Pandora's emerald eyes admired her reflection in the gold framed mirror. Mother should be very pleased she thought to herself. Her red hair was pulled back into ringlets. She wore an empire dress of the purest white, trimmed in delicate lace eyelet. Her neck was adorned with a simple strand of coral pearls.
Pandora's mother entered the sitting room. "Pandora, you look so perfect."
"I look so submissive, isn't that what you mean, Mother?"
"Nonsense. You look like a proper young lady who is in need of a husband should look."
"I've heard Lord Royce is quite the rake. Is he in need of a wife?"
"The word from the ton is that he wants an heir. He's ready to settle down."
The butler entered the room and bowed. "The carriage has arrived Madame."
"Please show Lord Royce in when he arrives."
"Very well Madame."
"Now, Pandora, promise me you'll be on your best behavior. You are 24 years old and not married. People are starting to talk. You have to get serious about your future."
"I am serious about my future, mother. I should like to continue on with my pursuits."
"Developing hybrid roses. How is that going to get you a husband?"
"Perhaps my husband will love flowers."
"Then he can buy them at the floral shop. You know precisely what I mean, Pandora. And don't be spouting any of your crazy ideas. I don't know where I got a daughter like you. We're going to play up your domestic skills."
The dispute between mother and daughter was interrupted by the knock on the door. "Come in", Mrs. Ingham chimed sweetly.
The butler announced, "Lord Royce has arrived." He stepped aside and Pandora saw a tall, broad shouldered man enter the room.
He bowed low and Pandora saw some glitter in his eyes as his gaze captured her face. He took the hand of his hostess. "Charmed, Mrs. Ingham."
"As am I Lord Royce." He turned slightly to look at Pandora.. "And this is my daughter, Pandora."
Lord Tristanran his eyes upand down Pandora's form as he lifted her hand to his lips. "Very charmed," his deep voice pronounced. Pandora could see his eyes settling on her breasts. She pulled her hand away quickly as a slight smile flickered on Lord Tristan's lips. Lord Royce pulled himself up to his full height of 6'4. He peered down at Pandora through thick black eyelashes.
Pandora's eyes were drawn to his chiseled cheekbones and the strong set of his jaw.. "Pleased to meet you, Lord Royce," she said as she took a step away from him.
"It would please me if you and your mother called me Tristan." He paused, and then added, "Lord Tristan, that is."
Pandora bowed her head slightly. "As you wish, Lord Tristan," she said in her most demure voice.
Carrington entered with the tea cart. "Carrington, I think we can manage by ourselves." He bowed and left the room. "Pandora, I think it would be nice if you served the Lord."
"Mother, why? It's Carrington's job to serve."
Mrs. Ingham nudged her daughter with her eyes. "It's a way of showing Lord Tristan our hospitality."
Pandora snuck a look at the Lord whose lips were curled into a half smile. She felt a full-fledged tantrum brewing up inside her but decided to suppress it. Perhaps, she reasoned, she could have fun with the Lord in another way. She resigned herself to serving the Lord. As he sat on the soft blue chaise with her mother, she offered him a finger sandwich.
"How sweet, Miss Ingham."
After she served him and her mother, she sat down on the powdery blue settee opposite the chaise. She could feel her cheeks grow warm as Lord Tristan's eyes raked over her body and impudently settled on her breasts. Her mother's voice broke into the moment. "Lord Tristan, we are honored to have you sit as a judge at the rose show."
"It's my honor, Mrs. Ingham. I have a passion for…" he paused as he found Pandora's breasts again, and then continued, "for roses of many varieties. I understand you have a rose entered into the show, Miss Ingham."
"It's a rose I…"
Her mother cut her off. "Pandora, would you be as kind as to get me a sandwich? I'm having some back trouble."
"Certainly, mother, as soon as I tell the Lord that I developed the rose myself."
"Oh dear." Pandora's mother fanned herself with her hand.
Lord Tristan fixed Pandora with an intense stare. "Tell me more about this rose, Miss Ingham."
"It's a hybrid rose, a fiery rose."
"I'm sure it's a splendid rose, but women would do best to keep their place."
"And what place is that?"
"Women belong in the home, cooking, tending to the house, and…. He dropped his voice an octave. "To the bedroom." He turned to Pandora's mother. "I'm sorry if I offended you."
"Not at all, Lord Tristan. After all, I've given birth to 3 children, I know all about a woman's place. It's a very nice place to be."
"Perhaps your daughter will learn that as well."
Pandora's nostrils flared, as she sucked in a deep breath. "I could also learn some useful lessons at a university."
"And what would a woman find useful at a university?" the Lord questioned.
"I could study horticulture."
"You could, but what pleasures would you derive from that?"
"The pleasure of using my mind."
"A woman was meant to use her body, and believe me, my dear Miss Ingham, it's much more pleasurable."
"You are insufferable, Lord Tristan. I shall not listen to this a moment longer."
"I can almost see some fire flaring from your nostrils, my dear."
"I'm not your dear," Pandora almost shouted.
"Pandora, please," her mother begged. "Lord Tristan is our guest. Excuse me, Lord Tristan; my daughter has these crazy ideas."
Lord Tristan's eyes caressed Pandora's form as a slight smile crossed his lips. "I should be the one apologizing. Mrs. Ingham. I'm afraid I'm just a very old fashioned chap who believes," and as his eyes drifted casually towards Pandora, "that a woman should know her place."
"Yes, you are a very old fashioned sort," Pandora persisted. "I shan't sit here and listen to this a moment longer." Pandora sprinted off the settee.
"Pandora, sit down and behave yourself, girl," her mother scolded. "Act like a proper young lady."
"Yes, "Lord Tristan winked. "A little more demureness will do."
Pandora picked up a vase, and aimed it at Lord Tristan's head, but his strong grasp enclosed her wrist. "We wouldn't want to spoil your mother's bets crystal vase."
"Pandora, have mercy on us," her mother cried, as her hand flew to her chest. "Please Lord Tristan; don't breathe a word of this to the ton."
"I wouldn't dream of it, Mrs. Ingham. You are a charming woman." He lifted her hand and kissed it gently. "And now, I have to attend to my duties. I will meet you two lovely ladies in the garden." He bowed and left for the garden.
"Pandora, what has possessed you? Lord Tristan will never consider you for a wife now."
"That is good, because I will never consider him for my husband."
"You've also lost all chances of winning the rose show. Lord Tristan will never vote for your rose now."
"There are 4 other judges, and I'm sure no one else has a rose more beautiful than I do."
"Even if you win, you'll have a ribbon and no husband."
The time had come for Pandora to meet her fate. She walked past well-manicured greenery as she carried her rose down to the garden where the show was being held. All the entries were displayed alongside the red, pink, and white flowers which bloomed in the garden. Pandora watched as Lord Tristan surveyed the entries. As his eyes settled on her orange and pink rose, his expression was impossible deadpan.
Pandora sat beside her mother as the moderator was ready to make his announcement. "It seems we have a tie. It has come down to the D'Amery rose and the Ingham rose." A gasp ran through the crowd. "However, we have a way of breaking the tie. I have the names of the judges in this hat. I will pick out the name of the judge who will be the tie breaker."
Pandora held her breath as he pulled a name of the judge who will be the tie breaker. "Pandora prayed to herself. "Please don't let it be Lord Tristan."
"The judge who will decide the winner is Lady Hayward." Pandora let a sigh of relief.
Lady Hayward registered surprise. "I would rather not be the judge," she protested.
"Let me take over then, Lady Hayward, "Lord Tristan gallantly offered.
"I told you to be nicer to the Lord, Pandora," her mother reminded her. "We have no chance now."
Pandora joined the other lady as they stood behind their roses. Lord Tristan bowed to the two ladies as he began his exploration of the Amery rose. "Lovely, enchanting, my dear, "he pronounced of the pink tea rose.
"Thank you, Lord Royce," she purred softly.
Lord Tristan moved over to Pandora's rose. Pandora stood head held high as Lord Tristan's eyes rolled down her body. "Luscious," he whispered, as his fingers touched the petals of the orangey pink rose. He let his fingers stroke each petal of the rose, as his eyes casually scanned Pandora, his lips turned upwards in smile. Pandora bowed her head, as she shyly met Lord Tristan's eyes. When he finished, their gazes locked and growing warmth spread throughout her body. His eyes gleamed as he nodded his approval. Pandora was sure victory was hers.
Lord Tristan swiftly turned around to face the crowd. "Ladies and Gentlemen, I have made my choice. The 1st prize is awarded to the D'Amery rose."
"What?" Pandora demanded. "I have the most distinctive rose in the show. It's much more special than this ordinary pink rose."
"Pink is such a feminine color, Miss Ingham. I suppose I have a weakness for it." The Lord's palms turned up in a pose of resignation.
Pandora pounded her foot on the grass and stomped away as Lord Tristan barely suppressed a chuckle. She met her mother. "I told you so, Pandora. You shouldn't have shown your temper to Lord Tristan. Now you not only lost first prize, you lost your chance to be Lady Royce." She threw up her hands. "What a disaster." Pandora didn't bother to answer her mother. She spotted Lord Tristan standing by the side of the pond and marched over to him.
"And to what do I owe this honor, Miss Ingham?"
"You were punishing me for having spirit and not being a run of the mill girl who can't think for herself, and only say, 'yes, Lord, or no, Lord'."
Lord Tristan grabbed Pandora's waist and pulled her into him so her face was pressed against his chest. "I did award 1st prize to the other girl because she was the traditional English rose kind of girl."
Pandora broke free from his embrace. "I knew it. You are a deep…"
Lord Tristan pulled her roughly to himself, as her body struggled fiercely to free herself. He lifted her chin roughly with his hands and bent down to kiss her lips. Her hands beat on his shoulders for awhile, and then fell still to her sides. When he finished kissing her, he said, "I wanted to take you this way, Pandora. From the moment I saw you, I knew we were kindred spirits. That is why I have never married up until now. I was waiting for a woman like you, a woman who could develop a fiery rose." He cupped her chin up so she could look into the dark pool of his eyes. "I intend to tame your wild, headstrong ways, Miss Ingham."
"Yes, my Lord." Pandora dropped into a demure curtsy.
Pandora's mother came running over. "This is shocking. Just shocking. The whole ton is talking about it. Lord Tristan, please, I fear Pandora will never find a husband now."
"She has, Mrs. Ingham. Soon she will know the true meaning of having a husband, Mrs. Ingham, every night for the rest of her life."
Pandora's eyes shone as she looked up at Lord Tristan. "And you shall have a wife who must be tamed."
They walked hand in hand to the table where Pandora's rose was displayed. She gave the flaming rose to Lord Tristan. "It is yours."
He caressed the rose, and kissed it softly. "I know, my fiery rose, I know."