4 January 1816
Blood rushed to Titania’s head as she leaned upside down against the wall in her parlour. She had seen a young man in the circus do something similar, but he had not used a wall for balance.
“You’re not very good at this, are you?” Titania told her lady’s maid, trying to blow a few strands of her brunette hair away from her face. “You need only keep my dress from falling onto my face.”
Her lady’s maid dropped to her knees and gathered Titania’s dress to the side. “I’m trying, miss,” said Ashley. “I just do not think we should be doing this. A lady does not stand on her hands.”
“This lady does,” Titania countered. “I wish to learn to walk on my hands like that young man we saw. Do you think they’ll come to Hampshire again?”
The circus had spent several days in Winchester, so Titania and her uncle had stayed in the town to watch every show. Titania had loved the circus since she was a little girl and had always dreamed about joining it one day, but now she knew that wasn’t possible. A gentleman’s daughter couldn’t do anything so improper, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t do certain things in the comfort of her home.
“I hope they do not,” said Ashley. “What if you decide to stand on a horse’s back like that gentleman did?” She shivered. “No, I’d best not think about it.”
“Everything scares you, Ashley,” said Titania. “You shouldn’t live in fear like that. It takes away from the simple joys of life.”
“I find joy when you do not trouble my poor heart,” Ashley complained. “I’m getting old, Miss Thorpe. What if I one day die from fretting?”
Titania laughed. “You are not yet thirty! Besides, we are only six years apart. If you are getting old, then I am, too.”
“Twenty-one cannot compare with twenty-seven,” Ashley pointed out.
Titania shook her head, wincing as the heaviness in her head sloshed about. “Dear me, you look young but sound twice your age. And no wonder—the man you like is twice your age!”
Ashley gasped, her face turning a fantastic shade of pink. “Miss Titania Thorpe!”
“Yes, Miss Olivia Ashley?”
“How can you say that so freely?” Ashley cried. “What if someone hears you?”
Titania grinned. “Did I mention a name?”
Ashley pouted and frowned, saying no more as she continued to hold Titania’s dress. The lady’s maid had grown a tendre for the baker in the village and had done all she could to draw his attention, but he was oblivious to her attempts. Titania had told her to stop spending all her money buying his bread and current buns, but the words fell on deaf ears. There were only so many current buns a person could stomach before they grew nauseous just from the sight of them. Now, they gave the buns to various children in the area.
“How long will you remain in that position?” Ashley asked. “It cannot be comfortable.”
“I will remain like this until I get used to it. One must learn to stand on their hands before learning to walk.” Titania adjusted her stance slightly, feeling the beginnings of a cramp in her left hand. “Do you think my aunt has left yet?” she asked, taking her mind off the feeling.
“I vaguely recall hearing a carriage drawing away,” said Ashley, “but I was so fearful of having someone catch you in this position that I didn’t take much notice.”
Aunt Helen often came by to advise her brother on how to mind a young woman. She probably would have taken Titania in when her parents left on their adventures had they not named him her legal guardian. However, that didn’t stop Aunt Helen from trying to take over Titania’s upbringing. Fortunately, Uncle Henry was an eccentric and stubborn man who had taken it upon himself to raise his niece from the tender age of five rather than have her uprooted and taken from country to country, all in the name of adventure.
“I hope she hasn’t upset Uncle Henry,” said Titania. “He had had four dresses made for me the last time Aunt was here because she felt I wasn’t dressed in the latest fashion.”
“You always seem to get something out of their arguments,” Ashley commented.
“I suppose I do.”
Titania couldn’t hold her position any longer, so she let her legs drop to the floor and lay on the ground until her head felt normal.
“I think standing on a horse’s back might be easier than walking on my hands,” she commented, staring at a spider spinning a cobweb in the corner of the room. “Milly missed a spot this morning,” she said, pointing at the spider.
“Stand on a horse’s back!” Ashley exclaimed. “Surely you do not mean that?”
Her lady’s maid would never know because a knock at the door interrupted their conversation. “Come in,” said Titania, sitting up.
Milly, one of the servants, walked in. “Your uncle would like to see you in his study, miss.”
Titania shook her head with a sigh and looked at Ashley. “Aunt Helen must have said something to him.”
“It is likely, miss,” said Ashley. “Please inform Mr Thorpe that Miss Thorpe will be with him in a moment,” she told Milly.
Milly nodded and walked backwards out of the room, closing the door behind her. Titania stood up and dusted off her dress, chuckling when Ashley gently slapped her hands away to do it.
“You never do it properly,” said Ashley. “You’ll go to your uncle looking dishevelled, and he’ll think I do not put enough effort into serving you.”
“Uncle is well aware of your devotion to my well-being. Never have any fear about that.”
Ashley sighed. “He probably wouldn’t say anything even if you were dishevelled. As far as he is concerned, you’re as perfect as perfect comes. Or, if he does notice, he’ll be happy. He thinks you are far too serious for a young woman, but I wish you could be more serious so you wouldn’t do things like mimic circus people.”
“I’m as serious as I need to be to curb Uncle’s flamboyant nature,” said Titania, walking to the door. “I do not like people making fun of him. Wait here while I speak to Uncle—I’ll give you all the details of Aunt’s interference when I return.”
“Shall I have the kitchen staff prepare some hot chocolate?” Ashley asked. “It’s nearly two. You usually have your warm beverage sooner, but you were too occupied with standing on your hands.”
“Tsk tsk,” said Titania, walking to the door. “You’re always complaining well after the deed has been done. You’ll never be happy that way.”
“I complain because I know you’ll do it again,” Ashley countered. “At least I can say my life is not a mundane existence.”
“Then you should thank me,” said Titania. “And yes, I’d like some hot chocolate with a slice of buttered fresh bread. All that hand-standing has made me somewhat famished.”
Ashley nodded and flapped her hands to urge her on while Titania chuckled and wriggled her fingers before leaving the room. She hummed a silly tune as she climbed the stairs to her uncle’s study, but inwardly she was concerned about her aunt’s visit. Aunt Helen, or Lady Dalrymple, as others knew her, was as meddlesome as meddlesome comes. There was no telling what trouble she had brought with her this time.
Titania knocked a rhythm on her uncle’s door and stuck her head around it. “You wished to see me, Uncle?”
Her uncle smiled, his boyishly-handsome look still evident despite the grey at his temples and the lines around his eyes.
“Come in, dear,” he said.
Titania walked in and settled with her legs crossed on the chaise longue. “Did Aunt criticise you again? You should have called me. I would have politely asked her to leave.”
“It’s not a criticism, dear child,” said Uncle Henry. “She only wants what is best for you. In fact, she reminded me of something important.”
“You always say that, but I know the truth,” Titania argued. “What did Aunt Helen say?”
Uncle Henry cleared his throat. “Well, it’s like this…Erm, she brought to my attention that you are of age now—”
“Ha!” Titania laughed. “Did she truly see the need to remind you of this? You have raised me since I was five. She rarely took notice of my existence until a few years ago. Up until then, she was concerned with her own affairs of running a household and rearing her children. Why could she not have stayed away?”
“Your aunt is concerned about you, as she should be,” said her uncle. “She reminded me about the London Season and advised me that you should participate. She doesn’t seem to think you’ve been introduced to society yet.”
“Hosting the odd dinner party and attending others is not good enough for her?” asked Titania. “I’ve been out since I was seventeen!”
“I know, I know,” her uncle said. “But I understand what she means. You are of age to get married, but I have not done anything to point you in the right direction.”
“But I am not interested in romance, Uncle,” said Titania. “I would much rather stay here and take care of you.”
“Therein lies the problem. You’ve grown up to be too focused on looking after me. You do not act like the other young women your age.”
“By that, do you mean being overly concerned about my appearance, having dresses made to fit the fashion of the day, sitting for hours playing the pianoforte and embroidery and being a simpering fool every time a young man looks at me?”
Uncle Henry chuckled. “That is expected, dear Titania.”
“Uncle, you ensured I had the best tutors and governesses, so I lack nothing. It shouldn’t matter that I am not interested in silly things like fashion and pretending not to flirt while blatantly flirting. I am well-dressed, healthy, happy, and educated, and I have you in my life. I lack nothing.”
Uncle Henry smiled. “It warms my heart to hear you are happy, but I cannot ignore your aunt’s concerns. A good father would have addressed this matter some years ago, but I suppose I didn’t try hard enough since I am not your father. I can only imagine what people must think.”
Titania jumped to her feet. “Do not say that, Uncle!” she scolded. “I have always considered you my second father, and you have looked after me as though I were your own. We’ll go to London if this is so important to you.”
Her uncle beamed. “You will go?”
Titania nodded. “I will go. When do we leave? The festive season has not yet ended.”
“I’ll make arrangements for the seventh,” he said.
“Three days from now? So soon?”
“The Season has already begun, although it will only get busier during the spring and summer months. However, your aunt thinks it important to get a head start as you have missed at least two.”
“Of course, what Aunt Helen wants, she gets,” said Titania, rolling her eyes.
She sighed. “Yes, yes. I should be thankful to her and not mock her, although she brings nothing but trouble to our lives.” Titania shook her head. “May I be excused? I have hot chocolate and a hunk of bread to look forward to.”
“That sounds like the perfect thing to have now,” said Uncle Henry. “I cannot understand why others wait until dinner to have something to eat. My stomach cannot bear the wait.”
“That is because we keep working men’s hours,” said Titania, making her way to the door. “We’re up as soon as the sun hints at its arrival and sleep with the chickens. Very unfashionable hours. I’ll ask Ashley to have the kitchen staff send your hot chocolate and bread.”
“Thank you, dear,” he said. “Oh, before I forget—Mr Austen Junior and Senior might come by tomorrow afternoon.”
Titania groaned. The last thing she wanted was a visit from Charles Austen. “Why?”
“A social call, I suppose. Must people always have a reason?”
“The Austens certainly do. First, you tell me about London, and now this.”
“At least we’ll be together,” her uncle reminded her.
Titania gave him an affectionate grin and left the study, but her smile soon dropped when she was safely away from the room. She dreaded going to London because she sincerely wasn’t interested in marriage, but it would be nice to get away from Charles for a little while. He had been especially persistent during the last few months of the previous year, and she had had enough. As a merchant’s son, she doubted he’d be able to follow her to London for the Season.
I suppose there’s good in every situation.
“We should ask the shopkeepers to send our purchases to the house,” Titania said some days later. “Why carry everything ourselves?”
“That is a good plan, dear,” her uncle replied, peering into a shop window.
They had arrived in London the previous evening only to find that the servants they hired had mixed up the dates and would only come to work two days later. While the townhouse was clean, it needed more necessities. Her uncle had suggested they stay at an inn or somewhere more convenient, but Titania refused. It didn’t hurt to be without servants for a day or two. In fact, she was rather enjoying having to fend for themselves. Titania had only burnt herself once while lighting a fire, much to Ashley’s dismay, but she saw it as a mark of honour and independence.
“I think I need a few more handkerchiefs,” her uncle commented.
Titania pursed her lips. “You have plenty of handkerchiefs, Uncle.”
“These ones look interesting,” he insisted.
Titania crossed her arms under her chest. Her uncle loved collecting handkerchiefs, but his habit was getting out of control. He had over three hundred handkerchiefs to date, yet his collection was still growing.
“But look at how interesting these are,” Uncle Henry insisted. “Someone took a lot of time to create these patterns along the edges of that blue one. I’d like to take a closer look. I’ve never seen anything so outstanding.”
“You say that about every handkerchief you see,” she complained, but he was already walking in. “Oh, Uncle!” she cried, following him inside.
“Look how talented the person must have been to stitch this,” he said, picking up the same blue handkerchief. “The border reminds me of something you’d find in Ancient Greece, but I do not see a price. Please ask the shopkeeper about it.”
“Uncle,” Titania whined.
“Please, dear. I would like to add such a special piece to my collection. Also, we’re in London to find you a husband, so we should have something to celebrate the occasion.”
“I certainly hope you’re jesting,” she said. “I agreed to come to the London Season, but I said nothing about finding a husband.”
“But that is the motive behind coming here,” her uncle argued.
“It’s not my motive,” she said, taking the handkerchief from him. “I’ll speak to the shopkeeper about the price.”
She walked to the front of the shop and waited her turn while the shopkeeper served a wizened man. The old man finally stepped aside, but someone rather large bumped her as she stepped forward.
“Oh, excuse me,” the gentleman said, steadying her. “I didn’t see you as you’re rather short.”
Titania scowled as she tilted her head back, her eyes slightly widening when she locked eyes with a surprisingly handsome man. However, his appearance meant nothing to her in the light of bumping into her and then insulting her.
“You must be a bit blind, sir,” she said, her voice polite but cutting. “I cannot find offence when one has such a challenge. Please, go ahead and speak to the shopkeeper—I’ll wait.”
The man’s pale blue eye’s narrowed as he smiled. “I assure you I have perfect vision. I just didn’t think to look down. My apologies for my lack of sensitivity. Please, ladies first,” he said, gesturing for her to go ahead.
“Oh, no, no, no,” she argued, waving her hands. “Please, go ahead with my blessing. You must have been in a hurry to bump into someone and still insult their height.”
Titania shook her head and returned to her uncle, telling him she would go to the shopkeeper in a moment. She didn’t bother saying anything about the rude gentleman and waited for her uncle to choose a few more handkerchiefs. However, Titania couldn’t resist looking behind her at the blue-eyed gentleman. He was still in the shop chatting with the owner as though they knew each other well. Titania observed his tall and slender frame, finally ending with his pale brown curls. She had never seen any man with curly hair look anything but boyish, but he managed to make it look mature yet young. Still, he was a rude man, so she wasn’t interested in knowing anything about him.
“Who is the man you keep staring at?” Uncle Henry asked.
Startled that her uncle had noticed, she quickly turned away and pretended to be interested in an emerald green handkerchief.
“He bumped into me, so I’m sending him ill thoughts,” she explained. “What about this one?”
Fortunately, her uncle asked no further questions about the gentleman. Titania was embarrassed enough that someone so rude had caught her attention.
I must be daft to spend a moment more looking at or thinking about him. I hope I never see him again.
Earlier that day
William looked at his fingernails while his mother listed the attributes of three women she had selected for him. His nails needed a trim, but his manservant had the habit of cutting them too short.
Might as well do them myself. I hate seeing dirt under them.
“William!” his mother scolded, tapping her hand on the chair. “Are you listening to me?”
“Lady Catherine is well-versed in scripture and dedicates her weekends to helping the poor,” he repeated, moving from the parlour window to an armchair. “Lady Julia is known as a songbird because she apparently sings sweetly, and Lady Victoria is the beauty of the Season. Have I left anything out?”
“That is not all I said,” his mother told him.
“Yes, but I summarised the main points of each woman,” said William. “You have spoken about nothing else since we arrived in London.”
William hadn’t planned to come to London right after Christmas. He had returned from America to England to spend Christmas with his mother after receiving her letter about being lonesome and feeling like her days were coming to an end. Sentiments had brought him home, but his mother’s ultimatum had pushed him to London.
“Can you not understand my desperation?” his mother asked. “My only son is unmarried. I promised your father on his deathbed that I would ensure you follow in his footsteps in every way. Instead, I let you go to America, where you have been for the last four years. Do you not think I have given you enough freedom?”
“Freedom is not giving your son an ultimatum that you will select a bride for him if he refuses to look for one,” William replied.
“’Tis for your own good. You are the Earl of Essex, and it is your duty to keep the title in this family. Do you not know your cousin is desperate to bring it into his family line? It must stay with the Arlingtons.”
William sighed. “This war between the family is the very reason why I left England. It is tiring to look over one’s shoulder.”
“That is not the reason you went to America,” his mother argued. “You felt stifled and wanted to spread your wings. You could have travelled the continent like most of your friends, but you wished to be different, and I allowed that for a time. However, that has come to an end. London is the start of a new chapter for you, one that I expect you to honour.”
“I am here, am I not?” he said.
“I suppose that is true,” his mother agreed. “I was worried you would rebel and run away from your responsibilities. Perhaps you are maturing to become more like your father.”
“I am already a mature gentleman, Mother,” said William. “I only agreed to come because I knew you would create a commotion. What would people think of us if you select my bride, and I refuse to marry her? You would have pledged my hand to hers, only to disappoint the woman and her family when I refused the match. I can only imagine what the gossip sheets would make of that.”
“You would have refused the match knowing it would bring shame to our family?” his mother asked.
“I will not marry a woman with whom I have nothing in common,” he said. “I understand that getting married without love is normal, and I’m willing to accept that, but I will not spend my life with a woman who bores me to death.”
“I assure you none of the ladies I’ve selected will bore you,” his mother promised. “They’re all from nice families and have many accomplishments. They would fill the role of countess well.”
“My idea of boring is not the same as yours, Mother,” William pointed out. “You have yet to ask what I wish to have in a wife.”
“I think I know you well enough to know what you need,” his mother said, stressing the last word.
William sighed and hung his head. This was why he rarely argued with his mother about anything. She was always determined to be right even though she was wrong, and like a dog with a bone, she refused to let a matter go until she won the argument.
“I have a few things I wish to purchase,” he announced, standing up. “I might be back before dinner, but I make no promises.”
“You’re running away from the situation,” his mother accused.
“I really do have a few things to do, Mother,” said William. “If I’m to keep up with the demands of the Season, I need to outfit myself with necessary items.”
“Send Mansfield to do so,” she said. “That is part of his job.”
“I’ve sent Mansfield on other errands,” said William. “I expect he’ll return in a few hours.”
“Can you not stay a little while longer? Your aunt is coming today to discuss a ball thrown in your honour. She wishes to celebrate your return to England by giving likely one of the biggest balls of the Season.”
“But that’s not necessary, Mother,” William insisted, not pleased with the idea.
“Of course it is!” his mother argued. “You’ve been gone four years, William. We must celebrate that the Earl of Essex has returned to take his rightful place.”
He didn’t want a fuss about his return to England, not when he fully intended to return to America once the Season was over, and he had convinced his mother that getting married wasn’t the right thing to do at the moment. William enjoyed flirting with women but didn’t form any relationships with them. As a result, he had been labelled a type of Casanova because he was well-known by many women, yet none had captured his heart. Fortunately, none of them could claim that he had acted untowardly towards them because he was brilliantly adept at keeping women at bay when necessary.
“Aunt Sarah will just have to forgive my absence,” said William.
“Your absence, young man?” the Dowager Duchess of Kent said as she walked into the parlour. “Why, I only just arrived. Where do you wish to go?”
“I have errands to run, Aunt Sarah,” he said. “We can discuss the ball tomorrow. I assume you’ll be here tomorrow?”
“We do have much to discuss,” his aunt said, nodding. “Very well. Do what you must, but I do not wish to hear any excuses tomorrow.”
William smiled and kissed her cheek. “You have my word, although I do not see what I can possibly add to the conversation. I’m certain you and Mother can organise the ball with your eyes closed.”
“That is beside the point, dear,” his mother said. “We wish to ensure that we have everything you desire at the ball. Sarah and I are familiar with the standard ball requirements, but perhaps you have some ideas that your generation might like.”
“What kind of balls do they have in America?” Aunt Sarah asked. “I’m not particularly keen on the customs there, but we can incorporate one or two ideas.”
“I appreciate the gesture, but I did not go to America to attend balls and parties,” said William. “Now, I really must go. Please, excuse me.”
William quickly left before they could find another reason to keep him at home. He was already feeling suffocated despite only being in England for several weeks. He had arrived just as the festive season began, much to his mother’s surprise, but she ended up surprising him with their trip to London.
I merely need to put up with this until at least June. By then, I’ll have convinced Mother that a match cannot possibly be made, he hoped.
Strolling through the streets and looking at shops wasn’t as calming as William had hoped. He had forgotten how busy London was, but the hustle and bustle of people going about their way seemed far more chaotic than he recalled. He suddenly longed for America’s unrefined but hopeful noise, where everyone had a dream of some kind, and people were more mindful of each other. The class system still existed but wasn’t as pronounced as in England. One could become a self-made man and rise to the highest rank in society, whereas such a person could not set foot within the circle of the aristocrats. Best of all, William could decide to be as public or secretive about his identity as he wished. William Arlington could do and go wherever he pleased, even into the poorest areas of the New World. He could also use his title to enter the tightest and most elite circles where people still held onto their blue-blood heritage like a badge of honour. In England, William could only be the Earl of Essex.
“Whoa!” he cried as someone suddenly threw bones on the street.
William frowned at the butcher who had tossed the bones, but the man simply scowled at him and returned inside his butchery. Several dogs ran towards the bones and grabbed everything, leaving no trace behind. Had no animal arrived to take them, they would have rotted and caused quite the stench. Fortunately, it was still winter and gently snowing outside, so the smell would not have been as terrible as in the summer months.
William considered turning back and returning home, but he had come this far, so he might as well continue. He had lied about having errands to run—Mansfield had taken care of everything and was currently picking up his attire from the tailor. Mr Gregory had gone out of his way to ensure William had new evening attire, even setting aside his other orders to have it done earlier. Having someone as well-known as William wear his clothing was a good way to earn more clients, so delaying his other orders didn’t seem so terrible.
I need to buy something, or Mother and Aunt Sarah will know I was lying. What does one buy when they have everything?
William looked around, waiting for a shop to jump out at him. His eyes fell on a shop window with various handkerchiefs and other additional accessories. A man could never have too many accessories, so he crossed the street, narrowly avoiding a brown pile that he didn’t want to observe too closely. A young woman and an older man entered the shop ahead of him, but it was the woman who really caught his attention. She was a little on the short side, perhaps five feet or less, but the way she carried herself made her seem taller. He wouldn’t call it pride but confidence without the cockiness of those who thought they were better. William enjoyed observing human behaviour because it gave him insight into a person before they tried to hide their true nature. It had helped him avoid unwanted situations with people who pretended to be one thing while being another.
William entered the shop and immediately looked around for the woman, finding her near the window with the older gentleman. The man seemed more excited over handkerchiefs than was typical, making William smile. It was rare to find someone who grew excited over small things like pieces of material, and while others might think it strange, William understood that such simple joys made people happier than the average person.
“…we’re in London to find you a husband, so we should have something to celebrate the occasion,” he heard the older gentleman say.
William didn’t know why, but he felt a little disappointed to hear the woman was in London to find a husband.
“I agreed to come to the London Season, but I said nothing about finding a husband,” the woman said.
Chuckling to himself, he moved closer to hear the conversation better. William couldn’t understand why he was so interested in the woman. She was certainly pretty, but he was accustomed to beautiful women, so her physical appearance wasn’t enough to draw his attention.
The woman walked away from her uncle to speak to the shopkeeper, and he found his feet following her. William wished to talk to her, but he didn’t know how to start a conversation. He continued to walk forward while he thought of what to say, surprised when he bumped into someone. He looked down, and to his horror, it was the woman. William mumbled something that was likely an apology, but he was so embarrassed that he wasn’t entirely certain.
Rather than accept his apology, the woman insulted his eyesight, taking him by surprise. No one tended to say such things to him, but the words just fell off her tongue without hesitance. William didn’t care for her tone, but he still apologised to her again. She didn’t take it well. Sighing inwardly, he moved ahead and spoke to the shopkeeper as though they were best friends. William had the ability to create friends easily and make them feel at ease around him, but even as he spoke to the man, he couldn’t stop thinking about the woman. He turned his body to observe her for a moment, looking away when he noticed her facing his way. After a while, he walked away from the shopkeeper, but he was reluctant to leave the shop just yet. Instead, he tried to make himself as inconspicuous as possible in a corner while eavesdropping on her conversation with the older gentleman.
“These are far too expensive, Uncle,” she said. “Let me speak to the shopkeeper about lowering the price. If you intend to buy five, we should get a better price for them.”
“But, Titania—” her uncle said.
“No, Uncle,” she interrupted. “Give me a moment while I speak to the shopkeeper.”
So, that is her name? The Queen of the Faeries from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s one of my favourites, but this is the first time I’ve met a woman with that name. Oddly, it suits her.
William found himself following her again, but he kept his distance this time.
“The quality is lovely, but the price could be adjusted,” he heard Titania say.
No one in these parts haggled over prices, making him wonder if they had money troubles. Buying so many expensive handkerchiefs was not a good way to solve those money woes, but at least Titania was trying to save them money. Perhaps she would think highly of him if he offered to pay for her uncle’s handkerchiefs. This time, he intentionally bumped her, but only a little. However, as soon as he had done it, he regretted it.
“You again?” she said, scowling at him.
William coloured slightly but willed himself to act like his usual charming self. “I wish to apologise for what happened earlier by purchasing those handkerchiefs for you.”
Titania looked at him for a moment and then laughed. “Not only did you insult my height, but now it seems you think I am in need of your charity. Goodness, you are certainly adept at being rude.” She turned to the shopkeeper. “What is the best price you can give us?”
“It was not my intention to be rude, miss,” William insisted.
“Very well, sir,” she asked with an achingly sweet voice. “Would you give us a moment? I would like to discuss this alone with Mr Denver. Surely you understand that?”
William frowned at her and thought to respond, but he shook his head and walked away instead. The woman was obviously trouble, and he didn’t want a part of it…did he?
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