Chapter Eighteen

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"Why are we in a leather goods store?" Nicholas asked, as we stepped inside.

"I want to buy a gift for Mr. Valentine. Just to say thank you for everything." If I were to suddenly vanish out of their lives, I at least wanted him to know I appreciated everything he'd done for me. "Any ideas?"

"Hmm. Shopping for gifts isn't really my forte."

My eyes scanned the shelves, hoping something suitable would jump out at me.

They had an impressive range of items; bags, suitcases, belts, shoes, jackets, saddles, and pretty much anything else that could be made out of leather.

Something caught my eye, and I picked up a leather bound journal from a table. It had a leather tie around it to hold it closed, and attached to the tie was an outline of a leaf made from brass.

"Oh, how beautiful," I murmured to myself. I could feel Nicholas peering over my shoulder to see what I had found.

"A journal?" he asked.

"Yes. I had felt inspired to write lately but all I've had to write on is sheets of paper I use for the girls' lessons. This would be perfect." I ran my fingers across the front cover, then flipped it over to view the back.

"All right, you've found something for yourself, now you just need to find something for Mr. Valentine."

"Oh, no, I won't get it," I said, placing it back on the table.

"Why not?" His brows furrowed in confusion.

I hadn't yet got used to the currency in this time and couldn't work out if something was cheap or expensive, but what I did know was that this journal would take a good chunk out of my weekly wage. It was pointless buying it, anyway, as I was sure I wouldn't be able to take it back with me through the painting.

I shrugged. "Maybe another day," was all I said, continuing on. "Oh, look. Leather gloves. Maybe you should buy these so next time you decide to pick up a scorpion, you don't get stung," I teased.

"That's actually not a bad idea," he said, picking up a pair.

I laughed. "I was joking."

"I know that. But it would also help with the splinters, too," he said, rubbing the hairs on his chin in contemplation.

"Well, while you ponder over that great idea of mine, I'm going to keep looking," I said, walking away.

I approached the sales counter and noticed a thin, balding, middle-aged man standing behind it. He smiled politely at me and I smiled back, continuing on with my search.

"Is there anything I can help you with, Miss?" the man asked me, the letter S whistling through his missing front tooth.

"Just looking, thank you," I replied, as I picked up a leather bookmark. It was a simple rectangle design with an embossed border and thin leather tassels looped to the top of it.

"Do you make all these items yourself?" I asked him out of curiosity.

He nodded with pride. "I do, Miss. I can also emboss a name or monogram on those at no extra charge," said the man, referring to the bookmark. "Makes a lovely gift."

I considered it for a moment. The price seemed reasonable and I thought it was something Mr. Valentine would use. He had a habit of reading more than one book at a time and was always searching for a bookmark.

"I'll take it," I said, handing it to the shopkeeper.

"Excellent choice, Miss. What would you like embossed on it?"

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