Truce: The Historic Neighbor from Hell, Page 4R. L. Mathewson
In front of everyone she turned her back on him just in time for her father to discreetly grab her and haul her off.
Robert stood there, his hands curled up into fists, ignoring his family’s concerns, the laughter and jeers and focused on the receding image of Elizabeth as she left the park. One day soon…. .
“This is for your own good, Elizabeth!”
“You said that last year,” she pointed out, not bothering to raise her voice or even look up from her book as she turned the page and settled back more comfortably in her chair.
“And it would have been if you’d accepted a proposal!” her father stubbornly argued. He continued trying to pry the library door open so that he could drag her off to London where she’d be forced to attend balls and dinners night after night all while her parents shoved every single man with a title to his name in her direction.
She didn’t wish to marry for a title, but they refused to listen to her so now she was forced to take matters into her own hands and barricade herself in the library. It wouldn’t stop them from dragging her off to London, nothing would, but at least it might buy her a little more time to relax before she was forced to endure the hustle and bustle of London. It would also probably get her father to-
“Okay,” he said, sounding out of breath, “let’s discuss the matter. ”
Biting back a triumphant smile, she placed her book down, smoothed down her skirts and walked over to the door, but she didn’t open it. She wasn’t foolish after all. There was no doubt in her mind that her father now had at least two footmen standing with him on the other side of that door waiting to grab her and drag her off.
“I’m listening,” she said, leaning back against the wall as she waited to see what he was willing to offer in compensation if she willingly went through with another season.
There was a slight pause before he asked, “Aren’t you going to open the door?”
And make the same mistake that her two older sisters had made when they’d been forced to take the same action? No, she really didn’t think that would be wise. Besides, unlike her sisters she couldn’t be bought and he knew it. She didn’t care about dresses, silks, shoes, ribbons, jewelry, shopping or any number of things that the other females in her family loved and her father used against them when the need arose.
Not that she didn’t appreciate pretty things, she did. She just didn’t care enough about them to cave to her father’s demands or justify spending a small fortune on them. Most people considered her to be odd and perhaps she was, but she truly didn’t care.
“I’ll get this door opened eventually,” he said, sounding hopeful that it would be enough to scare her into unlocking the door and going to her doom quietly.
“And then I’ll just find another way to avoid going,” she said, smiling when he let out the annoyed growl that usually worked on her sisters.
“What do you want?” he asked warily, no doubt expecting her to ask for something outrageous.
He knew her so well, she thought with a smile.
“I want my independence,” she said, not terribly surprised when he let out another one of those vicious growls.
“This again? Really?” he demanded in exasperation.
“It’s what I want,” she said, wondering just how early she’d be able to talk him into letting her go to her north estate.
Technically, she was supposed to wait until her twenty-fourth birthday to accept control of her inheritance, but since her money and property was supposed to be under his care, he could allow her to go whenever he wanted. Unfortunately, he wasn’t anxious to allow his youngest daughter to move away and live unsupervised, which was why he was dragging her off to London.
He was desperate to see her married and her inheritance in the hands of a capable man. Actually, at this point he would probably be happy to see her inheritance in the hands of any man that would have her. Right now he controlled her life and, in his mind, kept her safe, but that would all change in just a few short months and she couldn’t wait.
“I want you to have one last season before you do something foolish,” he bit out.
“And I don’t want to have to stay for the entire season. ”
A long suffering sigh reached her ears and she knew that she’d just won……sort of.
“I expect your full cooperation. You will attend every single ball, dinner and musical that your mother can garner an invitation for. You will allow men to court you, but you will favor the men that we approve of with your time. You will not sabotage this in any way and in return, I will accompany you to your north estate two months early,” he said and she knew that it was probably the best offer that she was going to get, but still……
“Three months early,” she said, hoping that he’d accept her counteroffer.
“I’m not that much of a pushover, my dear,” he said with a snort of amusement.
He really was, but she decided that right now was not the time to point that out to him. It probably also wasn’t the time to point out that he’d just agreed to let her leave when the season officially started, she decided as she unlocked the door and prepared herself for two months of pre-season hell.
* * *
2 Weeks Later…. .
Elizabeth ignored her mother as she smiled down at the young man shifting nervously in front of her. Young man might not be a fitting description for a ten-year-old boy, but he was certainly acting like one.
“I c-can carry your bags, m’lady. ” the little boy said as he pushed his too-long hair back with dirty fingers.
Elizabeth leaned down to look the little boy in the eye. “That’s a very important job. Do you think you’re up to it?”
The boy nodded enthusiastically as he tried his best to bite back a smile.
“Hmm, I have a very busy day today. I’m going to need someone to wait outside the shops for me and bring my bags to my coach. That’s a hard job and it may take a few hours. Do you think that you can handle such a big job?” she asked in a serious tone, biting back her own smile.
“I can do it! Honest, I can!”
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Really, Elizabeth! This is beyond the pale!” her mother said in a huff. “Do hurry up with this nonsense. We have too much to do today to waste time on the likes of him. ”
She waited until her mother left, noting the little boy’s crestfallen expression. “Your name?” Elizabeth asked softly.
“Toby, m’lady,” he said, looking down at the ground and sounding miserable.
“Well, if you still want the job I need a good man to help me today. Now, as you can see my first stop is here at this shop to make sure my gown fits just right. If you could be available in an hour I would truly appreciate that, Toby. ”
Looking confused, he nodded slowly. “What do I do 'til then, m’lady?”
She pulled out five shillings and handed them to the boy. His face lit up. “M'lady, that's too much for carrying bags!”
“Hush, I want you to take that and go get yourself something to eat and stay warm. ” She gestured to the two small boys trying to hide behind a carriage. “I suspect your brothers could use something to eat as well. ”