“I made you some tea.”
Lily held out the steaming mug, trying not to notice how the fabric of his shirt strained against the muscles in his arms as he made short work of planing the curved piece of wood he had cut. He had been working solidly on the wheel for three hours, so it was no wonder he was sweating. And that was on top of the hour it had taken them to alert Mrs Tusk of the problem and then walk the horses and the wheel to the little stable in the mews around the corner. She supposed she could have left him to it then, but as he’d saved both their lives with his quick thinking, it had felt wrong to abandon him and she had instead been his assistant, handing him tools and providing an extra pair of hands when they were needed.
“Thanks, darlin’.” He took it gratefully and leaned back on his work bench to drink it. “It’s almost done. I’ve just got to jimmy in the new piece and then hammer on the rim. Thank goodness the axel didn’t snap as that would have been too big a job for me to do here and likely an expensive one, too.”
“I’d have thought fixing a wheel was a specialised job, too.” Yet Evan had done it with extreme precision as if he knew exactly what to do.
“Not if you spent your formative years as an apprentice to a wainwright.”
“Got bored with building carriages, did you?”
He shrugged as he blew on his tea, the steam weaving with the misty clouds of his breath in the chilled night air. “I always preferred the horses and it wasn’t so much the carriages I got sick of as my master. Old Fletcher was a miserly old skinflint too fond of the whisky and too handy with his belt. What I could just about tolerate at fourteen, I wasn’t prepared to put up with at twenty-one, so we parted ways. But as one door closes another one always opens, and after a few months of casual labour which was almost as bad but paid better, I went to work at one of the fancy toff stables in Mayfair and worked my way up from the bottom again.”
“What made you leave the fancy stables for this tiny one?”
He grinned and pointed at the ceiling. “That… upstairs. My own place. When you’ve spent all your life living under someone else’s roof, sharing and squashed in, having a home of your own feels like a palace.” Which explained why the cosy apartment was so neat and tidy. Then he beamed, obviously proud of himself. “My own place before I turned thirty was target number four on the grand five-point Temple master plan, and I hit it three years early.”
She couldn’t help smiling back at him. “The grand Temple master plan?”
“Been working on it diligently since I was eight. Surely you’ve got one too? What lofty ambitions does Lily Brown dream of?”
Not a topic she wanted to talk about.
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