">Historical Romance - Victorian/Gilded Age
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Mimi Sinclair sat at her workbench, in her private studio in back of her Chelsea townhouse, studying the paperwork that accompanied the Pteranodon skull she was ready to draw and sculpt. It was an amazing discovery, this one, a rare fossil found by a French archaeologist, turned over to her for processing by her father. He still kept his studio behind his home in Holland Park, but he was out of the country with Richard Owen at the moment. It was all for the better that she do this sculpting anyway, as her father's eyesight had deteriorated considerably in the last few years and his arthritis had recently begun to worsen. This replica had to be exact and without flaw for a year long display at Owen's Zoological Garden, so Mimi had accepted the work for her father. Of course nobody but those in her family knew that she did the craftsmanship herself, but that was beside the point. As a woman, she wouldn't be able to receive great acclaim for her efforts, though in this small regard she accomplished something both worthy and praised. Artistic talent ran deep in the family, in the blood, and she took pride in hers, even if it came in little, sometimes insignificant, amounts.
She'd been working a great deal more of late, and she liked that it kept her mind active and was time well spent. Since Carter's death she had found less and less to do while in mourning, aside from household management. Calling on friends was inappropriate, and Mimi despised not being social and attending a party or two each month. God should never have made her a widow at so early an age, butobviously God hadn't asked for her opinion on the matter when he'd taken her husband so suddenly. Art and sculpture were all she had now, as she was still in half mourning. Soon, though, she would be able to regain her social gregariousness. It wasn't in her nature to be quiet and solemn anyway. In truth, she despised the somber nature she'd been required to accept these last two years.
Laying her sketch pad on her lap, she began to draw with her pencil. The afternoon sunlight shone a brilliant, pale yellow through the long clear west windows behind her, illuminating her drawing as she worked. She had placed an old cushioned settee in her studio for such a purpose so that she didn't have to carry whatever fossil she might be sketching at the moment to her living quarters just to be able to sit comfortably. It was peaceful, too, in the solitude. Rarely did anyone bother her here.
The sketch soon took on a shape of its own. The Pteranodon was a relatively small creature and would be easy enough to construct. She would start it tomorrow, probably. With notes from Monsieur Lamont, the French archaeologist who found and delivered the fossil, she should be able to build a very good likeness. It was all they had anyway. There really was no definite way to mold a reptile millions of years old with any precision, or at least that was her opinion. Much of it was guesswork, although the scientists were getting better every day as more and more fossils were recovered from deep beneath the earth.
The Pteranodon fossil sat across from her, on a wooden four-legged table that had lost its polish years ago. She studied the angle of the jaw, the long, sharp beak. The jawbone wasn't very large, and she'd heard that this particular beast was something of a birdlike dinosaur, which was how she intended to portray it when she finally got to the sculpting -- as a bird, with wings spanned wide. Mind was looking forward to it.
"Mrs. Sinclair, there is a gentleman to see you. Are you at home?"
Mimi glanced up to find her parlor maid, Stella, standing at the doorway, her starched gray uniform signaling to all the half mourning status of the household. Her reddish-brown hair looked slightly unkempt, her cap tilted to one side, but then for Stella this was custom. She was an attractive girl, as was required of a parlor maid, but regardless of the negative impression she might give because of her constant flustered look, Mimi kept her because she liked her.
Without stopping the motion of her fingers on the pad, she replied, "A gentleman?"
"Yes, ma'am. He's waiting in the morning room. Said he wants to discuss a bit of work." She raised her brows and lowered her voice. "Very nicely dressed, he is, too, though he didn't have a card."
Mimi wiped the back of her hand over her left cheek, brushing stray hair off her face, curious because Stella rarely offered opinion on callers since it was not of her station to do so. He must have made an impression. Handsome, probably. The work part, however, intrigued Mimi more. He likely wanted a sculpture for home or yard decoration. But she remained extremely selective about her sculpting, creating only from fossils and other scientific drawings, and only a few people in all of England knew she did this kind of artwork. She didn't care at all about pottery birdbaths, clay bowls, or metal statues, but she would decline his offer personally.
"I'll see him, Stella."
Her maid curtsied and walked away, her light footsteps tapping on the wooden floorboards as she returned to the front of the house.
Mimi stood and tossed her pad and sketching pencil on the chair. Then she smoothed her boring gray work skirt, rolled down the sleeves to cuff them, and brushed her blond hair with her fingertips until all loose ends fit neatly inside the bun at her nape. Following that, she hurried as fast as was proper to the front of her modestly fashionable home to meet the...Someone Irresistible. Copyright © by Adele Ashworth. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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