Jane Eyre Austen has found her perfect match in her new boss, Grayson Poole. Of all the qualities she could desire, the most important is that he’s kind to her mother. Her very sweet, loving, adoring mother whose mind has chosen to remain in the Regency Era. Gray finds himself inexplicably drawn to a young woman who by all conventional standards is too young and peculiar. Gray never believed he would find love again and then Jane Eyre Austen turned his world upside down.
Jane filled two pitchers with fresh lemonade and brought them out to the dining room. James was now making the rounds picking up plates. Her stomach flew up to her throat when she realized her mother was talking animatedly to Gray Poole.
Concerned her mother would say something completely inappropriate, she made her way over to them both.
Her mother looked up, “Jane, why did you not tell me you work with this fine gentleman?”
Jane curtsied to her mother, “I am sorry, Mother. I thought I had mentioned it. Mrs. Fairfax is also in his employ. She recommended me for the job.”
Her mother clapped her hands, “Oh, Mrs. Fairfax! A fine, fine woman. You, sir, must be a great man to have such fine employees.”
He nodded his head, “Thank you dear lady. I have enjoyed the company of your daughter immensely.”
Her mother’s brow furrowed, “Jane, you have been in his company?” She looked terribly confused.
Jane shot a look to Gray and he quickly added, “I misspoke Mrs. Austen. I meant at my business.”
Her bewildered look remained and Jane gently touched her shoulder, “Mother, Susannah asked for your help with the custard.”
“Oh, of course. It was a pleasure to meet you Mr. Poole. I do hope to see you again.” She curtsied and left.
Jane held Gray’s gaze waiting for him to comment on her mother’s odd behavior. Thankfully he said nothing but instead picked up her hand. “If there were a band tonight, I would ask you to dance, Ms. Eyre.”
She relaxed and cast her eyes downward, “That is very kind, sir. I am sorry if my mother disturbed your evening.”
“Not at all, she enhanced it.” He gently squeezed her hand, “Like her daughter.”
“I’m sure I don’t deserve your flattery.” Her eyes glanced up to a woman in a blue cocktail dress who was watching them carefully. “I believe you have an admirer, sir.” Her eyes still held the gaze of the woman.
He turned his head toward the woman and back, “I don’t believe it’s the admirer I seek.” She felt herself flush. Groaning inwardly and wondered if there was a pill or something that would stop her constant blushing. He chuckled softly, “Tell me, Jane. Do you think I have an admirer that is deserving of my affections?”
“I wouldn’t know, sir,” she responded tartly, her eyes twinkling.
He was ridiculously handsome and Jane realized he was teasing her. This was not flirting for him, this was merely playing. Clearly, he found her amusing and nothing more.
He grinned and pulled her toward him, wrapping his arm around hers and escorting her around the room. “Really, Ms. Eyre? I believe a woman of your accomplishments should be able to recognize a worthy suitor.”
She tilted her head, “Am I limited to the women in this room, sir?”
“No. If you wish we can take a turn in the ballroom.” He led her through the doorway and they ambled slowly among the crowd.
She sighed, “I do not believe I know you well enough to assist you in your endeavor.” She looked across the room, and while the normal city socialites were there, she couldn’t see him dating any of these women. Or was that jealousy?
“I believe you know me better than most, Ms. Eyre.” He suddenly seemed serious and she felt her pulse quicken again.
She arched a brow, “Perhaps I do. I am afraid that I do not see a woman worthy of your singularity.”
He stopped. “Singular? In what way?” She cringed, her tongue working faster than her brain, once again. “Sir, I did not mean to offend. I find you an enigma — brilliant, kind, caring. And yet you seem to remain closed off to others.”
“I am not offended. Relax my dear, Ms. Eyre. I am quite closed off; I am amazed that you perceive me to have so many good qualities.” He began walking.
She smiled slightly, “As I stated, my dear sir, I do not know you well. However, I have benefited first hand your kindness this very morn.”
He grinned as they walked for a while in silence. “So you do not see an appropriate suitor for me here then?”
“Appropriate? Why sir, this room is filled with appropriate suitors. What is your wish? Blonde? Brunette? Trust fund? Perhaps you prefer a woman who manages her own holdings?”
“Why should I be concerned about their hair color when they can change it as easily as their dress?”
“Well, then, sir, do you have a preference of dress? There are many dresses here marketing appropriate women.” She said acerbically.
“Do you not market yourself? You look lovely tonight, Jane.”
“Market myself? No sir. Do you judge my character thusly?”
“You scorn how they dress then.” Humor laced his words.
“I do not judge their costume; I choose not to dress in that manner.” She replied.
“What manner is that?”
Her eyes flicked to the shoes of a well-appointed woman leaning on a man. “On her perfectly pedicured feet, I’m sure, are a month’s expenses.”
“So your disdain is not in their dress, but their economy.”
“No, sir. I dare not judge their economy, or their choices. I simply state that I have not the same inclination, nor would I find enjoyment in dressing thusly.”
“Perhaps you feel unworthy.”
A small smirk hinted at her lips, “Again sir, you deem to judge my character.”
“No, I wish to know you better, to understand you.” He said it gently, sincerely.
“Then I shall attempt to explain. I do not feel unworthy; I find comfort in my plainness. I enjoy the anonymity of it. I do not seek the attention of others; I should be uncomfortable dressing as a peacock, having others judge the worthiness of my character by the feathers I preen.”
He drew in a sharp breath, “You have a wicked tongue, to be sure. Your scolding will leave welts upon your opponents. Does your plainness allow you to express your opinions so bluntly?”
Her eyes cast down, “No, sir. I believe the mask is assisting my tongue tonight.”
He chuckled softly, “I’m glad of that. To think I should be scolded so severely by you is intimidating.”
“You shall think nothing of this tomorrow, I’m sure.” She held his gaze evenly.
He grinned, “I shall think of nothing else, I am sure.”
Her cheeks flushed, “You have spent far too long in the company of this peahen, sir. The others await your company.”
“And if I choose to stay?”
“Then, sir, you risk having your judgment carefully parsed and examined, each movement you make on display for all to scrutinize. I wish to be no part of that, so I bid you goodnight, sir.” She curtsied and left his side, walking purposefully toward the kitchen. He watched her move with grace, and recognized the slight sway of her hips, a confident and feminine sway. A sway that was not aggressive, not seductive, just feminine. Grinning stupidly he headed to the bar, ordered a drink, and tried to put the image of her out of his head. Her words still clung to him, haunting him. It would take more than whiskey to wash those away.