I'm hoping to have something new to excerpt soon, but for the time being, I'll continue to share from Gentleman.
And remember, once you've indulged in my sample, share the love and visit all the other authors offering their own taste. Thursday Tasters Blog
Harrold paused in sipping his tea. “Thursday. I'm afraid Corbin has me booked late that evening.”
“You shall come after,” Veronica told him.
“Yes, dear.” He might have argued, but she would win in the end. She always did.
He never seriously considered divorcing her—he couldn't turn out a woman, even one as cold as Veronica. Even as she wore him down, he couldn't help but see the girl he married when he looked at her for longer than a moment, a girl he had wanted to shelter and protect.
“You will also inform Virgil that the rose in the back is getting out of control.”
Harrold set the china on its saucer. He'd never understood Veronica's need for him to speak with the slaves.
“Your mother requires a new settee as well.”
Harrold rubbed his hand over his forehead. “What is wrong with the one she has?”
“Have you seen it? It's striped. I won't have it in the house.” Veronica waved a hand dismissively.
As though speaking of her had spurred her to action, his mother, Anne, appeared with a black slave behind her. Her wicker chair had metal wheels on it and creaked as it moved.
“How are you this morning, Mother?” Veronica asked.
“I ache,” she complained. “The mattress may be at an end. Also, if I'm to spend so much time in one room, it must be larger.”
Harrold added another total to his mental ledger. It was a habit bred from his employment. He kept accounts for Corbin Cooper and several others. His funds could not accommodate everything the women demanded.
“There are no larger rooms, Mother.” He and Veronica had moved to the smaller one.
“Indeed,” Mother said, setting her teacup down. “Perhaps a larger house. One that could accommodate grandchildren.”
Harrold braced himself by the forearms on the edge of the table, hanging his head. If Veronica would let him fully enter her, they might have children already. However, even those first few times, she cried in pain and pushed him away. He hadn't tried in months. Turning his fork, he pressed it into the palm of his hand, the pain relieving other tension. The women wouldn't kill him, but they might come close.
Abandoning the rest of his breakfast, Harrold found his appetite gone. “I am needed at the office.” He would seek more businessmen for more books. If the women continued to make demands as they had the last year, he would need a way to pay for it. Also, more time in the office was preferable to that spent in their company. If this had been a one-time request, he wouldn't let it bother him. However, the demands were constantly increasing and they seemed to talk of little else.
Dark-skinned Virgil was in the carriage house, seeing to one of his many chores: the horses.
“The missus would like you to trim the rose hedge.”
“Of course, sir. I'll see to it next, sir. Anything else, sir?”
“Knock me unconscious with that brush,” he said in a quiet mutter. The slave didn't blink, but a smile came to the corner of his mouth. “No, Virgil, thank you,” Harrold finished in a louder voice.
“Thank you, sir.”
Harrold walked the eight blocks to Corbin's office house. He and several barristers worked in the many rooms of the house. One small room held the numerous ledgers and folders of receipts and records. Harrold had just opened the book belonging to one of the shipping lines employing the lawyers when Corbin knocked on his door.
“You're in early,” he said.
“Wanted a head start.” Harrold peered at the book rather than his employer.
“I need you on Thursday,” he said. Despite what he'd told Veronica, Corbin hadn't said anything about Thursday before now.
Harrold sighed. “Veronica expects me at the Baskins'”
“Ah, perfect. That's where I wanted to see you. I need help landing a new client, the widow Pearson.”
“Well, I shall be there.” Corbin had often used Harrold to charm wives and daughters of potential clients. He rarely did more than kiss hands and exude natural charm, but one or two of those had given him what his wife would not. A widow, a likely prospect for business—no wonder that Corbin wanted him there.
After a lunch with several other businessmen, Harrold had charge of a new ledger, which he worked on late into the evening. Detouring on his way home, he gave Delores the bad news.
“Both Veronica and my employer have need of me Thursday. I will come later, but I'm sorry to say I'll be at the Baskins' party for hours.”
“I'm sorry to hear that. She is quite selective. I will tell her, though. Thank you for letting me know. Are you coming in?” She stepped aside.
“I have had nothing to eat and am famished.”
Delores pursed her lips. “I might feed you, if you earned it.”