Although this stands alone as a bawdy romp through Victorian America, it might be advisable to read the earlier parts first to gain an understanding of the story and characters.
Amanda smiled sweetly. Her foresight in telling Oliver Strand the Deputy Lieutenant Governor of Georgia and by some margin the most influential man in the State that she and her brother Adam were considering selling the plantation was paying off. He had already advised her that disposing of such a prestigious and historic plantation as Selby Bluff required considerable thought and planning.
“Particularly, my dear, in times like these,” he continued, with a hint of a sneer in his gruff voice. Amanda was not excused the patronising manner he took to most people, particularly women, when discussing business matters. After all, ‘What could women know of such things?’ he was thinking as he took hold of Amanda’s elbow.
Amanda ignored his superior look and allowed him to steer her out onto the terrace. “Why is that? What planning?” she asked, watching a plume of blue smoke hit the night air as he lit his pipe.
“Nothing for someone as beautiful as you to worry about,” he condescendingly told her. “Merely the fact that there are some new laws going through the State Legislature concerning such sales and, of course, cotton prices are not increasing as much as they have in the past due to this ridiculous recession. It’s merely a short-term aberration of course, for once we put real pressure on the Yankees they will resolve the recession, but it does complicate things, especially plantation sales.”
Although no economist Amanda knew that Strand’s reasoning about coming out of the recession was as weak as his argument that the South could pressure the North to end it. From her many heated discussions when she was married and lived in London she knew that recessions although man made were not ended solely by the actions of man.
He finished with the look of someone lecturing a child, though the way he edged closer to press the sides of their bodies together suggested he thought of her as anything but a child.
“Yes, I have been hearing rumours,” she nervously replied, averting her eyes from him and looking out across the magnificent gardens to the distant river.
“It’s mainly due to the Yankees ridiculous obsession with the labour market,” he drawled, using the South’s euphemism for slavery as he slipped his hand around her waist. “It’s to protect our way of life,”
“Oh, really,” Amanda mumbled, feeling Strand’s fingers tighten through her clothes just above her waist.
“Oh, yes,” he smugly responded, sending another plume of smoke skywards. “Look, why don’t you come and see me in the New Year and we can go through the rigmarole and such stuff?” His hand inched along her waist and up a little as he spoke. Turning to face him, there was no way for Amanda to escape the legs that pressed against her skirt, pushing the hoop backwards. “Thank you,” she replied with a smile, knowing that this man’s guidance would be invaluable, but wondering if she could get it without compromising herself?
“I will send you some available dates tomorrow,” he told her, waving his pipe in the air. “You are staying in town tonight aren’t you?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Where, may I ask?”
“The Eliza Thompson place, she told him, attempting to edge a step backwards.”
“Yes, I know it. Will you be staying all day tomorrow?”
“Yes,” she confirmed, hoping her flashing smile hid her distaste. “My brother Adam will be meeting me later for dinner, and then we will ride to Meldrim the following morning.”
“Well let’s hope we can get our business done during the day,” he told her, following her movement so that their shoulders brushed against each other. “It really isn’t something that such a pretty head as yours should have to worry about,” he continued reaching up and rather indiscreetly given the short time they had known each other and the public nature of where they were, brushing a lock of her chestnut coloured hair away from her forehead.
Amanda smiled sweetly, her face showing him that she was grateful for the compliment. Inside, rage seethed. How dare this pompous man talk to her in such a way, and press his body so close to hers when his wife could come onto the terrace at any moment? But her instincts told her to hide her annoyance.
She knew how powerful he was and how useful he could be to her: pretty, delicate and female she might be, but at heart she was and always had been an opportunist.
Besides, his earlier offer was very attractive and if he could deliver as he claimed his assistance would be invaluable: perhaps their only chance of escape from what was looking more and more like a living hell. Could he really help her organise things so that the estate could be available for sale to as wide a range of potential buyers as the State law permitted, she wondered using her business instincts? Or was that just a ploy to bed her, pendik escort she wondered, letting her female intuition come into play.
“So,” she asked, wanting to fully understand what he’d told her. She needed to explain this to Adam later. “Exactly who would fall into the category as a potential buyer?”
He smiled condescendingly again, knowing only too well that this ‘English’ beauty needed him. He could use that to his advantage.
“That means all residents in all states beneath, but not above the Mason Dixon line or outside the Union,” he explained. “And French, of course, but not British individuals and companies. It’s to stop people who oppose us buying up the cotton estates and freeing the slaves that way.”
“But, pray, Mister Strand, does that not restrict the buyers who might purchase Selby Bluff”
“Yes of course it does.”
She smiled again, wanting him to explain. “So what exactly are you proposing?”
He took a silent puff on his pipe before answering. “Well that is what the new State laws are there for and that is where I come in, Amanda,” he told her confidently, resting his palm on the back of her hand. “I may call you by your first name, I hope my dear?”
“Yes, of course” she retorted quickly eager to glean more information. “But pray sir where do you come in? How is that?”
“To our friends,” he began, raising his eyebrows as if to suggest she should do everything in her power to remain one of his friends, “That is, those who are loyal to the Confederacy, we want to help, not hinder.”
“I am not sure, sir that I am completely following you.” There was more to this than met the eye, and Amanda wanted to pin down exactly what he was proposing?
“Well, please, my dear, don’t worry your pretty little head about it too much, that is what I am for and where I will help?” Strand said very patronisingly, leaning forward so his mouth was close to Amanda’s ear as he squeezed her hand.
Amanda returned his smile, but wasn’t going to be distracted. If she read it right, this man was offering to ensure the sale would go through to the right person at the right price. But could she get him to confirm that?
“I thank you sir, of course, but could you explain more?”
He took her hand and raised it to his lips, planting a smoke fuelled kiss on her skin. It took all her effort not to show her repulsion. His next words proved the wisdom of her keeping her feelings to herself.
“There are ways and means, Amanda,” he replied with a knowing look. “Ways and means around everything, if you know the right people.”
She had what she wanted! “And you, I assume Mister Strand are one of those?” she smiled graciously, happy to receive confirmation that this was a man she needed.
“Oh, yes, Missus Williams, I am very much one of the right people! And please use Oliver.”
The trip to Washington DC went quickly, despite the rather tiresome delays due to the frequent changes of railroad made necessary by the state restricted nature of the companies. Just two days after leaving Savannah, they were checked in to the brand new and rather ostentatious Willard hotel on K Street, not far from the White House.
Their meticulously drawn up schedule allowed Amanda and Adam three days in the capital. They needed that time, with their individual contacts and old friends, many of who were involved with the government. The heavy schedule of lunches and dinners, balls, soirees and parties would be tiring, but worthwhile.
The more views they solicited in Washington, the more alarmed they became. They hadn’t anticipated the sheer strength of opinion against slavery in general and its extension in particular. Then there was the value of their plantation. It looked to be significantly lower than they had been led to believe down south.
There was one reason for that, the very real, some said inevitable, prospect of war! The consensus of opinion was that if the country lawyer from Illinois won the Republican nomination next year, then all hell, including war, would break out. Lincoln had very publicly stated and, to a large extent was basing his campaign upon stopping the expansion of slavery particularly with new states joining the Union. This was where the South and he and by association the North were on a collision course and it was that, many believed which would propel the country into a civil war
The thought struck dread into both Amanda and Adam’s hearts.
Right now, in Oliver Strand’s huge office, Amanda could feel her heart racing. This had been the one engagement that she’d been dreading, and her instincts had not been wrong. It had not taken long to travel to his house, just outside the city on a hill overlooking the Potomac.
She had purposefully dressed demurely in a high fronted, dark blue dress with white piping. The silk bodice had a row of small, white bone buttons running between her breasts from her waist to just under her chin. The tightness of the bodice and the row of buttons accentuated escort pendik both the fullness of her breasts and the voluptuousness of her figure. As Strand saw her he gulped and his pulse began to race although Amanda didn’t witness either for she was struggling with her own nerves.
Being slightly drunk from an earlier lunch, the man was in a very amorous mood. His reassurances that he could help with the sale of the plantation came second to the compliments he showered on Amanda. Keeping him sweet, while avoiding his attempts to paw her, was a delicate operation.
“Obviously, Miss Amanda,” he leered. “Your goodwill will be necessary to get the highest price.”
She ignored the implication. “And where sir, do you believe we will get the highest price from?”
“Buyers in the north and from overseas” he said without hesitation, waving his hand in the air.
“What?” This was contrary to his explanation at the ball. “I thought you said State law prevented those people from buying plantations.”
“And so it does,” Strand said with a smirk. He stood up and walked behind Amanda.
She shuffled uncomfortably on the low, wide backed armless chair made specifically for women wearing full hoops in front of his huge desk.
“So how do we sell to those buyers?”
“By using Federal law, which overrides Georgian law” he panted, no more than a step away.
“And that I assume, Mister Strand is difficult to organise?” she nervously asked, wondering what to expect from the out of sight man. Should she turn in the chair to face him? No, that would only indicate her nervousness.
Looking down on the woman who he had now decided that without doubt he would bed, whatever it took, he felt himself hardening. He fiddled with himself releasing his manhood from the restrictions of his long johns and allowing its respectable length and impressive girth to rear up his pudgy stomach inside the grey pin-striped trousers.
“Yes Miss Amanda” he murmured quietly, as he rested his hands on her shoulders. His fingers dug into her flesh through the high neckline. “It’s extremely difficult. It requires extensive and influential contact and it needs goodwill from, and a close working relationship between all parties.”
“I see,” Amanda muttered, knowing how much she needed his help, but unwilling to compromise herself, well not too much, just yet.
She had been in similar situations in England and knew full well the meaning of his words. She was effectively being asked to trade sex for a favour. Surprisingly, the concept did not offend her the way she thought it might. After all, if she could use her body to get her own way, that gave her the power? And she knew that in both London and Washington that was the way of the world, it was how to get the power you didn’t have and how to get something you wanted. Smiling she thought ‘It’s not the oil that makes the wheels of industry turn its women’s sexual excretions that does that!’ No, the principle of using sex to get what she wanted didn’t offend her unduly, it was the thought of with whom she would have to use sex that was the issue.
“And if this ‘close working relationship’ is forthcoming?” she coyly asked, as his fingers dug more deeply into her shoulders.
“Then I am sure something can be arranged,” he told her triumphantly, confident he had won the day. “And……..” he went on pausing dramatically as he rubbed her collar bones. “It should enhance the purchase price of Selby by at least thirty per cent.”
With those final words, his hands slid down her arms in a blatant precursor to attempting to cup her breasts. ‘His way of sealing the deal perhaps?’ Amanda thought ruefully. But she wasn’t willing to allow him that. Not yet, anyway.
“Perhaps, Oliver,” she said turning her head and smiling at him over her shoulder as she grabbed his wrists. “We can confirm the arrangement the next time we meet?”
“Indeed,” he answered as he reluctantly withdrew his hands. The feisty woman was playing hard to get. He liked that. “For the moment yes madam, for your carriage awaits. But I hope it will not be too long before our terms are………………” he paused before proceeding. “Er…… cemented, shall we say? Or……” adding with a low chuckle after yet another pause “Maybe consummated might be a more apt description. I am a patient man, Amanda, but even patience has its limits.”
Despite the sensitivity of the situation and Strand’s really quite outrageous behaviour, Amanda could not suppress a small smile, which fortunately she was able to hide with her fan. The manner in which men’s behaviour altered and how their personality changed so much during a seduction, never ceased to amaze and amuse her: such strange creatures really.
“I understand,” she told him, standing up and putting her hand out for him to kiss.
He took her hand. Bending at the waist, he brought it to his lips and kissed the back of it, for rather longer than was necessary. “Remember, the goodwill of the seller is essential pendik escort bayan and significantly helps the sale of a plantation these days,” he emphasised, his eyes holding hers.
“I will bear that in mind,” Amanda said, trying to pull her hand from his grip.
But the powerful man held it tight as he straightened up so that their faces were on a level, a foot or so apart her hand in his almost touching his chest in the paisley patterned silk waistcoat. He was making his point so that there could be no misunderstanding. When he stared deep into her eyes, Amanda held his gaze, confidently, defiantly perhaps? He liked that!
Feisty women were there to be tamed, and he’d enjoy taming this beauty. Women always came round to his way of thinking in the end, and this one would be no exception!
He moved a little closer to her and, very pointedly, ran his gaze down from her eyes to her breasts and back again.
“I suggest we discuss the matter further on your way back from the north?” he told her. It was more a command than a question.
Still defiantly holding his gaze, while he continued to tightly grip her hand, Amanda replied. “I’m not sure. I hadn’t planned to return through Washington.”
He was in no mood to be trifled with. “For the sale of the plantation, I think it would be highly beneficial for you to reconsider,” he told her. “There are some people I want you to meet, people who could well be interested in Selby or at least easing its sale. And of course, all the new laws will be in place in Georgia by then…………”
His voice trailed off, as if defying her to refuse the invitation. Amanda had more sense. This was her best opportunity to dispose of the estate, and she could not allow it to pass her by. Whatever that meant for her and Oliver Strand, then so be it.
“Then, of course, Mr Strand. I will meet with you and them on my return journey. It will probably be around July fifteen. Will that suit?”
“That will be perfect Miss Amanda,” he answered, curling his lips in a triumphant smile as he finally released her hand. “I look forward to er…………………. getting to know you better.”
His words ran through Amanda, sending a chill up her spine and, unexpectedly, a tingle in her loins. Then he was closing the gap between them and taking her into his arms. She accepted his kiss on her cheek, but turned her face when he attempted to kiss her lips.
He smiled, his eyes telling her that if she was to get what she wanted, it was only a matter of time. Amanda felt herself blush as she mumbled, “Until July, then, Mr Strand.”
“Please, call me Oliver,” he murmured, his eyes flicking across her body one final time. “And yes, until mid-July, goodnight Amanda…”
As she wafted through the doorway, which was hardly wide enough for her crinoline skirt, she replied, pointedly. “Goodnight again Mister Strand.”
New York was fabulous. Everything about it was marvellous. The new buildings going up everywhere, the frantic atmosphere, the crowds, the shops, the theatre, the restaurants and even the weather. But what made it extra special for the brother and sister though, was the sex. They both had old flames there, which they rekindled.
The first few days were taken up with meetings with bankers, investment houses, shipping agents, cotton buyers and various merchants. They had endless meetings, both at the other parties’ offices and at their hotel, working lunches and dinners.
Amanda had to deal with not only plantation business, but also her own considerable investments. The ‘winnings’ that Samuel had given her in the early days of their marriage had grown considerably. The estate in Datchet, near to Queen Victoria’s favourite home, Windsor Castle, had finally been sold and the Piccadilly town house had been rented out on very good terms. Her railway investments and her Californian land purchases were starting to show some growth and a recent valuation of the jewellery she had bought, most of which was in safe-keeping in London, had shown an almost doubling in value.
Although she was, she now realised, a very wealthy woman she had been forced to use a goodly part of her wealth as collateral for the huge and increasing loan that was necessary to keep the plantation functioning effectively; another reason for the sale. In addition the recession that was spreading through the country and Europe was reducing the value of many of her assets meaning that each month a greater proportion of them had to be pledged to maintain the level of guarantee required by the greedy banks.
Unfortunately, Adam was far from wealthy and could be of no assistance in guaranteeing the bank loans. His art gallery in New York was barely managing to survive, while most of his other investments were also losing money. That meant that, in addition to dealing with her own affairs and those of Selby Bluff, Amanda had to attend to Adam’s as well.
Their third day in New York had ended over dinner, where some people in the art world, well aware of the relative failure of Adam’s gallery had offered to ‘take it off his hands’ for a trifling amount. Now, back at their hotel, in Amanda’s suite, they were sipping brandies and discussing events.