A Deal To Be Made

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XXII

June 7th, 1918 Birmingham, England

Blythe worried her bottom lip as she twirled her pen in between her fingers. She should really be concentrating on the numbers sprawled in front of her but all she could think about was that damn man. It had been days since she had spoken to him. Blythe had seen him briefly for a few moments every day but not long enough to have a proper conversation. Lately he seemed rushed and, if she wasn’t so observant she wouldn’t have caught it, frantic; almost giddy. During their fleeting passes at work Mackenzie always made time to plant a firm kiss on Blythe’s forehead before asking her if she’s doing it alright. She nodded mumbling a soft ‘yes’ before he rushed off without another word. How was she supposed to stop him when he was practically thrumming in place to call him on his bullshit about how he left things the other night?
A large hand clapped down on her shoulder nearly making her soul leave her body. She turned around clutching at her chest in a pathetic attempt to stop the near heart attack the man had given her. Her eyes snapped to the big goofy smiling face of Byron. “Are you ready to go? It’s closing time.” He asked, holding back his chuckle as much as he could. Byron loved getting a rise out of Blythe. Since Mackenzie had been so busy the last few days Byron had been the one to transport her to and from work every day but Blythe didn’t mind. Obviously, she would have preferred it to be Mackenzie but Byron was a cheery guy who could put a smile on nearly anyone’s face, including hers.
Blowing out a long breath between her lips trying to get her heart rate to slow, she nodded. “Yeah. Let me just pack up my desk really quickly.”
Had 5 o’clock come so soon? She felt like she had been in a trance all day thinking about what exactly she would say to Mackenzie when she finally trapped him still enough to hold a conversation. She had been so caught up in her thoughts that the day completely zipped by and left her feeling like she hadn’t accomplished any of the work she was supposed to have done by the end of the day.

“Hey,” Blythe caught Byron’s attention as she watched the country side fly by them in the car ride to the estate, “do you know what time Mackenzie will be back tonight?” She tried not to seem like she was desperate to know where he was at by nonchalantly tapping her fingers on her door and avoiding eye contact with Byron.
“He should be back by supper time, last I heard.” Blythe didn’t need to face him to know that Byron had a smirk on his face. She could hear it in his voice. Byron could have asked her why, but he knew exactly why. He noticed the last few days that the longer Mackenzie was absent, the more Blythe slowly drove herself crazy in that wild mind of hers. She had begun to become either incredulously restless or lost in a daze entirely.
Byron pulled the car around to the front of the estate before putting it into park. He waited patiently for Blythe to gather all of her things and exit the car. “I’ll see you in the morning!” He waved to her, flashing another big grin her way.
Blythe waved back to him as she stood on the stairs leading to the entry of the estate. Once he had pulled away, she pushed the large door open and let herself inside. She stood there for a moment with her back pressed against the door, lost in thought once more. Byron said he would be back tonight. Maybe this was finally her chance to corner him and get some real answers. A mischievous smile began to tug at the corners of her lips. She knew just what to do.

***
“Mrs. Layton?” Mackenzie called out as he let himself inside the door to his estate. His hand immediately reached to pull his tie away from his neck leaving it lose and hanging. Simultaneously he undid the top two buttons on his classic black dress shirt and released a sigh of relief as he did so. It felt so good to be back in his own house. In the last few days he had been slammed in meet up’s with Antonio and conjuring up legalities for Blythe at his firm. He had hardly even been able to sleep in his own bed, let alone spend time with a certain woman who occupied his mind with flashbacks of a heated moment from the few nights ago.
When no one answered his call, he shrugged it off. Mrs. Layton must be busy preparing supper, so he wouldn’t bother her. Mackenzie made his way up the staircase and to his bedroom. He was in desperate need of a hot bath and a fresh set of clothes. He threw the file of papers that he had brought him on the small settee that he had in his room before promptly stripping and throwing himself into the bathtub.
After his bath Mackenzie dressed himself once more but left off the waistcoat and jacket leaving him in just his shirt that was halfway buttoned. Rolling his sleeves a quarter of the way up, he jogged down the stairs to make his way to the dining hall. He would be a little early for supper but he was really hoping to catch Blythe there to have a much needed conversation between them before they sat down to eat. Mackenzie needed to apologize for leaving her alone for the last few days but more importantly he needed to present her with his newest proposition. What could he say? He was a businessman first.
As soon as he entered the hall he made his way over to the small table against the east wall where a decanter sat filled as usual with his favorite brandy. He poured himself a glass, not wanting to wait for the staff to arrive, before taking his seat at the head of the table. It was a little unusual that Blythe wasn’t there yet. She was almost always early to supper. Mackenzie mused to himself as he took a few good sized gulps of his liquor, relishing in the burning feeling that traveled along his body.
A noise sounded from the door that led to the kitchen and Mackenzie sat up in anticipation of supper being served. He tried to wipe the disappointment from his face that Blythe hadn’t arrived yet but it was quickly replaced with complete and utter shock.
What he had expected to see was Mrs. Layton traipsing her way to him holding his plate of dinner like usual. What he had actually seen was Blythe sauntering her way over to him before setting a large plate of food that smelled absolutely incredible. As much as he would have liked to examine the food that smelled so delicious, Mackenzie couldn’t take his eyes off of another delicious sight. Blythe had her hair thrown up in a disarray of a quick bun. She had splotches of flour that dusted her nose ever so slightly that corresponded with the flour on the taupe apron she was currently wearing. A large smile spread wide on her face, showing off her perfectly shaped white teeth.
“What is all this?” Mackenzie wondered as he reached out to pull Blythe in closer. He grabbed her by the waist with one hand without ever breaking contact with his eyes.
Blythe cleared her throat, her mind suddenly clogged by the heat of Mackenzie’s hand resting on the small of her back. “I heard that you were going to be home tonight in time for supper. So I thought I’d cook our meal tonight and let Mrs. Layton have the evening off.” She watched as one eyebrow lifted slightly. “Byron tipped me off.” Blythe answered his unspoken question.
“I’m impressed, Blythe.” His eyes dropped to scan over the food. “Everything looks delicious. Including you.” Mackenzie returned his gaze to her, letting his grey orbs dance across her entire body. A furious blush took off across Blythe’s face as she moved to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear to occupy her awkwardly placed hands. He moved his hand to toy with the hem of the apron she was wearing. “Though, it would be much more of a feast if there weren’t anything underneath of this.” Her eyes widened incredulously. Blythe smacked his arm lightening quick. A bright smile immediately spread across his face as she did so and he let out a hearty chuckle at her embarrassment. He had already confessed to her, there was no sense in holding back his thoughts any longer.
“You have so much explaining to do before you can make suggestions like that.” Blythe noted, raising her eyebrow back. She turned away from him letting his hand fall from her. Her food was waiting for her back in the kitchen but she wanted to surprise Mackenzie so bad that she had decided to take it out to him herself. Once she returned, she placed her plate down at the setting next to Mackenzie and scooted herself into her chair. Blythe noticed that he hadn’t yet touched his food so she stared at him with a pointed look. “Well, go on.” She gestured towards his plate. His lips turned upwards, holding back a small smirk. Painfully slow he lifted up his fork before stabbing into his steak and cutting off a tiny taste. She watched as he placed the meat on his tongue before chewing it once, twice, three times and swallowing it.
“It’s awful.” Mackenzie glanced at Blythe setting his fork and knife down. He could visibly watch as her heart broke. Her mouth popped open slightly about to say something before his loud bellied laugh broke the silence. Obviously, he had made the wrong move at teasing her because her brow began to furrow in anger. Hoping to remedy the situation as quickly as possible he took her hand in his large one. Mackenzie brought the back of her hand up to his lips and placed a lingering kiss. “I’m kidding, love. It tastes magnificent. The best I’ve ever had.” Murmuring against her skin he peeked up at her through his long lashes, a smile playing across his lips.
Her eyes narrowed at him trying to sweeten his mistakes but she didn’t pull her hand away. “You’re an asshole.” She whispered to him but he could see that she was fighting the smile to stay off of her mouth.
They both sat in silence during supper while they stuffed their faces with Blythe’s masterpiece of a meal. She couldn’t help but steal glances over at Mackenzie every once in a while just to make sure that he was truly enjoying it. Once their plates were clean, he leaned back and closed his eyes in satisfaction.
“That truly was amazing, love. Where did you learn to cook?” He peeked open one eye to look at her.
“My father.” A small, sad smile ghosted her face. A pang of guilt twinged through Mackenzie at bringing up the still tender memory. He reached forward and grasped her hand once more and placed a chaste kiss. To his surprise Blythe squeezed his hand in affection.
“Well, he was a great teacher.” He tried his best to shoot a warm smile her way to melt the forlorn look off of her features. “I’ve something to tell you.” He said suddenly but without changing his demeanor. Blythe simply raised her brow, signaling him to continue. “After you and Arthur moved in with us, we rented out your stables that your father owned to an acquaintance of Byron, Remi, and Myself. Her name is Ramona O’Hara. She runs and operates a small company that owns racing horses. Ramona has been telling me for years that she was itching to get her foot in the door to the big races but never quite had the ability to do so; until she was granted access to your fathers land. Now she has adequate room to train and groom her horses.” Thoughtlessly, Mackenzie ran his rough thumb across the back of Blythe’s hand waiting for her to reply.
“That’s great. I’m glad she could have that opportunity.” The quizzical tone in Blythe’s voice urged him to go on.
“Legally, since your father has passed away that land and everything on it is yours now. I’ve been working on the fine prints and paperwork within the last couple of days to make sure that it is all in order for you. But those are just the facts. Here is what I’m proposing; I want you and Ramona to co-own her company and then I will get the horses in the races for you two.” Mackenzie eyed her carefully, gauging her reaction to his proposal. For several minutes Blythe sat in silence while he watched her chew on her bottom lip, drawing her brows even closer together.
“I guess I’m just not understanding why you or Ramona would want me to do something like that.” Her eyes finally connected with his, waiting for an explanation.
“Ramona… has people that she doesn’t want attention from so she would rather stay out of the public eye. Since you own the land and stables, it would make sense for you to the face of the company. She will take care of everything behind the scenes like training, grooming, jokey’s, and anything else. Basically all you have to do is show up to the races and look beautiful like you always do.” He smirked at her, shooting her a wink. “I want you to do this simply as a favor to a friend. Plus,” he started before pausing and rolling his teeth gently over his lip, “it will get you out of working in the den.”
She thought about his words. It still wasn’t exactly clear what his intentions were, but considering Mackenzie had always shown that his priorities were to keep her safe Blythe didn’t really see an issue with the idea. After all, she would be in a business that she loves, it carried on Arthur’s memory, and most importantly it wasn’t illegal. “Okay, I guess. But where do you fit in into all of this?”
There was something that sparked in his steely grey eyes, but his facial features remained as smooth as they always were. “I’ve spoken to Ramona and she has agreed to give me thirty percent of any income you two should receive in winnings since I will be the one sponsoring you two to get into the races.”
“That seems fair. You are a business man after all.” Her words brought Mackenzie to a chuckle. It was a relief that she didn’t question him too much. Although the majority of his story was complete honesty, he just neglected to tell her the rest of it.
“Great. I have the papers upstairs ready for you to sign. Now that we have that settled,” His words trailed off before he stood pulling Blythe up to her feet as well. His grin only grew wider as her eyes did when he wrapped his arms loosely around her waist to pull her against him. He took her arms and draped them around his neck, letting them rest on his shoulders. It was obvious that Blythe wasn’t quite sure what to do, but she made it easier by letting Mackenzie lead.
Placing one large hand on the side of her neck and the other against the small of her back, he held her close to him. Mackenzie brought his face to the crook of her neck and breathed in her warm vanilla scent. His lips peppered kisses up to her jaw line and finally landed right behind her ear. “I want you to go away with me this weekend. Just you and I. No work, no worries. There is no room for argument.”
Blythe’s eyes fluttered closed in the moment. The feeling of his lips on her skin was clouding any sort of clear thoughts she had. It felt like a trail of liquid fire everywhere his mouth touched. Her fingers wrapped themselves in his dress shirt. She immediately released his shirt when she noticed he had stopped his assault with his kisses and was waiting patiently for her reply. Her throat had become so dry that all she could do was nod. A wicked smirk stretched across Mackenzie’s face. Not waiting any longer, he took Blythe’s mouth with his own. The connection of their skin sent electricity through both of their body’s. Blythe found her body melting into his touch while his tongue swiped across her bottom lip, seeking entrance. She parted her lips with a gasp at his actions and that was all the time he needed. His tongue slipped into her mouth and together they deepened the kiss. A small noise sounded from Blythe’s throat that only aided in egging Mackenzie on further. The back of Blythe’s legs hit the dining room table before she even noticed they had been moving. Her body trembled when she felt exactly how hard his body was, especially a certain lower region.
All the sudden Mackenzie released her from his grip. Both of their chests rose and fell with heavy breaths. His hands ran through his hair as he stared at her with hooded eyes. “You should go before I take you on this table right now.” His voice came out in a raspy breath.
Blythe brought her fingers up to touch her swollen lips as she watched how tense his muscles were. He looked like he was on the edge and any movement would push him straight off that ledge. She nodded and began to take a step backwards. Then she stopped. Before he could process what was happening Blythe tugged on his shirt and pulled him to her, planting on last firm kiss on his lips. “Goodnight, Mackenzie.” She whispered against his mouth then immediately turned around and made her way out of the hall.
“Fuck...” Mackenzie groaned as he ran his hands down his face. What was this woman doing to him?
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