tagInterracial LoveDevonny Ch. 06

Devonny Ch. 06

bytheDuskyGirl©

When Prince had called Kedleston a palace, Devonny had assumed he was exaggerating. Her eyes swept over the incredible 'home' before her as she and Prince halted their mounts atop the hill.

The great northern front of the home was Palladian in character, its facade dominated by the massive six-columned Corinthian portico. The front of the home was divided into three distinct sets of bays. The central section was composed of a four-columned, blind triumphal arch containing one large pedimented glass door which reached from the rusticated ground floor atop an external, curved double staircase. Above the door, at second floor height were elaborate carvings in relief. The four Corinthian columns are topped by classical statues.

The whole center section of the facade was crowned by a low dome visible from their distance on the hill. Flanking the front central section of the immense home are two identical wings on three floors, each three windows wide, the windows of the first-floor piano nobile being the tallest. The building was huge and imposing yet graceful.

"My God," Devonny breathed as she stared in awe at the massive home before them.

Prince laughed, "That's the general assessment of it." He clucked his tongue and nudged Ajax forward.

Devonny followed Prince down the slope, urging Orion into a gallop as Prince looped around the home's massive exterior and thundered towards the stables.

An older man came out just as they pulled their mounts to a halt. "Prince?" his face broke into a wide smile.

Prince quickly dismounted and met the man, embracing him and heartily "Bernardo, cómo estás? Cómo esta su familia?"

"Bien, muy bien." The man leaned back, taking Prince's shoulders and looking at him. The man was olive skinned with pure white hair and warm brown eyes. "And you, Principito. You look good!" His gaze drifted to Devonny who was still sitting atop Orion. "Well, are you going to help the young lady down?"

Prince laughed and moved to lift Devonny down from her horse. The man who Prince had called Bernardo came forward and took both her hands in his to examine her before glancing at Prince. "Principito, who is this lovely creatured you've brought with you."

Prince grinned and came to stand next to her. "Devonny this is Bernardo Marco-Gutierrez. Bernardo, this is Miss Devonny Clarke."

"Pleased to meet you, sir," Devonny smiled at him.

"Pshh, call me Bernardo, cariña," the man smiled at her.

Devonny returned the smile and reached for Orion's reigns.

"Oh no, cariña," Bernardo stopped her and took the reigns himself. "I'll take the horses. Let Prince show you the house before it is overrun."

Prince held out his arm and Devonny took it, leading her around the side of the house. "You've got to enter through the front of the house to get the full effect. May not get a chance after today since Gabe and Eli are arriving tomorrow afternoon."

He glanced back towards the stables, smiling to himself. "Bernardo taught me everything I know about horses," he said. "Hopefully he will come with me when I'm ready start my own stables and stud farm."

"Well you've got a wonderful start with the Andalusians, the Alter Real, and the Arabian." Devonny told him as they were mounting the curved stairs towards the front door.

Prince smiled and pushed open the front door, gesturing for her to enter in front of him.

Devonny stepped through the front door and was confronted by a vast marble hall.

Prince followed closely behind. "It was designed by the architect to suggest the open courtyard or atrium of a Roman villa."

"Ah," Devonny said gazing about in wonder at the twenty fluted alabaster columns with Corinthian capitals that supported the heavily decorated, high-coved cornice.

Niches in the walls contain classical statuary. Above *the niches were grisaille panels. The floor beneath her booted toes was inlaid Italian marble. Sunlight streamed down from the ceiling through glass skylights.

"Come," Prince led her to the circular saloon. The room, if it could be called such, was contained behind the triumphal arch of the south front. The marble hall rose the full height of the house to the top of the dome where it was sky-lit through a glass oculus.

Throughout the saloon were breathtaking array of classical statues. Unable to help herself, Devonny wandered among them, marveling at their beauty. "Prince," she breathed stopping before one of a reclining woman. "It's beautiful."

Prince was beside her. "Yes, Mrs. Davenport loved art. This collection has been in the family for years. She added much to it. And when she passed, Gabriel took up her love of art."

She cocked her head. "Gabriel?"

Prince chuckled. "Yes, Gabriel." He gestured to the room around them. "The room was designed to be a sculpture gallery. I think it is based on the temples of the Roman Forum but with more modern innovations." He pointed to the four massive, apse-like recesses that looked like pedestals for classical urns. "Those are actually stoves."

There were four sets of double doors leading to other rooms. The doors were topped by intricately carved pediments and flanked by alabaster columns.

From the saloon, the ambiance of the Grand Tour continued throughout the principal reception rooms on the piano nobile, though on a slightly more modest scale.

Prince led her into the principal apartment, its interior filled fine furniture and paintings. The same could be said of the drawing room with its huge Venetian windows. He then guided her to the expansive dining room. Her gaze was immediately drawn up to the ceiling.

Prince followed her gaze upward. "The ceiling was painted to mimic the ceiling in the Palace of Augustus in the Farnese Gardens. The painted ceiling goes on through the library, the music room, down the grand staircase and onto the ground floor and into the so called great hall."

Devonny blinked. "It's a little overwhelming. How does one live amongst this everyday?"

Prince shrugged. "Gabe and Eli's mother was a Curzon. This land has been in their family for hundreds of years. The house was commissioned less than a hundred years ago by Mrs. Davenport's grandfather, a Baron, I think." And then he led her on to the family apartments.

Devonny thought it a sensory reprieve to vacate this temple of culture and retreat to the relatively simple comforts of the family pavilion.

They left the largest central portion of the home that contained the state rooms and was intended for use only when there were important guests in the house. The eastern section was a self-contained country house in its own right containing all the rooms for the family's private use. Devonny's room was in the western block of the house that contained the kitchens and all other domestic rooms and staff accommodation.

Prince led her into a room in the western section of the house. A thick floral carpet covered the floor. A large picture window with window seat framed by heavy drapes graced one wall. A large intricately carved mahogany bed dominated the room and matched a vanity, armoire and dresser. An elegant setee and arm chair also added a comfortable touch to the room. There was also small fireplace.

Devonny went to the window. "I like this room. It's beautiful but not overwhelming. It's simple but still elegant."

Prince leaned on the door frame. "It's good you like it. It's where you're supposed to be staying."

Devonny whirled to him. "Pardon?"

Prince shrugged again. "It's where Eli and Gabe agreed that you should stay."

Devonny crossed her arms over her chest and tilted her head. "They agreed on something? Gabriel and Elijah agreed on something. And this is it?"

Prince came towards her and looked out the window over the gardens behind the house. "While you're here, you're not really part of the staff. This room is right on the edge of the staff section and the rest of the house. Elijah wanted you to feel as though you were vacationing and Gabe...Gabe wanted to keep an eye on you. There are going to be a lot of house guests, and you might attract some unwanted attention and unwanted advances." He continued. "This room automatically suggests that you are not merely a servant but someone special to the family. It means that you are less accessible and less open to any sort of advance."

Devonny seemed to consider this. She was silent. She wasn't sure how she felt about being under Gabriel's watchful supervision.

"Moira and Miles are two doors down. I have an apartment above the carriage house." He said watching her. "Come look at the grounds."

Devonny joined him at the window.

"There used to be geometric gardens here when I was a child but they're gone now. Mrs. Davenport wanted a more natural looking environment. Trees, hills, etcetera."

Devonny's gaze roamed over the land as Prince pointed out various structures in the distance that were also part of the estate. There was the North lodge which was built in the form of a triumphal arch. There were also entrance lodges in the village, a bridge, cascade and the Fishing Room situated on the edge of the upper lake.

The Fishing Room, Prince told her, contained a cold bath and boat house below. There was also hexagonal summerhouse and an orangery. The Long Walk was planted with flowering shrubs and ornamental trees.

"Goodness," Devonny sighed when Prince was done.

"Indeed," Prince said grinning turning at the commotion that could be heard downstairs. "The carriages must have arrived. Shall we? I'll introduce you to the rest of the staff."

Devonny nodded and followed him back through the maze of hallways and rooms.

***

She woke the next morning later than she had ever woken since coming to the Davenport household. The sun had already risen and there was a sense of quiet about the house.

Devonny slipped out of bed, draped her shawl about her shoulders, and went to the window. There was movement on the grounds. She was sure everyone was bustling about getting ready for the Davenport's arrival.

She went to her suitcase and opened it. She had precious few dresses that she came to the Davenport household with. They all needed mending and had definitely seen better days.

She moved to one of the trunks placed next to the armoire. She lifted the lid and sighed. It was one of two trunks that contained everything that Elijah had bought her from Madame Baskett's. Moira had insisted that she bring it and that Eli was right, she shouldn't go about looking like a ragamuffin.

Devonny opted for a fashionable yet conservative silk afternoon gown. However, dressing was a new task in itself. First came the chemise and drawers next to the skin and then the corset to shape the figure. Over these came under-petticoat, with a corset cover. Then came a stiffened petticoat, crinoline, or bustle. The skirt support was then covered by a decorative petticoat which peeked out of the bottom of the dress.

Devonny looked at it all in dismay. This was the minimum number of petticoats that could be worn. It was fashionable to wear more but she had no interest in being fashionable, nor could she imagine carrying that much weight on her body.

It took her longer than it had ever taken in her life to get dressed. When she was finished she stood before the mirror. The woman standing their was almost unrecognizable. The deep hunter green gown fit her body perfectly. Her waist looked impossibly small though she had laced the corset herself as best she could. The great bell skirt swished when she moved. She left off the hoop petticoat not wanting to worry about her skirts while she walked about the grounds or possibly chose to sit and read.

She pulled her hair back into a simple bun before grabbing her gloves, bonnet and a book before making her down way to the kitchens. Breakfast was already being served to the staff and Moira, Miles, Prince and Matthew were already sitting, taking their tea, and chatting animatedly.

Sadie and Ursula were the two cooks. Sadie was a middle-aged woman and rail thin. She had a closed solemn face and dark hair just beginning to become streaked with grey but her eyes were warm and she smiled faintly when Devonny entered. Ursula was a bit older and round. Her hair was all grey and she had a merry disposition.

Devonny grabbed an apron from the hook on the wall and quickly tied it over the afternoon gown. She immediately went to join Sadie in making biscuits. "Oh no," Sadie shooed her. "I won't have you ruining that beautiful dress in the kitchen."

Devonny laughed but did not stop rolling up her sleeves. "Fine, fine, just this once. Let me help."

Devonny helped make the first breakfast to be eaten at Kedleston Hall and when they were finished they all sat down at the long dining table that was in the dining room of the servants' quarters. There were the two cooks, the staff from the city house, two plump housemaids (Laura and Rose), two valets, and four coachmen. The remainder of the staff was already hard at work and had broken their fast hours earlier.

After the table was cleared Devonny took up her book and basket and stepped outside into the late morning sun. She put on her bonnet and tied the ribbon loosely under her chin and put a dainty pair of gloves. She then set off.

She knew she should have brought a parasol but she didn't feel like being burdened down while she explored the grounds. She ventured far from the house, admiring the scenery. The grass was green, the sky was cloudless, and the air smelled clean and sweet. Finally she decided to settle beneath a tall oak.

She put down her basket and and withdrew the quilt from within and spread it on the grass. She seated herself gingerly, only fleetingly worrying about crushing the gown. She drew forth her old cashmere shawl, a gift from Cecile, and draped it about her shoulders so that she could lean back against the tree. She withdrew a copy of the 'The Tempest' from the basket and began to read.

The only break in her concentration was the sudden eruption of loud familiar barking. Milo and Fritz, the Davenports' greyhounds had apparently arrived. Their masters were undoubtedly with them, and thus Devonny's reason for her morning venture from the house.

She was going to stay out of Gabriel Davenport's way at all costs even if that meant staying out of the house. She would read outdoors, she would ride, learn to paint maybe. But whatever she did, it was going to be far far away from that man. There was no need to greet them now. Elijah would come find her eventually she was sure anyway.

And so she turned her attentions back to her book and continued to read. She barely noticed the sun's progress overhead as time passed. Her eyes drifted from the page to the landscape. If there was a paradise on earth, surely this was it. And Kedleston Hall in the distance was the palace presiding over it all.

She couldn't imagine growing up being privy to such wealth. What was it like having your every whim and desire assuaged. What was it like never to worry about what one was going to live one or how to survive on one's own? Elijah and Gabriel had lost their parents at a young age just as she had and yet there had always been someone to care for them. They would have never ended up on the streets, nor would they have ever gone hungry or stolen to survive.

She lifted her gaze to the boughs of the trees and watched the light flicker in shafts through the leaves as the tree swayed in the wind. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. Heaven, she felt like she was in heaven. And it wasn't long before she fell asleep.

***

It was the first roll of thunder that woke her. Her eyelids lifted slowly taking her surroundings.

She could smell the rain though it hadn't fallen yet. The air had grown noticeably cooler. And the sound of the trees rustling filled the air. She hurriedly got to her feet shoving the blanket and book into the basket. She tugged her gloves back on and started out from under the tree only to have the downpour begin just at that moment.

With a small cry she stepped back beneath the tree. Kedleston Hall looked impossibly far away in the distance. She glanced up at the rapidly darkening sky. Perhaps it would pass quickly. She would just wait it out.

But the storm grew stronger, blowing her skirts around her and ripping her shawl from round her shoulders. The tree did little to protect her as the rain began to slant drastically sideways, drenching her in a manner of seconds. Tears began streaming down her face as she began to tremble with cold. She couldn't stay where she was. She had to try to make it back to Kedleston.

It seemed as though she had been walking forever and yet Kedleston seemed so far away. She leaned into the wind, taking small steps as her gown was whipped every which way. And then she slipped. Her kid boot slipped in on the soaked grass and she pitched forward, catching herself on her hands and knees.

She was sobbing now but the roaring wind drowned it out even to her own ears. She struggled to stand on her feet again only to fall once more down to her hands and knees. She was ready to collapse. She wanted to curl into a ball and lay down.

"DEVONNY!" She heard her name being shouted and she looked up to see a large stallion carrying a cloaked riding coming towards her. She recognized Elijah's horse, Maddox, and she nearly cried out in relief as the horse was reigned to a halt and Eli jumped down.

A pair of muddied riding boots came into view and she was struggling to get to her feet once more when two strong hands closed around her upper arms and hauled her to her feet. "Eli!" she shouted over the wind. She lifted her head and her eyes clashed with the narrowed emerald gaze of Gabriel Davenport.

He pulled her against him, shielding her from the wind with his own body. His great coat flapped furiously around them.

Gabriel stared down into her startled face. He was furious. What the hell was she doing out here? She was soaked through, her gown plastered against her body. Her lips were blue and her teeth chattered violently. She blinked at him through spiked lashes. "Gabriel?" He saw her lips move. 'Yes. Me. Gabriel,' he though to himself. Why did she have to look so bloody shocked to see him?

He shook her. "Are you alright?!" he shouted.

She nodded her head mutely.

Gabriel quickly mounted Maddox and reached down pulling her up before him, seating her across his thighs and then tucking her inside his great coat against his body. He'd dreamed of having her this close, against him again but this wasn't how he had pictured the moment.

Christ she was cold, he swore to himself. He was quickly soaked through beneath the coat but as least she was protected from the wind

He pulled Maddox around and slowly began making his way back to Kedleston, not wanting the horse to slip and throw them both.

He was halfway back to Kedleston when Prince and Elijah rode up to meet him and pulled their mounts alongside his.

"Is she alright?" Elijah demanded. "What happened?"

"I'm not sure," Gabriel shouted back, answering both questions. He glanced down at her nestled against his body. Her thickly lashed lids were closed. She seemed to have fallen unconscious. She was pale, her lips still that faint bluish color. She was shuddering violently in his arms.

He cursed under his breath and nudged his mount into a swifter trot.

Moira and Sadie came racing out of the house into the rain when they rode up to the hall. Gabriel dismounted keeping the unconscious Devonny in his arms and striding into the house. He strode though the kitchen and through the halls, taking the stairs two at a time and striding into her bedroom as Moira, Sadie, and Elijah followed closely behind.

Gabriel carefully laid her down on the settee and went down on one knee at her side. She didn't even stir as he quickly untied her bonnet and smoothed the wet strands of dark hair back from her face. "Devonny?" he said urgently patting her cool cheek. "Devonny?" Why wasn't she waking up?

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bytheDuskyGirl© 25 comments/ 29816 views/ 19 favorites

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