A Deal To Be Made

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XIII

March 21st, 1918 Birmingham, England Thomas Estate



After a long, hot soak in the unbelievable claw-foot tub Blythe tucked her bathing towel around her body. She felt like she was in another world. Living like this was a dream she never thought possible, but the more she thought about the circumstance she realized it wasn't a dream. Her dream was a wolf in sheep's clothing; a nightmare. The man that she thought had taken her out of an awful situation had put her in between a rock and a hard spot. He had thrown her into the world of illegalities and cast her away from everything that she knew.

Leaving her hair down in lose waves Blythe crept towards the large armoire that was in her room. She wasn't necessarily sure if she should be wearing the clothes in there but she didn't think anymore of it. If he was to post her in his estate, she would wear what was in her closet. Pulling out a hanger her jaw dropped in disbelief. A long black gown cascaded towards the floor. Black off the shoulder sleeves were made of lace and only added to the elegance of the dress. Shaking her head furiously, Blythe made frantic movements to shove the dress back into the closet. She wasn't sure, but she could guess that whomever's clothes those were definitely had to be royalty. Normal folk did not wear that to supper.

She grabbed another hanger from the armoire and was much more pleased at what she found. A knee length emerald dress flowed from where she grasped it. A gentle white lace enveloped the entire green material including all the way down the long sleeves. It was still a bit much for what she was used to, but it was much better than her first option.

After slipping on the garment Blythe found a simple pair of black heels placed in the bottom of the closet and put them on. She stared at herself in the mirror after applying some powder and rouge to her lips and cheeks. It wasn't much, however she decided that she could definitely pass for dinner in such an upscale estate this way.

It wasn't long after that quiet knocking came from the front door. Mrs. Layton had arrived to take her and her father to supper. With sudden nerves flaring in her stomach, Blythe followed the woman with her arm looped through her fathers to help support him. Once they had made it to the main house Mrs. Layton stopped and turned to the pair.

"The dinning hall is right this way, please follow me." She chimed while she ensured she had attention from both persons. Arthur had a lazy smile across his lips not seeming distressed in the least bit. It must be his medications, Blythe noted in her head.

They followed Mrs. Layton to the entrance of the dinning hall before Blythe stopped dead in her tracks. If the rest of the house was extravagant, the dinning hall was out-of-this-world. Lit candles flickered along each wall and all the way down the massive oak table in the center of the room. The table was decorated with several bowls of fruit and biscuits placed only at one end. It was clear where they were supposed to sit.

"Here, let me help you Mr. Davies." Mrs. Layton offered quietly, taking his elbow with her hand. Arthur nodded politely and let her lead him to the end of the table, seating him on one of the sides. There were only three placemats set which left the head of the table and the seat across from her father.

Blythe stood there woodenly taking in the excellent décor of the room. Her entire body tensed when she felt a hand placed at the small of her back. She knew instantly from the sandalwood, musky scent filling her nostrils who it was. Her breath hitched in the back of her throat at the heat resonating across her back. Her green eyes widened as she felt warm breath fluttering across her cheek from behind.

"So glad you could join us for dinner, Blythe." Mackenzie murmured, sending chills across her body.

A furious blush crept across Blythe's face adding to the rouge she had put on earlier. She wasn't sure what to do. Completely frozen in place she couldn't even jump in fright. There was something about this man that couldn't bring her to be frightened of him even though he had given her enough reasons to doubt his character.

Mackenzie remained silent as he gave Blythe a small push towards the table, never removing his hand from her back. Still in absolute shock, she said nothing as he guided her to her table setting. Mackenzie's hand left her back while he pulled out her chair for her and promptly sliding it back into place as she sat down. Even though his hand had been long gone Blythe could still feel the searing heat from his touch.

As dinner went on Blythe tried to shake whatever was fogging her mind from her head. She only participated in talk when it was necessary otherwise leaving the direction of the conversation up to her father and Mackenzie. The spoke about everything under the moon from horses to even their favorite meals. It almost disturbed Blythe a little how smoothly speech seemed to flow between the two when she had issues forming complete sentences around Mackenzie. It wasn't for a lack of something to say either. He seemed to scramble her thoughts by just being in the room and if that didn't irritate Blythe enough as it was Mackenzie seemed to almost enjoy her struggling.

The main course had been served along with dessert shortly after and the servants had come and gone along with the dishes. Resting his hand atop his very full belly Arthur grunted. "The meal was extremely incredible, Mr. Thomas. Thank you so much for having us tonight."

"It is no trouble at all, Arthur. Please. I want you to feel welcome here so that you may continue your full recovery." Mackenzie soothed as his eyes slide over to stare into Blythe's green orbs. Even though he was talking to her father Mackenzie never broke eye contact with her. Although that went completely unnoticed by her father.

"Mrs. Layton, would you please escort me to the guest house? I think I'd like to relax now." Arthur mumbled contentedly after patting his stomach.

"Father, I would be more than happy to take you." Blythe jumped at the opportunity to be free of Mackenzie's intrusive presence as she folded her napkin to place on the table.

"Oh no, dear. Don't be silly. You and Mr. Thomas seem to be having such a wonderful time here. Don't let me interrupt." He chided as he stood and took the hand of Mrs. Layton. Blythe stared at him bewildered. Had he not even noticed that Blythe hadn't said more than ten words to Mackenzie the entire supper?

"Yes, Blythe, that's right. Mrs. Layton will ensure that your father make it back safe and is entirely set up for the evening." Mackenzie sighed, a sly smile sliding over his lips.

After nervously watching her father exit the dinning hall, Blythe's eyes swept across the room and made their way back to the depths of Mackenzie's grey eyes. He said nothing as he watched her for a moment, searching for something in her face.

His eyes slid past hers for a moment catching the attention of a servant behind her that she hadn't noticed at all within the last few hours. "Two glasses and my brandy." He commanded. Blythe couldn't bring herself to look away from Mackenzie to focus on the servant but after hearing the soft pitter-patter of footsteps slowly fade away she knew that they were entirely alone now.

Still, the two of them said nothing as the servant quickly returned. He laid down two glasses in front of both of them before setting down the decanter with a smooth, brown liquid inside. Mackenzie nodded towards the man and the servant left quickly and quietly. Reaching out, he poured each of them a quarter of a glass of brandy before handing Blythe hers. She took the glass in her shaky hand before bringing it up to her lips and taking a sip. The warmth of the brandy spread throughout her body beginning in her throat and making it's way down to her stomach. She couldn't help a small shiver that assaulted her.

A gentle smile crossed Mackenzie's lips as he did the same, lifting the glass towards his lips. He took a generous gulp before placing the glass down in front of him. "From a close friend's distillery out of Ireland." He nodded towards the decanter.

Blythe sighed and set down her own glass. She leaned forward toward him and leaned her elbows on the table. Lacing her fingers together she paused, thinking of the right words to say. She eventually gave up and let her word vomit get the best of her. "What are we doing here, Mackenzie.What do you want from me? You don't know me. You had no reason to take in my father, regardless of his ailments. What could possibly posses you, a man of power and wealth, to dabble your time on a commoner like myself?"

A smooth chuckle made it's way through Mackenzie's mouth. He stroked his beard before leaning on the table much like she did. Blythe held in a breath as he reached forward and grasped a lock of her chocolate brown hair between his fingers. He twirled it for a second before his eyes locked straight on hers once more.

"I am a man of wealth and power, you're correct Blythe." He began, letting his fingers slip though her hair before running his thumb ever so slightly against her bottom lip. "I get what I want. What I want: is you. There's something about you that I can't figure out and that need to discover exactly what that is has indefinitely drawn me to you. So have you, I will."

"And what happens when you discover all of my secrets, what then Mackenzie? Will you tire of me?" Blythe whispered, staring fearlessly into his eyes.

The moment his name rolled off of her tongue Mackenzie's eyes darkened visibly. His smile only widened more as he gently gripped her chin with his thumb. His intense gaze could melt an iceberg with the way he was staring at Blythe. "I don't think that is something you will ever have to worry about Blythe."



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