In his uniform he looked dashing and handsome. Lord Spencer Courtenay-Hooper, twenty-two years old brother to Lady Adeline, eschewed the use of his formal title, except when it came in handy to impress an impressionable young lady who had the good fortune – or otherwise - to catch his eye.
“It’s amazing what a landed title did for one’s sexual attractiveness to the opposite sex,” he confided to his sister one slightly drunken evening. Adeline declined to comment, having heard all sorts of besotted comments from her girl-friends since Spencer was in his teens.
Of course, now that he was in uniform – an Air Force pilot to boot – the exclamations and swoons became more undignified and, in the case of Pauline Draycott, downright filthy! Lady Adeline was not one to blush easily, but Pauline knew words and phrases that were completely out of Adeline’s experience. Really, she was the most shocking girl!
Spencer had been away training when Louisa Tavistock had taken up residence at the family home in a trendy and upscale London suburb. Four weeks had rapidly slipped by in what felt like no time at all to Louisa when one morning loud and demanding hammering on the solid oak front door sent noise reverberating around the minimally-furnished entrance hall and along the passageways on the upper floors. Louisa was in Lady Adeline’s dressing room laying out a selection of dresses for her to choose one to wear to a function that same evening.
“Hey, is anybody alive in this damnable mausoleum?!” a bass-baritone voice called out very loudly. Louisa detected a hint of humour in the voice and peeked her head out of the dressing-room door at the same moment that a dressing-robe-clad and slipper-footed Lady Adeline came tearing past at a very undignified rate of knots.
“Spencer!” she cried with unabashed delight as she threw herself in to the embrace of a dashing-looking young man wearing a smart blue serge uniform.
With a big grin plastered on his handsome face Louisa watched as the person she called Spencer swept her into his arms and hugged her tightly whilst kissing her cheek with a loud smacking sound.
“Gosh, Big Sis, it’s damnably good to see you!” he cried delightedly as he set her on her feet again, but retained his hold of one of her small hands. “Would you believe that I have actually missed you?” he teased with another grin.
“I should jolly-well hope so, you oaf!” Lady Adeline, a.k.a. ‘Big Sis’, laughed, playfully slapping her brother’s arm. “I’m the only, and therefore the best, sister you have” she told him as they walked hand-in-hand across the marble-floored entrance hall. Looking up Lady Adeline espied Louisa at the door of her room.
“Louisa! Please, come and meet my oaf of a brother!” she called out, the sheer delight in having her brother home writ large in her joyful expression and happy tone of voice. “He is the world’s biggest charmer, but once you get past that he’s actually quite nice, really” she added as Louisa made her slow way down the sweeping staircase.
The appraising look Spencer Courtenay-Hooper gave Louisa as she neared him was not unfamiliar to her. She was quite used to it from the male customers at her former place of employment. However, Spencer’s cool blue eyes, tousled dirty-blonde hair and bewitching half-smile on his full, pink lips made her heart beat just a little faster than it usually did. Up close, Lady Adeline’s brother was an extremely good-looking young man. His Roman nose, strong shaven jaw, thick neck and nicely proportioned torso hidden under his uniform suggested a man of action who liked to look good.
“Well, Adeline, dear, this is something you failed to mention in your missives to me,” he chided as he took hold of one of Louisa’s hands and held it in his for a few moments. “This little secret is one of the most delightful welcome home presents you’ve ever given me,” he added as he brought Louisa’s hand to his lips and placed the daintiest of kisses on the back.
“Really, Spencer!” Lady Adeline chided. “This is Miss Louisa Tavistock and she works for me as my personal assistant. Please do not discuss her as if she is an item of livestock you’re interested in purchasing. You’ll be referring to her as decent filly next!”
Spencer laughed, a loud booming sound that filled the open space.
“My God, Big Sis, relax will you? I’m only doing what I always do when I meet a beautiful young woman. Have you worked out what that is yet, lovely Miss Louisa Tavistock?”
Louisa smiled, warming to the outrageously confident young man.
“I believe, Lord Spencer, that you are trying to charm your way into my affections” she said boldly.
“And, by God, have I managed it yet?” he boomed, his face mock-serious, the twitching of his lips betraying him.
“I’m sorry, sir, but I really could not say. We have only just been introduced after all.” Louisa answered, not entirely truthfully. She had already decided that she liked Lady Adeline’s brother.
“In that case, Miss Louisa Tavistock, I make it my sworn task to ingratiate my way in to your undying affections before I return to camp, in a fortnight’s time.” Spencer told her, looking deeply into her eyes as he spoke.
“Oh, Spencer, leave my poor Louisa alone!” Lady Adeline scolded. “Now, have you had breakfast yet?” she asked her brother.
“Nope, I am famished. Is the redoubtable Edna Young in the kitchen today?” he asked, his voice suddenly much softer and conspiratorial.
“Now, Spencer, don’t you go upsetting her. You know how she gets when you tease her so.” Lady Adeline warned.
“Pooh, nonsense, Big Sis! She adores me!” Spencer said airily as he relinquished his hold on Louisa’s hand. “Time to go and see what she can rustle up for me” he said over his shoulder as he virtually marched towards the back of the house.
“See you at lunch, Miss Louisa Tavistock!” he called before disappearing through a doorway.
Lady Adeline laughed affectionately.
“You’ll get used to him. He’s actually harmless” she told Louisa, her love for her brother evident in the expression on her face and the warmth of her tone.
“He doesn’t lack for confidence, that much is evident.” Louisa commented flatly as she and Lady Adeline mad their way upstairs, walking side-by-side.
“You are so right. Even as a little boy nothing ever fazed him. Of course, being the damnably handsome devil he is has swelled his head a little, I’m sure” Lady Adeline giggled. “All of my school-friends fell in love with him at one time or another. I know that he has seduced more than a couple of them… although ‘seduced’ might be a stretch in one or two cases,” she commented drily.
“Really.” was the only reply that Louisa could find to respond. She was a little perturbed that her employer knew such intimate details about her brother’s amorous adventures.
“Louisa Tavistock! I do believe you’re a tad taken aback!” Lady Adeline laughed as she preceded Louisa into her quarters. “Really, you need not be. Girlfriends talk to one another, usually about everything, darling,” she added as she sat herself primly on the edge of a lavishly upholstered antique chair.
“Oh. I have never had a girlfriend to confide in, Lady Adeline. That’s probably why I was a little…, prudish, perhaps?” Louisa offered.
“My little sweetheart!” Lady Adeline exclaimed as she jumped to her feet. “You poor dear; You have a friend and confidante now, for always” she told Louisa as she wrapped her arms around Louisa’s shoulders and hugged her affectionately. “You must tell me all of your secrets and stories,” Lady Adeline told her assistant, “then I will tell you mine and we will be best friends forever and ever!”
Louisa allowed herself to be hugged and petted whilst at the same time silently vowing that certain secrets and stories that she could tell would most definitely remain unspoken. Trust was something that came neither naturally or easily to the young woman. She doubted that she would ever be able to open up as freely or as confidently as Lady Adeline appeared able to. In a small way she envied her that confidence.
“Well, Louisa, dear, this chattering and gossiping is not going to get anything sorted, is it?” Lady Adeline smiled. “That’s what happens when my brother comes home; everybody’s routine gets thrown out of kilter. I love him dearly, truly I do, but the disruption he causes…!” The big grin on her pretty face belied the complaint. Louisa suspected – correctly – that Lord Spencer Courtenay-Hooper got away with a lot more than was probably good for him. Undoubtedly he was loved and adored by all.
Unusually, based on just one brief meeting, Louisa Tavistock already felt something for the enigmatic young man that she had not experienced before, but it was not something she could put a name to. All she knew for certain was that she was looking forward very much to the next encounter with her employer’s brother.
That encounter, as promised by Lord Spencer, happened that at evening dinner.
To be continued...