CHAPTER THREE

ELLIE

“Stop looking so sad,” Mother chided.
“I’m not sad. I’m annoyed that I have to go on a date with Sawyer.”
“Sawyer is a perfectly nice young man. You’re lucky he’s showing interest.”
“He is lucky I’m even going on this date with him.”
“How did I get such a difficult daughter? My friends’ daughters would be jumping up and down with the chance to go out with a young man like Sawyer. Or any of the young men who have shown you interest. They enjoy this process. But not my daughter.”
She sighed as Sabina finished with my hair. Mother made me stand up. She told Sabina to take off the cape that she’d put around me to protect my dress. She made me twirl around.
“Perfect. You’ll have a marriage proposal in no time.”
“I don’t want a marriage proposal, Mother. I only agreed to this tonight because I knew if you found out, you’d pester me about it for days.”
Mother sighed dramatically and left my room. I followed after her and down the winding staircase. Sawyer was in the parlor talking to my father. They were having a drink. He stood and smiled when he saw me.
“You look amazing, Ellie,” he said.
“Thank you. Are you ready?”
“Yes.”
“Don’t be out too late,” Father said.
“Father,” I said.
He just kissed me on the top of my head and left the parlor with Mother. Sawyer and I walked to the door which was opened by the butler. We walked down the stairs and to his waiting carriage.

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“Can I go with you today, Daddy?”
“Of course, but it may be boring. We can go get lunch after if you’re up for it.”
I smiled at him. “I’m fine with boring. Mother’s driving me up the wall. She’s been asking me when I will have another date with Sawyer.”
“Do you not like him?”
“Not particularly.”
“Then just tell your mother that. I’m sure she will understand.”
I just looked at him.
“Fine, she won’t understand. But she’s your mother. She just wants what’s best for you, Ellie Bear,” he said.
He always had to be the mediator when it came to my mother and me. Sometimes I wished I had a sister to take some of Mother’s attention, but it was just me. I had to deal with it all.
“We should get going.”
I followed him out of the house and to the carriage. He read over some papers as we rode into town. We were going to Greyson and Barrington where Father had some business. Fifteen minutes later the carriage was pulling up to the building. The footman opened my door and helped me out. My father followed quickly after me. The footman hurried to open the front door of the building for us as well. I inclined my head in thanks. We were greeted by a receptionist who led us to a conference room. I could see that the others had already arrived. Lord Greyson and Mr. Barrington were seated on the other side of the table. Both of them were very handsome men. I always found it kind of hard to look at them. They were also both married though I’ve never met their wives.
I tore my attention away from them as my father greeted them. I noticed two other men sitting on that side of the table. They looked alike with their sea green eyes, golden brown skin and hair. One looked to be around my age and the other one was older. It was the older one who drew my attention. There was something about him and he was staring at me.
“Ellie,” Mr. Barrington said affectionately. “Are you here to help with the business deal?”
I rolled my eyes. “You always think you’re so funny, Mr. B.”
“You used to think I was funny when you were younger,” he grumbled.
Lord Greyson walked around the table to embrace me. It’s been over a year since I’ve been here. I used to come with my father all the time when he came because I had crushes on them but as I got older I got over it and I realized how boring it was here at this office. Nothing of interest was going on. Lord Greyson was ten years older than me, and Mr. Barrington was eleven years older.
“Are you well?” Lord Greyson asked.
“I am well. How are you? How’s your family?”
“I am excellent and my family is too.”
“That’s good to hear,” I said.
“Let me introduce you to our junior associates,” he said. And then lower, “They are our brothers-in-law.”
“Really? Did you and Mr. B. marry sisters?”
“We did indeed, Ellie,” he said.
I shook my head. “Go ahead and introduce them.”
“That is Collin Dering and that is Bailey Dering,” he said.
The older one was named Bailey and he was still looking at me with interest. A shiver crept down my spine but I made sure not to shake. I was also drawn to him. He was very handsome and there was something about him.
“Guys, this is Elisa Weston but we call her ‘Ellie.’”
They greeted me and we finally took our seats. The meeting started. I kept sneaking glances at Bailey only to find him doing the same. My stomach fluttered nervously and I smiled to myself. My father was too engrossed in the deal to notice that anything was going on. I listened to them talk for a moment before I started looking out the window. I’d just wanted to get away from Mother and her insistence that I have tea with her and some of her friends. I knew they would have wanted to talk to me about their sons. I could not handle that today.
The meeting dragged on longer than I’d expected. At one point I went out to talk to Magdalena who was just a little older than me.
“What do you know about these brothers Mr. Barrington and Lord Greyson hired?”
“The younger one is not to be trusted. He’s only twenty and seems to want to only sow his oats so to say. He spends a lot of time at The Whispering Ghost, chasing after every woman.”
“Have you been one of his victims, Maggie?”
She gave me a sheepish smile and looked down.
“Oh, Mags. Why?”
“You just met him. He’s gorgeous. Those eyes and golden hair. He has a body to die for.”
I laughed. “So, what about Bailey? What do you know about him?”
“That’s the one you’re interested in?”
“I guess.”
“Well, he’s twenty-nine and not as bad as his younger brother. I’m not sure he’s been in relationships since he got here a few years ago but I’m sure he has. But he’s just as handsome as Collin.”
I smiled and shook my head. “Well, I don’t know.”
“You want him to ask you out?”
“He seems different than the guys I’m used to. I... I’m drawn to him in a way that I can’t explain.”
“Well, maybe you should get back inside. You know you can talk to him after the meeting.”
“You just want to get back to work,” I teased.
I stood and went to the door. I opened it and walked inside. Bailey looked up at me and smiled a little. I reclaimed my seat and looked down the table at my dad and the others. It looked like the meeting was starting to wind down. I hoped so. My father stood and so did Lord Greyson and Mr. Barrington. Collin stood as well. Bailey and I stayed seated. They walked out of the conference room and that’s when I finally stood. I looked up and saw Bailey walking around the table to stand in front of me. He smiled at me.
“Hi,” I said.
“Hi,” he said. “You’re very beautiful and seemed very bored during the meeting.”
I rolled my eyes. “I was bored. I only came to get out of tea with my mother and her friends but it really wasn’t a great alternative. And thank you.”
He chuckled. “Do you not like tea?”
“I’m fine with tea. I’m just not an old lady so I’d rather be doing something fun.”
His beautiful green eyes flashed. “Fun? What would that entail?”
“It’s warmer so maybe a walk in the park or playing a game. Just not another tea.”
“Ellie, dear. I’m leaving. Your mother is expecting me home to help her with something,” Father said from the door.
I glanced at him before looking back at Bailey.
“It was nice to meet you, Bailey.”
“It was nice to meet you too, Miss Weston.”I followed my father out of the conference room and I felt his eyes on me the entire time.

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