“Missus Pearson, I was so sorry to hear about your husband. He was a pillar of the community.”
The widow stood, as did most of the guests. There weren't enough chairs and settees for half the attendees. Harrold bowed over the black lace glove and kissed the hand within. Before rising, he looked up through his long, dark lashes at the older woman, holding her gaze.
She wasn't old, much younger than his mother. Like Delores, her age seemed to distinguish her. As he rose, she stepped closer, hand sliding up his arm. “Your condolences are appreciated. We have been lonely in John's absence.” She stood near enough that Harrold could look directly down her pale cleavage, held in place by her black gown and corset.
Harrold's fingers found her waist, holding her lightly, preventing her from stepping back. “Being lonely can be difficult.”
“Indeed. Where is your beautiful wife this evening?”
Harrold smiled at the ploy. “Just there.” He indicated a cluster of women with a nod. “Mingling with the ladies of substance.”
“I find they have little substance, myself.” The widow's hand dropped slowly, brushing the front of Harrold's trousers and his thigh. He inhaled sharply. “I understand that you keep accounts. John left quite a mess for bookkeeping. I could use someone to help me sort it out.” Her hand moved again, making each caress seem happenstance, but her eyes left no doubt to Harrold that she intended each and every one.
“Harrold, Missus Pearson. You look lovely tonight. How you manage that is a wonder.” Harrold dropped his hand as Corbin approached. The widow took the opportunity to open space between them. “I see you found Harrold. Is he all I promised?” Corbin's grin was predatory.
The widow's smile was much wryer. “He is. We have requested he help keep our books.”
“Fabulous. I hope you consider our offer to manage those accounts and see to the will. A lady such as yourself shouldn't worry about business.”
Harrold noticed a slight souring of the widow's expressions. “Yes, well, we need to consider that.” Putting tone with expression, Harrold believed the widow had every intention of running the business herself. A clever woman if she could.
“Harrold,” Veronica called, waving for him to follow her.
“If you'll pardon me, the wife calls.”
“Yes, an obedient husband is rewarded,” the widow teased with a gleam in her eye.