~MISS MILLIE’S GROOM~
By Catherine E. Chapman
Published by Catherine E. Chapman at Smashwords
Copyright 2017 Catherine E. Chapman
Smashwords Edition, License Notes
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Also by the author
All the Trimmings
The Beacon Singer
The Family Tree
The Hangar Dance
The Laird’s Right-Hand Lady
The Office Party
Three Medieval Romances
I assure you, if the horse could have been saved we would have saved
“You could have saved it – you should have! Nothing should have
been done without my consent–”
“But my dear, the horse was in agony. To have delayed in taking
action would’ve been sheer cruelty–”
“I ask you again, Father, who fired the shot?”
Sir Randolph Awbridge remained reticent, saying calmly, “It makes
no odds Millie–”
“I demand to know,” the girl persisted, adding, “If you don’t
tell me, one of the housemaids will,” when her father’s silence
had lasted too long.
Randolph looked upon his daughter forlornly. “It was Ryan–”
“The stable lad!”
“Now, Millicent, do not react rashly. The boy only acted upon my
orders!” But by the time Randolph had finished his speech, the
girl had fled from the drawing room, bound for the door. She was now
out of earshot and Randolph knew there was no point in pursuing her.
* * *
Awbridge ran along the long corridor of Glassnest Hall until she
reached the kitchens. Narrowly avoiding a collision with Effie, the
housemaid, she tore through the scullery and headed for the back door
of the grand house. She ran through the stable yard, where a
fleeting glimpse of the empty stall that had been her own beloved
Charger’s home brought a tear to her eye and reminded her of her
purpose. She sped up; she had an account to settle.
Beyond the yard, Millie followed the track that meandered into the
woodland of the estate. There, she knew, in a small hovel of a
house, Ryan O’Flynn resided with his grandmother. Ryan, whom her
father had brought back with him from a trip to Ireland some ten
years ago, when she herself had just been old enough to hold still a
memory of the small, pale, blonde boy.
“Whatever were you thinking, Randolph?” her mother had complained
when the boy had been taken away to be washed and more suitably
“He was an orphan. They had no place for him on the estate where I
was staying. He’s such an endearing little chap and has a
wonderful way with horses. He’ll make a fine stable lad.”
Amelia Awbridge had laughed incredulously at the suggestion.
“Randolph, the boy is a runt. You say he’s nine but he’s
barely any bigger than Millie–”
“With a good diet, he’ll grow strong and if he stays short then
he’ll no doubt make a decent jockey. That boy’s an investment,
Amelia, you mark my words.”
But he hadn’t stayed short, Millie reflected with satisfaction as
she picked her way along the woodland track. Ryan was now
approaching six foot – far too tall to be a jockey. However, to
Millie’s chagrin, this fact didn’t seem to impede her father’s
affection for him.
Millie had reached the cottage. She walked up to the door and banged
on it three times with her clenched fist. When there wasn’t an
instant response to her knock, she thumped her fist against the old
wooden door again, perversely glad at the pain the action caused her:
it just made her feel angrier, which must be good.
The door opened. “What on earth are you doing? The old lady’s
just got off to sleep.”
“How dare you take that tone with me. I shall be telling my
Ryan stepped outside the house and closed the door after him. “Will
you keep your voice down, young lady,” he said, doubly aggrieved,
first by her rudeness and then by her indignation at his response.
“And will you be telling Sir Randolph that you came round here
causing trouble, upsetting my ailing grandmother?”
Ryan stood close to Millie, who had been reluctant to give up her
post on the doorstep. He towered over her, trying to edge her away
from the threshold but finding her resistant.
“Don’t you touch me,” Millie cautioned when she found that her
refusal to budge had caused them to make contact.
“Believe me, Miss Millicent, I have no desire to do any such
“You killed my horse – you shot Charger dead,” she said,
pushing the stable lad back against the door but discovering that her
force was futile against his strength and stature.
“There was nothing else could have been done, Miss Millie.”
“Yes there was. He needn’t have died,” she protested, her face
erupting into tears and her fists now beating against Ryan’s chest.
She found that they were swiftly arrested by firm grasping hands.
Defeated, Millie bawled into the rough shirt of indistinct colour
that she saw in front of her. To her surprise, she soon felt the
sensation of those strong hands that had apprehended her, stroking
her hair and caressing her shoulder, and, in response, Millie found
her own arms clinging to the detested horse-murderer.
“There, there, Miss Millicent,” he said, seeming only to remember
their respective positions upon utterance of her name.
Millie felt Ryan withdraw from the embrace. She looked up from his
chest and into his blue eyes, which she now realised portrayed fear.
The fearless Irish lad, who had not balked at confronting her on his
doorstep, was fearful, she could tell, that his display of affection
would be relayed to her father. He stood awkwardly, apart from her
now, his arms folded. “I’m sorry Miss,” he said, raising his
hand to brush a blonde curl from his face.
Millie feared he might tug his forelock. “No, I’m sorry, Ryan,”
she hastened. “I’ve behaved like a child. Of course you had no
choice but to do as my father instructed.”
“It was for the best, Miss Millie,” Ryan said quietly.
She realised he wasn’t going to look at her again.
“I’m sorry I disturbed you – and your grandmother. Please
forgive me and give her my regards,” Millie said, turning,
reluctantly, to leave him in peace.
As she walked away from the cottage Millie heard the front door close
shut. She turned and gazed at the humble dwelling, not caring
whether he saw her do it.
Something had changed today, Millicent knew. The loss of Charger had
seemed unbearable. Unbearable, that was, until she’d felt Ryan’s
arms about her; until some stronger bond of affection had been
awakened by his tenderness.
Millie turned back and continued on to the big house, feeling the
strangest of sensations. If only it were possible to capture that
one perfect moment when Ryan had held her like it was possible for
them to behave like that towards one another all the time. If only.
Because, from the look on his face, she knew he wasn’t going to do
And all Millie could think about for the rest of that day was Ryan.
Nobody worried about the fact that she cried all night because
everybody thought she was crying about the horse.
I don’t find it easy to talk about these things. It’s at times
like this when I lack the necessary sensibilities of a mother…”
Why, Millie pondered, could her father never just say, “It’s now
that I miss your mother.” He managed always, somehow, to negotiate
awkwardly around the fact of her mother’s death.
“I’ve asked your Aunt Rose to come and stay with us for the
duration of the house party, with the intention that she will act as
something of a chaperon towards you.”
“It’s quite unnecessary, Papa–”
“On the contrary, my dear, I think at this juncture in your life a
chaperon is quite necessary.” He paused. “You know, of
course, that Mr Windham is among the guests.”
Millicent squirmed at the mention of his name. “Father, I believe
I have explained before that I do not wish to look upon Benjamin
Windham as a suitor–”
“But my dear you do not know the young man. He has prospects,
“He has not breeding,” Millie was quick to correct.
“He has far better prospects than many with far better breeding,
that’s the point, my girl. And he has expressed a keen interest in
“So I would ask that, under the watchful eye of your Aunt Rose, you
seek to become acquainted with Mr Benjamin Windham whilst he is
staying in our home. I am confident that, upon better acquaintance
with that young man, you will find him a most agreeable suitor,
Millie could see that opposition was futile. The house party was all
arranged and, moreover, her father’s mind was made up. There was
nothing to be done but go along with it.
* * *
at the long dining table, opposite her Aunt Rose. Beside her sat Ben
Windham. Having tried fruitlessly to engage Millie in conversation,
he had now turned his attention to Miss Arabella Price, who was
seated to his right. This transfer of interest had not escaped the
notice of Aunt Rose, who now shot Millie piercing glances of
The house party was rapidly becoming too much for Millicent.
Initially she’d tried to be agreeable and accommodating towards Mr
Windham but as soon as she had given him any encouragement, he had
overstepped the mark and tried to take advantage.
“He asked to kiss me,” Millie had complained to Aunt Rose, in the
belief that the grand dame would surely see how inappropriate the
request had been.
But Rose had only laughed, saying scornfully, “With the signals
your father has been giving him, I’m surprised he asked so little.”
“It’s not so little,” Millie had insisted.
“Granted, Millicent, in my day such a request may have been viewed
as precocious but times are changing, girl,” was all her aunt had
replied. Millie interpreted this to mean that her chaperon thought
she should grant Mr Windham his wish. But she wouldn’t.
“I’m nipping out for a breath of fresh air, Aunt Rose,” Millie
said across the table, rising and vacating her seat before Aunt Rose
had a chance to detain her.
Millie wandered to the back of the house and through the busy
kitchens, dodging the servants who scurried in the opposite direction
to serve the dinner of many courses.
“You shouldn’t be in here, Miss,” young Effie complained, as
Millie walked through the scullery, bound for the back door, “You’ll
spoil your new dress.”
But Millie just smiled blithely at the girl and carried on. She
cared nothing for the dress.
When she was out in the stable yard, Millie looked about but could
see no one; all the staff had been called into the house to help with
dinner, it seemed. But then she spied lamplight from the furthest
stall. She headed for it.
It was as Millicent had hoped. Of course, Ryan had managed to resist
the call to wait on the gentry for the evening. Millie leant against
the stable door, hoping the fabric of her dress would catch on it and
be ripped to shreds. He was examining the hooves of her father’s
favourite stallion. He had his back to her. She smiled to witness
his broad shoulders, his shirtsleeves rolled up, as, bent over, he
scraped at the horse’s hoof.
It was not until Ryan set the hoof back down and went to examine the
next one, that, from the corner of his eye, he noticed Millie. He
started. “I didn’t see you there, Miss Millicent,” he said.
Millie just smiled at him and, pushing open the stable door, entered
“That’s a pretty dress,” Ryan observed. “Be careful you
don’t get it dirty in here.”
“You too!” Millie complained.
“Sorry?” Ryan asked.
“I’ve already been cautioned by Effie,” Millie explained.
“Well, you should be careful,” Ryan said.
“It’s just a dress,” Millie replied dismissively.
“But you look beautiful in it,” Ryan continued, adding
involuntarily, “You look like a woman.” Immediately he said it,
he regretted his foolish admission.
The dress was full-length, white and lacy; chosen by Millie’s
father, on the advice of Aunt Rose, no doubt. The dress was, Millie
suspected, intended to make her look like a bride.
“What are you doing?” Millie asked Ryan.
“Checking Wellington over before Sir Randolph’s hunt tomorrow.”
“Is he fit?”
“He’s due a trip to the farrier. That’s why I’m concerned.”
“Aren’t you clever, Ryan. It’s probably the only excuse Daddy
would accept to get you out of serving tonight.”
Ryan laughed dismissively but didn’t deny her suggestion.
“You hate all that, don’t you – all that ceremony,” Millie
“I just like working with horses,” Ryan returned simply.
“What do you think of Mr Windham?” Millie found it irresistible
“Windham? I’m not sure which of the gents you mean. They all
seem much of a muchness to me,” Ryan replied casually, to Millie’s
“Mr Windham has asked me to kiss him,” Millie divulged rashly.
Ryan laughed rather nervously. “Have you been drinking Champagne,
“Buckets of it,” she replied.
Ryan laughed again.
“You’d hate that as well,” Millie observed.
“I’ve never tasted it–”
“You don’t want to; you’d hate it.”
During the discussion, Millie had closed in on Ryan, whilst he had
attempted, somewhat vainly, to continue inspecting Wellington’s
“What would you think if I asked you to kiss me?”
Millie blurted over Ryan’s lowered head.
At that, he dropped Wellington’s leg and stood upright.
“You’d think it quite rude, wouldn’t you?” Millie pursued.
Ryan’s expression animated, he replied, “It’s a dilemma I’m
unlikely to face, Miss.”
“But why?” Millie asked plainly. “If Benjamin Windham can ask
it of me, why shouldn’t I ask it of you?”
Ryan’s amusement subsided. He looked at Millie intently. “Please
don’t play games with me, Miss Millicent. I think you’ve just
had too much to drink tonight.”
“But I haven’t, Ryan – and I’m not.”
Millie edged forward and pressed her fingers gently against Ryan’s
strong, broad chest, recalling how she had buried her head in it on
the day he’d shot Charger. “If Benjamin Windham –for whom I
care so little– can ask it of me, then why shouldn’t I ask it of
you, Ryan? You, for whom I care a lot,” she qualified unguardedly,
looking up into his eyes.
With his expression still so very serious, Ryan leant forward and,
very gently, placed a kiss on Millie’s brow. “I think you should
get back to your party now, Miss,” he said.
But Millie leapt to embrace Ryan, demanding, “Hold me.”
“I can’t Miss Millie,” Ryan replied, drawing himself upright to
escape her grasp and holding his own arms apart.
“Why?” she complained.
“For one thing, my hands are filthy and I’d spoil your dress and,
for another, your father would have me hanged if he found out,”
Ryan explained, trying to remain light-hearted in tone and convince
himself it was just the Champagne talking.
“Then kiss me properly,” Millie insisted, “on the lips. Kiss
me properly and I’ll leave you in peace. We’re quite alone;
nobody need ever know,” she added.
“You promise?” he said, looking down at Millie and involuntarily
smiling into her eyes.
“I promise,” she said.
And so he kissed her. Not a transient peck but a lingering kiss that
left an imprint on Millie for the rest of the evening and beyond.
The soft warmth of his lips; the gentle pressure he exerted on her
own lips, and how he stood still, his arms still free of Millie, but
didn’t resist her efforts to press the blasted dress against him
and soil it with his stable-grime.
When he finally ceased Millie just stood before him, speechless.
“We had an agreement,” Ryan said softly but firmly.
“I know,” she replied in a whisper, reluctant to leave his side.
“Thank you, Ryan,” Millie said humbly before taking leave of him.
“It was my pleasure, Miss Millie,” the stable lad replied, trying
hard to stifle any elation he was feeling in the aftermath of their
Back inside and onto a sweet course of Baked Alaska that Millie was
glad she hadn’t missed, Aunt Rose looked upon the girl dubiously
and announced, “You took your time.”
“It’s this dress, Aunt Rose,” Millie responded immediately.
“It’s hell. I went to the powder room and had a devil of a time
adjusting it once I was done.”
Aunt Rose raised her eyebrows at this disclosure and, out of earshot
of Benjamin Windham, cautioned, “Millicent, don’t talk so or you
will never make a society wife.”
Millie smiled sweetly at her chaperon, took a mouthful of the pudding
and savoured the taste of the sugary meringue and the sensation of
the cool ice cream slipping down her throat. Downing a sip of the
sweetest dessert wine, Millie registered Aunt Rose’s disapproval of
what had, by Millie’s standards, been a considerable intake of wine
How marvellous! She’d only really drunk the wine to stave off the
boredom of a dinner sat next to Ben Windham but it had given her the
courage to approach Ryan.
And so, triumphing over adversity, Millie had resisted a kiss from a
man she disdained and solicited one from a man she truly admired.
In Millie’s small and orchestrated world, this was an estimable
victory: her first kiss, delivered by the man she’d chosen,
rather than one who’d been selected for her.
morning after the fine dinner, Glassnest Hall was abuzz with
preparations for Sir Randolph’s hunt. Millie’s absence was first
detected at breakfast but it wasn’t long before Effie approached
Sir Randolph, telling him that his daughter sent her apologies but
was afflicted with a migraine and so wouldn’t be joining the hunt
that morning. Upon overhearing this disclosure, Aunt Rose rolled her
Millie didn’t emerge from her room, on the top flight and in the
furthest recess of the vast house, until she had watched –from the
corner of her window– the horses depart from the courtyard, hounds
swarming about their hooves as they set off.
Once the hunt was underway, Ben Windham was no longer a threat to her
peace of mind. Millie sensed there would be a nip in the air and so,
pulling on a cape, she quitted the bedchamber and, taking the
least-trafficked route through the house, emerged into the crisp,
Almost against reason, Millie headed straight for the stables, where
she found a group of menservants taking advantage of the fact that
the houseguests were now occupied for some time. Millie heard
throats being cleared as her presence was detected. A couple of the
young men instinctively threw down their cigarettes and stubbed them
out with their feet. Millie felt a peculiar rush of power and had to
stifle a smile. “Good morning, John,” she said brightly to the
most senior man, “I wonder if you can tell me where Ryan O’Flynn
“I believe you may find him in the barn Miss,” came the response
from John, along with a few muffled chuckles from the other men.
A couple of minutes later, upon entering the barn, Millie soon
discovered the source of the men’s amusement. Ryan lay, on a
blanket spread out at the base of a stack of hay, sound asleep.
Loitering in the yard and smoking was one thing but sleeping on the
job would truly outrage Sir Randolph. Millie laughed to think of the
men’s assumption that she would shop Ryan; to think of what they
Throwing her cape onto the hay, she sat down beside Ryan and gazed
upon his handsome face. He looked angelic sleeping, his looks and
his locks so fair. Hovering over him, she softly stroked his cheek
with the back of her hand and then tangled her fingers in his hair.
“Shhh,” Millie whispered. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“Sorry Miss Millie,” Ryan said, disoriented, “I don’t know
what came over me. I’ll get straight back to work,” and he made
to stand up.
But Millie pulled him back, saying laughingly, “No you won’t!”
Ryan fell back into the hay and gazed up at her. “I didn’t sleep
a wink last night,” he admitted.
“Why?” she asked innocently.
“Why!” he replied incredulously, shaking his head. “Did you
“Like a baby, thank you,” she replied, playfully.
“Word in the big house is that you’re the worse for drink–”
“Nonsense! I’m as fit as a fiddle. I just wanted to get out of
the hunt. And I wanted to see you.” Millie stroked Ryan’s cheek
again and smiled into his blue eyes.
“Miss Millicent,” he began soberly.
“Can’t you just call me Millie and drop the Miss? Effie calls me
Millie – when we’re alone. I said to her one day, ‘How
outrageous that you’ve seen me in my drawers but you still persist
in calling me Miss’–” Millie remembered herself and saw that
her rash talk had embarrassed the shy stable lad.
Ryan had turned his face away from her. “This can’t go on, Miss
Millie,” he said.
“Why?” Millie replied softly.
“Because I’m not your kind; I’m not of your rank–”
“And what if I ordered you?” Millie announced with sudden
imperiousness, reverting to the spoilt child she had not so long
Ryan’s response was characteristically measured and adult. “Well
then it wouldn’t be what you seem to want it to be, would it?”
She didn’t understand.
“You seem to want love.”
“Can’t you love me?” Millie asked with childlike simplicity.
“Oh I could love you, alright,” Ryan said earnestly, “but it
could never be truly fulfilled–”
“Can you see Randolph giving his only child away to an Irish
peasant?” Ryan paused, looking intently up into Millie’s eyes.
She didn’t know how she could resist kissing him but, as she bent
her head, Ryan said, “Miss Millie, don’t–”
Millie started and, tears in her eyes, tried to rise from the
“But please, let’s not part like this,” Ryan pleaded, reaching
up and holding out his arm to her.
She knelt before him, trying hard to control her sobs. “Do you
want me or not?” she asked forlornly.
Ryan sat up and, leaning on one hand, with his knee bent so as to
encircle her body with his own, lifted his free hand to wipe the
tears from Millie’s cheeks. “Millicent, are you sure you want
me?” he said very earnestly.
“Yes,” she replied decisively.
“Are you certain you wouldn’t prefer your Mr Windham and all his
“No,” she said firmly.
“What do you see in me?” Ryan asked.
Millie smiled, encouraged that he seemed to be retracting his
decision to end things, and endeared by his lack of self-confidence.
“Have you looked in a mirror recently, Ryan?” she replied, with a
twinkle in her eye.
He shrugged his shoulders dismissively and, shaking his head, said,
“But I can barely read, Millie–”
She placed her finger on his lips and said, “Shhh.”
But he persisted. “All I know is horses.”
Millie shuffled closer to him and shook her head. “Horses and
women,” she said, her eyes now glistening brightly, not with
teardrops but expectation.
Laughing, Ryan collapsed back into the haystack. To Miss Millie’s
delight, he pulled her down with him.
* * *
when I came to find you this morning, Millicent, I was informed by
John that you were most probably with Ryan O’Flynn. What on earth
were you doing with the stable lad?”
“Groom, Aunt Rose; he’s a grown man, not a boy.”
“Do her up tighter, Effie, or we’ll never see her married to Ben
Millie was leaning on the end of the bed frame as Effie reluctantly
tightened her corset to extremity.
“But I don’t think she’ll be able to breathe, Ma’am,” Effie
“Nonsense, do her up.”
Effie tied the cords, whispering, “Sorry,” to Millie as she did.
“I repeat, Millicent, what pray were you doing with Ryan O’Flynn?”
Millie, once Effie had finished tying the cords, pulled herself very
slowly upright and answered dispassionately, “Talking about
“Turn to face me, Millicent,” Aunt Rose directed, dissatisfied
with her niece’s response.
Millie did her bidding.
“And look at me, girl. This evening is your last chance to impress
Mr Windham. If you don’t do better than you’ve done so far it is
all but a foregone conclusion that he will propose to Arabella Price
instead of you.”
‘If only he would,’ Millie thought but didn’t dare say.
“Put on her dress, Effie; the blue chiffon one this evening. Do we
understand one another, Millicent?”
“I think so,” Millie replied equivocally.
Rose, in two minds whether to overlook her niece’s lack of total
compliance, huffed dramatically and left the room.
When she’d gone Effie let out a sigh of relief.
“Believe me, Effie, I’d do the same if I could move,” Millie
Without asking, Effie undid the cords of the corset and loosened it.
“You’re such a sweetheart,” Millie said to the girl, sighing.
“We don’t want you keeling over, Miss,” Effie replied. She
adjusted the garment so that Millie could breathe more freely and
just about bend. Millie stood quietly, enjoying the sensation of
As she tied the corset at the looser setting, Effie began
tentatively, “If you don’t mind my asking, Miss, why don’t you
like Mr Windham?”
“Effie, the man is a bore,” Millie replied. “I have literally
nothing in common with him. I’ve nothing to say to him.” She
paused. “And I detest his over-enthusiasm for hunting.”
“I thought they didn’t hunt in the summertime,” Effie said.
“Yesterday they went cub hunting–”
“Baby foxes?” Effie asked, alarmed.
“Exactly. That’s the kind of man he is. My father would never
have arranged the hunt if Windham hadn’t been here.”
There was silence for a moment as Effie lifted the sky-blue chiffon
dress over Millie’s head.
“But he is handsome,” Effie pursued tentatively, once the
dress was on and she was fastening it up.
“You think so?” Millie replied dubiously.
“I mean, he is generally considered to be handsome,” Effie
qualified, growing, Millie noted in the full-length mirror into which
she looked, rosy-cheeked at the mention of Ben Windham.
“Do you think him handsome, Effie?” Millie asked
“Yes I do Miss,” Effie admitted simply after a pause, hanging her
head to hide her face in the glass as she spoke.
“Well,” Millie said finally, “so long as I carry on doing
abominably, he’ll hopefully be engaged to Arabella Price by
tomorrow morning and good riddance to them both; we can all get back
you like potatoes, Miss?” Ryan asked Millie awkwardly.
“I would love potatoes, Ryan,” she replied
enthusiastically, delighting in the look of disgust her exuberance
elicited from Aunt Rose.
Millie was once again at table with Aunt Rose opposite and Ben
Windham to her side. But tonight was different because even Ryan had
not escaped being called upon to serve. One of the butlers had gone
down with a bug so the stable lad had been forced to don trousers,
tails, shirt and tie, there being no hunt planned for the morning to
provide him with a reasonable excuse to get out of serving duties.
He leant over Millie and inexpertly attempted to serve her boiled
potatoes. Millie smiled up at him inappropriately as he did.
“Is that enough Miss?” Ryan asked.
Aunt Rose tutted at Ryan’s lack of table etiquette.
Millie beamed and said, “That’s lovely Ryan. Thank you.”
Looking embarrassed, Ryan moved on to Ben Windham.
Rose glared at her niece.
“Yum,” Millie said, surveying her plate. “I do love partridge,
don’t you Aunt?”
Rose shook her head. “I think you shall not be having any more
wine this evening, Millicent. It has quite obviously gone straight
to your head. I wish they’d hurry up with the vegetables and then
we could start. Some solid food may bring you to your senses.”
* * *
Millie whispered through a crack in the study door as he passed along
the corridor. His attention secured, she reached out her hand and
pulled him into the dark room. Closing the door behind them, Millie
led Ryan over to the window, where, the curtains drawn back, the
light of the moon offered some illumination.
“What are you doing?” Ryan asked, half alarmed, half awestruck by
“Come here,” she said, positioning him in the moonlit window.
“I’m expected in the kitchens,” he complained.
“But you’re needed here,” she insisted, reaching up and
kissing his cheek.
“Millie,” he cautioned. “This isn’t the time or the place.”
“Oh you’re so dull,” she chided affectionately.
“So let me go,” he said.
“Not until you’ve tasted this,” Millie replied, lifting a glass
of Champagne from the window ledge and raising it to his lips.
Ryan sipped it.
“What do you think?” Millie asked.
“Disgusting,” he replied.
“I know; have some more,” she said.
She raised the glass once more and, tilting it too acutely, spilt
drink down Ryan’s chin.
Laughing, he stepped back and wiped his mouth on the sleeve of his
“You’re the most handsome man in the dining room, by the way,”
“Give over,” he replied modestly, adding, “You’re the most
beautiful girl, it goes without saying.”
“Why, thank you Mr O’Flynn,” Millie said, curtsying to him and
then returning the glass to the window ledge.
“Very curvaceous in that dress,” he elaborated.
“Oh don’t you dare,” she said. “If you had any idea of the
pain I’m withstanding to carry this off – and that’s not the
half of it. It’s only because Effie took pity on me that I can
breathe at all.”
Ryan gazed upon her adoringly. Millie looked up at him proudly,
saying, “But you really do brush up well, Mr O’Flynn,” and then
standing on tiptoes to kiss him again.
“We must go,” Ryan repeated.
“Must we?” she whispered tiresomely into his ear, before placing
a lingering kiss on his cheek.
Ryan turned his head so that their lips met. Taking Millie in his
arms, he lifted her off the floor. She was suspended in mid-air for
one heavenly minute before he decisively set her back down and said,
“Enough, I have to leave.”
Without another word, he strode across the room and, once he’d
checked the coast was clear, opened the door and slipped out into the
passage, leaving Millie swooning in the dark.
She took up the glass from the window sill and drank the remains of
its contents, smiling stupidly up at the moon as she did.
* * *
same night Millie picked her way along the woodland track that led to
Ryan’s cottage, the bright moon her only guide in the darkness.
The winds were strong and the rain drove into her face. She
struggled to hold the umbrella so as to shield her, yet manage to see
what she was walking into, whilst keeping the long, blue dress
hitched up off the muddy ground. She had, at least, changed her
shoes before setting out from the house but she hadn’t thought
there time to change into more appropriate attire – that would have
required Effie’s assistance, anyway.
When she reached Ryan’s home, Millie, in stark contrast to the
first occasion upon which she had knocked on the cottage door, tapped
softly on the wood. She’d have to make herself heard above the
wind but she didn’t want to disturb his grandmother, who would
surely, by now, be sleeping. Millie was relying on a hunch she had
that Ryan would still be up. She had learned from John that Ryan had
been allowed by her father to go off duty earlier than the other
staff, in view of the need for him to rise early to tend to any
houseguests who wished to ride before breakfast. She’d taken
advantage of the commotion of the aftermath of dinner, to slip away
to find him. But he wasn’t expecting her so there was an element
of doubt in her mind.
Millie knocked again, this time harder. A moment later the door
opened. “You’re drenched, Miss Millie,” Ryan said, pulling her
in out of the rain.
“Do you mind my coming over?” Millie asked.
“No, of course not,” Ryan replied, taking Millie’s umbrella and
shaking it out into the night, before closing the door. “Come and
sit down,” he said, ushering her over to a fireside chair.
“I’ll sit on the floor,” Millie said. “If I sit on a chair
I’ll make it damp,” and she tried to get down onto the hearth rug
but found that her corset restricted her movement.
“Millie, if you sit on the floor, that dress will get filthy.”
“I can’t get down anyway,” she explained, standing, frustrated,
beside the fire. “Oh lord,” she mused, “by the time I get back
Effie’ll have given me up for a lost cause and gone to bed so I’ll
have to sleep in this insufferable contraption too.”
“The corset? Can’t you take it off yourself?” Ryan asked,
“Not when she’s tied it so tightly.” Millie stood looking
despondently into the flames dancing in the grate.
Ryan walked over to Millie and, standing behind her, began to undo
the fastenings of her blue chiffon dress. “I think we need to get
you out of the dress and out of the corset,” he said, in a tone
that wasn’t purely practical.
Millie didn’t dispute the idea. She smiled as the fabric of the
dress fell about her shoulders and gladly relinquished the garment
once Ryan had lifted it up and over her head. He draped the dress
carefully on the back of an armchair and then turned to face her.
Millie began to feel self-conscious, realising that she had never
before appeared in her undergarments in front of a man. Ryan,
sensing her discomfort, began jovially, “Now for the greater
challenge!” referring to the tightly-drawn corset that Millie wore
on top of her chemise. But as he gazed upon the challenge, he
couldn’t help but register her bosom heaving gently in its lacy
frills and take note of the accentuated curves of her waist and hips.
Millie, observing Ryan’s rapt attention to her form, felt a little
bolder. She turned away from him to frustrate his eager eyes and
said, “You need to undo Effie’s knots first.”
But Ryan, before stepping forward to grapple with the knotted cords,
took his opportunity to survey Millie’s curves from the back.
“Get on with it please, Ryan,” Millie commanded, smiling to
herself with the knowledge that he was probably on as unfamiliar
territory as she herself was.
Ryan undid the knots almost instantly and began to loosen the strings
of the corset. “Feel better?” he asked as he pulled the
whalebone structure away from Millie’s torso.
“Oh yes,” she said and heaved a sigh of relief to be able to
breathe properly again. Millie stepped out of the corset, which Ryan
threw onto a chair. Looking back at her, still standing before the
fire, Ryan suddenly realised that all that now came between his hands
and her bare flesh was a thin layer of cloth. “I’ll fetch you a
blanket,” he said rather awkwardly and left the room.
Millie was quick to make herself at home. She pulled up the old,
wooden rocking-chair closer to the fire and sat down in it.
Ryan returned and, kneeling down beside her, draped a woven blanket
about her shoulders. “Would you like some tea?” he asked.
“There’s some in the pot.”
“Yes please,” Millie replied. She watched Ryan rise and top up
the teapot with hot water from the copper kettle on the fire, before
pouring her a drink.
“This place is like going back in time,” Millie observed,
allowing her eye to wander over to the paraffin lamp that, apart from
the firelight, was the only source of illumination in the room.
“Right enough, Sir Randolph hasn’t managed to get us electricity
out here yet,” Ryan said. “Not sure my Gran would want it
anyway,” he added on reflection.
“She’s asleep?” Millie enquired.
“I’ll keep my voice down.”
“No need to worry too much – she’s practically deaf,” Ryan
said, handing Millie her mug of tea. “You warm enough?” he asked
as he took his place beside her chair on the rug.
She nodded and drank from the cup.
Gazing up at Millie, Ryan reached a hand to push back the blanket
from her shoulders, to reveal her flesh to his eyes.
She didn’t curb his action. She put down her cup and looked at
“You’re so beautiful, Millie,” Ryan said, beginning to stroke
the soft skin of her upper arms, whilst gazing upon the pale flesh of
“You can touch me anywhere, Ryan,” Millie said boldly.
Ryan raised his eyebrows in surprise and Millie worried that she
might have gone too far. But unaccountably she found herself
continuing, “Arabella Price tells me there are times when a girl
can’t get pregnant. She’s explained it all to me and I believe
that, if we were to –you know– I wouldn’t get pregnant now.”
Ryan’s hand was stilled by these words. He looked into Millie’s
eyes and raised his hand to her cheek, saying, “It’s not that
Millie was confused.
“I’m a Catholic,” Ryan explained. “We don’t have relations
outside of marriage.”
“Oh,” Millie said.
“But that doesn’t mean I can’t touch you or hold you,” Ryan
Kneeling, Ryan reached up to kiss Millie’s lips and it wasn’t
long before she had slithered from the rocking chair onto the rug in
front of the fire. Millie felt Ryan’s arms about her, all of his
strength employed to hold her so tenderly. She didn’t really know
what Arabella had been talking about but she trusted Ryan completely.
* * *
left the cottage at an ungodly hour, her sky-blue chiffon dress now
dried out; her corset abandoned and concealed at the cottage, to be
returned to the Hall at some point the next day. Millie held the
folds of her long cape close about her over her dress. Thankfully
the rain had ceased and the winds had abated.
Ryan had been insistent he should escort Millie back to the house but
she had resisted and, in the end, ordered him to stay at home.
Discovery would be all the worse if he was found with her.
Millie made her way back along the woodland path by the light of the
moon, her frame still shaking from the thrill of Ryan’s caresses.
How did he do that? How did he know how to touch her?
When Ryan had pulled her to the floor and taken her in his arms,
Millie had instinctively gone to unbutton his shirt, eager to feel
his bare skin. But Ryan had stopped her, saying that he thought it
was something they shouldn’t do.
“How can it be wrong when it feels so lovely?” Millie had
Ryan had shaken his head and, smiling at her innocence, kissed her
Millie regained entry to the house through the kitchens, having taken
the key from the place where she knew the housekeeper kept it.
Removing her shoes, she tiptoed through the long corridors and up the
staircases, relying on her instinct and what moonlight invaded the
Hall through its numerous windows, to guide her, until she reached
her own room.
Once settled in her bed, she thought of Ryan: how she longed to touch
him; how tender he was and yet how he must have the capacity to match
that tenderness with passion.
But Millie felt sadness upon remembering what he had said to her; she
would never know that passion because he could never be her husband.
In the end she cried herself to sleep dwelling upon that thought.
morning after Sir Randolph’s grand dinner, Millie, sleep-deprived
due to her nocturnal adventures, stood before her father and Aunt
Rose, having been summoned to the dame’s temporary apartments in
“And so, Millicent, your prospects have been irreparably damaged by
your disgraceful neglect of Mr Windham–”
“To be fair, Rose, he did state the reason for his untimely
departure to be his sense that a frivolously long weekend in the
country seemed wholly inappropriate with a war looming–”
“Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he, Randolph?” Rose
Millie wasn’t really attending. From the back windows of Aunt
Rose’s rooms she had spotted Ryan, splitting logs down in the
courtyard. It being a fine morning, he had removed his shirt.
“Millicent!” Rose snapped to recall the girl. “Have you no
sense of remorse about this situation? Your father planned this
whole house party with the express intention that it should culminate
in an engagement between yourself and Benjamin Windham. Do you have
any idea of the trouble and expense he went to?”
Millie looked at her father, rather than Rose. “I’m sorry,”
she began simply, “but, to tell the truth Daddy, I don’t think
Ben Windham is quite proper. I don’t trust him,” she clarified.
“Why, Millie?” Randolph asked.
“I can’t account for it really,” Millie replied. “I just
don’t trust him.”
“Nonsense!” Rose announced scathingly. “If she were my
daughter, Randolph, I should let her become an old maid and see how
she likes it.”
* * *
Out in the
courtyard, Rose having dismissed Millie and her father from her
quarters in order to prepare to set out on her constitutional morning
walk, Millie lingered in the shadows of the entrance to the scullery,
watching Ryan at work. After a few minutes she walked quietly out
into the sunlight, taking care to avoid disturbing him.
His skin, though fair, was tanned with the outdoor work he had been
doing over the summer. You wouldn’t have said Ryan was slender but
there was little spare flesh on his muscular upper body. Millie
recalled the sight of him in evening dress and reflected, with a
smile, that he looked almost as good clothed as unclothed.
He turned and saw her. “Are you spying on me, Miss?” he asked
Millie walked over to him, saying, “I was just admiring you,”
when she was close enough to ensure that their exchange wouldn’t be
Ryan lay down his axe and went to pick up his shirt from on top of
“No need to cover up on my account,” Millie was quick to say, as
she watched Ryan bend over in his roughly-woven trousers, the
thickness of the leather belt around his waist catching her eye as he
“But if someone saw us, Millie, it wouldn’t look proper.”
Millie took one last, longing glance at his smooth and flawless chest
before he concealed it from her eyes. “It’s tiring work,” he
said as he buttoned up his shirt.
“Looks it,” Millie replied. “I thought the house staff dealt
“Listen, when Mrs Overton tells me to do something, I do it, no
Millie chuckled. Mrs Overton, the housekeeper, had a reputation that
went before her.
“Miss Millie, we shouldn’t talk like this – someone might see
“When can I meet you then?” Millie asked. “Tonight?”
Ryan shook his head. “Don’t you know I’m off with Randolph
this afternoon to look at a racing horse?”
“He’s buying another one?” Millie remarked incredulously.
“Not outright, but he’s considering entering into a syndicate;
the horse wouldn’t be kept here – it’s already in stables.”
“Oh,” Millie said. “When will you be back?”
“The day after tomorrow,” Ryan replied.
With a sigh of resignation, Millie said, “I’ll just have to wait
till then, won’t I?”
* * *
that Randolph and Ryan went to look at a racing horse seemed like any
other to Millie, apart from the fact that her Aunt Rose was still in
residence at Glassnest, which curtailed Millie’s freedom somewhat.
In the morning she hung restlessly about the house, thinking of Ryan
the whole time, wondering what he was doing – what conversation
went between him and her father? She knew, however, that their only
shared interest was horses.
If Millie had still had a horse, she would have gone riding on a day
like this. But since she’d lost Charger, she had no stomach for
it. Certainly, she could have had her pick of the horses in the
stables – even Wellington, in the absence of her father, although
he was a fierce brute of a horse; Millie never felt quite safe with
him. But she just didn’t want to ride; not now her beloved Charger
In the end, in a bid to occupy herself and escape the beady eye of
Aunt Rose, Millie slipped out of the house at eleven o’clock and
embarked on a long ramble around Glassnest’s extensive grounds.
It wasn’t until two in the afternoon that she began to wend her way
back towards the Hall, taking, irresistibly, the woodland track that
led to Ryan’s cottage.
As Millie passed by the cottage garden, she spotted the old lady,
wrapped, as was her custom, in her shawl, stooping over a vegetable
“Hello there!” Millie called to her.
The old lady turned and slowly stood up straight.
“Why, Miss, it has turned out a fine day to be sure,” she called
to Millie, who made her way over to the garden fence.
“I’ve had a lovely walk in the woods,” Millie said.
“You do right, Miss,” Ryan’s grandmother commented. “I would
dearly love to walk, if only my old bones were up to it.”
“What have you got there?” Millie enquired, gesturing to what the
old woman held in her hands.
“Oh just a couple of spuds for my tea.”
Millie suddenly felt concern that she might be struggling to look
after herself in Ryan’s absence. “Is that all you’re having?”
she asked involuntarily.
The woman laughed. “Oh no Miss, these are to accompany a very nice
slice of salmon quiche that was left over from the party at the
“Oh yes,” Millie said, relieved, “Cook’s quiches are the
“I do very well with what’s sent over from the kitchens – they
treat me well here,” Ryan’s grandmother continued.
“I’m glad to hear it,” Millie said.
“You’re welcome to stay for a cup of tea, Miss,” the old lady
offered warmly. “I was just about to brew a pot for myself.”
Millie hesitated momentarily before saying, “Yes, that would be
lovely.” What did she care if Aunt Rose was missing her?
* * *
didn’t return to the Hall until almost five o’clock. Though
she’d never before really spoken with Ryan’s grandma and had felt
at first nervous upon entering the little cottage with her, it had
not been long before the two had settled in front of the fire and
begun to talk easily. Millie had insisted upon making the tea, and
first building up the fire in order to heat the copper kettle.
Ryan’s grandma had told her many stories about their family and
life in Ireland, including the sad tales of the deaths of both of
Ryan’s parents. She had enjoyed reminiscing and Millie, of course,
had been eager to digest all she was told. There was no better way
of coping with Ryan’s absence than talking about him. Sitting in
her chair on the hearth, sipping her tea from the same cup and saucer
that Ryan had given her, she felt entirely happy to be in his home.
“He’s a good boy, our Ryan,” the old lady said.
“Yes he is,” Millie agreed, recalling, with some embarrassment,
the things they had done the last time she’d been at that fireside.
“I worry that, if there’s a war, I’ll lose him,” the old
woman couldn’t help but add.
“Oh that won’t happen,” Millie said glibly. “There won’t
be a war.”
* * *
Millie finally re-entered Glassnest Hall it wasn’t long before she
bumped into a sombre-looking Mrs Overton. “You’re wanted by your
Aunt Rose in the study, Miss,” she said.
Millie sighed and headed on in the direction of the stairs.
“No Miss Millie,” Mrs Overton said sternly, “you are to report
to her straight away.”
Millie wondered what on earth she’d done now.
She knocked on the door of the study like a disgraced schoolgirl.
“Enter,” came a call from within.
Millie pushed open the heavy dark-wood door to see Aunt Rose seated
at a table, reading from a large volume.
“Mrs Overton said you wanted to see me, Aunt,” Millie began.
“Where have you been all day?” Rose asked irritably.
“I went for a walk–”
“For six hours!” the grand dame cried.
“I went to visit Grandmother O’Flynn on my way back–”
“Really Millicent, your tendency to fraternise with the lower
orders is inexcusable, inexcusable–”
“I had nothing better to do, Aunt,” Millie replied casually.
“What’s the problem? What have I missed?” she asked with a
hint of sarcasm.
Rose looked upon the girl steadily and Millie sensed that her aunt’s
customary stance of disapproval was tempered by some real anxiety.
She began to feel nervous. “Nothing’s wrong is it? Ryan’s
alright? Daddy’s alright?”
“Typical – you think of the groom before Sir Randolph!”
“But nothing’s happened?” Millie said urgently.
“So far as I know, Millicent, your father and his boy are in the
pink. But, referring to your earlier enquiry as to what you have
missed, I’m sorry to have to be the one to inform you that we are
at war with Germany, Millicent–”
“War?” the girl echoed softly.
“Yes, Millicent, war,” Aunt Rose confirmed.
been watching from the window of her father’s first floor
apartments for the last half-hour. From here she had the best
vantage to see any vehicle approaching on the long drive that ran up
to the forecourt of the Hall. After what seemed an eternity, she
spotted her father’s car.
Millie rushed out of the chamber, along the corridor and down the
flight of stairs to the grand entrance lobby. She opened the heavy
double doors and ran out on to the terrace, just in time to meet the
Randolph stepped out of the passenger door and was immediately
engulfed in his daughter’s arms. “Daddy!” she cried, only now
realising how much tension had been building up inside her since Aunt
Rose’s revelation of the previous evening.
“Oh my darling,” Randolph said comfortingly, as he drew his only
child closer to him.
“Where’s Ryan?” Millie asked eagerly. She longed to embrace
“I sent him on ahead,” Randolph explained.
The sight that Millie beheld from the corner of her eye, of Aunt Rose
emerging from the house, confirmed her awareness that she couldn’t
have hugged Ryan even if he’d been present.
“Good afternoon Randolph,” Rose began coolly, intending the
greeting to break the embrace between father and daughter – such
displays of affection didn’t do in front of the servants.
Randolph reluctantly let Millie go and went to kiss Aunt Rose.
“I thought you were merely intending to enter into part-ownership
of a horse, Randolph, but you appear to have brought one home, so the
house staff tell me,” she continued.
“Ah,” said Randolph, “I did enter into the syndicate –the
racehorse is a fine specimen and it was too good an opportunity to
miss– but what we have bought is an ex-racehorse,” and
Randolph gestured to Ryan, who was now walking the horse around from
the back of the house. “It was young Ryan’s idea really,”
Randolph admitted, at which Rose tossed back her head scornfully. “I
thought my little girl needed a bit of cheering up and Ryan spotted
this fine-looking mare, so…”
Millie heard hooves on the gravel behind her. She turned to see Ryan
holding the reins of a large, chestnut horse.
“She’s beautiful, Daddy!” Millie exclaimed, reaching up to kiss
Randolph before rushing towards the horse.
“She was destined to be a racehorse but it transpired she was too
stubborn and headstrong to race. Ryan said that reminded him of
someone else,” Randolph began indulgently but he curtailed his
disclosure upon seeing the disapproval in Rose’s eyes.
Millie stood beside Ryan and stroked the horse’s head. “Thank
you Ryan,” she said, beaming up at him with such enthusiasm and
warmth that he sensed the colour rising to his cheeks.
“I thought she’d be perfect for you, Miss,” Ryan replied shyly.
“Not a horse for a child, like Charger, but a mount for a young
Millie gazed into his eyes, hoping that her own eyes expressed what
her lips couldn’t in their present company.
“Really Randolph,” Aunt Rose whispered scathingly, “only you
could respond to the news of the outbreak of war with a frivolous and
wholly inappropriate purchase such as this. And after her appalling
behaviour towards the Windham boy, you should be punishing her, not
Randolph was about to defend himself but he didn’t get the chance.
“And taking heed of the stable lad’s opinion – I don’t know
what you were thinking, Randolph.”
Rose turned her attention to her niece, who was stroking and kissing
“What’s she called, Daddy?” Millie called out, blissfully
unaware of the recent exchanges between her father and aunt.
“Valiant Victory,” Randolph called back.
“Good lord!” Millie cried, “I can’t call her that.”
She thought. “Where was it you were born, Ryan?” she asked a
“Oh, just a small town in County Kerry–”
“Kerry, that’s what I thought. We’ll call her Kerry. Isn’t
that a lovely name for her, Daddy? We’re going to call her Kerry!”
Randolph beamed approval at the decision. Whatever else was amiss in
the world, it was a reassurance to him that he could still make his
“Can I ride her this afternoon?” Millie asked eagerly.
“I don’t know. She’s had a long journey and Ryan must be tired
“Oh please Daddy!”
“I’m quite happy to saddle up the mare, Sir Randolph; whatever
suits Miss Millicent…” Ryan said with unguarded devotion.
Millie smiled at him, besotted.
Aunt Rose looked stonily upon the wayward girl who was, it was now
blatantly apparent, far too familiar with the groom. She
resolved that something must be done about it.
* * *
girl,” Millie said to Kerry as the horse began to slow down from a
gallop. She looked over her shoulder and saw Ryan and Wellington
gaining on them. She urged Kerry on until they reached the shade of
a clump of trees. Here, she dismounted and, holding onto Kerry’s
reins, stroked her head and praised her gushingly.
Ryan had been awestruck by Millie’s swift and fearless conquest of
the mare. He’d also been shocked by the fact that, as soon as they
had cleared the house grounds, wherein Millie had been riding in a
dainty side-saddle manner, she had dismounted and then re-mounted the
horse with her legs astride, hitching up her heavy skirts in order to
do so. She had then proceeded to canter ahead, declaring over her
shoulder, “She’s not wayward, Ryan; she just needs to be gently
coaxed into doing what you want her to.”
After that she had shot off at an outright gallop, challenging Ryan
to catch her.
When he finally reached the trees, Ryan got down from Wellington and
produced a blanket from the saddle-bag. He walked across to Millie,
“Oh she’s marvellous; I adore her!”
Ryan spread out the blanket on the ground beneath the trees and
Millie let Kerry wander alongside Wellington to munch on the luscious
grass of the outer reaches of the estate.
As Millie turned back to face Ryan, he stepped forward and grabbed
hold of her feverishly.
“This is such a strange time,” Millie said. “All I want is
what I have: Glassnest, Kerry, you. And when I think of all I have,
I’m so happy. But–”
“But you know we can’t live in a bubble forever,” Ryan
anticipated. “The war will affect us all eventually–”
“Maybe it will end quickly,” Millie said without conviction.
“It won’t just fizzle out, Millicent,” Ryan warned.
“But I’ll always have you, Ryan, won’t I?” Millie said,
gazing up into his eyes and then reaching her arms around his
shoulders. To her delight, Ryan swept her up off the ground and
carried her over to the tartan rug. He set her down on it and then
sat down himself, encouraging Millie to move beside him.
“You think of everything,” Millie said, lying back on the blanket
“I’ve missed you something awful these past few days,” Ryan
replied, lying down beside her, propped on a bent arm. Ryan’s face
hovered over Millie’s, surveying her. “Did you miss me?” he
asked, appearing to Millie quite vulnerable as he uttered the words.
“It’s been unbearable,” she replied earnestly, stroking his
face and wishing he would kiss her. “I never want to be parted
from you again.”
Ryan looked upon Millie intently. Slowly, he unbuttoned her riding
jacket and played his fingers up and down the small buttons of her
blouse. Millie’s bosom heaved at his touch.
Ryan slipped his hand beneath her blouse and felt the silky
smoothness of her camisole. “No corset today,” he surmised with
a suggestive smile.
“Heavens, no!” Millie replied. “How could I possibly ride in
one of those contraptions? In fact, I’m rather taken with the idea
of wearing trousers to ride. A skirt is so cumbersome,” she
continued matter-of-factly, in an effort to ignore the sensation of
Ryan’s hand so close to her skin.
“Cumbersome when you will insist on riding in such an unladylike
manner,” Ryan said admiringly, smiling at his headstrong mistress
as, to her relief and disappointment, he withdrew his hand from her
“It has its advantages though,” he continued, reaching down to
hoist up the folds of heavy fabric.
Millie could formulate no smart responses to his words, so
preoccupied was she with the feelings he stirred up; it was maddening
how he tantalized her.
Ryan’s hand ran slowly up the inside of Millie’s leg. “Your
skin is so soft,” he murmured tenderly.
When he reached the frills of her drawers, Ryan watched Millie
seriously. “So soft,” he repeated as his fingers ventured
beneath the frills.
“Oh Ryan,” Millie sighed, closing her eyes because the sensation
of his touch was so intense.
Ryan leant over and kissed Millie’s lips.
Emboldened, Millie reached out her own hand and grasped hold of
Ryan’s riding breeches. “This can’t be wrong,” she
said but, opening her eyes, Millie saw the look of alarm on Ryan’s
He’d already withdrawn his hand from beneath her skirts and was
getting to his knees. “We should be getting back now, Miss
Millie,” he announced formally.