The Bed and the BachelorBy: Tracy Anne Warren
Byrons of Braebourne 05
Each story is a labor of perseverance,
imagination and love.
To my wonderful fans,
who come along for the ride.
L ord Drake Byron strode briskly into his study, wiping chalk dust off his hands onto a white silk handkerchief. He’d come directly from his workshop, where he’d been deeply immersed in formulating his newest mathematical theorem. But as his butler had interrupted to bluntly remind him, his appointment was waiting—and had been waiting for the good part of the past hour.
He cast a quick glance at the back of the bonnet-clad woman seated before his desk, noting the correct set of her shoulders inside her serviceable dark blue gown. He supposed she had every right to be irritated by the delay. Then again, waiting was a servant’s lot in life, was it not?
If he decided to hire her for the housekeeping job, she would simply have to get used to his erratic and unpredictable habits. She would also need to have a strong constitution, enough so that the occasional unintentional explosion from one of his experiments didn’t send her into a paroxysm of nervous terror. He’d lost more than one housemaid that way, girls too delicate to abide the bangs, booms and acrid smells that emanated through the town house from time to time.
His mother still worried that he might blow himself up, but over the years she and the rest of his family had come to accept his interests and eccentricities and given up any attempts at changing him. At present, however, she had no cause for concern since he was once again indulging his love of theoretical mathematics rather than his fascination for scientific invention.
Still, he hadn’t meant to be late for today’s interview. Though come to think, he never meant to be late for anything. He just got so involved sometimes, he completely forgot the hour.
“My apologies for keeping you waiting,” he said as he rounded his desk and took a seat. “I was working and could not break away.” Without looking up, he rifled through the papers scattered in tall stacks across the polished walnut surface, thumbing through several before pulling a page free.
“The—um—employment service sent over your credentials, Mrs.—Greenway.” He perused the page, still not glancing up. “I haven’t had time yet to review your background in depth, so why do you not just tell me about yourself. I assume you brought references?”
“Yes, your lordship,” she answered in a gentle, silvery voice that put him in mind of birdsong, summer breezes and, strangely enough, warm sheets tangled after a lusty tumble. “I have them right here.”
A shiver slid like the tip of a hot finger down his spine. Looking up, he stared.
He’d expected a middle-aged woman, someone plump perhaps, and motherly, like his previous housekeeper. But this woman was neither plump nor middle-aged, and she didn’t put him at all in mind of his mother. Nor any mother with whom he’d ever been acquainted, come to that. Quite the opposite, in fact, he thought as he took in her slender figure and youthful countenance.
How the deuced young is she? he wondered, studying her features.
Glancing down again, he gave the character in his hand a quick skim.
Name: Mrs. Anne Greenway
Marital Status: Widow
Nine-and-twenty? How could this young woman seated across from him be a full year older than he? If he hadn’t just read her credentials, he wouldn’t have believed it possible for her to be more than a handful of years out of the schoolroom. Then again, he supposed determining a person’s actual age was an inexact science. As were looks, for though she wasn’t pretty in the classical sense, there was something undeniably appealing about her. She was . . . vibrant, her ivory complexion and high, smooth cheeks dusted the delicate hue of just-picked apricots. Her face was heart-shaped with long-lashed, whiskey gold eyes, a long, straight nose and full, rosy lips that looked as if they’d been formed for the express purpose of being kissed.
But it was her hair, which she’d braided and ruthlessly pinned into a bun beneath her bonnet, that surprised him the most. From what he could discern, the strands were a lush array of autumnal colors ranging from deepest brown to warm red and pale gold. Yet threaded among them were a surprising number of silvery strands that gleamed like the precious metal itself.
She is going grey, he mused.
Maybe she really was nine-and-twenty, after all.
“I believe you’ll find everything in order,” she ventured in that lyrical voice of hers. Leaning forward, she held out a piece of fine cream-colored vellum, her hand small inside a dark blue glove.
Frowning, he paused for a moment before accepting the character. Opening the page, he began to read.