tagInterracial LoveDevonny Ch. 09

Devonny Ch. 09

bytheDuskyGirl©

**To all the amazing readers who emailed me and left messages, thank you for all your encouragement and patience. I apologized that life got in the way (grad school, work and planning my wedding). But this story and the other have constantly been in my head, still taking shape. I've been writing on napkins and scraps of paper when I should be paying attention in class or in meetings and things are slowly beginning to come together once more. I'll be working hard and stealing time to continue these stories.

xx,

Dusky**


CHAPTER NINE

Devonny shook her head vehemently. "Gabriel, no. No, no, no, no. This is a terrible idea."

Gabriel Davenport thrust the handle of the 1851 Colt Navy pistol at her. "Damn it, Devonny. Just take it."

Devonny backed away from him shaking her head, her voice pleading. "I can't. I just can't. I can't shoot someone!"

Gabriel rolled his eyes heavenward. "You're not going to shoot 'someone.' You're going to shoot Rochard if necessary.

"Gabriel, I can't kill anyone!"

Scowling, Gabriel caught hold of her waist, turned her around none-too-gently, and pulled her back against his chest. His arm held her securely and immovably against him. "If you're not going to kill him, at least maim him."

His lips brushed against her ear. "Devonny, take it," he growled and pressed the smooth wooden handle of the gun into her hand, releasing the weapon when he was certain she held it.

They had ridden out this very morning to the farthest reaches of the property where they had dismounted and Gabriel had calmly drawn forth a pistol. He had nodded towards a tall gnarled tree with a faded bulls eye painted on its broad trunk.

Gabriel's voice was low. "My father brought Elijah and I here when we were young. This is where I learned to shoot. And now you will learn here as well."

Gabriel did not release her immediately but firmly guided her arm upwards, taking her other hand and carefully wrapping it around the handle as well. "It might be a bit of a kick for you," he explained, "so use both hands if you can. Keep your right hand slightly loose but pull back with your left. That should keep you steady."

Devonny trembled, her hands visibly shaking as the gun wavered. "Gabriel--"

"Shhh..."

Gabriel's hands were on her shoulders, steadying her. "Now take a deep breath," he soothed. "You want just the tip of your finger on the trigger. When it comes time, do not jerk it, but squeeze the trigger firmly. Now focus your gaze down the barrel and use the sight."

He took a small step back from her. "Cock the hammer back with your right thumb firmly."

Devonny did so, swallowing thickly.

"Now, aim carefully and squeeze the trigger gently. Smoothly..." his voice trailed off, waiting.

Devonny's body immediately missed the secure feel of him pressed against her but she pushed that yearning feeling aside and looked back to the faint target painted on tree trunk. She did as he said. She breathed deeply and tightened her grip on the pistol. She kept her right arm slightly relaxed while she used her left to pull back slightly and steady the gun. Looking down the barrel of the gun sight, she centered it on the target and squeezed the trigger.

***

The ride back to Kedleston was more amiable than she would have imagined it could be. Gabriel talked about his childhood summers at Kedleston while his parents were still living, pointing out the scenes and locales of his antics with Elijah.

Devonny attempted to envision him as a dark haired, vibrant eyed little boy without all the weight he seemed to carry on his shoulders now.

They talked about Prince's upcoming engagement announcement and the Madison family and Devonny's upcoming entrance into respectable black society.

When they pulled their mounts to a halt in front of the stables, Devonny felt a flutter of disappointment that their time together was ending. It was so rare that they had a moment together in which they were at ease, not sniping at each other or at each other's throats. There was no tension, no tenuous reigning in of emotions.

Dismounting from his horse, Gabriel reached up and lifted her down from Orion's back. His hands lingered on her waist a bit longer than was proper.

Bernardo emerged from the stables. "Ah, Master Davenport and Miss Devonny, how was your ride?" he beamed at them. Devonny hurriedly pulled out of Gabriel's grasp, flushing and smoothing her skirts.

"You have a guest, Miss Devonny," Bernardo nodded to her. "Waiting in the parlor."

A thin line appeared between Devonny's dark brows. "Guest?" Never had she had a visitor since she had come to the Davenport household.

Her gaze switched to Gabriel whose expression was darkening to a fearful expression. It was as though she could almost see his thoughts settle on Rochard as a muscle ticked in his clenched jaw. He turned on his heel and strode towards the house leaving Devonny to stare after him a bewildering moment before she took off after him, lifting her skirts to as not to trip over them.

"Gabriel—" she reached for his arm but he shook her off, continuing to stride purposefully towards the house. He hesitated only briefly at the closed doors of the study yet it was only to cock back his booted heel and place a well aimed kick at the door, sending it flying open as he withdrew the pistol from his shoulder brace in one fluid motion and aimed the barrel it at the "guest" within.

Elizabeth Madison shot to her feet from her place on the settee, the color draining from her lovely face as her hands flew to her breast.

Gabriel froze for a beat, "Miss Elizabeth," he said stiffly and he lowered the weapon immediately as Devonny skirted around him and rushed to Elizabeth's side.

"My God," Devonny took Elizabeth's hands. "Are you alright?" she asked shooting Gabriel an accusatory look.

"Gabriel, you've scared her half to death!" Devonny admonished.

Gabriel's intense gaze switched to Elizabeth and softened. He tucked the pistol back into its holster beneath his jacket, inclined his head, and spoke in that deep honeyed baritone he used when he was particularly intent on being charming.

"Miss Elizabeth," he began sincerely. "I apologize for frightening you, please accept my humble apologies I had thought you were someone else."

Elizabeth smiled a small tight smile. "Well, it's good to know that you mistook me for someone else and weren't truly intent on shooting me."

Gabriel looked chagrinned and switched his gaze back to Devonny. "I shall have some tea sent."

Devonny met his gaze and shook her head. "Thank you, Mr. Davenport, sir, but we'll simply retreat to my room should you have need of the parlor."

Devonny watched his gaze darken at her formal tone as she once more reminded him that in the company of others, he would always be 'Mr. Davenport, sir,' and she would simply be a servant—a finely dressed servant—but a servant nonetheless.

His gaze lingered on her a moment longer than necessary. "Of course," he said simply. "Ladies." He inclined his head once more before leaving them quite alone.

Devonny turned to Elizabeth. "Are you alright, truly?"

Elizabeth's lips tugged upwards in a genuine smile. "Yes. Never a dull moment with the Davenport boys is there?" She laughed. "Imagine my shock when Gabriel Davenport storms into the parlor like some brazen pirate captain taking a ship, gun drawn and ready. And looking quite dashing too though my life passed before my very eyes."

Devonny laughed at Elizabeth's good humor. "True he can be frightening. Frightening, but still dashing." She nodded to the stairs in the foyer. "I'm so glad you've come. Shall we?"

Devonny led Elizabeth through the house to her room. Tea on a silver server was already on the low table before the settee when they entered.

Elizabeth gazed around the room taking in the heavy dark cherry bed, vanity, armoire, and writing desk as well as the heavy damask curtains, floral carpets, and the equally impressive finely upholstered armchairs and settee.

"Good gracious," Elizabeth breathed. "This is your room?"

Devonny lifted one petite shoulder and smiled looking a bit abashed. "I know, it isn't exactly fitting but the Davenports have been inconceivably kind to me."

Elizabeth gracefully sank into the settee with a radiant smile and removed her bonnet from her auburn curls. "I can see that, you lucky girl." She smoothed the stray locks back from her face. "So what was all that excitement about downstairs?" she asked lifting one finely arched brow. "Although I must admit, Gabriel Davenport looks rather handsome when he's full of fire and indignation, storming through the door with pistol in hand."

Devonny winced, smiled sheepishly at her friend's assessment, and seated herself beside Elizabeth. She reached to pour the tea, taking a deep breath. "I was out riding with Elijah yesterday when we came upon a party or riders. Andre Rochard was among them.

Elizabeth started "Rochard? The man who—"

Devonny nodded. "The same." Elijah was furious and Gabriel—Gabriel demanded that I ride out with him this morning so that he could teach me how to shoot.

Elizabeth's eyes widened. "Goodness!"

Devonny smiled tightly. "Goodness is right," she conceded. " But Rochard was fresh in his mind when Bernardo told him that I had a visitor. I'd never had a visitor before."

"So he assumed that your visitor was Rochard," she murmured.

Devonny nodded, taking a sip of her tea. Elizabeth continued to gaze at her with renewed interest. "So Gabriel Davenport was intent on shooting a man on your behalf."

Devonny flushed slightly. "It's nothing untoward, I promise you."

Elizabeth made a shooing motion with her fan. "I don't doubt it. But such a man, Devonny..." her voice trailed off.

Her words hung in the air between them. Devonny blew out a breath of air and flopped back on the settee. "I know."

Elizabeth laughed at her friend's assessment, withdrawing a small envelope from her reticule and handing it to Devonny.

Lifting her brows in question as Elizabeth said nothing but gave her an encouraging smile, looking as though she were going to burst with excitement. She turned the heavy vellum envelope over in her hands, her gaze taking in the elegant gold scrawl with her name across the front. The envelope was sealed close by a blood red wax seal stamped with an elaborate coat of arms.

Grinning at Devonny's perplexed look, Elizabeth bounced excited on the settee. "Well, open it," she urged. Unable to contain herself any longer, the words rushed out as Devonny carefully broke the seal and opened the envelope. "It's a masquerade! The first ball of the season and it's going to be fantastic!"

Devonny smiled at her new friend's enthusiasm even as a knot of apprehension settled in her stomach.

Elizabeth watched Devonny's smile waver. "Don't you see?" Elizabeth soothed. "It's perfect. You get to hide behind a mask. Prince and I will be by your side the whole time. You get to make your debut as a beautiful mysterious stranger behind a mask."

Devonny couldn't help the small smile that spread over her lips as she marveled at Elizabeth's ability to romanticize any situation.

"Now," Elizabeth shot to her feet. "You'll need an evening gown and a mask to match. There's a man in town who makes the most incredible Venetian masks. I'll have him come by the house and design one for you." She glanced at the large cherry armoire. "I've heard you have quite an impressive wardrobe. May I?"

"Of course." Devonny gestured to the wardrobe closet and rose to join her.

Elizabeth opened the doors eliciting a gasp. "Oh my..."

After perusing the gowns nearly overflowing the armoire, Elizabeth withdrew a lavender silk ball gown "This is absolutely gorgeous—perfect for the ball—and we can have a mask made to match."

Devonny nodded her assent as Elizabeth continued to examine the yards of silk, muslin and taffeta. Elizabeth spoke softly. "I do not wish to offend you, Devonny, but may I ask you a question?" She turned her large almond eyes to her new friend. "You do not have to answer it if it makes you uncomfortable."

Devonny nodded and smiled a thinly, already knowing the question that was on her friends lips.

"Is there something between you and Elijah Davenport? I've heard that he's incredibly fond of you, not to mention the wardrobe and the dowry--"

"Dowry?" Devonny blinked at her, a musical laugh spilling from her lips. "Elizabeth, I have no dowry.'

Elizabeth's gaze widened. "You did not know?"

Devonny's look of confusion was unmistakable. "What do you mean?"

Elizabeth worried her lower lip looking anxious. "He did not tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

Elizabeth idly fingered a cashmere shawl, glancing at Devonny from the corner of her eye. "Elijah has established a dowry for you, should you find a match. I am sorry I ruined the surprise for you."

'Surprise'was not to word Devonny might have used. Once again Eli was meddling in her affairs, scheming to marry her off to some well-to-do gen du couleur.. She could feel her ire rising.

Reigning in her emotions she decided to put the matter aside and calmly speak to him about it later. Instead she answered Elizabeth's intended question. "No, there is nothing romantic between us though that seems to have been on everyone's minds. We are simply friends, nothing more, and yet I seem to be repeating that mantra again and again."

A coy smile slid over Elizabeth's delicate features. "Perhaps there is a reason for that, no? Have you considered that perhaps his regard and apparent generosity are an indication of some feeling on his part?"

Devonny did indeed take a moment to consider it. She adored Eli, despite all his overreaching. He was, indeed, generous and affectionate. He was familiar with her but she thought nothing of it. It was merely his way.

Then she thought of the kiss. It has been the lightest brush of his lips against hers, startling her out of her sadness. It had been quick and offhand. She doubted it meant anything to Eli. But did it mean anything to her? She did not feel up to the task of assessing the issue.

Devonny shook her head once more. ""I don't believe Eli has any sort of intentions towards me at all."

"And Gabriel Davenport?" Elizabeth met her gaze.

Devonny shrugged, feigning nonchalance she did not feel. "I truly don't know what is between Gabriel and me." Elizabeth lifted a dark brow in interest, though Devonny was quick to reassure her. "There is nothing untoward." At the moment, she added mentally.

Elizabeth smiled. "I wasn't suggesting that there was. But from his reaction to thinking Rochard in his home, I certainly would not think him indifferent."

"Indifferent? No, I think not." Devonny conceded.

A knock on the door startled them both from their speculative thoughts. "Yes? Come in?"

Elijah's handsome face appeared in the doorway's opening, a wide smile spreading over his face when he saw Devonny's companion.

"Miss Elizabeth," he crossed the room in a few long strides, taking Elizabeth's gloved hands in his own. "You look ravishing as always. It has been far too long."

Elizabeth quirked a brow in amusement and smiled. "How wonderful to see you again, Mr. Davenport."

"Eli," he smiled and corrected immediately. "I'm glad to see you and our Devonny have become fast friends.

Elizabeth grinned at Devonny. "Quite so. I actually came to personally deliver her invitation to the masquerade to start the season."

Eli turned his cornflower blue gaze to Devonny. "Ah," he said softly. "Leaping into the fray are we?"

Devonny met his gaze, the corners of her lips turning up. "So it would seem."

"Brilliant," Eli clapped his hands together. We shall have to go buy you a fitting mask for your debut."

"I can buy my own mask, Eli. I don't need your help."

Eli ignored her protests as usual and bowed once more to Elizabeth. "Madamoiselle."

He smirked at Devonny. "Tomorrow," he said pointedly before striding from the room.

Devonny stared after him, her mouth slightly agape. She blinked at Elizabeth's laughter.

"Is he always so offhand and assuming with you?" Elizabeth asked.

Devonny clenched her teeth. "Unfortunately, yes."

Elizabeth patted her hand consolingly and changed the subject. "We'll go to the ball together with Prince and I'll send a coach round just before the ball is to begin. We should like to make an entrance," she smiled.

Devonny returned the smile despite her growing sense of unease. "Of course."

Devonny walked Elizabeth to her coachman waiting with the chaise and bid her friend goodbye before venturing towards the stables.

*** Elijah Davenport grimaced. "I can't tomorrow, Gabriel. I have plans." He leaned back in the armchair in the study, regarding his agitated sibling speculatively.

Gabriel stood frowning at an invitation to dine with the Duke of Devonshire and the Hardings. He narrowed his gaze at Elijah. "Why the devil not? What plans?" he demanded, not liking the idea one bit of attending a dinner party without his brother. At least when Eli was in the immediate vicinity he served as a second distraction to the simpering fairer sex and their calculating mamas. He noted Eli's hesitation to offer up and excuse. "Well, out with it."

Eli sighed. "I cannot attend because I'm taking Devonny into town tomorrow."

Gabriel stared at him. "I don't understand."

Eli shrugged. "Devony is making her debut with the gens du couleur. It's a masquerade—the same night as our own. I'd like to take her to design a mask."

Gabriel seemed to be processing this. "Debut..." he glanced at Elijah. "She's to make a match?"

"So it would seem," Elijah eyed him warily as he sank into the chair opposite him. "With her looks and wit, it shouldn't be too difficult."

Gabriel crumpled the missive in his fist, his gaze fixed on the carpets.

"Surely you understood that this would happen," Eli ventured.

Gabriel lifted his gaze to clash with Elijah's.

Eli returned the glare. "Surely you didn't believe that she would remain in our household. Why?" He scoffed, "To simply wait for scraps of your affection or regard?"

Gabriel growled. "I don't know what I thought. I had not considered it."

Elijah snorted. "And what of Abigail Harding?"

"What of her?" Gabriel snapped.

"Are you planning to ask for her hand?"

Gabriel raked a rough hand through his dark locks. "Likely, yes. She's suitable enough."

Eli shook his head. "And have you considered what it would be like to have Devonny and your wife in the same household?"

Gabriel did not respond.

Eli sighed. "Your feelings for her are evident enough every time you look at her. Your new wife would make her life a living hell." He was becoming angry now. "You can't hurt her anymore, Gabriel. You must put a stop to it before you ruin her."

Gabriel jerked his head up to fix Elijah with a dark glare. "I wouldn't do anything to compromise her."

"No?"

Gabriel rubbed his palm against his cheek. He thought of the way she had quivered with need as she lay beside him and the sound of her breathy gasp as his hands examined her silken flesh. He thought of the way her glorious lips tasted of salt and honey. If given the opportunity—if she desired him—would he be able to pull himself away? He doubted his strength.

Eli rose to stand. "Let her go, Gabriel. You'll only end up hurting her."

Eli was the second person to say such to him. Gabriel squeezed his eyes shut against the dull ache that had begun to throb at the base of his skull as Eli carefully closed the study door behind his departure.

***

Devonny wandered from stall to stall in the stables, pausing occasionally to absently stroke the nose of one of the mounts within as she contemplated the impending future.

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