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One Fine Beast
by Elizabeth Courtright

Chapter 1

August 1885

The walls of the hospital corridor were stark white, blindingly so, but they didn’t bother him anymore. Neither did the tangy, overpowering smell. He was used to it. He’d been here five long months. This morning they’d taken his bandages off for good. This afternoon he was going home.
Leaning heavily upon the round-handled, mahogany cane given to him by the hospital, Gabriel Drayton continued his labored progress down the endless white hall. He’d been doing the ...

Chapter 2

1888, Three years later

She was crazy—absolutely crazy—for taking this job! Lilly Hawthorne glanced at the man seated next to her driving the well-appointed buggy. He was friendly enough and had been rather amusing, in a shy, boyish sort of way when he’d interviewed her.
“We’re almost there,” he said, grinning. Then he clucked at the horses and turned through an elaborate iron-barred gate onto a densely tree-cloaked lane.
His name was Alex Drayton. His hair w...

Chapter 3

The seven o’clock dinner hour was fast approaching. Lilly hadn’t changed her dress, but she had unpacked her trunk. For the last half hour she’d been sitting in her new bedroom in front of the vanity mirror, wondering why she’d been so stupid. Taking this position was most assuredly the worst mistake of her life. She should have held out for another. She’d put out enough applications in town. She and Julie could get by for another month or so if they were careful, and if Jason&...

Chapter 4

“It’s okay,” Charlotte said as she moved closer and closer to that ominous door. “He doesn’t mind. You only have to knock in the middle of the night and in the morning.”
It was Thursday, Lilly’s third full day at Drayton Hall, and finally Charlotte was offering information without first being prompted. It was the breakthrough Lilly had been hoping for, and an answer to prayer that Charlotte would eventually open up to her. But, going where Charlotte was leading w...

Chapter 5

The sleek, black carriage lumbered along the dirty, rutted streets of downtown Havertown. Inside, Gabriel Drayton pressed his palm firmly into the seat beside his hip. It had been a long week, one that put him behind and caused him to miss deadlines he couldn’t afford to miss. He wasn’t feeling better and the jarring from the carriage didn’t help.
He didn’t like coming into town, but he took this same obligatory route once a week, although not on the same day and not at that same ...

Chapter 6

After the scolding from her employer, Lilly awakened determined to begin Charlotte’s schoolwork. As the day unfolded, however, she realized the task might not be as easy as she’d thought. Charlotte wouldn’t cooperate. She didn’t want to learn about letters and numbers. She wanted to learn to braid hair. Lilly ended up letting Charlotte practice on her. One thing led to another and Lilly discovered not only did Charlotte have a much broader imagination than her initial bashful behavio...

Chapter 7

The next morning Lilly almost missed breakfast. She’d been waiting to hear Charlotte’s knock on her father’s bedroom door, but it never came. In a hurry, she left her room and didn’t see what was on the floor in front of her door until she stepped on it.
It was an envelope containing money—her first week’s wages—and the amount was more than Alex had told her she would be paid. There was also a hastily scrawled note that read, ‘The carriage is at your dispos...

Chapter 8

It was dark when Molly Finch donned her long cloak and slipped out the back of the townhouse. She had plenty of time, but she hurried anyway, crossing the street to a side avenue. The cool night air whipped through her cloak and she shivered. She didn’t like being out in the city at night, but she didn’t have a choice. Every Monday she attended these meetings. It was the only time she could get away without Rob questioning her. He was out as well, attending his Bar Association meeting. By the ti...

Chapter 9

Lilly’s visit with Julie over the weekend turned out to be not nearly as relaxing as she’d hoped it would be. Other than Julie bemoaning how much she missed her irresponsible husband, Jason, her sister seemed healthy enough. The creditors, however, were another issue. Julie had told her one of them came by every day. When Julie had informed him she didn’t have the money to pay, the man—Mr. Horace—became belligerent. Lilly knew better than to give Julie the entire envelope of wa...

Chapter 10

Gabriel’s sixth destination was one he’d never been to before. He’d never been in this part of town either. Withers opened the carriage door and Gabriel glanced around before stepping out. The day was cooler. Once he was on the street, he drew his cloak more securely around his shoulders.
The paint on the door of the building in front of him was chipped. There was trash scattered, blown by the wind, along the sides and into the corners of the steps he had to climb. On the second step wa...

Chapter 11

Lilly knocked on the door to the study at precisely five minutes to three. There was no answer. Pacing the hallway outside of it, she waited and waited, and all the while her employer’s caustic, Try not to be late! replayed in her head.
A half an hour later, under her breath she murmured, “Practice what you preach, you disrespectful boor!” Then she went outside and meandered down the path to watch Charlotte bounce around on her pony.
Earlier that day, for once, Charlotte had been una...

Chapter 12

Like the week before, on Saturday Lilly and Charlotte headed to town. Withers dropped them off near the shopping district so they could walk along Market Street and peruse at their leisure. For lunch they stopped in a tea shop—the one Susan had recommended. Afterwards, Charlotte said she didn’t want to shop anymore. She wanted to take a walk.
The idea suited Lilly. Charlotte skipped along the sidewalk with Lilly following a short distance behind. They turned a corner, walked a block and turne...

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