Chapter 22: Irons in the Fire

Chantal was nervous.

Devlin stood by quietly and watched the drama unfold. A pillar of support, he winked an eye at Chantal and whispered in her ear, “Sweetheart, relax, you can do this.”

Chantal regained her composure as Leslie escorted Miles and his mother into the foyer. She released her sweaty palm from the clutches of Sierra’s fingers and took a bold step forward.

“Hello Mrs. Banks. Hello Miles. Welcome to Brooke Manor,” she said.

“Good evening Chantal,” said Miles’s mother.

“You look beautiful,” said Miles in a blissful state of euphoria with a fixed gaze on Chantal, which had not gone unnoticed by Devlin.

“Thank you. Mrs. Banks, do you remember my sister, Sierra?” asked Chantal, in an effort to take Miles’s etched focus off her.

“Yes, we’ve met before. How are you dear?”

“We’re happy that you could join us,” said Sierra.

“The pleasure is mine,” said Miles’s mother.

“What’s up Sierra?” asked Miles.

“Hi, how are you?”

“Much better, now that I’m here,” he said. “You made this possible.”

“Congratulations on being commissioned to restore such an exquisite property,” said Miles’s mother.

“Thank you,” said Sierra.

“Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to escort you to the parlor room,” said Leslie. Everyone followed him into the parlor room. Then, he left and went to the kitchen.

“The decor is nice, right down to the paintings and hanging light fixtures,” said Miles’s mother.

“Thank you,” said Devlin. “Most of the paintings were passed down the Lloyd family line for generations in Wales.

“And who are you?” asked Miles’s mother in a jovial tone.

“Please allow me to introduce myself,” said Devlin.

Chantal turned to Devlin. “Oh, I am so sorry. Mrs. Banks and Miles, this is Mr. Devlin Lloyd. He’s the owner of Brooke Manor.”

“Aren’t you a tad young?” asked Miles’s mother.

“Mother please,” said Miles. He was not amused.

“It’s OK, I’ve heard that before,” said Devlin turning to Miles. “It’s a pleasure to meet you both.” Then, he extended his arm to shake Miles’s hand.

“Have a seat, make yourselves at home,” said Chantal.

Miles’s mother took a seat next to him and Chantal on a velvet, garnet colored sofa. Sierra sat nearby on a plush parlor chaise lounge chair.

“May I get you all anything to drink?” asked Devlin before he walked towards a mahogany wood cocktail bar cabinet, stocked with alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages.

“I’ll have sparkling water with lemon,” said Miles’s mother.

Devlin gave her a glass of sparkling water.

“Thanks,” she said.

Then, he sat down in one of the bonded black leather arm chairs across from her, and she asked several questions about his plans for Brooke Manor going forward.

Meanwhile, Miles leaned over and spoke softly to  Chantal.  “It has been too long. My heart quivered this evening when I saw you,” he said. “I will be in Woodbine for six more weeks. May I see you again?”

“I don’t know, let me think about it,” she said.

“Mother stopped into town to visit me when she was on her way back home, after shopping in New York. I hope you don’t mind that I brought her as my dinner companion.”

“Of course not,” said Chantal.

Sierra noticed the small talk and wondered what Devlin thought about Miles’s attentiveness to Chantal. She hoped he understood that Miles was only a distraction and nothing more.

Chantal looked over and smiled as she made eye contact with Devlin. He smiled back at her under the guise of indifference, and  he sensed the onset of a rivalry with Miles for her affections.

A few minutes later, Leslie came back from the kitchen. “Dinner is served,” he said. “I will escort you all to the dining room.” They followed him.

“Oh, how clever, we have seating arrangements, and I’m seated next to  Mr. Lloyd,” said Miles’s mother.

Devlin pulled out a chair for her to sit down in.

“Thank you,” she said.

Soon, everyone sat comfortably, and they started chatting while Leslie poured water, tea, and coffee for them

“Sierra, when do you expect to have Brooke Manor completely restored to it’s original beauty?” asked Miles’s mother.

“We’re in the beginning phase of doing repairs in the foyer to stabilize and rebuild the staircase. Then, we’d like to refurbish the water damaged areas on the floor and mansion walls. We’ll focus on the aesthetic features last. So, it may take six months to a year to restore everything.”

“Will you be here until the project is finished?” asked Miles.

“No. I will be here during the summer through late September, but I will visit periodically to monitor the progress.”

“Mrs. Banks, you and Miles have to see the courtyard after dinner. It has a gazebo. It’s a nice romantic hideaway,” said Chantal.

“Umm, did you say romantic hideaway? What a curious choice of words,” said Mile’s mother looking at her son as though he could read her mind.

“What I meant is, the scenery is like a picture in a romance novel, that’s all,” said Chantal.

“Dinner is served,” said Leslie as he pushed a dinner cart into the dining room with his mom, Ella, by his side. They started serving the first course of potato onion soup.

“In fact,” said Devlin, “I’ve been thinking about making the courtyard available for wedding parties.”

Sierra looked at him and said, “That’s a wonderful idea.”

“I love it,” said Chantal.

“So Devlin, tell me about yourself,” said Miles’s mother. “Are you living here?”

“Now mother, that is personal,” said Miles. Although, he secretly yearned for an answer to the question.

“No, I don’t live here, but I do come by often to help Sierra with the original details of the property, and to visit Chantal when Sierra is busy working long hours.”

“That’s convenient.”said Miles’s mother.

“What do you do for a living?” asked Miles.

“Nothing at the moment,” said Devlin seeming inscrutable. For now, I just manage the property.”

Miles had a sullen expression on his face. He was not oblivious to the chemistry between Devlin and Chantal. We both have our irons in the fire. May the best man win, he thought.


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