Overwhelmed by opinions and advice from family about her future, Fanny is relieved when Eli pulls her aside. For Eli’s part, it is job to make a recommendation to the earl about what assistance the estate can give her. She refers to her young siblings as “the duckings” by the way.
Eli led Fanny to the privacy of Lucy’s little office. A cacophony of voices (and a few fierce frowns) followed them out of the dining area. He suspected he could finish this interview before the Caulfields, much less the Bensons, agreed on the propriety of him leading her to a closed room.
The office featured little decoration, a simple desk, and a few straight-backed wooden chairs that promised little comfort. He thought it perfect for what was meant to be, after all, a brief business conversation.
Fanny gazed around, still clinging to his arm, and murmured, “This is different than the one at Clarion Hall.”
A laugh bubbled out of Eli. “It is that.” He lowered his arm, slipping his hand down hers to grasp her fingers. Their eyes met in a moment of amused accord that sent an electric charge through Eli, one he suspected bounced around the tiny room. His gaze dropped to her mouth, and he swayed ever so slightly toward her.
When her lips parted the temptation to kiss her held him transfixed, but she dipped her head under the force of his gaze, and the moment passed.
Keep your senses, Benson. “We best not take long. Either Rob or Clarion will interrupt if we linger,” he said.
She nodded, still peering at the floor.
Eli put a knuckle under her chin and gently raised her face so she had to look at him. “Do you want to go to London?”
It didn’t appear to be the question she expected. Her eyes widened and flustered words spilled out. “Yes. No… That is, a visit would be lovely, but that is the least of my problems.” Her normal energy rushed back through her, and, with it, irritation. “Eli, what I want is a little place to raise the ducklings in comfort. It appears you are the only one who can determine if that is possible.”
“That’s ludicrous. I’m, I’m…” he stuttered at the thought.
“You’re the fixer. The one who makes things happen. I haven’t been in Ashmead long, but I’ve already figured that out.”
Heat filled him, flushing his face, and fleeing as quickly as it came. “I’m a steward, a bookkeeper. I advise, I don’t decide, and I can’t tell the earl what is possible unless I know what it is we’re funding.
She dropped his hand and scowled. “If it comes back to me, I repeat. All I want is a comfortable place. As lovely as everyone is, I would actually prefer to be above the store in Manchester, business or no business, but Rob forbids it.”
Who is the almighty Rob Benson to forbid Fanny anything? Memory of Fanny, blindfolded and confused between two thugs put a swift end to his resentment of his brother. “The store is no longer an option,” he said shards of sorrow pricking his heart.
Note: excerpts from works in progress may have not yet been edited, will likely undergo change, and may not even make it into the final work!