A bit for WIP Wednesday. I made start on The Forgotten Daughter. A young woman in Manchester has discovered the identity of her natural father. Her siblings need help and she is determined to get it. Meanwhile, Eli Benson is feeling entirely too self satisfied.
Two points of clarification. Earlier in the chapter Eli notes that the old earl left various things to various heirs, but he left them all auburn hair and green eyes. Also, Fanny—for that’s her name—is not fifteen. She isn’t yet twenty either.
He tipped his face to the sun as he rode across the bridge and began the ride uphill to the Hall. The last of the heirs had been found and given just compensation. He looked forward to a year as land steward without the tedious paperwork that plagued him in previous months, grateful for the opportunities given to him by the earl. There was much to learn, and Eli planned to make the best of it. He looked forward to a quiet afternoon.
The sight that greeted him boded ill for that hope. Thomas, the first footman who served as a sort of under-butler when the senior staff went off to London with the earl, stood on the front steps of the Hall in heated conversation with a slip of a girl.
Eli dismounted instead of riding around to the stables and climbed up to investigate. The girl, a bit of a thing, didn’t come up to Thomas’s shoulder, but she confronted him with a straight back and commanding voice. Though slender, she had the sturdy build of someone used to hard work. She wore a plain, rather rumpled gown. He suspected she had been traveling for some time. An unadorned straw bonnet covered her head.
“Is there a problem here Thomas?”
“Aye Mr. Benson. I was explaining to this person—”
“I demand to see the earl,” the chit said at the same time. Face to face Eli judged her to be fifteen or so. She had cheek for one so young.
“May I ask your business with the earl?” Eli studied her closely. Her face had character. He’d give her that.
“Who are you?” she asked, fire flashing from her eyes. Her green eyes… Oh no.
“Show some respect, girl,” Thomas said. “This is Mr. Benson, the steward. The earl’s man of business. I’ve been telling you. The earl isn’t here.”
“Man of business, is it? Then you’ll have to help me.” Desperation inched across her face driving the determination to the side, but not away. She glared up at the footman.
“I’ll deal with this, Thomas. Please see to my horse,” Eli said.
She bounded past Thomas into the foyer where she came to an abrupt halt, wide eyes taking in the magnificence that was Clarion Hall’s massive entrance way: the parquet floors, the marble mantle, the gleaming banister curving upward beside carpeted stairs…
She spun toward Eli, that fire raging in her eyes. “He will help me. He has to.”
She pulled the ribbon on her bonnet and took it off, shaking her head and loosening her hair. Her auburn hair. Oh no…
Eli’s peace had just been upended by a problem—one cursed with Caulfield hair and Caulfield eyes. One encased in the dainty body of a beautiful young woman with the heart of a warrior.