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.A voice shouted.“Nell.Wake up.”Nell pulled the pillow tighter over her head, but strong hands removed it.Through squinted eyes, she made out Hazel’s form.“Can you hear me?” Hazel’s face was inches away from hers.“I can hear you and smell the onions on your breath.”“Mr.Fields sent me to check on you.Says he hasn’t seen you since we passed Ireland.”“What time is it?”“You should be asking what day it is.Two days since we set sail.Do you have a fever?”“I don’t think so.I think I just needed the sleep.” She yawned and stretched her arms over her head.“What day did you say it was?”“Saturday.Do you need help getting dressed?”“No, I can manage.I must smell like a sailor.I’ll get washed up and be out soon.” Her bones ached, but she felt a surge of energy pulse in her veins, and her stomach rumbled.“What do you want me to tell Mr.Fields?”“Tell him I’ll meet him in the dining room in an hour.I’m starved half to death.”Hazel gave a throaty laugh and said, “Aye, aye.”“Thank you for coming to check on me.”* * *Oscar and Harjo rose to meet her when she went into the dining room.Rich smells wafted from the plates of other diners making her even more hungry.Harjo closed the ledger before him and dropped it into his valise.“Good afternoon.You had us worried.A touch of the sea in your stomach, huh?”“Something like that.” He could think whatever he wanted.She wouldn’t be discussing her grief over Quentin with Harjo and Oscar.While she wolfed down the lobster bisque, she asked what she’d missed during her confinement.“Harjo and I have been evaluating our finances and trying to decide where to go from here.”Harjo gave a sharp look to Oscar.Nell eyed them each in turn, trying to gauge what passed between them.“London was productive, was it not?”Oscar ignored her question and told Harjo he would meet him on the deck later.“Nell and I need to discuss the fall line.” Harjo gulped the last of his whiskey and told Nell to enjoy the remainder of her lunch.When he’d gone, Oscar leaned forward.“I hope your rest was restorative.You had me worried.”“I didn’t realize how long I’d slept, but I’m feeling quite chipper now, and I have worlds of new ideas.” Diving into work would keep her mind off Quentin and what might have been.She knew that, but the ache in her chest told her nothing would take away her thoughts of him.“That’s good to hear as I have some news I think you’ll like.”Her antenna went up.“We’ve had an inquiry from Soren Michaels.I must say it surprised me after the ordeal with Percy, but he’s requested teaming up with us again for a late summer show.”“That is good news.Soren’s a genius when it comes to fashion and business.”“A rising star on the fashion front, it would seem.”The words had a familiar ring—Oscar had uttered them enough times.Still, Nell was happy to hear that Soren was making a name for himself.“There are a few clauses in his proposal we need to clarify before we move forward, but I’ve a good feeling about this.With the proper planning, we can make an even bigger impact this time.” He took her hand, his touch as warm and soft as doeskin.“Your three-year anniversary with the salon is coming at the end of July, and I’ve decided to give you an early gift, an advance from apprentice to designer.”She blinked, not sure she’d heard right, but Oscar’s raised brows and lips curved into a smile seemed authentic.“It’s my turn to be surprised.I’m…uh…speechless.And grateful.”“I thought you’d be pleased.I’ve always had faith in you and believe this is only the beginning of what we can accomplish together.”“Thank you.You won’t regret it, sir.” A knot formed in her throat.All she’d worked for hadn’t been for naught.Or perhaps her popping into the millinery shops in London with Harjo spying on her had indeed prompted Oscar into action.* * *The ship’s hairdresser lifted the tresses from Nell’s neck and ran his fingers through them.“Are you sure a bob is what you want?”“Absolutely.Carefree and fashionable.Just like this.” She pointed to the model in the magazine.She didn’t add that she was also hoping it would make her look more professional.Someone to take seriously with her new position.She closed her eyes when the first snip of the scissors cut off a sizable chunk.Another snip sent a flurry of doubt through her middle, but when the woman gave her a mirror to look at the results, she gasped.It was glorious! Sleek with just a fringe of bangs.She stared wide-eyed and tipped the hairdresser double the customary amount.She sailed out the door, a new energy in the swing of her hips.Even Oscar commented that it gave her a more mature look when she showed him her newest designs.And as the shore of North America drew nearer, Nell’s excitement mounted.She was ready for the new challenges ahead.When she stepped from the cab in her neighborhood, the smell of garlic and sausage and the sounds of Italian shouts and laughter and the rush of traffic assaulted her.Funny, but in its own way, it felt like home.* * *The flat was empty when she entered, but a vase of daisies sat on the tiny kitchen table, a note propped against it.Welcome home! Can’t wait to hear everything.Dinner tonight at Sal’s.Gotta run.Class.Signed in Jeanette’s unreadable signature.Nell looked around, unsure what to do first.She put the kettle on, then went to change.A handful of letters were on the bedside table.She fanned through them, looking instinctively for a London postmark.Her heart sank.There would be no more letters from Quentin.But her mother and Aunt Sarah had written.The remaining mail was a reminder to make an appointment with Dr.Underwood along with two advertising flyers.When she’d put on a comfortable skirt and low-heeled shoes, she took the letters to the kitchen and made her tea.Her mother wrote at length about the abundant flowering of all the spring trees and her new rose varieties.Nell smiled, remembering the pressed roses from Marchwold she still needed to put on parchment and tie with silk thread to make a keepsake for her mother.Caroline was thriving and taking swimming lessons, and Granville was busy with his summer teaching schedule.She closed by saying, “I trust your trip was lovely.We are anxious to hear about it.With love and prayers, Mother.”Nothing about looking forward to Nell’s visit to Kentucky.Perhaps her mother had given up on the notion of Nell ever getting away from New York.Her family had their own bustling lives, and Nell would likely be an interruption anyway.Sadly, Nell also realized the likelihood of a visit was slim in the near future [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]