Queen of the Garden of Girls, Part 24

(Chapter 9 continued)

“Nigel is indisposed and will be unable to assist you this afternoon,” were the first words out of Rose’s mouth as Elaina and Robert walked into the dining room.

Rose stood beside the table, already filled with plates and platters telling the tale of a cold lunch that would be presided over by an even colder woman. Her hair was, as always, pulled back into a shiny yet severe chignon and she wore a crisp violet dress that looked like it belonged in an office. One hand was delicately resting on the back of one chair, a large diamond ring sparkling from one finger.

“What do you mean, indisposed?” Robert asked, almost too sharply if Elaina were interpreting his mother’s gaze properly.

He had halted just past the doorway and she stopped beside him to look up at his face. Gone were the gentle eyes that stared far back to his, likely, happier youth. It had been replaced by lips pressed tightly together, a furrowed brow, and eyes that were more stone that soft tissue.

“Just as I said,” Rose said. “Nigel is busy this afternoon and will be unable to assist you.”

“Busy where?” Robert insisted, not moving a muscle.

Rose’s mouth tightened almost imperceptibly. “Nigel may be your butler, but he is in my employ. He is indisposed this afternoon.”

Robert frowned and cast a quick glance over at Elaina. “Then perhaps-“

“No,” Rose said sharply. “The two of you will find something else to amuse yourselves.”

Elaina had to work hard to not shift nervously from foot to foot. It was almost like standing between two giants facing off. But she was glad she was shorter than mother and son; she felt like she could flutter about beneath their gazes.

Trying not to think too hard about what she was doing, Elaina darted further into the room and quickly came to stand beside the table, at the chair opposite the one Rose reigned from. She made a show of looking over the sliced meats and cheeses, the artfully arranged tray of assorted fruits, and the freshly baked bread that had been sliced on the bias.

“This looks delightful, Rose,” she said, injecting enthusiasm into her voice, hoping it would mask her nerves.

Instead, Rose sniffed and turned her head from Elaina. “Cook is ill and her sous chef isn’t quite up to snuff. I’m afraid dinner won’t be much better.”

Eyes filled with desperation, Elaina turned to Robert, but he only continued to stare at his mother with pursed lips. Later, she would blame the tension getting to her. Now she understood why there had been eight years of companions fleeing the Hall despite the opulence of the place and general lifestyle. Rose and Robert were not a fun pair to be around simultaneously.

“I can cook,” she blurt out, her hands gripping the folds of her dress.

Catch up on the story over at the Writer’s Lounge.

Looking for more books to read? Author S. M. Stevens (Horseshoes and Hand Grenadeshas teamed up with several other authors to offer 30 days of book giveaways. US residents only.

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