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Leland August figured London was a pretty strange place for a man who grew up in Texas. It just seemed so damned civilized. All those streets paved with cobbles, with more folks on them than he'd ever seen in one place save the battlefield.
The Texas Legation was on St. James' Street, which made it even more intimidating to a bumpkin from Waterloo. Oh, it might be called Austin now, but Leland had been born there when it was just four families and a settlement, before the new government had decided to call it after Mr. Austin. Wasn't much to it, really, but a map and a plan.
Not like London, that had been there for hundreds of years and soared up so a man could hardly see the clouds.
He'd been there for nearly a month so far, working at the Legation office, which mainly seemed to involve having a drink with the gents at the exclusive clubs on Pall Mall and riding about in the park, showing off horseflesh.
The streets always seemed to have people on them in London, even late in the evening while Leland made his way back to the Legation office. His own accommodations were nearby, and he itched to get out of his starched and yet drooping clothing, but he needed to stop in and leave the packet of papers he'd retrieved from the shipyards.
Sighing, he turned the corner from Pall Mall to St. James, quickening his steps as the wine merchant the Legation hovered over came into view.
Which was, naturally, when he slammed into another body, sending his leather bound packet flying and his own body stumbling back almost into the street.
"Damnation, man! Watch where you put your enormous feet, will you?"
"My feet?" Lelandsaw red, his hands clenching into fists. "I, sir, was watching where I was going. You came from thin air, I assure you." Lord, he hated fellows with that snooty tone.
"Indeed? Well, then, certainly the fault is all mine. My abject apologies, you insolent backwoods oaf."
"Oaf!" Growling, Leland straightened his clothing, making sure nothing was awry. "I might be forced to take offense, Sir."
"We are in the right place, then."
That was true enough. St. James was a notorious dueling place. Leland shook his head. It was also his own nest in London, and he could not afford to foul it. He stared at the fellow, noting the lean, medium-tall body, dark hair and strangely light eyes. They were not blue, but he could not tell if they were gray or green.
They fairly snapped with anger, however. That much was clear even in the low light of the street lamps.
"I have no wish to call you out," Leland finally said, turning to look for his papers. Thankfully his leather packet had not burst open, and they remained contained.
"Then watch your tongue," the man snapped, stepping right up to him as he straightened. "You are the one out of place."
His eyebrows rose. "I? Oh, I think not. I am here on the invitation of your government. I doubt you can say the same. You are a simple accident of birth, I wager."
"An accident ... I vow, you are trying my patience." Eyes flashing, the fellow drew himself to his full height, chest bumping against his own.
"I fear I am destined to try men's patience. I am from Texas." Smiling suddenly at the absurdity of it all, Leland stepped back and held out his hand. "Please, allow me to apologize for tripping over your feet, Sir. I will not apologize for them being in my way, but I will say I was not watching closely where I was headed."
The man stared at his hand, and then glanced up at his face, the corners of that well-shaped mouth pulling up. A low chuckle preceded the firm shake of his hand, the man's gloved hand pumping his once before releasing.
"Sir Ford Mayhew, at your service," the fellow said, the smile reaching those changeable eyes.
"Leland August. Will you let me apologize more fully by providing some refreshment?" Suddenly going to the office and then back to his tiny rented room seemed dreary and terribly lonely.
The young Sir appeared nonplussed for a moment, but soon nodded amiably enough. "I was just on my way home from my club, in point of fact, having grown weary of the company. You, however, are not boring. Come," Ford said, taking his elbow. "Tell me about this Texas."
Posted April 30, 2012
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Posted January 14, 2011
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