Victorian

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
Love story. Please let me know if it is worthy of becoming a novel.

Submitted: July 26, 2012

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Submitted: July 26, 2012

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“Out with you all.” With no moment’s hesitation, his orders are obeyed. As one, the few servants milling about, cleaning and such, and I scuttle for the thick, lacquered double doors. His moods have swung precariously before. Now, I wonder if the affliction is presenting itself once more. “Molly, stay.”

The command freezes my bones. All I can do is stand at attention, eyes to my hands, but focusing on Millie and Shawn willing the stubborn doors closed. My heels minutely rock on the luscious rug. This I race to stop, as I do with my heart, which thumps well into my ears.

Silence drops within the spaciousness of the room. Many moments pass, and it seems an eternity before I turn to him. In my periphery, his outline is blurrily visible; even so, my gaze has been nailed into the floorboards. “Is there something I can do for you, Master?” I wonder.

By God, I hope he needs nothing. Trembles wrack my form badly enough that I fear my legs will lose strength. Nervousness has never been a good acquaintance of mine. Should he dismiss me now, I will not calm for many an hour.

Master does nothing of the sort. “Look at me, Molly,” he commands. Honey laces his speech. This is not a request, despite the sweetness. As always, my obedience is primary. I do not care to remember the consequences of disobedience.

Though my teachings as a young child consisted partly of never looking directly at the master, I obey him. He lounges comfortably on a cushioned, velvet sofa. The Iliad lies open on the table before him, discarded almost instantaneously after Dee had fetched it for him.

Unable to heed my own warning, my vision grazes along his black-leather-clad legs and thin, muscled, and bare torso before ending at his dark eyes. Sweeps of black hair have slipped into his face. The rest collects just below his shoulders.

It is impossible to decipher his expression as it flicks over me.

“Good girl,” he praises lazily.

My heart ricochets inside of my ribs. I bite my lip, waiting. His eyes absorbing my body seem to leave a noticeable path. In fact, it feels as if he actually touches me, leaving me vulnerable, though he merely watches me.

“Come here,” Master says. I teeter on wobbly legs around the low table. As I do so, his legs uncross, and he straightens. “Sit.” His hands mold to my waist. He urges me to perch between his legs.

“Master, I do not think–” My reasoning is interrupted, as is my attempt to stand again. His knees press my thighs, his hands holding me still.

Silent gasps become my breath. Never before has he paid so much as an ounce of attention to me. Never before has he noticed, much less spoken to me like this. Now, not only do I find he has some sort of interest in me, but he has made me look into his eyes, is touching me. He should be doing nothing of the sort.

Yet, he is.

Close enough to my ear to potentially lick it, Master whispers, “You believe no ones notices when you watch me, do you not?”

Under his hands, I have stiffened considerably. How in the world has he noticed? Impossible. Nothing said reveals a lie, though. He is not merely assuming. Licking my dry lips, I murmur, “Yes.”

Whatever servant has tattled this secret to him will earn a mental guillotine on my part.

“I can feel it on my skin when you do. Like a pleasant burning.” Pause. “Do you dream of me?”

Easily, he has managed to inquire the one secret I wish to keep. No one knows the insides of my mind; I am safe in that aspect. Could they see into my thoughts, I would be punished severely.

“Tell me,” he orders softly.

“…Yes.” Many a thought of mine pertains to him, as do the majority of my dreams. Things scandalous to society, things Dee figures I do not know about. She thinks me too young, and a servant at that. “Yes, I do.”

Admission of this sends heat to my cheeks. I lower my head to conceal the red. Oh, how I wish I did not have to obey him completely.

“Would it disgust you to know that I dream of you?”

Surprise flits through my nerves. I shake my head, still inspecting my hands. Mercifully, Master cannot see my flaming face, as my back is to him, and my hair is like a curtain.

“Do not be embarrassed. I merely wondered.” Fingers touch my jaw. They turn my face to him. My corset restricts rotation of my hips. I am forced to turn my entire body. His long face is close to mine, and, though I lean away slightly, I cannot rid myself of his overwhelming proximity.

“Master,” I begin softly, “I mustn’t do this. If the servants…”

“I can handle the servants. I do own them, you know. Besides, what, exactly, are you doing?”

“I–I only meant that a man of your importance affiliating with a servant shall ruin your name. If you don’t mind me saying.” Regardless that they are bold words, my voice remains hardly above a whisper.

“My name shall not be ruined,” Master states. “Especially for affiliating with an attractive woman.”

“Woman?” The word slips before I can think.

“You are eighteen,” he replies. “And quite beautiful.”

At this, I dare another glance at him. Unattractively, my eyes stick to his. Nothing betrays that he is lying, if he is. Such boldness on my part would, inevitably, have me sent to the gallows or punished harshly. Here, now, Master permits it, welcomes it.

Hand cupping my cheek, he guides my face to his. Though my heart pounds to bursting, and my limbs shake imperceptibly, my eyes close.

His lips are soft against mine. After a moment, he kisses me again. Small pants escape my lungs at this. I return his kisses shyly. Never before have I kissed, much less with a man. Such a thing is intoxicating. Electricity underlies my skin. My bare shoulders tingle under his hands, as does my palm when it touches his chest tentatively at first, then more assured.

Opening his mouth slightly, his tongue traces my bottom lip. Encouragingly, I allow it to part my lips. He enters gratefully.

Master breaks away. Breath tickling my face, he says, “I should like very much to bed you.” At this, I freeze. “But, I understand such a thing is impossible at this moment. I will settle for second best.”

“What would second best be?” I inquire.

An answer is not given. Instead, I am bid to stand, watch as he does the same. Hands on my waist, he urges me around the couch.

Only when the realization rises that we are headed for his bed do I protest. “Master.” I turn to him the second he releases me. As the distance between us is hardly modest, I take a step backward. His high bed presses my back.

Interrupting me, he approaches. On either side of me, he braces his hands. Our bodies are a key’s breadth apart. “I told you I shall not bed you now, and I will keep my word. However, I did not say I will not use my bed when I touch you. And, I do very much wish to. Have your skin and lips against mine. Hold you in my arms.” Sweetly, he smoothes a lock of hair out of my face. “You want this, too, don’t you?”

Intently, I study his pale chest. This is the only place I can look and answer him truthfully. “Yes. Very much so.”

Stepping until out bodies are flush against one another, he slips his arms around me, tugs the strings of my corset with his fingers. His lips skim my forehead as he murmurs, “I want to see all of you.”

I do not respond except to lean into him and shut my eyes.

Despite the nervousness threaded into my limbs, I allow Master’s deft fingers to work. Soon, my dress pools around my feet. Chills flit over me, over my unconcealed body. Goose bumps rise on my arms. I make to cover myself, but he takes my wrists. As I watch, his eyes trail hungrily along my curves.

The only exposure I have endured amongst anyone is when bathing with Dee and the other servant-women. Then, we merely avoid eye contact and proceed with our task.

None have watched me as avidly, as thoroughly as my master does now. Indescribable emotions clog my pours. Most prominently sits what I believe is lust.

“Climb onto my bed,” Master tells me.

Intensely aware of my movements as I do so, I turn and lift myself onto his soft mattress, crawl to the exact middle. Here, I face him.

Once he has joined me, he strokes from my temple to my jaw. Our eyes hew together; I am captivated. In my periphery, I see, as well as feel, his palms on my knees. They are guided from concealing me to spread in a diamond shape.

Master kisses me slowly, drawing it out. Tingles erupt where he grasps my hip with long fingers. He breaks away somewhat, enough to lean against the many pillows at the head of his bed. Tugging my wrist, he guides me once more to sit between his legs.

“Such an odd place for a birthmark,” he says. One of his nails traces a darkened patch of flesh on the instep of my left breast. Because of this, my bottom lip catches between my teeth. I almost cannot control myself.

My fingers skim his as I mean to touch the mark myself. “It’s repulsive.”

“Never. In fact,” Master continues, hand sliding to the base of my spine, arching my back, “it is quite uniquely beautiful.” With his face between my breasts, he minutely licks the subject of conversation.

“This is new to me,” I admit.

“The birthmark?”

Unable to convey my meaning without embarrassing myself, I allow my hand to draw a line from his collarbone to the top of his trousers. A smile lifts the corners of my mouth as he shivers. “This. Being exposed to a man, allowing him to touch me. I’m nervous.” To say the least.

“I will not do anything to you that you don’t wish me to.” Warmly, he cups my cheek, and I meet his gaze. His eyes are a deep, ocean blue. “Will giving you my word assure you?”

It is impossible to reject him, even did I want to. “Yes, Master.”

“Molly.” Humor lines his voice. Gathering me to his chest, enfolding me cozily within his arms and legs, he murmurs, “When we are alone, there is no need to call me Master.”

“What shall I call you?”

Vibrations erupt under my cheek as he chuckles. “My name, perhaps?” Pause. “You do know it, don’t you?”

“James. What kind of servant would I be, did I not know your name?”

“A moderately worthless one.” My heart skips a beat, as if the description is directly meant for me.

Silence collects. Inside my mind, time flashes by.

“Are there no other girls…other women?” I finally inquire. “More attractive, wealthier. Free?”

“I could free you.”

Surprise jolts me. “You and I both know it is not that simple,” I point out. “I would have no home. I already have no money, no job, no family. Besides, I have never been free; your father was kind enough to buy me as young as I was. I’m not worth anything.”

Nudging my face up with his nose, he lightly takes my lips with his. “You are worth more than you give yourself credit for. Yes, my father was kind enough to buy you for me. Yes, you seem to have practically nothing; I do not even pay you to work. Even so, you must understand that, by freeing you, I can give you a new start. Something worthwhile.”

“How so?”

Wrapping his arms around my waist, catching my breath as one brushes the bottom of my breasts, he says, “I will provide for you. Much as I do now, though also more intimately. You will still live here, with me, and have the best of everything.”

“You have thought it through.”

“Thoroughly.”

Unable to find something to say, I merely quiet myself. Conspicuously, my body fits itself more firmly into him. I close my eyes. My forehead presses into the side of his neck.

“You know next to nothing about me,” I eventually say. “Nothing personal, at least.”

“Enlighten me.”

“…It does not matter.”

“Why not? Does freedom mean nothing to you? I’m offering a better life for you. Why do you refuse it?”

“My master is angry with me,” I whisper. “What shall I do to calm you?”

“Tell me the one thing you want most right now.”

Moments pass before the ability to speak arises. When it has, I bring myself close to his ear, murmur, “James.”

In a flash, he has vacated himself from behind me. Straddling my hips with black leather-clad thighs, James leans over me, having pressed me to lie down. His hands brace by either side of my head. Black hair twines with my own orange locks and tickles my face. Our eyes meet. Obvious want fills his. “You can have me any time,” he tells me.

A knock on the bedroom door rings through the room. Instantly noted is when I freeze. I mean to rise, to dress myself or hide, but James grasps my shoulders tenderly. “Don’t be frightened, Molly,” he says. “Everything is fine. Do you trust me?”

Fear shoots into me. Nothing good will come from being seen like this…with my master. No matter who is behind the door, knowledge of me on James’ bed, naked, will spread like mold. None of the servants will look at me the same way.

With one caress of his fingers across my hairline, James manages to soothe me. I nod. “I trust you.” Though I’m not entirely sure why.

He pulls back the blankets covering his bed. I allow him to tuck me under them, kiss my forehead.

Another knock, more persistent, raps the door.

“Enter,” James commands.

“The tea you requested,” a voice I infer is Mikhail’s drones. James perches before me, blocking the door, blocking the servant from me, and vice versa. Mostly. He cannot see my face, but my form under the silky blankets is prominent. The heart in my chest flutters like a hummingbird.

“Set it on the table there. Then you may go.” James’ voice has closed off once again. Monotone inflections pierce the air. It is as if his heart is back to stone, per usual. I do not understand. Just moments ago he had spoken gently to me, revealed that he can truly feel emotion. Now, locked as he is, a want for him to open up again rises in me.

Silence consumes the room.

“What do you want?” James demands. Obviously, Mikhail has yet to leave.

“Well, Master, if I may…” Mikhail trails off nervously, as is habit for him. Clearing his throat, he continues, “One of the servants, Dee, asked me to remind Molly that her chores have yet to be completed.”

“Let Dee know that Molly is to be staying with me tonight. Shawn may complete the unfinished chores. Also, prepare supper for two and bring it here.”

“Six o’clock, as usual?”

“Yes. Go.”

The door clips shut with finality.

“In five minutes, he will have told the entire house,” I state.

“Told them what?” James asks, turning back, stretching out beside me. Warming my chest is his unguarded voice and expression. I smile diminutively at him, become giddy when he returns with his own.

“That he has seen me in your bed. That I am likely naked, having just been bedded by the master of the manor.” Heat sifts into my cheeks at my words. “Telling him I will stay the night with you does not help matters.”

“Will they believe we are lovers?”

If I was embarrassed a few seconds ago, it is nothing near this. Speech has abandoned me. There is only one escape route from his question. I duck under the covers, hold tightly to them to prevent them from coming loose.

Hardly a second is taken for the blankets to be jerked to the end of the bed. This sudden rush of air encourages me to curl into a ball, bring my knees to my chest and cover my face with my hands.

“Molly, you won’t answer me?”

My response is muffled into my hands.

“What was that?” he persists. Long fingers stroke my side, mesmerizing.

“Yes. They will believe we are lovers.”

James takes my wrists. “Disregard what they will think; I want you to stay with me tonight.”

Unable to resist, I say, “You always get what you want.”

“Yes.”

“Then I suppose I have no choice. I shall be forced to remain here.”

A most god-like pout forms his lips. “Forced? I believe not. More like, persuaded.”

“And how is that, pray tell?” Lying on my back, I peer up at him dubiously.

His eyes narrow. One dark eyebrow lifts. Sighing, he says, “I didn’t want to succumb to this, but I see now that there is no other way.” Despite my questions, despite that I attempt to move out of his reach, he somehow manages to lift me bodily in his arms and stand.

“Stop resisting,” he tells me. “You will love me for this.”

Though I wait a second to see if he will correct himself, revise his last sentence, in the end he does nothing of the sort. Does he even realize his mistake?

Gray marble freezes my bare feet as I am set down.

“What are we doing in here?” I ask. The familiarly large glass windows lining the walls unsettle me before I remember we are on the fourth story, high enough that no one can peer in to sneak.

James turns the brass knobs of the largest claw-footed bathtub I have ever had to clean. Many hours have been put into assuring no scum lives anywhere on that porcelain. In no time at all, steaming water fills it.

“You’re letting me bathe?” Confusion grips me, but I accept the hand he offers.

“Something of the sort,” he replies.

Heaven appears when I step into the tub. When I sit, the water rises to my shoulders. Most of my hair is drenched now; I dunk my head under, savoring this. When I surface and have wiped my eyes, I look at James.

Shielded expressions greet me. “May I join you?” he asks.

“Yes,” I reply. My response is much more assured than I actually am.

Suddenly, a hangnail on my right pinkie becomes paramount. Though I do not take even a glance anywhere else, my ears register fabric sliding against skin.

Ripples lap the edges of the tub as James lowers himself in beside me. If I look over now, I know what I will see. Something that has overtaken my mind numerous times just thinking about. More than merely seeing my master shirtless.

Tentatively, his hand takes my own. Looking nowhere else, I inspect his face. Encouragement rests on the surface, with curiosity at how I will proceed underlying it.

Courage breathes through me. I scoot over, setting myself before him. His toes brush my knees. As I lean toward him, his fingers run up my arms and grasp my shoulders, urging me until our faces nearly meet. Blurs overcome his face. I close my eyes.

Breath tickling my nose, James assumes, “You’ve never seen a man unclothed before.”

“No.”

“But you have thought about it.”

Having braced my hands on his chest, he feels exactly when my fingers clench, answering him even as I refrain.

Fingers pressing the underside of my chin encourage me to open my eyes. “How well do you trust me?” James inquires. “I do not wish to frighten you or force you into something you do not want. If you ask me to, I will get out of this tub and redress. It’s one thing I would hate to do, but I want you to trust me completely.”

“Did I not trust you completely, I would not have let you undress me,” I state. “Nor would I have consented to you…joining me here.”

A grin reveals his two rows of white teeth. “Good.” As his hands roam down my sides, grip the bottoms of my thighs, as he maneuvers me to straddle him, he wonders, “Do you remember the day Father bought you?”

Air catches in my lungs. Not because of the question, but because of a large bump pressing firmly between my legs. Bitty throbs begin there. Frantic, I ignore it. “How could I not? It was the best day of my life.”

“Explain.”

“To a girl of seven, especially considering my past, Gredding Manor is like Heaven. I was given a new start. A bed, food, clothes.”

“I don’t know of your life before buying you. What was it like?”

Chains, pains, starvation, solitude. “Please, it hurts to talk about.”

“Will you tell me one day?”

“Perhaps,” I allow. “Once I am certain I’m more than your play thing.”

Under me, his body clenches. Fear threads into my nerves; I almost regret my words–almost. Though his affliction had escaped my mind, I must know I am not disposable. That I am not being used for his wants and nothing more.

Fury emanates from him. “Why do you think yourself my play thing?”

The hole has already been dug. “You paid me no mind until today. You know nothing about me; you seem to only want my body. Plus, I am your servant. Something has changed, and I cannot see what it is.”

Silence reigns. Neither of us moves. Our eyes refuse to leave each other’s. We seem to be breathing statues.

Finally, when I can stand it no longer, I push away. As I do so, the arms around my waist tighten. They cage me. Even had I thought of it, I could not have broken away. Instead, I remain in his grasp. It is impossible to oppose him physically.

“You are not–will never be–my play thing,” James begins slowly. “Should you become another man’s play thing, I will kill him, and throw you into the streets for disgracing yourself.

“I pay you much more mind than you’ve noticed,” he persists. “How can I not? You have been my personal servant for eleven years. I alone notice how you fret over things not in their proper place, how you seclude yourself when danger arises.” His fingers, wrinkled by the water, tug a lock of my damp hair. “How you leave your hair down even in the middle of summer. You work barefoot, and wear an odd assortment of garments, though I have specifically ordered every servant to wear a uniform.” Pause. “Only you stay to calm me when my affliction presents itself.”

“I’m the only one who knows how to calm you,” I protest.

“You’re the only one who can calm me,” James corrects. “Now, tell me, how are you my play thing?”

Lowering my eyes, I admit, “It seems I am not.”

“Believe it.” Kissing my lips sweetly, he smoothes my mental ruffles. “Come. The water’s turning cold.”

When we have dried ourselves and drained the tub, James dresses the lower half of his body, then urges me, covered in a towel, into his bedroom. Here, he waits until I slip on only a dress from my entire ensemble. Though I love corsets, the many scarves I tie about my waist, the want to don it all escapes me.

“Along with dressing oddly,” James says, watching me, “you reveal enough skin for society to dub you as scandalous.”

“Because I don’t cover my neck, arms, and ankles, as is considered ‘proper’?” Shaking my head, I explain, “I do not wish to fit into standards. Life would be boring was there nothing to spice it up.”

“You would rather be an outcast?”

“For being a servant, I am already an outcast. But, even if I was the wealthiest, most powerful woman in Europe, I would not change. Women, allegedly, are merely suited for marriage and childbirth; from the start, we are told how to dress, how to act, how to accommodate for a husband. I do not wish to be like that.” Lowering my eyes, I admit, “I’m rambling.”

“On the contrary,” James protests, taking my hand and guiding me to his velvet couch, “you are proving a point.” Sitting himself, then leaning against the couch’s arm, he tugs me down beside him, between the back and him. “I’m attracted to a woman who can think for herself.”

With a smile, I say, “You aren’t much different from me.”

“How is this?”

“You are infatuated with wearing black,” I begin. “Even compared to most men, you are extremely educated. And, your interests…are more gruesome.” When he gives me a skeptical look, I say, “Do not delude yourself; I’ve read quite a few of the books in your library.”

“Which is off-limits to all,” James reminds me.

Laying my head on his chest, I close my eyes, listen to his breaths. “Yes.”

Time passes quickly. With James’ fingers threading rhythmically through my hair, I begin to feel drowsy. Behind closed lids, the sunlight filtering into the room wanes until stretched shadows appear on the wood floor.

“Molly?” James finally asks.

“Yes?”

“Tell me why you don’t wish to be free.”

For a moment, I am quiet. “It isn’t that I don’t want to be free, as the fact that who I am will change in the servants’ eyes. The second you sign my papers, the second I am free, I will be considered better than Dee, than Millie–my friends.”

“You will still see them, talk to them. Nothing has to change.”

“A lot will change,” I contradict. “My status will no longer be a servant. I shall not be in their caste. Should I tell them to do something, they could not disobey me. That power is not what I want.”

James sits up, as do I. Searching my eyes, he says, “We can figure it out, Molly. I want you with me–free. If you are afraid of conforming to society, don’t be. You will be able to do whatever you want; I’ll not hold you back. I only want you as you are.”

Uncertain, I take his hand. His long fingers are an odd mixture of rough and soft as they skim mine. Watching intently, I run my thumb along one of his veins. “Why are you asking my permission? At this moment, you could sign the papers and free me.”

“For one reason.” Cupping my cheek in his palm, he raises my face. His eyes are gentle, serious. The want to melt into him rises. I almost cannot remain seated. “By consenting to being freed, you also consent to living with me.” Pause. “Marrying me.”

The most I can manage is to stare dumbly at him. When, somehow, I do speak, I say, “Eleven years of silence toward me, and now you pay me mind. Do you realize exactly how confusing this is?”

“More than I can dream. But, think of it. We know each other much more thoroughly than before thought. You even admitted to dreaming of me as I do you. Does that mean nothing?”

“It means so much,” I admit. “Only…I need to think.”

Without a word, James scoops me into his arms. “I want you so much. And, I understand I seem rash right now. It has taken this long for these past few hours to finally pan out. Honestly, I have wanted it to happen for years.”

Slowing himself with some effort, he continues, “I am a confusing man, I admit. Regardless, I know what I want.”

“You always get what you want,” I remind him.

“At this point, I would like my want to get what she wants.”

We sit together, and I debate. Wars rage in my mind, battles for and against the final decision. Deliberately hidden as it is, time is taken to unravel it. Even when it is bared, I do not take it, instead contend with every doubt I have.

Squeezing my eyes shut, then looking up, I meet his. “I want to watch you sign the papers,” I negotiate.

Hardly a minute later, James has lit three candles, searched manically through assorted, crinkling papers to find mine. As he perches at his mahogany desk and uncorks an inkwell, I, hand on the back of his chair, lean over his shoulder. A lock of my hair slips over his shoulder before I tuck it behind my ear.

Hesitation pauses him. Turning to me, he takes my waist, sits me on his lap. Thumb and forefinger gripping my chin in the lightest of touches, he scrutinizes me. “Promise me this is what you want–truly, and that I am not merely persuading you.”

Surprise fills him as my lips meet his slowly, reassuring, once, twice. “I choose this,” I whisper.

With deliberate strokes, James signs off my papers.

Immediately, he enfolds me in a suffocating embrace, burying his face in my neck, more open than ever before. Such a show of abandon shocks me, then comforts me.

“You’re free, love,” he says.


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