An Undeniable Passion Ch. 13byopels©
Early the next morning, Virginia and Forrester hired a carriage and headed out to their new home. They were armed with a huge amount of soap, furniture oil, buckets and rags. Using oil lamps to guide their way they slowly explored the house. Virginia groaned inwardly at how filthy it was. This is going to be a lot of work, she thought. Although it might be just the thing to keep at bay the unwanted memories of Drake that kept flooding her mind.
After an initial inspection of the main floor, which contained a magnificent two story foyer, a sitting room, a music room, an extensive library and a grand ballroom, they returned to the foyer. Virginia opened a door in the far wall to reveal a large kitchen. Most of the items inside were covered in dust. It appeared that Otis hadn't had any house servants and that he was a very modest cook. As they wandered about, inspecting the facilities of the kitchen, Billy called her attention to a trap door in the floor.
"Would this be the cellar?" he asked.
He bent down and pulled on the ring, easily lifting the door up. He swung the other side open and they peered down into the dark. Damp, musty smelling air wafted up. They could see a short flight of stone steps descending down. "It doesn't smell too bad. That's a good sign," he said with a smile. He picked up the lantern and proceeded down the steps, with Virginia following him. The cellar was quite large, appearing to be about half the size of the house. The ceiling was supported by heavy wooden posts. They hung their lanterns on hooks that had been attached to the posts and began to look around.
There were several crates that had been pushed into the center of the large room. One held sacks of sugar, and bundles of ginger, cinnamon, and other spices. They also found several crates of rum, brandy, and wine. One of the crates of rum was almost empty showing Otis' apparent preference for the drink. Other trunks and crates held a wide assortment of household items. They climbed back upstairs and into the kitchen.
"It appears we have a few luxury items," Virginia commented as Billy closed the trap doors.
"I wonder why Otis would buy those things," Billy wondered. "And why all the brandy and wine when he clearly favored rum?"
"Like you said, he's a strange man," she replied, shaking her head.
Back in the foyer, Virginia stared up into the darkness at the top of the stairs. "Let's see upstairs, shall we?" Holding the lamp up high she started up the stairs.
At the top of the stairs she turned to the left. She was facing a hallway with several doors opening off it. The walls were heavily paneled and just as dirty as the others on the floor below. The doors opened onto three bedrooms, one facing the front of the house and two facing the back. They made their way back down the hallway and into the ballroom. The mezzanine only covered the back wall, but had two sets of french doors that opened onto a long balcony.
"Well Ginny, I think it's a fine house," Forrester commented as they headed back downstairs. "It needs a good cleaning, and the outside needs some fixing up, but it appears to be fully furnished and structurally sound. I think it may have been quite grand at one time."
"Yes, and it will be grand again, once I get through with it." At the bottom of the stairs, she stopped, and looking back up at him, she asked, "Forrester, what's your first name?"
Blushing, he replied, "William, but everyone back home called me Billy."
"Do you mind if I call you Billy?"
His blush deepening, he said, "No Ginny. Not at all. I prefer it actually."
"Billy it is, then."
Billy returned her comment with a shy smile.
"Well, Billy, shall we get started returning this house to its former glory?" she asked as she headed outside to retrieve her trunk of cleaning supplies.
They started with the sitting room and the sun was low in the sky by the time they had finished cleaning it. They pushed the furniture into place and put candles in the wall sconces. She flopped down on one of the floral tapestry couches and admired their work. The bright and sunny yellow room was very pretty.
"Billy, what do you think we should call our farm? It doesn't appear to have a name and it should. Do you have any ideas?"
He thought for a moment and then suggested, "How about Aurora, because that's where we met?"
She was unsure if she wanted to be constantly reminded of the ship all the time. Although, she did like the name, and she could give it a new meaning. "I like it. Aurora it is then," she declared.
They were both exhausted when the carriage returned to collect them. They both went to their rooms at the inn and ordered baths. Afterwards they had a sumptuous dinner in the hotel's dining room. It was a luxury but after the work they had put in that day they figured they deserved it.
They returned early the next morning eager to get to work. They repeated the cleaning process with the music room. When they had finished and she was relaxing on one of the couches he surprised her by sitting down at the piano and playing a lively tune. "Billy, I didn't know you could play!" she exclaimed when he had finished.
"Me mum taught me." He proceeded to play a more classical piece, his fingers dancing along the keys. "It's in pretty good shape. It needs a tuning, but I can do that later."
"Why Billy, you are full of surprises!" Virginia smiled at him.
Blushing, he said, "I wouldn't admit it to any of the fellows on the ship, but I really enjoy playing and I've missed it. If you wouldn't mind, I'd like to play every now and then," he said nervously.
"That would be wonderful," she said with a smile.
With that, he set off again, his fingers gliding effortlessly across the keys.
It was early September and even though the house wasn't completely ready, they moved in anyway. It had taken two full weeks of cleaning before they were ready to leave their lodgings at the inn. Billy insisted that Virginia take the grand front bedroom and he would take the one on the other side of the hall.
"Ginny, perhaps we should convert one of the rooms downstairs into a bedroom? It doesn't seem proper that I sleep just across the hall from you without anyone else in the house."
"I'm sure it's fine Billy. Anyway, I feel safer with you across the hall. And if anyone says anything, I'll just say we're cousins," she said with a smile.
That night as Virginia lay in the large four poster bed in her bedroom she almost felt like she was back in Liverpool. Her mind drifted to thoughts and memories of Violet. She wondered how her friend was faring on her own. Without Virginia to keep rein on her she was probably flirting with all the men in town and had most likely received half a dozen marriage proposals. She only hoped Vi would fare better in the game of love than she had.
Her thoughts then turned unwillingly to Drake. She had resisted reliving memories of him but tonight it seemed she was unable to push the thoughts and images away. She squeezed her eyes shut but all she could see were his hazel eyes glowing with passion. He once again was holding her down on the bed of his cabin telling her that he was the one to show her what a real kiss was. She felt her breath coming faster as she recalled the feel of his tongue in her mouth, touching her own. Then the unbidden memories of their lovemaking flooded her mind.
Her hands slid across her stomach as she felt the familiar ache of desire curling through her body. Slowly she trailed her fingers over her thighs, dipping her hands to the tender insides as her legs opened. Memories of standing at the helm of his ship, gripping the worn handles of the big wheel as he entered her from behind edged into her mind. Tentatively she slipped one finger into the nest of curls between her thighs and closing her eyes, sighed as she gently stroked herself, calling up memories of Drake's fingers touching her there. A loud gasp burst through her lips as her finger touched her clit causing her back to arch. Her fingers returned to the sensitive spot and writhing on the bed, she quickly stroked the hardening nub. The other hand slid upwards to cup her breast, finding the nipple and tweaking gently.
Squirming on the bed, she turned her face into the pillow to muffle the cries coming from her lips. "Oh Drake," she murmured, recalling the night she had stood at the bow of his ship, trembling with the delights of his tongue between her thighs. Her hands became more insistent, rubbing faster and squeezing harder. Her thighs began to tremble and clench as a delicious heat spread through her body, tingling her senses just before the orgasm broke free, ripping through her body, leaving her damp and breathless on the bed.
After the glow of climaxing had passed, she curled into a ball beneath the blankets, allowing tears to overtake her and wondering if any man could ever make her feel like that again. She tossed and turned restlessly for a long time before sleep finally claimed her.
A week later they decided to explore what was behind the four dormer windows on the top floor of the house. There was no obvious staircase but since many houses had hidden passages for servants to move about unseen they set out to find it. After an extensive search, they finally found the small catch hidden in the doorframe of Virginia's bedroom and the staircase that led up the top floor.
After investigating the four small bedrooms that held the dormer windows and concluding they were servant's quarters, they went back into the short hallway that held the entrance to the stairs and paused before the closed door at the other end. "I would suspect that this is the attic," Billy said as he turned the knob and slowly pushed the door open.
A large open room spread out before them. Three large windows on the far wall illuminated the heaps of trunks, crates and discarded furniture. There were sofas with velvet cushions, a wardrobe with a broken leg, rolls of carpets and other items covered with dust sheets.
Virginia began picking her way forward to inspect some of the items. As she neared some of the furniture she noted that the cushions had been slashed open and the stuffing torn out. She turned around and saw that all the stuffed furniture was in the same condition. As she continued to look more closely she saw that every crate had it's lid pried off and some of the contents were strewn about. The trunks were the same.
"Billy, look at this. What happened?"
"It appears that someone was looking for something. Something that they suspected was hidden."
"But what? What would be hidden in the seat of a chair?" she asked, touching the torn velvet of a high backed chair.
"I don't know Ginny. But if it was Otis, it seems like another strange thing for him to have done."
They continued their inspection of the attic and Virginia came across several trunks full of bolts of fabric. She recognized silks, satins, taffetas, velvets, and damasks, all of different colors and weights. She found another trunk full of beautifully intricate and delicate lace and satin ribbons. She could have a whole new wardrobe she thought excitedly.
"Billy do you think we could set up one of the servant's rooms as a sewing room for me? There are some beautiful fabrics up here and the light in those rooms is perfect. It would give me something to do during the winter." She looked at him hopefully.
"Of course we can Ginny. I may even be able to knock down a wall between two of them to make you bigger room."
"Oh, Billy that would be wonderful!"
They both froze at the sound of a loud rumble. They looked at each other and laughed. They had been so excited about finding the secret stairway that they had forgotten about lunch and their empty stomachs were reminding them. "Lets take some of these rolled up carpets with us. I think they would be very nice downstairs."
As they sat in the kitchen eating their lunches and discussing what they had discovered upstairs they heard a woman's voice calling them from the front hall. As they entered the foyer from the kitchen they saw a woman wearing a frilly bonnet poking her head in the front door. She was rather plump with a round, eager face and appeared to be in her mid-thirties.
"Oh, hello," she called. "I heard that we had new neighbors and I'm just calling to say hello and welcome. My name is Doris Ogilvy. My brother and I live on the next farm. I hope you don't mind me just dropping by and I'm sorry for opening your door but nobody responded to my knocks and the door was unlocked," she said in a rush.
"My name is Billy Forrester and this is my cousin Virginia Templeton," Billy replied.
Virginia invited Doris in. "Would you like to come in? The house isn't really ready for visitors but we can go into the sitting room," she said indicating the sunny room off the foyer.
"Oh my, you're British aren't you?" Doris happily exclaimed, hearing their accents. "How long have you been in America?"
"Only for about a month. Since the end of July," Virginia responded, sitting on the couch.
"And you've bought Otis' farm. Well, well," she said, almost nervously, looking around. "I always wondered what the house looked like from the inside. He wasn't very sociable you know. We invited him to our home on many occasions but he never came." She continued on peering about, trying to see into other rooms.
"I can see that you're curious about the house Miss Ogilvy and I would love to give you a tour, but Billy and I are still cleaning it up and getting things organized. Mr. Green left it in terrible condition."
"Have you been up to the attic?" she asked eagerly. "Many of these older homes have quite a bit of furniture and so on in the attics, in case you need a few more pieces."
"Yes, we went up to the attic this morning and there is quite a bit of furniture and such up there. We haven't had a chance to sort it all out yet," Virginia said, noticing the woman's odd excitement about the attic. For some reason she didn't want to mention the hidden stairway.
"You...you did? This morning?" she asked, seeming flustered. Recovering herself, she said, "Well, that's wonderful. I hope you're able to fill the place out nicely." She seemed momentarily distracted but then continued on. "You must come to dinner at my brother's house. In two weeks time we're having a dinner party with some of the other land owners in the area and I insist that you come. I won't take no for an answer."
"That's very kind of you Miss Ogilvy. We would be delighted," Virginia replied.
"Wonderful! Well, I shan't take up any more of your time and I really must continue my errands," Doris said, gathering her shawl and moving towards the door. She suddenly seemed in a hurry to leave. "I'll drop by next week with directions to our farm. Good afternoon." She practically ran to her carriage and climbed in.
Billy and Virginia stood on the front porch watching the dust caused by her departure. "Well that was rather odd," Virginia said.
"Ginny, how can we go to a fancy dinner party? I don't have a suit! And if I'm not mistaken you don't have an appropriate gown either," Billy said with despair.
"Well, then we just have to go into town and buy you a suit then. How about we go tomorrow? And as for a gown for myself, I'll need that sewing room sooner than I thought," she said brightly. She loved Billy's company but she longed to be around other people too. A trip into town would be very pleasant.
That afternoon they carried one of the carpets into the ballroom and rolled it out to take a good look at it. It was a beautiful Indian carpet that would be perfect for the music room. As it finished rolling out, a large sheaf of papers appeared. They both stared at them. Billy went over and picked up the roll and laid them out on the floor.
"These look like the plans of the house and grounds Ginny," he said. He found the one of the second floor of the house and laid it out. The hidden staircase was clearly marked. "Now, why couldn't these have been left down here?" he asked with a smile.
The next morning Virginia sat next to Billy in the front of the cart as they went into town. They quickly located the tailor and ordered Billy his first formal suit.
"Let's go to the mercantile Billy. There are few things we need for the house," Virginia said as they stepped out into the sunlight.
The bell jingled merrily as they stepped into the crowded store. Virginia loved the mercantile store. They sold almost anything you could imagine. She was browsing amongst the gloves and bonnets, when one in particular caught her eye. It was a beautiful green velvet with ornate decorations and wide satin ribbons. It reminded her of the one she had bought shortly before running away from Liverpool. She put it on her head and tied the ribbons beneath her chin. "Billy, what do you think?" she asked.
When she didn't receive a response she looked up at him. She gave him a nudge and asked again. He was staring, transfixed, at the front counter. When she turned to see what was holding his attention, she couldn't help but giggle. Behind the counter was lovely young woman. She was about eighteen years old with golden blonde hair and big blue eyes. She had a slim figure and when she smiled at the customer she was tending to, two charming dimples appeared in her rosy cheeks. Virginia could see from the look in Billy's eyes that he was utterly enchanted.
"Billy," she sang quietly to him, giving him a shake.
"Ginny, have you ever seen anyone so lovely?" he asked, not taking his eyes off the girl.
"She certainly is very pretty. Why don't you go talk to her? Ask her where the men's hats are. Ask for her assistance in helping you pick one out. After all you will need one for the Ogilvy's party." When he didn't move she nudged him again. "Go on," she said gently.
"Oh no. I couldn't. What if I say something stupid?" he said nervously, wringing his hands.
"Then I'll ask for you," she said sailing past him.
He looked horror stricken and reached out to grab her arm but she skipped out of his reach and was soon at the counter. "Excuse me, my cousin here, Mr. Forrester, requires a hat suitable to wear to a dinner party. Do you have something for him?" Virginia watched as the young woman's eyes met with Billy's. She stared at him for a moment before blushing prettily and looking away.
"Yes, miss, this way." she said quietly. As she led them down an aisle towards the hats, Virginia looked at Billy with a smile.
"Well, I think she may like you too," she whispered to him. Billy just looked grim.
They reached a counter in the back of the store that was lined with hats. "Was there a specific color or style that you had in mind?" she asked.
"I'm not sure. What kind of hat would you like Billy?" Virginia asked cheerfully.
He was staring at the counter top and said quietly, "Um...blue? To match the suit?"
"Yes, we'll start with blue. Dark blue," Virginia said.
"Do you know what size you require?" the girl nervously asked him.
"Um...no," he replied still not looking up.
"I'm afraid my cousin is acquiring his first formal wardrobe and hasn't been measured for these things. Would you mind, Miss...?"
"Robbins, Elizabeth Robbins." She picked up a tape measure and coming around the counter she approached Billy. He was still staring at the counter. "Could you please turn this way, sir?" she asked shyly.
Billy slowly turned towards her. He looked down into her clear blue eyes and was once again transfixed. Elizabeth reached up and wrapped the tape around his head. Her hand brushed his temple and he sucked in his breath. She noted the measurement and darted back around the counter.
"Well Billy, you seem to be in excellent hands here, I'm going to continue browsing. Come find me when you're done," Virginia said with a wide smile.