Her Safe Harbor ~ 1893 . . . Jennifer Crawford, the peacekeeper in a well-to-do Boston family rife with anger, deceit, and even treachery, was born to solve mathematical mysteries at a time when women are only beginning to venture from home and into the world of commerce and politics. Beautiful and shy, she struggles to find the courage to face a scheming mother and guide a father denying their familial dysfunction, hesitant to traverse the volatile economics banks are facing at the turn of the twentieth century. But danger threatens when she discovers the crimes of an abusive man determined to make Jennifer his own.
Zebidiah Moran, chief of staff for a new senator in Washington, is determined to uncover the lovely Jennifer’s secrets and guard her from danger. But will his sacrifices be enough to keep her safe? Will he be “Her Safe Harbor”?
Zebidiah Moran arrives in Washington in the excerpt below.
The driver whoahed the buggy in a neighborhood of connected brick houses, all three stories high, some shutters painted red, some white, and some black. He matched the brass numbers beside the white door under a shingled roof to the ones on Jolene’s letter. Zeb looked up and down the street and thought it looked like a fairly prosperous neighborhood and noticed a well-dressed woman pushing a baby in a cart on the wide, tree-lined sidewalk. The driver began to unload his trunks when the front door of his Seventeenth Street home opened. A formally dressed man came out the door.
“Mr. Moran?” Zeb nodded, and the man continued. “I am Smithers. Senator Shelby’s wife has hired me as a valet and general houseman for you.” Smithers looked at the man pulling Zeb’s trunks off of the back of the buggy he rode in and went down the steps to help carry them and the bags. “Help me carry these to the second floor, now, my man.”
Zeb followed the men inside and watched as Smithers pulled change from his pocket to tip the driver and closed the door. Smithers turned to him.
“Of course, this arrangement is temporary for us. Once you have settled you may have your own staff that you would wish to join you,” Smithers said. “Allow me to take your coat, sir. Would you like to see the house first, or perhaps you would like to go to your rooms?”
Zeb looked around. “Is there an office or a library here with a desk?”
“Yes, sir,” Smithers said, and led him down the hallway. “Here you are, sir.”
Zeb stepped inside and looked around. The room was everything he’d dreamed of having for himself. There was a large library in his father’s house that was always his father’s domain. He’d never felt comfortable there even when studying during his years at university. He’d had a large bedroom and sitting room of his own at the Hacienda when he’d lived there and worked for Max, and he had cleaned those rooms himself rather than allowing one of the staff to do it. This room wasn’t huge but had a large fireplace, floor-to-ceiling books on shelves, and a large desk beside a stately, paned window. He walked to the desk, touched the felt pad, and sat down on the chair behind it.
“Smithers?” he said. “Tell me more about this arrangement.”
“I was hired by Mrs. Shelby, as I said earlier, to be valet and manage the house for you. Mrs. Shelby has advised that I hire a cook and a maid and perhaps an all-about boy. I have hired all three and they are ready to meet you if you wish.”
Zeb shook his head. “I don’t want to put anyone out of a job, but I just don’t see myself needing anyone other than someone to clean once in a while and maybe take the laundry.”
“Certainly, sir. I’ll inform the staff. I was quite clear when I hired them that this might not be permanent.”
“What is this?” Zeb asked as he picked up an envelope addressed to Chief of Staff with a lone sheet of paper inside.
“I believe that is your calendar for the next few weeks, sir. A gentleman from Senator Shelby’s office brought it,” Smithers said. “If it is acceptable to you, I want to inform the rest of the staff that they will be leaving tomorrow. Excuse me, sir.”
Zeb scanned the document and held a hand up. “Wait. Smithers. Wait.” In the first week alone, he would be attending functions on three evenings and was expected to entertain small parties on two other evenings. The guest list for the second party included the assistant secretary of state. His first scheduled appointment was for six thirty the next morning, followed by a full complement of tours, meetings, and appointments. “From the looks of this, you’ll be staying, Smithers, and so will anyone else you’ve hired. Have you read this?”
“Certainly not, sir.”
Zeb stared at the man. “But why do I get the feeling you knew you weren’t going anywhere?”
“Mrs. Shelby did say that you would not be open to this idea until you saw your calendar.”
“Did she now? It appears that I’ll barely have time to sleep and shave let alone cook or keep up with household work. I’m unaccustomed to this sort of thing, Smithers. I grew up in a prosperous home in Georgia with cooks and some weekly cleaning help, but nothing like this. You will have to give me some time to become adjusted.”
“Certainly, sir. Please make your wishes known so that we may be able to serve you in the best fashion, as we will want to make sure that your household is suitable for such an important man as yourself.”
“Important?” Zeb said and harrumphed. “Hardly. I’m just here to help Senator Shelby.”
“Of course, sir. Allow me to show you the rest of the house.”
The furnishings, as much as he could judge, were discreetly expensive, and impressive, mostly done in some combination of dark blue and tan. “Did this house come with all the furniture and the pictures and carpets?”
Smithers shook his head. “No, sir, not completely. Some rooms were bare on the lower floor, but the sleeping rooms and the staff quarters furnishings were all included in the sale of the house according to Mrs. Shelby.”
“And where did the furnishings on the lower floor come from, Smithers?”
“The senator’s wife chose the furnishings. She told me to tell you the bills would be arriving here for payment, sir.”
“Damnation!” Zeb said. “How much of my money has she spent? I suppose she anticipated this reaction as well.”
“She did, sir, and I would be more comfortable if Mrs. Shelby relayed the amount to you in person.”
Zeb was seated at the dining room table at one of the sixteen chairs and served his dinner while Smithers unpacked his trunk and other bags in his rooms, even after he insisted that he preferred to eat in his library at his desk or in the kitchen in the small alcove where the staff ate their meals. Zeb fell asleep in his new bed as he read and reread the U.S. Constitution and the accompanying Articles.