I’m making good progress on The Forgotten Daughter. Eli has determined to protect Fanny, who is visiting London and who has had at least one frightening encounter. The ladies, both Fanny and Eli’s ornery sister-in-law Lucy are a bit weary of over-protective males and lack of privacy. They’ve decided to test his diligence with a visit that, well, you’ll see.
Mrs. Johnson’s Stitchery looked very little like the Hancock drapery and even less like the modiste they had visited earlier on. The sign above it gave few clues as to its nature. Eli peered at the window decorated with bolts of delicate linens and silks, some sheer, some embroidered, all artfully draped around vases of silk flowers and a few porcelain figurines.
Eli’s next hint of trouble came with the sight of a young man—an overdressed pink of the ton with a smug smirk on his face—leaving the store with a box wrapped in pink tissue tied with an elaborate rose-colored bow. The arrogant puppy cast an assessing glance at the ladies until a growl from Eli sent him scurrying away.
What sort of establishment for ladies is frequented by men about town? The answer to that was all too obvious, and Lucy’s mischievous grin confirmed it. Fanny refused to meet his eyes.
A tinkling bell announced their arrival when Lucy opened the door. She turned with a dare in her eyes before entering. “Are you certain you wish to join us, Eli? I am certain there is a tavern nearby where you can wait.”
When he shot a quick glance at the window, a particularly transparent fall of cloth in an earthy moss green with heather embroidered on the edge caught his eye and sent visions of it draped over Fanny—Fanny as the good Lord made her. He groaned and forced the image from his unruly mind.
He knew a ploy when he saw one. They were trying to get rid of him, but he had vowed to stay close to the women—to Fanny—at all cost. It might just come to all cost; Mrs. Johnson’s might just kill him.
“Of course, Lucy,” he said sweetly. “I wouldn’t think of abandoning you.”
The front of the shop, a narrow room, had shelves with bolts of cloth, rather like Hancock’s Drapery, except for the nature of the material. Mrs. Johnson greeted the ladies effusively and cast a gimlet eye on Eli, sizing him up shrewdly. She led them to the spacious interior where Eli was deposited in a sitting area in a far corner, one with comfortable chairs, newspapers, and the faint odor of tobacco, obviously designed for the use of gentlemen. She took the ladies cloaks and bonnets and led them to a table where she spread fashion plates.
From where he sat, Eli could see all three women, but not, thank heavens, the pictures spread out in front of them. Fanny had her back to him, a mixed blessing when she leaned over the table to pick up one of the prints. He flicked a wrinkled newssheet open, held it in front of his face, and struggled fruitlessly to read some of the week-old news. Images of the green silk in the window kept intruding. Curiosity about the fashion plates elbowed its way in, and his wretched imagination spun various feminine nightwear made from the green silk. And the pink lace the proprietor pulled out to show the ladies
When he peeped up from his paper to see Lucy hold out a drawing of a daring negligee to Fanny, he almost bolted. His brother most certainly would not be happy with Eli seeing sketches of intimate garments purchased by his sister-in-law. As to Fanny, he was certain ice baths loomed over his evening and several after. The damned paperwork might help. Signs, moans, and giggles from across the room didn’t.
They held him prisoner there for an hour or more, before they gave up and announced they were ready to leave. “Mrs. Johnson has graciously offered to deliver our orders, so you’ll be spared another visit,” Lucy said with an unrepentant grin.
Eli refused to cower. “Was your visit successful as well, Fanny?” he asked.
Pink cheeks rewarded his sally, but victory in the exchange went to Fanny. She met his eyes without wavering. “It was certainly an enlightening visit,” she said.
Enlightening? How? He stuffed his hat on his head and followed them out.
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!