Archive for July, 2022

Gray Lace, part 41

We shall rejoin our characters in their absconded suite of rooms in the 1908 Charleston hotel, The Paterson. Time is short before the required funding for poshness will be demanded.


“Trevor left a short time ago,” Ross answered. “None too happy is my guess.” He gestured for Joann to relax in a large comfortable chair, and he rested his arms on the back. “Take deep breaths, our young miss, then explain why this staff is missing its master.”

Jacob patted Catherine’s hand. “May I offer a back rub?” At her positive nod, he kneaded the tension from her stiff back. “Well, where is our lordship and why has he gone?”

“He told me that he had cabled his family in England,” she absorbed the extra oxygen to continue. “And he informed me about his two younger brothers. I guess he wants my trust fund to care for his responsibilities since he gave up on the Cranfield money.”

“Did he say that? Did he ask you for money?” Jacob continued the back massage while he waited for an answer.

“Well, no.”

“Did he demand anything?” After a few quiet moments, Jacob’s wisdom mounted a counter-attack scenario. “Possibly your emotions prove you are falling for him far more than you are admitting.”

Catherine tossed an angry glare back in his direction. “What are you trying to explain?”

“My experience has taught me that if you’re angry, well then, you care.” Jacob stood and faced the other two. “What a ridiculous staff we make; a footman, a valet, and two maids, but no earl!” We need to get him back.” He placed his fists on his hips and titled his upper half toward them. “I realize that there are two sides to every coin and our earl has more story than we know.”

“I agree,” three faces turned toward Joann. She had been withdrawn since their Charleston arrival. They’d assumed it had been because of her fear of racially induced ugliness but hearing her usual commanding tone caught their attention and created their pleased expressions. “Trevor needs to be found and returned. Ross, as footman, you need to find and protect him. Check downstairs first. If he isn’t there, maybe ask the manager for names of pubs or grills. Jacob, as his valet, go out and start ordering clothing as if there isn’t a problem. Maybe start with fabrics and accessories. Tell the shopkeepers the Earl of Warrenwood will be in tomorrow for the measurements to begin.”

Catherine considered a dark possibility. “What if we cannot find him by then? Should I rove the streets too?” She was pleased that Joann leadership was back, the same Joann who taught her survival skills, had returned to them. This was the Joann who had saved them.

“Goodness, girl, no. Stop the negativity, besides you might be recognized,” she turned toward the men. “Well, why haven’t you gone, gentlemen?” She sweetened the order with a smile as she directed them toward the door. Once her soldiers had marched out, Joann advanced on Catherine. “You and I, my dear young lady, need to get busy on a trust fund retrieval plan.”

Enough! For now.

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Gray Lace, part 40

Author’s Note: No author’s notes today. I am not here yet. Egad!

When Trevor reached the windows for the third time, he stopped and stared at Charleston spread out like a carpet of possibilities. “I pray my brothers are not being taken for every penny I left them. I’d expected to be home by now.”

She couldn’t help herself, “With a wealthy bride?” Catherine started her own pacing, dreading where the answers would lead.

His hesitation turned him around and he searched the room to relocate his newest and prettiest problem. “Please don’t think that.”

“What?” She stopped still and faced him. “How dare you assume what I am thinking.”

“Money. Greed. You’re the one assuming. You think I’ve sent for them because I’ve discovered that you are close to finding your own fortune.” He slowly walked toward her, keeping his hands behind his back. “Well, you’re half right.”

He had well and truly shocked her. She froze. It gave him time to wrap his arms around her before she fled. She struggled from the hug and felt his reluctance, but he did let her go.

She noticed the heat first. Her cheeks and neck felt the fire of embarrassment and then the pain, the pain of betrayal. “Leave. Get out.” She waved toward the door.

“Catherine,” he whispered.

“Now, please.” She stood her ground and found the courage to hold onto her anger. She caught it before falling into the depths of his soothing light blue eyes.

His back snapped to a full military stand. She had the feeling she had crossed a line in his sand of acceptance and honor. He turned and had opened the door to the hotel hall and knocked Ross’s broader chest out of his way. Ross jumped back. With neither a word of apology nor explanation, Trevor turned toward the main stairs and disappeared.

“Great heavens, what was that all about?” Ross shot Catherine a concerned look and then visually searched the room for his wife. “Where’s Joann?”

“Joann?” she had forgotten. “Oh, she’s in there,” she pointed to the bathroom door and wondered how much Joann had heard, if anything. Shaking her head to clear the lingering pain, she asked her own question, “Where’s Jacob? You’re back fast.”

Ross headed to the bathroom door and watched it open to the beautiful smile he loved.

“Oh, Ross, it was lovely,” Joann sighed.

“What was?”

“After some experimentation, I drew the bathwater and soaked in the tub. What an absolutely wonderful experience, a sheer luxury.”

He laughed in relief to find her so happy and hugged her to prove it. “Um, you smell divine.”

Catherine sat on the couch slightly relieved as well. “Ross, tell me, where’s Jacob?”

“He’s waiting downstairs in the lobby. He met an old friend. They’ve been gabbing forever, and we haven’t even started on our quest for an Earl’s wardrobe.”

“Old friend? I hope he’s careful not to give us away.” Catherine closed her hands into a nervously fisted ball.

Nodding toward the door, Ross asked, “What’s wrong with him? What’s been going on here?” He held his Joann no further away than the length of his arms. “You look pleased, but what’s wrong with our Catherine and her Earl?”

Joann whispered in his ear, “I don’t know why, but they argued. I was in that rather delightful room,” she nodded her head behind her. Shaking her shoulders, she added, “It’s quite the room.”

Catherine slumped with a huff further back into the couch. “He’s a snob. I don’t know why I hadn’t seen it sooner.”

Before she could add any more complaints, Jacob came in wearing a smile of success. “I’ve found the help we need. There’s a haberdashery and a tailor willing to take us on with the hotel’s backing of our word. I ran into an old acquaintance who was surprised at my new position as a valet, but, …. Good heavens,” he sat beside the furious and weepy Catherine, “What has you in a dither?”

Enough! (until next time)

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