A Deal To Be Made

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XII

March 21st, 1918 Birmingham, England



Blythe stared out at the countryside as the greenery zipped past both her and Mackenzie on their way back to his estate. She had remained quiet nearly the entire ride. Blythe realized quickly that now she ran on Mackenzie's time and was only entitled to what he deemed necessary for her to know. After she had asked him how exactly he knew her circumstances Mackenzie shut down just as easily as he had opened up. His steel eyes hardened and he pursed his lips into a tight line signifying that he was not about to answer that question. With a swift 'None of your business," he pushed himself away from his desk and marched out of his office.

She had tried to make pleasant conversation at the beginning of their travel but to no avail, as Mackenzie seemed none too happy to be making any sort of pleasantries.

After 20 or so minutes they began to pull into some gated grounds. The estate was marvelous. Blythe's eyes bugged as her bottom lip popped open in awe. Meters of green grass stretched in front of them adorned with precisely trimmed hedges and small trees. Along every curb lined the most delicate white and red flowers. The closer they pulled into the rounded driveway Blythe noticed the flower scheme continued as there were several decorative pots filled with the greenery.

Mackenzie slowed to a stop before placing the car in park. He exited the vehicle and began to walk around the car to assist her. Even though he made no effort to speak a word she noticed how chivalrous he was as he extended his hand forward. Placing a delicate hand in his large, calloused one Blythe allowed him to escort her to the massive oak entrance to the estate. The door opened and in front of them stood a fragile-looking older woman with short, white hair. Her eyes were melting with warmth as she smiled at the two.

"Good evening, Mr. Thomas." She nodded politely once to him and once to Blythe. "Ma'am."

With a curt nod, Mackenzie led Blythe into the foyer past the quaint help. Once about halfway in he let go of her arm, leaving Blythe to dangle both by her sides awkwardly.

"This is the main house. This is where you will report every morning; Monday through Friday." His thick voice flowed through her ears, cold and uncaring. Not exactly sure how Blythe must have struck a nerve back at the den. Although it concerned her, more than anything it irritated her. What gave him the right to be so cold to her for asking questions any sane human would ask?

A little ticked, Blythe folded her arms across her chest. "And where will I be staying, Mr. Thomas?" She quipped, running her tongue along the bottom of her lip. She watched as his jaw twitched, gritting his teeth.

"Mrs. Layton." He barked without turning around. "Would you please show Ms. Davies to the guest house where she and her father will be staying? Bring them to the dining hall at 6." With that, he stormed down the hall and jaunted up the winding staircase that met at the top with an adjoining side on the opposite of the room.

Blythe pursed her lips. What an ornery bastard, she thought to herself. Turning around to face Mrs. Layton, she plastered as much of a sincere smile as she could at the moment. The woman still had a heart-warming look on her face as she said nothing but floated past Blythe.

They made their way through the foyer and into the sitting room. It was incredibly hard not to notice the beautifully polished oak that adorned the entire house. Books lined both the north and south side walls from top to bottom. She must have slowed down in awe of the lavishness of the room for when she looked up she noticed Mrs. Layton waiting patiently for her at the twin French doors that led to the outside. Blythe picked up her pace and met her at the door, giving her a small nod in apologies.

The pair galavanted through the gardens in the back walking on a small cobblestone path. The path eventually led them to a small grey cottage made of similar materials as the main estate.

"This is the guest house, Dear. Your father is situated in the east bedroom. There are two servants that work the guest house every day beginning at 5 A.M. They are there to cater to any needs either of you require. Please, let me know if there is anything else I can help you with. If not, I shall return in a few hours to receive the both of you for supper, Ms. Davies." Her voice was small but incredibly polite, much like Blythe would have imagined by just looking at her.

"Thank you tremendously, Mrs. Layton, but please call me Blythe. I would feel much more comfortable if you would do that." Blythe spoke to her much like she would her own grandmother although she was nothing like the wild, dark haired elder she remembered from her youth.

Mrs. Layton didn't say any more, leaving with a gentle nod of understanding.



***



Knocking twice, Blythe pushed the wooden door to her fathers room open slightly. "Father?"

"Ah! B!" He exclaimed, calling her by her childhood nick-name. He laid atop a white down comforter garnished with the fullest pillows she had ever seen in her life. For being a guest house this place was much more luxurious than what she could have imagined. Just from what she had seen it came equipped with its own kitchen, den, two bedrooms with accompanying baths, and a small sunroom attached to the west side of the building.

Blythe made a bee-line straight for her fathers open arms. Engulfed in his embrace she breathed a sign of relief. "I'm so glad you are okay, father." She closed her eyes, soaking in the calm that had settled over her for the first time in what seems like years.

"I'm far better than okay, dear. This place, this staff, the care it is all amazing! I can't believe you didn't tell me about this new career! Mr. Thomas seems like an outstanding man to put himself so far out there for you." Arthur beamed, giving her one more tight squeeze before releasing her.

Blythe could think of a few ways to describe Mackenzie, however, outstanding was not on the list. "I'm sorry father. There has been so much going on lately. It must have slipped my mind." She fibbed, chewing on her bottom lip and looking everywhere to avoid his gaze. "But they have taken good care of you, I assume?"

"I don't think I've ever been so well off in all my years." Her father commented, patting one of the plush pillows beside him.

"Good, good.." She drifted off continuing to take in the extravagant room before her. All decorated in stained oak, his bedroom had a large bed in the middle of the room with matching nightstands on either side. Small, expensive looking lamps decorated each table. On the opposite wall were two large windows that gave a view of the gardens. Next to those windows a large oak armoire stood against the wall with a plush blue velvet bench beside it. She noticed a door across the room slightly ajar, noting that it must be the bathroom. Blythe shook her head in the slightest. She couldn't believe that even in the guest house, every room had it's own accompanying bathroom. That was a luxury she had only heard of, never seen.

"Well, father, as long as you are taken care of for the moment I am going to slip away to... my room," she grimaced slightly, feeling awkward to say those words, "to freshen up for supper. Holler if you need me?" She raised her voice slightly at the end, waiting for his confirmation.

"Of course, dear." He nodded, leaning farther back into his plush bedding.


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