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A Cinderella for the Duke


CHAPTER ONE

Lord Grimshaw, you must understand that this is very unorthodox.”


“I can’t imagine how that could be,” Sebastian Blackburn, the Earl of Grimshaw, stated with a huff of irritation. “I am certainly not the only one to come and seek a governess through you.”


“Of course not, my lord,” the solicitor replied, pushing the spectacles up his nose. “That is the main
purpose of our establishment, of course. I only mean that asking various governesses here to be interviewed by you personally is very unorthodox, and quite possibly not possible on such short notice.”


“Well,” Grimshaw said, doing his best to keep a steady voice. “How much time would you find
sufficient if you cannot procure prospects today? Would tomorrow give you a sufficient amount of time?”


“A week would be more reasonable, Lord Grimshaw.”


“Well I don’t have a week!” Grimshaw said, standing up in the room.


The solicitor sat back in his chair in response to Sebastian’s physical presence in the small office
room.
“It is your fault I find myself here. I asked you to procure me a governess and in less than a year she
goes and elopes. I obviously can’t count on you to pick a proper candidate so here I am to do it myself.
This trip to London has already been inconvenience enough. I want to be done with the whole thing in no
more than three days’ time.”
The solicitor moved the glasses on his nose once more. He didn’t particularly enjoy being
reprimanded in his own office but nothing could be done for it. Many young ladies would take up these
governess jobs only long enough to see themselves properly wed. Though a resignation in less than a year
was unusually quick, it was a common occurrence for a governess to give up pupils for marriage.
“I am very sorry that Miss Watts left your service…”
“How about you tell my two girls how sorry you are? In the last two years they have lost a mother and
now their governess. Perhaps if you will not furnish me with candidates to interview myself, I will just
take you with me back to Brighton Abby so that you may look into their doe eyes and explain why they
have had no womanly figure to support and guide them these last four months.”
“I assure you that won’t be necessary, Lord Grimshaw,” the solicitor said, shuffling papers on his
desk. “I am sure that I will be able to find several candidates ready for your approval by tomorrow
morning.”
The solicitor was feeling rather terrified from the Earl’s commanding presence and was willing to do
whatever it took to pacify the man.
Lord Grimshaw nodded in approval with a grunt before turning to retrieve his beaver fur hat and cane.
“Then I will arrive promptly tomorrow morning at nine o’clock and I expect to have several options
to choose from,” he announced in a less harsh but still demanding voice.
“Of course, Lord Grimshaw. It is our passion to make sure all our clients are pleased in every way
with any employment they need filling,” the solicitor said, standing and reciting the business motto.
Sebastian stormed from the office and building onto the busy streets of London. He looked either
direction at the various people walking along the road before donning his hat.
“Need a cab, m’lord ?” a small voice called up to him.
He looked down to inspect the eyes of the dirty orphan waiting expectantly. Sebastian expected he
hoped for a penny in return for his aid in procuring a carriage for hire.
“Alright, sure,” Sebastian said as he studied the boy.
The small child’s face brightened to finally get an affirmative answer. Sebastian had no doubt it was
one of the few he had gotten all week. The child was scarcely a skeleton.
Despite his malnutrition he donned his own ragged cap and ran out to the muddied and filth-filled
street to hail a carriage.
It only took a moment for the yellow carriage pulled by a single horse to be called over by the boy.
Sebastian had to admit he was quite proficient at his job.
As the carriage pulled to the side of the raised sidewalk so as to keep the Earl from soiling his leather
boots in the street, the boy opened the door and removed his hat, bowing in respect.
“For you, m’lord,” he said.
Sebastian reached into his pocket and pulled out a sixpence to give the child. He supposed the boy
had held out his hat for the money, not expecting someone of his class would be willing to put it directly
into such a dirty hand.
Instead of placing the coin in the hat, however, Sebastian knelt down to the child’s level. Grabbing the
boy’s dirty thin hand with his own white gloved one, he placed the coin in his palm.
“I would hate for it to fall out of the hole in your cap,” Sebastian said, motioning to the worn
headpiece.
“Thank you, m’lord!” The boy was so overcome with excitement at the money he could scarcely
breathe.
Sebastian ruffled the boy’s matted brown hair and smiled at him before raising himself back up and
entering the carriage.
“Where to, guv’nor?” the driver called from his high seat in front of the box.
“Grand Hotel, Covent Garden,” Sebastian responded without fanfare as he settled back into the
carriage seat.
He was vastly irritated to spend even one more day in London, but there seemed to be nothing to do
for it.
He had trusted a solicitor once, though he wasn’t entirely sure if it was that exact man he had met
today as he had accused, to procure a governess for him. If there was one thing that Sebastian Blackburn,
Earl of Grimshaw, had learned in life, it was that if he wanted something done properly he was going to
have to do it himself.
The following morning Sebastian walked into the employment office satisfied to see a row of ladies
seated and patiently waiting.
He could easily already mark several of them off his list of candidates as they were far too handsome
to look upon. He wasn’t about to allow his future governess to catch the eye of a local gentleman again.
His girls had suffered enough without the loss of yet another motherly figure in their life. He would
settle on a lady that would not only excel as a tutor but also one that looked so demure as to never risk
leaving again.
Sebastian was shown into the same solicitor’s office. He spoke rather nervously as he shuffled
through his papers and made room for the Earl at the desk.
“I have a list of all qualified ladies. All are in need of employment and able to travel as far distance
as is necessary. I have assured all of them that this governess position is not a temporary one and
dedication is required.”
Sebastian nodded his head in approval. He was aware that he could be a quite severe-looking man so
he attempted to soften his look. It wasn’t easy when he was in such a sour disposition already. He never
liked traveling to London. There were far too many people.
“Please do send the first one in,” Sebastian said, taking his seat in the solicitor’s chair behind the
desk.
The man only hesitated for a moment before nodding and leaving the room. A few seconds later he
returned with a lady in tow. She was one of the seated misses he had singled out at once as far too
beautiful for his position.
“Thank you, I am sure you are very skilled,” Sebastian said before the woman even fully entered the
room, “but I am looking for something else in a governess. Good morning.”
He kept his thick arms on the table with his fingers interlaced. She looked up in shock between the
Earl and the solicitor before the latter finally shooed her out of the room and returned with another.
“This will do fine, please have a seat, miss?” Sebastian said, taking control of the room as was his
habit.
“Miss Mary Prescott, sir,” she said as she took her seat.
Sebastian spent the next several hours interviewing one miss after another. Some like the first were
dismissed right away. Others were given the opportunity to answer a few questions but quickly were
found wanting.
Sebastian was just beginning to lose hope when Miss Hannah Jacobson made her way into the room.
He looked her over, finding her features very satisfying to his needs.
Her dress clearly stated that she was of a lower class. Not only was it extremely plain and not of the
fashion he had seen as of late, but it was also altered along the edges. He could scarcely make her face
out between the large white cap she had completely covering her head and the wide brim spectacles that
obscured the rest of her face.
“Miss Hannah Jacobson,” the solicitor said before leaving the room.
She took her seat and, passing her information forward to the Earl, kept her eyes on the hands neatly
folded in her lap. Sebastian pulled his eyes from her curious figure to the pamphlet before him.
Her dress seemed to make more sense as he read over that her schooling was at Hendrick’s
Preparatory School for Young Misses. He was familiar with the institution. Though it produced
satisfactory educators, it was one often used by those who couldn’t afford much better.
“I am in need of a lady who can both teach my two young daughters the educational lessons
appropriate to their age as well as etiquette they will need in preparation for their adult lives. I trust your
education at Hendrick’s Preparatory was satisfactory?”
“Yes, Lord Grimshaw.”
“And if you were offered the position, how soon would you be able to arrive at Brighton Abby? Of
course, I would pay for your transportation,” he added with a wave of his hand.
“I could leave as soon as needed, or as soon as it is convenient for you,” she replied with her head
still down.
He didn’t rather like how dull and sullen she seemed. He wondered how that would fair with his girls
who were often rambunctious and feral. Though on the other hand he thought perhaps her demeanor might
have an influence on them.
“I see here that Hendrick’s first put you with the Baron Edgley. I see you spent almost a year there, but
I see no reference.”
“That is correct,” she said as her eyes met his for the first time since entering the room.
“Could you perchance tell me why your post terminated with the baron and perhaps why there is no
reference,” Sebastian said, a little more severely than he had meant to.
He was just frustrated, not with the miss, but with the fact that this was yet another red flag against yet
another unqualified governess.
“Perhaps you know the baron?” Hannah retorted, not yet ready to answer the question.
“No.”
“Oh, well, my ward was their son, Joseph. He took ill quite suddenly and after several months without
recovering they thought it best to dismiss me. Both Baron and Baroness Edgley were beside themselves
with worry over Joseph, and I didn’t feel it appropriate to ask for a reference in such a time.”
“Why did they not supply one upon your dismissal?”
“I suppose it was just the stress they were under. I think the Baron forgot, he had so much on his mind,
you see.”
Sebastian thought this over and considered it to be a suitable reason for not giving a reference.
Hannah Jacobson didn’t seem like the type of girl who would fail in her job as an educator if her school
marks were any indication.
“Well,” the Earl said, standing up. Miss Jacobson did the same. “I have seen as much as I think I need
to. You are hired. I will arrange a coach to collect you and your belongings first thing tomorrow morning.”
“Tomorrow morning?” Hannah said, surprised to not only get the job with such a dubious work
history and suspicious explanation of it, but to also start right away.
“You said you were available, did you not?”
“Yes, yes of course. I would be happy to begin as soon as you wish. I was just surprised is all,” she
added with a shy smile.
She looked down from the Earl, no doubt to hide a blush behind the large ruffles of her cap. He
couldn’t help but wonder later that day if it was actually dimples he had also seen along with the rose on
her cheeks.
H
CHAPTERTWO
annah took a steadying breath before leaving the small rented flat that had been her home these last
six months. She couldn’t help but feel anxious about the new employment and one outside of
London.
Hannah had told herself numerous times it would be better to acquire a post outside of the city she had
been born in. She needed to get far enough away that the reputation that Baron Edgley was spreading
wouldn’t reach.
She grabbed her one small suitcase and locked the door behind her. More than anything she was in
great need of the income this opportunity would provide. She learned to live frugally from a very young
age, but it still had not prepared her for her six-month period without a job.
Of course, she could have always gone to her aunt and uncle and asked for help if she really needed
to. It was something she would not consider unless she was near death, however.
They thought they were being kind when they sent her off to Hendrick’s Preparatory School. It had
relieved her own parents of at least one of the seven children at that time. Now her mother’s brood was
boasting twelve children. Her aunt and uncle were satisfied in their charitable duty to send her, the eldest,
off to receive a proper education and the promise of employment afterward.
Hannah began her education at the age of eleven. From that moment on, every waking wish for her,
and every other girl at that school, was just to be freed upon their eighteenth birthday.
Unlike so many who died of malnutrition or sickness in the cramp quarters of the ill-heated school,
Hannah had made it to her eighteenth year. She was promptly removed from school and placed in the
baron’s home.
How something so horrible as that school could have furnished her a post even more horrifying was
more than Hannah would ever understand. They clearly cared little for the homes they were sending their
wards to.
Hannah could only hope that her new station would be an improvement on her last, and she could
again send money back to her family who needed it so desperately.
She watched the countryside pass by out the window of the public carriage. She was happy to be in
the box instead of sitting outside with the cases as two other men had done for the cheaper fair.
In the carriage she was squished tight up against the window to avoid all contact with the gentleman
next to her. She would have rather not been smothered into a vehicle with five other bodies, only one of
which was another woman, for the duration of the ride.
She could have no opinion on the matter, however, as it was her employer who had furnished the
arraignment.
Hannah thought on the Earl of Grimshaw as dusk was beginning to set on her day-long ride. She
wondered what sort of a man he was. He had seemed quite fierce at their one and only meeting. He was
such an imposing figure even the solicitor had seemed to shrink away from him.
Lord Grimshaw reminded her quite a bit of the teachers from her past. Quick to strike the hand and
slow to show any amount of kindness. It seemed an insufferable idea to go to a house that seemed much
like her childhood upbringing.
She had no choice in the matter. She had extinguished all her reserves and had already been turned
down for six different positions in London, either from lack of reference or worse from word of mouth
reference from the baron himself.
At that moment while she was lost in thought, the gentleman who had fallen asleep next to her began to
slouch in her direction. Hannah stiffened as his arm came in contact with hers.
Hannah did her best to lean farther out of the window. Even the mere innocent touch of a sleeping man
was enough to make her wish to scream in fear.
Her nose was already freezing from the cool breeze blowing by in the darkening outside world. She
didn’t care if her nose fell off from the cold, she would hold herself outside the carriage as long as
necessary till the man righted himself again.
Finally just after midnight the coach stopped at the gates of Brighton Abby. Luckily before that her
gentleman companion had woken and already removed himself at an earlier stop.
Even with the added space in the carriage, when it was her turn to dismount she couldn’t help but
breathe a sigh of relief. She thanked the man who handed her chest down and began the walk through the
gates to her new home.
She couldn’t see much of it in the darkness. Thankfully some lights were still in the windows guiding
her way. Just as she came to the front of the house a woman came around the corner.
Hannah sighed in relief to see that she would not have to sit outside and wait for the house to awaken
to be let in. She smiled gratefully at the woman and followed her to the side of the house where the
service entrance was.
Inside she could see the lady much clearer. She was no doubt in her late fifties and covered her head
with a large laced cap as Hannah did, though Hannah was sure for an entirely different reason.
“I am Mrs. Brennon, the housekeeper,” she said as she wiped her nose against the cold. “Come inside
quickly, child, and make yourself warm. I insisted that David keep the fire warm until your arrival.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Brennon. That was most kind of you,” Hannah replied, grateful for the warmth.
“Come and sit and I will have some tea and sandwiches brought down.”
“Please don’t go through such trouble on my account. If you would just show me to my quarters, I will
not keep you up any longer.”
“Nonsense, at my age one doesn’t sleep much anyway,” Mrs. Brennon said as she eased herself down
into a chair in front of a warm hearth.
Hannah couldn’t have been more appreciative of the light meal and warm drink brought by one of the
maids. She made a mental note to repay the kindness at a later date.
“Now,” Mrs. Brennon said after she finished her tea, “Lord Grimshaw will see you tomorrow in the
morning room after breakfast. Nine o’clock sharp, do you hear?” she warned with a wagging finger. “He
doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“The earl would like to personally give you the details of your duty and parameters of your stay at
Brighton Abby. After this, I will take you to see your new pupils and a short tour of the house. It would do
you no good to see it now.”
“How will I find my way to the morning room,” Hannah asked.
She had seen very little of the estate in the dark but what she did see was quite massive. She was sure
it was an easy enough thing to get lost in its expansive halls.
“Mary will bring you your breakfast in the morning, she will be able to help you on.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Brennon. This is a far better welcome than I could have ever wished for,” Hannah
said, grateful from the depths of her heart.
The following morning Hannah woke early in the privacy of her own room. It was nothing she had
ever experienced before in the whole of her life. Whether it was sharing a bed with siblings, the massive
dormitories of her school, or the servant quarters of the baron’s London home, she had always had at least
one companion in her room.
It all seemed very quiet to her as she got out of bed and dressed for the day. The first thing she did
before even the maid could enter was replace the hair cap and thick glasses that served no purpose but to
hide her face.
As she finished this, a soft knock came at her door. Hannah wrapped herself in her shawl before
cracking it open. Seeing that it was indeed the maid with her breakfast, she opened the door all the way to
let her in.
“I’m Mary,” she said cheerfully as she set down the tray. “You will be Miss Jacobson.”
“Just Hannah, please,” Hannah said as the maid turned to inspect her.
She let out a giggle.
“I’ve never seen someone so young wear a cap. And why do you have it on before you are even
dressed?” she aked, motioning to the nightgown that Hannah was still in.
“I was just a bit chilled this morning,” Hannah said by way of excuse.
“Well, I’ll have the warm water coming up for you next. Can you start the fire, or do you need help?“
Hannah looked over to the small mantle with the cinders from the fire that had glowed upon her entry
the night before.
Next to the hearth was a basket filled with more wood and small scraps to start the fire with. Hannah
could barely contain her own joy. Having a fire to warm herself by was a treasured event.
“I can manage it on my own. I only just woke. Is there a bucket I might sweep the ashes in?”
“Don’t be silly,” Mary said, waving her off with another laugh, “the chambermaid will come around
and take care of all of that.”
Hannah wasn’t used to having breakfast brought to her, or maids to clean up after her. Even in the
baron’s house such things couldn’t be afforded and Hannah was expected to take care of her own needs
and eat her meals with the rest of the staff.
“I don’t mean to make work for others,” Hannah said.
After all it was something that had been beaten into her, quite literally, growing up. Every person in
this world had a God ordained purpose. For the misses of Hendrick’s Prep, it was to serve others, not to
be waited upon.
“It is no more work than we are used to. This is a big house. It takes a large staff to maintain it. You
will find that we are more than amply supplied to see to your comfort. In that way you will be able to
focus all your energy on Lady Caroline and Lady Rebecca. At least that is what the earl wishes.”
“Well if it is Lord Grimshaw’s instructions then I won’t interfere,” Hannah said rather reluctantly.
Mary gave her one last welcoming smile before she went on her way out of the room and to the rest of
her duties.
By the time that Hannah had finished the fire, Mary was back to deliver the warm basin as promised.
“Thank you,” was all Hannah could manage before Mary was on her way again.
The house may have been fully staffed but it was also a very busy place. Hannah peeked out of her
room and saw the bustle of several other servants going about their daily duties.
Returning to her private room, Hannah washed, feeling most refreshed after such a long trip, and
dressed in her simple grey muslin dress. She wrapped her neckline with her cotton fichu that was long
enough to tuck through her bodice and double as her apron over her skirts.
She did her best to smooth out any wrinkles in both the cotton fichu and dress that had occurred in the
time in her chest.
Finally feeling herself fully put together, Hannah sat down to take her breakfast. She was happy to see
a steaming pot of tea, toast, and fresh marmalade.
She was feeling quite spoiled as she ate her toast and took in the sights around her. Along with her
bed, there was a cabinet to place her garments in, a small table and a mirror. Additionally, she had her
breakfast table and chair, and an alcove with large windows.
After finishing her breakfast she walked over to the window to get a better idea of the grounds around
her.
Hannah’s breath caught in her chest as she looked out the window at the rich green forest that lay
beyond the manicured gardens of Brighton Abby.
She was sure she understood why it was called such a name now. The sun seemed to touch every top
of every tree, extending across the vast array of vegetation that surrounded the house.
Hannah had never seen so much green in all her life all in one place. It was a most enchanting sight to
see. Reaching down, she unlatched one of the windows and let the fresh air in.
She was sure even the air smelled better than it did back in London. She closed her eyes for just a
moment as she soaked in all the smells and sounds that seemed to engulf her.
Finally glancing down to the watch at her waist, she was startled out of her relaxing meditation. It was
now quarter to nine.
Panic seized her in realizing she had fifteen minutes to get her person to the morning room. Worst of
all, she had forgotten to ask Mary how to get there.
If her first impressions of the earl, not to mention the housekeeper’s warnings the night before, were
any indication, Hannah had a feeling he would not take her tardy appearance lightly.
“P
CHAPTERTHREE
lease excuse me,” Hannah said to a gentleman who was fortunate to be in the hall she was presently
searching. “Could you be so kind as to point me to the morning room?”
She recognized the footman as the one who had stoked the fire the night before. He gave her a rather
large toothy grin as he looked her over.
“So you are the new governess, then?”
“Yes, and I am sorry to be rude, but I am a trifle late for a meeting with the earl. If you could quickly
point me to the proper room I would be greatly in your debt.”
He surveyed her again. Hannah could not have been more grateful for her homely appearance as his
eyes drifted over her. Finally he decided she was wanting, much to her relief.
“Well, you’re going the wrong direction to start,” he said, not finding much interest in her looks.
“Then you will turn right at the main stair and you will find it two doors down in the east wing.”
Hannah looked in the direction he was speaking and did her best to remember his words. She nodded
her thanks before hurrying back the way she had come.
Luckily she found the room just as the watch attached to her waist indicated the hour. She breathed a
sigh of relief as she knocked promptly on the door.
“Come in,” a deep commanding voice called from within.
Hannah opened the door, set her chin at a proper height and entered the room.
She found the earl sitting behind a small writing desk situated in a corner of the room. It was an
exquisitely beautiful room with golden wallpaper and floral couches all facing some great windows to the
east. It was no wonder this was called the morning room, for the light from the rising sun brought warmth
to every inch of it.
“Please have a seat,” the earl instructed from behind his writing desk while he continued at his work.
Hannah hesitated for a moment. There was nowhere to sit but on the couches facing the window in
front of him. It didn’t seem proper to put her back to him as his desk was behind the couches.
“Miss Jacobson, is there a reason why you will not sit?” he asked rather impatiently as he put his quill
down for a moment to study her.
“It is only,” Hannah hesitated. “I only wonder if it would be proper for me to sit when the only
available seats have my back to you.”
“If you would please have a seat, Miss Jacobson, I will join you presently. I am just finishing up some
business.”
Hannah didn’t think his sharp tone was quite necessary. Nonetheless, she seated herself and enjoyed
the view out the window as best she could with the sound of his quick writing scratching the parchment
behind her.
Finally the earl finished his note and sealed it for delivery. Once finished, he rose from his seat and
came to sit across from her on an opposing couch.
“I apologize for the delay,” he said as he attempted to soothe his own nerves. “Have you settled
yourself well in your new quarters?”
“Yes, thank you, Lord Grimshaw. They are more than I expected.”
“Good. Now let us get on to the business of expectations for the girls’ education and your role in the
household.”
“Of course,” Hannah said expectantly.
“My daughters are seven and five. I am sure that you will be most adequate in seeing that they
continue in their scholarly education?”
“Yes.”
“I would ask that half the day be spent in scholarly learning and the other half in training as proper
young ladies. You may organize the day as you wish so long as both of these standards are met.”
“I would be happy to impart whatever knowledge you deem necessary.”
“I am glad to hear that,” Sebastian said, relived to see the demure lady was all business as was he.
“Now, there are some rules that I must insist you follow while you are here at Brighton Abby. I assure
you there is an important purpose for all of them and I would ask you to adhere to them strictly.”
“Rule number one, I would ask that you do not go into the local village unless I take you myself.”
Hannah’s jaw dropped open.
“But, sir, I am not sure I understand the meaning of such a rule. Surely if I go along with other
members of the staff that would be sufficient to see me safely there and back. What other purpose could
you have for insisting I go only in your presence?”
“Please, I assure you it is for a good reason. I, perhaps, may assign another I feel would be
appropriate for the task, but as of right now that is not so. We will go to town each Sunday, and then again
once a week on the afternoon of your choosing. Please advise me what day would be best at your earliest
convenience so that I may make my own preparations to be available at that time.”
Hannah was utterly shocked at his demand as well as his delivery of it. There was no question in his
mind that this was completely right to do.
“The second rule pertains to the first. I would ask that each Sunday you attend services with us in our
family seat so as to watch the girls.”
Hannah was growing increasingly nervous with every rule he announced. Would he insist she be in his
presence at all times? Despite her fear she simply nodded in acknowledgement.
“Third, because I am alone in the house with the girls most of the time, I allow them to join me for
evening meals. I would ask you to also be in attendance for dinner.”
“Lastly,” he continued without waiting for her to reply, “while you are here in my employment I must
insist that you do not consort with any members of the opposite sex within town or the staff unless
approved by myself.”
“Consort? Opposite sex? I am not sure what you are inferring, Lord Grimshaw,” Hannah said, now
having heard far too much, “but I am a respectable lady.”
“I am not inferring anything, Miss Jacobson. I am sure you are and I would never suggest otherwise. I
am merely informing you of these rules for the benefit of my children.”
“How could that possibly benefit your girls?”
“I am afraid you will just have to trust me on this one,” the Earl of Grimshaw said with a stoic face
that gave nothing away.
Hannah wasn’t sure if she felt more shocked, hurt or insulted after her meeting with the Earl of
Grimshaw. How could he have sanely asked such things of her?
She had hoped that this time around she would leave her employment with a promising referral. How
could that ever be the case when she couldn’t bring herself to agree to such rules?
Of course she understood the necessity of grooming the girls both in their education and in preparation
for their lives as proper young ladies. She also didn’t mind the idea of attending to them at church and for
supper although it was unorthodox.
She did, however, find herself vastly insulted to be told that she was only allowed out of the house in
his presence. How dare the earl infer that she would have inappropriate interactions with members of the
male staff and therefore forbid any interaction whatsoever!
It was just the same physically demanding presence of her last employer. Again and again Hannah had
told herself that the baron was just an anomaly and that her next situation would be vastly better. She was
beginning to question that sound advice she gave to herself.
Standing outside the school room door she smoothed her apron and took a steadying breath. She
knocked first before being called in.
“Good morning, Miss Jacobson,” a kind-eyed young girl said, coming to stand in front of her.
She motioned for the two small girls to stand. Hannah took the moment to look her pupils over. They
both had the black hair that matched their father. In fact, everything about their demure somber faces
reminded her of the earl.
She was immediately drawn to the youngest of the two who looked up at her with the largest brown
eyes she had ever seen before.
“I am Abigail, their nurse. This is Lady Caroline and the little one there is Lady Rebecca,” the young
girl pointed out to Hannah.
Hannah was surprised that such a young girl was their nurse. She looked to be no more than sixteen.
She wondered if that perhaps explained why the earl had insisted that it was Hannah who tended to the
girls outside of school instead of their nurse.
“It’s very nice to meet you, Abigail, as well as both of you, Lady Caroline and Lady Rebecca,”
Hannah said, smiling down at her wards as soothingly as possible.
“If it is alright with you, I would like to assess what your last governess has already imparted to you
before we begin with our own lessons. Would that be alright?”
Both girls first looked to their nurse. Even at her young age, it was clear she was the only consistent
mother figure they had had thus far in their lives.
Abigail gave them an encouraging nod and both girls turned to their new governess ready for the task.
“Our last governess would have us sit at the table over there,” Lady Caroline said by way of being
helpful as Abigail excused herself from the room.
“Thank you, Lady Caroline,” Hannah said as she scanned the room and began to take in its layout.
There was a bookshelf amply supplied with resources for Hannah to comb over and use. A warm
fireplace to be used in winter months with a comfy chair for her to sit in and read to the children. There
was one desk for her use and a small table for the girls’ use.
Hannah spent the remainder of the afternoon assessing her two pupils. Rebecca was very young in
age, only being five, and was very new in her education. Hannah was sure her education would start at the
very beginning. Caroline on the other hand was very knowledgeable of her numbers and letters and was
even able to demonstrate some exquisite handwriting.
Both girls were very quiet, however, and much of what Hannah came to learn of them was a slow and
painful process to draw out.
She did notice that Caroline’s eyes also continued to float away from her task at hand. She realized
that her first assignment for the child would be to focus on tasks at hand and not get lost in thought.
As the morning came to an end and a servant arrived with a tray of light luncheon, Hannah was
relieved for the break.
Her last pupil, though he truly had taken ill towards the end, had been a wild and rambunctious boy. It
was a stark difference to these soft-spoken girls.
“Miss Jacobson,” Caroline said after Hannah suggested they take a break for tea and a light meal, “our
last governess would always read to us at the end of our lessons.”
Her eyes drifted again behind Hannah, and she realized that the child’s distraction had been the chair
with a book already set on its arm.
“I can tell that you are very intent on having something read to you,” Hannah said. “Perhaps it would
be worth letting the tea stand a few moments to read just a few pages.”
“The book is just there on the chair,” Caroline continued encouragingly as she grabbed her sister’s
hand and seated them both on the carpet.
Hannah had not seen such light lit in this child’s eyes thus far. She made a note of Caroline’s
excitement for storytelling. Perhaps it would be a way to encourage the child to open up more to her.
She followed the girls over, picked up the leather-bound novel and sat down in the chair. It was a very
comfortable seat and she couldn’t help but also relish the fact of many afternoons seated here reading to
the children.
She had just examined the cover of the book when she felt a rustling of her skirts. Hannah felt the
chills run up her spine that gave her the distinct indication that a living creature was walking around in her
skirts.
Moving the book out of the way she inspected her folds and much to her dismay saw a small lump
begin to move beneath the grey fabric. Grabbing the skirt and petticoat in one hand, she removed the
fabric and exposed a big fat mouse with its long tail coiled around it.
For a moment Hannah froze to the spot, just watching the mouse nibble on a biscuit piece he had
happily in his paws. How a mouse or the biscuit ended up on the chair she didn’t care to know.
As sensation returned to her body, she promptly rose from her chair and screamed. The mouse, having
been interrupted from his mid-day meal, began to scurry frantically around the seat of the chair, not sure
where to go next.
Hannah screamed again. It wasn’t the first mouse she had seen, certainly there were plenty in her
school growing up. But she had never expected to see one in her seat. She promptly swung the book at the
mouse, hoping to put them both out of her misery.
“Don’t! Stop!” Caroline stood and screamed herself.
Hannah watched in utter bewilderment as the child grabbed the mouse by its tail and scooped it into
her hands where it sat quite peacefully.
“Why would you try to squish Mr. Whiskers?” Lady Rebecca said with tears brimming in her saucer
eyes.
“W
CHAPTERFOUR
hat is the meaning of all this?” the earl shouted before he fully opened the classroom door.
Hannah was still so utterly bewildered by the whole event that she barely registered the pure panic in
the earl’s dark eyes. Instead both girls and the governess stared at him blinking. From behind him Abigail
was peeking around her employer to see the status of the children in her charge.
“Father,” Caroline cried, running into his arms.
Rebecca was not far behind her sister. Grimshaw enveloped both his children in his thick arms and
did his best to calm their fears. He bent down to their level and let both children cry into either shoulder.
“She tried to kill him,” Caroline sobbed out.
“Kill who?” Grimshaw asked ever so softly though his dagger gaze on Miss Jacobson was less than
gentle.
“Mr. Whiskers,” Caroline replied, holding up her rodent for her father’s inspection. “She tried to hit
him with a book.”
“It’s alright now, girls,” he cooed to them both. Standing up, he faced Miss Jacobson with his full
overshadowing stature.
“Miss Jacobson, I can understand why you might scream at the site of Mr. Whiskers, but I assure you
he is just a pet. If you would but leave him in his proper container you won’t even have to think about him.
There is no need for you to cause the pet harm.”
Both girls came to their nurse’s side. Though Rebecca was five she was still small enough that
Abigail could pick her up into her arms.
“It was hard to know his family status as he was seated in my chair under my skirts and not in his
container as you said is his home,” Hannah shot back, completely infuriated that he was chastising her for
her actions.
“What would you have me do when finding a rodent in such a place?” she added, crossing her arms.
Hannah would not allow herself to be bullied by this man. She had had quite enough of that at her last
employment.
Grimshaw turned his gaze back towards his two daughters and immediately both of their matching
chocolate eyes hit the floor in guilt. He turned, now shadowing them in his displeasure.
For a man who had once spoken so softly to the children his voice was now deep and full of anger.
“Is this true? Caroline? Rebecca? Did you put Mr. Whiskers on Miss Jacobson’s chair?”
“I only gave him some of my biscuit from breakfast. He wanted to eat it in the chair, not his cage. I
guess I forgot he was there,” Caroline said, though it was easy to see she was making the story up on the
spot.
“I don’t think that is all the truth,” he retorted, now looking at his youngest daughter.
Rebecca cracked under the pressure of her father’s disappointed gaze.
“We only meant it as a joke, Father, honest,” she said in her soft shaking voice.
“I am very disappointed with the both of you,” he scolded as silent tears trickled down from their
downcast eyes.
“I went through all the trouble of bringing you a new fine governess all the way from London and this
is how you welcome her?”
“I don’t want a new one,” Caroline said with her eyes on the ground. “I want Miss Watts back.”
“Well she isn’t coming back, Caroline. It is time you resigned yourself to that fact. You are far too
mature to be playing such silly pranks. I would suggest for the remainder of the day you two work on
writing an apology letter to Miss Jacobson.”
Hannah opened her mouth to protest. It was entirely unnecessary. Yes, it was a nasty trick but making
them write out a letter of apology was sure to make them only despise her more.
Though Grimshaw’s back was turned to the governess he instinctively knew she was going to protest
his punishment. He held up a hand to silence her.
“Abigail will be tending to you for the rest of the day,” he continued when satisfied that Miss
Jacobson was not going to speak out of turn. “You will not be joining me in the west wing or for supper
this night. I expect you both in bed early so that you may contemplate how better you might welcome your
new governess,” he added deeply.
Both girls, who were first shocked by his punishment, now looked to the rug below their feet and
simply mumbled a ‘Yes, Father.’
“Now, if you will follow me, Miss Jacobson, we have more to discuss, while Abigail will see to the
girls’ task for the afternoon.”
Hannah opened and closed her mouth a few times. She would have much rather dealt with the situation
on her own, not have his lordship barrel in and take control of the situation.
Yet he stood at the door and motioned for her to exit with him and there was nothing she could say
about it.
“We’re sorry, Miss Jacobson,” Rebecca said just above a whisper as Hannah passed.
She knelt down before the both of them.
“I know you are, and I forgive you both. I am sorry too that I tried to squish such an important member
of your family.”
The earl cleared his throat and Miss Jacobson stood and exited the room with him. She rather thought
she still might be in trouble with him as well though she had no idea how this could be.
Much to her surprise, however, the moment the door was shut tightly behind her, the earl bent over in
uncontrollable laughter. Again she found herself completely bewildered by this man.
Finally he stood and wiped a stray tear from his eye.
“A mouse on your seat,” he said more to himself than to his present company. “I must say that I am not
so surprised by Caroline but I can’t believe Rebecca went along with it.”
“I am relieved you are finding humor in the situation,” Hannah said rather coolly as she looked up at
him with arms crossed.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Miss Jacobson. I don’t mean to offend. I am sure it was quite a fright for you. Though I
must say it took a good amount of bravery to try and kill it.”
“It was a shock at first, I must admit, but it didn’t help that you didn’t give me a chance to compose
myself. Instead you completely took over the whole situation. How am I to get the girls’ respect if they see
you taking charge at every misstep?”
“Well, they are my children,” Grimshaw retorted back. “It is certainly my responsibility to discipline
them, not yours.”
“And why did you have to do it so harshly? You clearly didn’t find the offense so heinous by the way
you could scarcely escape the room without laughing. It would have been better to have let me deal with it
on my own.”
He repeated Hannah’s defensive gesture by crossing his own arms and looking down his long pointed
nose at her.
“I was only trying to help. Perhaps if you hadn’t screamed so, I wouldn’t have felt the need to come
running and intercede.”
Hannah took a step back from their argument and tried to see things from his side. Of course he would
have run in fists at the ready when it came to his daughters and a supposed encroachment on their safety.
She had seen how gentle he was with them, and clearly he loved them far more than she had ever seen
in her last employment. His daughters were treasures and he took his responsibility as their father very
seriously.
“I apologize then. I shouldn’t have been so cross with you. I suppose I am still a bit frazzled,” Hannah
said, removing the false spectacles and rubbing the bridge of her nose. The blasted things did pinch
something fierce.
“You don’t need to apologize,” Grimshaw said, feeling his own resolve to be angry melt away. “Come
let us sit to tea and perhaps I can give you a better idea of why the girls might have behaved so.”
Hannah raised her eyes to meet his gaze, surprised by his invitation. She questioned his motives.
Frankly, she questioned any man who wished to be in her presence alone, especially her employer.
Sebastian couldn’t help but feel his heart catch in his throat when he saw the lady before him without
her bothersome spectacles. They were so thick and large that he had not even noticed the staggeringly
gorgeous blue eyes beneath them. As she studied his intentions he was taken aback by her thick dark
lashes that seemed to flutter as butterfly wings.
He wondered to himself what she looked like with both the glasses and her oversized matron cap
removed. Was her hair dark like her lashes and brows or lighter in color? He tried to imagine what would
suit her better. It was impossible to tell with her head so closely covered.
“I promise you will find it most enlightening,” the earl added by way of encouragement. “I believe
you will understand the girls better once I have told you of their history.”
“Alright,” Hannah said rather reluctantly.
At first she had feared his imposing features, especially when it culminated with anger in her
direction. But now he seemed so gentle. It was as if he was well aware of his fearsome stature and
matched his movement and speech to soften his rough exterior.
Together they sat in a luxurious drawing room. Though the room was of good fashion it seemed to her
that it hadn’t been used for quite some time. There was the fact that several maids hurriedly rushed around
to open the floor-to-ceiling curtains. Behind each set were magnificent arched windows that let in the
glow of the afternoon sun.
After a few moments of looking around the room, Hannah could pick up its distinct femininity. This
was no doubt once his wife’s sitting room. Hannah’s eyes fell on an embroidery hoop filled with a halffinished pink rose.
Her fingers tingled to touch the sample while her body was sure her mere presence was trespassing on
the late lady of the house.
Mrs. Brennon came in herself carrying the fine china tea set on a silver tray. She set the tray on a small
table next to Hannah.
Hannah looked around the room and realized that she was no doubt sitting in the lady of the house’s
spot. The whole room was situated around this one chair with its table next to it. It would make it easy for
a lady to serve her guests and talk freely with all of them seated around the warmth of the hearth.
As realization dawned she looked over at the earl. He did his best to hide his discomfort at the fact,
but he wasn’t doing well.
“May I serve the tea?” Hannah asked.
“Yes, of course,” he said awkwardly while he cleared his throat a few times.
She poured the tea and added two sandwiches to a small plate. Standing, she brought it over to him.
Then she got her own cup and small plate and stealthily moved to sit in a different spot.
He smiled at her, thankful for her understanding. It was very clear to Hannah that just as the earl loved
his daughters, his heart was still full of mourning for his wife.
F
CHAPTERFIVE
or a few moments the two sat in silence and Hannah wondered why he had insisted she spend this
time with him, as he didn’t seem to have anything to say.
That old lump grew in the back of her throat again. Was he merely looking for a private audience with
her? He did seem different from the baron in the few days she had been in his acquaintance but perhaps
all men were the same in that respect.
“I do apologize again for being overbearing today. I should have let you handle the situation,”
Grimshaw said after finishing his sandwiches and setting his tea aside untouched.
“You care deeply for your daughters though,” Hannah inserted the reasoning he was no doubt thinking
about. “I am sure it was just an automatic reaction to come to their aid.”
He softened into a little smile. It seemed a bit foreign of an expression on such a skilled scowler.
“It is not just that. You see, I hoped that I could take this afternoon to explain things better to you.
Perhaps then tomorrow when you rejoin them in the classroom you will not hold today’s actions against
them.”
“I would never do such a thing. They are children and children make mistakes. I am sure they thought
it a rather fun joke,” Hannah assured the earl that she had no intention of reprimanding them past their
father’s requirements today.
“I am glad to hear that, but if you would allow me to explain their situation anyway,” he said softly.
He was such a large man, he seemed to fill the whole of the couch he sat on. It looked a bit comical to
Hannah. She wondered if there was truly any place on earth this man didn’t seem to fill to overflowing
with his physical presence.
“You know that their mother died when they were both very young. She took ill quite suddenly and we
lost her,” Grimshaw said, turning his head away from Hannah and to the window.
“I am sure the loss was felt more greatly by Caroline,” Hannah encouraged his words when he didn’t
speak more.
“Yes, well she remembers her. Rebecca was only three. So small. It breaks my heart that she will
have no lasting memory of her own mother.”
He paused again. This was not an easy subject for him to speak on and Hannah allowed him the time
to collect his thoughts.
“Caroline is really at that age now when a mother’s influence is necessary. Of course it is necessary
for a lady at any age, but as they get older they are needing more and more of that feminine example.”
“I thought I had found such a thing in my last governess. Both girls adored her. Of course they have
always had a youthful light to them, but with the governess, it was different. They were happy in ways I
can’t explain. Then she left us suddenly.”
Hannah wanted to ask why, but also feared his answer. She too had left her last station suddenly. If his
rules and controlling mannerisms were any shadow of the reason why, Hannah feared the earl was cut
from the same cloth as the baron.
Unfortunately he didn’t give the governess’s reason for leaving and it only made Hannah question and
wonder more.
“When she left us, the girls were beside themselves. I did my best to help them and keep them
entertained but there is just something different about time with a woman. They need that influence. I
suppose what I am getting at,” he said, brushing a hand through his cropped black hair, “is that their little
act today was more out of fear.”
“Fear, Lord Grimshaw?”
“Yes, I am sure they fear attaching themselves to a lady only to have her leave them again. That is why
I made sure to interview the governesses myself, no matter how unorthodox. It is also why I picked you.
You seemed like someone who would be willing to be their pillar.”
He looked deep into Hannah’s eyes and she feared he had reached her very soul.
“I know it is a lot to ask, but I need you to be that woman for my girls. Can you overlook their actions
and see their hurt behind it? Will you truly forgive them and be that feminine figure that they need in their
lives?”
Hannah couldn’t speak for a moment. She was overcome with emotions at his earnest pleading as well
as the penetrating stare of his brown eyes.
She took a sip of tea, if nothing more than to break the intense connection between them. It also gave
her the strength to answer.
“I am honored that you would put so much trust in me. I promise you, Lord Grimshaw, I will do
everything in my power not to let you or the girls down.”
Lord Grimshaw seemed to visibly relax at her words. Hannah felt a strange comfort herself to know
that she had relieved him of some burden he must have been silently carrying at least these few months
since the last governess left.
“Now if you would please excuse me, I have some work to do in the west wing.”
Hannah stood up in unison with him.
“And what shall I do for the rest of the day since you have seemed to relieve me of my pupils?”
“Whatever you want. Of course, please stay to the estate grounds,” he added as an afterthought. “But
other than that you are free to explore and settle yourself in. Naturally, you are still most welcome to join
me for dinner even with the girls absent,” he added, before bowing and leaving the room.
Hannah didn’t answer him. With his words she felt the claustrophobic grip of his controlling rules
again. She wasn’t allowed to leave the estate.
He may have merely requested her presence at dinner and not ordered it, but it still brought back
terrible memories of her past post. She would not be joining him for dinner without the presence of the
girls’ innocent eyes on them.
Instead she would take the opportunity to explore the house more, then take a quiet meal in her room
before preparing how to go about the next day’s classes.
The following morning Hannah was ready to get to work. She wasn’t used to having idle hands. She
had spent the remainder of yesterday afternoon in her room and took her evening meal there as well.
It made her quite restless to have nothing to do but look over the things she brought. She did take a
short walk around the manor but didn’t feel very comfortable doing so.
In her last house she had been so busy seeing to the needs of her pupil and avoiding the baron that she
had never left the few rooms that necessity dictated she be in.
Hannah was happy to see that she got to the girls’ school room before them the following day. It would
give her time to organize it to her liking.
Already she had assessed the girls’ weaknesses and strengths and had organized lessons for the next
few months.
Whether it was because of the movement of heavy books and furniture or the fact that the days were
beginning to warm up in earnest, either way Hannah was feeling quite warm in her linen gown and cotton
cap.
She would have loved to take it off, for she truly detested the item, as well as the fake spectacles that
pinched at her nose and gave her a constant headache.
She could do nothing for it however. Of course she felt no need to hide herself from the children or
their nurse, but there was always the possibility of Lord Grimshaw bursting in again.
Already his overbearing status and demanding rules made her wary. She would not give him even the
slightest reason as the baron had claimed she did for him.
“Good morning, girls,” Hannah said as her wards were shuffled into the room by their nurse.
They both stepped in, curtsied with eyes on the ground and mumbled their salutations. Hannah
suspected they were prepared for a severe reprimand or perhaps sour disposition in the least after
yesterday’s events.
“I thought we might start the morning with a story if that is alright with you,” Hannah said.
Both girls simply nodded timidly, with Rebecca looking to her older sister for a cue.
“Don’t worry, I’ve already checked and made sure that Mr. Whiskers is happily secured in his cage,”
Hannah added, hoping her little joke would brighten the girls’ mood.
It didn’t however.
“Come now,” Hannah said, crouching down before them. “Why such sad faces?”
Hannah was doing her best to be soft-spoken and kind to the girls. It was much like encouraging a
skittish cat to a bowl of milk.
“Will you be leaving us now, like Miss Watts did?” Rebecca finally asked softly. “Because of our
nasty trick, that is?”
“Oh no, my dear,” Hannah responded, taking the little girl’s hand. “It will take much more than Mr.
Whiskers to scare me off.”
“She didn’t leave because of Mr. Whiskers,” Caroline said. “She left because she found a beau. Mr.
Collins who also goes to our parish,” she explained.
“I see. I had no idea. And I suppose you cared for her very much before she left?”
Both girls nodded in unison. Rebecca’s big brown eyes were filling with tears.
Hannah was sure the girls were still hurting deeply at the loss of their governess.
No doubt they had hoped to start things on a bad foot so that Hannah would be cruel to them. It would
be a lot easier to let a mean governess go than one they had grown to love like their last one.
Hannah’s heart ached for them. She would not be cruel to them however. Instead she would show them
the abundance of motherly love that they were missing and also show them that no matter what she would
be consistent in their life.
“Well, I can assure you I have no plans to leave anytime soon. I rather hoped you two would be okay
with that? I think we could all have great fun together.”
Rebecca rubbed an eye with her still cherubic hand to brush away a betraying tear and softened into a
hopeful smile.
Hannah was relieved that at least one of the girls was willing to open their hearts to her.
“In fact, I must confess I was inspired by Mr. Whiskers. I have brought with me a relatively new set of
stories. They are written by a lovely lady named Beatrix Potter. Do you know them?”
Both girls shook their heads, Rebecca intrigued and Caroline still determined to be distant.
“Oh splendid!” Hannah said, rising to stand.
She kept her hand in Rebecca’s and ushered them over to sit by the hearth. She lifted up the pillow and
inspected the seat dramatically before sitting down. It got a small giggle out of the youngest.
“Now her first story is about a very naughty bunny named Peter Rabbit, but I thought we might start
with a story you would find more interesting called The Tailor of Gloucester.”
Hannah settled into the chair and flipped through her cloth-bound collection of stories until she landed
on the third one. She showed the introductory picture to both girls. It was a small mouse seated on a spool
of thread reading a paper.
“In this story a tailor is desperately struggling to get his work done on time. Luckily he has some very
kind mice that live in the dresser and help him with his work.”
By the time Hannah finished her story, both girls were in rapture of the story and the little characters.
Even Caroline who had tried so hard to stay distant couldn’t help but feel the excitement of the enchanted
tale.
“Perhaps if I leave my sampler in Mr. Whiskers’ cage, he will finish it for me,” Caroline mused when
the story was over.
“He would just shred it and make a bed out of it like all the other fabric we give him,” Rebecca
responded.
“I am fine with that too. Then I wouldn’t have to work on it anymore.”
“I think it is wonderful that you have already started a sampler, Caroline,” Hannah responded. “You
must be very skilled to already have one started so young. You must show it to me after our penmanship.”
Caroline held her head a little higher at the compliment. She had only started the sampler right before
Miss Watts’ departure and had refused to continue the work after she left, but now hearing that she was
quite advanced for her age, she had the sudden desire to pick it up again.
A
CHAPTERSIX
s it was Saturday, Hannah finally got her first relief from teaching the girls. It was not as wanted
as she had expected.
Within the baron’s home Hannah counted down the days until she would get her day off from educating
the pupil who was just as much a handful as his father.
After teaching the girls for almost a week, Hannah could easily say she had enjoyed every moment of
it and had no desire to depart from them.
Much to Hannah’s surprise she also found herself enjoying her evening supper at the earl’s table. Both
of them seemed to focus more on the girls than anything else.
She couldn’t help but admire the man for his dedication to his daughters and real interest in their lives.
Though she was looking forward to a chance to catch up on some grading over the last week and
having a small break from work, she was also apprehensive of the day.
Hannah didn’t want to stay cooped up in the house, but also felt concerns about traveling to the nearby
town.
Lord Grimshaw’s overbearing rules seemed to pound in the back of her mind. She refused to ask his
permission or even his accompaniment as she went to town to pick up a few items she was in need of. At
the same time she did slightly fear his wrath at knowingly breaking his demands.
She couldn’t afford to be dismissed from a job yet again and without a good reference. More than that
she couldn’t bear to leave the girls after making so much headway with them this last week. She was sure
that to do so would be a greater detriment to their already delicate demeanors.
Instead Hannah sought out the advice of Mrs. Brennon. Perhaps the lady would accompany her to
town, thereby stepping around the earl’s requirements.
“I wonder if I might have a moment of your time, Mrs. Brennon,” Hannah said after softly knocking on
the housekeeper’s office door.
“Yes of course,” Mrs. Brennon replied, coming to stand from behind her desk.
“I don’t want to disturb you if you are otherwise engaged,” Hannah said, motioning to the paperwork
before the housekeeper.
“Nonsense, I was just thinking it might be a good time to take a break.”
She pulled a cord on the wall that also contained a series of bells of her own summons from the main
house.
Instantly a young kitchen maid came in the room and curtsied.
“Will you bring some tea for Miss Jacobson and myself,” Mrs. Brennon asked the girl politely.
She nodded and quickly left the room. The middle-aged woman motioned for Hannah to join her in
two chairs with a small table between them. Other than the sound of rustling skirts and the clinking of
Mrs. Brennon’s keys at her waist, the downstairs of the manor was a peaceful place.
“Are you settling in well?” Mrs. Brennon asked after they both sat.
“Yes, the room is magnificent. The house is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.”
“Have you been around the gardens at all? They are all abloom this time of year.”
“I have gone out a few times with the girls over the past few days. The skill of the gardeners is
breathtaking.”
“I will have to pass your compliments onto Hanson, our head landscaper. He will be happy to hear of
your enjoyment.”
“I do have a concern, however, that I hoped you might help me unravel.”
“Of course,” Mrs. Brennon said as the tea was set before them and served.
“I need to go to town to get some items. Unfortunately the earl has expressed that I shan’t go without
his accompanying me.”
The housekeeper nodded her head in understanding.
“I would hate to be such a burden on him. I wondered if perhaps you need to go to town sometime in
the future and I could accompany you. If Lord Grimshaw fears for my safety outside the estate surely your
company or perhaps Mary’s would be enough to satisfy him.”
“I can assure you that his rules have nothing to do with danger at Concordshire. It is a most peaceful
place and there is certainly nothing like the ruffians of London to worry about,” she added with distaste.
Hannah gathered that Mrs. Brennon didn’t care for the city.
“Then why have such a silly rule?” Hannah asked with a lump in her throat.
She had hoped that he would not be as controlling as the baron but could see no other reason why he
would put such demands on her as to have control over her at all times.
“Did the earl tell you the nature of the last governess’s departure?”
“I only know that she met a gentleman and was married.”
“Yes, a kind man from the local parish. He was a student of the vicar and has since left to take on his
own parish. It was very hard on the girls.”
“Lord Grimshaw told me as much and I could easily tell from them.”
“Yes,” Mrs. Brennon agreed meditatively. “I believe he is hesitant to let another governess go the
same way. He would do anything to shield those girls from heartbreak. I can’t blame him for that.”
“Nor I,” Hannah had to agree. “But certainly I cannot be held accountable for someone else’s choice. I
can promise you I have no desire to find a husband or marry,” Hannah continued, tugging on her plain
brown muslin dress.
“Give him time and I am sure he will soften. Until then I would suggest adhering to his requirements.
He is very protective of his children and would not take lightly to any act that he would consider a threat
to their happiness.”
“I am sorry but I cannot bring myself to ask him to accompany me to town.”
“I assure you that despite his large stature he is a very gentle man. You would find his company most
agreeable.”
“I don’t doubt that, but it wouldn’t be appropriate and I can’t do it,” Hannah said vehemently.
“Well, I know that Mary goes to town on Saturdays as well. I am sure she would be more than happy
to pick up whatever you might need, or mail any letters you might have.”
Hannah sat as she considered Mrs. Brennon’s words. She had rather hoped the lady would have just
agreed that going with another member of the staff was good enough.
She couldn’t risk the earl’s wrath and subsequent dismissal. Mrs. Brennon might have thought he was
somehow gentle below that dark exterior. Certainly she had seen such with his daughters, but she didn’t
for a second consider that to extend to herself.
If her only two choices were to be subject to a private audience with the earl or being confined to the
manor as a prison, she would have to take the latter.
She wouldn’t lose this job for the sake of the girls and her own livelihood, but that wouldn’t for a
second lead her to giving up her morals. She had fought off the baron; she was sure she could withstand
the Earl of Grimshaw as well.
Hannah left Mrs. Brennon’s office not with the end result she desired but at least a resolution to her
problems. She would seek Mary out. Hopefully she hadn’t already left for town.
Much to her satisfaction, she found Mary seated in the staff common area and she was happy to pick
up the needed items on behalf of Hannah.


Hannah was making her way down the hall back to her quarters. She rather thought since she wasn’t
able to take the trip to town she would select a book from her room and spend some time in the garden.
“Well, look who has found her way downstairs,” a man’s voice called from behind her.


She whipped around to find Mr. Poole, the footman, leaning against a door frame she had just passed.
She rather thought to just keep walking on and ignore him altogether.


“How are you finding Brighton Abby, Miss Jacobson?” he asked, rubbing his hands on a cloth and
taking a step towards her.


Though she had at first had uneasy thoughts of the gentleman she thought it innocent enough
conversation, so she turned fully to answer him.


“Very well, thank you, Mr. Poole. Everyone has been most welcoming to me.”
“I’m sure they have,” he said, eyeing the edge of her cap.


She had a sudden urge to pull it down tighter around her hair and pull up her fichu all at the same time.


He continued to slowly walk forward until he was far too close to her. She meant to take a step back
but he instantly put a hand on her shoulder.


“Excuse me, Mr. Poole,” she said, trying to shake off his grip unsuccessfully. “I really must be going.”
“What’s the hurry?” he asked as a thumb rubbed against the fabric of her dress.


She tried again to step away from him but instead he used the movement to push her against the hall
wall. Tucking the cloth in his back pocket he placed his other hand against the wall, completely blocking
her in.


“I can’t help but wonder what you are hiding under all that fabric, Miss Jacobson,” he said, looking
her over with hungry eyes.


Her heart was pounding in her chest and she wanted to scream.


His hand moved from her shoulder and she felt his fingers run along the edge of her white fichu. She
felt him tug at it.


With a gasp she reached up to stop him, but instead he grabbed her wrist and held it tight. He
continued to tug at the white fabric until one side was completely out.


“Please, stop Mr. Poole. I will scream,” Hannah said, mustering all the courage that she had.
He paid her no mind and successfully removed the garment, exposing the top of her full chest.


“Why Miss Jacobson, you were hiding something magnificent under all that fabric. What will I see
when I remove your cap next? Perhaps beautiful blonde hair? Or rich dark brown? Or shall I be surprised
by a red head. You certainly have the milky white skin to go with fairer hair.”


He ran one finger along the edge of her gown. It seemed he either didn’t believe she would scream or
didn’t care.


“Mr. Poole, you will remove your hand from me this instant, or I shall go straight to the earl about
your unseemly behavior.”


“Oh I don’t think you will,” Mr. Poole said, smiling with satisfaction at her defiant glare.


“I am all too aware that the earl has forbidden you from having any interaction with the opposite sex.
You tell him and I will simply counter that you came on to me. Who do you think Lord Grimshaw will
believe more? A long-time employee or the new governess?”


Hannah opened and closed her mouth a few times in panic. Mr. Poole was absolutely right. If the lord
confronted them both, who was to say that he would believe her.


Mr. Poole smiled in satisfaction knowing that he was right in his line of thought.


“Now, take off that cap for me, so that I may finally learn the color of that hair. I believe that will be a
good place to start anyway.”


Tears welled in Hannah’s eyes. She would not give him the satisfaction of obeying but was also
terrified that she would have no way out of this situation.


“Mr. Poole, have you finished with the silverware yet?” a man’s voice called from down the hall.


Whether the man could see that Mr. Poole had her pinned up against the wall she was unsure, but she
didn’t wait to find out. As soon as Mr. Poole turned in the direction of the voice she swatted his hand and
ran as fast as her skirts would allow, leaving her fichu behind.


She paused just before turning to the stairs that led up to the main house and her own room. Mr. Poole
had picked up the lost garment. He held it to his nose and took a deep breath before opening his eyes
again directly on her.


She felt a fearful shiver run down her spine at his glare. She may have escaped him, but it was clear
he wasn’t going to give up.


With hot tears streaming down her face she ran the length to her room and locked the door behind her.
Throwing herself onto the bed, she melted into a hysterical cry.


Again she was to be tormented by a man. All the images of the baron came back to her. All the times
he cornered her, made excuses to get her alone in his office, and even made advances on her in front of his
son.


In the end word had traveled to his wife and the baron had insinuated that Hannah was the cause all
along. He claimed she had tempted him with her beauty and promiscuous ways.


It was no more Hannah’s fault that she had looked the pretty miss than a plain one. Yet the baroness
had believed her husband and Hannah was dismissed with a stained reputation and no hope of another
situation.


She was sure that with her new plan to completely cover every inch of her body, there would have
been no question to her virtue or any infringement on it. She had been so wrong.
It seemed that no matter where she found herself she would be helpless to stop rakes and their desire
to take from her flesh.

''A Mysterious Governess for the Reluctant Earl'' is now Live on Amazon!

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