Devonny Ch. 01bytheDuskyGirl©
Devonny stepped onto the doorstep, paused, and considered that this was the most impressive doorstep she had ever stood upon. She raised he hand to the gilded golden doorknocker only to draw her and back in apprehension. She self-consciously smoothed her freshly laundered skirts. She adjusted her bonnet and tucked a stray dark curl inside. She reached for the doorknocker, jerked her hand back and pulled the errant curl free again, deciding that it framed her face nicely and made her look that much the sweeter. Straightening her shoulders, she lifted her chin and knocked upon the door. The door swung open almost immediately startling her. A man who looked to be in his sixties eyed her a moment, looking stern. She watched him take her in from the toes of her kid boots to the top of her head. He was dressed in the garb of a valet or butler. He lifted his chin and gazed down at her imperiously. His voice was haughty, "yes?"
He eyed the young toffee colored girl who stood on the doorstep. Devonny stared at him dumbstruck and opened her mouth although no sound emerged.
The valet frowned at her. "Come on now, girl. Out with it."
Devonny's mouth opened and closed.
"Oh, Miles leave her alone," came a sweetly chirping voice sounded from behind him.
He stepped aside swinging the door open wider to reveal a round woman about his own age dressed in severe black with a white apron. She wore a mobcap on her head, crinkled grey hairs sprouted at the edges. She was beaming at Devonny, her blue gaze glittering and her face was a bit flushed. She took Devonny's hand warmly and drew her inside. "So you're Margaret's girl? She's told me so much about you and I'm so glad that you've decided to come." The woman was talking rapidly as she led Devonny through the foyer, while Devonny tried not to stare at the vastness of the place and the opulence. "I'm Moira," the woman continued cheerily, "and we can chat in the kitchen. Are you hungry? Would you like some tea?"
Devonny smiled and shook her head at the barrage of questions. "No, thank you, not hungry. However, some tea would be nice." Moira led her into a kitchen that was many times bigger than any home Devonny had ever been in. Moira seated her at the table and sat down across from the table, still beaming at her.
Moira considered her intently, "You sure are a pretty thing," she smiled. "My sister, Margaret, tells me you're in need of work and that you are in need of a position with some urgency. Care to explain?"
Devonny looked down at her hands folded in her lap. Her pretty mouth tightened almost imperceptibly. "I had some trouble working at your sister's inn."
Moira let out a laugh. "Is that what she's calling it? An inn?" Moira chuckled. "I know my sister's business, and that is no inn." She lowered her voice conspiratorially. "A den of iniquity is what they call it."
Devonny looked embarrassed. "Yes ma'am."
"Now my sister told me you 'aint no working gal. That right?"
Devonny's eyes grew wide. She shook her head vehemently. "No ma'am." She stumbled over her words. "I couldn't...I mean, I wouldn't. I..."
"So tell me what happened, child?"
Devonny made a small shrug with her shoulders. She looked at Moira "I did the sewing and the cooking there. Sometimes I would serve the brandy or wine but I never really talked to the men. Sometime they would flirt but they were just making sport." She returned her gaze self-consciously to her hands in her lap. "But I seem to have gained the attention of one of the gentlemen there. He was quite persistent even though I refused him and Margaret tried to pacify him with other girls. But he did not relent." Her voice wavered. "He attacked me and I hit him...with a bottle. He was drunk and when I hit him he was out cold." She lifted a pleading gaze to Moira. "But Margaret said that he would make trouble for me if I didn't find somewhere to go. And then she told me that you were looking for a housekeeper. She said she would speak to you."
Moira nodded. "Tell me your skills."
Devonny could feel hope swelling in her chest and she smiled faintly. "I can cook, sew, clean. I also know fabrics to shop for and the right places to shop for good produce in the market. I'm a fast learner..." She gazed at Moira. "I need this Mrs. Morrissey. I have nowhere else to go and I promise you won't regret hiring me."
"Oh, shoo, child," Moira said laughingly . "Margaret assured me that you would be well suited here. I just wanted to hear your side of the story."
Devonny, beamed and shot to her feet. "Oh, ma'am thank you. You have no idea..." Remembering herself she returned herself gracefully to her chair.
Moira eyed her fondly.
"May I ask about the family?" Devonny asked.
Moira's brows rose. "The family?"
Devonny nodded. "My employers."
"Ah!" Moira grinned and stood to busy herself putting on a pot of tea. "Not a family. It's just the young Masters Elijah and Gabriel."
Devonny's brow furrowed in confusion. "Young masters?"
"Oh yes," Moira responded smiling. "Brothers, they are, not a year between them. They are the sons of a wealthy merchant family. Their mother and father—God bless them—died on a voyage to the Americas when they were but wee boys. But they grew into men and expanded the family business. Some of the wealthiest young men in London."
"I see." Devonny said absently.
Catching her tone, Moira turned to face her. "Oh, not to worry, child. They are the kindest, most generous young men you'd ever meet. A bit rambunctious at times but always the very picture of decorum and gentlemanly behavior. You should be quite fond of them, I should think."
Devonny considered this. "I shall endeavor to stay out of their way as much as possible."
"If you like," Moira said. She set a cup of tea in front of Devonny. "Now drink, child. You look in need of some nourishment."
Devonny smiled gratefully and set the teacup to her lips.
Moira continued talking. "Now you will have your own room. There's a small bedroom for you in the far wing of the house where you can stay. Our last serving girl stayed there. As for your duties, we shan't need you for mending or sewing, the young masters send all their tailoring out to be done but perhaps some linens now and again. But we will need you to help serve the table, and the young men are wont to entertain often. In that case we shall need you then as well."
Devonny nodded. She opened her mouth to speak when the sound of barks and deep male laughter filled the foyer outside the door.
Moira's face broke into a smile and she stood. "The young Masters must be back. Come and meet them."
Devonny hurriedly stood and removed her bonnet, smoothing her hair pulled back into a bun though a few dark curls refused to comply and escaped to frame her face and the nape of her neck. She smoothed her skirts as she followed Moira into the foyer. She pushed open the door only to be nearly knocked from her feet as she heard an excited yip. A large greyhound pawed at her excitedly.
A deep masculine voice bellowed, "Milo! Here now!" The sleek animal immediately dropped back to all fours and trotted obediently along with another towards his master's voice. Two tall young men stood in the entryway, their long-legged pets coming to mill around them.
Devonny halted uncertainly where she stood.
One of the men grinned at her and strode purposefully toward her. He stuck out his hand smiling, "Elijah Davenport, pleased to meet you."
Devonny flushed. Lord, he was handsome. She found herself gazing into the bluest pair of eyes she'd ever seen. They were an impossible shade of azure blue, tinted with streaks of grey that were long lashed and framed to perfection . He was handsome; tall, muscular, blue-eyed and golden blonde. His warm palm enveloped her hand making her feel impossibly small as he towered over her.
"Miss?" he was still grinning at her.
Devonny blinked at him only to realize that she was staring. "Oh," she flushed and dropped a small curtsy as he released her hand and decidedly fixed her gaze on his shirt front. "Miss Devonny Clarke, sir."
He chuckled, a sound that seemed to rumble through his chest. "Sir? Elijah will do, lass."
"Master Elijah." she repeated uncertainly and another chuckle escaped his lips.
"Fair enough," he conceded. "You seem intent to hold me to decorum," and she felt his fingers slip beneath her chin and lift her face to his once more, "Ah, don't hide such eyes from me." And she lifted her gaze to his once more, honey-gold meeting azure blue.
"Eli, let the girl alone," came an equally deep baritone from behind him.
Devonny's gaze flickered to his brother.
Gabriel Davenport felt his heart turn in his chest as a pair of startling golden eyes slid to him. He made a curt nod of his head before abruptly striding from the room.
Elijah Davenport laughed. "And that was my charming brother, Gabriel." He stepped back from her and made a small mock bow. "Welcome to our household, Miss Devonny." And then turned on his heel and followed after his brother. ***
Gabriel Davenport raked a hand through his dark locks and he strode back and forth across the study attempting to get a reign on his emotions. He grimaced. What the hell was wrong with him. Why this reaction to this scrap of a girl? She was a pretty thing, yes. But he was used to being around beautiful women. He and his brother were some of the most sought after men in London, and were much the object of sighs and blushes of the whole of young women of marrying age in society. The Davenport brothers were the most handsome and wealthiest bachelors in London and as such they did not want for appealing feminine company in any circumstance.
But this girl was truly lovely. Every feature complemented the other, and each was arguably nigh perfect. None of his former or present mistresses came near to her in the flawlessness of her countenance. He'd always believed fair skinned, fair-haired women were the most beautiful, the most delicate and alluring. By all the saints, not so. Her hair was black and thick, her eyes an incredible amber shade, almond-shaped and sinfully long-lashed. Her skin was smooth and golden brown, her nose piquant, her mouth full and tempting. Her body was so precisely perfect in its wondrous curves that he felt his loins tighten. He could not recall ever having such a strong reaction to a woman.
He stopped near his desk and dropped into his armchair. And Christ, she was to be living under his roof. He dropped his head back and groaned his frustration.
Eli leaning against the doorway as he watched his brother. He had never seen him so unsettled. His usually suave and in control older brother seemed a bit undone. "Problem Gabe?"
Gabriel's gaze was once again veiled as his eyes slid to his brother. "Not at all. Perfectly fine."
Eli sauntered into the study and seated himself behind the desk adjacent to Gabriel's. He crossed his legs and placed his booted heels on the desk smirked at his brother. "Our new serving girl is quite pretty yes?"
Gabriel looked at Eli coolly. "You don't recognize her?"
Gabriel shrugged. "She used to work at Madame Pomfrey's place."
Elijah let out a burst of laughter. "What? She's a light skirt?"
Gabriel shook her head. "No. I believe she was a housekeeper. Moira said she was in some kind of trouble."
Eli's brows rose in obvious interest. "Ah. And she seemed like such a shy little thing...interesting."
Margaret Morrissey watched as Devonny packed up the last of her things into a trunk which the footman carried out to the waiting coach.
Margaret smiled at the girl. Margaret had taken Devonny in when she was but eleven years old. A wealthy client of hers had found the child living on the street, dirty and half starved. Something about the vulnerability in the girl's eyes had touched Margaret, even as hardened as she was, and she had taken the girl in. A brothel was no place for a child, but the orphanages had no interest or charitable spirit towards a little colored girl, and Margaret was certain that a place with her was better than life on the streets. Yet despite being exposed to Margaret's lifestyle and the brothel, the girl never seemed to lose the sense of innocence that hung about her. Margaret had guarded that innocence as best she could and so she was sending her away.
The foundling had grown into a young woman who was too beautiful for her own good and who had begun to attract too much attention from her male clientele. Margaret had come to care deeply for the girl, who was like a daughter to her when Margaret had had no children of her own. So she was sending her to her older sister where she would be safe.
Margaret blotted her eyes with a silk kerchief and held her arms wide. "Darling," she hiccupped.
Devonny smiled and went into the woman's arms.
Margaret was weeping openly now. Her voice was warbled. "Oh, you will write won't you? Don't come by and soil your reputation, but we will see each other won't we?"
Devonny pulled back and smiled fondly at the woman who had shown her naught but love and kindness over the years. "I am not moving out of the country, Margaret. I won't be far at all. I'll simply send a note round and we will see each other quite often, I'm sure." She touched the older woman's cheek. "Margaret..." she paused, tears welling in her own eyes. "Thank you for everything you have done for me. Without you I don't know..."
"Shhh," Margaret shook her head. "You'll make me weep some more and I won't be able to stop."
"Miss?" The coachman was in the hall. "Is that all?"
Devonny turned to the bed and picked up her bundle from the bed. "Yes, I'm ready." She embraced Margaret quickly once more before following the coachman outside and allowing him to hand her into the coach.
Devonny settled herself inside and leaned back in the seat. She rested her head against the window and watched the scenery of the London streets pass by. But her mind was not on the scenery. Her mind was on her new employers. Elijah Davenport was an obvious charmer. His good looks and his charm were apparent, and he carried himself as one who was used to feminine adoration. The other brother was more of a mystery. He was tall and powerfully built, and was the opposite of his brother in looks. Gabriel was perhaps the more handsome of the two but whereas Elijah Davenport was fair haired and light-eyed and almost to the point of being pretty, Gabriel was wholly masculine. He was tall and muscular. His hair was dark as sable. His eyes were a deep emerald green and fringed by dark thick lashes beneath dark brows. His nose was straight and patrician above full sensual lips.
A muscle had ticked in his strong jaw when her gaze had shifted to him upon their meeting. She had felt that he was looking into the very core of her being as he had gazed at her and had found her lacking. The disappointment she had felt at the censure in his gaze unsettled her more than she cared to consider at the moment.
Devonny sat up as the coach pulled to a halt in front of the Davenport mansion. She hugged her bundle to her chest as she stepped from the coach. She was let into the house and the two coachmen followed with her trunk through the maze-like hallways to a room at the end of a hall in the western part of the house. The room was not very large and with but one small circular window it had been changed even since she had been shown it the day before. A four poster bed of dark cherry wood had replaced the small narrow previous bed. A dresser, small vanity, and writing desk and chair had been set in the room along with an armchair by the small fire place. There was a silver mirror, comb. and brush set by on the vanity. She trailed her fingers over it reverently. It was all very fine. A woven rug was in the center of the floor to keep the chill away.
The two coachmen set her trunk at the end of the bed and tipped their hats to her as they left. Devonny set the bundle down at the edge of the bed, before sitting there herself. She opened the bundle and spread it to pour over her most prized possessions: a pair of peridot earrings that Margaret had gotten for her the year before for her eighteenth birthday, a small cowrie shell on a black velvet ribbon which was all she remembered of her mother, a small pocket book of Shakespeare's sonnets, two ivory hair combs, and a set of handkerchiefs embroidered with her own initials, a corked ink pot and a small cedar box with a set of quills. She ran her fingers absently over the contents when there was a knock at the door. She tied the bundle back up and stood. "Yes?"
Moira entered the room and smiled as she looked around appraisingly. "My, it looks quite nice in here."
Devonny returned the smile.
"He came to look at the room after you had left and decided that it wouldn't do at all, so he had some furniture ordered up right away."
"He?" Devonny inquired.
Moira bustled in and set some clothes down on the bed. "The young master of course. I told you that he was quite kind."
Devonny nodded absently. Elijah.
Moira gestured to the clothes she had set on the bed. "This is your clothing that you should wear whenever in the service of the young masters. Your own clothes, you may wear whenever you like on your own time, child." Moira shrugged. "I suppose you should change and I may set you to task."
Devonny nodded as Moira left her alone. She undressed and dressed in what was to be her new attire. It was a black conservative, high-necked gown with a row of tiny buttons down the front and a stark white apron. She removed her bonnet and twisted her hair into a bun atop her head before setting a white mobcap upon her head, tucking stray curls beneath only to have them straggle free once more.
She took the other dresses and aprons and folded them carefully into the dresser drawer before drawing a deep breath she headed to the kitchen. Moira grinned at her. "You do wonders for that drab outfit. Pity that such a pretty young thing should wear such dark colors."
Devonny shrugged. "I don't mind it."
Moira instructed her on the goings on of the kitchen and of her daily tasks about the household which would include dusting and the arrangement of flowers as well as whatever cleaning might need be done. Every other day she was to walk to the nearby market and pick up the order meats and produce for meals as well as anything else that the young masters might need. And as of right this moment she was to see to them in the study where they would be going over their reports for the day, and pour them their brandy if they so liked.
Devonny's heels echoed on the marble floor as she made her way toward the study. She knocked tentatively at the door and entered when a deep male voice beckoned her inside.
Devonny entered the massive library. The two Davenport brothers looked up at her from a piles of papers and maps spread across their desks. They were both in their shirtsleeves their hair loose and unruly.
"Sirs," she curtsied and kept her gaze on the tips of her kid boots. "Is there anything you require that I could get for you?"
Elijah's handsome face spread into a grin. "I'd like a glass of port please."
Devonny nodded and glanced at Gabriel Davenport. "And you sir?"
He did not look up from his papers. "Same."
Devonny went to the liquor cabinet in the corner and poured two glasses of port into crystal snifters and set them upon the tray and delivering one to Elijah and then Gabriel. "Was there anything else, sirs?"
Gabriel glanced up at her, his dark eyes coolly searching her face momentarily before returning his attention to his papers. "No, nothing."
She turned to Elijah. "Sir?"
He grinned at her and shook his head. "No, thank you, Devonny. You may go. I'm sure you would like to go get settled."