Yes, I am finally getting back to this story! For those of you who need a refresher, start here.
Bette had a bit of a wild side. Dating Declan O’Hara had been part of the rebellion that made her parents wince. He was military, Irish and not adverse to giving Bette full rein on her fantasies. Now she was heading north by train to Burleigh House. Declan had found her a position as a private secretary to Lord Duncan, one of Declan’s military mates. Her mother had been scandalized that she’d accept such a position so far from London. Her father had stated that he didn’t trust any military man, let alone one in the S.A.S. Bette had told them both where to get off, packed her case and left Thursday morning.
The train arrived at a station that hadn’t changed in ages. One of the few that hadn’t been bombed during the war. Bette gathered her case and walked through the station and out to the curb, looking for a cab. Nothing. The only thing in sight was a horse and cart.
“Miss? Heading ta Burleigh House?”
Bette turned to look at the groom. “Yes.”
“I’m here ta pick you up.” He hopped down, took her case and then helped her into the cart.
The seat was hard and the road bumpy. Bette felt as if her teeth would rattle out of her head. Granted, the countryside was beautiful. The lane up to the mansion threaded between towering poplars. She was just beginning to get cold when Burleigh House appeared on the right. It was a mixture of Tudor, English Baroque and Palladian. The grounds went on forever, and reminded her of an Austen or Bronte novel. The groom stopped the cart in front of a side entrance. He helped her out, put her case on the ground and knocked on the door before heading off to the stables.
“New secretary?” a voice asked behind Bette.
“Yes.” She’d turned to look out across the grounds and hadn’t noticed the door open. The woman who spoke was slight, and wore an air of authority as neatly as she did the grey sweater.
“Well, I’m Betsy, the housekeeper.” The woman held out her hand, and shook Bette’s with a firm grip. “Come with me and I’ll show you to your room.”
Bette followed Betsy through a maze of corridors, through the ‘downstairs’ of the great house and then up the servants staircase to the attic level of the house. Betsy stopped in front of a door, opened it with a key and then entered.
“This will be your room. You are in the women’s dorm. There is an emergency exit through the men’s dorm, but I wouldn’t advise your use of it. Most of Lord Duncan’s menservants are military, and not of the sort to put up with women. Use the stairs we came up and all will be fine. This house has rules, and they must be observed.”
Bette nodded. She looked around and found a twin bed covered with quilts, a small desk, chair, dresser and wash basin. The window looked out over the gardens. She sat her case down and turned to Betsy. “When will I meet his lordship? And when will I start work?”
“Now. I’m to take you to him as soon as you’re settled. Do you want to unpack now, or after dinner?”
Bette looked around. She knew it wouldn’t take her long to unpack, but learning this house which reminded her of of Thornfield Hall, would take a while. “I’ll go with you now.”
Betsy smiled, gave Bette her key and the two of them headed down the stairs. They passed doors with different colored center panels. When they came to the green one, Betsy pushed through and they were in a huge entrance hall. “This is the main entrance. You’ll find himself’s office this way.” Betsy headed off to the left past the huge portraits of two men and a woman. At the third doorway, she unlocked another door. “This will be your office. His is just through here.”
Bette followed Betsy across the masculine office to a small door. Betsy knocked and a voice within called for them to enter. The first thing that Bette noticed was the faint smell of sweet lime. As she stepped out from behind Betsy as she was introduced she noticed that Lord Duncan was in full military uniform. He was smaller than she expected, and she bit her tongue in an attempt not to smile.
“Ah, Bette, so nice to meet you at last. Declan has sung your praises until I’m not sure whether to believe him or not.” His hand grasped hers in a grip so firm that she almost winced.
“Pleased to meet you Lord Duncan,” Bette said, dipping with a slight curtsey. She tried not to rub her hand as he released it.
James smiled. “We aren’t formal here. No doffing of caps or tugging of forelocks here. Have a seat while Betsy brings us some tea. We need to get acquainted.” He gestured towards two leather chairs flanking a small fireplace.
An hour later, Bette was feeling a bit more relaxed. They had discussed her duties and the ‘rules’ of the house. During the week, the military used the manse and grounds as a training station. On the weekends, there were family parties. Saturdays were hers to spend as she pleased. She would eat with the servants downstairs, but on occasion would be required to attend functions with Lord Duncan. She was dismissed to get accustomed to her office and then to explore the manse with a map provided by Betsy. Any area in green, blue or brown was open. Any area in orange was restricted, and those areas listed in red were forbidden. Bette smiled at this and wondered just what was so dangerous. She headed off down the hall to see just how lost she could get before tea.
James smiled as Bette left. This weekend would be calm. No kink, just family. Next weekend though would be a full house with plenty of fun. He’d let Bette get settled and then see just what kind of woman she was. He picked up the phone and dialed Declan’s number to let him know that the trap was set.