Arriving at Blevins Manor, Kip watched Sir Blevins escort a young woman to his coach. He jumped to the ground to meet her.
“Kip, this is my niece, Lady Lucy Blevins, who is staying with us for the season. I trust you to see that she arrives at the ball and is escorted into the hall. There she is to meet her cousin.”
“Sir, I will see to it that she is delivered safely. Am I to wait?”
Sir Blevins looked at his niece, wondering if she had further plans.
“Uncle, if this driver would not mind waiting an hour, I would appreciate that. I may not wish to stay. Otherwise, Lilly said her driver would return me here.”
“Very well. Kip, you will wait for one hour.”
“Yes, Uncle,” Lucy said with a sigh of relief. “Thank you.”
“Yes, Sir. Understood.”
Kip assisted her into the coach and was on his way. Upon arrival, he did not feel comfortable leaving her at the door with only the ball footman. She would be alone, once out of the coach. He pulled under the covered entrance; the event footman opened his coach door and exited Lucy Blevins. Kip jumped down, against protocol, and walked her inside the door.
“Miss, you are inside the door as your uncle instructed, but I feel uneasy with you here alone. I will park my team and return until your cousin arrives.”
“I believe I am asking too much of you, sir.”
“You would be doing me the service of not worrying about you. May I?”
“Yes, all right. Kip, is it?”
“Yes, Miss. One minute.”
Kip pulled the coach to a vacant spot, handed the reins to another driver friend and told him to tether the team, he would be back.
Kip approached Miss Blevins at the entrance into the hall.
“This is most kind of you, Kip.”
“It is my honor.”
“Oh, you certainly don’t mean that,” she smiled as they entered the foyer.
“I do, Miss. This is not just a courtesy.”
“I see. Well, it is more than generous, I should say.”
“You should say exceedingly little to me. I am but a driver.”
“I sense more to you than a driver. I cannot quite place it.” Lucy Blevins scanned the faces of all she could see. Her cousin was not there. “I am sorry you feel as if you have to wait. I do not see her.”
“Would you like to walk further into the actual ballroom?”
“Lilly said she would be by the doors.”
“Very well, Miss.”
“I see you are dressed in tails. Do you always drive in such evening elegance?”
“No, Miss. Only on particular occasions such as this.”
“I suppose I will allow you to walk with me into the ballroom, so I can see for myself if she is here.”
“If you wish it. I could stand at the hall entrance and keep an eye on you. Whichever you prefer.”
“I do not know anyone here. She was going to introduce me. Yes, I would appreciate it if you walked with me. At least, you do not look like a peacock.”
Kip chuckled, which caused her to smile.
As they entered the room, Lucy Blevins slipped her arm through his, surprising him. He accepted the honor and walked as the gentleman he was. It felt lovely to have a woman at his side. More than a year had passed since he was in the company of a fashionable lady.
“Kip, you look quite comfortable walking among the classes.” She smiled.
“I believe it to be my charm and good looks that help me pass for your lot.”
Lucy laughed. “My lot? As in upper society? If you only knew!”
“Are we both passing ourselves off as highborn types? How are we doing?”
“You are full of humor. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I am a social climber, but I do belong to the more common side of the family. I think my cousin is being kind to me.”
“Could your cousin think, ‘I should ask little Lucy out. She will never meet eligible men any other way’?”
“In my mind, that is what it feels like. That is why I asked uncle to allow you to remain another hour. I genuinely feel out of place.”
“May I have this dance?”
“Sorry. The music made me forget myself.” I must be more careful. That just slipped out.”
Lucy was being overwhelmed with this driver in tails. He was amusing her immensely.
“Do you happen to see your cousin?”
“I do not, but I cannot see across the floor.”
Kip faced her and placed his arm in the middle of her back, took her hand and waltzed her to the other side. “Here we are – the other side. Does this help?”
“Who are you? Has my cousin planned this whole evening? Are you the gentleman she wanted to introduce to me but felt I would run away? She slips you to me on a silver platter?”
“Brass, Miss. I would be slipped to you on a brass platter. I do think I shall put that on my calling cards. Being a gentlemen escort is rather appealing. It looks like I am quite proficient at it. What do you think?”
“I cannot believe the liberties you are taking if you truly are a driver. You are too amusing.”
“Now, you see; you have begun me to think that I could sweep you off your feet. You would be flattered. I would be honored, and it would be all innocent fun.”
“Will you kiss me goodnight, too?”
“Miss, you are not nearly ready for my fervid attention.” Kip kept his composure with a decidedly staid look while Lucy Blevins’s eyes twinkled with delight.”
“There she is! Lilly sees me.”
“Miss, you have been charming. I will wait outside until the appointed time. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to regale you.”
“I thoroughly was that I must say. Thank you. I still have a feeling I will not stay.”
“I will be waiting if that becomes your decision. Good evening.”
Kip bowed to her approaching cousin and left the area.
“Lucy, who was that handsome gentleman?”
“I do not think I will tell you, Lilly.”
“I have not seen him before. Here, I was going to introduce you to my gentleman’s friend, and you found someone.”
“Would you believe; he is my driver tonight?”
“No, I would not believe you. Coachmen do not come that handsome. And how many of them wear tails and walk ballroom floors?”
“You haven’t even seen the coach. I am living a fairy tale; I think.”
“Have you had any wine, yet?”
“No, but I feel as if I have.”
“Come. Let us find our gentlemen who were just behind me. I’m afraid I scurried over when I saw you.”
Miss Lucy Blevins was pulled merrily along by her hand toward two other guests.
Kip returned to his team and, as usual, found drivers milling around his horses and coach. Other drivers were looking to see what he was doing differently to attract more riders.
“Whom did you drive tonight?” Marc questioned.
“A Miss Lucy Blevins, cousin to someone named Lilly. She is a niece of Sir Blevins.”
“Dunno her, mate. Is she young and beautiful?”
“Yes, and quite.”
Kip took the wheel spoke to reach under the lid of his bench seat and pulled out a brush. He began raking one of his horse’s long mane and tail. “Are the other apostles here, tonight?”
“Mathew is across the way. Lucas is still expected, and I think Jonathan has another ball.”
This was the world he was coming to love. The camaraderie was always good fellowship. They spent many hours together and relied on one another. All of them were like a team of brothers. They were gentlemen drivers with souls of gold. He could never thank them for pulling him through some terribly rough emotional times that he had hidden from them after his sister’s murder.
Matthew approached the pair and patted down the other horse which was not being brushed. “Evening, gents. Is this Warrior or Soldier? I can never tell them apart even in the daylight.”
“That is Soldier. The three of us were rescuers late today. A woman came running to the coach, fleeing from a man. It appeared the young lady did not want to marry him, and they had had a heated discussion.”
“Do you know who she is?”
“No, I know where she lives, which I will not speak, but she was visiting near Hampstead.”
“Did you know the man?” asked Marc.
“No. I did go back later to see if there was a name on the house but there was not. In a few days, I will return to the young lady’s home and see how she is. I believe you are jealous of me, dear friends. Who among us does not enjoy the benefits of driving a young woman who is alone?”
“You keep telling us that, but no one seems to have your flair.”
“I have no flair, mates. I love women, as we all do. They are quite helpless against any man. You’re a hard lot, you chaps,” he laughed. “Anyone bring cards, Willy?”
It was nearing ten in the evening when Kip saw Miss Blevins exit the front entrance. He quickly scurried to meet her.
“Are you out for the air, or can I be of assistance?”
“I would like to leave, but not return home just yet. I feel quite shaken with my cousin and her guests. I think something is wrong.”
“I hope there is nothing amiss. Where may I drive you?”
“I know little of London. Can you choose a place for you and me to sit and talk? I do not mean privately; you understand.”
“Miss, are you quite certain? It is not my place to be a companion or socialize.”
“I do understand that. I had enjoyed your company before my gentleman was introduced to me. Is there no proper place?”
“Yes, there are benches in front of the courthouse. It is quite a public area, even at this time of night. If you wait here, I will bring the coach.”
“No matter. I will walk with you. Will you be shamed in front of the other drivers?”
“They may take to teasing me, but I will be admired,” he smiled.
Lucy felt her own smile return.
“Shall we go, miss?” Kip extended his arm, mostly because it was dark, and where he was headed was wheel-rutted.
The drivers moved away from Kip’s coach as he, and the lady appeared to head towards them. He purposely did not look in their direction as he handed Miss Blevins into his coach. Kip stepped on the wheel peg and lifted himself onto his bench. His fellow drivers were huddled together watching intently since he had brought her there on his arm.
Kip wasn’t sure what he was doing. He had done what he could to dissuade her, which failed. They arrived at the courthouse without much ado. There were the gas street lights and a dozen lighted windows in the Court House. He parked his team on the main street and attended Miss Blevins to a bench.
“You will sit with me, will you not?”
“Yes, Miss. Did you not enjoy your evening tonight?”
“It isn’t that which has me upset. It is my cousin Lilly.”
“Miss, this is not my business. Although whatever you say to me will remain private, reconsider that you are talking to a coachman. Perhaps, you should discuss this with a family member.”
“I am not sure what to do. I believe she is being coerced into something or blackmailed.”
Kip found his seat on the bench. This was far and away never the troubles he thought her cousin could be experiencing. “What makes you think that, Miss Blevins?”
“Twice she and her gentleman seemed to be having harsh words while they danced. I saw her frowning and shaking her head. She returned with watery eyes one time. The two of them kept taking short walks onto the back veranda. The gentleman who was with me observed that I noticed something was amiss. He became overly attentive to me at that time.”
“You do not think it was lovers quarrel?
“As they neared the table, returning from the veranda, I faintly heard her say, ‘I do not think I will do that.’”
“That could be a reply to any number of topics.”
“She and I are not all that close for her to openly confide in me. They wanted to leave early. I told them I would prefer to go home, so I left to find you. I did not want to stay with the friend, and he seemed anxious to go with them.”
“Do you know if they were taking her home?”
“No, I don’t, Kip,” Miss Blevins said as she leaned against his shoulder and began to weep.
Kip was not making any progress stemming the flow of her tears or her grip on him. “I feel you should be home explaining your observations to your uncle. He may have thoughts on this unusual situation. One woman and two men in a coach could signal … umm … improprieties.”
“Yes, I am sure you are right.”
“Splendid. Let us depart.”
Kip pulled his coach to the front of the dwelling where he had started. Miss Blevins was stepping out before he could reach her.
“I will walk with you to the door. Do you wish me to enter?”
“Yes. I will go find uncle.”
Lucy found her uncle, who was in his dressing robe and asked him to come speak with the driver. As the two walked towards Kip at the entrance, Lucy told him what had transpired during the ball.
“Good evening, Kip. What’s this Lucy is trying to tell me?”
Kip, clasping his hands behind his back, began his narration of events as he knew them, which was less than what Miss Blevins had told him. He mentioned he would have conversations with the other drivers.
“Please, wait until I dress. Kip, I’d like you to drive me to Lilly’s home. She is my sister’s niece. I wish to be comforted in the fact that she is home.”
As Sir Blevins left for upstairs, Miss Blevins approached him, took one of his hands, and kissed it. “Kip, I do not know how to thank you.”
“Miss Blevins, this type of gratitude is not expected nor earned. Please know your place.”
Lucy looked into his green eyes intently, “I think I do know my place.”
Kip felt the undeniable pleasure sweep over him, but all he could see was a black-haired cherub sitting atop a coach bench.
“Miss, you are charming and quite endearing but do not let your imagination take hold. This may be a serious situation. My help does not require payment. I desire that you refrain from complimenting me. You are putting me at a disadvantage, which is hard to resist. I am but a man as well as a coachman.”
“I am quite aware of that,” Lucy smiled.