Spicy Fantasies of a Lady – Emily Honeyfield

Cecily Bastable enjoyed nothing more than a good walk through town, particularly since she remained something of a hermit the rest of her days. This was not of her own choosing but the proclivities of her mother, who hoped to marry Cecily off with haste and bypass any impediments along the way. London was stunning in the autumn, and although Cecily was delighted by the red, orange, and yellow leaves, something about the change of the season gave her pause for the first time in her young life. Autumn signified the end of the London season, and Cecily knew that her mother would find her a husband before season’s end. She’d expressed as much. “Such fresh air,” Lady Hermoine Bastable, Viscountess of Sussex, exclaimed, her light blonde hair done up just so. Cecily shared the same light colouring as her mother, as well as the same blue eyes and trim figure. All of this was perfectly accentuated by the light blue silk gown she donned that afternoon. Lost in a bit of thought, Cecily finally replied, “Indeed. It gives one quite the appetite when the air is so fresh.” Her mother protested, “Oh, but just think how terrible the air can be during the summer months. That’s when I most look forward to returning to Wales.” “Indeed,” Cecily replied, herself becoming dreamy in regards to their large estate that they fled to once the season was done. All that Cecily had ever known was this back and forth from town to Wales and then back again. None of this was menacing in the slightest until it became apparent that she was no longer coming to town for balls and fetes; she was brought to town to be wed.

Oh, but how she’d so much rather ensconce herself in their townhome and read books all day or chat with her lady, Kitty Hayward, in the parlor. But best of all was when they returned to Wales, and Cecily could take long jaunts in the countryside. How everything was going to change once she took a husband. Although the air was cool and crisp, that did not dissuade Cecily’s mother in the slightest. The viscountess always insisted upon their afternoon walks on Saturdays. There was, of course, a great deal of shopping to do, and what’s more, the viscountess would be in a poor mood if she didn’t enjoy high tea at the Table Moderne. “We simply must acquire a new gown for you, Cecily. The ball is in one week’s time. I don’t know how we’ve neglected the notion for so long.” “Mama, I have plenty of gowns,” Cecily protested.

The viscountess scoffed. “My girl, you can never have enough. Just think of the fortune that your trousseau might cost upon your marriage.” Cecily felt a hot flush come to her cheeks. It was quite literally all that her mother could speak of. No, she didn’t care for all the fancy gowns—although Cecily did enjoy the feel of Brussels silk upon her skin and the lavishness of French lace. Still, there was no sense in owning countless gowns, changing her apparel four times a day, and enduring so much more for the rest of her existence. “Oh, let’s go to that shop where you secured your Christmas gown last year,” the viscountess said in excitement. “Oh, Mama. You know that father was so cross when he saw the bill.

” Her mother took Cecily’s hand. “Isn’t that half the fun?” It was true that the Viscount of Sussex was terribly upset, but what could he do? Cecily’s mother was always determined to have her way, and in the end, he provided her with everything she wanted. Lady Sussex always told Cecily that that was the kind of husband she required—one that would fulfill her every desire when it came to luxury. Cecily found the notion of it terribly bland. Although she could admit to desiring male companionship, Cecily just hoped that he wouldn’t be an impossibly dull husband, the one selected for her. Still, if that were her future, then she’d keep her nose in a book for the rest of her life, and considering that Kitty would go with her, wherever her new home might be, there was always that entertainment that Cecily could rely upon. “The shop is just around this corner. We’ll secure a silver silk gown—now quite in fashion—then we’ll proceed to high tea,” the viscountess said with remarkable enthusiasm. “Very well,” Cecily replied, with very little enthusiasm. In truth, she hated standing in front of those mirrors while the seamstresses inspected her every inch of curves, measuring everything and taking notes.

The reason why they insisted upon doing this over and over again was because they wanted to ensure that the girl’s shape hadn’t changed in some way—which, of course, if a girl grew larger, could be cause for the lifting of brows. Turning the corner, Cecily spotted something across the street that made her smile. She’d always desired to enter Bayberry Tea and Spice, a shop frequented by many London elite. Alas, the viscountess never approved. “Mama, might we enter Bayberry, just once?” Cecily asked, hoping to delay the inevitable dress fitting. The viscountess pursed her lips. “Come now, Cecily.” “Whatever is the matter with it. Oh, I can smell those delicious spices from here and the foreign black tea.” “We have servants to purchase such things.

” “But Bayberry is different, I assure you. All the bon ton know of it.” The viscountess seemed to stop and consider her daughter’s words. Cecily said a little prayer, having always been so curious about the shop’s exotic exterior and the aromas emanating from it. “Just this one time,” the viscountess relented, jutting her chin. “Really, Mama?” Cecily asked, clapping her hands together. “Cecily, how many times have I warned you not to show such enthusiasm in the streets.” She gazed from side to side. “Who knows what others might think?” “I’m not interested in what others think.” “That’s quite the problem, Cecily.

And that’s why a husband must be secured at once. As my only daughter, I will not rest until a match is secured.” Cecily ever so slightly frowned. There was so much pressure that sprang from being the only daughter of the Viscount of Sussex. In fact, she was the only heir. Soon after her birth, her mother could not conceive more, something that always seemed to vex the viscountess. For all these reasons and so many more, Cecily needed to make a good match, and whomever she married would receive quite the handsome dowry. “Oh, this establishment looks positively criminal,” the viscountess exclaimed, remarking on the gas lamp outside illuminating the sign. “The light is ever so novel,” Cecily marvelled. “There are only a few in London.

” “So garish. Believe me when I say that within no time, those contraptions will line every street. Just you wait!” As Cecily and her mother drew closer, the marvellous smell was even more fragrant. Passersby stood in the shop window, trying to get a view within, while inside the spice shop, several patrons were present, some perusing and others at the counter making a purchase. Cecily opened the door for her mother, who stepped inside with a look of exasperation upon her face. She crinkled her nose, which Cecily couldn’t understand in the slightest for she thought the smell intoxicating. “My word,” Cecily uttered, looking all around as though she were in a museum. And indeed, the shop was arranged like a museum, with the walls covered and lined with various canisters, pots, and jars from what looked like foreign locations. Cecily looked towards the counter, where an older woman held a tin in her hand and handed over some coins. All at once, Cecily was struck dumb with wonder as she beheld the man behind the counter.

He couldn’t have been much more than five years older than herself, with brown hair and eyes. There was something roguishly handsome about the fellow, and his considerable height was also cause for admiration. Once his sale was completed, Cecily watched as he came around the counter and proceeded to walk right towards her! Oh, her cheeks flushed crimson again, and Cecily had to wonder if she’d done something wrong. Why did he approach them directly in that manner? “May I help you ladies?” the man asked, placing his hands on his hips in an open, warm fashion. “Good man, who is the proprietor of this establishment?” the viscountess asked. He bashfully smiled. “I fear that I am and have been for some time.” The viscountess inspected him. “Certainly, you’re far too young for such business.” “I wish that I could agree.

This shop is the only employment I’ve ever known.” Cecily, although shy, couldn’t help speaking. “How incredibly resourceful of you.” It was the first time that Cecily and the man’s eyes locked, and Cecily felt her expression fall, as though the man could see right through her. “May I ask whom I have the pleasure of speaking with?” he asked. “I am the Viscountess of Sussex, and this is my daughter, Lady Cecily.” “And whom do we have the pleasure of speaking with?” Cecily asked, surprised by her boldness. “My name is Oliver Dunn. I’ve been the proprietor of this establishment since its onset.” The viscount huffed, “It’s very … unique.

” “There’s nothing to fear,” Oliver assured them with an affable smile. “Indian spices, and those from other exotic locales, seem intimidating to the palate at first. But many of these items are medicinal, as are the teas.” “I suppose …” the viscountess mused, “we could use a bit of Darjeeling.” “We have that right here,” Oliver assured her, walking to a far wall and using the rolling ladder to secure a burnished copper tin. Stepping back down, Oliver returned, and Cecily found herself yet again lost in his warm, shining brown eyes. She felt her breath catch in her chest and the viscountess asked, “Cecily, are you quite all right? I’m sure that this strong smell might make a lady swoon.” Oliver replied, “It has happened in the past.” Concern suffused his face. “Lady Cecily, might I secure you a chair?” “I …” With that, everything went black, and when Cecily awoke, she laid upon a chaise, unsure of her whereabouts.

As she opened her eyes, Oliver was the first person she beheld, and then behind him, her mother, looking in hysterics. “Oh, Cecily,” the viscountess said in dismay, bringing her gloved hands to her cheeks. “I’m all right,” Cecily assured them. Oliver seated himself beside her on the chaise—the most intimate male proximity she’d ever experienced—and lifted a vile to her nose. “Inhale,” Oliver instructed her, and Cecily did so. All at once, she was entirely revived. “I think … I think I’m able to stand,” Cecily said, propping herself up. The viscountess protested, “Steady yourself!” Oliver, taking a strong arm under Cecily’s shoulder, effortlessly hoisted her up so that she was in a seated position. Oh, heavens. With this intimate closeness, Cecily could sense his clean smell, as though he’d just had a bath.

How improbable, considering that he was surrounded by spices all day! “Your colour is improved,” Oliver assured her. “Yes, I think all shall be well now.” Oliver remarked humorously, “Sometimes I consider putting up a sign out front, informing ladies of the possible danger.” Even the viscountess was able to give a gentle laugh at his remark. Gazing into Oliver’s eyes once more, Cecily said, “I thank you.” He shook his head. “There’s no reason to thank me. Although, there’s a good chance that once I return to the shop, half of my wares might have disappeared.” The viscountess said with haste, “Oh, Mr Dunn. Please, allow me to tend to my daughter so that you might look after the shop.

” “That is most kind,” he said, standing, then looking down upon Cecily once more. “I am glad that you’re revived. Please trust that when you return to the front of the shop, the Darjeeling will be gratis.” “Thank you,” Cecily said breathlessly. Both Cecily and the viscountess watched as Oliver fled. Both of them were at a loss for words.


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