Chapter Five

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"You're awful quiet today," Helena remarked.

Dorothy cleared her throat and set the iron aside. "I've got a bit of a tickle. I think Charlie might have brought something home from school."

"Well, when you're done hanging the curtains back up, you can come down here and sip a bit of ice water next to you while you help me peel these potatoes."

"Thanks." Dorothy bundled up the curtains she had just ironed and headed into the music room.

She wasn't sure whether to be grateful that she hadn't run into Daniel that morning. When she was making Mrs. Monroe's bed, she'd spotted him with his cigarettes out in the garden, but he seemed to vanish into the walls once he was inside. Any other day she'd be using fancy footwork to evade him. It was almost like fate wanted to make things as torturous as possible for her.

Two days had passed since she'd been given her ultimatum by her landlady.  She'd spent all yesterday trying to talk herself out of going to Daniel, but unless she walked out onto the street and bumped into a Duke in disguise who fell madly in love with her, there was helping herself out of what needed to be done.

And so once she finished hanging the curtains, she went up the stairs to where Daniel probably was: his own bedroom.

"Come in," he called following her light knock, and she swept inside before anyone could see her.

The older of Lillian Monroe's sons stretched out on the settee by the street-facing window, engrossed in a magazine. He paid her no attention once she was inside. He kept his eyes on his book and licked his finger to turn the page.

Dorothy drew a deep breath. "May I have a word with you?"

He glanced up, smiled big and tossed his reading aside.

"Dorothy," he replied in that drawling purr of his.

Hands behind her back, she gripped the doorknob.

"I've been thinking about your ..." she tried to come up with the right word, "suggestion."

His grin widened. He swung his legs over the edge of the settee and tapped the seat next to him. "Come in."

Dorothy gaped at him. "Not here and now, for God's sake."

Already this ordeal was beyond mortifying. She wasn't sure how she was going to make it through the next few minutes. She strode to where he sat, but she didn't sit.

Looking down upon him, she should have felt at least a shudder in the power balance, but as he reclined back that smile kept on beaming at her, Dorothy just felt smaller.

"You've got a such a sour puss," he teased. "I promise you, this business isn't nearly as serious as you're making it out to be."

"Not to you, maybe, but to me, this is serious business. And that's all this is: business. I have something that you want, and you have something that I want."

"And what might that be?"

"Money," she said. "You've offered it, and I've come to accept."

He waited, smile fox-like as she expected her embarrassment to melt her into the floor.

"In exchange for?"

"You know what in exchange for."

"What is it you want? If you're looking to be lavished with furs I'm afraid I can't deliver."

"I'm not looking to be your mistress," she told him and felt a little woozy. Not woozy enough to take the seat next to him, though. She remained rigid and twisted her fingers behind her back.

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