An injured lady always needs a good laugh…and a good man!
A nibble of my newest cherry!
Copyright 2020, Cerise Deland, LADY FIONA’S TALL, DARK FOLLY. All rights reserved.
A footman appeared at the open doorway with a tray of items piled high.
"And here is a man with the goods we need for that." Lord Charlton rose and stood aside for the servant to pass. "Over there is good."
When the man was gone, he surveyed the supplies. Drained his glass, put it aside and returned to her. He gazed at her, serious to a fault. "You'll have to raise your skirts once more."
Fifi drained her own brandy, put the glass to the table and inched up her skirts to her knees. "Enough?"
He smiled at her with a pure delight. "Well done."
"Set to work, sir."
"My name is Rory. I invite you to use it."
"Oh, I shouldn't."
"Would you like to touch my bare foot?"
She fell back, laughing. “Only if you have nice knees. Do you, sir?”
She fixed him with a frank look. "Do you have nice knees? Rory?"
"I do. May I call you Fifi?"
Her mouth fell open. "Who told you that?"
"I heard your friend Mary call you that."
"Yes. I will be Fifi to you."
"And I shall be Rory to you. Only when we are together alone."
"Yes." His last two words sent quivers of longing through her. Years ago she had met him, valued him and felt her soul twine with his. Whatever her misperception of his identity, the commingling of her heart with his had not been wrong. Simply...postponed. Her imagination flew to what joys they might discover together in days ahead. She wished to rise up and hug him, kiss him. She cleared her throat, her cheeks burning in a blush as he sat down again before her, all his supplies of scissors and flannel, ice and burlap to hand. "Only then."
The tenderness of his words matched the sweetness of his ministrations to her foot. She sat, for the second time in her life, enjoying the brush of his fingers, the delicacy of his touch. Never knowing a hug or a kiss from her father, she'd not imagined men might offer that to any woman. In fact, what had drawn her to him that night so many years ago was his jovial nature as well as his genteel respect for her. For her as a young woman. For her.
She not forgotten it. The thrill. The compliment. The comfort. Now she had it again...and she wished to never let it disappear again. She was content to sit and let him work his magic on her, heal her ankle, heal her heartache, heal her longing for him that had dwindled...but had never lost its lustre.
She sighed and noticed a figure in the doorway.
"There you are, Mary! Do come in. See what Lord Charlton is doing." She pointed to her swollen foot. "He claims to be an expert at healing twisted ankles."
Her friend approached, the wary look upon her face one of concern for her welfare. "Is that so, sir?"
Rory glanced up at her, a rueful arc to his brows, his hands still. "We are—I assure you, Lady Mary—perfectly respectable. Do note the door is open. I have not accosted your friend. Have I, Lady Fifi?"
"Not in the least," she said, absorbed in Charlton's wrapping of her ankle in a strip of flannel.
"You've done this often?" Mary inquired of him.
"Battlefield surgeons are few and far between, my lady. A commander must perform as leader, confessor, scribe and doctor."
"Of course." Mary seemed at odds as to whether to stay or go. "Will you come downstairs, my lord, after you finish here?"
"I will. So will Lady Fifi."
"Oh, no, I won't. I'm not going down there like this."
"Why not?" He paused, surprise on his face. "Does your ankle prohibit you from laughing?"
Fifi stared him down. Was he joking? "Never."
"You are irritating, my lord." Fifi crossed her arms, delighted to be cajoled into attending the others when she should claim the vapors, a megrim at the least. But she wanted to be with Rory. Anywhere.
She met Mary's gaze. "We'll adjourn to the salon soon."
He smiled at Mary. "A few more minutes, then."
Fifi smiled at her friend, hoping she'd leave them alone.
But Welles appeared and curtsied to them. The maid provided a suitable chaperone.
Mary dismissed herself. "I'll see you both downstairs."
He worked for a few more minutes on her ankle, smiling to himself the entire time. When he finished and drew down her skirts, he shot his cuffs and threw her a look of pride. "Are you ready to greet the other guests?"
"I am hungry." She tipped her head, marveling that her friends downstairs would see such a man honoring her with his attentions. "And I would say you are, too. Carrying me about must require Herculean efforts."
"When I look at you, I feel more like Paris."
"A man, bereft of all reason in the presence of the lady he adored."
That set her aglow. "You are becoming much too complimentary, my lord."
"Rory," he murmured so that Welles might not hear.
She cocked her head and whispered, "Rory."
"Between us," he said as he bent near to her lips, "I want only truth."
She caught her breath. Truth could ruin so much about their relationship. Truth that she had been girlishly attracted to him the minute she met him. Truth that she pined for him and, because of her vanity not to wear her glasses that night six years ago, she'd mistaken him for another. Truth that today she appreciated him more each moment as he rescued her from a wrecked coach and from the embarrassment of being crippled by her ankle injury. Truth that she should not encourage him to pay his attentions to her. But she wanted him to do that—and she wanted that at any price.
She locked her gaze on his. Her earnestness must match his. "I want it too."
"Marvelous!" He chuckled and scooped her up into his arms. His face, so close, elicited a grin from her. His eyes, so lively—his lips, so appealing—his cologne, so intoxicating—all combined to make him irresistible. She cupped his nape, the lure of him surging through her anew.
"Kiss me, if you like," he murmured, his mouth a tempting morsel.
"I'd like to." She considered the strong lines of his generous mouth. "Later."
“Away then! We must hurry the evening along!”
She threw back her head and laughed as she had not laughed in years. Perhaps, not ever.