Emmie stood behind Anna who sat on a stool facing her vanity table. The Crampton’s maid had already assisted in getting Anna ready for the ball, but Emmie was more particular in how she thought Anna’s hair should look. After the maid left, Emmie fixed Anna’s hair the right way.
Anna wrung her hands against her middle as worry etched lines in her face. “Mr. and Mrs. Crampton are going to introduce me to their family and friends. Are you certain your father didn’t know anybody besides Mr. and Mrs. Crampton?”
Emmie weaved a pink ribbon through Anna’s dark hair. Artfully, Emmie had pulled back the sides with pearl studded combs to complete the ensemble. “I wish I could tell you, Anna. My father doesn’t speak of everyone he knows from England. He met my mother on a visit to York, and I think her death hurt him so much he doesn’t want to talk about that time in his life.”
“Oh, Lady Sarah! I didn’t even think of that.”
“Shh… I’m Emmie now, remember that,” she reminded.
“My apologies, Lady—eh, I mean Emmie.” Anna sighed heavily. “What am I going to do if someone realizes I don’t look like your father?”
Emmie snorted a laugh as she met her friend’s gaze through the reflection on the vanity mirror. Sometimes her maid could be so obtuse. “Anna, I don’t even resemble my father. I take more after my mother, but you look enough like me that you fit the part.”
Anna relaxed. “Forgive me for being so jumpy. I suppose I’m a little nervous about tonight. I don’t want to muck things up.”
Emmie added the finishing touches to Anna’s hair by pulling the ringlets down evenly. “You will do fine. You have given a splendid performance thus far. Mr. and Mrs. Crampton don’t suspect a thing, and Mr. Crampton was very close to my father.”
Anna nodded. “You’re right as always, my lady.”
“Anna!” Emmie reminded in a whisper. “You must not call me that. No one must know of our charade. I don’t even want the servants to overhear. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Anna answered softly.
After finishing Anna’s hair, Emmie helped her friend brush the gown to free it from the few wrinkles it had gathered since they’d started redoing Anna’s hair. This pink ball dress of Emmie’s had always been one of her favorites. The silk sensation had a deep v-cut in the bodice, which she thought made her chest look fuller. Of course, the slim waist and the billowy sleeves of white lace had always made her look elegant. But now as it was being worn by a different woman, it disappointed Emmie a little because the dress actually looked better on her friend. She hated to admit that the dress accented Anna’s bounteous bosom perfectly, which made her waist appear smaller. This gown had never looked so feminine on Emmie’s body.
She tried not to think about all the parties and functions Anna had been invited to, because in a way she envied her. Now that they had different roles, Emmie would have to stand back and watch her friend be swept away by men on the dance floor. Then again, this could be a good thing. This way, Emmie wouldn’t have to hear their lies when they promised her the moon and stars on a silver platter. She wouldn’t have people bowing and curtsying every time she walked by, and they wouldn’t treat her as if she was precious glass just because her father was the governor. She reminded herself again that the disguise as a lady’s companion couldn’t be more perfect.
Anna picked out one of the fancier dresses for Emiline to wear tonight. The shimmering gray material was pretty, but just as the dress she’d wore earlier, this one practically hung on her. The modest high neck collar with white lace, and long sleeves didn’t enhance any body part on her. The color even made her face pale and her eyes bug out. Then again, the way she’d wound her hair so tight that could be the reason her eyes looked funny.
Emmie and Anna left the bedroom together. When they reached the ballroom, Emmie stopped and tapped Anna on the arm. “You shall do fine. Just remember…you are me,” she whispered.
Holding her head high, Anna entered the ballroom as Emmie followed. She tried her best not to let anyone really look at her, and thankfully, their eyes were on Anna—who soaked up the attention well. Many people filled the ballroom and greeted Lady Sarah with bows and curtsies. Emmie smiled, knowing Anna turned out a great performance.
It had been quite a long time since Emmie attended a party, and being at this one tonight brought back nostalgic memories. She remembered in her younger years that she loved dressing up in fancy ball gowns. She’d danced with the boys even though most of them stepped on her toes too many times to count. As she now watched Anna dance with Mr. Crampton, Emmie was now grateful she’d decided to teach her maid how to dance when they were younger. To be sure, Anna was rusty, which was quite obvious to everyone present.
Not too long later, boredom set in and Emmie wanted to scream. If her father knew how she felt now would he be laughing? At times she wondered if he did this to teach her a lesson, instead of keeping her safe. For months he’d been threatening to do something in order to cure her stubbornness. Now she felt his threat was becoming a reality. It made her wonder why the Crampton’s friends were not more sociable. But perhaps this was a good thing. She didn’t want to have to answer questions.
A few couples strolled passed her, not even giving her a submissive glance. Strange how people treated her like she was a ghost. Once in a while, Emmie received judgmental glares and upturned noses, especially from the ladies, but it didn’t happen until after they’d looked at her gown. Inwardly, she groaned. Maybe she should spend some of her father’s money to purchase newer gowns. After all, Anna only had gowns for servants, not for Emmie’s new role.
Subtly, she glided over to a potted plant near the corner of the room, and pretended to pick out the dead leaves. Five men stood together, each holding a champagne glass. Their voices were lowered, but she could still hear them. When she heard one say Bonaparte, she quickly paid closer attention.
She really couldn’t tell what exactly made them discuss this topic, but all five men were angered by the rise of taxes because of the havoc her uncle had caused these past several years. They gave examples of this year compared to last year. Emmie nearly gasped aloud to hear of the jump. Goodness! What had their King been thinking to approve of these high taxes?
When two ladies passed by and eyed Emmie closely, she decided not to act like she was picking apart the plant any longer, and slowly wandered toward another wall. Immediately, her attention was pulled to the door of the ballroom. A handsome man strolled inside, his powerful presence demanded attention, which he definitely received.
Emmie grinned. Mr. Lawrence looked just as good clothed as he did when he was bathing in the pond. The memory of that most embarrassing moment caused heat to climb up her neck to rest in her cheeks. She’d been so uncomfortable with conversing with a half-naked man, yet she had been mesmerized by his charm and good looks, and she couldn’t force herself to leave even though her mind argued how wrong it was to be with a man who’d just finished bathing.
Never had she seen a man’s bare chest and bare legs. Mr. Lawrence was magnificent, and it was all she could do to keep from touching his muscles to see if they were as hard as they appeared.
She tore her mind from that very heated memory and watched him move from guest to guest. He mingled easily. His smile had her enthralled, and his laugh caused flutters in her belly. The handsome creature then walked to his uncle. The two men talked for a few minutes before Mr. Crampton turned and called out to Anna.
Mr. Lawrence’s eyes widened when he first looked at the pretend daughter of the governor, and jealousy jabbed at Emmie’s chest. Mr. Lawrence took Anna’s hand in formal greeting, his face brightening by the second.
Mr. Lawrence claimed the next dance. Emmie didn’t want to admit, but her maid actually looked good beside him. Anna’s eyes gleamed like stars while she danced with Mr. Lawrence. How could they not? He just happened to be the most dominant man in this room, and Emmie wasn’t the only woman who noticed. Many pairs of eyes followed the handsome man with the muscular body around the room.
Emmie almost wished she could take back her identity, only so she could dance in his arms. It was too late for that now. Both she and Anna would be the laughingstocks of the party if people were to find out about their charade. In addition, Emmie couldn’t do that to Mr. and Mrs. Crampton. And she especially couldn’t go against her father’s wishes.
After Anna and Mr. Lawrence’s dance was over, he bowed to his partner and brushed his lips across the back of her hand. Pleasure spread over the maid’s face, which in turn, made Emmie more upset over the switch of identities. That could have been her out there on the dance floor. He could be kissing her hand, instead.
Gabe left Anna’s side to wander around the room. He took a glass of champagne from the butler then leaned back against the wall. Anna made a sharp turn and started heading Emmie’s way.
Anna stopped in front of her. “I forgot my fan!”
Emmie blinked as her mind began to work. “Oh dear. Forgive me for forgetting to give that to you. I shall go fetch it now.”
Emmie made a mad dash back to the room, grabbed one of her favorite fans, and hurried back down to the ballroom. Anna hadn’t waited by the door as Emmie thought she would, so she entered the ballroom, keeping her shoulders straight and chin up.
When Anna saw her, she broke away from the small group around her. Emmie held out the fan. “You are doing splendidly tonight,” she said.
“Thank you. I’m just so very nervous.”
“Nobody can tell.” Emmie grinned.
Anna whispered her gratitude and returned to the small group.
As Emmie started to head back toward the wall she’d been keeping company for the last little while, her attention immediately stopped on Gabe who stood where she’d seen him last. His gaze rested intently on her, causing her feet to stop before reaching their destination. She wrung her hands, hoping he wouldn’t say anything about their last meeting at the pond. That’s all she needed was for people to judge her for being improper.
He boldly scanned her attire from her tight bun down to her gray dress. When his eyes met hers again, his lips turned up into a smile. With a small bow, he let her know he recognized her.
Her heart pounded an uneven rhythm as she returned the smile and curtsied. Once again, his eyes scanned her length slowly, and then he gave her a nod of approval, letting her know that she looked presentable. She didn’t want to argue the point since others at this party thought differently.
Following his lead, she looked over his attire—a deep blue waistcoat stretched across his wide chest; a black coat fit his broad shoulders, and black breeches that snugged against his muscular legs perfectly. His shirt and cravat were pristine white, bringing out the skin tones of his face. She nodded her approval. He chuckled and held up his drink as if in a salute.
Sighing, she stared at his astounding smile. Shame on her, but as hard as she tried, she couldn’t get the image of him bathing out of her mind. Never had she witnessed such an indecent sight even though all she had seen was his bare chest. Now as she stared dreamily at him, it was if they were the only two people in the room.
Although she wanted to talk to him, she didn’t dare. Not often had she become tongue-tied around men, and Mr. Lawrence certainly made her feel this way. Too bad because she was willing to bet he had something very comical to say. Humor twinkled in his eyes and she desperately wanted to know what thoughts swam through his head.
When he finally turned away to converse with a group of beautiful young women who’d flocked to him, disappointment washed over Emmie. Slowly, she went back to her corner of the room to keep the wall company, once again.
During the next few hours, she watched Mr. Lawrence move around the room. Once in a while, his attention wandered to Anna. That man was definitely interested in the governor’s daughter! Frustration boiled inside Emmie hotter than before. When Anna’s gaze finally locked with his, her friend gave him a shy smile. Emmie wanted to lash out at something—or someone.
For the rest of the evening, her form of entertainment was to witness the way her maid interacted with Gabe. Soon, Anna broke away from him and walked toward Emmie. Her heart quickened, wondering what was going on now.
“Emmie,” Anna said when she reached her. “Mr. Lawrence has asked me to take a walk with him outside. What should I do?”
Emmie fisted her hands by her side. “It’s polite to go for a walk.”
“Then will you fetch my shawl for me? I mean…um, your shawl?” she ended in a whisper.
“Yes, my lady. I shall be more than happy to fetch the shawl.” Grudgingly, Emmie hurried back up the stairs to get the shawl. On the way back down, she grumbled under her breath. As she placed the shawl around Anna’s shoulders, she whispered in her friend’s ear, “Remember who you are and that Lady Sarah doesn’t allow men to seduce her.”
Anna’s forehead creased, her gaze narrowed when she met Emmie’s glare.
When Gabe claimed Anna for their walk, the only acknowledgment he gave Emmie was a nod before escorting Anna out on his arm.
Standing back, Emmie had no other choice but to watch them leave. Jealousy ate at her insides the longer she waited for them to return. Pacing back and forth in front of a window didn’t help her nerves any. For certain, Anna would be enjoying her evening right now and not even thinking about Emmie
Rolling her eyes, she shook her head. She didn’t have any claim on Gabe. Come to think of it, he had been quite snobbish to her when they had spoken earlier at the pond. But even though her mind was trying to create bad thoughts about him, she was still curious to find out what the two of them were doing on their walk right now.
She glanced around the hall, hoping nobody would care that she disappeared outside. But since everyone treated her as a ghost, she was certain not to have anyone stop her. She grinned. Her entertainment was just beginning.
Emmie crept out the side door and onto the terrace. Casually, as not to draw attention, she walked to the edge of the lawn and scanned the large expanse of grass and trees, hoping to spot Anna. Within moments, she noticed her friend and the very handsome man beside her. Gabe led the love-struck Anna away from the house toward the shadows near the trees. Growling under her breath, Emmie feared the worst. Knowing her maid like she did, she knew exactly what Anna wanted.
Emmie needed to follow them but couldn’t let them see her. Glancing around the yard, she searched for a place to hide. Across the way stood a large marble statue and behind it, some bushes. Since Gabe and Anna headed in that direction at a leisurely pace, Emmie decided she would have time to get to the statue and hide there before they arrived...as long as she ran.
She lifted her skirts to her ankles and sprinted across the yard toward the marble statue. Gabe and Anna seemed to have eyes for only each other, so Emmie arrived at her hiding spot before the other two did.
Hopefully, her maid wasn’t up to her usual tricks and disregarding the rules of propriety. If so, Anna would be in Gabe’s arms this very night. Emmie didn’t think she’d be able to hide her jealous anger and keep herself concealed if that happened. Emmie gulped. If Anna didn’t take care, Emmie’s reputation could be ruined.
Gabe smiled politely at the lovely woman beside him. The longer he was in her presence, the more he became confused. Her charm was evident, and yet her shyness was a contradiction. She really didn’t talk much, and he couldn’t believe there was a woman out there who didn’t chatter like a crazed magpie. Now he found one he wished would talk a little more.So far he had told her about himself—at least what he wanted her to know—and now he wanted to hear about her. If she would tell him, that is. Every time he asked her about herself, she changed the subject, bringing th
Once Gabe and Anna had walked away, Emmie released the breath she was holding and it came out in a gush. Thankfully, neither of them had seen her. Relief also poured through her, knowing that Anna had not let Gabe kiss her. Her maid played a role, and Lady Sarah would have not allowed a man to take the liberties in stealing a kiss…no matter how handsome he was.Then again, she had really never known any man as handsome as Gabe. And blast it all, it didn’t help that she kept seeing him in the water. Perhaps if she had been in Gabe’s arms, she would have been sorely tempted to let him place his lips on hers. Gabe stood stunned. Not because he’d kissed Emmie, but because he’d enjoyed it so much.Usually he preferred more experienced women, and those who definitely dressed better that made them look alluring. Certainly, she wasn’t the kind of woman he would seduce. Yet, he’d been thinking about doing that very thing since noticing her hiding behind the statue.Shaking his head, he turned back toward the house. His uncle and aunt were saying their goodbyes to the last of the guests who just wouldn’t leave, and Gabe really didn’t want to be included in that, but he had to go inside
Let's Create a Wonderland (book 3) Eight
Gabe stood stunned. Not because he’d kissed Emmie, but because he’d enjoyed it so much.Usually he preferred more experienced women, and those who definitely dressed better that made them look alluring. Certainly, she wasn’t the kind of woman he would seduce. Yet, he’d been thinking about doing that very thing since noticing her hiding behind the statue.Shaking his head, he turned back toward the house. His uncle and aunt were saying their goodbyes to the last of the guests who just wouldn’t leave, and Gabe really didn’t want to be included in that, but he had to go inside
Gabe rose early in the morning and quickly dressed in his riding clothes, preparing to spend a leisurely afternoon doing nothing but enjoy his solitude in the countryside. It’d been two weeks since he’d come to visit his uncle, and restlessness and boredom began to consume Gabe’s mind. He’d led a busy life of spying these past few years and finding time for leisure was rarely heard of. Flying down the stairs, he hurried across the wooden floor as he made his way to the front door. When he neared his uncle’s study, Gabe slowed and treaded softly, hoping Henry wouldn’t see him. This was one time he did not want to be bothered. Unfortunately, Gabe’s wish
“Gabriel? Would you come here for a moment?” Henry called as Gabe stepped outside through the side doors, preparing to head toward the stables.He swore under his breath. Not again! It had been a few days since he’d talked to his uncle in the study. Gabe didn’t want to have to rehash the same words.Hesitantly, he turned away from the stables and made his way to the green patch of lawn where his aunt, uncle, and cousin stood with Lady Sarah playing Trundling Hoop and Roll. Henry looked dashing in his red coat covering a golden shirt, and matching red breeches. Indeed, he looke
With a sigh of apathy, Emmie closed the book she’d finished reading and rested it on her lap. It had been three weeks now since she’d arrived in Hampshire, and as the days lagged on, she realized just how dull the life of a lady’s companion was. She attended Lady Sarah like a dutiful companion…well, at least close to one. She helped Anna dress every morning since Nancy was busy with Miss Crampton. Emmie accompanied Anna downstairs for breakfast, but usually they were the only ones in the room eating since Mr. and Mrs. Crampton had already partaken of the meal, and Rebecca was still dressing. After breakfast, Emmie and Anna took a stroll through Mrs. Crampton’s f
Unrest roiled in Gabe’s stomach. He hated to be bested. He especially hated to be bested by this slip of a woman. Determination settled in his bones. There was no way he was going to lose a horse race to a woman. Even in her outdated riding habit—that actually fit her better than the other dresses had—she was all woman, soft and desirable. Excitement flushed her face, causing her eyes to twinkle like stars. Lips soft and red, turned up in a smile.When she laughed, her whole face lit up with enthusiasm. Of course now she wore a panicked expression. Probably because she sensed his irritation. Sighing deeply, he smiled, which made the smile return to her pretty face. Emmie cursed under her breath. Dare she weave more into her web of lies? Or could she trust him with the truth? As much as she wanted to trust him, the simple fact was that she didn’t know Gabe very well at all. She didn’t know the Crampton’s, either. Would they frown upon her father’s decision of wanting to keep his daughter’s identity hidden? She doubted they would understand.Steadying her heartbeat, she turned and looked up at him. She thought back to the story Anna had told him about Lady Sarah, and Emmie knew she couldn’t give him that story. She presented Gabe with a sweet smile. “I was born here in England to a struggling farmer and his sickly
Let's Create a Wonderland (book 3) Thirteen
Emmie cursed under her breath. Dare she weave more into her web of lies? Or could she trust him with the truth? As much as she wanted to trust him, the simple fact was that she didn’t know Gabe very well at all. She didn’t know the Crampton’s, either. Would they frown upon her father’s decision of wanting to keep his daughter’s identity hidden? She doubted they would understand.Steadying her heartbeat, she turned and looked up at him. She thought back to the story Anna had told him about Lady Sarah, and Emmie knew she couldn’t give him that story. She presented Gabe with a sweet smile. “I was born here in England to a struggling farmer and his sickly