Excerpt from Amy's Choice

   
     Amy glanced at Benjamin and then glided to her chair across from his. He slowly sat back down and sipped from his cup of coffee.
     "Benjamin, what brings you out here so early this morning?" Walter slathered yellow butter on yet another slice of bread.
     Amy kept her eyes on her plate, but her movements slowed, indicating she listened intently.
     "Colonel Scarsdale made an important announcement last week, one that increases the chance of violent retaliation and looting by the British troops as they prepare to evacuate the city." Benjamin kept his eyes on Walter but watched Amy's actions at the side of his vision.
     "Is the war finally over then?" Walter laid down his knife, eyes intent on Benjamin.
     "It appears to be, all but the acts of signing the peace treaty and evacuating His Majesty's troops."
     "When might that happen?" Emily fisted her napkin and gazed at him with hopeful eyes.
     "As soon as conditions allow them to leave the harbor. But between now and then they will scavenge for any items of value they can lay their hands upon." He willed Amy to look at him, and finally she rewarded him by lifting her eyes to meet his.
     "But how does that impact us out here?" Amy regarded him, one hand poised above her plate, a bite of ham waiting. "Surely the Britons will not harm us so far from town. They'll be busy preparing to evacuate."
     "Clearly you do not fathom the reality of the matter." When Amy merely stared at him, realization dawned as to the extent of the situation before him. "I have come to take the girls back to town where I can keep them safe."
     A startled silence followed his pronouncement.
     "We are safe here." Samantha strode into the room and made straight for the sideboard." Yes, more so than we'd be in town at any rate." Emily looked from one person to another. "So many soldiers still roam the streets, after all."
     "Besides, we cannot move Evelyn." Amy held knife and fork poised to slice through the ham. "I won't leave her here alone. She needs help until the baby arrives, and for a span after."
     "She has me." Walter laid his hands flat on the table at either side of his plate. "I can take care of her."
     Amy darted a glance at Walter, then returned her gaze to Benjamin. "That's my fear."
     Her mouth formed a stubborn pout as her eyes reflected her concern. What had occurred here to provoke such a statement? Amy glanced at Walter with unease plain in her expression, her distrust of the man evident. Despite himself, Benjamin tensed at the idea of Amy living under the same roof as Walter.
     "I know how to defend myself, so I'll stay." Samantha placed her napkin in her lap. "More to the point, Evelyn will deliver any day now, and she'll need me."
     "You'll need help with running this place." Emily laid her napkin on the table, her eyes steady on Samantha. "I'm accomplished at that, so I will stay to assist."
     "In the event, Miss Amy stays with me." He spoke with less conviction than earlier as his resolve wilted under the arguments put forth by the women surrounding him. "I can't stay away from town long, not only because Captain Sullivan expects me to ensure the museum collection is not touched, but also because Amy's father requested I bring my fiancée back posthaste."
     A feminine gasp drew his eyes to Amy's startled expression. Damnation. Too late, he realized his error as, in rhythm with three blinks, her stubborn expression shifted to surprise, then anger.
     "Pardon me?" Her eyebrows arched over wide eyes. "You are engaged? To whom, pray tell?"
     His carefully prepared speech blown apart by his own foolish words. Again, words had tripped him up and left him floundering. "I spoke with your parents a few days ago, and they agreed..."
     "Stop." Amy, face red, held up a hand as though warding off a blow. "Pray, don't tell me my parents actually negotiated with you for my hand?"
 
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