A Deal To Be Made

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XV

March 29th, 1918 Thomas Estate, England

Fluffy down pillows let out a whooshing as Blythe flung her body onto her bed with a huff. She closed her eyes and let her body melt into the quilt, enjoying the serene quietness of her bedroom at the Thomas Estate. Her body ached and her feet pulsed from the long day she had pulled at the den. The last few days had been a learning curve for Blythe. She went from being a lowly assistant whom rarely got to speak to the customers in fear of saying something 'too common', to being the lead runner in one of England's most exclusive underground gambling establishments. For some godly unknown reason Mackenzie had put her in charge of running the whole operation. He claimed that her knowledge and grasp on the races informed her well enough to take charge. Realistically all she had to do was be incredible at bookkeeping, unto which she discovered she was reasonably fair at. She was required to answer the phones all day and write down and track who had called and how much they had placed on what horse for what place. Sometimes the calls were easy: Name, Horse, Placement, and Money. Other times the calls were much more complicated when they called and wanted to pace multiple bets on multiple horses and placements. At the beginning of the day she had been given her own unusually large brown leather bound book to keep track of her bets.

Her desk that she was given was placed directly outside of Mackenzie's. She wasn't sure if that's just where fate happened to put her or if Mackenzie did that to keep an eye on her, though she was sure it were the latter. Most of the employees didn't bat an eye when he made the announcement shortly after unlocking the doors for all 135 employees that worked for him. Although there were a few disgruntled snorts from some people in the back whom she couldn't see as well as a few eye rolls from some of the women that seemed to have gravitated to Mackenzie's side during the announcement. Blythe did nothing but grimace at the girls while making sure to stare directly into each of their eyes. She couldn't stand women like that. Life wasn't a competition so why should they feel threatened by some random new coworker. Blythe had always been the type to keep to herself and generally not give a damn what someone else thought of her.

Other than those few that didn't seem impressed with Mackenzie's executive decision to put Blythe as lead runner, the rest of the employees didn't seem half as bad as she expected. Working out in the 'badlands' of Birmingham had made Blythe incredibly nervous. She had heard about the types of people out there and never wanted to experience them first hand. Though these people desperately needed a hot shower and perhaps a toothbrush, they didn't quite seem like each one of them were hiding a finger gun inside their sleeve... That she knew of.

The days were long but everyday Blythe reminded herself that she had a clean house to come home to and her father was well taken care of which was something that wouldn't have been possible without her taking this job.

Sitting up so very slowly, she wiped the back of her hand across her brow. It was time she force herself to get up and get in the bath before she fell asleep right where she was, which is what she had done last night. Blyth bent over and pulled off her stockings one by one. She had no more than gotten the top two buttons of her blouse undone before a knocking sounded at her door. Figuring it must be the servant letting her know that supper was ready to be served Blythe made her way to the entrance to her bedroom. Keeping her eyes down on the third button that she was currently working on, she pulled open the door with her right hand.

"Grace, I'll be to the hall shortly. I'm just going to have a change of clothes." Blythe mumbled, fumbling with the damn button on her shirt.

Large masculine fingers reached up and stilled her own. Blythe's entire body froze in absolute horror. She wasn't even able to pull her eyes up to meet his. Blythe knew who it was and she couldn't believe she had let herself nearly undress in front of him.

"I came to tell you to dress nice for tomorrow. We will not be working the den." Mackenzie whispered in a hoarse low, voice. His hot breath rustled the half hairs that lazily flew on the crown of her head.

If Blythe were to stand straight and still, which she most definitely was, her eyes made direct eye contact with Mackenzie's chest. For the height of this man, she would be forever thankful to God because this meant she could avoid making any sort of direct eye contact in a moment like this.

Not being able to force out any words at the moment, Blythe just nodded slightly while still keeping her eyes carefully trained on his chest and shoulders. Her eyes ticked over every stitching in his waistcoat to counting the fibers she could find stuck to the material. He made no move to force her to make face to face conversation and she silently said a prayer.

Blythe was convinced that it was impossible, but as impossible as it seemed Mackenzie leaned in even closer bringing his lips next to her ear. She felt like his presence was slowly suffocating her, but the strangest part? She didn't mind.

"Supper will be served in 15 minutes. I'll see you in there." He whispered almost in audibly. Mackenzie pulled back slowly meanwhile Blythe hadn't moved since the moment she opened that door. It wasn't that she was scared to, in fact, it was actually quite the opposite. Blythe had so much to say and so many moves to make that in the haste of the chaos reigning in her mind her body refused to keep up. So instead, she just held her breath and hoped she would regain function sometime soon. But the next few moments passed by like a slow-motion film. Mackenzie's fingers, still atop of hers on the shirt button since the beginning, skillfully flicked hers out of the way and flipped the button through the hole in one expert move. Blythe's mouth dropped open to a wide gape, her eyes expanding to the size of saucers. Her blouse sprang open the slightest bit as soon as the tension from the button had left. She brought her hands up to clutch at the fabric and pull it closed as much as she could before he could see but Mackenzie was already sauntering away with his hands in his trouser pockets.

"You're awful!" Blythe shouted out after him. She watched has he threw his head back and his loud chuckle reverberated off the walls of the guest house. Blythe quickly retreated back to her room, shutting the door behind her and leaning against it. She placed her hand over her mouth, closing her eyes. Under her hand she was hiding the smallest, tiniest smile


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