If Al had figured out my proclivities, he’d also figured out my type. The man he brought across the inn yard had once been beautiful, absolutely perfect. He was a small man, but too thin now, despite the muscle I could see in his shoulders. The combination of hard labor and bad food, I supposed. He was tanned as any farm hand, which didn’t suit him either, but he had the finest features I’d seen outside of paintings, and the stubble of hair that covered his head was the most beautiful shade of gold. I wanted to touch it, run my fingers through it, if there’d been enough to do that with. If I’d met him in a molly house, I’d have followed him about like some lost puppy, too nervous to beg an introduction from someone so divine. And yet there was Al introducing us. I extended my hand automatically. The hand that pressed against mine was fine-boned, long slim fingers, warm and dry but also hard and rough. It was not a hand that should be calloused and ragged. He ought to be some sort of artist or model or if not that, secretary to some dashing lord who spent time at the finest house parties and on the Continent. Not in some old castle by the sea. Not that I needed a secretary, I reminded myself. Still, he could have a nice holiday at Klesamor Hall, and when the six months were up, a good salary.
He didn’t chatter, I’d give him that. As I drove us to Klesamor Hall, he sat in the back and said nothing while Al rambled on, asking to drive-which I was not about to let happen just in case-and chattering on about people I didn’t know. Most of the men he brought tried to show off their breeding or their manners or their knowledge of society or how well they could fit into the family. Mr. Hamond stayed silent and watched the landscape as it passed by, showing more interest in where he’d be living for the next six months than any of the others had. Perhaps I could have a few months of meals in peace. I had the secretaries Al sent eat with me unless I absolutely couldn’t stand them so the servants wouldn’t be put out by Al’s folly. I knew most of them liked a good gossip and putting a new-comer in with them every six months, particularly one who was supposed to be working closely with the master, would make that awkward. But it was possible Mr. Hamond wouldn’t expect me to converse with his as we ate, and that would mean I could enjoy my meals for a change. And then he would leave and go on to work for some dashing fellow who ran some sort of importing empire and needed a reliable fellow who wouldn’t gossip. And Al ran in all sorts of rarefied social circles. If I told him he ought to find someplace special for Mr. Hamond, he would do so easily and without question. That was the best thing for Mr. Hamond.
I almost didn’t believe what I heard. Mr. Hamond planning to go out to the stables to look for work if there was none for him inside. I’d been thinking how nice it would be for him to have six months cloistered in my library-and it was a beautiful library, living alone in the country I’d had to do something with my time and renovating the house had been a project, with the library receiving special attention-reading all the books he’d missed while he’d been in prison. I’d been trying to figure out how to discover what sorts of books he’d like so I could have them ordered for him in the next batch from Hatchards. Surely he would like books. Someone so perfect for me had to like books even if he wasn’t interested in me. And yet he was planning on clearing land or some such nonsense.
After Edgar sends William to help with the kitchen books in chapter 5
I watched him leave the study and realized I’d done something right. He’d come expecting to be secretary to an earl. the other fellows would have been mortified or furious to end-up as secretary to the earl’s servants. But Mr. Hamond had started grinning the moment he thought he was out of sight. Well, if the job pleased him, I was sure Mrs. Peyton and Mrs. Wilson and Janik would be glad of the help.
“Mrs. Wilson was wondering if Mr. Hamond was going to be helping her with the kitchen accounts as well.”
So, Mrs. Peyton hadn’t been offended by the offer of help. Good. “I think so.”
“I’ll let her know.” Janik seemed pleased to be able to tell her. “She was going to try a new recipe for apple cake when she had some time. I’m sure this will help.”
So, she’d seen the way Mr. Hamond had looked at the apples in the kitchen, like a man who hadn’t seen one in years and was longing for a taste, which most likely was the case. “Then I look forward to trying it.”