Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Gray Lace, Part Twelve

Catherine Randolph hides from the resort hunters as well as her own evil-kidnappers from Charleston. Her friends command that she hide under a heavy, hot, tarp and try to breathe.

She hated it, but she went. She hated fleeing like a fugitive, but she valued her life and respected her friends, the Garretts. She hated their order, the necessity of it, and her fear.

The day was unusually beautiful for fall and wasting it under a heavy and smelly canvas wouldn’t be fun. She gave a moment’s thought to running, again, fleeing into the woods and swamps surrounding the lake. Maybe she could find a secluded spot for a swim. It was warm enough, but the voices sent her running to the wagon.

She crawled under the tarp, took a deep clean breath, pulled it back down over her and she listened.

“Mercer, who were they? Who were those dirty ruffians? Were they actually hunting for bear? They sure didn’t look like your typical clientele.”

“Bear? No, not at all. Much to my surprise they were hunting all right, but for a woman.” Mercer’s mean laughter sounded ugly and felt painful. It drowned out the clanging serving dishes and other conversations. “I told them about our hired camp-ladies, but it would cost them double since our numbers are low. They’d some upbringing though, since they thanked me. They did go on to describe that cute little one we found in the kitchen last night.” He turned to the Garretts, “Hey, where’s that pretty little thing you brought with you this season? Did you leave her back at the lake, at the main camp kitchen?”

Catherine froze. She knew the Garretts hated to lie. “Not real sure where’s she gone, Mr. Mercer, sir.”

“That’s fine. We’ll find her or those four we met out on the hunt will beat us to her.” Mercer sneered, “I’d hate to see her when they finish. There’s no fancy private hotel in her future.”

Catherine tasted her salty tears as they landed on her lips. Her time of safety with the Garretts was over. She needed to move on, she needed to run, and she needed a plan to return to Charleston. Her immediate need was some fresh air to breathe.

Mercer turned to Trevor. “Hell, Coffman, you had her last. Would you say she was worth hunting for? Do you want her again?”

The sound of Trevor’s stable British accent calmed her like a fresh lake breeze. “Mr. Mercer, I came for a trophy for my library. I doubt that she’d suffice. Truly sir, I came to hunt for your famous southern black bear.” She imagined him turning his back and suitably ending the discussion. No additional British accents were heard, just dishes, silverware, the liquid flowing into goblets, and Mercer’s continued evilness.

“I don’t know, Coffman, her head would look great in many places.” Catherine physically shuddered at Mercer’s raunchy comment.

She sweated for nearly an hour listening for clues, locations, and appropriate times for escape. Gradually the clues added up and she sensed that the hunters had finished their their lunch and moved off. One of them had the gall to relieve himself on the wagon wheel. She smelled his urine and heard his sigh of pleasure.

Her legs and arms began to cramp just as the Garretts pulled up the tarp and provided crisp and appreciated oxygen. “They’ve gone, but stay down on the far side just in case one of them wanders back.”

Catherine slowly moved her pins-and-needled limbs over the side. “I’ll carefully head back, and I’ll stick to the side of the road.”

Joann gently held her face. “Be oh so very careful, girl.” She pulled her into a motherly hug. “Listen for the men and hide in the bushes if you must. We’ll find you on the way back.”

Egad and Enough! For Now

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Gray Lace, Part Eleven

“Calm down, please, the both of you.” Catherine smoothed her skirt to give her nervousness an outlet. She leaned over Joann and took the reigns from Ross to get the team of mules moving again. Once the mules obeyed and the wooden wagon bumbled over the uneven road, she attempted to explain in an edited version of her previous evening. “I was lucky. Mercer gave me to a rare gentleman, and I left. I didn’t need to say a word.”

Catherine felt the mules’ muscles twitch through the reigns when Ross loudly release a sigh of fear and frustration. “Mercer, Good God! We need to keep you ladies away from him! He’s mean. Really Bad!”

“It’ll be difficult staying away from the camp boss. How will we get paid, get the order numbers?” Joann’s hands bunched the fabric of her apron. “What if he comes into the kitchens again? He often does, you know.”

“I’ll handle all that, the money business. If he does come in, Joann, you say as little as possible, but we really need to keep Miss Mute, here, out of sight.” He took the reigns back and slapped them in anger, giving the mules another scare. “He wanted you, Catherine, for more nastiness than you can imagine. I know what goes on in that lodge. You’ve seen those women when we serve the late afternoon buffet. Have you noticed they never appear for breakfast? They’re too exhausted from their work the night before.” By the time Ross had finished his sermon, his voice had strained back into an anger that had the mules jumpy again.

He directed the team into a clearing and stopped the ladies from their descent from the wagon with a hand signal. “I mean it. I know you’ve seen those those camp b…, I mean women, those hired camp followers. They’re tarts!”

“Ross, you’re frightening us,” Joann put a calming hand on his sleeve.

“Good. Catherine, did he force you to go with one of his guest hunters? Did he?”

She heard the anger, but she recognized the concern. She read the protectiveness and she was grateful. “Yes, sir, but like I said, I was lucky. A real gentleman came forward. I was given his room key and during his dinner I left him a note.” She jumped down from the wagon to the ground and turned to look back and up at her saviors. “I saw him again this morning for just a minute.” She gazed away and mumbled, “He was kind.”

“Kind?” Ross grunted a disbelieving sound, “Maybe he’s slow, stupid, or strange. Miss Catherine, he and the others, they’re like that ugly bunch who had you in town.”

She shuttered at the sharp memory. She felt her stomach muscles clinch in pain from her residual fear. Those attackers had surrounded her with a nastiness. They had descriptively told her how they would enjoy her before returning her to her step-father. They were determined to have their fun before forcing her back to Charleston. They had spelled out in verbal graphics what their individual preferences were and how they would enjoy watching each other’s pleasures in their sport of rape. During all of this, they had not touched her on the outside, but they had damaged her soul.

The Garretts had rescued her in many ways.

She had learned to trust her rescuers and she had retaught herself to breathe, but her insides still hurt. “Yes, of course, you’re right. I’ll stay hidden.” She marched to the back of the wagon and relaxed her fingers enough to pull the poles out for the picnic tent. Together the three of them had the small shelter erected over a luncheon that served sliced meats, cheeses, and fancy muffins. All types of fruited jams were displayed on silver trays. Desserts with lots of coveted chocolate and vanilla wafers were placed at the end of the long table.

The muffled voices of the hunters approached. “Quickly, Catherine, run back to the wagon. Hide under the tarp,” Ross commanded.

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Gray Lace, Part Ten

Egad!

Catherine Randolph of Charleston has escaped her kidnappers, has hidden in the Carolina swamps, and has become an assistant cook in an hunting resort. The Garretts saved her once and will so again if need be. They warn her against breaking her disguise as a mute simpleton and the dangers of friendliness with the elitist management and guests, for they are all truly hunters.

Page 22

Catherine stopped her preparations, turned to her left and then the right to check the location of the other helpers. She didn’t need witnesses. She sighed and admired her friend, her rescuer, “God, Joann, I love you.”

The older woman laughed and sang, “Me too,” followed by a beautiful rendition of Blessed Assurance. A few of the others returned to investigate the positive sounds. “Oh don’t mind me. Shoo! I’ll tell you when to listen to me.” She raised one hand from the mixing bowl and waved, “Oh, wait. I’ve changed my mind. Now’d be good time. Go finish the breakfast cleanup and then get up to the lodge.”

She gave Catherine her new orders about how much to pack for the hunt. Together they managed to get enough bread, cheese, fruit, and whiskey into several large baskets and they loaded it all into the wagon.

Ross Garrett appeared from behind the tent and helped his wife with the larger baskets. “Well, Beautiful, the sun is finally coming out and is glistening on that lovely lake, but you’ve already outshined them both.” He placed three quick kisses on her smiling mouth and spoke to Catherine. “You’re not looking too shabby yourself, missey.”

Catherine returned the warmth with a quick hug and whispered, “Good morning to you, too, Handsome.”

“Oh, your attitude has sweetened up since we found you, but your eyesight’s gone bad.” He laughed as he checked the harnesses and gear attaching the camp’s two mules to the work wagon and climbed up onto the seat. “Come on, women, we’ve got spoiled gents waiting for your delectable delights.”

“What about the mess I left inside His Meaness?” Catherine pointed back to the central kitchentent.

“I’ve ordered Elza and Freddy to finish. They can do it. You trained them, even without saying a word,” Joann laughed.

The women climbed on board. Joann cuddled her husband’s arm and Catherine sat on her other side, having envious thoughts about love and finding someone she could trust. She twitched an eyelid when a handsome face on a true British gentleman appeared in her mind with a startling force. It surprised her. The vision disappeared when her world returned to the gutted dirt road and the back ends of two mules.

“So, Missy Mute, how did you manage to teach Slow Elza and Lazy Freddy how to bake bread and clean up, since you’re supposedly mute? Not that we mind playing along with your little game.” Ross leaned forward over his wife to grin at Catherine.

“She uses her talented hand signals, dear heart,” Joann answered him for their friend and with a worried expression she turned and asked Catherine, “What happened the other night? How did you manage to get away?” She lovingly patted her leg.

“Get away from what?” Ross kept his eyes on a turn in the road, but his brows folded into worry.

“Well, while you were fishing the other night, two of Mercer’s men barged into the kitchen and forced our Catherine to go with them. They dragged her out and headed to the lodge. I tried to follow, but they pushed me away.” She rubbed his arm to sooth him before he exploded.

“Who had his hands on you?” Ross had stopped the mules and glared at both of the ladies. “He had our girl kidnapped? Good God, woman, when were you going to tell me? Chirstmas?”

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Gray Lace, Part Nine

Egad! Trevor is smitten and not with his wealthy fiance.

Chapter Two gives Catherine a chance to talk to you, to describe her situation, get a word in, so to speak. She hides in the swamp as a deaf mute kitchen maid in a hunting resort found in the Carolinas of 1908.

Page 21:

The dripping sweat tickled the tender skin between her breasts, but her hands were too busy to rub the sensation away. They were wrapped in worn towels to protect her skin from the heavy scorching metal handles. Catherine heaved His Meanness, as she had named the Garret’s heaviest pot, from the swinging handled spit, pushing it away from the heat of the open wood burning stoves.

“Watch the flames, honey,” Joann Garret took the other side of His Meanness and together they lifted it onto the long wooden table. An early morning rain tapped against the canvas roof above them. “Fetch the floor and salt. We’ve got to hurry. Those gents are leaving early this morning. Ross said they wanted fresh bread at their picnic.”

“Day-old isn’t good enough?” Catherine grunted her redundant question, but not loud enough to be heard above the busyness of the part-time kitchen help scurrying around her.

“Hush, if you want to keep that secret of yours,” admonished Joann. “I love you, child, but you’ve too many burdens. Keeping yourself bottled up just isn’t right for your constitution.”

Catherine leaned over the table and passed the floor and measuring cup. “Constitution? Yesterday you were worried about my soul,” she laughingly whispered.

Joann waved away the offered cups. “Measuring cup? Girl, I’ve no need of that!” She quickly and efficiently dumped in the copious amounts of floor into His Meanness and dashed in the salt. Floor and salt sprinkled on her brown skin like rare Carolina snowflakes. “Now,” as she began to stir, “your constitution is the way your body feels in the morning and your soul is how you feel when you say your evening prayers.”

Enough! more soon, hopefully

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Gray Lace, Part Eight

Egad!

Warned not to use the gun handed to him by his future brother-in-law, Trevor slowly returned it to the table in the elitist hunting resort, deep in southeastern Carolina swamps of 1908.

Page 18

“What’s wrong? Too heavy? Come on, Coffman, show us your Royal Oxford muscles.” Edgar’s laugh grated his nerve endings.

“Sir, may I try yours?” A younger hunter grabbed it from the table. “Do you mind?” Before he could lift it to his shoulder, it went off and rammed into his stomach. The impact threw him to the ground in pain.

“Good God!”

Friends of the fallen man gathered and gently helped him to his feet. One turned on Edgar and Trevor. “What’s going on, you two? Why’d it jam? Can’t load a gun properly?”

Trevor kept his peace while Edgar made the fool, “I don’t know who loaded it. It was probably one of the stewards. Back off!” With his legs stiff and his elbows locked, he rapidly retreated and left Trevor with the anger. He asked the injured man if he could help him in any way, but he just smiled weakly while his disgruntled friends walked him back to the lodge.

The swamp air felt heavy and stifling. He needed to get away and breathe. He left the small practice range and started down the dirt road that hugged the lake’s shore. The woods were thick with early fall foliage, but there were a few cleared lots and fewer houses. Most of these were small cottages and didn’t appear able to stand up against a good wind, but surprisingly, there was a three-story home facing an incredible lake view. Trevor surmised it was a summer cottage for a rather wealthy family because no one was around, although it certainly wasn’t abandoned.

“It’s called Gray Lace Cottage.”

He turned toward the sound and the beauty who was supposedly mute. he felt his face maneuver into a wide grin. “Thank you and good morning. It seems we’re even.”

“Even?” She slowly walked forward and titled her head in a question, then a soothing grin appeared. “Oh, of course, last night. You’re right.” She faced the road as if to continue the walk with him. “Thank you for that. Thank you very much.” She stopped and faced him again. “Would you have? Well, you know.”

“Taken you?” He had bent down to playfully whisper, but her lovely height had her fitting perfectly. He found he was close to an adorable ear and he surprised himself with his own blush. He never blushed. He straightened and added, “No, I would not…unless you had invited me.”

She had turned her head to laugh, but he caught the pretty vision in time.

“CMR?” he asked.

“Catherine Marie Randolph, but please remember I’m mute, Lord Trevor Coffman, Earl of Warrenwood.”

“How did you discover my name and title?”

“People often say a great deal more around the deaf then they normally might. Listen, I need to get back to the kitchens.” She put her hand on his arm and pleaded, “Please be careful. I saw that friend of yours jam a mud doper in the barrel.” She quickly removed her hand, as if she suddenly realized she had committed a social sin and turned to walk away.

“Wait,” he commanded, but it sounded like a beg. “Um,” gesturing his hand toward the large house, “Why Gray Lace Cottage? Is that the family name?”

“I’m not sure. I like to think they named it after the Spanish moss.”

He did not want her to go. “Meet me here, later, please.”

“I can’t,” she clutched her long skirt in two tight fists. She bit her lower lip, “Tomorrow’s sunset.” She ran around the curve in the road and disappeared.

Enough! This is the end of Chapter One. (hopefully more soon)

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Gray Lace, Part Seven

Egad!

page 17 … Trevor tries to sort his feelings about his new world…a southeast Carolina swamp in a 1908 elitist hunting camp, only to find confusing possibilities.

Edgar waved Trevor over, “Sit here and let me explain. The hunt starts soon, but Mercer usually begins with a target practice. You know, just to get the kinks out and to let us pick out the weapons we want to borrow. Some brought their own, but I’ve always liked Mercer’s supply. By the way, how’d it go last night? I couldn’t help but hear your pleasure.” He gruffly laughed with his mouth open, showing off his breakfast.

“Have you left your manners in Boston?”

The silence told him all he needed to know. Edgar Cranfield could hand out the insults, but not take them. Trevor watched him turn red, slam down his table linen like a dueling signal from the past century, and storm off toward the lodge.

He should be worried, but wasn’t. He should be concerned about the possible loss of Cranfield money, but instead he felt more peaceful than he had in weeks. After a deep breath and another peach bite, he thought his estate problems might work themselves out, somehow.

Then again, maybe he’ll lose it all and be destitute. Yet, that would be stupid and selfish. He had obligations and Eloise Cranfield was pretty, a bit too silly, but not half bad. He could tolerate her in the usual British fashion with little or no contact, but no, that’s not what he wanted.

First, he needed his siblings to be secure and safe, but that’s not what his father’s will guaranteed.

Trevor pushed himself from the table and headed to the target range. He heard the firing and waited for the excitement to surface. Those feelings did not appear like in his hunting days of his youth. Maybe it was this swampy environment . It wasn’t Kent, or the moors, or even the marshes of Norfolk. This wasn’t England.

“Over here, old boy!” Cranfield called.

Well, Edgar had cheered up.

Trevor walked to the shared shooting station and accepted the shotgun and ammunition. An unusual call of a wild bird caused him to look heavenward. He watched the graceful flight of a blue-gray bird sail over the lake. As his attention headed back to earth, he landed into those swampy-green eyes he had enjoyed yesterday at the train station, now partly hidden behind a tent. They were still full of the fear he’d responded to last night, but this time she had quickly nodded her head down toward his weapon. Then she clearly shook her head, “No!”

Enough! for a short while

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Gray Lace, Part Six

Egad!

Where Trevor Coffman learns his world is not the only one.

Page 15…The delightful smell of frying bacon woke Trevor to a gray mist that promised to burn off in the warm sunshine. He thanked God it wasn’t a cold drizzle promising more.

He managed surprisingly well without his valet bustling about. Doing without was a recent necessity, so leaving his valet in Boston during this expedition was his way of adjusting. He had only brought him with him to impress the Cranfield family. He wasn’t destitute, just close to it.

Once downstairs, a waiter informed him that breakfast was served as an outdoor buffet. He followed the given directions and found a large canvas tent covering two long wooden tables supporting a feast of roasted meats and fresh breads. There was fresh fruit which he supposed had been on last night’s train. His hand hesitated over a peach.

“We picked it ourselves, yesterday, from Mr. Mayweather’s farm.”

“Excuse me?” Trevor’s startled response brought an appreciated smile onto a weathered but friendly face.

“Aren’t they pretty?” She picked one out and handed it to him. “Try it, but be careful. It’s juicy.”

While holding a plate of bacon and buttered bread, he bit into the tasty treat and tried not to laugh. The juice slipped out anyway. He put down the plate, swallowed, and smiled at the sweet lady. “My gracious, that’s really very good. Thank you.”

“Oh, I like your accent! Catherine told me…” her demeanor changed abruptly. Her attitude turned to stone.

“Catherine?” Trevor found he wanted to talk the morning through with this lady, but instantly discovered why she was staring behind him in fear.

“Good morning, brother-in-law-to-be.”

“Crandfield.”

“Good God, my man, call me Edgar. We’re in the sticks! We can get away with anything. Relax.” He rudely shuffled a few serving plates around and barked, “Get some ham out here and the bread’s cold!”

Trevor stared at Edgar’s retreating back and turned back to his newest friend, ” My apologies, Madame. My associate is a bit rude this morning.”

“I take no mind to his kind and the name’s Joann, Mrs. Joann Garrett,” she gave a sweet but quick curtsey. “Anything else I can get you?” she hesitated and then added, “your Lordship.”

“No, but who’s Catherine? You mentioned earlier?”

“Catherine? No, sir, I don’t remember noting about no Catherine Please excuse me. I’d best get that ham,” she nearly ran behind the canvas sidewall of the kitchens.

Curiosity and a bit of sadness followed Trevor as he grabbed an extra peach and turned to find a seat as far as possible from Crandfield.

Some plans come together and some don’t.

Enough! More next time and I’ll practice downloading a picture of my swamp. This could take a while.


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Gray Lace, Part Five

Egad!

Last week we left Trevor Coffman, an English titled gentleman on the edge of meager means, convincing his rich old Oxford mate to marry his younger sister from Boston. With the engagement announced, the men escape trivial wedding preparations by traveling by train to an exclusive hunting camp in the swamps of the American southeast. There he meets an unusual, but mute, lady of entertainment. The manager encourages Trevor to proceed.

“Well, your Lordship, you English move fast. Okay, then, she’s yours.” A wave of audible disgruntlement danced around the room, but soon dissipated and the crowd refocused on other options. “Go on, girl. Wait for his lordship in his room.” He released her wrist and she flew back through the door. He laughed, “She doesn’t seem pleased with you. Let me know tomorrow how she works out. I might let her join the other girls.” He slapped Trevor on his back and sauntered off to speak with another group.

Edgar appeared on his left and handed him a whiskey. “Does take you long to make up your mind, either.”

“Shut up, Ed. That girl was terrified.” Wanting to change the subject, he asked, “When do we eat?”

The rich meal of steak, flounder, fried potatoes, and more liquor sat heavily in Trevor’s stomach. He wanted to leave the table, but he knew that would be rude and far too obvious. So, he waited for someone else to begin the retreat.

Mercer, their host, stood from the head of the table and tapped his glass with an ugly hunting knife. Its sight and sound got their attention. “Gentlemen, our first hunt begins early tomorrow so go and enjoy this evening’s desserts waiting for you in your rooms.” A few cheered and he went on, “Tomorrow we’ll discuss the different flavors. Some of you might want to rotate the treats.”

Trevor felt the familiar nervous twitch when things weren’t right, only this time it was off, different, less acidic. He walked out of the hall with the others, saying little, letting them ramble on in their drunken speech. They headed down a long hall with several doors on each side. A set of stairs at the end led to a second floor.

Edgar yelled from behind, “I’m just here, old man. I think your room is just above mine so keep the noise to a minimum. Don’t let me hear the headboard banging all night.” Edgar unlocked his door and walked in to the sounds of giggles and comments. “Hello, love, I’ve been waiting for you.”

Trevor’s anxious stomach gave him a kick up the stairs. He reached for his doorknob and hesitated before opening it. He remembered her eyes so mixed with fear and thankfulness. He debated about even going in there. How could he possible explain his nasty self to her? These were not his ways. A gentleman doesn’t treat his mistress or even one from a London brothel as rudely as these clods did tonight. He had to convince her that he wasn’t a bad sort. He pushed the door open while he debated why it mattered.

The room was empty, no one. On the bed sat his key and a single sheet of paper. “Thank you, Lord Coffman. Please keep our secret. CMR”

The penmanship was exquisite and the short note bragged of a classic education. He folded it and put it in his vest pocket. He closed the door with a bang, stomped around the room a bit, and rolled around to make the springs squeak. Finally, he closed his eyes and wished for better…everything.

Enough! for now

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Gray Lace, Part Four

Egad!

In this week’s installment our hero, Trevor Coffman, is in shock. He’s in a 1908 high-end hunting lodge bracing for a female invasion.

Page 12 – At least a dozen female flirts with too much gooey-face make-up and not enough clothing dispersed among the guests. The noise level rose as the males responded with greedy approval.

The lodge owner’s head bobbed as if counting these new arrivals, “See one you like, Coffman?” Before Trevor was forced to be rude, his host interrupted. “Not enough. There’s not enough. I know I hired enough.” He roughly pulled the cigar from his mouth and raised his arm to signal a male employee. “Excuse me,” he barely nodded and continued to stare at the crowd and recount the whores. “Cranfield, Lord Coffman, I seem to be missing one or two. While I’m looking into this oversight, browse. Look around. I’ll get back to you.” He marched to the back and began yelling at some of his staff.

“Is your mind still down at the train station?” Edgar Crandfield spoke to Trevor while staring at a passing tease. She stopped and abruptly turned and put her arms through his, but looked at Trevor and smiled with mostly white teeth.

“Gentlemen, it’s the same rate for two tonight, or half for just watching.” Resting her head on Edgar’s arm she waited for the deal to close. She pouted when he laughed and glanced in Trevor’s direction for confirmation.

He kindly denied her employment request, “Perhaps some other time, young lady.”

“Don’t mind him, sweetheart. He’s engaged to my sister and he doesn’t want his future brother-in-law to disapprove of his actions. I, however, do believe I could keep you company after dinner.” Edgar patted her bottom and slipped his room key between her amply displayed breasts.

She giggled her pleasure and started off, but turned back to Trevor again, “If you change your mind, sugar, I’ll be waiting for your friend in his room.” She swung her hips around and headed just under the smoky fog hanging from the ceiling.

He watched her go and was relieved until she was stopped by Mercer, the owner, at the front door. “Hooked somebody already, Susan?” Mercer laughed as he dragged a new, but terrified girl into the room by her wrist.

“Yes, sir,” Susan softly answered and scooted around him and the taller girl, as if she felt relieved to be away from him.

“Gentlemen!” announced their host, I’ve found another, but she’s mute, so the kitchen staff tell me, but she’ll do. She has the right parts, I think.”

The room filled with raucous laughter and an alcoholic slur called out, “Are you sure, Mercer? Why don’t you check and let us all see?”

Trevor felt his feet surge forward and his hand dive into his pocket for his room key. He knew he would analyze his decision later , as he dropped his key between two delightful but discretely covered breasts. He read chapters of thankfulness, hope, and humility in her swampy green eyes. A fearful noise came from her throat, but no noise.

Enough! Yes, I blushed as I wrote this part.

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Gray Lace, Part Three

Egad!

Page 11 – where our hero fights a nervous stomach and why

In the late afternoon a dozen men gathered in the handsome, but smoky, interior of the hunting lodge. The great room displayed several badges of past hunts. Trevor thought the local taxidermist must be busy as well as accomplished. The heads appeared truly alive. There were varying sizes of black bear staring back at him as if they knew he was a novice. Foxhunts, of which he had only tolerated as a host on his estate in Kent, would be on his resume, if he had ever need of one. He had unwillingly killed those tiny creatures, nothing like these monsters.

All types of weapons were stored in the numerous tall wooden glass-door cases lining the east and west walls. The knives, pistols, shotguns, and rifles stood at attention waiting for the owner to release their fury and ugliness.

Edgar Cranfield led Trevor toward one of the cases and asked, “Are you ready to let this city-boy show you how to hunt in the American swamps?” He laughed at his guest, “You’re a bit green. No worries. I won’t tell sister.” He nudged him with his elbow none too gently. “The females of Cranfield clan think we’re researching investments, not spending them.” He turned to include a bull of a man dressed as a country gentleman. “Coffman, I’d like you to meet Quinlan Mercer of Standard Oil, New Orleans. He’s the fortunate owner of this camp. Mercer, this is my soon-to-be-brother-in-law, Trevor Coffman, Earl of Warrenwood.”

At the mention of Eloise Cranfield, Trevor’s stomach muscles twisted in guilty anxiousness. Their trip south from Boston would have been smoother if Edgar had not talked about his sister, the nasty negatives of marriage, and how to avoid them, quite so often. The final marital decision had been a reoccurring theme. Calendars and financial statements flashed and his stomach would twist yet again.

Edgar pushed him with his usual sarcasm, “Coffman, why so tense? Remember, why do today, what you can avoid until tomorrow??” He swallowed the golden liquid in his glass.

“What’s he avoiding? Marriage?” Mercer’s cigar smoke made Trevor’s eyes water. “Can’t say I blame him, unless he’s after your Bostonian money.” He belched out a mean laugh that shook his frame. “Although, I think we have a temporary remedy,” He nodded at someone standing outside their conversation.

The double doors opened and several giggling females turned all the make heads. “Ah, your Lordship, enter our other type of hunting. We Americans can provide a variety of prey.” His wicked laughter stopped when he stuffed his mouth with his cigar and surveyed the dispersal of imported prostitutes.

Enough! (but more later)

Isn’t technology fun !?! I have no idea where that bird flew in, but at least the swamp fits the story.

Enough !!!

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