Talk Sweetly to me by Courtney Milan Read Online (FREE)
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Greenwich, November 1882
THERE WAS NO WAY FOR Miss Rose Sweetly to set down her packages. All six of them were balanced precariously under one arm while her free hand fumbled through her pocket. Her fingers encountered used pencil nubs and a letter folded in half; her burdens shifted slightly, sliding away… If that dratted key ring was not in this pocket, and in the opposite instead—ah!
Thumb and forefinger met cold metal. Rose was withdrawing her find in triumph when a voice interrupted.
“Good afternoon, Miss Sweetly.”
The sound of Mr. Shaughnessy’s voice—that lilting velvet—set the inevitable in motion. First the book wrapped in paper slipped; then, as she grabbed for that, her notebook began to fall. She could compute the physics of it in her mind, a cascading avalanche of packages resulting from too few hands and too much gravity. Rose had time to make only one decision: save her slide rule or save the shopping?
Her slide rule won. She grabbed hold of the leather case with her fingertips just before it hit the ground.
Her other burdens were not so lucky. Splat went the book. The shopping landed with a more complex sound—one that smacked of breaking eggs. Three oranges escaped the bag entirely and bounced crazily down the pavement.
Mr. Stephen Shaughnessy stood two doors down from her. His eyebrows rose at this minor catastrophe, and Rose felt her cheeks heat. But there was nothing to do now but brazen it out.
She gave him her most brilliant smile and waved her slide rule case. “Good afternoon, Mr. Shaughnessy.”
The case slipped slightly, but she managed to catch it before an even greater disaster ensued.
Mr. Shaughnessy had taken the house just down from her sister’s three months ago. In all that time, she’d never managed to shake the nerves she felt around him. He had never done anything to warrant that nervousness, unfortunately; he was unfailingly polite.
As proof, he didn’t abuse her for her clumsiness now. He didn’t even remark on it. He simply came toward her. He took three steps forward—and she drew back one—before she realized that he only intended to pick up her oranges.
Any other reason he might have drawn close to her? That was all in her imagination.
She set down her slide rule carefully and picked up her shopping bag. It was canvas, and most of the contents hadn’t spilled. The meat, wrapped in waxed paper, was still at the bottom. The eggs…well, she’d check them once they were inside, but she had a sneaking suspicion that she and her sister would be having omelets for dinner tonight. Only the fruit had truly gone awry. She picked up an apple, not looking in his direction.
But she didn’t have to look directly at him to be aware of him. Mr. Shaughnessy was a young man—scarcely a few years older than she. He was tall and built on lovely, well-muscled lines, the sort that young ladies who intended to stay innocent were not supposed to notice. He had a friendly smile, one that made a woman want to smile in response, and the faintest hint of an Irish accent. He had dark hair, dark eyes, and a much darker reputation.