As he and Sybil made their way toward the front of the shop, the door opened and a man entered. The newcomer’s gaze focused on her immediately and then flickered to Tom.
Sybil stiffened. “Come, Mr. Reeves, let me introduce you to an old friend. Afterward, I’m afraid you must hurry to catch your train.”
The strain in her voice led Tom to conclude this gentleman was not well-met for some reason. Since the man’s expression and posture radiated hostility, Tom guessed the fellow felt he had some sort of claim on her. A jealous suitor, perhaps? A feeling of protectiveness sprang up as he escorted Sybil over.
“Wally, please meet a new acquaintance of mine, Mr. Thomas Reeves.” She glanced at Tom. “Mr. Hancock is the headmaster of our local boys’ school, and an old friend of the family.”
Tom bowed. “It’s a pleasure.”
As Wally peered at Tom, his eyes narrowed. “Are you new to the area, Mr. Reeves?”
“I live in London, but I came down to see Mr. Ashley Pepper. Miss Pepper was kind enough to escort me back to the station so I wouldn’t get lost.”
“Reeves.” Wally’s nostrils flared as he spoke the name. “Are you related to Mr. Marcus Reeves, by any chance? He has an excellent boot repair cart in Cheapside.”
Tom had the utmost respect for any fellow who made his own way in the world, be it by the plow or the awl. Nevertheless, he couldn’t let Wally believe he’d gotten away with an insult—particularly not in front of Sybil.
“I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting the chap. My father was Indigo Reeves, the Viscount Fallows.” Tom sketched a showy bow, hoping the gesture would prove suitably annoying to the headmaster. “If you’ll excuse me, I have a train to catch.” He turned to Sybil. “Thank you for escorting me this far, Miss Pepper, but I can find my way from here.”
He cast a dark look at Wally as he left the shop, irked at the man’s boorishness. A spectacular beauty such as Sybil, even if she lived in the country, could do much better for herself than an oafish lout. Mr. Wallace Hancock was possessed of a rather ordinary appearance as well as an officious manner, and Tom found himself hoping she was not engaged to him—now, or in the future.
Lady Fallows’ Secrets will be released on Friday, November 24th.
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