Authors: Allie Borne
Placing her hands on his chest, she pushed him from her and sat up, hugging her knees to her chest. “Is this a lack of faith in me, or in your own ability to keep your wedding vows?”
“Neither. I simply want your vow that you will come to me with your problems, and not run to your family.”
“Might I have a reason to wish to run, Charles?”
“I know not. I only have a feeling...Do I have your word that you will come to me?”
“Charles, I don’t know how to respond. I want to say yes, that I have learned the hard way that it is foolish to run. But I also feel as if you have not been completely honest with me. I do not wish to make a promise that will prove me sorry. If you were to break your vows to me, I do not feel as if I could stay. I do not wish to be handled by the men in my family, as if I have no say in my own fate.”
“Lindsay, I am your husband. Your safety and security is my responsibility. You have to trust me to take care of you.”
Sensing her withdraw into her own thoughts, Charlie decided that the conversation could keep for one more day. Sitting up, he began pulling on his stockings. “I have to go into town tomorrow to meet with the banker. Is there anything I might fetch for you?”
“No, but I have written Leah a letter. If you could post it, I would be grateful.”
Their ride back was tense, disquieted as they were by their own thoughts. “Let us go up through the music room, to avoid making a spectacle of ourselves.” Charles interjected into the silence, looking at Lindsay with one eyebrow quirked. Tension breaking, they both laughed out loud at the absurdity of their appearance.
“As you wish, Charlie,” Lindsay chuckled. Then, looking up at the profile of the manor house, she stalled her horse’s gait. “Oh, no! I completely forgot about David Blane!”
“David Blane, Betsy’s lief, is a gardener. Bobby left to persuade him to come for an interview and here are their horses, in front of the house. Oh, he will surely think us mad and leave. Look at me! I have pond scum in my hair!”
“Lindsay, he is a gardener. We choose him, not the other way around. Now, where do you propose we keep him, if he does decide to accept the position?”
“In the tack room, until he marries Betsy, that is.”
“I see. As with any man, he little realizes his fate has been predetermined.”
“Please, Charles, for Betsy’s sake, be serious!”
“Very well, for Betsy,” he said, clearing his throat and squaring his shoulders. “Proceed!” Charles gallantly waved Lindsay in front of him.
Linnie rolled her eyes at his sarcasm but felt pleased nonetheless. Not waiting for Charles, Lindsay dismounted Doc at the front of the manor house just as Bobby walked David around from the vegetable garden.
“M’Lady, this is David Blane. Mr. Blane, Lady Donovan.”
Lindsay’s eyes roamed across the broad face and round body of her potential new hire, coming to rest upon the broad hands holding his doffed hat. They were good, capable hands. They were hands that would keep a body safe and secure; add to that the flash of a bright blue eye and Lindsay could see why Betsy might wish to wait fifteen years for this man. She grinned as he introduced himself.
“Pleased to make your acquaintance, My Lady. Bobby here has been showing me the grounds. He says you are in the market for a grounds keeper and says you might be interested in employing my services.”
“We hear that you come highly recommended. Is that true?” Charles asked politely, nonchalantly smoothing the wrinkles from his shirt front.
“I have left my past employer with letters of reference. For the past five years I have worked for a large commercial estate in Bath. Before that I was an assistant grounds keeper for nigh on ten years at a grand estate in York.
“I find myself ready to return to my place of birth, to settle down. I hope to find a position that gives me the ability to do so. I was hoping to take a position somewhere as head gardener. After seeing your grounds, I take it I might be the only gardener, should I take the job.”
“That you would be, David, at least until next spring. The position is a daunting one. The lawns need cleared, the garden landscaped, and the fences repaired and maintained. I shall expect the cook to maintain the vegetable garden and help with the fruit trees. I shall endeavor to offer Bobby and the stable boy’s aid whenever possible, but for now, you will be left to your own devices. What do you say? Are you up to the task?”
“Yes, Sir Charles, I will take the job. I have a vision for this place, it seems strange to say it, but I feel as if this is the place I was meant to leave Bath to find. The old place seems to welcome me.” Shaking his head, as if he could not quite make sense of it himself, David replaced his tricorn hat. I shall just need to gather my things from my friend’s home. I have my own horse for transportation but my equipment is in a trunk.”
“Say no more. I shall send Bobby with the carriage after the noon meal tomorrow. Give him your friend’s address and he can pick you up there. Would you like to see your accommodations?”
“Aye, I would.”
“Bobby, fetch Betsy Thomas, so that she might show Mr. Bane about the tack rooms and cottage.”
Seeing a dumbstruck look upon Mr. Bane’s face, Lindsay couldn’t help but inquire worriedly, “Are you quite well, Mr. Bane? You look unsettled by something.”
“Oh, yes, Miss. It was just the name, Betsy Thomas. I had a sweet heart in my younger years by that name. It is a common enough name. It just took me back, is all.”
“Why you clod, it is yer old sweet heart, me aunt, Betsy. I thought you’d know that, seeing as how Bakersville’s such a small place, I hardly thought I’d need to tell you.”
At the bright pink blush peeking behind the stubble of David’s beard, Charles felt he must intervene, if the man were to retain at least a bit of his dignity.
“If you are in need of any landscaping tools, please do no hesitate to ask, Mr. Bane. I hope to see you on the morrow, good day to you.”
Lindsay and Charles left their horses tied to the front post for Bobby to tend and entered the house. Sneaking up to their room, they were startled by Dorothy.
“Oh, Sir, My Lady,” Dorothy curtsied quickly and picked up her basket. “I was just looking over my Mistresses’ wardrobe, and gathering what needs mending. I shall leave with my pile straight away. Might I sit with my needle in the green room, Mistress? The light in the attic is not so bright.”
“Yes, of course, Dorothy. I prefer you have free rein of the house, excepting when we have company.”
“Oh, thank you, Mistress. I shall not make a nuisance of myself.”
“You are excused, Dorothy. I will call for you when I need you. I do believe I would like a bath tonight.”
“Yes, M’Lady,” Dorothy backed from the room, her face still slightly flushed, and Lindsay sighed.
“I had forgotten that with servants one loses privacy. Ah, well, I shall gladly surrender some for a nice hot bath.”
“Well, my little hedonist, shall I play lady’s maid? Someone must undress you and brush out that bog of a mane.”
“Yes, do, please. Then I shall sponge you off and redress you for lunch. I am ravenous.”
As Charles stripped her down, he dampened a cloth in the wash tub and cooled her flesh with long, leisurely strokes. Seating her, naked upon the bed, he carefully release her hair from the myriad of pins. Beginning at the bottom, he carefully worked out each tangle. His delicate ministrations sent tingles through Linnie’s abdomen and between her thighs. Each tiny tug on her scalp felt as if he touched that soft flesh.
Lindsay, moaned, languidly aroused, despite her soreness from the morning’s activities. She tried to turn to him, but he denied her the pleasure.
“Your hair must be put to rights, Linnie. Do try to behave,” Charles chuckled.
Sitting obediently, she endured the sweet torture until, at last her hair swung in soft waves down her back. Standing, she swayed her hips enticingly as she glided to the wash stand. Wetting the cloth, she returned in the same manner, her breasts and hips moving in a most palatable display of womanhood. She licked the corner of her mouth, pleased with the desire she saw burning in his amber eyes.
Pulling him to his feet, she ran the cloth in a curve across each well-defined pectoral muscle, along his broad shoulders and strong fore arms, up and down his muscled back, to the narrowing of his waist. Collecting more water, she allowed some to trickle across his hips. Droplets gathered, running down into the soft hair surrounding his man hood. Charles shivered in anticipation as Linnie kneeled to cup him. Carefully, she washed him, wrapping the cloth about the stiff member, she stroked him. Tentatively, she placed her mouth where the cloth had been, kissing and sucking the head of his staff. Groaning, he pulled her up and tossed her onto the bed.
Charlie did not wish to hurt her. After their vigorous love making just an hour past, he feared that she would tear, were he to penetrate her in the same manner. Turning her upon her stomach, he pulled her hips toward him, so that her luscious apple bottom was vulnerable to plunder.
Sticking one finger and then two into her moist opening, Charles stroked his love until she rocked, flushed and wet with passion. Encircling her center with his erection, he wet himself with her honey and thus slick, slid himself slowly inside. The new position inflamed him. She was tight and he could fit his full shaft within her.
Grasping her firmly about the hips, Charles moved himself fully in, then slid out, leaving only the tip of his sex within her. Waiting until Lindsay cried out for more, he moved within her again. He repeated the motion until she sobbed for her release. Thus appeased, Charles drove himself into her, managing her bucking with a tight hold upon her hips.
This time, her orgasm came quickly, outpacing his own. Feeling her strong spasms about his shaft, Charles lost control, riding her in deep fast strokes, he called out “Linnie, Oh, God, Linnie,” as he exploded within her. Gently, he rolled her onto her side and pulled her legs up in a fetal position. Curling himself around her back, he wrapped his arms about her waist. “You will be the death of me,” he whispered raggedly in her ear. She shivered as her overly sensitive skin rippled at his touch.
Charles hoped that by keeping his seed within her thus, it might take root and grow. He dared not speak such thoughts to his young wife. He knew she wanted children but his desperate longing to set his bird nesting was a selfish, self-serving wish. His wish for a family stemmed from his need to keep her. Short of clipping her wings, a baby would keep her here, or at least, keep her coming back.
“There pipes the woodlark, and the song-thrush there
Scatters his loose notes in the waste of air.”
~Thomas Gray, 18th Century English Poet
The rest of the day passed pleasantly. As Charles holed himself in his study, John and Bobby worked on patching a hole in the roof. Betsy readied the tack room for David, and Lindsay surreptitiously began cleaning out the master bedroom with the help of Molly and Dorothy.
By cleaning the closet first, Dorothy was able to press and hang Lindsay’s few gowns. Bobby, being pulled into service to hang a bar and build a door, was unable to help John with the hole in the roof. Bernard, therefore, stepped in, mumbling something about burnt soup.
By the end of the day, the room was scoured and the closet complete. By tomorrow, the furniture would be moved in and the room ready to reveal. Lindsay had personally worked with Dorothy on the drapes. She would use the bed cover she had sewn for her bridal trousseau. Dorothy and Molly could help her white wash the room as soon as Charlie left. If all went well, it would be dry by noon.
Linnie put herself to bed thrumming with excitement. The additional help was swiftly transforming her house into a home.
Lindsay pretending to slumber as Charles arose at dawn and departed. The moment he shut the bed chamber door, she slid from the feather tick and washed up. “He has departed,” echoed Dorothy’s voice from the key hole. “Shall I come in?”
“Yes, please, Dorothy.” Together they made quick work of Lindsay’s gown and kerchief. Both tied smocks about their waists, watching Charles gallop Diamond down the path.
“Molly has already gone to fetch Bobby from the stables. He will carry the buckets of white wash afore he walks the fence line. We shall be on our own as he’ll be mending fences till dusk. Shall we lay down the old linens from the closet, to protect the wood floor?”
“Yes, capital idea, Dorothy. I will do so, if you will go downstairs and fill a small tin with water for our brushes. Also, please ask Bernard to bring up the ladder.”
After spreading the linens, Lindsay descended the stairs to her breakfast. Bernard entered the dining hall. “The ladder has been deposited within your bed chamber, Mistress. I shall be needed to finish the repairs on the roof today. A storm is brewing. I can feel it in my bones. I would hate to leave the Miss Dorothy and Miss Molly with a wet head come the morrow. I have pressed Betsy into service as our cook.”
“Very well, Bernard. We shall make do. I will be requiring Dorothy and Molly’s assistance in the Master Bedroom. How does the remainder of the roof look, Bernard?”
“Quite sound, Mistress.”
Lindsay relieved the two women of their brushes, sending them down to break their fast. She continued with the painting of the ceiling. Paint flicked down upon her, appearing as white freckles over her arm and face. It took the three young women until noon to finish.
They were exhausted as they rinsed the brushes and gathered their drop cloths. “Come, let us eat in the kitchen, and then see about moving in the furniture.”
John and Bernard looked even more fatigued as they sank into their stools by the hearth. Soup and bread was soon emptied from trenchers and they all sat back, enjoying the slight breeze from the open door.
Lindsay slouched, rubbing her temples with a sigh, and addressing no one in particular, she asked, “By the by, when should Bobby return?”
“He took his lunch with him, Mistress. He plans on picking up Mr. Bane and then taking him out to mend fences. They should be back by supper time, I’d wager. Master wants the fences in order for his sheep that come at the end of the week. I believe we are to get a milk cow and a breeder sow some time in the next fort night, as well.
“Bobby will have to repair the pen at the back of the stables. I suppose the Master intends to hire a stable boy to tend all the animals.”
Nodding her head in understanding, Lindsay wondered, “The new boy might stay in the loft with Bobby but wherever shall we put the cook?”
“Why, in this room, Mistress, I s’pose.” Betsy responded.
Opening a door adjacent to the root cellar, Lindsay encountered a small, square room stacked floor to ceiling with sacks of flour, corn meal, sugar, etc.
“If we reorganize our dry stock room, we might be able to keep this against a far wall.”
“Very well. When might this be done?” Lindsay asked, feeling the strain of her mounting responsibilities in the tightness between her shoulders.
“Tomorrow,” Betsy reassured, “if I might gain Molly’s assistance.”
“Yes, Betsy, Molly shall be yours by the morrow. Dorothy, Molly, let us return to our labor.”
In half an hour’s time the bedroom furniture was in place. In another hour candles, linens and draperies were installed and straightened. Wood set ready in the fire place and a plush rug (from Lindsay’s shopping trip) lay welcoming on the hearth.
Now, Dorothy, I should very much like that bath I forsook yesterday.”
As Molly and Dorothy prepared the bath, Lindsay stripped her filthy attire and brushed her hair. She looked forward to a long nap and intended to order the same for Dorothy and Molly. Their cot had been removed and replaced with a full bed frame and feather tic to share.
The cot was removed to the tack room. Now, Molly and Betsy must quickly repair a small bed and mattress for the cook. Another trip to market was crucial.
It was nigh on three O’clock when Lindsay stepped from the bath to a horrible crash. Grasping her towel tighter about her, Lindsay turned to Dorothy in alarm. “What was that? Why, it sounds as if the roof has caved in!”
Dorothy ran to discover the source of the house-shaking, “Crack!” as Lindsay quickly pulled on a serviceable blue cotton dress. “Why, it is Bernard and John, Miss, come quick!” Dorothy called down from the attic.
Taking the narrow steps two at a time, Lindsay rushed upon a horrifying scene. Dorothy bent over two prostrate forms, covered in wood, and a thick dust swirled. The two men had apparently fallen through the weakened roof, crashing upon the attic floor. Quickly, Lindsay joined in pulling the debris from the two men.
John, having fallen away from any furniture, was soon sitting up, dazed, bruised and scratched, but with no serious injury. Bernard, on the other hand, lay unconscious. A gash rent his scalp and his left arm lay at an odd angle.
Hearing Molly and Betsy bustling up the stairs, Lindsay called out, “Fetch clean water and bandages to my old room! Now!” Without a word they turned to obey. Examining her butler, Lindsay could see that although his head wound was bleeding profusely and his left arm was definitely broken, Bernard was breathing regularly and seemed to be otherwise uninjured.
“Dorothy, help me carry Bernard to my old chamber. You grab his leg and I’ll lift him beneath the shoulders. Heed that arm! John, stay right where you are!”
Where is my husband?
Linnie thought, angrily, as they maneuvered poor Mr. Bullworth into the waiting bed.
Betsy and Molly soon bustled in, arms full of supplies. “Betsy. The sky will surly break in storm within a few hour’s time. Go to the pasture. Fetch Bobby and David to board up the roof as best they can.”
“Molly, you are to give them whatever assistance they require.”
“Dorothy, Lindsay continued,” we have left poor John upstairs. Please see to him. I shall be able to manage here for a while on my own.”
As the other women rushed off to their errands, Lindsay soaked a rag and washed the dried blood from Bernard’s forehead. “Not deep,” Linnie sighed in relief. Lightly placing a strip of clean linen to the gash, she focused upon removing his boots.
Once washed and patched, Dorothy led John to his chamber, promising whisky in due course. Returning to her mistresses’ side, her sewing box in hand, she lifted the linen from Bernard’s head and reported. “He is still bleeding. I shall need to sew up the gash.”
“Have you done so before, Dorothy?” Lindsay wondered.
“Aye, Mistress. I had three brothers with sixty stitches among them. I have stitched scalp afore. Although it is tricky, I can manage, with Molly’s help.”
“Very well, have Molly help you and then see to the men’s needs. I will ride to town for the doctor. His arm will need to be set and I would like to have John looked over, also.”
“By yerself, M’Lady? Why, that is unwise!”
“It is very wise. No one else can be spared. We are only women remaining in this house and I am the only rider. I will go quickly.”
Grabbing her bonnet and cloak, Lindsay rushed down the stairs and out to the stable. Her side saddle was dreadfully heavy and cumbersome. It took her three tries to rest it atop Doc’s back. Her hands trembled, fumbling with the straps.
“Hurry, hurry!” she whispered to her wayward fingers. Climbing on the block, she mounted and immediately kicked Doc into a gallop. Lindsay was accustomed to riding a distance for sport or leisure but a two hour ride, when another’s life hangs in the balance, was excruciating.
Luckily, the way was straight forward. She need only follow one road until a mile out of town, and then turn down hill into the village at the sign post. “Thank Heaven,” she murmured, as she turned onto the final leg of the journey. Her arms and legs were numb and her heart was pounding, but she forced herself to focus on the task at hand.
Careening into town, she scanned both sides of the street for the doctor’s plaque. Left and right, her head turned, until a certain stride, a particular swagger, caught her eye. It was Charlie! Turning her full gaze in his direction, she began to guide Doc toward the right side of the street.
She pulled him up short when she noted Charles was not alone. Instead, he sauntered down the cobbled walkway, arm in arm with a willowy blonde. The lady in question laughed and turned her face to casually kiss his cheek. He smiled down at this Venus in white in a wicked and confident manner that Lindsay had never before witnessed.
A searing pain shot through her heart and abdomen. She doubled over as her insides clenched and turned to ice. She straightened, intending to call out to him, only to see Charles walk the lithe beauty into the town’s inn! Oh, how could he?
Sense pervaded shock and Lindsay realigned her duty and loyalty to her butler, Bernard.
I shall fetch the doctor and then deal with this.
With relief, Lindsay spotted the doctor’s office, one block down, on the left. Quickly dismounting and tying up Doc, she rushed into the office. Doctor Matthews walked out of surgery at the tinkling of the door’s bell. Wiping his hands on a towel, he looked at Lindsay’s wildly askew bonnet and inquired, “How might I help you, Miss?”
Lindsay took a deep breath, stood firmly erect, and gushed, “I am Lady Donovan and my butler has been gravely injured. I believe his arm is broken and he has a nasty gash upon his forehead. Can you come to Braxton Hall immediately?”
“Aye, of course, but, where is your escort?” Dr. Matthews glanced out the door curiously.
“I have come alone.”
Surprised and alarmed, the doctor suggested, “Then, let us take my curricle.”
Peering out of the window, he saw Doc. “I shall tie your horse to the carriage and you shall ride with me. Where is Sir Charles?”
“Engaged in business,” Lindsay answered in a curt tone that squelched further inquisition. “He left the manor this morning and shan’t be back until late this evening.”
“I see. Give me one moment to collect my things.”
Rolling past the Yellow Lamb Inn, Lindsay couldn’t help but look for signs of Charles. None were apparent. Her heart sank. Had he been dining at the window, she would, at least, know that he hadn’t taken a room with that wicked woman.
What to do? She would wait to see about Bernard and then decide. One thing was certain. As the curricle grew nearer to the manor house, she grew increasingly restless. Her conversation with Charles the day before kept running through her mind. He had asked her to not leave him. She had asked if he had broken his marriage vows. He had not answered her question. She had not promised to stay.
Linnie’s eyes burned with unshed tears as she thought back to the house party. During Charles’ conversation with Aiden, he had implied that he had schemed to marry her for money. Had this whole few weeks of marriage been a sham? Had he bedded her simply for sport and the possibility of an heir? He had asked her just last night to let him know right away if she missed her monthly courses. Was the sophisticated woman she saw on his arm the true object of his lust and devotion?
If she stayed now, Linnie knew she would be removing her opportunity to leave of her own accord. To leave meant to undermine her husband’s trust. Yet, he had already destroyed the trust between them, through his actions, not only today but last month, and five years hence.
First he abandons my mother and me, then he schemes to capture my dowry, now he gallivants about, escorting and kissing another woman on the streets of town?!
It was the last straw.
No one would support me, if I decide to leave Charles. He is allowed to carry out extramarital affairs. If he forbids me to leave, I will be like Mother, a prisoner in my own home. Charles loves me, I know, but not as a partner. He loves me as a dependent. I will not live my life as a second class citizen.
The moment the curricle pulled up in front of the manor house, Lindsay escorted Dr. Matthews to the upstairs guest room. Linnie entered the sick room first and was pleased to see Bernard conscious, flanked by Betsy and Dorothy.
“I have brought the doctor, Bernard.”
“The doctor, Betsy, no!” he said, turning to the house keeper.
“It is the new doctor, remember? He is one who came to the old Master’s death bed,” Betsy responded, reassuring.
“Oh, yes, my mind is in a fog. I remember. You may send him in.”