Mimi Latour paused at the top of the stairs to the kitchen and listened to the voices of her workers drifting upwards. Thank le bon Dieu there were no customers.
“What do you think of the new seamstress?” Dolly Isaacs asked.
Peggy O’Shea snorted audibly. “Seamstress, me fine fanny. If she’s a seamstress, then I’m the bloody duchess of Connemara.”
Dolly giggled. “I know. Did you see her hands? All smooth and white and not a callous on them.”
“That won’t last. Wait till she stabs them with a needle a few times. She can’t even sew a straight hem.”
“But she does beautiful embroidery,” Dolly said.
“And who learns to embroider, I ask ye?”
“Ladies!” they chorused.
Scare bleu! How could Lady Elinor Ashworth think she could blend in as a seamstress? She was nobly born, but no one could know that. If only her mama were still alive…
“And the way she talks, like the grand lady of the manner,” Peggy went on. “And who give her that black eye? That’s what I’d like to know.”
“Madame said what she’s a widow.”
Peggy snorted again. “Runaway wife, more like. I’ve seen men do their wives like that afore. Can’t blame her for leaving the blighter.”
“But why is she here?” Dolly asked. “She’s awful friendly with Madame, even sleeping upstairs. You don’t suppose…”
“That one of us is about to get the boot?” Peggy asked her tone glum. “Aye, maybe. Ma needs on me wages to feed the little ones. I dunno what we’ll do if I’m let go.”
“You’re a good seamstress,” Dolly said. “We can find other work.”
Peggy sighed. “Easy for ye to say. Ye’re English. What other shop would hire an Irish seamstress?”
Mimi had heard enough. It was time to nip this in the blossom, as the English say. She started down the stairs, her knees complaining at every step. The voices below stopped.
“Time to go back to work, girls,” she announced. “But first I wish to talk to you.”
Dolly and Peggy exchanged guilty looks.
“Yes, I heard you.” Mimi glared at them. “Such talk is très mal, very bad. Madame Brown will be with us for a short time only, so no one’s job is in jeopardy. But if I hear more gossip from either of you…” She let the threat trail off unspoken. “Now back to work.”
The girls scrambled up the stairs at breakneck speed. When they were gone, Mimi sank into a chair. “Oh, Ellie, what were you thinking?”
Lady Elinor’s Escape
By Linda McLaughlin
Lady Elinor Ashworth always longed for adventure, but when she runs away from her abusive aunt, she finds more than she bargained for. Elinor fears her aunt who is irrational and dangerous, threatening Elinor and anyone she associates with. When she encounters an inquisitive gentleman, she accepts his help, but fearing for his safety, hides her identity by pretending to be a seamstress. She resists his every attempt to draw her out, all the while fighting her attraction to him.
There are too many women in barrister Stephen Chaplin’s life, but he has never been able to turn his back on a damsel in distress. The younger son of a baronet is a rescuer of troubled females, an unusual vocation fueled by guilt over his failure to save the woman he loved from her brutal husband. He cannot help falling in love with the secretive seamstress, but to his dismay, the truth of her background reveals Stephen as the ineligible party.
“Excuse me, madam, but I could not help overhearing you say that you must leave for London immediately. Allow me to introduce myself. Stephen Chaplin, Esquire, at your service.”
Elinor turned to face the gentleman who had suddenly appeared. She stared at him through a haze of black, taking advantage of her veil to get a closer look at this tall, dark-haired, seemingly well bred gentleman. He was above average height, with finely chiseled features, and while he could not, strictly speaking, be deemed handsome, there was something in the intense scrutiny of his light brown eyes that drew her to him. By the cut of his bottle green Superfine coat, which emphasized his broad shoulders, but was not so tight as to hamper movement, and his casually tied neckcloth, she surmised he was no society dandy.
“How do you do?” she said politely, extending one black-gloved hand.
“Fine, thank you.”
As he took her hand and bowed over it, Elinor savored the warmth of his touch for a moment. It had been a long time since someone had touched her out of kindness. Suddenly realizing she was clutching his hand, she withdrew hers. He studied her, his gaze seeming to penetrate the veil, and she could only stand like the veriest lump under his scrutiny.
“I beg your pardon, madam, but what did you say your name was?”
“Eli—” Elinor broke off and feigned a cough, panic bubbling up inside. Her name. Dear heavens, she needed a new name. If she told him who she was, he would never agree to take her to Mimi. She stared down at the gentleman’s yellow nankeen trousers and shiny brown boots. “Brown,” she stammered. “Ellie Brown.”
“Mrs. Brown, may I offer my assistance? I’m heading for London myself and would be pleased to convey you as far as Chippenham, where you may pick up another stage coach.”
Relief flooded through her at his offer, but could she trust him? No proper young lady rides in a closed carriage with a gentleman who is not related to her. The words of her governess rang in her ears. “I do not think—”
“Of course, you are cautious,” he interrupted smoothly. “Any genteel lady would hesitate to trust a strange gentleman.”
“But I am not a lady,” she blurted. If Aunt Sarah learned that a ‘lady’ had been here, she would know where to look for her. “I am merely a seamstress.”
“Really,” he drawled, doubt evident in his tone.
“Yes, I have a position awaiting me in London.” She was surprised, and a bit uncomfortable, at how easily the lies flowed from her lips, but they were necessary.
Meet Linda McLaughlin
Linda McLaughlin grew up with a love of books and history, so it’s only natural she prefers writing historical romance. She loves transporting her readers into the past where her characters learn that, in the journey of life, love is the sweetest reward. Linda also writes steamy to erotic romance under the name Lyndi Lamont, and is one half of the writing team of Lyn O’Farrell. She lives in Orange County, California.
You can find her online at:
Twitter: @Lyndi Lamont https://twitter.com/LyndiLamont