summary: When Amy Laurence notices a handsome new stranger in town applying, coincidentally, for a teaching position at a nearby school, Cupid starts working overtime.
disclaimer: I own none of the characters presented save the "dashing" Austin Bracken, who is of my own creation, although the actual story itself is also of my own 'creativity.' And in the case that you should decide to sue for some reason, I'm certain you'd probably be paying far more for the process itself than what you would receive in return as I don't have much to offer. :) But the Spanish books are always up for grabs...
author's comments: please R/R!
Meg Brooke breathed a long sigh, rolling her eyes heavenward as her younger sister, Amy Laurence, requested to see yet another bolt of material. She was having another dress made for Bess—a party dress—and it had to be just perfect.
"What do you think about this one, Meg?" she asked, holding up the taffeta for her older sister to see. "I think the color would suit her complexion well—and the blue would bring out her eyes."
"Yes, Amy," Meg said, trying to summon up the proper enthusiasm, enough to appease the woman. "I think that's lovely. And I'm sure that Bess will love it."
"Really. Now are you ready to leave yet?"
"Meg!" Amy chided, "Picking out the perfect material is a very slow, complicated process. I simply cannot be rushed."
Meg muttered soft nothings under her breath but refrained from commenting out loud. Her sister was so impossible sometimes! If she spent as long shopping for Daisy and herself as long as Amy spent for Bess, she, Meg, would never get anything done.
"That's a wonderful color, Mrs. Laurence," Charlotte Gerson drawled in that usual tone of hers. "But isn't it the same color that you picked out for that darling dress you were having made last week?"
Amy glanced up at the young woman, her eyes holding a spark of blue fire. "Yes, I do believe you are right." She dropped the material without a second hesitation and started to turn toward Meg. "I don't think I'll select anything this week. I'll check Mrs. Albright's shop, and if she doesn't have anything suitable, I'll come back and see if you have anything better with your next shipment."
Charlotte lifted her chin, her lips pursing into a delicate line. "Very well, Mrs. Laurence. Though I'm sure you won't fine any goods as nice as the ones in this store," she added.
Seeing the pale smoothness of her younger sister's jaw tighten, Meg stepped a little closer, giving Amy a slight, inconspicuous nudge with her elbow. "Come, Amy. Jo will be waiting for her mail."
She could feel Amy resist at first, but she consented and moved away from the store counter. "You're right. I wouldn't want her to grow impatient and have to come and get if herself." Shooting a glare in Charlotte's direction, Amy straightened her shoulders and swept away, her skirts swishing.
"Thank you… Miss Gerson," Meg said, remembering her manners, before she followed her sister. She knew that it would not hurt Charlotte Gerson to be brought down a few notches, but now was neither the time nor the place.
"That woman makes me so mad," Amy hissed once they had crossed to the other side of the store. "She's so smug—ever since Nick declined her advances, that freight train has been nothing but a little snob."
"Shh Amy," Meg chided, "She might hear you."
"I don't care if she does!" Amy declared petulantly, stomping her dainty foot. "It would serve her right if—"
The bell above the door tinkled, announcing the arrival of another customer. Charlotte's manner changed immediately, and she put on a sweet smile, greeting the prospective buyer. "Can I help you, Sir?"
Taking notice of the flirtatious expression that crossed the woman's face, Amy looked up, curious to find the cause for such behavior—not that, with Charlotte Gerson, it took much. But, as assumed, the freight train had caught another unfortunate victim in her track. A very nice looking one, she noted.
"Yes, perhaps you could tell me where I could find Peterskill Academy?" The man looked up, a rather sheepish smile on his handsome face as he produced a letter with smeared ink. "I'm afraid the directions sent to me have been…ruined."
"Oh, dear," Charlotte clucked. "You poor man. Yes, of course I could . . ."
Watching the Gerson's niece, Amy muttered, "She'll be throwing herself across the counter and into his arms before long." She huffed. "She's behaving the same way with that man as she did with Nick."
"Amy, she . . . slipped," Meg felt compelled to remind. "It—"
"Shh!" Amy grabbed Meg's arm and pulled her farther into the corner, attempting to make them look as inconspicuous as possible.
"What has gotten into you?" she returned in a fierce whisper. One minute Amy was shouting loud enough for Boston to hear and the next, she was demanding near silence.
"Look at him!" she said in a quiet but excited tone. "Isn't he dashing? Just look at him. He's new in town, isn't he? I don't believe I've seen him before. Looks like a marrying man." She carried on, speaking so fast that Meg had a hard time keeping up.
"Amy!" Meg snapped, surprised and rather appalled that someone, her sister, would suggest such a thing. "You're married!"
"Not for me, Meg. For Jo!"
"I have three words for you, Amy Curtis March Laurence. No, no, and no." Meg shook her head, emphasizing each word.
"But Meg," she pouted, "He's just perfect for her."
"Don't you remember what happened the last time you said that?"
"All right, so we failed last time. But there's always a time to try again."
"WE? Amy, that was YOU!"
"Well, then, that's what went wrong."
"You weren't helping me." Amy gave her an innocent smile. "Meg, would you like to come to Plumfield for dinner on Tuesday evening?" she asked then, completely switching subjects.
Charlotte starting speaking again, however, capturing Amy's full attention and discouraging any response from Meg. "I take it you don't live around here?" she purred, fluttering her lashes at the stranger.
"No, I'm from Quincy. But I'm interviewing for a job as a teacher at Peterskill Academy," he explained, refolding the streaked paper and replacing it in his suit coat pocket.
"A teacher." Charlotte smiled. "How educational."
"Oh, good heavens!" Amy fretted. "With a woman like that, he's never going to want to come back to Concord again. I think it's time we introduced ourselves, Meg."
"Amy, I don—"
But her protests of reasoning fell on deaf ears as Amy grasped her arm and dragged her over to the newcomer. "Hello. I hope you'll forgive me for interrupting, but I couldn't help overhearing that you were new in town." She extended her gloved hand. "I'm Mrs. Amy Laurence and this is my sister, Mrs. Meg Brooke. Welcome to Concord."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Laurence, Mrs. Brooke." He tipped his head in polite acknowledgement, offering a genuine smile. "Forgive me, I'm Austin Bracken."
"Austin Bracken, what a charming name," Charlotte complimented, not wanting to be left out of the conversation.
Ignoring the woman, Amy dove right in and asked, shocking everyone,
"Would you care to join us for dinner on Tuesday evening, Mr. Bracken?"
"I still cannot believe you did that!" Meg declared, clinging tightly to the carriage seat as Amy galloped down the dirt road to Plumfield at a harried pace.
"Oh, well, what's done is done. We can't let Jo know, though."
"Can't tell Jo?" She did not like the sound of this.
"It would ruin everything!" Amy stated emphatically.
"I thought you weren't going to Plumfield today," Meg said, reaching up to clamp a hand over her hat before it could fly away.
"Well, my plans changed," she answered simply. With a small shrug
of her shoulders, she pulled the horse to a halt in front of the big house.
"Remember. Don't breathe a word of this to Jo!"
"Meg, Amy," Jo greeted with a smile. "What brings you two by today? We weren't expecting you."
"That makes two of us," Meg murmured, stepping in behind her youngest sister.
"We were doing some shopping in town and decided to stop by for a short visit. You don't mind, do you?" Amy gave Jo an angelic look. Not that she planned on leaving if Jo didn't want them there . . .
"No, of course not! Come right in. I'll have Asia get some tea." Jo ushered them into the parlor, then, while both were settling down, turned to leave.
"No!" Amy said suddenly, jumping up. "I mean, let me ask her. Our ride over was bit drafty, and I think I'll stop and freshen up in the powder room. I'll just speak with her on my way."
Jo took a seat. "Oh, well, all right . . ."
Without further say, Amy departed and bustled down the hall, heading straight for the kitchen. There was a dinner guest coming on Tuesday and she had dozens of things to do!
"Asia! Just the woman I wanted to see."
"Mrs. Amy," Asia said, glancing up from cutting potatoes, "We weren't expectin' ya today."
"Yes, well, I need to ask you a favor."
"Yes, you see—"
At the moment, the broth on the stove started to boil over, sending Asia careening across the kitchen in order to avoid a disaster. "Jus' one moment," she said and, after rescuing the pot, straightened to listen. "What were ya sayin', Mrs. Amy?"
Amy decided to break the news gently. "We're having a dinner guest