Martha Darrington is surprised to find she is engaged to the handsome but haughty Earl of Bradfield.
Since she resents the earl for his arrogant ways, Martha instead turns to her steadfastly loyal servant Tom for affection. Still, seeing that her wedding is imminent, she tries to win the love of her future husband using a magic potion, but the plan backfires… in a most sexy way!
It was amazing! – Jodie Cook
A great read and romp, my only complaint being it ended too soon! – Bookgirl
The news of my engagement to the Earl of Bradfield was a surprise; especially to me.
My aunt Elvira, with whom I was staying in Bath, broke the news to me over breakfast. As the words left her shrunken lips, I dropped my buttered scone, earning a reproving glance from my aunt.
Aunt Elvira was a desiccated, sharp-nosed, severe-looking woman who served as a rather inept chaperone during my summer in Bath; usually staying closeted in her room in a state of ill health, much too fatigued to accompany me anywhere, except sometimes to church and the occasional walk. How on earth had she found the time to hunt down a fiancé for me?
“How…?” was all I could manage.
“The arrangement had been made with the late Earl of Bradfield, your fiancé’s father. He was acquainted with me when he visited here.”
“So… this visit to Bath was not merely to ‘restore my health’?” I queried.
“For God’s sake, girl, you’re as strong as an ox,” she replied, “It is not your health we were concerned about. You have been out three years in society, and yet not one of your suitors pleases your fancy. You cannot blame your poor parents for tiring of the task and leaving it to Bath’s congenial atmosphere.”
I should have known. Bath is nominally a place to restore one’s health, but, for the most part, it is the perfect setting for matchmaking. As usual, my blithe and carefree nature prevented me from seeing through my parents’ conspiracy with my aunt to marry me off. I had always hoped to prolong the carefree days of my youth, but it seemed fate had decreed otherwise.
“So, you have chosen the man I am to marry!” I exclaimed. I was equally outraged and impressed with my aunt’s audacity.
“Yes, and your parents approve of my choice. They are certain this match is the best thing for both families,” she said in a tone that precluded argument, “and therefore they hastened to complete the agreement.”
“The agreement?” I cried, spluttering out a mouthful of tea and scandalizing my aunt even more.
“Yes, the agreement,” she said dryly.
“But I did not agree to this,” I protested, “I have never even met the man.”
“That will soon be remedied,” said my aunt, “for you shall see him at the entertainment this very evening.”
At the mention of entertainment, I forgot everything else, even my engagement.
“What sort of entertainment is it to be, aunt?” I asked, breathlessly. I had already been two weeks in Bath, and all we had done was pray, drink the mineral water, and walk around in the park near the bathing areas. My aunt did not think it proper for a young woman to bathe in public. So it is understandable that the thought of entertainment stirred my soul from its torpor.
“It is a singer, I believe. A lady whom Mr. Nash has invited especially for the pleasure of visitors like ourselves. She is a great soprano, or so I hear.”
“Oh, I should love to hear some music other than the church choir,” I said wistfully.
“Martha, don’t blaspheme!” my aunt reproved.
“It is not blasphemy for one to enjoy a little variety.”
“Maybe not,” my aunt conceded, smiling with only the smallest corner of her mouth, “but really I hope you behave yourself tonight. I have asked Mr. Nash to look after you and to introduce you to the man who has just recently inherited an Earldom. I need a quiet evening to restore my nerves after yesterday’s walk, so I shall not accompany you.”
She always let me out of her sight at the slightest sign of her illness, and I was quite content to be left to wander about on my own. Still, I was relieved to know Mr. Beau Nash would be there. As Master of Ceremonies, he always made sure to help select good matches and make everyone as comfortable as possible.
“Tom will walk you back,” she continued.
She rang the bell to summon her footman, who appeared promptly.
“Patrick, will you tell Tom to come here, wherever he is?”
“He can’t have gone far, Madam. He awaits your orders,” the old footman replied imperturbably.
He departed in search of Tom, and in a few seconds the man himself appeared. He was a well-grown country lad, over six feet tall and strappingly built. At the sight of me, he froze in surprise. Of course, he had never seen me before, but that was no reason to stare so. I stared back, examining his disheveled dark hair, and finding, on the whole, that he was likely a great deal more attractive than the glorified Earl I was to marry. And I could tell he found me fascinating; the way he stared at me, forgetting all proprieties, right in front of my aunt too. Fortunately, she was busy buttering a crumpet and noticed nothing of what passed inaudibly between me and the young servant.
“Tom,” she said, finally looking up at him with her piercing green eyes, “This is my niece, Miss Martha Darrington. The affair Miss Darrington will attend at the Assembly Rooms will end precisely at eleven tonight. You must walk her home; for the streets are not safe at that hour. Do not be too early or too late. As you know, the rules of Bath are strict and do not allow servants to linger outside waiting for the ladies. So, precisely eleven it must be. Ask Patrick to lend you his watch.”
“I will do so, Madam,” he said, bowing respectfully.
He stole a glance at me again. I felt I had to say something.
“It is very kind of you, Tom,” I stated, feeling a treacherous blush creep into my face as soon as I addressed him, looking into his soulful brown eyes.
This time, my aunt may have noticed my blushing, but she did not remark on it. This was strange indeed, as, when it came to pointing out inappropriate behavior, my aunt was usually quick as a heron falling upon a hapless frog. Perhaps she took pity on me and wanted me to enjoy the company of a handsome young lad before I was given in marriage to the doubtless old and rickety Earl… Well, if my aunt insisted on practically throwing Tom at me, who was I to refuse?
“Who is Tom?” I asked with feigned innocence after the young man had departed.
“Why, what a silly question, girl!” my aunt exclaimed. “Tom is Tom, of course. Thomas Allen, to be precise.”
“Yes,” I agreed, “but why have I never seen him before?”
“Ah. You see, he is not a common servant,” my aunt explained. “His mother was my nursemaid, and I promised to her on her deathbed that I would help Tom advance in the world and take him under my protection. So he performs a few duties, but I hope to have him shipped off to college soon to learn a profession.”
“That is good,” I said, “for he has a most intelligent look about him.”
I spent most of the day wrapped up in fascinating daydreams. Even as I walked in the park, musing on my engagement and the upcoming entertainment, I pictured Tom accompanying me back from the concert, silently as a servant should, then seizing me roughly in the stable and having his way with me in the sweet-smelling hay. Such things were not usually imagined by proper young ladies, I supposed, but rumor had it they occurred quite frequently.
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