The sound of feet shuffling on the floor woke Thia hours later. Opening her eyes, she caught sight of a young woman moving through a door she’d not noticed earlier. “Hello?”
“Just a moment,” the woman said. “Let me put the towels down.”
Pushing off the blankets, Thia froze. Blood was caked on her hands and under her fingernails. Herasta’s blood.
Memories of what she’d done while drugged assaulted her. Bile rose in her throat as she saw the stained sheets. Frantically, she shoved them away.
“Matron had me get a bath ready for you,” the woman said as she came into the room. “And there’s a clean dress in there that should fit you.”
Thia looked up at her, her heart racing in fear. “Matron?” she stammered.
“Yes,” the brown-haired woman nodded. “It’s what we call the Baroness, our aunt.” She smiled. “I’m Arianna, by the way.”
Inhaling, she forced her fears down. “Do you think that she’d be okay if I called her something else? I don’t have fond memories associated with that word.”
Arianna smiled, “I’m sure she will. You’re family, after all. Now,” she pointed toward the other room, “why don’t you go get cleaned up. I’ll take care of things in here.”
Thia rose, grabbing for the sheets at the same time, “I can do this.”
“Nonsense,” Arianna gently removed the fabric from her hands and guided her away from the bed. “My parents believe that it’s necessary for me to learn what it means to take care of others before I have to. As you outrank me, that means your care is in my hands.”
“What did you say?” Thia asked, confused. “I have no rank.”
The woman led her through the doorway, “Your father had one, though. As you are his heir, it now is yours. I’m certain Matron, er, the Baroness will make it official tonight. But you are Her Ladyship, Thia Beckenburg.”
Stunned, Thia didn’t know how to respond. The small room Arianna led her to had a large copper tub filled with steaming water. Fresh towels sat on a nearby stool, along with a cake of soap. Hanging from a hook was a light gray dress. Soft leather shoes sat on the floor nearby.
“Take your time,” Arianna said from the doorway. “Dinner’s several hours away yet.”
As soon as the door was closed, Thia pulled off the stained tunic and breeches. Tossing them into a pile, she stepped into the tub and started to scrub off the blood.