Almost two years later, I'm finally updating! Thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed. I was inspired to continue because of the final series of Mr. Selfridge, so, without further ado, here's Chapter 3.
"What's your schedule look like for today, Napier?"
Evelyn looked up from the reconciliation he was working on as Mr. Aldridge addressed him. Aldridge was a chap from Thirsk who had worked at the bank for several years, and had in essence trained him for his job since he had started a few weeks before. Right now, he was a jack-of-all-trades, one day he was the teller, another he was in bookkeeping, others processing the checks. He found it stimulating, however menial others of his class might find the work. His salary was quite reasonable, and it was fulfilling to say that he had earned it.
"After work? Oh, not much—probably dinner at White's, I suppose, and then a book or the newspaper. And for you?"
"Dinner with the family—and a few clients—you should come along, it's no use taking dinner by yourself…as usual, I would imagine, hm?" The bald man raised an eyebrow and Evelyn smiled, realizing that he had given himself away. Sometimes he would eat at Branksome House, but either way he was technically eating alone, since his parents of course still resided in Dorset, and his friends with estates at their homes. Sometimes he ran into one of them at White's, but the majority of his meals were taken in solitude.
"I'd be delighted." he answered with a nod, shuffling the files on his desk with a grateful smile. "Thank you."
"Think nothing of it. I'll finish these—go on and take a turn at the window, give poor Giles a break."
Evelyn rose and picked up his morning coat from its stand, pulling it on and straightening it out before heading to the front office. Giles, a younger banker with a bit of a stutter, had finished with one of the customers and he clapped him on the shoulder gently. "I'll take over from here."
He mouthed a simple 'thank you' and stepped aside—only to reveal the woman he had been fretting over for a full month since the ball. "Lady Loxley…" he said after a moment, plastering a smile on his face to offset the shock. The twinkle in her eye and the grin that accompanied it was disarming as well as alarming, but he tried to maintain his composure, his professionalism—as he had been taught. "What a pleasant surprise."
"And here I thought you weren't pleased to see me. You look as if you've seen a ghost."
His smile thinned and he dropped his eyes to the pen he held. "You just surprised me." he reiterated.
"You weren't expecting to see me again, then? I thought as much, since you never rang." There was a hint of disappointment in her tone, and somewhat of a pout as she spoke, which made him raise an eyebrow.
"I didn't think Lord Loxley would have taken too kindly to me if I had." he stated softly.
All amusement faded at that, and there was a brief flicker of something in her gaze—anger, perhaps? But as soon as it had come, it had vanished, replaced by that casual perpetual amusement. "Lord Loxley is always in the country, and I am always in London. Was that what you were worried about?"
"Did you wish to make a deposit, Lady Loxley?" Evelyn asked, clearly uncomfortable with where the conversation was headed.
"A withdrawal, actually—from one of my lockboxes."
"Of course, this way." He closed his teller window and emerged from behind the desk, leading her down one of the winding hallways to the vaults. They walked in silence, for which he was grateful. He didn't know what he had been thinking—if he simply didn't call, didn't visit, then he wouldn't have to see her again? It was a foolish thought, considering the fact that they moved within the same circles. Nonetheless any thoughts of courtship at least had been perished with the news that she was wed to the Marquess of Loxley. It should have ended then and there—even though, in reality, there was nothing to end. He didn't know why he felt so guilty while he was around her, as if he were some sort of adulterous cad when he hadn't…done anything—nor had he considered doing anything…
"Alone at last."
With some effort, his expression remained stoic as he held open the door to her vault room, closing it behind them once she had entered. "Which one, milady?"
"Darling, I'm not making a withdrawal, it was an excuse."
Incredulous, he looked up from the shelf as she smirked, setting down her pocketbook and removing her gloves. "What do you want?"
She clucked her tongue and sat down, shaking her head condescendingly. "Is that any way to treat a customer?"
"How did you know I worked here?"
"I didn't—but now that I do know, I figured that we should talk."
"By tricking me?"
"You weren't going to speak with me otherwise, now were you?"
The viscount's son sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose and shaking his head. "I acted…inappropriately, and I apologize, Lady Loxley, for offending you. I had no idea that you were married."
"You didn't offend me, Mr. Napier, quite the opposite. You indulged me in a dance, acted the perfect gentleman—what exactly do you think I could find offensive about that?"
"I thought that you might think me forward, but clearly that wasn't the case." he reasoned. "Because I displayed…interest, but you weren't offended by it."
"Interest?" Lady Loxley smiled, feigning surprise. "Interest in what, exactly?"
She rose from her chair, and he folded his hands behind his back—it was all he could do to keep them from trembling. His eyes swiveled to the row of lockboxes on the wall immediately to his right, and he suspected he looked just like a ripe tomato at the moment. He might have been inexperienced, but he knew exactly what this was, even as she stopped her advance right in front of him. "Don't what?" she asked, her voice husky, inviting.
"I won't insult you by saying it." His own voice was barely above a whisper, and his eyes widened when he felt her hand brush his cheek and then hold it in place. He finally met her gaze and mumbled, "You're trying to seduce me, Lady Loxley."
"Do you want me to seduce you, Evelyn?"
Did he? Lord knew he had thought of barely anything but her. She was beautiful, intelligent, and obviously he was very attracted to her. Plenty of men his age had dalliances—he'd always been too shy to even think of doing such a thing—but not with married women. Even if the situation was as she said, it was wrong. "It doesn't matter what I want." He shook his head, lifting her hand from his cheek and, unable to help himself, raising it to his lips. "I have to attend to the other customers." He stepped away and opened the vault door for her, ending the conversation then and there.
He could only see her peripherally draw herself up and pull on her gloves, but on her way out, she stood in front of him, looking him in the eye. "Thank you ever so much for your assistance, Mr. Napier." she said, probably for his benefit as there were bankers and customers walking the hallway in front of them. He nodded, closing and locking the door behind him. As his back was turned, she whispered, "If you change your mind, you know where to find me." He hesitated, listening as her shoes clicked on the marble floor as she left him. Only when the clicking drowned out did he turn around, watching her round the corner, before shaking his head and returning to his desk.