Chapter Nineteen

Dencotte House was still and quite in the cold early morning. Ella Skinner, the young scullery maid, made her way along the female corridor of the servants quarters, knocking all the doors, making sure all the girls got up.

She knocked on the last door. "Laura! Liz! That's six o'clock!"

Laura groaned and opened her eyes. "Come on Liz." She said to the younger housemaid. "It's another day."

"I'm up! I'm up!"

Down in the kitchen Mrs. Read the cook, Ella and the other kitchen maids were turning on the ovens and getting out the breakfast ingredients.

"Ella you better go and get started on the fires."

"Yes Mrs. Read." Ella gathered up her fire lighting implements and white sheet, to cover the carpet, and set off to start on the breakfast room. All the fires in the downstairs area of the house had to be lit before Lord Dalton and her guests came down. Even though the house had central heating, in such a big and draughty house, the fires were still needed.

As Ella made her way from room to room she passed the house maids opening the window shutters and curtains and footmen were gathering up glasses that the master and his guests had used late last night.

Mrs. Mckluskey had walked through the kitchen checking on the mornings progress and was now checking the breakfast room, where the young footman, Charlie was laying out the table cloth and breakfast china.

When Charlie had finished he went down to the butler's pantry where Foster was polishing the silver.

"Mr. Foster, the breakfast room is ready."

"Very good Charlie, get the board out then and get the papers ironed. Start with The Times for the master and Ms. Woodward then perhaps the Daily Mail and the Chronicle for the Ladies."

"Yes Mr. Foster."

Charlie got out the iron and the board set about the daily task of drying the ink on the papers.

In the kitchen Laura takes a seat at the table to join the other servants in breakfast. Mrs. Mckluskey and Foster joined them.

"Laura, you're all right looking with looking after Miss Beth?" Asked the housekeeper.

"Yes Mrs. Mcluskey. Since I don't know her morning routine, I'll take up her cup of tea shortly. I'm not sure if she'll know to ring for me."

Ella piped up. "What's she like Laura? The other maids say she's nice but as nervous as a kitten!"

"Ella! They'll be no gossiping in this kitchen." Said the housekeeper.

"Sorry Mrs. Mckluskey."

"It's all right girl and I'll have you no Miss Beth is lovely young lady. I am sure we'll all like her very much."

Lotty's ladies maid Anna, who was well used to staying there said. "Mrs. Mckluskey, Nanny Brooks asked me to remind you that Miss. Kathryn will need some warm milk with breakfast."

"Yes, of course. Mrs. Read, do you have that in hand?" Asked the housekeeper.

"It'll be ready and waiting Mrs. Mckluskey."

"Thomas, is the master in the gymnasium this morning or coming straight down?" Foster asked Alex's valet.

"She's in the gymnasium. I already got her up and ready. She's going to ring when she's ready to bathe and dress for breakfast."

"Excellent. Were in good order then. As soon as everyone is dressed we'll get the breakfast served and the burners lit under the silver servers. Remember we have a lot to do for the party this evening. Let's do things well and not let the master down."

Just then the bell on the wall went and indicated Mrs. Woodward's room.

"Were off and running then." Said Mrs. Mckluskey. "Off you go Anna and Laura."

Beth awoke earlier than normal, excited at the prospect of another full day in Alex's company. She got herself washed and dressed and thought she would have a look about in the gardens as it was some time before breakfast at nine.

There was a knock at the door and Laura came in with a cup of tea.

"Oh you're dressed Miss? I didn't think you'd be up this early. I'm sorry you had no one to draw your curtains or help you dress. "she said worriedly.

"Oh please Laura, don't worry yourself. I couldn't sleep and thought I should just get up. Thought I'd have a look around the gardens."

"Oh of course, why don't you start with the courtyard and stables. I'm sure the horses would enjoy a visit."

"Lovely! Do you think you could get me a few apples to take?"

"Yes Miss, you have your tea and I'll be right with you."

Laura got her the apples, came back and directed Beth out the back door to the courtyard. It was a large concreted area with large stable buildings, with the extensive grounds continuing on behind. Beth could see the heads of some of the horses poking through the half gates, their breath steaming up in the cold air. There was a few staff milling about the stables, shoveling straw and muck, and carrying feed bags.

Beth approached one of the stable boys "Hello there, I'm Beth."

"Hullo miss, I'm John. You be the Master's guest?"

"Yes, that's right. Would it be all right if I fed the horses some treats?"

"That'd be fine miss. That's the Masters horse there, Skylla." John pointed over to a large brown horse in one of the middle stalls.

"Thank you John." He dipped his cap to her and went about his business. Beth made her way over to Skylla.

"Hello girl, you're my Alex's horse? You're a fine one. Would you like an apple? Good girl." she said smiling and stroking the horse's nose. Skylla was lapping up the attention.

As Beth lavished attention on the big horse she had no idea a pair of eyes were watching her from a window in the building across the courtyard. Alex's heart swelled as she saw her girl laughing and giggling as her well-loved horse slobbered over her hands, eating up the apples.

"Alex! Come on or we'll never get finished before breakfast!"

Alex turned round and left the window.

"John!" Beth called out to the stable boy.

"Yes Miss?"

"What's that building over there?" She pointed to a rectangular brick building over on the other side of the stables.

"That's the Master's gymnasium."

"Thank you." Curious and not thinking anyone would be using it this early; Beth made her way over to the building. She could hear some loud bangs from inside as she opened the door quietly and her breath caught at what she saw. It was a large rectangular room with highly polished floorboards. Around the walls were various exercise machines that Beth thought looked lethal, medicine balls, and weights.

At the far end of the room stood Alex and Poni both in short trousers and white vests. Alex had on boxing gloves and was powerfully hitting into Poni's hands that were covered in larger versions of the gloves.

Beth moved further in through the door and stood mesmerised. She had never seen anything more erotic and was captivated by the play of Alex's muscles in her arms and shoulders as she threw powerful punch after punch. She had never seen a woman do anything like this. Of course, she knew she loved the look and feel of Alex's well-built muscular body but to see them being used like this was something else. Poni spotted and alerted Alex who turned and flashed a toothy grin in Beth's direction.

"Sweetheart! Do come in. We were just finishing up our morning exercise."

Poni and Alex grabbed a towel to wipe down as Beth approached.

"Good morning Beth." said Poni.

"Morning, I ... I ... hope you don't mind Alex. I was just having a look around the stables before breakfast and I didn't think that anyone would be here so early."

"Don't worry; you're a very welcome distraction."

Poni feeling like she was intruding excused herself. "I'll get cleaned up and see you at breakfast. No doubt my wife will be looking for me."

Left alone in the large room with Alex Beth said, "So this is how you get those fine shoulders, my lord?"

Alex's chest puffed up. "I do like to keep myself in tip top condition. Poni and I always exercise together when she's down here."

"Some of these machines look like torture equipment!" she quipped.

Alex laughed. "Sometimes it feels like it. Shall I show you round?" Beth nodded.

"I have the latest exercise equipment shipped from America. We also have an outdoor pool for swimming in the warmer weather and tennis courts."

Alex sat on the first piece of equipment and demonstrated.

"This is called a leg extension machine. It builds up the thighs." Beth's libido was further stoked by the look of Alex's muscles as she extended her thighs forward and up.

"Wow! That looks very heavy."

Alex reveled in showing off to her girl. She moved on to another machine.

"This is a cable pull. You adjust the weight at the back of the seat and pull the weight using this bar."

Beth watched as beads of sweat traveled from Alex's muscled neck down her shoulders and finally her biceps.

"I also have a smith machine and lots of free weights." Alex realised that Beth wasn't even listening to her and caught the lusty looks toward her body. She immediately felt herself grow hard and the throbbing between her legs began. Since Alex had met Beth she was living in a constant state of arousal with no hope of release. It was driving her mad and she had to take matters into her own hands on more than one occasion but it never seemed to relive the ache. She had never gone this long without sex in her adult life, but she was determined to do things properly. She stood and pulled Beth against her, bringing her mouth to the blonde's ear.

"Little bit, I think we should make our way over to the house. I always feel aroused after exercise and you looking at me like that makes me want to pull your skirt up and take you right here against the wall."

Beth moaned against Alex's neck at her words. "Let's get out of here before it's too late! I need a cold bath."

Alex pulled them out of the building and as the cold December air hit them, it seemed to calm things down and they laughed at their predicament." Go and get washed My Lord. I'll see you at breakfast." They parted at the top of the stairs and went their separate ways.

Foster stood at the breakfast sideboard, which sat at the top of the room, watching over the servants going backward and forward with the breakfast things.

Beth sat and watched as Lotty, who stood at the breakfast sideboard, prepared a plate with for Poni, herself and Kat. Poni sat beside Kat, who was in her high chair at the dining table, Poni with her nose stuck in the newspaper. Lotty came with Poni's breakfast plate and placed it in front of her and gave Kat a bowl with scrambled eggs and toast.

"Thank you honey pie." Poni said kissing her wife's cheek. "Are you sure you don't want me to feed her while you eat first?"

"No darling, I'll get her fed, you must be starving after all that exercise. You can keep kitten occupied while I eat after."

"Egg! Yum!" Said Kat.

"Yes. Nice egg. Open up for Mama. Good girl."

Lotty looked up at Beth. "I'm sure Alex won't mind if you go ahead and eat my dear."

"It's ok. I'd like to wait."

The door opened and Alex came in with newspaper under her arm. She was dressed as casually as Beth had ever seen her. Grey slacks, a white shirt open at the collar with no tie, and a dark blue cardigan. Even dressed casually, Alex was immaculate. She was so dapper and took such pride in her appearance.

"Morning all." She said coming over to Beth's chair and kissing her head then Kissing Kat.

"Morning little kitten. You got eggs?"

"Egg! Egg!"

"Good girl." Alex smiled, so happy to have all her favourite people together at her home.

The room was alive with staff filling breakfast platters and bringing more coffee and tea.

"Sit down darling and I'll make up your plate." Beth said as she stood.

"That would be lovely, sweetheart." Alex took her seat at the head of the table. She looked over at Lotty who smiled eagerly back at her. Alex purred with pleasure as she saw Beth pile the food up on the plate. Nobody in her life since her Mother, had anyone ever taken care of her. She had watched Poni with envy over the years as Lotty catered to her every need, not out of compulsion or duty, but out of a deep love that compelled her to nurture and take care of Poni and create a comfortable home for her. Beth returned with the plate and placed it before her.

"Thank you little bit." Alex lifted the girl's hand and placed a light kiss on her knuckles.

Once Beth was back in her seat eating her own breakfast Alex asked, "Did you enjoy meeting Skylla?"

Beth looked up. "You saw me?"

"Yes, I love to see a young woman lavish attention on my horse!"

"Why is she called Skylla?"

"It's from Greek mythology. The Greek Gods had immortal horses called the Hippoi Athanatoi. Skylla was one of the eight horses that drew Poseidon's chariot. I've always loved Greek Mythology and that name just seemed to fit my horse."

"That's a lovely story, darling."

"Do you ride, little bit?"

"Oh please! Not more talk of horses! Beth, that is all I hear about when these two numbskulls are together! Don't try and infect my only friend and ally with this obsession with riding."

Poni popped her eyes above the top of the newspaper. "Depends on what kind of riding!" Alex and Poni exploded in laughter.

"Ow!" cried Poni as her wife smacked her on the back of the head and they all joined in the laughter.

"Bad Papi! Bad Papi!" They all laughed as kitten chastised Poni.

Alex and Beth strode out of the front door of the house.

"I think we should start down at the lake. It's very pretty and such a calm place. I often go down there to sit and think."

"I love the water. Do you have boats?"

"Yes, the boathouse is over there. Let's walk over. The boats are all tied up for the winter. I'll take you out in the spring."

"I'd love that darling! I've never been in a row boat." she said full of enthusiasm.

"I must also take you for a picnic down to the trout stream. I go down with Poni whenever we have the time."

Alex said as they passed by the boat house.

"You have a stream as well?"

"Yes, Poni and I love to have a day's fishing when we can. Lotty doesn't like it. She just has to sit there and watch. Perhaps now you're here to keep her company, old Poni and I will get some more days with the fish!" she smiled as they walked further on. Beth was overwhelmed at the beauty of this place.

"What are you thinking, little bit?"

"I was thinking how wonderful and magical this place truly is and how lucky you are to live here."

"I am lucky but it's not really mine. I'm only a custodian, a caretaker if you will. It's my job to care for the estate and the village. The people look to the family estate for leadership and guidance. In the past, the landed family of a county was judge, jury, and executioner. Although that time is past, the people still look to us. I have a responsibility to them and to the land. It is a duty of care which I and my father before me took very seriously. The estate gives employment, housing and means everything to the community. I know I have luxuries here but I also have duties to perform for that. Duty is very important to me. I'm only here to take care of this place until my heir takes over."

"I had no idea there was so much to it. Who will be your heir?"

"Ah well, that is still to be decided. Obviously I am not likely to have a child myself. I never even thought I would fall in love, but I have. We will see what the future holds. At the moment as I have no family, my will leaves the estate to Poni. As we are not related though, the title will die out. Which pains me a great deal but even adopted children can't inherit a title so my heir will have to content themselves with my land and assets." She smiled at Beth as if she had a plan but Beth had no idea what.

They walked for ten minutes when they came to the Japanese garden that Beth had seen from her bedroom window. They sat in a small tea house that sat at the back of the walled garden that was filled with oriental flora and fauna. Rocks and stones and placed artfully and statues of Buddha spread around the garden. Beth breathed in the peace.

"This is peace Alex. I love this. I would love to read here." Alex lifted her arm and invited Beth's head to rest on her shoulder. Alex smiled pleased at how comfortable Beth was here. 'This will be your garden my little bit. If you will be my wife I would give you the world.'

"I wanted to speak to you about tonight. When you are ready, instead of you coming down yourself, will you please wait until I call for you and I'll escort you?"

"Yes, whatever you think best, but can I ask why?"

"Hmmm, I told you before that the guests that come to my parties are a good bunch of people, but I'm afraid they will take one look at your sweet face and see fresh blood my little bit. I want it to be very clear your taken and under my protection."

Beth lifted her head. "You make them sound like vultures!"

"It's not that. It's just we're a small community and new faces are eagerly fought over, especially some cute girl like you." Alex grasped her chin possessively and drew her in to a deep demanding kiss. Beth moaned and Alex pulled away and touched nose to nose with her.

"You see, I have a lot to protect."

Beth looked her in the eyes. "I'm yours My Lord and will never let anyone think different."

"I'm so lucky. I'm as much yours, you do know that?"

"Of course I do darling. I love you."

"I love you my little bit of a spitfire! Shall we go up to the house and see if that old Poni is still annoying her wife?"

Beth smiled and nodded.

"When we have more time I'll take you around the farm land, meet the staff and down to the village. They're good people. But that's for another day. Come on."

Alex pulled her up and they slowly made their way back arm in arm.

Beth sat in her room in the late afternoon reading. Alex and Poni had gone riding and Lotty wanted a lie down before tonight. There was a knock at the door and Annie McKluskey came in with a tea tray.

"Hello dear, I thought you could do with a cuppa and we could have a little chat."

"That would be nice. Will you join me in a cup?"

"Thank you but no. Staff only sit and take tea below stairs."

"I'm sure Alex wouldn't mind."

"I know the Master wouldn't mind, but standards must be maintained and that's my job."

"Oh, okay then." 'My she does take her job seriously!'

Annie poured out the tea. "So tell me all about yourself."

Beth gave her a potted history of her time until she came to work for Alex.

"My goodness. You have been through a lot for one so young."

"I suppose but I can't tell you how my life has changed since I met Alex. At last there is someone on my side. She has saved me. My knight in shining armour. The love she has shown me has given me such strength."

"I always knew Alex had such a large capacity to love but she kept her heart locked away. Losing her mother and father changed everything, the entire course of her life, and of course the war came and changed everything. I don't know all the ins and outs of what she did in the war but it changed her even more. She came back harder, more detached. For Ms. Woodward it was different, she came back, had married life to look forward to and was very much in love. Whatever horrors she saw, the love she had waiting healed her. The master had no such luxuries. I'm glad she has found someone to love her as she deserves, but I will say this, be careful with her. You may think she is experienced and a woman of the world but with her heart she is no more than a child. Take care of her heart, please."

"I will, I promise. I will look after her as long as she wants me in her life. I love her dearly."

"I'm glad to hear it. She has changed so much since you have come into her life. I could tell in her voice when she would phone from London, something was different. She lighter, happier. I can see the sparkle that died with her parents coming back into her eyes. Thank you. Well I better get on. Laura will be up to help you dress soon. I need to get ready for the hordes of women due to land on us!" They laughed.