Here’s a second excerpt from my current work in progress, a sequel to my Christmas Regency story A Gift Unsought.
“I have to take care of the laundry.” She held up the bundle of clothes and stepped farther away before he could capture her again.
Predictably, he followed her. “Ketty may have had her fill of moon eyes, but I haven’t,” he said as he fell into step beside her.
Her blush deepened. “Your moon eyes will have to wait till Saturday fortnight.”
“Really, Alethea, did Ketty tell it true? Did you think I was a rake?”
Alethea looked at him helplessly, certain that her face was completely red by now.
“I hardly knew you. And at first, you were quite forward. How was I to know you didn’t try it on with every girl you met.”
“Only the pretty ones,” he said with a wink. “No. All fun aside, I was very much not myself when I met you. In fact, I haven’t been quite myself since then.”
He opened the laundry room door for her and followed her in.
“You make me quite forget my reserve,” he said with a softness she didn’t often hear from him.
She turned to face him, her heart bounding in her chest like a frightened rabbit. At the slightly lost look in his eyes, she smiled, and gave him her hand.
He took it and kissed it, drawing her closer to kiss her on the mouth. She was the first to break away, to place a step of safety between them.
“I think it would do us both some good for you to rediscover a bit of that reserve,” she said with a shaky laugh, “At least until the wedding.”
“Alethea, you heartless woman.” He caught her hands and kissed them each. “I’ll go, then, and give you your peace.”
He dropped her hands and walked backward out of the room, never letting go of her gaze until he rounded the corner.
Alethea took care of the laundry with her pulse still leaping in her throat, cherishing the warmth he awoke in her that needed only wait till Saturday fortnight. Then afterward, she slipped quietly up to the servants’ rooms in the slope-roofed top floor.
She glanced in at her little maiden room she shared with Ketty, with its neatly made single beds and spare furnishings. It was the same kind of room she’d occupied since she’d left home.
Leaving the women’s area, she turned a corner into the south-facing wing, counted down three doors that opened onto empty storage rooms, and unlocked the fourth.
Inside, illuminated by soft light through a recently cleaned, white-curtained dormer window, stood a sturdy double bed with a neat straw tick, a pair of dressers on either side, and a pair of little armchairs with a small table between. And then a film of tears clouded the scene.
This pretty little snuggery, simple as it was, was by far the nicest thing she had ever seen. The housekeeper, Mrs. Allen, had shown her up here on her first day, a kindly, somewhat wistful smile on her face. The room had been just another half-empty storage room then.
“In the country you’ll have a little cottage for the two of you,” she’d said. “But here in Town we’ve no such provision. Lady Holmwood suggested we convert it into a room for you and Mr. Rowland to share, once you’re married. You’re welcome to make it as you like in your spare time.”
Mrs. Allen had shown her where to find linens and stored furniture set aside for servants’ use. As there were no beds large enough to accommodate two, she pointed out a smallish, simple, and slightly damaged double bed that Lady Holmwood had granted for their use.
“I’ll have the footmen move it to your new room when they have a moment. Mind you don’t try to move any of the furniture on your own.”
Alethea stole moments whenever she could to come up and clean away the dust and cobwebs, whitewash the faded plaster, and scrub the floors and windows until they shone. Once the furniture was in, she polished it to a gleaming lustre, and sewed the curtains and set aside linens she would put on the bed closer to the wedding.
Ketty joined her there, sometimes, as she was preparing her own bridal chamber across the hall. Together they would dream about their future as they worked. But Pierce and Ketty’s Mr. Emerson never set foot down that empty corridor.
Ketty would joke that the men had no interest in womanly things like homemaking. But Alethea knew Pierce would like to see their room, to admire her work, to dream with her. Still, she hesitated to bring him.
After all, if he could accost her with kisses in the servants’ stair, the laundry, the very kitchen, then what would he dare in their own future bedroom? The thought left her breathless, and with a last smiling glance at her nest, she shut the door, turned the lock with a well-oiled click, and tucked the key into her pocket.
As always, feel free to let me know what you think. 🙂