Luke reached forward and caught her elbow, the simple touch searing through her sleeve to her skin. “Oh, no you don’t. You’re not turning yellow-belly over some little meeting with a reporter.”
Perhaps meeting with a reporter seemed insignificant to Luke, but she hardly shared his opinion. “It’s been a long day, and I have a commitment tonight. I need to go.”
He glanced up at the reporter, still inundating the secretaries with questions. “He needs to talk to you.”
“I tried talking to a reporter last week. It didn’t turn out well, if you remember.”
“Did you know my grandfather owned a rather significant amount of stock in the Albany Morning Times?”
She stared at him, her brain sluggish to follow the direction his words were taking. “I don’t see what Jonah’s stock... Oh.” She bit the inside of her cheek. “You own it now.”
“I do. And the man before you isn’t simply ‘a reporter.’ Mr. Thompson is the editor and chief of the paper, and he especially wished to speak with you.”
“Then why’s he interviewing Sarah and Elaine?”
Luke took her hand, settled it in the crook of his arm, and patted. “Because he’s writing an article on how Hayes accepts scholarship students from poorer families.”
“Oh.” And what could she say to that? The fervent interest the editor showed in Sarah and Elaine didn’t speak of a man who hated female education, regardless of what the editor had allowed to be printed in the paper before.
“Thompson.” Luke interrupted the other man mid-question.
The older man turned. “Ah, Mr. Hayes and...” He stilled when he spotted her, then came forward. “You must be Miss Wells. Please accept my apologies.” The editor took her hand, his eyes shining with sincerity. “I’m terribly sorry for the trouble those articles caused you and the school. We printed what Higsley wrote without doing adequate research on the topic, and we never should have allowed such things in our paper. Do forgive us.”
“Thank you.” She took her hand from Mr. Thompson’s and stepped back. “Your apology means much to both me and the academy.”
“Indeed. We plan to remedy the situation,” he went on. “We’ve a series of articles planned on the benefits of female education. They will appear weekly on the front page over the next month. And we’d like permission to reprint a portion of that original editorial you wrote to be used in next Wednesday’s edition.”
A series of articles on the benefits of educating women? That’s what she’d been intending when she first wrote that editorial. Plus, he wanted to take the original piece she’d written and use it in a positive manner. She let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. “That would be lovely.”
“Yes. We expect the series to be rather popular, and I must say, we’re excited to print it.”
Just then Miss Bowen’s door opened, and Mr. Thompson’s gaze moved to the headmistress.
“Ah, Miss Bowen.” He glanced back to her and Luke. “If you will excuse me?”
He stepped around them and nearly ran for Miss Bowen. “Might I have five minutes of your time? I’m very curious about the process Hayes Academy uses when determining...”
The editor’s voice faded as Luke took her elbow and guided her into the hallway.
“Thank you for bringing the editor by, Luke. You didn’t have to speak up for the school in such a public manner, and you surely don’t have to keep me this informed.”
But in some ways, she wasn’t surprised. He’d made his decision to stand by the school, and now he was unashamedly sticking to it. He wouldn’t worry about what people said or thought, either. He was so strong, so unruffled by society’s opinions. It was why she loved him.
And why she had to keep away from him. “Please excuse me, though. I shouldn’t be here right now.”
He frowned as a group of students brushed past, their girlish chatter filling the hallway. “What’s wrong with the hallway?”
“The hallway isn’t the problem.”
His eyes narrowed.
She sighed. Best to just tell him and be done with it. “You are.”
“Exactly how am I a problem?”
She could hardly look at his face without memories of the kiss flooding back—memories of a kiss she couldn’t let happen again. And she was being ridiculous! She needed to start behaving like a proper spinster, not some smitten schoolgirl. “Miss Bowen knows about the carriage ride Saturday.”
“What exactly does she know?” His voice smoldered.