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Edward’s handsome exterior was a typical compliment to the handsome house they had grown up in. The house Imogen had acquired with her notoriously mysterious wealth. Their grandfather had soon died after his fourth child was born, so there was no one left to inquire as to how the Castellanos were as successful as they were.

Not that Naomi was complaining, but she shuddered at the possibility they’d become privileged due to something ghastly. Like slave ownership, or the coffee trade.

She leant her back against the door, knocking the soft spot in the back of her head into the wood. “Did she not like me?”

Edward scoffed. “She thought you were the greatest thing since chilled butter. There’s obviously more to it than just keeping her records safe.”

Naomi brought her thumb to her mouth, chewing on the end. “I shouldn’t have called her a ninny. Edward,” she dropped her hand to gaze at him. “I made so many mistakes. Of course she didn’t leave me those vases.”

“Good God,” he sighed. Before Naomi could rebuke him for blasphemy, he charged on. “You were right to say those things. You were perfectly justified in your anger. I’m glad you did it.”

She pressed her lips closed, tilting her head to study a portrait of her mother in oil. “Was it worth the night in gaol?”

He didn’t hesitate. “Yes.”

Naomi cracked a smile. “Very well. I will gladly take the bank statements. Perhaps she means for me to be an accountant, or a lawyer.”

“You wanted to be a university professor last week.”

“Posh, Edward,” she pushed herself from the door as voices grew louder. It seemed she wasn’t the only one unhappy with her grandmother’s decisions. “Tell mother I am seeing Mr Alvirez for the remaining afternoon. I have matters to tend to.”

He barked out a laugh that followed her down the stairs. “What matters could an eighteen-year-old have to require the rest of the afternoon?”

She looked pointedly over her shoulder on the bottom step. A smile was playing on her brother’s mouth. “What matter could our sister have that removes her from the reading of our grandmother’s will?”

He nods slightly. “Touché. I shall inform Mother.”

The study door swung open, admitting a small swarm of peeved Castellanos. Dinner was going to be interesting tonight. Certainly everyone would have something to say about their grandmother’s sanity at the time she wrote the will.

Naomi, however, couldn’t be happier. Thank goodness she didn’t have a house to run, or a set of nice dinner plates to accidentally break. Imogen Castellano was making her life easier.

Mr Alvirez was the professor at the local school, and with his hands full of three hundred boys, his days could only be described as Painful. Recently married and recently a father, Alvirez lived as though each day he were ending it with his own death. To his credit, his wife would never let him do such a thing. A sensible and enchanting woman, perhaps there was hope in this world after all.

But then he would witness his pupils pushing rotten oysters between the floorboards, and decided maybe he should have stayed in Spain.

He dismissed his last class for the day, already thinking about the sandwich in his satchel he didn’t get to eat due to breaking up a lunchtime fight. He lifted his dark head to meet eyes with the second worst thing in his life: Naomi Castellano. His eyes flicked to the door and found her governess in the doorway, looking as though she was pulled from a well-needed nap.

“Afternoon,” the girl said brightly.

He could already feel the tears behind his eyes. Sighing, he straightened behind his desk. “Miss Castellano.”

“I have some questions for you, if you aren’t so busy.”

I am, he wanted to say. Good bye. And then he would collect his things and walk home, his sandwich already between his eager hands. “No, not busy at all. What can I do for you?”

She grinned, bright teeth piercing his weary eyes. She was wearing black muslin, in respect for her grandmother. Alvirez wouldn’t say it, but he was glad she was gone. That woman had been far too terrifying for her own good. No woman of such station and background should be so powerful.

Miss Castellano dropped into a vacant chair. “Excellent. What do you think about law?”

Alvirez lifted the top of his satchel, stuffing his books in the worn leather. “In general, or as an occupation for a young unmarried lady?” He glanced up to see her frowning, just as he expected.

“Shouldn’t it be worse, if I were married and a lawyer? It would be an insult to my husband’s individuality, I imagine.”

“All the better,” he stated. “Miss Castellano, if you are to be a lawyer, perhaps become king of the universe, then come see me again about a woman having a man’s job.”

“And what of a man having a woman’s job, Mr Alvirez?” Her tone turned icy. “Surely teaching is a woman’s profession. You are far outnumbered, Sir.”

“Miss Castellano.” He snapped the latch on his satchel, the metal clicking together quite loudly in the cold room. “You have been coming to me since you were a small child, asking me of your future endeavours. Perhaps it is time you spoke to someone who had the profession you dream of.”

She rose from the chair, shooting him a foul look. “Perhaps I will. I pray your child and wife are well, Mr Alvirez.”

Her governess gave him an embarrassed “Afternoon,” and led her student from the classroom. Alvirez blew out a slow breath, wondering if he’d just made himself a terrible enemy. Perhaps Imogen wasn’t dead, perhaps she was still very much alive in the form of one Naomi Castellano.

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