Summer Daze, Austen Nights

By:

Olivia Tannis Moore

Chapter Six:

Compensation

After a long moment, he seemed to compose himself. He opened his eyes and regarded me with something along the lines of amazement. "Carlisle will find this interesting…" he murmured to himself. "What I thought was repulsion is actually the opposite…" He shook his head and his lips crinkled into a lopsided smile of chagrin.

I tilted my head and looked up at him. That smile of his was infectious. His revelation that I wasn't the repugnant girl that he had thought had me smiling with relief, especially since I no longer found him to be offensive—not after his admission, and certainly not after the spell he had put me under when he'd almost kissed me.

He was looking at me again, and rather oddly, as if he didn't know what to make of me.

I flushed brightly.

"How are you going to explain ruining your father's coat?" he asked as his eyes swept over me. "It won't do for you to anger him and then try to get information out of him."

My face felt like an inferno now. He had assumed the coat was my father's and I wrestled with telling him the truth. It sounded very irresponsible, my taking the stranger's coat and then ruining it. But in the end, I confessed rather shamefully that it wasn't actually my father's coat.

"Whose is it, then?" he asked

"I don't know…"

He looked at me dubiously as if not sure I was telling the truth. "You borrowed someone's coat that you don't know to come out here…but it wasn't for Sommer's benefit, or so you say…so whose benefit was it for?"

I wasn't going to tell him that—my honesty didn't extend that far. "Never mind," I said. "I shouldn't have borrowed it…I knew better. Especially when I don't have the money to have it mended or replaced."

One of his eyebrows shot up. "There's no mending that coat."

I looked down at my feet. It finally hit home that I was in a fine mess. The crowd was thinning and the gentleman whose coat I'd borrowed was probably inside looking for his coat so he could leave. It was a nice coat, well-made, definitely better than anything my father could afford. I bit my bottom lip, pensively. In my mind I imagined the man demanding a replacement from my father, placing him in an impossible situation. I was suddenly nauseous and looked around for a place to sit down, but we were in the middle of the drive.

Edward sighed and stuck his hand out, "Give me the coat."

I searched his face but it was unreadable. "Why? What are you going to do?" Yet I was already slipping the coat from my shoulders.

He didn't answer me as he took the coat and draped it across his arm.

"Edward?"

He began walking toward the entrance to the hall.

"Edward, please…" I called out.

He looked back over his shoulder at me. "I'm saving your hide yet again—that's what I'm doing."

My cheeks burned. He made it sound so impersonal. I groaned inwardly as I realized that it was personal. It appeared he was about to take the blame for the ruined coat.

**

The gentleman was indeed looking for his coat. And it seemed he had enlisted the help of several other guests to find it.

I didn't recognize the man, but from the cut of his clothing he appeared to be rather well-to-do. Middle-aged, and rather big-boned, he was searching the sitting rooms off the ballroom and bellowing quite dramatically with his large hands on his hips. I shrank back, immensely glad that I didn't have to confront the man, regretful that because of me, Edward had to take on the task.

But Edward seemed to give no thought to this. He walked straight up to the gentleman. "Sir, I it appears that I took your coat by accident."

The man's jaw dropped when he saw the state of his coat.

"There was a mishap with the horses," Edward explained calmly. "I must apologize for ruining your coat."

I watched as Edward took a leather pouch from his pocket. "I will, of course, reimburse you for the coat."

The man was livid. "See here, young man, my tailor just made this for the ball—I wouldn't be seen in civilized company wearing this now."

Edward responded by taking the man's hand and emptying the contents of the leather pouch into his palm. I gasped; there were enough gold coins to purchase three of the finest coats.

The man stared wild-eyed at the coins as a silver-haired woman hurried to whisper something in his ear.

The man's jaw dropped again and he stared at Edward, sputtering, "I had no idea—" and I assumed the woman had just told him who Edward was as the man turned ghostly-white.

I fought off a giggle as the gentleman's trembling hand rattled the coins in his palm. "Sir," he exhaled breathlessly, "I cannot take this." He thrust the coins toward Edward. "Tis too much compensation for such a ratty coat." His forehead was gleaming with perspiration now as he tried to get Edward to take the coins.

But Edward just shook his head. "I mean to be fair about the situation."

The man stepped forward, his voice low. "Sir, please…your father supplies my textile mills. I will be ruined."

Edward's eyebrow arched and he swept a topaz gaze over his shoulder at me, leaving no doubt that his next words were at least partially meant for my ears. "My father would expect no less from me than to pay for something I spoiled."

So that was it, I thought. He was implying that he was paying for my spoiled evening, that he held himself somewhat responsible for the tattered coat.

I studied his trim figure, his wide shoulders, the fleeting profile of his face with that chiseled square jaw and those eyes that could look right through me…and then I considered his chivalrous nature toward me. Briefly, I closed my eyes; no, I didn't harbor any of the anger from earlier. It had evaporated like summer rain, only to be replaced with a spreading warmth in my belly and the tumble and flutter of butterfly wings whenever I looked upon him.

**

I was enveloped in these thoughts when my father suddenly took my elbow. "Bella—I thought you'd gone home."

I shook my head, realizing that Charlotte would have told him that. "I was going to leave early, but got caught up in conversation." I said, hoping he wouldn't question me further.

He didn't get the chance as Edward strode up just then. "Mr. Swan," he greeted my father smoothly and shook his hand. "I'm Edward Cullen." My father's eyes widened slightly with recognition and he nodded as Edward continued, "I would like your permission to call on Bella tomorrow at your home."

My father's gaze swept from Edward to me. "Of course."

For a moment there was a stretch of silence. Then it occurred to me that my father was at a loss for words.

Edward turned to me and caught my hand in his. Slowly, he brought my hand up to his mouth and kissed my fingers, causing a small gasp to escape me. A shiver passed between us and he instantly let my hand go as if my fingers had burned him. His eyes were unreadable…yet, for the merest of seconds I thought something in his topaz eyes had sparked…

"Until tomorrow, then," Edward said, his voice catching slightly.

And then he was striding toward the open doors where Alice stood waiting for him.

***

(Thanks for reading. Sorry I've been a little slow updating. OTM)