Toad stepped off the standard Delphinus steamship that was his transport to Piraeus, into a mass of family of all ages, his mother's Firthley relatives by marriage. They had been waiting years to see Delphinus—their family's legacy—built up again, and Toad was the man Firthley had chosen. Therefore, he was as a long-lost son.
They delivered him en masse to their house in town, where Toad would be living for a bit more than two months, if all went as planned. Most of his new-found distant relations would stay the night, before everyone but Toad repaired to their country houses and olive groves, leaving him to occupancy in proximity to the docks.
Yet again, he sent up thanks to his parents for forcing him to learn languages from birth and dragging him around the Continent most of his life. It took him some time to regain what little fluency he had ever had in Greek, and he had to ask several times for people to speak more slowly, but it was no more difficult than it was switching to Italian among Piero's family. He would need to find a tutor, most likely among the horde hugging him off his feet.
Once they arrived, Toad left Franks with the housekeeper and a bilingual cousin to sort out how to accommodate Toad and his baggage and any of his new cousins who did not have their own houses in town. In Mediterranean climes, Toad had learned from the d'Alvieris, long-lost sons were not welcomed home with quiet tea in the library, but with raucous and intimate celebration—food, drink, dancing, music, and mayhem, incorporating as many relatives or near-relatives of every age as could be located in the vicinity.
It took no time at all for wine to be poured and someone to be cooking whatever already smelled glorious in the kitchen and three or four others to be playing instruments of some kind. Toad, apparently, was cause for a festival.
Finally, thankfully, Franks appeared to take him to a bath and change of clothes before dinner.
"Good god, there are so many of them, Franks! And the noise. Do you think I can politely request to sleep on the frigate?" he asked as he stepped into the bathtub.
Franks chuckled in a way that suggested he was finally becoming more comfortable with Toad, as he managed some valet sort of thing in the dressing room, speaking through the open door. "I do not see how, my lord, but it is only for one night. After that, you will have plenty of warning before they descend in a pack, and we shall do our best to make sure you visit them, not the other way around. How do you feel about Sunday church services and supper in the country?"
Toad groaned. "Every week?"
"They are kindness personified. You spend too much of your life alone, my lord. It will be good to see you surrounded by family."
"I believe you have just become too impertinent for my taste."
Franks chuckled again. "I expect I have."
When he returned to the dining room, the table had been piled with sweet and savory dishes he barely remembered from the last time he was here, when he was eight or nine. The seating was informal, but the chair at the head had been left for him, and at both his elbows sat beautiful girls, about his age, who both looked very like the portrait of Firthley's mother in the family gallery.
The matchmaking begins. Again. In a whole new language. If I do not choose a man for the job, one of them will offer to be my tutor, in a way that will make me appear ungentlemanly to refuse.
"The first thing I must do, my new friends, is admit the weakness of my long-dormant Greek. I must hire a man to act as my tutor and translator, to work with me at my office at the docks. Who among you would be a good candidate for that position?"
YOU ARE READING
Never Kiss a ToadRomance
[A Victorian romance continuing family stories begun in the various Regency books of Jude Knight and Mariana Gabrielle.] David "Toad" Northope, heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and rogue in the mold of his infamous father, knows Lady Sarah "Sal" Grenf...