tagInterracial LoveDevonny Ch. 05

Devonny Ch. 05

bytheDuskyGirl©

Devonny had all but forgotten about Marie Baskett's insinuations and Cecile's gossip about Elijah Davenport's mulatto mistress until the day Gabriel called her into the parlor.

Devonny, wiping her hands on her apron she entered the parlor, stopped dead in her tracks. "Oh good Lord," she gasped.

Gabriel stood, hands on hips, surveying the room around him. Covering every available surface--the couches, chairs, settees, the piano top, the side tables, and even the floor was covered in hat, shoe, and garment boxes.

Gabriel was staring at the boxes in consternation. "Do you know anything about this?"

Devonny stepped tentatively into the room and lifted the lid of one of the boxes to peek at a pair of dainty black kid boots. She dropped the lid as though it had burned her. "Oh Lord," she repeated, gazing about the room in shock.

"Devonny, do you care to explain?"

"Eli," she breathed.

Gabriel frowned. "Elijah did this? This is the errand he sent you on the other day? To purchase some items for his new paramour I assume? Why were they sent here?"

Devonny seemed to pale beneath her lovely golden brown complexion. She swallowed, her gaze reluctantly meeting Gabriel's dark emerald gaze. "It's for me."

Shock registered on Gabriel's face. "For you?" he murmured softly.

She watched the emotions flitting over his handsome features. "Sir, it's not what you think."

But he didn't seem to be listening to her. She heard the front door open and slam shut and she ripped her gaze away from Gabriel to see Elijah striding towards them, a wide grin on his face.

"Gabriel," Devonny reached for him but he whirled and met Elijah in the entryway. Gabriel's fist connected soundly with Elijah's jaw, sending him stumbling backwards into the foyer, Gabriel following quickly.

Devonny shrieked calling for Miles and Matthew as the two Davenport men rolled across the marble floor trading blows. Miles and the footman came running only to stand in shock, unsure of what to do and looking uncertain as to whether they should interfere. Devonny was moving to intervene herself when Prince suddenly appeared beside her pulling her aside and hauling Gabriel off of Elijah.

Elijah leapt to his feet and started after Gabriel who Prince was struggling valiantly to restrain. Devonny darted forward but Elijah sidestepped her and she wrapped her arms around his waist, halting him with all her strength though her heels skidded across the floor as he dragged her forward. "Elijah please!" And then Matthew was there helping her as Miles joined Prince in attempting to hold back the enraged Gabriel Davenport.

"Stop!" Moira's voice rang out in the expansive foyer.

Both struggling men halted at the sound of Moira's voice. The woman had raised them herself--as much a mother to them as their own mother--and the fearful confused look on her face was enough to give them pause.

Gabriel carefully disentangled himself from Miles and Matthew's restraining grasps and with all the dignity he could muster he straightened his jacket which sported a tear in one shoulder.

Affecting similar grace, Elijah stooped and swept his top hat up from the cool marble floor.

Jaw rigid, fists clenched, Gabriel strode towards the study, Elijah stalking angrily behind. The sound of the study door slamming reverberated through the house.

Anguished, Devonny unconsciously moved towards the closed study door but Moira gently tugged her back. "Let them be, child." She nodded towards the parlor. "I'll help you sort all this out in your room."

Devonny numbly agreed but she truly wanted little to do with the yards of fabric and absurdities which had cause such violence only moments before.

She looked sadly at the array of beautiful garments as she and Moira began hanging them in the armoire. "I thought Elijah was just having a bit of fun with me." She sank down into a bit of free space on the bed her gaze taking it all in. "I didn't expect all this. I wasn't thinking. What was he thinking?" Her eyes flooded with tears and she looked at her hands in her lap. "No wonder people were gossiping."

Moira moved aside a hat box and seated herself beside Devonny as she carefully folded a cashmere shawl. The older woman smiled sympathetically. "Elijah has always been an impetuous child. But it is also a wonderful quality of his that he has always been very generous with those who have earned his esteem. It is a compliment that he thinks so highly of you."

Devonny's brow furrowed. "But I cannot accept all this. It is unfitting of my station and already people are assuming the indecent. And Gabriel...." she sighed. "Gabriel is furious.

Moira looked Devonny squarely in the face. "People will always assume the indecent. All that is important is that your own conscience is clear. Moira shrugged, a mischievous twinkle lighting her eyes so that at that moment she looked very much like her more scandalous sister. Moira winked at her."Don't forget, I was once a young pretty thng in the home of a young handsome man as well.

"But Gabriel--"

Moiira looked at her meanfully. "I'm sure Gabriel and Elijah will sort it out between themselves."

***

"What the bloody fuck was that?!" Elijah exploded, storming into the library after Garbriel.

Gabriel wheeled on him though he'd reigned in his temper enough to keep himself from launching himself at Elijah again. He veered away from Elijah and began pacing. "God knows you're known to have a woman's skirts up over her head before you've learned her name but damn it, Elijah! I heard the bloody rumors but never did it occur to me that it was her."

Pulling a silken kerchief from his pocket Elijah dabbed at the trickle of blood coming from his spit lip. "I have no idea what you're babbling on about."

Gabriel growled and stared at him, his hands curling into fists. "You suspected--you knew--how I felt about her and yet, as always, you go and do exactly as you wish. Taking what you want with no regard for anyone else."

"Christ, Gabriel," Elijah scowled and plopped down in the armchair behind his desk. "Just tell me what you're about."

Gabriel's eyes narrowed. "Devonny, and that trollop's wardrobe you've bought her."

Elijah shrugged. "So what? I didn't want to see her walking around like a ragamuffin in the country. I thought it would be fun for her."

Gabriel saw red. "Fun? You're planning on parading her around in her new finery. Showing off your newest conquest?"

Elijah's brows lifted. "Conquest?" he laughed. "Hardly, Gabriel," he remarked dryly.

And then Gabriel was striding towards him, a murderous glint in his gaze.

"Hold!" Elijah held up his hands. His voice was serious. "I never touched her."

Gabriel had halted a within a few feet of of his brother. He eyed him disbelievingly.

Elijah continued. "Honestly Gabriel, I never touched her." he seemed to consider this. "Well...not in the way you're thinking. She's my friend. That's all."

Ethan's dark green gaze searched Eli's solemn face.

Elijah averted his gaze and examined his nails. "It quite unique having woman for a friend." He glanced at his brother. " I mean, she's brilliant, Gabriel. She's smart and she's funny. Albeit a dry, odd sort of humor, but truly funny. And when she laughs, a rarity, she lights up a room. Who wouldn't want to shower gifts on a smart, witty, beautiful women? But I swear, Gabe, I never touched her."

Gabriel swallowed, seeming to struggle to get his emotions in check, and sank into the settee. He groaned, burying his face in his hands.

Elijah studied him. Gabriel was not one to let his emotions get the best of him. A mere clench of the jaw was generally the equivalent of an emotional outburst.

"You thought I had bedded her," Elijah said softly.

Gabriel nodded, his face grim. Sighing, he stood. "This is no good."

Elijah eyed him. "What are you going to do? Pack her up and send her to the America's?" he said bitingly, reminding Gabriel of how he had handed his own 'unsuitable' desire. "She has no here else to go."

Gabriel eyes flickered darkly to Elijah. No, he had no intention of turning her out in the street. He did not like to think of Devonny alone and falling into Rochard's hands. His voice was low when he spoke. "I promised her that I would protect her. I shall not break my word." He ran a rough hand through his dark mussed locks. "We're going to Kedleston House soon. There will be plenty of entertainment and without her waiting on us I'm certain I shall easily find a diversion."

Elijah stared at his brother, finding amusement in his predicament and in his sightlessness. The corner of Eli's mouth tilted upwards, causing him to wince at his injured lip. "You think it will be as easy as that?" He leaned back in his chair and looked considering at his brother. "Might I remind you that you seemed rather intent to do murder just a few minutes ago?"

"There's nothing else I can do." Gabriel grimaced and then mused, "The Hardings are spending the summer visiting the Duke of Devonshire."

Elijah lifted a flaxen brow. "Thus, the lovely Miss Abigail Harding shall be in close proximity."

Gabriel met his brother's gaze. "Very close proximity."

***

It as late. The candle on her bedside table was burning low. Soon her eyes would be straining to see the pages of her book. But she found it impossible to sleep. She could not get Gabriel's face from her mind. She had watched the emotions flit over his handsome face; disbelief, and then hurt quickly turning to fury.

She couldn't dismiss the feeling of dread that weighed heavily in her stomach. She had told Elijah that she could not jeopardize her position in the Davenport household and yet she had foolishly done just that.

Devonny started at the knock on her door. Heart squeezing into her throat, she very hesitantly put down her book and wrapped a shawl over her nightgown before opening the door. Gabriel Davenport stood in the doorway and lifted his dark emerald gaze to hers.

She took an involuntary step back.

Her timid movement struck him more than he cared to admit, testing his resolve. "Please," he started, lifting a hand towards her only to quickly halt himself. He lost his words as he stood there looking at her as she stood illuminated in the hall light.

Her dark hair was unbound, falling in dark curls past her shoulders, the light bringing out its deep auburn shades. Her skin glowed burnished gold in the light. Her wide amber gaze seemed--

"Sir?"

Embarrassed, and realizing that he was staring, Gabriel took a step back further into the hallway. Her gaze was troubled, a bit fearful. Christ, he didn't want her to be afraid of him.

Devonny pulled the shawl tighter around her shoulders. Gabriel looked distraught but devastatingly handsome. He was in his shirtsleeves, unbuttoned nearly to the center of his chest, exposing a swath of hard muscled chest dusted by a spattering of dark hair. His dark chesnut locks which were generally coaxed back were falling bour his brow and about his ears. Dark stubble shadowed his strong jaw. It was as unkempt as she had ever seen him look and he looked beautiful.

Gabriel cleared his throat and her amber glaze flickered back to his, a flush spreading becomingly over her cheeks. He scowled. How was he supposed to think properly when she looked at him like that, when her lovely eyes lingered on his body with such avid attention.

He straightened slightly, drawing himself upward. His voice was steady, detached when he spoke. "Devonny, I wanted to apologize for my behavior," he said steadily and watched her honeyed eyes widen. "I jumped to a false conclusion, one that did you a disservice and I am ashamed to think that I ever held such an unbecoming assumption. My behavior was reprehensible."

Devonny was stunned. She seen him cold, furious, aloof and dismissive but never so visibly uncomfortable and decidedly unsure. "You mean, you are not firing me?" she ventured softly.

Gabriel's eyes flew to hers. "No! I couldn't do that to you. Not because I was wrong and cannot control my temper."

Devonny did not know what to say. She looked down at her slippered toes, catching her lip between her teeth. Gabriel took the opportunity to freely peruse her delicate features. He smiled ruefully to himself and raked a hand through his hair. This was bloody difficult.

"It is my hope," he began and looked at her intently. "That we can coexist amiably." She was looking at him speculatively, her arms wrapped around herself. "And I think it best that we maintain a strictly professional relationship," he finished.

Something flickered in her amber gaze only to be quickly veiled. She ducked a quick curtsy. "Of course, sir."

'Sir,' Gabriel thought, his lips thinning. He knew it was the right thing to do, the responsible thing to do. Then why did he feel like he was making a mistake? He pushed the thought aside.

Devonny was stepping back. "Was there anything else, sir?"

Gabriel shook his head. "Goodnight, Devonny."

"Goodnight, sir," she said softly and quietly closed the door, not meeting his glance as she did so.

Gabriel stood a moment staring at her doorway, rooted to the spot. 'This is how it must be,' he told himself. 'This is the only way it can be.'

Draping her shawl over her chair, Devonny climbed back beneath the covers and turned down the lamp at her bedside. She lay on her side, cupping her face in her palm and closed her eyes though quieting her mind was not so easy. He was right of course, she told herself for the hundredth time. But she doubted that a simple agreement to adhere to a professional relationship was going to harden her heart against him.

She couldn't stay, she decided. It would only hurt her further. Even as she made that decision, a tormenting sense of loss was already taking root within the center of her chest. No, she couldn't leave now. She had no place to go and no money. But she would begin to prepare. It would be a matter of months but she promised herself that she would leave Gabriel Davenport behind.

***

Devonny leaned her head against the side of the carriage. The constant bumping and swaying was making her ill she thought.

Miles and Moira were in the seats across from her, dosing, lulled by the carriage's rocking.

Devonny lifted flap and looked out. The countryside was lush green and beautiful. She'd hadn't been outside the city often since she was a young girl and the miles and miles of rolling hills beneath the wisps of white clouds and blue sky made her wish she had the skill to pick up a paintbrush.

But she couldn't spend one more minute in that carriage. She lifted the flap and looked out the window, looking around for Prince.

He rode up beside the carriage window on a magnificent ebony Arabian. Indeed, he looked very princely sitting tall and straight in the saddle. "Everything alright?"

Devonny shook her head. "Please, Prince, let me ride."

Prince's brows rose as he trotted alongside the carriage. "Ride what?"

Devonny switched her gaze to the horses tethered behind the carriage. Three gorgeous animals; two Andalusians and an Alter Real. "Please?"

Prince shook his head. "Oh no, no, no. Those are my darlings and I'm not going to be responsible for you breaking your pretty little neck."

Devonny frowned. "I will not."

"You can ride behind me," Prince conceded.

Devonny pouted. "I'm not a little girl, Prince. And I can ride."

Prince shook his head again. "Elijah and Gabriel would murder me if anything happened to you."

Shaking her head, Devonny pushed open the carriage door and hopped out while it was still rolling. She began walking alongside the carriage.

"Devonny," Prince, sighed and reached down, hauling her up in front of him.

"Prince!" Devonny squirmed, causing the Arabian to dance sideways. Devonny turned and looked at Prince while he wrestled the animal back under control.

"I can ride, Prince, honestly. I'm a good rider."

Prince looked at her speculatively a moment, seeming to consider this, before pulling alongside one of the horses tethered at the back of the carriage and loosed one of the Andalusians, a pale grey-white and blonde beauty. He led the horse clear of the carriages to give them room. He dismounted quickly before reaching up and lifting Devonny down.

He pulled on the Andalusian's reigns and brought him closer to Devonny. "Devonny, this is Orion, Orion this is Devonny."

The Andalusian butted his nose against Devonny's chest causing her her to step back laughing.

"One moment," Prince said, and jogged back to one of the luggage carriages and hefted down a saddle. He quickly saddled Orion and stepped back. He glanced at her and rubbed his hand across his jaw. "I don't know about this."

Devonny grinned broadly and grabbed the pommel, pulling herself onto the horse's back and arranging her skirts.

Prince smiled ruefully and shook his head before swinging himself back onto the Arabian's back. "Come, let's go."

And so they set off for Kedleston Hall. It wasn't long before they had accumulated some distance between themselves and the carriages carrying the Moira and Miles and the mountains of luggage.

The road in companionable silence, galloping once in a while before slowing back down to a brisk trot. When the carriages were no longer in sight, Prince decided that it was time that they stop and rest and allow the carriages to catch up. They decided to stop near a small stream.

Devonny winced as she slid down from her mount.

Prince laughed as she moved stiffly.

Devonny tossed him an indignant glare. "You, sir, did not have to ride side saddle."

Prince grinned and unhitched a pack and blanket from his saddle then loosed Ajax's reigns so that the Arabian could meander and graze. Devonny did the same, running her hand along Orion's flank before he wandered off to join Ajax.

Prince laid the blanket down beneath the a tree and plopped down. Devonny gingerly lowered herself to sit beside him. Prince leaned back against the tree trunk, his long legs stretched out in front of him. He drew an apple and a knife from the pack and carefully sliced it in half before he handed half to her.

Devonny thanked him and bit into its sweetness.

"You sit a horse well," Prince commented. "Where'd you learn to ride?"

Devonny shrugged and loosened the ribbons of her bonnet. "Margaret, Moira's sister, she had a small country house. She taught me how to ride." She smiled fondly, "Margaret was once a very sought after courtesan. She had all of the affects of a lady without the social obligations."

She glanced at Prince and changed the subject. "So what's Kedleston Hall like? What do you spend your summer doing?"

Prince looked up at the boughs of the tree. "Kendleston is like a palace and I spend the summers riding and building my stables and training the horses. I hunt." A small smile crept over his features. "And then there's Elizabeth."

Devonny lifted a dark ebony brow at the way he said the name, almost reverently. "Elizabeth?"

Prince grinned at her. "My fiance."

Devonny sat up straighter, a wide smile breaking across her face. "Fiance? Prince, you never mentioned anyone!"

Prince held up a hand. "Hold, Devonny. We are not telling anyone yet."

"Ah, a secret engagement." she smiled coyly. "But why all the secrecy?"

Prince examined the apple speculatively. "I've known her family since I was a child. They're good people, well-to-do members of black society. They've always been good to me, and I want to make sure that I can be good to their daughter and give her the lifestyle she deserves. I want to get my stables up and running and accumulate some wealth before marrying."

Devonny threw him a small smile and shook her head. "Any woman would be lucky to have you, Prince, wealthy or not." She changed the subject again. "So what do the Davenports' do while at Kedleston?"

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