WARNING: Well, it’s a Charlotte story so watch out for anything adult.

Missed the rest of Charlotte’s adventures? See the Weekly Serial page for a complete list.

London – 1838

‘Where do you think you’re going?’ I called hurrying down the stairs in my camisole and corset and very little else.

Bran, who was at the door with his bag at his side, froze in the act of reaching for his hat on the hat stand. ‘I didn’t want to disturb you,’ he said, lowering his arm.

‘You really are a noodle.’ I jumped the last few steps, threw my arms around him and kissed him.

He tense in surprise, as he often did when I kissed him, then relaxed into it and rested his hands lightly on my hips, God forbid he be so forceful as to put his arms around me. I couldn’t quite work out whether he was afraid he’d hurt or trap me or both. He did lift me up and set me on the sideboard, but only because he was so much taller than me. For all his attempts to make himself appear small he was only a few inches short of six feet, huge compared to most men, and I was only four-foot-eleven.

I broke away. ‘You’re going away for two weeks and you thought I wouldn’t want to give you a kiss goodbye?’ I smiled and touched my nose to his. ‘I’d give you more than a kiss.’

He flushed but didn’t step away. He seemed to have some kind of rule, no more than once and night and never during the day. Sometimes I felt like Hannibal in the Alps but I’d run out of wine to turn into vinegar.

I cupped his face and kissed him again. ‘I’ll miss you.’

‘No, you won’t,’ he said quietly.

‘Wait ‘til you get back then tell me I didn’t miss you,’ I replied and gave him another kiss. ‘Something to look forward to.’

He gave me his indulgent I-don’t-believe-you-but-it’s-nice-to-hear smile. Making Bran feel wanted was proving a lot harder than I expected, I’d known it would be difficult but he seemed to be wilfully thinking himself away from the notion whatever I did. I could blame the allowance but I suspected it would’ve been the same if we’d been a normal courting couple, the idea that he was utterly worthless had been ingrained into him.

I caressed his face. ‘And if you finish your business early I want you home early. Don’t be staying away from me when there’s no need to. And I want you to write me every day and I’ll write you back.’

Bran smiled at that. Unlike a lot of people I could read and write, I’d taught myself and I was very good at learning things, it was fortunate because knowledge was a valuable commodity.

I touched my lips to his cheek gently. ‘Sure you don’t want a flourish before you go?’ I teased.

He gave me a look. I grinned and kissed him again. Not having any vinegar I was simply going to have to keep chipping away at that rock with my little chisel.

I slid my hands down his back and squeezed his arse. ‘I wouldn’t mind one.’

‘That’s not funny, Charlotte,’ he said, looking over his shoulder to make sure no-one was watching.

‘Who’s joking?’ I reached across and plucked his hat off the stand. ‘But you might miss your train and if you’re late going you might be late back.’ I put his hat on his head and gave him another kiss. ‘And I wouldn’t want that.’

‘You wouldn’t?’

‘Of course not. Now hurry along, chuckaboo, I’ll be waiting.’

He smiled and kissed me. ‘I’ll see you soon.’

‘You’d better,’ I replied.

He picked up his bag then came back for another kiss before heading for the door.

I waited a few minutes in case he came back for one last kiss, as he sometimes did when we parted in the mornings, but he seemed to have taken not being late to heart.

Once I was sure he wasn’t coming back I hopped down off the sideboard and went upstairs to get dressed.

Mrs Stapleton was in the hall checking the maid’s dusting of the bookcases when I got back downstairs; she gave me a disapproving look and muttered about me being a toffer. Given that I was a toffer I couldn’t really be insulted so I simply wished her good morning and went into Bran’s study and shut the door behind me. She wouldn’t like it but as I’d been working my way through the books and, like every other room Bran’s study was full of books, it wouldn’t be surprising.

Instead of going to the bookcase I went straight to the desk opposite the door and started rummaging, careful to put everything I moved back where I got it from.

The problem a lot of people had on the hunt was that they rushed it. They were so intent of their prey they got themselves caught because they didn’t pay attention to everything else around them. I’d known Bran was going on a trip so I simply had to wait for him to leave and I was free to dig as much as I wanted. At most I had two weeks but I’d be done sooner, in case he took me at my word and came home early.

I found a copy of his date book in the bottom drawer of his desk. Most people only had one but he kept a copy in case he lost the original, he worried about losing track of the days, which might be possible if you’d had as many he had.

According to the little book he was meeting someone called ‘Richard’ on his trip but there were no other details and it was probably something to do with antiques. I flipped back through the pages until I found the right day and sure enough there was an entry for a meeting with a man called Griffin. Once I had a first name it was simply a matter of digging through his papers for a last name and, hopefully, an address.

It was a pity he had so many papers.

It was lucky that when I was on the hunt I could be very patient indeed.

For more short fiction see my short story archive or Weekly Serial page.


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