His Christmas Bride
“Annabelle! What do you think you're doing, girl? If Bernard finds you peeping in there again he's liable to banish you to below stairs,” Sarah said.
“I was only trying to get a peek at the master. I haven't seen him and everything I've heard makes him sound so mysterious. Tilly said he has not left his rooms since he arrived, but I heard Bernard say he met with him in the study. He has to come out sometime,” Annabelle said as she turned and followed Sarah to the back of the townhouse.
“All I’m saying, missy, is you had better take care or you’ll be finding yourself banished to the nether regions of this townhouse -- or worse, looking for new employment,” Sarah continued.
Annabelle smiled behind Sarah’s back and shook her head lightly. The plump house keeper had been a mother to her since hers had died, leaving Annabelle an orphan ten years earlier.
Sarah had woken her in the morning and given her the news of her mother’s death. She had dried Annabelle’s tears and then helped her get dressed and made her a list of chores to make herself useful around the townhouse. Her manner was always brusque, but Annabelle knew it hid a big heart.
Annabelle grabbed her cloak and basket and headed out the back door for her daily trip to the market. While she loved being out of the house, the smells that assailed her once she was on the main streets were overwhelming. The refuse, waste, and unwashed bodies made her wishing this was another’s duty.
“Hugh. Have you heard a word I’ve said?”
Hugh Alexander, the Earl of Kerry, glanced over his shoulder at the solicitor and then turned his attention back to the window he was currently standing at. His attention had been caught by a servant covered in a brown cloak hurrying away from the house.
“I apologize for my inattention, James; please continue,” Hugh said, turning from the window and sinking into a leather chair that sat next to the window.
“All I’m trying to say, Hugh, is since your return I had assumed you would want to take a more active role in your investments,” James Stevens said.
Hugh grimaced, which was all he seemed to be doing lately. He knew it was his duty to take a hand in his investments and properties, but who wanted to look at him the way he was. Glancing back at James, he could see the man was holding something back.