Author’s Dramatic Content Note: I write romantic love stories for adults, aged 18 and older. So most of the chapters will be PG-13 due to mature themes (M), or dramatic moments (D). And some of the chapters have romantic and sensual, but not explicit, love scenes that I will label as (L), and such. So if you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings that I provide, then please do not read that chapter. This is my disclaimer.
Additional Disclaimer: The Wiki and other reference links that I cite contain general information merely to allude to a place, person, concept/theory/belief, history, or artifact, etc. This story is a work of fiction, and people and their thoughts and actions are figments of my imagination and should not be taken as real or as fact. And though the general backgrounds of the characters and the story’s contextual setting involve mentions of the Christian religion—with an Anglican/Episcopal focus—this story is a romance, not a religious tract.
[And from time to time, I will illustrate my story with my dream cast of: Richard Armitage as Prof. Benedict Somerset, Jennifer Ehle as Laura Leicester, Loretta Devine as Connie Velasquez, John Lithgow as Seminary President Maynard Casten, and Jane Alexander as his wife Portia Casten, Charles Dance as Benedict’s father Edward Somerset, Helen Mirren as Benedict’s Mother Elizabeth Somerset, Dawn French as Benedict’s elder sister Alexandra Somerset Solsbury, James Nesbit as Benedict’s elder brother Edmund Somerset, Chris Pine as Laura’s younger brother Steve Leicester, and others as noted.]
Author’s recap from the previous chapter: Benedict told Laura about his family’s aristocratic background. She was stunned and plagued with self doubtm that they would not let Benedict marry her. But Benedict assures her that all will be well.
Ch. 21— In-Law Siblings Detente
Laura’s four years younger 36 year old brother Steve Leicester was running late for a client meeting on Monday morning—running late being very rare for him–so he didn’t get to read her email to him until Monday night on April 22nd. And he almost coughs up his wine when he does read it:
I hope this note finds you well! I have some thrilling news! I am to be married again! In 2 weeks!
I met my fiancé, the Reverend Professor Benedict Somerset while volunteering at the Chicago Children’s Group Home. Benedict was a new volunteer and I trained him his first day. He was a bit shy at first, …” She thinks off putting. “… but over time we became good friends, and now we have fallen in love with each other! Benedict is a wonderful man!
Our wedding will be in two weeks, the Saturday after graduation, at 11am on May 4th at the Chicago Seminary College Chapel. It is lovely, and our wedding will be small and intimate. Benedict’s immediate family are all in England, but he hopes that his parents and siblings will come over with their families. And Benedict says that he is happy to pay for your and a guest’s roundtrip air flight from New York, so that that you can join us! Please say yes!
And please be happy for me! Love and Hugs! Laura
The stunned Steve Leicester sits back in his desk chair in his apartment. His sister Laura seems happy—all of those exclamation marks (!). But why has she not told him about this guy until now? Steve had not approved of Laura’s first husband—something about him was just off–but Steve was not able to convince Laura to not marry him. And look how well that marriage turned out. Not! The jerk betrayed his sister by taking a mistress, then up and married the mistress once the divorce became final. Steve feels that Laura is well rid of her ex husband—however painful that period was for her.
And Steve is for damned sure that he won’t let his sister Laura be hurt again. This Rev. Prof. guy better be on the up and up and adore his elder sister, or the guy will have him/Steve to answer to. So Steve resolves to see what he can quickly find out about his sister’s fiancé by doing an internet search about him.
As a corporate attorney and junior partner in the New York law firm of Burke, Fields, and Corcoran, Steve Gilbert Leicester is well versed in using internet and other resources to investigate opposing litigants—and sometimes his own clients—to hopefully uncover anything damning about them before they go to trial. Though he currently works in the area of contracts, wills, and trusts, to broaden his experience according to one of the senior partners. And doing so has turned out to be an unexpected but welcome boon to Steve.
For Steve has only very recently uncovered Leicester family assets that were previously unknown to he and his sister Laura. So each of them had had to make their own way in paying for college with merit scholarships, college jobs, and such. Then when the bottom fell out of the photo prints business that he managed- for 5 years after college–when everyone went to using digital cameras and print their photos on cheap printers at home–Steve decided to recareer nine years ago by starting law school at 27 years old–with his then married elder sister Laura helping him out financially during his three years of law school with gifts of $200 per month so that he could buckle down and study and not have to work quite so many hours as a part-time postal clerk.
Though working at the local post office was a higher paying part-time job for Steve than running a photo store, he felt that by becoming an attorney he could do the most good—and have a bigger paycheck to be able to travel, but also to be able to donate his legal services on Saturday mornings as he does now at a local community center.
And Steve has always been grateful to his sister Laura for her selflessness—since he knows that she delayed getting a much needed newer used car and that she deferred taking rare vacations in order to help him. And even after he finished paying his sister back financially three years ago, Steve has always resolved to return the kindness of her selflessness to Laura one day. And now he can.
Because during a routine search of lost assets as part of Steve’s law firm mentors’ wills and trusts practical training for him–his law firm suggested that he use his own family as the example—perhaps rightly thinking that he would have a greater incentive to leave no stone unturned, as it were. And in further investigating the unclaimed family property items for the Leicester family that he found just three months ago, he is now in possession of all the facts to lay before his big sister Laura. It is just that she has pre-empted his startling and amazing news with her engagement announcement to the English minister professor guy Benedict.
So with due diligence, Steve applies his newly honed investigative skills to one Benedict Somerset. Though Steve initially comes up with very slim—and frankly, boring—details about Benedict Monday night, he is not deterred. By Tuesday lunchtime, Steve’s dossier on Benedict is expanding and includes that the now middle aged Benedict Somerset entered the U.S. legally 24 years ago on a student visa. And though Somerset has returned home to England almost every year since then to be with his family, he has clearly made the U.S. his home—by earning advanced divinity degrees in the U.S. and working as a Minister and now a Professor of Theology at the Chicago Seminary College.
Though Benedict Somerset has made no moves to repatriate to England, he has not become a U.S. citizen either. But apart from that and the information above, Steve finds out nothing remarkable about Somerset—nor nefarious, for that matter. Somerset is not married, never cohabited with a romantic partner—probably due to the minister part, Steve reasons—lives frugally, drives a five year old Chrysler (when he is not bicycling or walking), has no outstanding loans nor negative credit ratings, always pays off his credit cards each month, is well respected by his colleagues and former teachers or parishes where he served, and in general Benedict Somerset seems to live a quiet unassuming life.
A quiet life. Could nothing be more boring? Steve wants more for his big sister Laura. He wants her to have an exciting life. One where she is regularly whisked away for a romantic weekend by her faithful spouse, attends charity galas—like he does—or that she can splurge a little on herself without feeling guilty about it. And of course, Steve wants to insure that his sister Laura will be loved and cherished for the lovely, wonderful, bitingly witty, compassionate, intelligent, and kind lady that she is.
Steve had tried to help Laura pick up the pieces of her life when her marriage ended five years ago–primarily by helping her find an expert lawyer for her divorce case. So she retained her personal property, bank accounts, and future earnings/pensions. Laura had not wanted anything from her ex-husband—her wanting to move on. Yet Steve was unable to help his sister Laura emotionally as well as he would have liked to—what with him living in New York City and she in Chicago. And he had noticed his sister Laura become a more subdued and introspective person. Oh she was still warm and often funny. But Steve recognized her new found hesitancy around men. Who could blame her when her now ex husband had betrayed her by sleeping with another woman—who eventually became his second wife. Laura felt that she was well rid of him. But still, that level of rejection and basic incivility toward her stung for Laura.
So the fact that Laura has fallen in love with a man who also loves her and wants to marry his sister is a good thing in Steve’s mind. And if possible, Steve would like a niece or nephew or two–since his own dating life is hectic, but it involves no one whom he feels that he wants to settle down and raise some kids with. Nor do the ladies he dates feel that way about him either. Oh Steve is ruggedly handsome [(2) below] and charming—and he retains fond friendships with his former girlfriends—he just hasn’t made an essential eternal love connection with anyone yet.
Ideally, Steve would like to find a woman to marry who is a professional—though not a fellow lawyer due to the inevitable clashes they might have—perhaps a teacher, doctor, philanthropist, poet, or artist. His and Laura’s Mother was a teacher—who was a great mother, too. But most school teachers whom Steve meets are already married. And Steve also wants to find love and start a family. And Steve wonders that if this Benedict Somerset completely checks out, whether maybe Laura’s and Benedict’s positive marital vibes will rub off on him–and Steve will meet the woman of his dreams. Naaah! But it is fun to dream.
So Tuesday afternoon, he books himself on a 6am Wednesday, April 24th morning flight from NYC to Chicago. And given the 2 hour time zone difference, he will arrive in Chicago early Tuesday morning—plenty of time to pick up coffee and donuts on the way to his sister Laura’s apartment. Steve plans to surprise her, in a good way, he hopes.
Yet another sibling has thought to use the element of surprise—that of Benedict’s sister Lady Alexandra Solsbury, Countess of Bath—Lady Lexi to her friends and intimates. Whereas her parents had simply called and spoken with their Son Benedict Tuesday morning, his time zone—congratulating him about his upcoming wedding to the American, Laura Leicester—Lexi decides to surprise her brother Benedict and his soon to be bride by turning up on his doorstep Wednesday morning.
But first Lexi has to endure an Atlantic crossing flight that is supposed to be non stop from London to Chicago taking a detour to NYC’s La Guardia Airport. It was something about a sticking flap. So she and the other passengers are apologetically escorted off the plane, given breakfast vouchers at 5:00am Wednesday morning and found seats on various other flights. She, of course, insists on business class—since their amenities are more to her liking. When her new flight is about take off for Chicago around 7:00am, Lexi finds herself so tired that she naps. Then when her seat mate turns up—with him sitting and stretching his long legs out, trying to find a comfortable way to sit—she smiles benignly at the much younger man. Then returns to napping.
After the flight attendant wakes up Lexi to check her flight ticket–then fifteen minutes later once their plane is air born to see if Lexi would like some coffee, tea, or wine—Lexi gives up trying to sleep altogether. So she will look haggard, it’s only her brother Benedict whom she will see at first this morning. Perhaps tomorrow, she will meet his fiancé Laura.
Meanwhile on his flight to Chicago, Steve sighs at the seatmate prospects in business class. There is an elderly gentleman who looks like he is on death’s door, a young couple clearly in love and huddling close together—which causes Steve to smile to himself—various other passengers, and then his own seatmate of a much older woman, but a woman who looks well turned out with flattering make-up and hair making her look years younger than she probably is [(3) below].
Lexi: “You smiled just now, when you’ve been scowling ever since we left the ground.”
Steve: Turning his head to his left, Steve nods to the older woman. “Did I? It must have been a lapse on my part, Madam.” He states courteously, yet crisply after noticing the lady’s upper crust British accent.
Lexi: “What made you smile?” Lexi inquires. She is not truly grilling him, but she tends to almost interrogate the friends of her two children when they come to visit. So old habits are difficult to break.
Realizing that all hope for himself to try to nap has just evaporated by his chatty seatmate, Steve opens up the New York Times newspaper that he brought with him—to do the crossword puzzle before reading the rest of it. Though some people might read the news first—saving the crossword puzzle for their treat—Steve likes to have his treat first.
Steve: “It was nothing.” Now he smiles benignly at her and turning away from her again, begins the crossword puzzle after hitting the stop watch feature on his watch.
Lexi: “Ah! I see!” The seconds tick by as she looks at him while he concentrates on his crossword puzzle. Thinking that he must be a little older than her thirty year old twins. She and her husband had waited a long time for their children—ultimately seeking help in conceiving at a fertility clinic—hence the twins, since multiple births often occur when two or more fertilized eggs are implanted in the mother’s womb. And they had their boy and girl, so their family was complete.
Steve having tried to concentrate on his crossword puzzle—his usual defense against chatty seatmates—he looks longingly over at the elderly man sitting quietly by himself, snoring. That could be him enjoying a nap, thinks Steve. But the lady matron’s vague comments are grating on him. So he rises to her bait and hits the stop button on his watch stopwatch.
Steve: “And what do you see?”
Lexi: “Well, not unlike my husband, you go straight to the puzzle. And he times himself as well. Have you ever tried the London Times crossword puzzle?” Lexi tilts her head, in an almost challenging way. Each country’s respective major city’s crossword puzzle rigor is a point of national pride.
Steve: “No, I can’t say that I have.” He eyes her suspiciously, wondering if this lady is trying to attach herself to him—like a cougar.
Lexi: “Well, it is very difficult.” She intones knowingly.
Giving up on the crossword puzzle, Steve resigns himself to his fate.
Steve: “So, you have tried it yourself, have you?” He thinks that she’ll say yes, but is surprised by her answer.
Lexi: “Well, I am rather more of a world news enthusiast, I’m afraid. So I tend to scan the articles each, then turn to BBC World News on my tablet as I finish off my breakfast.”
Steve: “Hmmm. And then what, pray tell, consumes the rest of your day?” He asks somewhat pompously on the pray tell phrasing.
Lexi: “It depends, every day is different. Sometimes I have a board meeting or related charity event. Or like my mother, I have recently taken up yoga twice a week that I find immensely relaxing. And you? What do you do for a living?”
Steve: “Isn’t that a little personal, considering we have not introduced ourselves?” I raise a mirthful eyebrow. This lady seems feisty and sweet all mixed together.
Lexi: “Quite proper.” She nods her head once. “And you are?” I wait patiently for his reply. If he wants to be a stickler about etiquette, then he should at least get it right. With him being my junior, he should introduce himself first. Then, I may or may not decide to introduce myself.
Steve: I hold out my hand to her. “Steve Leicester, Esquire.” Then I wink at her. “But it is spelled like the town in England.”
Lexi: “Indeed! Are you certain that you’re spelling it correctly?” I ask a trifle imperiously as I reluctantly hold out my hand to him. With the newer airline rules against bringing liquid substances on board, one cannot carry a personal sanitizer bottle any more. And who knows what germs his hand might harbor—however well manicured his hands look.
Steve: I hand her one of my business cards so that she may see that. “L-e-i-c-e-s-t-e-r.” I spell it out. “Satisfied?” I note her smile.
Lexi: “It is unusual, is it not, for an American to have a named spelled in the English fashion?”
Steve: “Perhaps, but my family several generations back came from Leicester, England. Now Madam, I realize that you have been stalling. Will you introduce yourself to me, please?”
I ponder his request. Of course, I instantly noticed that his last name and spelling are the same as my brother’s new fiancé. Could this be a relative of hers? How many Leicester named families could there be in America? Well as soon as I give him my name—well, my maiden name—I will see if that generates a reaction out of him.
Lexi: “I am Alexandra Solsbury, Countess of Bath.” I smile indulgently. Though many Americans say that they eschew the trappings of the aristocracy, I find that they can be often snobbier about visiting titled English nobles than my fellow Brits.
Steve: “Countess?” She nods. “My Lady Bath, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” I bring her small hand to my lips, and kiss it lightly, in the preferred mode. Growing up, my sister Laura liked all of those period dramas on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.
I am impressed with this young man. He keeps his voice in well modulated tones, for an American. And he knows how to deferentially kiss a lady’s hand. Of course, as of yet, he does not know who I am, nor my connections. So I will rectify that immediately.
Lexi: “My maiden name is Somerset.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Leicester was sipping his morning coffee when I said my name and he chokes on it –coughing uncontrollably.
Steve: “Kkhhh! Kkhhh! Kkhhh!.” He stills for a moment to sip a glass of water before one last cough. “Kkhhh!” Lady Bath gently pats his back to aid him. “Say look here, I don’t suppose that you have a brother named Benedict Somerset, do you?” I look at her incredulously. I mean, what are the odds that two unrelated people who might become shirttail relations should meet so serendipitously?
Lexi: I nod twice. “Only if you have a sister named Laura Leicester.” He nods. “Well! This is cozy.” I smile half heartedly.
Steve: “But I thought my sister said Benedict was only 45 years old?”
Of course, his unstated implication is that the Countess of Bath before him now is not that young. So much for Anglo-American goodwill, free trade, and all that rot.
Lexi: “Would you like to leave your ungraciously implied question to die a natural death?” He nods twice. “Well then, I will tell you that my brother Benedict is the youngest of our siblings and is quite more than 10 years my junior. My twins, a boy and a girl, are each 30 years old. And they are quite rightly enamored of their Uncle Benedict.”
Steve: “I’m sure. And is Caleb your son’s name?” I ask mixing up the grandchildren’s names.
Lexi: “Ah! I see that you have done your homework.” I eye him warily.
Steve: “I’m an attorney, occupational hazard.” I shrug my shoulders and take another sip of my coffee—my wishing it were something stronger. I think I’ll need it.
Lexi: “And no, Caleb is my middle brother Edmund’s young son, hence, my nephew.”
Steve: “And I had only done a cursory investigation of your brother on the internet. The aristocratic titles were not mentioned.”
Lexi: “Yes, well, that is one of the perks of being in the …” She almost slipped and said Royal Family. “…among the nobility. There is somewhat of a redaction of some specifics about us for privacy and for security reasons.”
Steve: “I have one question.” She nods. “Is your brother Benedict Somerset a good man? Will he treat my sister well? Love and cherish her as the wedding vows state?”
Lexi: “Well, that is rather three questions, is it not?” He raises his eyebrow—his eyebrow. The cheek of this man—however handsome and charming he might be. “Yes, my brother Benedict is the best of men. And what of your sister Laura? Is she a good woman? Will she treat my brother well? Love and cherish him as the wedding vows state?” Now I ask pointedly.
Steve: “Yes, she will. Laura is goodness personified. I could not have wished for a better sister.”
Lexi: “Praise, indeed. Well we seem to be at a stalemate, young man.” I smile minxishly. I like that he is as protective about his sister as I feel about my brother.
Steve: “Until we meet each other’s siblings.” And I wonder if Laura knows about her fiancé Benedict’s aristocratic background?
Hopefully our questions will be answered when we meet our respective sibling’s fiancé. The ten minutes remaining in the short flight from NYC to Chicago are cordial and civil. Lexi even assists Steve with his crossword puzzle—considering it contained some British references.
Then they jointly decide to take a taxi together to Steve’s sister Laura’s apartment. Steve thinking that if his sister is marrying this minister guy Benedict, that she and he have already resolved the question about their romantic compatibility. And with Benedict living in clergy housing on the seminary campus—vis a vis the information supplied by Lady Bath—that the fiances are less likely to have conjugal sleepovers in clergy housing than they are at the more private apartment of Laura’s.
So all that remains to be done are sibling introductions. Hmmm.
To be continued with Chapter 22
References for “Somerset: A Time to Love”, Ch. 21, November 19, 2017 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1117)
1) The Somerset: A Time to Love” story cover is a composite of two main images:
a) Background–Creative Commons-licensed photo by Flickr user AlicePopkorn2]
b) Prof. Benedict Somerset image is of Richard Armitage (2012 Promo by Roberta Ascroft, pix35) found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Richard/Promos/2012Promo/album/RobertAscroft-35.jpg
c) a crucifix image is from MS Office Clip Art; 2) Steve Leicester in brown herringbone suitcoat image is of actor Chris Pine in 2015 and found at http://momzinga.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/chris-pine-2.jpg
3) The image representing Alexandra Somerset Solsbury is actress Dawn French, and was found on her twitter page https://twitter.com/Dawn_French and https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/918392005595729920/H1_zme-p_400x400.jpg
Wattpad Ch. 21 story link: tba
Previous Ch. 20 blog link, with embedded illustrations: