By Reading This, You Are Stating That You Are 18 Years Of Age. If You Are Under The Age Of 18, It Is Necessary To Exit This Site.
Phoenix stooped over his desk one afternoon as people bustled in and out of his shop and snatched up books faster than Nathaniel was able to reshelf them. Concentrating on the notes that he had received from one of his publishers about an order, he calculated numbers in his head but was disrupted by his employee. “Sir, ye ‘aven’t seen this place so busy since ye first opened.”
Glancing up, he flicked his eyes past Nathaniel and watched people crowd around Marley, who delighted his patrons with her shimmering smiles and warm laughter. He was aggravated that the majority of the people who surrounded her were young men dressed in tailored suits. Still curious about the woman who had managed to pin down the most elusive bachelor of London, people swarmed his shop as soon as he opened and blatantly expressed their disappointment when Marley didn’t come down.
After they saw the woman that Phoenix married, they were drawn in by her pleasant nature and intellectual conversations. Phoenix grinned, amused that his wife hadn’t turned into the bookish recluse that he had expected her to become. Instead, Marley missed the company of her siblings so much that she socialized with his customers and entertained them with her stories. “My wife seems to be adapting to her new situation.”
“’er ladyship is a treat, me lord.” Nathaniel remarked, watching Marley kneel down in front of a little girl who had tugged on her skirt.
“Mind how you refer to my wife, Nathaniel. Make yourself busy. I’m not paying you to gawk at Lady Alden from across the room.”
After Nathaniel removed himself from Phoenix’s presence, he continued to stare at Marley, who showed her pearly teeth to the meek child. The girl toyed with a ribbon in her hair and murmured, “I’m six-years-old.”
Marley clasped her hands together. “You’re six? What a wonderful age to be! You must be learning so much about the world. Do you have a favorite story, Lily?”
Lily shook her head, her hair swinging back and forth. “I don’t know how to read.”
Having grown up in London, Phoenix was used to hearing about wastrel fathers whose children grew up to be illiterate, duplicitous brats that only made London’s streets even more overcrowded. Marley widened her eyes, however, upon learning about the girl’s situation. Just then, a man clasped the little girl’s hand and drew her away.
Marley stood and brushed off her skirt before excusing herself from the crowd that was still vying for her attention. Walking over to Phoenix, she briefly contemplated the paperwork in front of him before deciding that her matter was more important. “Phoenix,” she said, “I would like to do something, but only if I have your approval.”
Phoenix motioned to the chair across from him. “I’ve been waiting to hear those words since the day that I married you, love. What do you propose?”
“Since I’ve started spending time with the patrons, I’ve met so many illiterate children.”
“That’s the problem with a large city made up of the lower middle class and poor. Fathers who are working off of measly wages can’t afford to educate their children. You remember that I told you that I was an illiterate child. I had to ask strangers for the meanings of words or teach myself.”
Marley set her mouth at a mulish slant, and she fingered the short length of hair that curled slightly beneath her chin. “I’d like to set up a safe space for those children to come and learn how to read. Perhaps after you close the shop for the evening.”
“That’s not possible.” Phoenix muttered, folding his arms across his chest. “Most children are already home by that time. Besides, we always have dinner together after I close the shop. What about in the morning? I could delay opening the shop for an hour or two while you act as the guardian to all of the children whose fathers are sots and burn away their money on alcohol.”
“What turned you into such a cynic?”
Phoenix laughed, “Thirty-two years on this sorry excuse of a world. You’re getting close, sweetheart. In six years, you’ll have the same mean spirit that I do.”
“Don’t comment on my age,” she grumbled. “So you’ll let me have a few hours to teach those children?”
Pushing himself out of his chair, Phoenix walked around his desk and bent to kiss Marley, who readily offered him her mouth. “After nearly two months of being married to you, I finally have some authority under my own roof. Ask me for my permission again in a little while. Those words are like music.”
A dimple appeared on her cheek as she grinned. “Don’t get used to it.”
“Believe me, I wasn’t going to. I’ll be right back, sweetheart. I’m going to check on the biscuits.” Going up the stairs, he peered around the corner and watched her walk around to the other side of his desk and look at the paperwork that he had left out. “Keep your nose out of my things.”
Marley completely disregarded him and sat down in his chair.
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