. I’m going to need to get a spare wheel from the stable to move it. If there’s a spare wheel at the stable. If there isn’t, then I can probably mend this one but it’s going to take hours.”
He scratched his head as he considered the mechanics. “I’ll need to get the horses back to the mews, get a message to the family letting them know the carriage won’t be in any fit state to use till tomorrow. Then I suppose I’ll need to spend the night fixing it. But first, I’ll see you back.”
“There’s no need.”
“There’s every need. It’s dark and it’s late.”
She set her chin stubbornly. “I might not like you, Evan Temple, but I am not the sort who would abandon anyone in their hour of need and two of us will get it done quicker than one.”
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