Lucy stood next to Jack in the doorway of the solicitors' office as the rain drizzled down.
"What are you going to do, then, Jack?" she asked the redheaded footman.
"Move back to Brighton," he said. "It's been dog's years since I've seen my mum and sis. And there's a girl there I've been writing to, she still hasn't thrown me over despite the, hem, extended courtship."
"Will you go back into service?" Lucy asked him.
"Nay, I've had my fill," Jack said. "Time to be my own man. I've spent as much time on my knees polishing Master Edmund's prick as his shoes. To be sure, the prick's the easier job. But without a word of grace or gratitude, well, it begins to stick in the craw."
Lucy couldn't hold back a laugh. "Bless you, Jack," she said.
Jack patted a thick pouch in his vest. "Bless you, Lucy," he said. "I hope the old lord and lady settled a nice little sum on you. You've been in service with the Netherwoods, well..."
"All my life," Lucy said.
A rumbling of iron wheels, accompanied by rhythmic hisses of steam, came down the street.
"My tram," Jack said.
"Fare thee well," Lucy wished. "Hope your girl meets you at the railway station."
Jack smiled. "Well, in case she doesn't, I better steal a kiss to tide me through," he said.
Lucy's eyes widened with surprise, but her lips softened for Jack's kiss. She felt her cheeks flush and her nipples harden. Her own arms wrapped around him and her lips moved against his.
They broke away and looked at one another with wide-open eyes.
Jack laughed. "I should have done that a long time ago," he said. He licked his lips. "You've still got hot blood, Lucy. Don't let the bastards squeeze it out of you. Find someone to steal you away!"
"Oh, go on, Jack, you devil," Lucy said. "Safe trip."
Jack hefted a traveling case and carefully walked across the slippery paving to the tram. It grumbled and hissed away into the grey drizzle.
The door to the solicitors' opened. "Mum, is Jack gone already?" Lucy's daughter Annie asked. "I wanted to tell him, Lady Netherwood's will, it's like she promised. She settled a cracking sum on me for my marriage, and more, mum, I'm to go to finishing school with Sabrina!"
"'Cracking' isn't ladylike, Annie," Lucy chided.
Sabrina Netherwood was Edmund and Clarissa's daughter, of an age with Annie who was just turning eighteen. The two girls had been constant companions since infancy, and Annie was raised more like a favored poor relation than a servant's bastard.
"Sabrina says it all the time, mum," Annie said.
"That's why she's going to finishing school, dear one," Lucy said.
The door of the solicitors' office opened again. "Miss Lucy Longbottom?" the clerk called.
"Your turn, mum," Annie said.
The clerk showed Lucy through the cramped front rooms to a back office. In the dim drizzly day, the office was lit by sinuous Geissler tubes behind tinted glass shades. The clerk seated Lucy at the foot of a large cherrywood table. "Thank you," she told the clerk for his courtesy. The table had been kept in indifferent polish, to Lucy's mind.
A stout, mustachioed gentleman sat at the head of the table. "Miss Lucy Longbottom, I presume?"
"Yes, sir," Lucy said.
"I am Augustus Henshawe, executor of Lady Catherine Netherwood's will and conservator of Lord Jeremy Netherwood's estate, which will be settled on this day," he said. "Let us turn to the matter of Lady Catherine's bequest."
Augustus Henshawe read a text that sounded more like a set of parliamentary findings than a bequest. Lady Catherine had been a cool old bird, but in her later years, had come to rely on Lucy more and more, sensing that her family was maneuvering around her for the sake of getting some angle on Lord Jeremy's still-unsettled estate.
"...and for her extraordinary services to my person..." Augustus Henshawe droned on.
Lucy felt her face grow warm. When the arthritis in Lady Catherine's hands troubled her, she had Lucy masturbate her. It had started with Lucy strapping Lady Catherine's vibrating massager to her hand when it became too awkward for Lady Catherine to manage one-handed, but at length, Lady Catherine requested Lucy to use her own hands. It had become almost a regular thing, after her bath and and before bed.
Augustus Henshawe continued, "I bequeath to her my tortoiseshell combs, my electric reciprocating massager, and the ebony box, with contents, from my dressing table."
The ebony box contained an antique ivory dildo and a suede harness which Lady Catherine had used four years past on New Year's Eve to artificially perform the masculine role in coitus with Lady Violet Crandall, a literary and political writer of her intimate acquaintance. "You are here to assist us two elderly ladies to fuck each other to an earthly Paradise, Lucy," Lady Catherine had said. "A complete Sapphic catharsis," Lady Violet had added.
Lucy was sure her ears must be cherry-red from how hot they felt.
Lady Catherine settled a sum of money on her as well, and had made advance arrangements with her dressmaker to fit a fine dress to Lucy's taste.
"And now for the final matter of Lord Jeremy Netherwood's sealed provisions," Augustus Henshawe said. "Ahem. I, Jeremy Netherwood, do recognize and affirm Lucy Longbottom, daughter of Margaret Longbottom, as the natural child of my body, and eldest and senior of my issue."
Lucy swayed in her seat as the world shifted around her.
Edmund and Clarissa sat stone-faced. They had known, somehow.
"And in so recognizing, I provide for her..." Augustus Henshawe continued.
Loyal Reader: You are generally encouraged to offer suggestions by way of comment, or even contribute if you feel ambitious. You may refer to the discussion forum here. Thank you. -Author
Family's loyal servant and bed-warmer is recognized as Lord Netherwood's eldest daughter.
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