An Excerpt from
Louisa pressed her nose to her stockings and sniffed. They were still damp, but didn’t have the musty odor from being wet inside her portmanteau. As she waited for her food and the bath the previous evening—that never appeared, despite the assurances from Giant Johnny—she had hung what items she could by the fire to dry out.
Setting the stockings by the fire again to give them a few more minutes, Louisa examined the room in a manner the darkness had not allowed last night. And she was glad it had not. Spider webs adorned the walls and ledges, a thick layer of dust covering the window hangings and floor; her footprints clearly marked every space she had stepped. The window glass was covered in such grime that she doubted the curtains were necessary. She had felt the thinness of the mattress, pillows and covers during her fitful sleep, but was still unprepared for the cold reality in the light of day. Indeed, she may have been just as comfortable on the floor.
The table where she had picked at her inedible supper was scratched and stained; one of its legs had been poorly replaced, which explained the wobble the night before. The chair was no longer matching, if it ever had been, but at least it had held her weight steady. The tray remained on the table, more unappetizing in the morning than it had been when it first arrived, a fact that Louisa had not thought possible.
Grimacing, Louisa returned to the fire and repacked her portmanteau before pulling on her stockings. Standing, she smoothed the wrinkles out of her dress and stepped into her slippers. She pulled on her cloak and lifted her bag, intent on leaving. She may not have much coin to her name, but she did have standards. Surely there was another inn within walking distance.
Lifting her chin, she marched to the door and opened it with a yank. She let out a shriek as a large body and a chair tumbled toward her, arms and legs flailing. Jumping out of the way, she managed to not have her toes crushed as Giant Johnny sprawled at her feet.
“Ouch! Bleedin’ hell,” he cursed, curling up on his side and holding his head.
“Mr. Taylor!” Louisa dropped her bag and knelt beside him. “Are you injured?”
“What do you think?”
She blinked at the pained growl coming from him and she sat back on her heels. “Well, judging from your ability to speak, I should think you will survive.”
He glared at her from underneath his hands. “Would you.” His voice was flat.
“Whatever were you doing outside my room?” she asked.
Another glare and a grimace as Giant Johnny—the alliteration pleased her for some reason—rolled himself into a sitting position. “I told you I would keep you safe. I slept against your door to ensure none would bother you. I have no illusions of the morals of drunkards.”
She blinked again, taken aback by his actions. “I see. I suppose you leaned the chair against my door, thus causing your imbalance when I opened it.”
“You suppose correctly.”
“Perhaps in the future you will find it prudent to lean against a more stationary object, such as the wall.” Louisa rose to her feet and clasped her hands in front of her.
“Perhaps I shall.”
“Nevertheless, is there anything I can assist you with?” she asked. “A cold compress for your head, perhaps?”
He moved his fingers gingerly to the back of head. “I think that is unnecessary. I have suffered—” he winced as he fingered a sensitive spot—“worse knocks to the head than this.”
“But not while in the service of my protection.”
A little unsteady, he rose to his feet and righted the chair that he had fallen on. “The reason for the injuries does not increase them, Mrs. Brock.”
“No,” she allowed, “but my subsequent obligation is now a factor.” Her eyes followed his movements as he straightened. Good Lord, but the moniker “Giant Johnny” was highly appropriate. The man was a mountain. A fleeting thought crossed her mind about what it would be like to have those large arms encompass her.
He waved his hand in dismissal. “Think nothing of it. You had no reason to expect me to see to my promise in such a manner.”
He spied her packed portmanteau and looked at her questioning. “You are moving on? I thought your plans were unconfirmed.”
Louisa lifted her chin. “They are. But that does not mean that I must stay here in order to solidify them.”
He put his thick hands on his hips, doubling his width. “But it also means that you do not have to leave in order to do so, either.” She opened her mouth to speak, but he stayed her with his hand. “I understand what it is like to be adrift. If you wish, you can remain here. It is clear that I need help, a woman’s help.” He gestured to the room. “I have little notion and less inclination for cleaning. I need someone to take charge in this area. Will you do it?”
Louisa stared at him. Help him by being a maid? In an inn? Of all things she had considered doing, working in such a place had never crossed her mind. She was not suited for such work. A governess, a companion, yes, but a maid? What would her mother have said about this? Or any of her family?
Keep reading to see how The Governess Club started!