Very impressed with this story that is no less than a work of art.
loveskitten, reviewed on Amazon.com
Ten months after ‘’The Solicitation’’ and Alice’s transition to Waldorf Manor, her uncle - Bennett Fowler - hopes to secure the companionship of a girl under his own authority at his nearby estate, Barton-Court House. Alice is neither amused nor welcoming to Bennett’s new charge and it doesn’t take long for her to display adamant displeasure, feeling the newcomer is a threat to the carefully constructed life which has been built around her at Waldorf and in their circle. Completely against his beliefs and expectations, Bennett discovers feelings for his new charge will complicate their arrangement. He refuses to deviate from their strictly platonic relationship and his original intentions to be her disciplinarian . . . until he can't. "The Shortlist" is the beginning of a rather unlikely romance and you'll see a side of Bennett Fowler you didn't know existed if you read "The Solicitation!"
excerpt from Chapter Eleven
When Elisabeth reached her bedroom she turned around. Alice was still a good ten feet down the corridor, dragging her feet as though she were a prisoner of war trying to avoid interrogation. She couldn’t care less about Elisabeth’s bedroom, and had no desire to be alone with her. “Mine’s bigger,” Alice remarked, when she stopped in the doorway. Elisabeth shook her head, grabbed the girl’s hand and pulled her inside before closing the door. “Oy!” “Oy, nothing. Stop it. You’ve been horrible to me since the moment you arrived, and I want to know why,” Elisabeth said. She wasn’t nearly as angry as she should have been. She didn’t like getting cross with people and she tried to maintain her tone so as not to instigate Alice further. “Why do you dislike me?” “I never said I disliked you,” Alice replied, defensively. “The way you’re behaving practically shouts it.” Alice inched closer until their noses were nearly touching. “You didn’t want this.” “What are you going on about?” Elisabeth pulled away “The interviews? Unless you’ve forgotten, I was there when you told my father you couldn’t stay because you’d rather spend all day drawing. Well, he chose me, and I’ve been here for nearly a year. However you managed to now weasel yourself into our circle is beyond me. It isn’t any wonder I don’t like you,” she spat out the words as if they were a bad taste in her mouth. “I don’t think it’s me you dislike, Alice. I think it’s anyone who might take away a bit of the attention you’ve been used to.” Her eyes widened. “What the bloody hell do you know? Take that back.” “Why?” Elisabeth asked, genuinely. She wasn’t trying to wind up Alice, although her calm manner seemed to be completing the task anyway. “Because lying is deplorable,” Alice gritted her teeth. “Not if I believe that to be the truth.” Without hesitation, she closed the space between them and smacked Elisabeth’s arm. “Just shut up won’t you? I’m bored of you.” “Alice!” She couldn’t believe the girl lashed out like that. She also noticed that she was an entire head taller than Alice. “You’re awful, do you know that?” “I’d rather be awful, than pathetic.” Alice’s eyes narrowed. “Brayden made a mistake when he chose you as his daughter.” Elisabeth felt satisfied her remark would cut Alice deep enough to silence her jarring comments, but it only added fuel to the fire. Alice lost control at the offset of her words. She lunged at Elisabeth, grabbing her by the hair with both hands. “You bloody beast! Stop it! Get off!” Elisabeth yelped as she was forced down to the ground with Alice hitting and smacking her all over. She couldn’t see properly, because of the tight grip on her hair, which forced her head downward. Alice eventually let one handful of her hair free and used it to continue slapping. Elisabeth had no choice but to defend herself by hitting back in any way she could with two hands and no direct line of sight. They quickly tumbled to the floor, rolling into the legs of the dressing table and the freestanding mirror, nearly knocking them over in a wrestling match. “Sir. Sir.” Downstairs, Sullivan interrupted Bennett and Brayden’s conversation from across the Great Room, walking as speedily as he could without running. “Yes?” Bennett turned to his butler. Normally, he would scold his staff for blatantly interrupting a conversation. Sullivan wouldn’t have bound into the room like that unless he felt it absolutely necessary. Before he reached them, Brayden frowned and tuned in his ears. Sure enough, he could make out the faint sound of female shrieking. That was enough for him to abandon his drink on the table. Sullivan, having finally reached Bennett, tried to explain. “The girls. I think they’re killing each other, Sir!” Bennett had one eye on the butler whilst he saw Brayden making his way toward the doors. His ears picked up a most unsettling noise from the floor above, and started to follow. “Why didn’t you stop them?” He double-timed his already long stride after his friend Brayden didn’t know which room was Elisabeth’s, yet, but the deafening sound of shouting and hitting from behind one door led him straight to it. He opened the door from which the most shrieking was being produced, and his eyes locked onto the pair of girls ungracefully rolling on the floor in a huddle. Both of their hands were hitting, slapping, and hair-pulling one another. Bennett reached the room just as Brayden started for the girls and pulled off the one who happened to be on top at the time, which was Alice. His whole body tightened when he saw them, and he immediately grabbed Elisabeth and pulled her to her feet. Alice’s heart was pounding as Brayden held her around the waist, her feet hanging in the air. He only placed her on the ground after the room fell silent. He then removed his belt. “Uncle Bennett’s study. Now.” Brayden kept his tone calm as he folded the belt in half and looked at Alice. “Sir -” Elisabeth’s eyes shot up to Bennett, realising just how much trouble they were in. “Bite your tongue. You’re next.” Brayden followed a silent and sullen Alice as her head dropped and she quickly left the room. Bennett snapped his finger toward the nearest corner. “Elisabeth, face the wall and do not move.” “Yes, Sir.” She obeyed without hesitation, not even daring to readjust her tights or her dress, which were terribly disheveled and crooked. Bennett knew he could trust Elisabeth to remain where she was. She wasn’t comfortable or confident enough to deliberately disobey him. Yet.