A Deal To Be Made

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March 27th, 1918 Thomas Estate, England

The soft rustling of leaves drew Blythe's attention to her right. She was walking through the gardens decorating the estate grounds. Her fingers trailed along perfectly manicured shrubbery before gliding against the hard stone of the fountain that sat nestled perfectly inside a plethora of greenery. Pulling her bottom lip in between her teeth slightly to anxiously chew on her lip, she took a seat on the stone wall encompassing the fountain. She pulled and pleated her ankle-length navy blue skirt repeatedly while moments of the past, present, and future ransacked her mind. It had been about a week since dinner and even though that dinner had come in a close second on the most stressful moment of her entire life the last week had been nothing short of incredible. Mackenzie thought it best for her to take the next week off to ensure that she was properly settled and comfortable with where her and her father were staying. This had to have been the most time she had off of a job since before she started working when she was a young adolescent. The most refreshing part about not having those responsibilities was she got to spend quality time with her father. She had spent the majority of her time aiding her father and sitting in on his health visits to learn what she could do for him when the help wasn't around. Blythe had learned much more about physical therapy than she thought she could ever have imagined. Helping Arthur had begun to take her mind off of everything that had happened, and for that she was grateful.

This morning she had led Arthur around the very same path of the gardens that she had previously been walking. That was one of the lessons she had learned from the visiting medical help. He needed to get up and participate in an easy continuously moving activity at least three times per week and the gardens provided such a lovely way of executing that order. She had seen such significant improvement in her father's health ever since they had been here. He seemed to have a more lively glow along with being considerably more active willingly. Through she had a sneaking suspicion that it had to do with the fact that a certain Mr. Thomas may have let it slip that as soon as Arthur's health returns there may be a job available to maintain the grounds stables. Blythe shook her head softly letting her wavy hair swish from side to side. That man was a sucker for the horses. What surprised Blythe most, if that was even possible at this point, was that Mackenzie had relocated the horses that she kept at her father's cottage to his own stables at the estate. She wouldn't admit it out loud, however, she was incredibly pleased with that decision considering the horses would definitely receive better care at his stables than she ever could by only visiting on the weekends.

Blythe had been down to the stables several times to visit her furry friends and taking advantage of the highest quality brushes and top-notch leather leads and saddles. She knew she had been living in a dream for the last week, one not meant for her, but she was going to take the fullest advantage of it while she could before being thrown into a world of criminals. Mackenzie had a letter delivered to her the morning after the dinner stating that he had been called away on business and would be out of reach for the next week but tomorrow they would promptly begin work in the den at 7 A.M. He also tediously reminded her that she was to await him on the front steps of the main house so that he may escort her there.

As much as she wanted to be annoyed at his incredible over-controlling behavior she was silently thankful she wouldn't have to go to that place alone.

Blythe sat in the gardens for what seemed like hours just letting her mind process life before one of the servants had found her and alerted her that it was supper time. From what she could gather breakfast and dinner were meals that her and her father were to tend to themselves but supper was always served to them in the dining hall.

She would never get used to the lavishness of the main house, she thought to herself as she made the path down the hallways and eventually ended at the large double doors that led to the dining room. Her delicate fingers trailed down the grooved oak of the doors in front of her before she gingerly pushed them open. A wide smile spread over her lips to find her father already seated and contentedly biting into a biscuit. Arthur looked up and gave his daughter a warm look as he waved with his other non-compromised hand.

Blythe's eyes continued her sweep of the room, continuing down the long, oak table. Her smile faltered slightly when she noticed Mackenzie at the head of the table, though he had yet to notice her. Well, perhaps he did notice her however, he wasn't acknowledging her presence. Not much slipped by that man.

Mackenzie held the daily newspaper in one hand and his fork in the other with a small piece of fruit attached to the end. The sleeves of his black dress shirt were rumpled disclosing the long day of travel he must have had. He had forgone his suit jacket leaving just his trademark charcoal waistcoat. Blythe sucked in a deep breath between her barely parted lips while she made sure the smile remained on her face. Clenching and unclenching her hand in her skirts she put one foot after another in efforts to make her way towards the table. She would stop letting this man get the best of her. No one had ever made her so nervous to just exist like he did and it drove her wild. Whether that was a good thing or a bad thing Blythe was none too sure. One thing she did know was she was going to take back her mentality and treat him as she treated every other male she encountered; important fella or not.

"Good evening, Mackenzie." Blythe chimed quietly as she nodded towards him. She strained to make her voice louder by clearing her throat halfway through her sentence and attempting to sound more confident in herself. Pulling out the chair to Mackenzie's right and across from her father, she sat in it delicately before sliding herself up to the table.

Blythe could have sworn she seen something briefly flash across his face, but she shook her head slightly throwing that thought away. She surely did not get to that man like he got to her.

"Good evening." His deep voice graced the room, but his eyes only met hers. His lips turned slightly upward before he turned his attention back to his news readings.

See? That was easier than she thought. So long as Blythe acted like a normal human being in Mackenzie's presence didn't seem to utterly and completely undo her like someone who had lost all their mental capabilities.

"Were your travels safe?" Blythe asked as she picked up a biscuit and began to gently dress it with the jam that was placed in the center of the table. Once finished Blythe brought her gaze up to await Mackenzie's answer and delicately took a small bite out of her bread.

Mackenzie's smile widened further, his bright white teeth contrasting dramatically against his dark facial hair. He began to neatly fold up the newspaper and set it on the table beside his plate. As he turned to her he couldn't help but let his eyes flicker over the specks of tiny crumbs decorating her plump lips. "In fact, they were not. However, it seems I have managed to return back to you and your father in one piece."

Blythe's eyes widened. Her first thought was what could have possibly made his travels unsafe? Wasn't he away on breeding business? Surely no harm could come from that, could it? But her brain wasn't about to let her skip over the fact Mackenzie had said 'returned back to you'. Pushing that quickly to the side, Blythe furrowed her brows.

"I'm very sorry to hear that. I'm glad you have returned in once piece, but what happened?" She mumbled almost distantly. Although she really did mean it she couldn't help but be nosey.

Mackenzie slowly pushed himself up from his chair and laid his napkin across his empty plate. He took a step towards Blythe and put a large hand on her shoulder. The contact between the two sent immediate shivers through both of their persons. He gave a gentle squeeze. "Nothing to be concerned about. You're safe, on that you have my word." Releasing her shoulder he gave her a small smile before heading towards the door. Shortly before exiting the room he stopped and turned around to glance back at Blythe. "6:30 AM sharp, Blythe. On the front steps. Don't be late." With that, he turned and left the dining hall.

Mild panic rose in Blythe's chest. What did he mean when he said she would be safe? She hadn't even considered that she wouldn't be safe when she had asked the question. Blythe was just simply being the nosey person she had always been. It had never crossed her mind that whatever business he had been involved in would come back to reflect on her. Why would he even say that?!

Blythe huffed out an anxiety-ridden breath and stole a glance at her father who had been sitting in front of her during the entire exchange. She watched as he ladled a spoonful of a bowl of soup into his mouth slowly, acting as if he hadn't witnessed anything but a normal family dinner. Something deep down in Blythe's mind ticked, but for now, she would tuck that thought away.

Yay!! So much foreshadowing! Thank you so much for reading, stay safe, and as always, VOTE please!
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