Life settles down a bit in the fall once children are back in school and routines rule! Time to start thinking about apple cider, raking leaves, bulky sweaters, and curling up under the afghan with a new book. The Maid’s Quarters is on sale for 99 cents and is the perfect companion for a hot cup of tea and a pumpkin muffin! This novella is the third in The Crawford Family Series and we meet our heroine, Alice Porterman, in the second book of the series, Contract to Wed.
Alice meets our hero Albert . . .
Alice hated to feel any kindness or show pleasant manners toward this man as he was the one who’d thrown out her brother and her ma from their home. But she was starved and had finished her tea in a hurry. And he was being solicitous, handing her into her seat, pouring her tea, fetching the housekeeper to avoid any impropriety, and she just a maid, and paying rapt attention to her when she spoke. He looked at her, even now, with a quiet, reserved intensity, matching the soothing sound of his deep, but soft, voice. Alice reminded herself that he was also the one who employed Mr. Nyturn and Mr. Vickers.
“I am hungry, sir, but I will be fine,” Alice replied.
“Then I will have Mrs. Erskine send for a tray of sandwiches,” he said, and turned in his seat.
Alice shook her head. “That is kind of you; however, I would prefer not to break bread with you. This is only business, as Mr. Vickers reminded me.”
He looked at her solemnly. “Then continue on, Miss Porterman.”
* * *
Albert Donahue could barely concentrate on what this woman, this Alice Porterman, was saying. When he’d heard shouting from Vickers’s office, he couldn’t imagine what was happening, and then when he heard a woman’s voice, he had to see for himself who would inspire Vickers to such theatrics. And then he saw her. She was pale-faced and shaking, and none too steady on her feet. Alice Porterman was beautiful, with full red lips, dark auburn hair, and a smattering of freckles across her nose. She had large brown eyes, expressive, and now pensive as she spoke.
“Pardon me, Miss Porterman?” he said.
“My ma,” she said. “Won’t you please allow my ma to get my brother’s medicine and our things out of our house at 604 Cherry Street before you move in the new tenants?”
“Well, of course you may,” he said. “Why ever wouldn’t you gather your things before you move, Miss Porterman?”
She was staring at him quizzically. “Because your Mr. Nyturn told me that I was not allowed back in.”
“I’m sure you misunderstood. There is no reason to keep you from retrieving your belongings.”
“There is a reason, Mr. Donahue. The locks have been changed,” she said.
“I’ll have Mr. Nyturn deliver a key to you. What is your new address?”
Alice Porterman hesitated and looked down at her hands. She looked up at him a few moments later. “Please have the key delivered to Mrs. McKinnell at 602 Cherry Street. Our current situation is . . . difficult to find.”
“First thing tomorrow.”
Miss Porterman stood, and he did as well. He did not know what to say to this lovely, troubled woman. But he did know that when he looked at her, he could not stop himself from imagining what it would be like if she would smile at him. If there were no worry lines across her forehead. If she would just let him help her, but he did not know the whole of her troubles, and he was uncertain as to how to ask. It would be terribly forward as well. He could talk easily to women in normal circumstances, but this was not one of those.
“Thank you, Mr. Donahue,” she said, and turned to leave. She stopped as he followed her to the door. “I have left the two dollars on Mr. Vickers’s desk.”
He could not imagine why she left two dollars on Vickers’s desk, but he hoped not for the tea. “Allow me to get it for you. It is unnecessary.”
She looked up at him then and there were tears in her eyes and her mouth was set in a grim line. “You have plied me with your good manners but I am not so silly or shallow as to not understand your meaning. You are as dastardly as your employees, Mr. Donahue. Perhaps someday you will need some small kindness. I hope there is no one, no one willing to bestow even a penny or a smile for your comfort!”
Albert watched her hurry across his foyer and through the door Higgins had opened. She was furious with him! He had no idea why. But he would find out.