Lusty Letters – Larissa Lyons

THEA LİFTED her gaze from the missive to the servant who’d delivered it. Along with the note and a book of poems, he’d also handed her a bow-adorned box. The spry young man had introduced himself as, “Buttons, miss, since I was caught eatin’ one, with loads of others found missing. My papa told me once that our ma despaired but I don’t remember, on account of being jus’ months old at the time.” “What is etiquette in this regard?” she asked, smiling at the informative Buttons and gesturing toward the gifts and letter she now held. Thea hoped he knew—for she surely didn’t. “Is Lord Tremayne expecting a reply?” Not quite twenty, the youth was broad as a barn and twice as sturdy. His bluntfeatured face was turned charming by the decisive cowlick that flipped up a good portion of his sandy-brown hair on the left side of his forehead. He’d told her, when he swiped the offending cowlick for the third time, that he had a twin, one whose hair misbehaved on the opposite side. “Expectin’? A reply?” He pondered a moment. “That I cannot say certain-like, but I do be thinkin’ he might be hopin’ fer one.” “Oh?” “Aye.” The young man dressed in formal livery stepped forward from his perch on the small landing just outside her townhouse. He tilted his head toward her ear, as though about to impart a confidence he didn’t want her hovering new butler to overhear. “I was told to take my time in returnin’.

” Assuming the ornate desk in the sumptuous drawing room was as well supplied as the rest of the residence, Thea was confident her eager fingers would have no trouble locating paper and ink. “Would you mind waiting in the kitchen while I compose one?” She’d met the married couple hired to serve as caretakers and knew Mrs. Samuels was downstairs baking this very moment. With a glance at Mr. Samuels, who had summoned Thea to the door once informed Lord Tremayne had requested his servant place the missive directly into her keeping, the spiffy footman stepped back a pace and diffidently crossed his arms behind his back, giving her a casual shake of his head. “I’ll jus’ wait here, ma’am. Take what time you need.” “Outside?” When intermittent rains thundered down for the second day in a row, making the uncovered porch damp and dreary? “Poppycock!” A quick look at Mr. Samuels—and the nod he gave her—confirmed Thea’s intuition, and she tugged the visiting servant over the threshold by one sleeve and pointed. “The kitchen is tucked at the back of that hallway, down the single flight of stairs.

Mind you ask Mrs. Samuels to let you sample her lemon tarts.” When the young man smiled wider than the Thames, Thea suspected he had a fondness for baked goods. Either that or he’d caught sight of the painted nudes. His next words illustrated how very wrong she was. “I’m right glad he found you, miss.” HE being Lord Tremayne? Well, of course. Who else could the footman mean? But to be told so directly—that a servant was glad his master had “found” her? It was…unexpected, unusual. It was flattering to the point that flutters abounded in her belly as Thea situated herself at the angled writing desk. She used the familiar task of readying the quill as she contemplated just what to say.

How did one answer the first note from their new protector? (Dare she hope it was the first of several?) More importantly, how did she respond to the man who’d spent his seed on her back in the most intimate of acts but who hadn’t spoken more than a paragraph to her all evening? And a paltry paragraph at that. “Just reply to him as he addresses you,” the words were out before she’d thought them through, echoing a semblance of Sarah’s previous advice. “Same tone, same length.” Aye, that should suffice. THİRTY MİNUTES LATER, a significant portion of which she’d wasted staring at the blank sheet, Thea had finally managed to fill it in, not quite to capacity but close. She wafted the page through the air, encouraging the ink to dry. Lord Tremayne, I delight in finding common ground, for despite public opinion to the contrary, I do not find much to appreciate in Byron. Based on the works I’ve read, he’s overly dramatic for my tastes. Robert Burns, now, I adore and admit to a frisson (a small one, I assure you) of dismay at learning you hold no particular fondness for poetry. None at all? Are you quite certain? (I must clarify, you see, as it is something I find nearly incomprehensible.

) As to the volume you sent, I will treasure it always (are not gifts meant to be treasured?) though I will admit I am already in possession of this particular volume—and through no purchase of my own. I come to think mayhap Hatchards put it on sale? Please, I beseech you, read the next few lines with your mind unfettered by past opinions: Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie, O, what a panic’s in thy breastie! Thou need na start awa sae hasty, Wi’ bickering brattle! I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee, Wi’ murd’ring pattle! Do these lines not speak to you? Are you not curious to know more? To learn the fate of this dear, wee beastie? What of the incomparable Mr. William Shakespeare? Do you find anything in his work recommends itself to you? Oh, dear. I believe this must be a magical quill I employ for it has quite run away with my tongue. Do forgive me. (But here, I must interject: this new home I find myself situated in feels magical indeed. It is lovely. More serene than anywhere I’ve lived before. I do thank you, most sincerely. And will endeavor to please you in exchange.

) I anticipate tonight with a smile. Dor Thea “Same tone, same length?” Bah. Brevity had never been one of her particular talents. Frowning at herself, Thea folded the paper and sealed it with wax and the generic stamp she’d found in the desk. “You’d better hope that during the reading of it he doesn’t nod off.” DANİEL LAUGHED AND LAUGHED AGAİN. The demure little chit had taken him to task! That would teach him to deride all poetry in one unwarranted swoop. And serene? She found that garish abode serene? Another chuckle escaped. He checked his pocket watch. It was scarce after 2:00 p.

m. Hours yet until dark. Hours yet until he could feast his starved eyes on her again and see whether she was truly as lovely as he recalled. “Rum fogged, I am,” he muttered, reaching for another sheet. Ah. I see now. Like a pokered-up prig of a tutor, you’ve decided I shall admire poetic lines or else? Is that it? As to the verses you so, ah, eloquently shared, might I put forth a request for future examples to be in English? My beastie-gibberish has fair run amok, you see. And the longer I attempt to decipher what causes your wee beastie’s breastie to panic, I fear my own crown office has been split asunder by a “murd’ring pattle” (what, pray, is a pattle, murdering or otherwise?). No doubt, now you’ll be regretting the bargain we’ve made, your fair, fine breastie in a bickering brattle (though what the deuce that is, I haven’t a clue) over your benefactor’s lack of appreciation for lyrical, metrical prose. What can I do to redeem myself in your eyes? Aha! Inspiration strikes… He jumped up to scrounge his library.

After a thorough search, he retrieved several leather-bound volumes from one of the topmost shelves. Volumes that sent dust motes dancing in the air when he dared blow on them. Volumes that protested when he opened the aged spines for the first time since inheriting the London house along with the title but that practically sang to him when he started reading…and searching… Mayhap I should illustrate my tastes in poetic literature? If nothing else to set your concern to rest. To borrow a bit from the glorious Bard himself… HAMLET: Lady, shall I lie in your lap? OPHELIA: No, my lord. HAMLET: I mean, my head upon your lap? OPHELIA: Ay, my lord. HAMLET: Do you think I meant country matters? OPHELIA: I think nothing, my lord. HAMLET: That’s a fair thought to lie between maids’ legs. OPHELIA: What is, my lord? HAMLET: Nothing. OPHELIA: You are merry, my lord. Me? A merry lord? I confess it’s not something I’ve ever thought of myself—until just this moment.

Perhaps it is your poetical prompting that makes it so. Ergo, as I inappropriately must point out (or could it be considered appropriate, given the intimacies inherent in our liaison?), where it concerns country matters pertaining to the beautiful female of my recent acquaintance, I find much to admire in Shakespeare. As I find much to admire in her (You, should you be at all unclear). Pity the verses I tend to admire are not of the socially acceptable variety. Therefore I shall endeavor to find something more proper: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate… “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” Oh, how could you try to bamboozle me with that one? I doubt anyone with half a modicum of any brain matter at all would be unable to pull that out of their hat. But you do earn points for entertainment (if not for effort). And I must commend your penmanship as well. It’s bold and sprawling (much like I surmise your shoulders and chest would appear sans shirt if I were given to considering such a thing). “Dorothea Jane, should you be so vulgar? Hinting that you want to see his chest…” Hinting? You came right out and wrote it! “And blast me to Bedfordshire and back if I’m not about to leave it!” With a hearty (and unfamiliar) feeling of burgeoning confidence, she continued… After all, he’d started it. And though I should be shamed to admit it to anyone save you, I find your inappropriate, illicit Shakespeare much to my liking.

The thought of your head upon my lap sounds lovely indeed. Have you a picnic in mind? Gazing overhead at the clouds as they skitter past? Or perhaps you have something more earthy in mind? I— Thea’s quill leapt from the page as though blasted backward from the mouth of a musket. “Nay, I cannot write that.” She couldn’t. Shouldn’t. It was wicked. Wanton beyond measure. But oh, how the naughty thought tempted… Follow his lead. Thea reasoned, given the sage advice Sarah had imparted, she could really do no less. After all, if she couldn’t be boldly flirty with him in person, then why not indulge the urge now, when he’d been the one to include the erotic wordplay? Determinedly, Thea re-inked the tip and continued.

I confess, upon first reading, my eyes skimmed your letter so quickly they fairly skipped over part of Hamlet and Ophelia’s exchange. Imagine my astonishment when I thought I read of your head lying between my legs. (Forgive me! I most ardently intended to write his head, his—Hamlet’s—between a maiden’s le— Oh, bother it!) Face flaming, Thea lifted the quill and watched her shaking hand hover above the page. She should cross it out. The entire last paragraph. It was completely beyond the pale. Nay. She should trim the page and start anew. She looked at the thick stack of fresh paper, then back at the sheet before her, only half filled in. Starting anew would be very wasteful.

And had Thea not learned economies, in every aspect of her life, the past few months? Tell yourself the truth, girl. It wasn’t thrift that had her continuing on the same page. It was the tingling awareness Lord Tremayne’s presence had brought to her body last night. The awareness that had only grown in hours since he’d left… You see in me a pokered-up prig of a tutor? My lord, how you wound me with such a comparison. Could you not think of me more along the lines of a spruced-up sprite of a governess? Or a buttoned-up— (Fiddletwig! I must cry off here. I cannot think of any suitable, single-syllable B-word that might meld with “barmaid” which is where I was going—though please do not stop to inquire why. Assuming you’ve remained awake through the reading thus far.) Madness. Sheer madness. It’s this magical quill, I assure you.


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