Lord Vile (Beastly Lords Book 3)(10)

By: Sydney Jane Baily

“Yes, in fact, there is something important I want to speak with you about. However, it’s rather… how shall I put it? Irregular.”

Maggie raised her eyebrows. “Really. How interesting?”

Just then, Rosie, two years old like Harry, got up from where she sat on the soft carpet playing with her two dolls.

“Mama,” she said, placing her hands on her mother’s lap. “I want a bicky.”

“Biscuit, dear. I’m sure Auntie Ada has something for you.”

“Oh, I do, and better than a biscuit, too.”

Ada opened the top drawer of the lamp table beside her, withdrawing a paper-wrapped chocolate bar. She handed this to the delighted toddler who jumped up and down with glee.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Ada said to Maggie. “It’s from Fry’s, and I think they’re fabulous.”

“It would be a bit late if I did mind.”

They both looked at Rosie who’d already proceeded to rip off the wrapping with her chubby fingers and was half-sucking, half-chewing on the sweet confection.

“I don’t suppose I’m going to get a bite of that,” Maggie said, and Ada reached into the drawer, pulling out another one.

“See what it says? Chocolate delicieux à manger. When I saw the French, I thought of you.”

“Thank you. Glad to know my fluency is good for something.” Maggie took the bar and slipped it into her reticule. “For later. I’ll share it with John. My husband has quite the sweet tooth, as well.”

Ada tilted her head. “You may be disappointed. It can be a little chalky and even bitter.”

They both glanced at Rosie who seemed to have no complaints.

Then Ada had a thought. Perhaps if she helped her friend grow her income, she’d be more willing to aid her in her scheme.

“If you’re interested in turning that sweet tooth into a little extra income,” Ada continued, “I would suggest you approach John Cadbury and see if he wants someone to invest in his business. It’s growing, and his workers love him. Also, I have a little inside knowledge Parliament intends to get rid of the high tax on cocoa soon, within a year or so. I think the chocolate industry will blossom.”

“Goodness gracious, you are a wonder!”

Ada felt her cheeks warm, and she shrugged.

“You didn’t invite me here to give me investment advice,” Maggie said shrewdly.

“No, but I also didn’t invite you here merely to ask for your help.”

“I know, but let’s get that out of the way so we can go see the adorable nursery and your lovely boy.”

Taking a deep breath, Ada blurted, “I need to figure out how to masquerade as a man.”

Chapter Three

Maggie said nothing at first. Ada liked that about her, neither condemning her nor immediately drowning her in a barrage of nosey questions. Instead, she asked a very intelligent one.

“Do you need to be the man specifically, or will someone acting on your behalf suffice?”

Ada sighed in relief. “Oh, the latter, as long as I can trust him. And he must seem intelligent and be personable enough that someone else will trust him, too.”

“Someone in particular?”

Ada nodded. Oh, yes!

“Strangely enough, Jenny was in a similar situation a few years back after my father died,” Maggie disclosed. “Remember when we left Town and went back to Sheffield?”

“Yes, of course.” Ada had mourned the loss of her friend mid-Season.

“I know you’ll keep this in confidence since it doesn’t really reflect well on a countess, but Jenny worked as a bookkeeper. She let our manservant, Henry, be the liaison between the outside world of my sister’s clients and herself, whom she called ‘Mr. Cavendish.’ Henry collected people’s ledgers and returned them after she was done.”

Ada considered. “I don’t want anyone to know there is another person involved, namely me, in the background. If I didn’t masquerade as a man myself, then I thought to hire an individual who could meet with a specific someone to pass on information as if it were his own.”

“Depending on the type of information, that seems so much harder,” Maggie mused “What if your ‘specific someone’ whom you are trying to fool asks a question and your counterfeit man doesn’t have the answer?”

Ada could easily see how that might happen. There were so many tricky components to the stock market, which she’d spent years figuring out. On the other hand, she didn’t want Alder to suspect there was anyone else he could blame when things went terribly wrong as she intended them to.

“My counterfeit man, as you call him, will know enough to fool anyone. I’ll make sure of that. If he doesn’t know something, then he’ll say, ‘That’s a trade secret’ or something like that.”

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