A Deal To Be Made

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XVI

*Trigger Warning*

March 30th, 1918 Birmingham, England

Blythe scanned herself in the mirror, letting her eyes fall from her head down to her toes. She was clad in a thin, white flowing blouse that puffed out at her shoulders and slimmed down to cuff her wrists gently. The neckline extended up her collar bone gently to end in ruffles right below her jawline. Her blouse was tucked into a light mauve skirt with delicate white flowers decorating the fabric. The skirt wrapped around her waist tightly before flowing down to her knees in thick pleats. She chose to pair her outfit with some tan peep-toe sandals that came with a slight heel. Blythe reached up clasping a dainty silver chain around her neck. She grasped the small pendant that hung from the chain between her hands. This necklace was one of the last remnants she had from her mother before she passed. It was the only thing that still held her to Blythe's world.

She smoothed her hands across the front pieces of her hair, attempting to get them to lay flat. She had tied her mane in a low bun on the nape of her neck but chose to leave two face framing pieces to compliment her features. With a firm nod she decided that she confidently looked capable of looking any part that Mackenzie asked of her.

Snagging a small clutch off of the end of her bed, Blythe made her way out of her small cottage and to the main house. She nodded politely at all the help around the house that had gotten comfortable enough to greet her by name. She stopped once she had found Mrs. Layton.

"Mrs. Layton, have you seen Mr. Thomas?" She asked politely, holding her clutch with both hands in front of her.

Greeted with a warm smile, Mrs. Layton nodded. "Yes, dear. He instructed me to inform you to meet him up in his room. He was running a bit behind."

Blythe furrowed her brow. In the short time that she had known Mackenzie he was never one to run late. Taking slow strides she made her way up the stairs and reached the door Mrs. Layton had described as his bedroom. It felt a bit improper for her to be knocking at his door, however, she was attempting to make today as pleasant as possible and wasn't about to begin the day with arguing his instructions.

She knocked twice before taking one step back. The door opened shortly and revealed a half dressed Mackenzie.

"Please, come in." He ordered with hardly a glance at her. Mackenzie turned and strode over to a full length mirror. His hands were fumbling with the tie situated at his neck. "I apologize Blythe. I had some duties to tend to early this morning and it seemed to set me back further than I anticipated." He mumbled before releasing a frustrated groan. Flinging his hands away from his tie and up through his hair.

Blythe could see that something was immensely troubling him but she decided to keep her lips pursed and refrain from asking too much. She gingerly approached him before stopping in between him and his mirror. "May I?" She pointed to his tie.

For the first time since she had walked in Mackenzie looked down at her. He let a sigh slip through his lips before nodding for her to continue. She reached up delicate hands and began to expertly fix his tie. There was something calming about watching her carry out tasks with her serene demeanor. By the time she had finished his frantic mood had nearly disappeared.

Blythe ran a hand down his tie, smoothing it along his torso. A small shiver racked his body. He gently placed his hands over hers. "Thank you." He mumbled to her.

A small smile crossed Blythe's lips while she nodded in return. "So where exactly will we be working today?" She questioned.

Mackenzie grabbed his waistcoat and pulled it on, doing up the buttons quickly. "We won't be working today, per say. You and I will be attending the races today to observe the horses. I have several proposals lined up from some partners who wish me to sell to them and I'd like to see what I'm up against." He grabbed his grey overcoat and proceeded to loop each arm through the correct holes. "But I figured it would be a lovely treat for you to enjoy the races."

Blythe's eyes lit up and her smile widened. "I'd love that. Thank you, Mackenzie." She murmured, hugging her clutch close to her chest.

Mackenzie's eyes warmed seeing her so excited. The longer she continued to stay on his grounds he noticed the life slowly returning to her eyes. His heart leaped into his throat but he thickly swallowed it back down. He had business to attend to and he couldn't afford to be distracted today but Blythe made it so incredibly difficult to focus on anything else.



***



The lengthy hour long drive to the nearest city soothed Blythe's nerves about attending her first race. She was beyond excited and almost sad that her father couldn't go with her but she understood that they were partly attending due to business. They pulled into the gates of the track and pulled around to the restricted access area. After exiting the car Mackenzie led Blythe into the small parlor that was reserved for those who participated and hosted the event. The only folks that were allowed in here were those who had a spot higher up on the hierarchy. Posh ladies with dainty gloves sipped on their bubbly while sophisticated men sipped on their whiskey with cigars between their stubby fingers.

Blythe suddenly felt incredibly under dressed. This was nothing like any event she had ever been to. She clutched onto Mackenzie's arm a little tighter. He reached over and placed his opposite hand atop of hers on his elbow in reassurance. He leaned over closer to her. "You look beautiful. Please don't fret." He whispered into her ear.

A small blush crossed her face but she nodded and a gentle smile formed on her lips. Mackenzie led her over to the bar and nodded at the bartender without saying a word. A few moments later the man behind the bar handed him a chilled glass filled with an amber colored liquid, and a flute filled with bubbly.

"Here, drink this. It will soothe your nerves." Mackenzie handed Blythe the flute and sipped on his own glass.

"Nerves? What nerves? I'm not nervous. This is totally my element." She blabbered before shoving the flute up to her lips and taking a generous gulp.

A hearty chuckle rumbled from Mackenzie's chest. "Love, you're like an open book for me. Relax, you'll be a natural." He leaned down and placed a chaste kiss against her cheek to further reassure her.

Blythe's blush intensified. She knew that cheek kissing was an insanely common greeting here in England but it seemed so intimate when it was Mackenzie carrying out the action. "So, when do the races begin?" She asked quietly, doing as she was instructed and taking another sip from her drink.

Mackenzie checked his watch briefly before glancing back at her. "We have about 30 minutes. Shall we find our seats?"

Blythe nodded eagerly and let Mackenzie lead her to the door to the tracks. A tall, skinny man in a navy blue tweed cap stepped in between the couple and the door. His eyes were dark and sunken low in his face. A large blonde mustache covered his entire upper lip while the rest of his face was shaven clean. A wide grin was wiped clear across his mouth as his tongue darted out and crossed his bottom lip. There was nothing about the man that would suggest otherwise, but the aura that the man gave off was nothing short of unsettling. Blythe didn't miss how his eyes traveled up and down her body more than once.

"Thornton." Mackenzie nodded towards the man, tucking Blythe's arm a little further into his side.

"Ah! Mr. Thomas! It's so good to see you here. I've been meaning to call upon you and speak business for quite some time now but you are an incredibly difficult man to get ahold of." The man known as Thornton belted, slapping Mackenzie on the shoulder.

Mackenzie noticeably shrugged off his hand. "I've received the notes. I will have someone get back to you to set up an appointment. But if you will excuse us, today is a leisure day." Mackenzie attempted to pull the both of them around Thornton, but the man halted them once more.

"And who is this beautiful lady you have with you?" Thornton's tongue swiped over his lips again, staring at Blythe.

Mackenzie shook his head. "That is none of your concern. Now please, excuse us." He roughly pushed his shoulder into Thornton, forcing him out of their way. The man fumbled trying to keep ahold of his drink.



***



The rest of the day was spent marvelously with plenty of drinks, food, and laughs to go around. Mackenzie spent the entire afternoon showering Blythe with anything she could have asked for. The two of them had made personal bets against each other about which horse was going to win. To Blythe's utter dismay, she had lost nearly every time with the exception of the last race. She was so excited that she jumped from her chair, clapping her hands in joy. Mackenzie released a laugh that generated directly from his belly. He wiped a small tear from his eye. He had never seen someone let loose so much and not be afraid to be themselves around him.

After the races, Mackenzie led Blythe to the stables to introduce her to his business associates. He took her to each other the stalls to show her the horses that he had bred and sold to some of the jockeys that had competed in the races they had attended today. Her eyes lit up with passion as she stroked the nose of each one of the horses and it was the most incredible sight.

"I have to speak with a gentleman about a future business deal." Mackenzie told Blythe as they approached the end of the stables. "He will be waiting in one of these rooms further down the hall. Will you be okay waiting here for me?" He asked, gently gripping both of her elbows and looking at her directly.

She gave him a full smile and nodded. "Of course. You won't be too long will you? I'd like to take a walk along the track if it's possible? I've never been so close to a real track."

"Absolutely, Love. I'd be glad to take you." He reflected her smile with one of his own. "Wait here and I'll be back soon." He leaned down and placed another kiss upon her cheek.

Blythe watched him walk down the hallway before taking a sharp left. She admired the lithe way his toned body moved. His shoulder muscles contracted under his overcoat as he adjusted his lapels. Blythe prevented her eyes from traveling any lower than his waist despite her body's wishes.

She took another stroll down the length of the stalls stopping at a gentle white mare. "You're such a beautiful girl. You did amazing today." She whispered to the horse, stroking her nose softly.

"You're a pretty beautiful girl yourself." A nasally voice murmured behind her.

Blythe's heart dropped as she jumped, turning around abruptly. Standing alarmingly close to her was the gentleman from the parlor earlier. She took a step back, pulling her body flush against the wood of the stables. "Err.. Thank you.." She whispered, whipping her eyes back and forth to check if anyone else was near.

He man took another step forward, closing in on her. "Too beautiful to be wasted on a man like Mr. Thomas." He said with disgust, wrinkling his large curved nose. He placed his hands against the wood next to Blythe's head, caging her in. Blythe tried to doge the man and slip under his arms but he lowered her elbows pining them into her shoulders roughly. She winced and grunted.

"Get off of me, sir. You're hurting me." She whispered frantically. It was inappropriate for a woman to cause a scene in public so she tried to keep her voice as low as possible. Blythe was beginning to regret letting Mackenzie go on without her. She was his business partner after all. Shouldn't she be with him?

"Ah. You poor thing. This isn't hurting. I'm a real man. I'll show you what it's like to be taken care of." The grotesque man whispered back, breathing a repulsive breath across her face. He grabbed her roughly by the chin and held her face so she couldn't move. Blythe tried with all her might to break free from him, but she couldn't overpower him. He ran his tongue from the bottom of her jaw all along the side of her face.

"Stop it!" She cringed, increasing the volume of her voice in hopes that someone would hear and interrupt the man. All to no avail, however, because that didn't seem to foil his plans whatsoever. With his other hand he brought it to her knee and began to slide it along her thigh, pulling up her skirt.

"Shut up, girl. You know you're going to enjoy this." He grunted, pressing his body against her. He slammed his lips down on hers roughly as his mustache filled her nose. She couldn't breath and her heart pounded relentlessly in her chest. Little by little she felt her throat close in crippling anxiety and fear. She whimpered as a tear slid down her cheek as his hand went further and further up her leg. She tried to use her hands to push him away which only worked slightly. The man let go of her chin and grabbed her by the blouse. He ripped it open in one swift move, destroying the delicate silver chain hanging from her neck.

Blythe cried out before his mouth slammed down on hers once more. His hand slid in and gripped her undergarments roughly. That was when she heard the thwack.

She sucked in a deep breath as she felt the man fly from her body. It was like she had been drowning and she had finally made it back to the surface, sucking the life back into her body. By the time she had come back to her eyes searched hysterically for her assailant. She found him laying several feet away from her out cold on the hard-packed dirt floor. Her eyes searched all around finally landing on Mackenzie rushing towards her. Out of panic, she held her hands up in defense. Her brain couldn't thoroughly process what was going on.

"No, no, no!" She whimpered, closing her eyes and cowering against the barn. The horse next to her whinnied in concern.

Strong hands wrapped around her, pulling her close. Mackenzie held one arm around her waist and one hand gently pressed against the back of her head. He gripped her like his life depended on it and peppered her hair with gentle kisses. "You're okay. You're safe. I'm so sorry." He whispered to her over and over again. "I will never let anything happen to you again."

Once her brain recognized his easily distinguishable musky scent Blythe's hands gripped his clothing tightly, pulling herself even closer. That's when she let it all release. Her shoulders jolted as her body was racked with sobs. She had never been so frightened in her life. Mackenzie had saved her from something so unimaginable. Blythe wept in his chest, not letting even a hair between them. She couldn't let go of him now. He was her anchor. The only thing that held her together at the moment
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