For Those of you new to this blog, this is a weekly serial story that I am posting excerpts from each Sunday. It is a rough draft of a story I have been working on and hope to have released later this fall. The Gypsy's Curse is a the story of a runaway Gyspy girl hiding in an empty manor house in rural England. The owner of the house returns, and she is caught in his snare, injured, unable to leave. Meanwhile, the ownere has his own problems, being a werewolf. His ancestors were cursed by a gypsy and in order to be free of his cursed state, he must win the love of a gypsy girl. Every week there is a new excerpt. If you begin in Februrary of this year, you'll find the beginning and can scroll throught the weekly posts at your leisure.
The Gypsy's Curse, Chapter Fourteen, part 1
He turned the knob quietly, not bothering to knock this time. Stephan was not a man of impulse, or hadn’t been until a pair of bewitching emerald eyes captured his attention.
Peering into the quiet room with only his head moving past the door, he saw that Maggie was sitting dutifully by the bed, her head bent with some sewing project that Annie must have given her to keep her occupied. Maggie was a good girl. Perhaps she should become Miss Jennings lady’s maid during her stay here instead of Annie’s minion. It would serve Maggie well for future employment references to have some experience in the higher position of lady’s maid. He wanted to help the girl succeed in life, and being a lowly scullery maid would not help her prosper and achieve the respect of others in the service industry. Why not skip ahead a little?
“Sir.” She mouthed the word. The freckled face lit up with joy when she saw him. She put two fingers to her lips to indicate the need to be quiet as their patient was sleeping, set her mending aside and rose from the chair.
Stephan couldn’t help smiling at the cheerful adolescent in return as he stepped into the room and stood at the foot of the canopy bed. Maggie came to stand beside him. Together, they silently admired the sleeping beauty before them.
The bruise on Miss Jennings left cheek, the bandage about her temple and the dark circles beneath her eyes told the story of her struggle in the wilderness. A small, elegant hand lying on limp on the covers had angry red scratches, from fighting the brambles. Her oval face was relaxed in slumber, the cherry red lips parted slightly, beckoning him to bend over her like a prince in a fairy tale and steal a kiss. Surprised by his own crude thoughts, he glanced guiltily at Maggie through shuddered eyes. At his insistence, Annie reminded the girl that it was not proper for Miss Jennings to be left alone in the company of a man when she was so indisposed.
Now Stephan was finding that he regretted speaking to the older woman. His baser instincts wanted nothing more than to have Miss Jennings all to himself, propriety be damned. He motioned to Maggie to follow him out the door.
Once out in the hall, he spoke in a normal tone. “How are you, Maggie? Have you had a break to eat yet?”
“Annie was going to bring me up something, but I think she forgot.”
“Are you hungry?”
The riot of red curls bobbed quickly.
“Why don’t you go downstairs and take a little break.”
“Oh, no sir. I’m not to leave Miss Jennings unattended. Remember?”
“Yes,” Stephan agreed, unable to control the wolfish grin that spread across his face. “Miss Jennings is asleep and I believe she’ll sleep for at least another hour at least. Dr. Mulleins gave her Laudanum for pain. It is a powerful opiate. Since she’s asleep we needn’t worry about her for a short time. If you come back within the hour, there can’t be any harm.”
Maggie, to her credit, seemed unconvinced by his wily logic. She pursed her pink lips, and frowned. “I . . . I suppose not. Annie might be mad at me, though.”
He chuckled. “Tell her I instructed you to go down for short time to have something to eat while your charge is asleep. I’m the master here, not Annie, you recall?”
“Yes, sir.” She parroted, and raised her gaze from the carpet to hesitantly search his eyes for the final reassurance that would tell her she was not breaking any rules by leaving her post.
“And I’ve come to the opinion that you might be better situated to become Miss Jennings’ personal maid while she is with us instead of a maid of all work. Would you like that?”
“Oh, yes, sir! Yes—“ Bright blue eyes lit up with exuberance. “I don’t know a lot about that kind of work, but I’m a quick learner, sir. I’ll do my best, if Miss Jennings is agreeable to the appointment, that is.”
“Why wouldn’t she be?” He couldn’t help asking. “You are employed by me, not her. I’m appointing you to be her personal maid while she is our guest. Miss Jennings will appreciate it, I’m certain. We’ll hire a few locals to help Annie with the kitchen work and with opening up the rooms. Since Miss Jennings is injured, Dr. Mulleins claims she’ll be bed ridden for the next few days due to her head injury and will need to have assistance in walking for weeks after that while her ankle heals. Naturally, her care takes precedence over any cleaning duties in the manor due to my impetuous arrival.”
Maggie bobbed her head again in the easy agreement of a trusting child. An older woman, more astute, might counter his simple logic with a long list of reasons why they were not qualified to serve as a lady’s maid when they had had no prior training whatsoever in service, and a lady’s maid was superior among the servants, on equal terms with the housekeeper.
Maggie seemed to take the appointment with the practical belief that she could learn what was required of her as she went along. Oh, he’d have liked to have seen Julia’s face if he’d have made such an appointment on her behalf with an untrained young girl like Maggie. Then again, perhaps that was a battle scene he could live without, as the high pitched whine Julia was known to emit when she was displeased resurfaced in his memory.
He smiled indulgently at the adolescent girl and sent her on her way. Stephan watched Maggie nearly skip down the hall, carefree as a young colt kicking up its heels in the summer pasture. He was pleased he made the impetuous decision to bring her here. He wasn’t philanthropist by nature, yet after hearing Brisbane’s report about the child lingering about Covent Gardens late at night, he might reconsider his indifference to the matter of orphans wandering the streets due to the peninsular war. Alone, unable to find honest work as a household servant, Sweet Little Maggie was being lured into a life of harlotry by a nefarious Madame who preyed upon such girls with the promise of food and lodgings if they surrendered most of their street earnings to her. Fate had determined that Maggie’s first night out she would stumble upon Stephan--drunk and needing her assistance in returning home safely. No wonder the child latched upon his inebriated promise of giving her a position in his home for her troubles. It was refreshing to know that his time in London was not completely wasted.
Once Maggie was out of the way, Stephan crept back into Miss Jennings’ room. She was still asleep. He moved Maggie’s mending out to the way and took the chair she’d placed near window, several feet from the bed. He sat with his elbows propped on his splayed knees, leaning forward, ready to bolt behind the curtain next to him she opened her eyes. The thought of hiding in her room, behind the curtains, like a curious school boy spying upon a bewitching Venus made him nearly chuckle aloud. Ah, how had he become reduced to this? Spying on a mysterious beauty as if she were royalty and he the stable master’s son?
Julia. The name came with frost. Being married to a woman who resented you for the incident of your birth and who continually made you aware of the fact that you didn’t quite measure up to her exalted standards wrought bitterness in his soul. In Julia’s world, all that mattered was the pedigree, not a person’s income, their moral integrity, intelligence or natural talents. She never let him forget she married him out of financial obligation to her family, the titled elite, who had recklessly depleted their coffers and had to stoop to the gutter to find a rich merchant to build up their wealth again.
This girl, injured and far from her home in the West Indies—if indeed her story were true--this innocent young woman lying in the arms of Morpheus, gave Stephan a sense of purpose he hadn’t known he lacked. He felt obligated to protect her.
The green eyes fluttered open. She moved her legs and then moaned as pain creased her lovely face.
Stephan was on his feet and standing beside the bed before he knew what he was doing.
“Try not to move your foot.” He cautioned, and was suddenly pinioned by the most lovely pair of emerald eyes he had ever beheld.
“What are you doing here?” She gasped, alarm marring her lovely face. “Who are you, where am I?”
Copyright Lily Silver, 2014