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Authors: Ava March

Tags: #BDSM LGBT Historical

Bound Forever (9 page)

BOOK: Bound Forever
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Efficient and trustworthy, Mr. Barrington had proven himself more than competent at managing the various legal matters that arose from Vincent’s investments. The man usually did exactly as Vincent asked. But if the solicitor questioned him again, he would have no qualm taking his business elsewhere. The solicitor had no place concerning himself with why Vincent wished the changes made. The man need only to see them done.

Mr. Barrington’s attention dropped to the instructions Vincent had provided. A notched V pulled his brows. Then he looked back up at him. His eyes flared the tiniest bit before he tipped his head. “As you wish, my lord.” He reached for his pen and dipped the tip in the pewter inkwell on the edge of his desk. “The main Rotherham property was purchased from and not gifted from your father. I need to review the deed, but there should not be any issue with a transfer of the property.”

“I’ll have a footman deliver the deed later today.”

Another crisp nod. With a quick scratch of his pen, Barrington made a notation on Vincent’s instructions. “Then I’ll have everything I need to make the changes.” His gaze swept over the paper once more. “No, I do have a question. Would you like a one shilling clause added for Lord Grafton?”

“Why ever would I add that? Seems rather rude and deliberate.”

“Exactly the reason to add it. One shilling clauses are commonly used to ensure a family member is aware they were not forgotten but deliberately omitted, thus removing grounds that the writer was not of sound mind and simply forgot the individual.”

“Then yes, add the clause, but make it one thousand pounds.” He wanted no slight against Grafton. Though not close to him, the man
was
his brother. “If there are any other possible grounds for contention, please make me aware of them. I want them all removed.”

Another scratch of Barrington’s pen. “If anything else arises, I will send one of my secretaries with a note. But please understand that while I will do my best, the only way to remove all possible grounds for contention is to have a blank document. A disgruntled party may go so far as to fabricate claims. The grounds may ultimately be judged without merit, but they could prove costly to defend against, never mind the resulting delay in the execution of your wishes.”

Vincent frowned. Highly doubtful Grafton would go to such lengths, especially when Vincent had made a point to include an annuity for the man’s son, but the unknown held far more risk than he was willing to blindly accept. He might be comfortable with risk when it came to investments, but definitely not when it involved the well-being of the man he loved. He pulled out his pocket watch. Not yet eleven o’clock. If he left Barrington’s office shortly, he would have time to stop at the bank before his next appointment.

“Understood. I simply ask you do your best,” he said, slipping his watch back into his waistcoat pocket.

“Of course, my lord.” Barrington tipped his head. Vincent knew the man would do no less, yet he wanted nothing left to chance. “When do you need this completed?”

“By tomorrow afternoon.” He wanted it done and in hand before Oliver arrived for supper tomorrow.

“Then you can expect it by three in the afternoon.”

A tiny bit of the tension that had gripped him for days eased. Satisfied Barrington would complete the task to his satisfaction, Vincent stood from the chair, gave his coat a tug to straighten it, and bid his solicitor good day.

* * *

Oliver crossed out the figure at the bottom of the account ledger. After studying the column of numbers for a moment, he identified the cause of his error. He’d forgotten to carry the one. He had just squeezed the correct sum in the small space beside the incorrect one when a knock sounded on the back door.

Setting down his pencil, he rolled his shoulders, the joints popping and cracking. He was sorely in need of an interruption, but he’d nearly finished with the pile of the prior day’s receipts. If he did not record them all that evening, then they would be waiting for him tomorrow, along with a new pile from today. Not something to look forward to. So the sooner he could get through them, the sooner he could meet Vincent for supper.

He pushed from his desk and made his way across the small back office of his bookshop. A chill gust of evening air blew in as he opened the door, revealing the blacksmith’s son.

“Good evening, Lord Oliver,” Joseph Young said, with a deferential tug on the brim of his hat. Oliver had briefly met the strapping young man when he had gone to the Rotherham inn’s livery to arrange for the books he’d purchased from Mrs. Middleton to be delivered to London. “I’ve got your crates. Where would you like them?”

“Over there will do.” Oliver motioned in the direction of a barren spot along the wall. “Any trouble on the journey?”

“No. None at all. Took a bit of time, though. Couldn’t push the horses too fast, considering the weight and all. But the weather was decent, so the roads were in as good of shape as can be expected this time of year.” He shifted his weight and shoved his gloved hands in the pockets of his overcoat. “I’ll see to those crates then.” With another tip of his head, he turned on his heel.

Oliver left the door open and settled at the desk once again. Picking up his pencil, he went back to work as Joseph Young trudged back into the office, setting a crate down with a
thump
. In the four days Oliver and Vincent had been back in London, he had only seen Vincent on one occasion. His lover had shown up at his apartments late in the evening. Had not stayed long. Barely made it onto his bed. Well, Oliver made it onto the bed; Vincent had not. But no bother. He’d take a quick tumble from Vincent over none at all. And before Vincent departed, he had extended an invitation to supper at his town house for that evening.

After a long absence from Town, it wasn’t uncommon for business affairs to occupy Vincent. But four days had passed, and Oliver was quite looking forward to spending some time with him tonight. Time that included conversations and good food, and not merely a few moments—albeit scorching hot and very pleasurable moments—in the bedchamber. Though if the evening ended with both of them on Oliver’s old wooden bed, then all the better.

A little smile of anticipation flittered on his lips as he recorded the receipts into the ledger. The shuffle of footsteps behind him was broken by a
thump
as Joseph deposited each crate on the floor. A draft of cold air slid around him, slowly seeping through his coat and negating the effects of the meager fire in the small hearth. With a scratch of his pencil, Oliver made another correction and then flipped to the last receipt. He had just recorded the sum when another
thump
caused his pencil to pause.

He glanced over his shoulder to the crates along the wall. Five? Hadn’t Joseph only packed four? Had he selected more books than he realized?

With a shuffle of footsteps, Joseph reappeared. He had discarded his overcoat at some point, and his muscles bulged beneath the sleeves of his white shirt as he carried another crate into the office.

Six?

No, that wasn’t correct. He pushed from the desk. Cold air snapped against his cheeks as he went outside. Twilight was full upon the city, casting the narrow alley in dark, heavy shadows. The golden light streaming from the open door illuminated the team of two large draft horses hitched to a wagon. Crossing his arms over his chest to ward off the cold, Oliver went around to the back of the wagon and counted the crates as Joseph grabbed another to haul into the office.

Twelve crates. Nineteen total? No possible way he had accidently selected that many books. Oliver dragged a hand through his hair. Clearly Joseph had made a mistake. Damnation. He had been very specific with Mr. Young, even left him with written instructions.

What must Mrs. Middleton think? Joseph had cleared out her library, and Oliver had not even paid for a quarter of it. Now he would have to sort through it all, find the books he did purchase, and have the remainder returned. And he could not leave them crated. They needed to be returned to the library’s shelves. Oliver shook his head. He’d have to take the books back himself and try to explain the mishap. Another long journey to Rotherham lay ahead of him. He let out a heavy sigh. Highly doubtful Vincent would go with him. They had just come back to Town.

What a bloody mess.

A now familiar shuffle sounded behind him. Oliver tamped down the frustration and turned from the wagon. “Joseph, there has been a misunderstanding. You were only to deliver the books I left stacked on Mr. Middleton’s desk.”

A look of puzzlement twisted Joseph’s face, flushed with exertion. “I was to deliver them all here.” He reached for his overcoat on the side rail of the wagon, pulled a fold of crumpled papers from a pocket, and handed it to Oliver.

He smoothed the papers flat and angled them toward the light streaming from the back door. The first contained his own instructions. The second… He recognized the tidy yet masculine script before he reached the signature.

Dear Mr. Young—

In addition to the crates arranged by Lord Oliver Marsden, please have the balance of the books in Mrs. Middleton’s library crated and delivered to the same address. A sum has been enclosed to cover the additional expense.

—Lord Vincent Prescot

Annoyance surged within him. Paper crinkled as he balled the letters in his fist. Significantly more than presumptuous of Vincent to make such arrangements and not inform him. It wasn’t as if Vincent did not know where to find him, and they had seen each other a couple of days ago, never mind the fact they had traveled together in the same carriage for three days on the journey from Rotherham to London. Many opportunities for Vincent to discuss the books with him. Yet he chose not to.

Typical of Vincent. Arranging things as
he
saw fit, without bothering to consult others. Hell, it likely did not even occur to Vincent that he should consult Oliver. And where the hell would Oliver store all these books? They all could not fit in the shop.

Letting out a frustrated grunt, he dragged his hand through his hair.

“Lord Oliver, did I read the instructions incorrectly? Father said to simply deliver the lot of them here,” Joseph said, and not without a good measure of hesitation.

Briefly closing his eyes, Oliver took a moment to gather his composure. Wouldn’t do to vent his frustration on the wrong target. Joseph had done nothing wrong, save follow Vincent’s instructions. Instructions the man had no right to give.

“No, the fault does not lie with you. It is I who misunderstood.” Never should have even mentioned the library to Vincent. With another shake of his head, he motioned to the crates stacked in the back of the wagon. “You can bring the rest inside.”

As Joseph hauled the crates from the wagon, Oliver went through the office to the front section of the shop to help Mr. Wallace close for the evening. After he bid good night to the elderly man, he returned to the office to find it near overrun with crates. At the sight of Joseph standing by the door with more than a hint of worry pulling his brow, Oliver kept the curse from making its way past his lips.

“That’s all of them. Is there anything else you need, my lord?”

“No. That will be all.” Oliver reached behind a stack of crates and grabbed his greatcoat from the hook on the wall. “Thank you, Joseph. And my apologies for the misunderstanding.”

He followed the young man out the back door and bid him good night. Joseph settled on the driver’s bench, and with a soft click to the horses, he guided the team down the alley, the rattle of the empty wagon echoing off the brick walls of the surrounding buildings.

“Damn you, Vincent,” Oliver muttered as he locked the door. In the back of his mind, behind the ever-mounting frustration, resided the knowledge he should not feel so annoyed with Vincent. The man was simply being generous. Those fifteen unexpected crates had not come from a desire to shove his wealth in Oliver’s face or to make him feel inadequate because his little bookshop could not afford more. But…

Bloody hell. Why couldn’t Vincent at least mention such matters to him?

Tugging on his gloves, he went down the alley. Those not-so-subtle pieces of advice that screamed Vincent’s doubts in his abilities, the condescending arched brow of silent disagreement, the way Vincent assumed more often than he asked, the damn black coat Vincent had felt compelled to purchase for him, and now the books…

Enough.

This time Vincent had gone too far.

* * *

“His lordship is in the study.”

Oliver handed his greatcoat to Vincent’s butler.

The butler’s thin lips curled just the tiniest bit as he took Oliver’s coat. Tall and slim and with his spine ramrod straight, the older man appeared as though he only reluctantly allowed Oliver and his old coat, the hem frayed and mud flecked, into his master’s stately town house. After countless visits over the past year, Oliver had decided it was simply the man’s way.

Yet tonight it rankled. The cold, haughty stare abraded the nerves already bristling with affront. So much so that Oliver turned on his heel, dismissing the butler without a word.

His footsteps clicked, quick and determined, on the pristine gray marble floor as he made his way across the entrance hall. Taking a familiar path, he went up the stairs to Vincent’s study. Without bothering to knock, he opened the first door on the right and flicked it shut behind him.

“Good evening, Oliver.” Tucked behind his massive desk, Vincent made a notation on the paper before him.

“It would have been much appreciated if you had informed me you purchased the remainder of Middleton’s library before the crates arrived.”

“They arrived. Good,” Vincent said, looking up from the paper.

Oliver stopped before Vincent’s desk. “Good? That is all you have to say?”

A furrow of confusion briefly pulled Vincent’s brow. A furrow that only served as fodder for the frustration churning in Oliver’s belly.

“Did the shipment arrive intact?”

Oliver ignored Vincent’s question. “How much did you pay for them?” Vincent likely would not have known the true value of the books. The man had not even laid eyes on them—Oliver knew it as fact, for after that morning by the pond, Vincent had not left the country house until they had departed for London. Hopefully he had not underpaid, though more than likely he overpaid in a blatant show of the size of his bank account.

BOOK: Bound Forever
11.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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