His Naughty Maid
W. J. Power • July 22, 2019
EBOOK: • Kindle •
She’s on the run. He’s the lord whom once she adored.
Now she needs his help. But she will absolutely not be a cake about him…and fall for him again!
He’s determined to help her, keep her…and love her.
But what will the ton say when a noble viscount abandons his wits and falls for the woman who was his maid? His life? His very breath?
* * * * *
At No. 6, Viscount Rockingham humors his sister by taking on an extra housemaid. One he does not need. But no sooner does said woman stand before him when he rejoices at sight of the lovely creature who once made all his days sweet.
Jessica Archer needs a position…and a place to make a new life. In hiding. She’s not a housemaid but a renowned chef pâtissière, up from Brighton and escaping a man who would kill her for the crime she saw him commit one morning on the beach. Working for Charlie—(she really must call him Lord Rockingham)—is not ideal, but she will not make a cake of herself over him! As a girl, she loved him far too dearly and suffered a broken heart. Yes, of course, their sad affair left her with an iron backbone. She’s needed it to survive, prosper and carve her reputation as a talented cook.
But she’s frightened, shaken, recalling once before when another man destroyed another whom she loved.
So she’ll take safety in Charlie’s house. But even as Jess warns herself not to take comfort in his arms, she’s never found another who rivals his charm. Charlie has always been far above her touch, even though when they were young and promised each other undying devotion, class differences did not matter.
For Charlie, the intervening years have shown him that she’s the only one who can sweeten his bland days. As he works to protect her from a clever stalker, he vows that this time he’ll ignore any rule, break any barrier…or kill any man who’d hurt her and deprive them of the happiness they both so richly deserve.
But will he succeed?
And can he ignore the dictates of the ton to marry the famous cook?
Or will she leave him for personal success…and let him live alone in want of her love?
If you love witty historical romance, starring endearing heroes and sassy heroines featuring (gasp!) servants, this upstairs-downstairs comedy is for you! Buy HIS NAUGHTY MAID to begin laughing!
Read an Excerpt
Jess took her small valise to the nook near the large kitchen, counting herself fortunate to have a position. To be well away from Brighton and here in London was a relief. So much so she let out a giggle. Silly of her, but she’d take joy where and when she could get it. If she was wary of the fact that she’d had to agree to employment by her impressive Rock, what else could she have done?
She was here. And she’d make the best of it. She unpacked the few clothes she’d brought with her from Brighton and tucked them away on the two shelves that Moseley said were hers. Then the housekeeper ordered her to her room where she made a list of Jess’s duties. A long list, but usual chores for a maid of all work.
She’d do well here. That she promised herself. In Rock’s employ. Rock’s house. But she would not see him. Talk with him. Recall how, when all staff had gone on a picnic one fine spring day, he and she had once made pasties together alone in the kitchen of the Rockingham country house. How he’d dabbed flour on her cheeks and kissed it all away. How they made taffy one Christmas. He’d put a bit on the tip of his tongue and offered it to her. “Pull that,” he’d demanded with wicked blue eyes.
Terrible tease. She’d wanted to pull his taffy, all right. His shirt, too. His breeches, absolutely, bursting for her as they were. The large long bulge in the buff pants the most tempting treat she’d never been offered.
“I’ll fix you,” she’d shot back.
“I wish you would, my delectable cook.” He’d always called her that.
But she’d snatched the sweet tidbit away from him with her lips and let her tongue dangle the morsel before him. He’d groaned, caught her and somehow—how had that happened?—the sticky stuff had gotten on her skin. Her shoulder. The tip of one begging nipple.
Ahem! She glanced about.
No one heard her.
Best hurry to do Moseley’s bidding. What was it? Ah. Yes. Hang the carpet and beat it.
She gathered it up from the still room and flung it over her shoulder to the wooden rack beyond the kitchen garden.
And she picked up her wooden beater and hit it.
Damn. Even that recalled the time when she’d been sixteen she’d done the same task and Rock had caught her between two large ones which hung from rug frames in the back garden. He’d caught a rabbit and had taken it to her mother to add to the dinner menu. But when he saw Jess, secluded between two rugs, he’d taken the opportunity to appear before her.
“Shall I roll you in one, like my Cleopatra, and take you away to my bedroom?”
“Dangerous to be my Caesar,” she accused him with a wagging finger. She’d always wanted more from Rock than to be his mistress.
“When we’re older,” he promised as he took her beater from her fingers, then lavished her with kisses to each finger, “I’ll be your everything.”
“You are now,” she’d admitted and let him lick his way up her arm and down, down, down to the points of her small, hard, throbbing breasts.
Dear god. That was years ago and would not happen again!
She whacked the rug and a cloud of dust fell over her. She coughed. When had this rug been done last?
No matter. Hauling back, she welded her weapon and gave it another good go. And another. Hunh. She grinned. A strong facer worthy of a bareknuckle boxer.
But she was not that strong, even if she wished she were. She planted another one on the rug. She was here to hide away. Until she knew whom to trust with what she’d seen. And how to return home to Brighton…if she ever could because she had no proof of identity of Mister Heathmore’s attacker.
She stood, drained. Then began again until she finished punishing the rug and returned it to its spot in the still room. Then she took up the questionable task of scrubbing the kitchen door stoop.
Moseley clearly had a grudge against her…and an hour later, the gleam of the kitchen stoop showed how Jess had polished off her own distaste for the housekeeper’s revenge.
Jess, bone weary, went to her bed that night focused on what she had to do to survive at Number 6, Dudley Crescent. Daily.
She readily took to the tempo of the house by recalling the rhythms of staff during her childhood in Rockingham Rise. The country seat of the Hough family was a vast estate near Crawley. The original house block, in the shape of an E, was built to honor Queen Elizabeth. Subsequent earls had expanded the red brick structure with a black brick Rococo wing to one end for the stables, and another white stucco Palladian wing for the servants. A hodge-lodge of a house, the family boasted it was the largest for hundreds of miles with more than thirty rooms.
The kitchen had been so huge that all four kitchen staff and two housemaids slept in their own large room near the twenty-foot tall roasting pit. The beds had been plush, the linens downy. The aromas from the kitchen, headed by Jess’s mother, had wafted around the rooms at all hours. Unlike other Englishmen, the Rockingham residents never complained that their house was fragrant with herbs, roasted meats and fowl, or onions and squashes. If servants (and owners, too!) had any complaints it was that the kitchen was too far from the main house’s dining room. Charlie’s grandfather, Jess remembered, had said that in rain, snow and hail, one’s health might be at risk. He declared he wanted his roast duck served hot not chilled and had ordered an enclosed corridor built to solve the problem. The memory warmed her.
So did the fact that Charlie’s London townhouse was smaller, more compact. And more manageable, or so she thought.
The comfort of the thin stuffed bedding in the kitchen nook Jess had definitely misjudged. That first night, she slept like the dead, but when she arose before dawn, her bones did creak. She’d forgotten that kitchen fires could warm nooks like the one in this Dudley Crescent townhouse only for so many hours. It was July, but still, the damp of the night crept into the cellar like a slick chill.
As the lowliest servant in the house, she was up before all others. She’d assembled her work box last night before retiring and placed it beside her. Inside the shallow wooden box, she had a carpet broom, rags, polish, dry duster, dust pan and scouring paper. Up before the sun, she visited the privy in the central yard, got water from the central well and soap from the larder to wash standing up in the room off the scullery. Then she pinned up her hair and donned her old cotton gown and apron. Her first job was to light the kitchen fire, clean up the dressing boards, sort away any dirty glasses or dishes left from last night and sweep the floor. Finally, she filled the tea kettle and set it to boil for the cook and her first maid to start breakfast.
Then she grabbed her work box with her tools and climbed the stairs to the first bedroom fireplace she must clean. The viscount’s.
Stealthy as a little cat, she twisted the knob of the door to his sitting room and tip-toed inside. She paused midway on the carpet and didn’t hear him about. But she didn’t expect him to be up at first light either. Pulling his bedroom door just to, she knelt down and set to work.
“Sleep well, Jess?”
“Oh!” She dropped her dustpan. The coal dust and bits of dead embers sprayed over the hearth. “You shocked me!”
“My apologies.” He came around her, his feet bare, his toes tapping the wooden floor in impatience.
Her gaze climbed from his ankles to his calves and…ahem…they were bare too. She didn’t dare look higher. She wanted to laugh and should have been outraged. “Are you naked?”
“I sleep without clothes. Always in July.”
“Good to know.” She shook her head but set herself a stern warning that thinking of him in his nude glory would not be wise. Visions flashed through her mind of how muscular he’d been even as a youth. His ribs taut as a washboard, his arms like a bull’s haunch. She wiggled, uncomfortable with her body’s arousal at his appeal. If he’d been virile as a boy, as a grown man, in his bare skin, he would be irresistible.
She picked up her brush and dustpan and set back to work clearing the hearth.
“You didn’t answer me,” he prodded and crouched down. His dreamy blue eyes met hers and the warm fragrance of his body drifted toward her. Furthermore, his pose…and the dark gap in the folds of his banyan were not conducive to a regular heartbeat.
She seized a quick glance at his face. His eyelids, droopy with sleep. His black hair, tousled. She licked her lower lip. “Didn’t I?”
She’d seen him wearing not a stitch when they were children and they’d swum together in the pond near his estate’s Roman folly. Three years older than she, he’d always seemed long of limb. As he’d grown taller and broader, he’d swum with his small clothes covering his essentials. Just as she’d worn her chemise. But water had clung to him and defined all she wished to see. No wonder she’d used the memory of his body as her model for her heroic ices. She’d touched him then as she carved, his shoulders, ribs and arms, his lean hips and strong thighs, the heavy masculine parts of him only his lover would ever caress. Her clients had ouued and ahhed over his perfection. She’d always grinned that they paid her handsomely for accosting him in this perfectly acceptable and professional fashion.
“Jess?” He lifted her chin. He sat in a rare ray of light in the dark room. His blue eyes, ever so sparkly, twinkled at her. The rascal, he knew he was a tormentor. “Did you?”
Had her wits scattered with the dust? What precisely had he asked? Sleep? Um. Had she? “I did, yes. I did sleep well.”
Still half awake herself, she searched for her answer. Then she narrowed her gaze on him. If he intended to undo her, he would fail. “The kitchen nook.”
“Were you warm?”
Not as much as I will be if your robe opens any wider. She wiggled her brows.