She closed her eyes trying to get some rest, knowing she would need all her energy to deal with Simon’s over-zealous behavior towards her. It didn’t take her long to fall into an uneasy sleep and by the time she woke up she didn’t feel any more rested than before.
Eliza helped her dress for her dinner appointment and when she finished she examined her figure in the mirror. Except for the annoying bustle, Marissa liked the fashions and the dark blue dress looked particularly striking against her pale skin. She added the wide-brimmed hat to her pinned-up curls.
With as deep a breath as she could get, she left her room and made her way to the parlor. At precisely seven, the door chimes rang and a few minutes later the butler showed Simon into the room. He looked very dashing in his pearl gray suit and gentleman’s hat. Marissa admired his stature, but his aire of confidence rather annoyed her. She immediately compared Simon to Sean. Sean’s confidence never overshot into absolute certainty, especially where Marissa was concerned. Simon seemed overly sure of winning Marissa’s affections.
She was too independent and educated to feel the need to be tied to any man. Whomever she chose to marry would be an equal partner in life on equal terms. After hearing her mother’s story she knew she couldn’t have it any other way.
“Marissa, dearest, have you recovered from that awful experience?” Simon asked, taking her hands in his own.
“Quite,” she answered simply. “I’m not one to dwell on the past, but learn from my mistakes.”
“Mistakes, which I am certain, are few and far between. Shall we go?” Simon said grandly.
Marissa nodded, placing her hand on his outstretched arm. Simon pulled her arm in, drawing her close to his side.
“You look very lovely, my dear,” he said, in his usual debonaire manner.
“Thank you, Mr. Anderson,” she answered properly.
He led her out to his waiting carriage and helped her inside. It was a very fine carriage with soft, velvet seats and curtains to match. Marissa settled in, mentally preparing for a long evening of stemming Simon’s advances.
The drive to the restaurant lasted much longer than Marissa expected. Simon chatted about his fortunes back in America and how pleased he was with his ongoing investments in London. Marissa listen patiently, wishing the evening were already over. Finally the carriage pulled to a stop and the coachman opened the door.
To Marissa’s surprise they weren’t at any restaurant she was familiar with, but at the gate to a large house on the other side of the park.
“Mr. Anderson, where are we?” Marissa asked, feeling a bit concerned.
“I didn’t think you would want to fight the crowds, so I had a fine dinner prepared at my house. I hope you don’t mind,” he said with a bow.
Marissa’s eyes narrowed slightly. It was highly improper that she should be at the gentleman’s house unescorted.
“I don’t know,” she said, biting her lip.
“I promise I will keep it to a simple dinner and then take you back home,” he replied with a flourish. “All my servants are at home and I can employ one of them as a chaperone if you’d like.”
Marissa rolled her eyes in annoyance. “This is highly inappropriate, Mr. Anderson, there will be many wagging tongues about my behavior.”
“And who are you to listen to the cats of the London court? You’re Marissa Edgington, Lady extraordinaire. You are the brightest jewel in Victoria’s court. She isn’t worthy to even have your brilliant mind and sharp wit and quick temper,” he argued.
“Please, Mr. Anderson, contain yourself,” Marissa cautioned. “I suppose one evening can’t do any harm.”
She allowed him to help her out of the carriage and escort her in the house. The butler took her hat and coat and then showed her into the parlor. Moments later Simon joined her.
“Have you discovered who so brazenly took you from the station?” he asked, motioning her to the couch near the fire.
Marissa moved instead to an upright chair and settled herself comfortably. “No,” she lied. “I haven’t the faintest idea. I’m certain there are any number of criminals who would love to get their hands on my father’s money, but I just don’t know why they would take Sean too. He would be the one to pay the ransom.”
“Perhaps there was another reason you were being held,” Simon said casually. “Maybe some of your old acquaintances from your past are wanting a payout.”
Marissa shook her head. “I simply do not know, but I am certain they won’t try again. My staff is on the alert now and Sean...” She left her sentence hanging. Sean would no longer be there to protect her. “There’s nothing I can do about it now. I’m certain my captors are long gone. The police haven’t found anything either, so it is a moot point.” She shrugged. “So tell me about your investments here in London. You said they are progressing well. Just what are you investing in?”
“I’m up to my eyeballs in material,” Simon replied cheerily.
“Material? What kind of material?”
“It is the most unique stuff I have ever seen or felt. My partners in this venture are trying different dye solutions to create a fabric that is unlike any I have ever seen before.”
Marissa’s thoughts immediately went to the invisible material she had taken. That was truly the most unique fabric she had ever seen, or not seen. “Hmm. Interesting. You’ll have to show me sometime.”
“Maybe I will,” he answered positively.
The butler entered the room at that point to announce dinner. Simon jumped to his feet and helped her up, and then escorted her into the dining room. The house was one of the more grand scaled homes in the park and the dining set up did not disappoint. Fine china and crystal adorned the place settings, with silver sparkling in grandeur. Marissa sat down in the chair Simon pulled out and placed her napkin on her lap.
The first course came out, steaming hot. Marissa felt like she was at a private restaurant and the servants all treated her like royalty. After the final course they retired to the parlor for coffee and little cakes. When they finished, Marissa subtly expressed her weariness and Simon took her back home. He walked her up the steps and opened the door before the butler could do so.
“I have had a wonderful evening, Marissa, may I call on you again?” Simon pressed.
Marissa let out her breath slowly. She didn’t not wish to lead Simon on if she didn’t return his interest.
“Perhaps,” she responded illusively.
“You will keep me in suspense?”
“Simon, we’ve only just met...” Marissa began. Before she could continue Simon took her in his arms and kissed her soundly.
For the briefest of seconds Marissa let him, but then she pulled back. “Mr. Anderson, really,” she scolded, as she felt the blood rush to her cheeks.
“You bring out the dashing impulsiveness in me, Marissa. I can’t help myself. Please say you’ll let me call again. I will die inside if you do not,” he pleaded.
Marissa shook her head. “We shall see, Mr. Anderson. If you can behave, then I think another evening might be appropriate.”
He grinned, grasping her hand and kissed it formally. “Until the next time then.”
He leapt off the porch and half danced to his carriage. Marissa couldn’t help but laugh at his exuberance. She stepped inside the house with a smile and carefully shut the door. There was something about Simon that made her insides flutter. Part of her liked it and part of her didn’t. She turned around and stopped short. Sean stood in the hallway holding a box and staring. Marissa was certain he had seen everything.