Excerpt: Violet walked into the room and looked around to see if any of the interviewees had arrived yet. When she saw that she was alone with Jonas, she left the door slightly open so they wouldn't be completely alone, just as her mother had taught her. She sat in one of the chairs opposite his desk and smiled. "Good morning, Mr. Smith."
Jonas nodded at the young lady seated in front of him, struck immediately by how very pretty she was. He didn't want to like her, but after her apology on Saturday morning, he found himself at least a little drawn to her. "Good morning." He put down the paper he'd been reading. "I have two women coming for interviews today. The first is a Miss Henrietta March. The second is Miss Edna Blue. Do you know either of them?" He leaned back in his chair and folded his arms. He hoped she'd know enough about at least one of the women to help him with the decision making process."No, I don't. There are so many new people in Seattle every year there's no way I could ever learn them all."Jonas leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. "I guess I'm adding to the general confusion of the Seattle population."Violet smiled. "I guess you are, but you're definitely welcome here. I was so happy to see that there would be an art gallery here in town. I never thought I'd see the day.""I'm very happy to be the one to bring it here. My sister, Emily Grace, and brother-in-law, Albert, planned to move to Seattle, and I came ahead of them. I wanted to get an idea of what it was like before they moved here. I had just enough time to buy the gallery when I received word of their deaths. I jumped on a train and immediately went to my nephew. We'd agreed before he was ever born that I would raise him if anything ever happened to them." He wasn't certain why he was telling her about the death of his sister and brother-in-law, but he felt compelled to share the information with her."I'm so sorry. How did they die?" Violet couldn't imagine losing people she loved. Death had never touched her or her family. Well, her grandparents had died, but she'd never really known them, so it hadn't seemed real to her."They went out to a play one night, and someone killed them so he could steal her jewels." His voice was raw with emotion as he spoke."That's terrible! Poor Nathan. I can't imagine what he must be going through." Violet hated that the sweet little boy had lost his parents."He has nightmares a lot. I feel really badly for him." He shook his head. He hated that one act of cruelty had changed so many lives forever. "If there's any way I can help him adjust to life in Seattle, just let me know. He seems like such a sweet boy.""Oh, he is. Thank you. We don't know many people here yet." He was surprised she was such a compassionate person. They'd started out on the wrong foot with the portrait she painted. He knew he needed to reassess and see what she was really like. "My plan is for the three of us plus whomever we hire and Nathan's nanny to travel by train to New York City leaving in about a week.""Oh that soon? I thought it would take longer to get everything ready." She loved the idea of leaving so quickly, though. She wouldn't have time to get nervous about leaving her family."Do you not have enough paintings ready? We'll have a few weeks while we're getting ready for the show, so you'll have time to paint once we get there. We'll all stay at Emily Grace's house. I'll sell the house while we're there." He wasn't looking forward to the task of sorting through all her personal belongings and deciding what to keep and what to donate. The very idea of getting rid of some of her belongings made him feel weak with sadness."You won't mind if I paint in her house? I have sketches to work from. I think I want the next showing to be all faces. Maybe call it 'Faces of Seattle.' I promise, I have permission from everyone this time." She looked down for a moment in embarrassment.He eyed her for a moment, wondering if she was really the person he was seeing today or the spoiled brat who had refused to admit her wrongdoing on Thursday evening. He really liked the girl who was in front of him, but the other had been intolerable. Could she really have been so naive that she hadn't understood she was doing something wrong?A knock on the door stopped him from responding. His butler, Langsley, poked his head in. "There's a Miss March to see you, sir.""Thank you, Langsley. Please, show her in."A woman who looked to be in her mid-forties with spectacles perched at the end of her pointy nose walked into the room, looking down at the two of them. She took the seat beside Violet. Jonas smiled. "You must be Henrietta March.""Yes, sir. You may call me Miss March." Her voice was deep, and she seemed angry with the world."All right, Miss March. Why do you want to be a lady's traveling companion?"Miss March seemed to think about the question for a moment. "Truthfully, I'd rather not be, but I'm determined to have a chance to see New York City. It's my dream." She folded her hands tightly in her lap, her ankles crossed primly in front of her.Jonas blinked. Did she really just tell him she didn't want to work for him, and only wanted a free trip? "I see. Why do you feel like you're qualified to be a lady's companion?""I'm a forty-six year old virgin. If I don't know the rules of propriety no one does. In fact, I'll have you know that I've never even been kissed. I will be good at keeping any funny business from going on under my nose." Miss March's hair was pulled back into a severe bun at the nape of her neck. She looked as if she'd never smiled in her life. Violet shuddered at the thought of traveling across the country with this woman. She knew she would want to hide after ten minutes of her dour presence. "Do you enjoy children, Miss March? We'll have a four year old boy traveling with us." She said a silent prayer that her instincts were correct and the woman would hate the thought of being on a train for two weeks with a child.Miss March looked at Jonas sharply. "A child? You didn't put that in the advertisement!""Nathan wouldn't be under your care, Miss March. Your entire task would be making certain Miss Sullivan was watched over and kept from doing anything improper." Jonas couldn't believe the woman's reaction to Nathan. Didn't all women love children?Miss March stood up abruptly. "I'm not willing to take that risk, Mr. Smith. Good day." She turned and left the room as quickly as she'd come.Violet waited a moment before bursting into laughter. "She was a ray of sunshine, wasn't she?" She'd had a schoolteacher like Miss March for a year, and she had no desire to ever spend time with someone like that again.Jonas simply stared at the door Miss March had closed behind her. "That was the strangest interview I have ever conducted." He looked at Violet. "How can you laugh? That woman was sour!"His words made Violet laugh even harder. "I'm so glad she doesn't like children!"Jonas's lips twitched. "I am too! I don't think I could have been on a train for twelve days with that woman."Violet shook her head. "I know I couldn't. I sure hope the other woman is better than her. What was her name again?"He looked down at the paper on his desk in front of him. "Edna Blue. She doesn't sound horrible. Maybe she'll be nice." He shrugged, catching her eye again. Violet's eyes were still twinkling as if she was stifling laughter. "She certainly couldn't be worse than that one."She nodded and giggled more. "I hope this one will work out, because trust me, neither of us want my mother going."He tilted his head to one side and studied her. "Why not?""Oh, she's just crazy about propriety. She would be watching to make certain we never spoke in a tone she couldn't hear. She'd play matchmaker with us, trying to get us to marry. She's relentless." She made a face, hating the idea of her mother trying to force them together.He looked at her for a moment. "And would her playing matchmaker with us be so horrible?"Violet blushed. Did he think she was saying he wasn't good enough for her? Or that she thought he wanted to marry her? "Well, no, but I don't think either of us want to be forced to marry the other.""No, that's true." He leaned back again. "You surprise me, Violet Sullivan."It was the first time he'd used her given name, and she liked the sound of it on his lips. "Oh? Why is that?""You seemed so unreasonable to me the night we met, and now I'm sitting here realizing that you're someone I could come to like a great deal. Not at all the woman I thought you were.""I hope that's a good thing."He smiled at her, liking her more by the minute. "It's definitely a good thing. I won't have to dread the time we'll spend together now.""You never know...I could make you dread it. One of my sisters was the best practical joker in all of Seattle." She wondered how he'd react to Jasmine and her pranks. If she tried hard, Violet was certain she could duplicate at least one of them."Really? How many sisters do you have?"She grinned. "No one from around here would ever ask that. I have seven sisters. I'm the seventh sister of eight."His eyes widened. "Any brothers?""No. Isn't seven sisters enough?" "I'm certain your father thinks so. That's a lot of responsibility." He shook his head. "How many are married?""Six. My younger sister is going to the university. She's going to be a doctor.""A doctor? A female doctor? You don't mean a midwife?"Violet grinned. "No, she's going to be a doctor. So many of her professors are telling her it's impossible and that she'll never get into medical school. My money is on Iris.""Iris? So she has a flower name too?" How odd to have two girls named after flowers in the same family."We all have flower names. Rose is the oldest, and she married Shawn, a dentist. Lily is next, and she married Daniel, a banker. Amaryllis is a librarian, married to a lawyer. Daisy and Jasmine live close to one another in Montana, and they're both married to ranchers. They had to leave to go back home this morning." She was sad that their visit was so short, but she knew they needed to leave. "And then Hyacinth is eighteen months older than me. She's married to Lawrence, and they're both writers. And then it's just me and Iris.""I feel bad that there's no Petunia! Your mother missed some names."Violet shook her head with a laugh. "I think she had enough flowers for a full garden, don't you?"He sat back in his chair, trying to imagine what life would be like with eight daughters. He couldn't imagine even one. "That's an awful lot of flowers. You're probably right. You don't need more." He looked up at a knock on the door. "Let's hope this one is nicer than the last. Come in!" The last two words were spoken loudly.Langsley opened the door wide. "There's a Miss Blue to see you, sir.""Send her in." The woman that entered the room left them both speechless. Her hair was pure white, and she couldn't have been a day under seventy. She practically bounced into the room and sat down beside Violet. "I'm here to apply for the job of traveling companion."Violet looked at the other woman and immediately noticed the twinkle in her eyes behind her huge spectacles. "Why do you want to be a traveling companion, Miss Blue?""Oh, honey, you can call me Edna. I'm old. I think you can see that if you have eyes in your head, and you do appear to have eyes. I'm old, and I've been making hats for fifty years. Do you know what it's like to do the same thing day in and day out for fifty years? Of course you don't. You're young." She reached into the pocket of her dress and took out a silver flask, taking a deep swig of whatever was in it before tucking it back into her pocket. "Well, now that I'm old, I realize that I haven't done some of the things I put on my list when I was a girl." She turned to Violet. "Do you have a list? All of my friends and I, when we were very young, made lists of what we wanted to do before we died. I wanted to marry, and I almost did, but poor Harry died before we had a chance to reach that pinnacle of love that's expressed in a physical way." She shook her head. "Anyway, on my list was to ride on a train and to see New York City. I've never been to a city of that size, and I'm going to do it or die trying. You're offering me a trip to New York, and I'm going to take it if you'll have me." She looked over at Jonas. "So will you have me?"Jonas blinked a few times, not sure he'd caught exactly what she was talking about, and what on earth was in her flask? "Do you like children?""Of course I like children. What kind of question is that?" She looked at Violet. "Are you with child? Is that why we're going to New York? If that's what it is, you can count on me not to tell a single soul. I'll either help you take care of it, or we'll find a nice family who will adopt it. Either way, my lips will be sworn to secrecy about your bastard child!"Violet bit her lip to control her urge to giggle. "I'm not having a bastard child, Miss Blue...I mean Edna, but I thank you for being willing to protect my reputation. I'd love to have you go with me." Suddenly she could see herself sitting beside this woman on a train bound for New York. She would be laughing the entire time. Jonas stared at the woman for a moment. "The child is my nephew. He's three, and he'll be traveling with us. While we're there, I need to pack up my sister's house and decide what to keep and what to donate. She died a few months ago.""Oh, Mr. Smith! I'm so sorry for your loss. I'll be happy to help with your sister's child too. He's not a bastard, is he?" She peered at Jonas expectantly as she waited for his answer."No, he's not a bastard. Does that matter?""Oh no, sir. I love bastard children just as much as the regular legitimate tots. More probably. They need more love, don't you think?"Jonas didn't feel at all qualified to answer her question about whether bastard children needed more love, and he still wanted to know what was in her flask. "What's in the flask, Miss Blue?"She pulled the container out of her pocket again and took another swig after unscrewing the lid. "Oh this? This is my cough tonic." She put it back in her pocket and looked at Jonas expectantly. "Cough tonic? I haven't heard you cough even once.""See? My tonic works! Would you like some?" She pulled it out of her pocket to offer him a drink.Jonas held one hand up to refuse the tonic, but couldn't help but notice that Violet was giggling uncontrollably. Why...Violet was turning violet she was laughing so hard. "No, thank you." He looked between the two women, wondering if Edna Blue was really the kind of woman they needed on their trip. After a moment he shrugged. "If you'll excuse us for a moment, I'll let you know our decision."Edna stood and went out into the hallway, not saying a word. Jonas heard her say, "You must be the poor orphaned nephew! We're going to be the best of friends. Would you like a peppermint?""Yes, please," Nathan replied.Jonas turned to Violet wishing that Edna had closed the door behind her. "Do you think that Edna would be a good companion for you?"Violet grinned. "Oh yes. She will keep me entertained when nothing else possibly could. Please, may we take her with us?" Now that she'd met Edna, she wanted no one else to go on their trip with them. Edna was the only choice as far as she was concerned.Jonas sighed heavily. "Do I have a choice?""No, I don't believe you do." She was thrilled to have the option of taking the sweet old woman who was just a bit off her rocker with her. "I love her, Mr. Smith!"Jonas shook his head. "I can see you do. All right. And please, call me Jonas. We're going to be spending a great deal of time together. There's no need to continue to be so formal."All at once, Violet was excited about the trip. Her mother wouldn't have to go, because they'd chosen a traveling companion. One that would be far more fun and exciting than any other companion she could imagine. She couldn't wait. "All right, Jonas. I think Edna is the perfect solution to our dilemma."Jonas decided to hold his tongue over the kind of solution he thought Edna was. "Miss Blue?" he called out loudly.Edna popped back into the room, her frizzy white hair bobbing wildly. "Yes?""We'd like you to go to New York with us, if you're willing to accept the job." Jonas knew as soon as he said the words they were a mistake. He felt a huge sense of foreboding, but it was too late. He'd made the offer, and he was a man of his word.Edna immediately burst into tears. "You're really going to take me with you?" She dug into her pockets and finally, from between her very large bosom, she removed a handkerchief and blew her nose loudly. "I'll be the best companion ever. You'll see!"Violet looked at the older woman with a smile, patting her arm. "I'm sure you will be!"Jonas shook his head, wondering what he'd gotten himself into. Edna was definitely not the type of woman he'd wanted to take with him to New York. She was going to be a handful. There was no doubt about it.Edna smiled radiantly at Violet, her face lighting up at the girl's words. "I won't let you do anything you oughtn't do. I promise!" She said the words as if she were taking an oath on a witness stand, and Violet barely suppressed another giggle. Edna jumped to her feet and waved. "When do we leave? I need to pack my things!""We'll leave one week from today. I'll send word after I buy the tickets about what time we'll need to go."Edna nodded. "That will be wonderful. I will see you then." She rushed from the room mumbling about all the things that she needed to do to be ready for the big adventure. Jonas watched her go and leaned back in his chair. "Did that really just happen? Is that crazy woman going to New York with us?"Violet smiled back at Jonas, happy that he'd chosen the woman she'd have chosen herself. She would have chosen Edna as a friend, not just as a traveling companion. She could see there was a great deal she could learn from the other woman. Most were things her mother would not be happy with her knowing, but she would learn them anyway. Monday couldn't come soon enough.
Violet (Suitors of Seattle Book 7) - Kindle edition by Kirsten Osbourne. Romance Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.