Tarnished

Chapter 46

Elsie smiled as she watched Charles outside the kitchen window. She wasn’t sure how in the world it had happened, but her husband was currently outside building a snowman with Daisy and her chap.

Beryl watched her friend, noticing the easy smile on her lips. “I can’t believe he’s out there with those two. It’s so cold.”

Elsie shrugged. “The cold doesn’t really bother Charlie. He’s always warm.”

Beryl’s eyebrows raised at that. “Oh is he now.”

“Mmm hmm. Very warm.” Elsie’s voice dropped then she realized what she’d said and turned to frown at her friend. “Beryl Patmore!”

Beryl smirked as she chuckled. “Don’t yell at me. You were the one lost in dreamland.”

“You were the one that took advantage.” Elsie countered.

Beryl shrugged. “How else is a woman supposed to learn things?”

“Oh!” Elsie huffed.

Beryl smiled and patted her friend’s arm. “I take it you haven’t moved back into your room.”

Elsie shook her head. “I don’t have a room of my own anymore,” she whispered.

“And how does that make you feel?”

“Wonderful. Beryl, he’s,” Elsie bit her lip and looked back out the window. “I want to be his wife, Beryl,” she admitted quietly.

“You are his wife, Elsie.”

“Legally. On paper. But not,” Elsie paused, a blush heating her cheeks. “Not the way that I want to be, the way that he deserves.”

“Elsie.” Beryl said her name, gently tugging on her hand to get Elsie’s attention focused back on her. “He didn’t rescue you and marry you for anything more than that he loves you. I know that he’s told you he doesn’t expect anything in return.”

“That doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve it.” Elsie whispered. “But it’s not that. It’s me. I want this. I love him, Beryl.”

“But are you ready?”

“I told him everything.” Elsie told her friend quietly.

Beryl was surprised at that. “Everything?”

Elsie nodded. “I realized that if we were ever to move beyond kissing, Charles needed to know. He told me that he didn’t want to know, but that he had to so that he wouldn’t do anything that would frighten me. I had nightmares after, but it’s made me feel freer. It’s made things easier between us.”

“I’m glad you shared with him.” Hugging Elsie, Beryl sighed, “I’m so happy you’re happy, Elsie.” Pulling back before she started crying, she looked out the window. “Don’t you think we should call them in?”

Elsie nodded. “Charlie shouldn’t even be out there, really. It’s not been that long since he was sick.”

“I’ll fix some hot chocolate while you go call them in. Overgrown kids,” she muttered.

Elsie laughed and nodded. “He wants to make sure Daisy grows even more comfortable around him. He enjoyed Christmas and her asking questions and listening to his stories.”

“She enjoyed that, too. She’s missed Mr. Mason more than I realized. He was always telling her stories of his youth, of young William. He taught her more than anyone ever has.”

“You taught her, too. You’ve been a mother to that girl, all yelling and blustering aside.”

Beryl laughed and shooed Elsie out. “Go on. Don’t forget your coat.”

Elsie rolled her eyes. “You’re as bad as Charlie!”


Charles sipped at the hot liquid. He had been slightly chilled when they’d come in, but mostly the drink satisfied his sweet tooth. “Just perfect,” he murmured.

Beryl rolled her eyes. “It’s sweet, you mean.”

Elsie laughed and winked at Daisy who giggled behind her hand. “Now, Beryl.”

“Don’t now Beryl me. You know he has a sweet tooth as well as Daisy does.”

Daisy nodded and blushed when Charles winked at her. “I do. I used to see him sneaking biscuits from the tin hidden in the kitchen.”

Charles shrugged when Elsie looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “Who do you think hid the tin?”

Daisy laughed at that. “I thought Mrs. Patmore had!”

Beryl frowned. “I did have a tin hidden. Elsie knew where it was.”

“I did.” Elsie agreed. “But I also knew Charles had one hidden. I wouldn’t be surprised if Alfred were to tell us he’d seen the tin, considering he’s tall enough to have seen where Charles had it hid.”

“He did know where it was.” Charles admitted with a smile. “I found him in it one night.”

“What is it, Darling?” Elsie asked when she noticed the faraway look that crossed his face.

Charles smiled as he reached out to squeeze Elsie’s hand. “I was just remembering finding another lad in the tin in the middle of the night.”

Daisy snuggled closer to her beau. “William,” she whispered.

“Yes. William.” Charles answered. “He had come down for a glass of milk. He’d always been a tall lad, but it seemed as if he’d grown as tall as me overnight. I hadn’t known, but he was always down in the kitchen at that time of night for a glass of milk.”

“I knew.” Elsie whispered.

“I suspected as much.” Charles smiled at her. “This night, I’d been up late because I couldn’t seem to get the figures in my ledger to agree with Elsie’s. I was scowling down at a particularly stubborn column when I heard a noise coming from the kitchen. I thought perhaps it was Elsie, imagine my surprise to find one of my footman not only out of bed, but eating biscuits out of the tin I’d stashed away.”

Daisy smiled. “He told me about that in one of his letters during the war. It was one of his favorite memories.”

Elsie saw the tears welling in her husband’s eyes and took his hand again. “He was quite the boy, our William.” Looking back over at Daisy, she smiled at the young man sitting next to her. “He would like you, David.”

“Thank you. I don’t hear many stories about him, but the few I have heard, tell me he must have been a wonderful fellow.”

“He was.” Charles finally managed to speak. “I agree with my wife. He would like you. You have a few of the same things in common.” Looking at Daisy, he smiled at the young woman. “Mostly your love of our Daisy.”

Daisy sniffed as she stood up and moved to stand beside where Charles sat. “Thank you, Mr. Carson,” she whispered as she leaned over and hugged him.

Elsie smiled across at Beryl, both of them thinking the same thing.

They knew exactly who would be giving Daisy away…again.


Charles sighed as he held Elsie close. “Today was a good day.”

“Yes, it was.” Elsie agreed as she nuzzled his neck. “Tonight has been a good night, too,” she whispered as she titled his head down to hers. “Charlie?”

“Yes?”

Biting her lip, Elsie let her eyes fall from his and fidgeted with one of the buttons on his pajama shirt. “When we kiss, don’t hold back. Let’s just try and see how it goes, please?”

Charles covered her hand to still its restless movements. “Are you sure?”

“Yes.” Elsie nodded and looked back up at Charles. “I want this very much.”

Caressing her cheek with his thumb, Charles smiled. “I want this very much, too,” he whispered.

Elsie smiled as she slid her hand up and around his neck, drawing him closer until her lips were touching his. She knew that she would always have to be the one to initiate anything intimate, Charles had promised her that, and it gave her a sort of shy confidence. She also knew that he would slowly take control if she wanted him to, somehow sensing the little shifts in her mood as they kissed.

Charles hummed his pleasure when Elsie’s fingers tangled in his hair. No matter how many times she did that, he would always be affected by it. Opening his mouth, he let Elsie explore, moaning when her tongue moved against his, signaling him to take control of their kisses. As he slowly took control, he let his hand begin to gently wander over the soft curves that often enticed him at night in their bed.

Elsie shivered as she let her head fall back, Charles’ kisses moving along her jaw and down her neck. The feel of his hand moving over her body had her griping his arm, moaning and squirming against him.

And she had thought kissing did crazy things to her body.

Dear laird above.


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