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Authors: Lindsay Kiernan

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BOOK: A Taste of Honey
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By the time that Garrett had arrived at his family's townhouse, the dark night had given way to a light, early dawn that stretched across the sky.  He was greeted by two of the kitchen maids as it being very early for him, rather than very late as he actually was.

Winnie came around to the other side of one of the tables that she had been using to help prepare breakfast with.  Unlike most girls her age she enjoyed waking up early and helping the kitchen staff with what meals to make and what each guest would prefer.  One day she would make the perfect mistress with a well run household.

She jumped up at Garrett and planted a small kiss on his cheek. “I'm so happy that you came here quickly.  I was worried that Kent would get to see you before I did,” she said, happy to think that she had won something over her rival.

Garrett decided not to mention that he had already been to Kent's house first.  “How did mother's new charges handle their first ball?” he asked, picking at a bowl of fruit on the table.

“Mother wanted you to show up for the event, but I doubt you'll try to find someone this year either,” Winnie said, sighing at her brother's stern refusal to even look for a wife.  Their mother was used to making everyone’s problems disappear by marrying them off with someone.  She found it quite annoying that she couldn't fix her son's problems the same way.  She wanted to force him to show up at some stuffy ball and then wait to fall in love but Garrett refused to be influenced by her.

“The girls did quite well, however they came home a little early because one of them started to feel faint.  She's fine now,” Winnie assured him despite his lack of interest.  “Other than that, it sounds like they met a lot of eligible men for their first event.” Winnie talked as she ran around helping to prepare the two breakfast trays for the two charges upstairs.  “Today, mother is having them meet her friends for tea,” Winnie said, while rolling her eyes.

Both of Mrs. Brentley's children were well rehearsed in their mother's routine of marrying young ladies off to more prosperous men than she had the year before.  Their father had died not long after Winnie was born, which had only strengthened their mother's resolve in becoming a matchmaker who helped to secure women with proper husbands.  She had moved both Garrett and Winnie with her each time she returned to London, and had practically raised them along with her charges.  As a young boy, Garrett had even been present during a few of his mother's tea gatherings and Winnie had been dragged into nearly everyone of the affairs since she was born.

“Those old hags have never actually been of much help to the new charges,” Garrett complained after stealing one of the muffins that Winnie had intended to place on one of the trays. 

She swatted jokingly at his hand.  “Don't call them hags.  You sound like Kent when you say that,” she lectured.  The only time Winnie ever resembled their mother was when she was lecturing Garrett about Kent.

He opened his mouth to again tell his sister that Kent was not so bad as she liked to think, when he noticed the small jar of honey that she was placing on one of the trays.  “You don't take honey in your tea,” Garrett told her.  He was unable to imagine why his focus was quite so intent on that little jar.  His heart seemed to know something that his head did not yet grasp as it beat faster and harder, the longer that he looked at the tray of tea and honey.

“No, of course not, but one of the Wellings twins does.  She is very partial to it in her tea.  Since she was ill last night, I made sure that we got some fresh honey in this morning, to help cheer her up.  When you dropped me off at the inn two nights ago, mother was going on about the little bottle of honey that Katherine takes with her everywhere, just in case her host doesn't have any honey on hand.  Mother was quite amused by it, so I've tried to remember her
preference whenever the servant
s are taking a tray up to her.  It's just so odd to take honey with tea,” Winnie said as she wrinkled her nose at the thought.

It seemed like too much of a coincidence that the woman he had come to London to search for might be only a couple of floors above him, sleeping in his family's townhouse.  But as he considered the evidence it became more unlikely that it wasn't her.  He thought back to that night and what little he remembered about the woman that he had kissed.

He had been slightly drunk at the time, after visiting the tavern.  He had chosen that particular tavern due to its proximity to the inn that he and his family were staying at.  The woman must have been a traveler, because any woman from town would have known about the taverns and would have kept clear of that particular alleyway, especially after dark.  And exactly how many women who took their tea with honey could have been walking those streets that night?

But he had to confirm his suspicions before approaching either of the girls.  He had to know if she was the one that he was after.  “I think I might have seen the Wellings when I rode by the party last night,” Garrett began, thinking back to the scrap of purple velvet he had found on the floor of the alley when she had fled from him.  It still rested in the bottom of his coat pocket where he had saved it as a strange keepsake.  “One of the girls was out walking with a long purple cape.”

Winnie frowned at her brother.  “If you were in town last night why didn't you stop by?  I was here alone all night and I could have used some company.”

“I had to stop by Kent's place,” Garrett admitted. Winnie turned her back to him as she gathered some of the other items for breakfast.  “Well,” he prodded, “was that her in the purple cloak?”

Shaking her head at her brother's betrayal, Winnie seemed to be thinking about all of the things she should say to her brother about his dear friend Kent, but she decided that he wouldn't care.  Instead of fighting with her brother, Winnie grasped one of the trays and started walking past him to set it on the dumb waiter.  “Yes I'm sure it was Katherine that you saw.  She's the one who takes honey in her tea.  I haven't seen many other women wearing such brightly colored walking cloaks in London, they get dirty too easily,” Winnie said.

Garrett lifted the other tray for his sister, Katherine's tray, he realized and his thumb brushed the small jar of honey.  He set it gently beside the other one and worked the pulley system for his sister so that she did not have to ask one of the servant's help as they were already busy preparing for the lavish tea and cakes that would be served later in the day.

“I heard that there is another dance tomorrow night at the Buckman's.  Will they be attending it?” he tried to ask casually, as his mind plotted what his next move should be.

“Yes, why?  Do you plan on going to the dance?” she asked skeptically.

“No Win, I was just asking.” he answered before kissing her forehead and rushing his sister on to complete her duties as hostess.

“If you aren't going to the Buckman dance, then you should come here tomorrow night instead of to your friend's house.  I think Kent is having more of a negative effect on you than he usually does.” She said, frowning at his large and rather scheming smile.  Before she could nag him further, Garrett reminded his sister of the hungry charges upstairs and turned, leaving the room quickly.

After she had left he followed quietly behind her and hid upstairs in the library, which was right across the hall from the room that his mother kept her charges in.  Then Garrett took up a chair next to the door.  Listening carefully he waited for nearly two hours before hearing the women leave their room as they went to greet Winnie in the parlor to wait for his mother's guests to arrive.  Opening the door and peeking around the corner, he saw only the backs of their two dresses, their light brown hair tied up in similar fashions and a fresh red rose sticking out of one girl's hair.

One of them walked too confidently to be the woman that he had kissed.  Her hips swaying in a sultrier manner than he remembered and his eyes fixed on the other woman instead.  Her pace was less assured as her fingers fluttered nervously to her hair checking to see that it was still tightly held by a series of pins.  A sense of recognition hit deep inside of him and Garrett crept over to their room after the two had disappeared from sight.

Once inside he looked through the closet and found the purple cloak.  Setting it on the bed he ran his hands along the hem, looking for a torn hole that would match the swatch that he had found the other night.  His breath caught as he found the spot and compared the two, finding them to be the exact shape and size.  Carefully he returned the cloak to the closet as he listened below for any signs that the small gathering was drawing to a close.

Garrett's first instinct was that he had to see her.  A part of him demanded to see her right now, to wait upstairs for her to return, but he brushed it away as being too impatient.  He could wait for the right time and his chance to catch her off guard later.

Taking out a quill, ink pot and paper from the desk, Garrett tried to think of what to write and how he could meet with her.  He was suddenly reminded of Kent's intentions to pursue one of the Wellings twins at the Buckman's dance tomorrow night.  It was the perfect place for two people to find some time to be alone he decided. Also he did not want Kent to have the first chance at meeting them and making an impression on them.

Let Kent have the other one, he thought to himself.  Katherine was going to be his.

After scribbling the short note he sealed the letter and looked around for where he could set it that only she would find it.  Picking up a few of the bottles on the table, he caught the familiar aroma of lavender perfume, the same scent that he had smelled on her only a couple of nights before.  Setting the paper beneath the bottle, Garrett left the room, impatient for the next night's dance and another chance for a stolen kiss.

Chapter 5

 

 

Before being ushered into the sitting room for tea, Winnie pulled the Wellings sisters aside.  “Don't worry,” she told her mother's two charges.  “You'll both do fine.”  She looked a little less certain than her words would imply as her gaze flickered to Robin.  “They are a little formidable at first, but just remember; as long as you are honest about any of the things they ask you, it should be easy.  After a few questions they mostly just talk about themselves anyway,” Winnie said.  Opening the doors wide all three girls entered together, with Winnie taking the open seat next to her mother.

“Twins!” one of the ladies exclaimed at seeing Katherine and Robin enter.  “No one told me that they were twins, and identical, no less.” She looked them over through the lenses of her spectacles that sat low on her nose making her look older than she was.  Feeling slightly like an act at a circus show, Katherine hurried to her seat with Robin and sat still, allowing the women to further fuss over them as they kept quiet.

“Which one is which?” the youngest women asked Mrs. Brentley.

“Ladies I would like to introduce Ms. Katherine Wellings and Ms. Robin Wellings, my newest charges,” Mrs. Brentley said proudly.

The women asked questions about each of the girls’ hobbies and talents, to better find suitable suggestions for bachelors.  “Robin shouldn't look into any of the politically minded husbands, her lack of French could be a real set back,” commented one of the women.  Katherine's poor singing was also considered a problem that could hurt her chances with men who frequently entertained, but they assured her that being able to play the piano and harp sufficiently would make up for such defects.  Soon enough the women turned to the newest gossip that they could share about the season thus far.

Most of the names mentioned over the next hour were men that Katherine and Robin had met the night before.  Oliver Buckman was a favorite of the ladies who seemed to overlook his lack of wits and looks.  Some had even heard that his father had not been doing well over the last year which was considered to be a good thing.  Oliver would become very rich were the old man to die.  Another insisted that she had seen Mr. Buckman only a day before and that he was in great health and would be attending the dance that he was throwing for his son the next night.

Katherine watched the discussions, quite happy to remain quiet, and for the most part unseen.  Some bits of information could even be helpful to her, including a list of the men prone to become very drunk at public events, of which a few Lords and Dukes were mentioned.

Robin fidgeted slightly beside her, waiting for the topic to turn to something that she was more interested in.  When she realized that it was not going to, Robin changed it for them.  “I was introduced to a man named Victor last night.  Do any of you know him?”

For the first time since entering the room, Katherine watched as the group of women fell silent.

“We all know Victor Sullivan through his business reputation,” Mrs. Brentley replied crisply as her eyes narrowed in on Robin.  “Which is a bad reputation at that.  He is part of that new money circle that we were discussing earlier.”  If she had hoped that the subject would then drop, she was sorely mistaken.

“He is very rich,” one of the girls added, to Mrs. Brentley's obvious distress.  “Maybe one of the richest in London this year.”

“And I haven't heard of any improper personal habits, only a mistress or two,” the woman next to Robin whispered to her.

“His business deals are known for being very underhanded,” Mrs. Henst added primly, trying to support her friend in believing that his group was beneath any of Mrs. Brentley's charges.

BOOK: A Taste of Honey
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