Author's Note: A brief one-shot in which Lavinia Lyte reflects on how much Johnny is like his mother, Vinnie Lyte.

~BD


Yes, Miss Lyte


The party was bright and lavish, with hundreds of candles and sparkling cut crystal, the orchestra tuning up for the minuet, and so many roses which spilled out of vases and across marble topped tables. Laughter echoed across the ballroom as men and women hysterically tried to guess whom other guests were, while everyone whispered how stunning Miss Lavinia's costume was.

After all, it was no secret which lady was Lavinia. No costume in the world could disguise the most striking woman in Boston.

But, the Queen of Hearts! Such a brilliant thought, for she truly was! More than one young officer in the room was madly in love with her, and it was rumored that some twenty men at least had asked vainly for her hand during the previous few months. Her wealthy father had turned all down, but he was nowhere to be seen tonight (likely he did not feel well and had elected to remain at his home on Beacon Hill), and so the eligible flitted about Miss Lavinia, desperate for a dance or a brief conversation.

Lavinia, however, was as aloof as ever. And within ten minutes of her grand entrance, in which that angelic child who was dressed as a two-spot had been holding her lavish, brocaded train off of the floor, the other ladies were soon whispering behind their fans. Miss Lavinia did not seem herself tonight, for she was more distant than usual! In fact, she looked most annoyed, even despite the attentions of the handsome Lieutenant Stranger, who was dressed as one of her knaves. How on earth could she look so severe when such a man was paying her every courtesy? The masquerading princesses, milkmaids, Greek goddesses, Egyptian queens, and Oriental courtesans could not understand it.

If someone had dared to ask her about her mood, she would have lied and said she was as gay as a butterfly.

But inwardly, Lavinia was indeed quite sour.

Actually, she was furious.

"Yes, Miss Lyte."

The mocking, singsong voice rang in her ears horribly. She could still see the sneer on the young lips, the flicker of defiance in those bright eyes, the dip of brown-blonde hair that formed his striking widow's peak, and the infuriating way he had curtsied like a maid.

"Yes, Miss Lyte."

That widow's peak.

The captain she had charged with certain, secret orders only recently was not yet returned from France, nor would he be for several months. Several months of business for him, but several months of horrendous waiting for her. No one in this room could possibly guess the exceedingly important matters on Lavinia Lyte's mind.

"Yes, Miss Lyte."

"…and only a moment ago, the Colonel was saying that Isannah is the belle of the ball! Excluding yourself, of course, Miss Lyte."

She jerked her attention back to Lieutenant Stranger, who was holding Isannah's tiny hand. The girl was huddled close to his leg, peaking about at all the fancy, glittering costumes and laughing participants of the party. Lavinia's train had been pinned up into a bustle upon arrival, and therefore Isannah's services were not required at present. Which meant that now, she was being petted and adored by anyone who passed within ten feet of Stranger and saw her.

"Yes, Miss Lyte."

"Mm," Lavinia murmured, inwardly cursing herself. She nodded deferentially to the young Lieutenant. She should be paying him more attention, even if she would never marry a soldier of such low rank. "I daresay she is."

He began to speak of the Colonel's military experience, while occasionally teasing Isannah, who giggled whenever he pulled at one of her tight golden curls or tickled her. But Lavinia's attention drifted yet again.

"Yes, Uncle Jonathan."

A different voice, yet just as mocking as the boy's, danced through her memory. She had been but a child, and Vinny – wild, delicious, handsome Vinny, whom everyone adored and loved and doted upon – had ran down the stairs of the Lyte's country seat on light, satin-encased toes, on her way for a brisk ride with one of her many suitors. Lavinia's father, not her own, had furiously scolded her for running in the house, and furthermore, for daring to go on a ride with some unknown local boy who likely did not meet her own social status.

There had been the mock curtsey, the way her pretty red upper lip had curled, the flash of fire in her eyes as she turned to face her uncle…

It was just like…

"Yes, Miss Lyte."

"Miss Lyte?"

Startled, Lavinia looked back to Lieutenant Stranger, only to find that he looked confused. She realized she had not been paying attention yet again.

Curse Johnny. This was all the little rag-a-muffin's fault. When she should be attentive and perfect and lovely, making women envious and men fall before her, she was sour and distant, and it was evident. This would not do. She was Lavinia Lyte, not some common Boston woman. She should have a much better presence and command of herself. Allowing Johnny's irritating remarks to grate against her nerves and nag in her brain was insupportable.

In the kindest voice she could manage, she said, "I am sorry, sir. Please forgive me. I believe I need a breath of fresh air. The heat seems to have caused me to lose my focus, I daresay."

"Shall I escort you, Miss Lyte?" he asked, almost too eagerly.

"Yes, Miss Lyte."

At some point, she would have to put a stop to his attentions. She could strike Johnny if her hand so desired, but she could not do the same to Stranger. But for now, she merely smiled, more like a viper than anything else, and insisted, "No, no! I shall be fine. Thank you, Lieutenant. Would you watch dear Isannah until I return?"

"Of course. Isannah adores me, do you not, child?"

The stupid, insipid child nodded innocently, then laughed when Lieutenant Stranger poked her ribs through the silk dress she wore. Lavinia left them to it and quickly made her way through the side rooms, all but ignoring the ladies and men who tried to capture her attention, until she reached a set of double doors that led onto one of the fine terraces.

"Yes, Miss Lyte."

"Yes, Uncle Jonathan."

The night air was cool against her hot face, and she was only hot because she was angry. She had lied outright to Stranger by saying the heat had affected to her; it was not the heat of the party itself, though. Balls and parties were her life, but Johnny? No. Johnny was not. And yet, he was making himself a part of her life! The horrid, irritating, infuriating little brat was going to constantly remind the Lytes of his existence until her father either had him killed or Lavinia found out the answers and settled the matter once and for all. She clenched her hands on the marble balustrade which ran round the rich terrace.

"Yes, Uncle Jonathan."

After Vinny had insulted Lavinia's father, Vinny's own father had scolded her for being rude.

And Vinny?

Lavinia turned her black gaze up to the starry sky – the only entity in the universe that seemed to outshine the glittering diamonds around her shapely throat. Her eyes lighted upon Polaris, which sparkled down at her, brighter than the others. Vinny was like the North Star, or so Lavinia had believed when she had been young.

And Vinny? Vinny had laughed when her father had angrily told her to obey her uncle. Without even a backward glance, the handsomest girl in Boston had sauntered out of the door and met her beau at the end of the drive, ignoring her father, her uncle, and anyone else who happened to have overheard the conversation and her mocking jest.

Oh, had she been in trouble that night. Her father and her uncle had waited up for her, and then furiously told her she was not to act so impertinent ever again. Nor was she to go out with any of her beaus unless they had been approved by one of her two elders, for a common colony man would not do for Vinny Lyte's high status.

But still Vinny had only smirked, then yawned like an insolent cat, and sashayed up to her room while declaring that she was awfully tired, and that quite certainly her father and uncle were making mountains out of tiny hills.

It was the epitome of style in Lavinia's young eyes. As she walked up the stairs, her older cousin had tugged at the sparkling pins that held her curled hair up, and the long tresses had tumbled down as she mounted each step, virtually ignoring her father and uncle entirely. Her satin skirts had swished and hung about her hips lushly, she had stepped out of her shoes and left them behind on the stairs halfway up, and her maid had gone into a volatile rant the moment Vinny reached the landing. How dare her mistress wear one of her expensive, Parisian ball gowns for a country drive with some half-witted bumpkin? How dare she treat her shoes and hairpins without care? How dare she show such impudence to her elders?

And Vinny had merely laughed again.

Oh, how Lavinia had adored her cousin. Vinny could get away with murder and not care two bits. Lavinia, however, had been terrified of acting so wild. Her father would be angry and she would not be so lucky as to saunter up the stairs and escape his dire wrath. And if her aging father knew that she had requested one of his sea captains to "feel about" in France regarding Johnny, he would be exceptionally furious.

"Yes, Miss Lyte."

Her hands clenched tighter. She almost didn't need the captain's investigation, but it was a formality she would have to endure. Johnny Tremain, alias, Jonathan Lyte Tremain, was most certainly Vinny's child. Was there any doubt? The way he walked, the way his widow's peak turned down, the fire that drove him in everything he did, the mocking sarcasm that laced his young voice – oh, yes. He belonged to Vinny. The only confusion was his surname, and perhaps the sea captain could clear that issue for her. Yes, the surname was odd. Vinny had married Charles Latour; where, then, had the name Tremain come into play?

Lavinia wondered what the handsome Vinny Lyte say or do if she saw her equally impudent son and his antics. How would she feel, knowing her only child was a horse boy for a rebellious Whig newspaper, a rough-n-ready type of lad who could handle almost anything life threw his way?

She'd probably adore everything about the insolent brat.

And without thinking, Lavinia smiled slightly. Oh, how she had missed her cousin's antics when Vinny had eloped with Latour. Weeks, even months had gone by, the house quiet and dull, with maids daring to speak only in whispers. There had been no Vinny running through the rooms, laughing over some hysterical joke, teasing the servants and flirting with every man who walked across her path, including the stable boys.

Having Johnny about was almost like having Vinny again.

Almost.

Merchant Lyte would be furious to know how much time the boy spent at the Lyte mansion, visiting Cilla or even just crossing through the grounds.

"Yes, Miss Lyte."

But what would the brat do when he found out he was really Merchant Lyte's grandnephew?

That, Lavinia could not guess. Her brow furrowed deeper.

Johnny was such a wild thing, so like Vinny, that it was impossible to guess his reaction.

She straightened her back and shoulders. It was time to return to the ball. She would be missed if she remained absent too long. Hitching a false smile into place, she turned and swept through the double doors.

She would no longer think of Johnny tonight.

But only fifteen minutes later, just when she had effectively pushed Johnny out of her mind, Lieutenant Stranger embarked on the hilarious tale of Johnny's reaction to Isannah's half-dressed form in Lavinia's parlor, much to the amusement of the other guests. A mere horse boy, slapping the little angel into a pile of fancy fabrics! It was too rich! But hadn't Miss Lavinia punished him for striking her protégée? Surely the Lytes would love a reason to erase the boy's name off the face of the earth; wasn't he the same boy who had claimed a relationship to them?

Lavinia clenched one fist against her skirts, so no one would see her anger. Her smile remained fixed into place, but her blood boiled.

"Yes, Miss Lyte."

oOo

"Ah, my dear. I daresay you were the most beautiful woman at the party tonight, eh? Ah ha, ha!"

Lavinia paused in the parlor. Cilla had been ready at the door to take a very exhausted Isannah up to her room for bed, and Lavinia wished to do the same. But if her father had waited up for her, she would not escape so easily. She sighed and waited for him, hoping he would not detain her for long.

After he pushed himself out of the chair he had been lounging in, he crossed the room to walk with her up the stairs.

"Lavinia, pet? You do seem unlike yourself. Did someone dare to cross your path?" His eyes flashed at the thought.

Lavinia gave him a thin smile. "No, father. Of course not. I'm simply exhausted. It's past two in the morning, you know."

"Yes, Miss Lyte."

"Ah ha, so it is. I confess, I was most absorbed in a new novel, waiting for you. I completely lost track of the time."

Together, they walked up the stairs together in comfortable silence. But Lavinia was still annoyed.

Her father could not know yet. But one day she would tell him the truth.

"Yes, Miss Lyte."

~FIN~