Raven opened his eyes and found Missy all curled up in his lap. Her arms circled his neck.
“Missy. You need to get off of me. This is far from comfortable.”
She sighed in her sleep and hugged him tighter.
His thoughts turned to May Rose, as they always did.
Raven clenched his teeth.
The ballroom was alive with scents. So many scents.
And they all smelled divine.
Mr. Farlington snapped his fingers.
Raven stepped forward. “How may I serve you, sir?”
“I need to discuss wedding details with Charles Vansing and his family. I need a quick shot of brandy to strengthen my endurance.”
Hope fluttered soft inside his chest. “You do not like them, sir?”
“Oh, it isn’t a matter of whether I like them or not, Arden. It is all a matter of being forced to endure talk about frivolous stuffs such as sashes and garlands and what silverware we ought to use and what tea cups we ought to use and…” He made a disgusted sound. “Women fluff.”
Raven smiled. “You needn’t say more, sir. I believe I understand.”
“Thanks, Arden. You’re a good man.”
The compliment threw him off. He bowed and went to fetch Mr. Farlington’s drink.
A good man? Me? Oh, but if he knew my truth. If only he knew what I have become, would he still feel that way?
If he knew of my feelings for his eldest daughter, what would he say?
He stopped short.
May Rose and Charles Vansing stood near the drink table.
He couldn’t hear what they were saying and he didn’t even try to eavesdrop. He stood silent and still.
Her focus was completely on Charles. She laughed at something he had said. Her gloved hand touched his arm.
His focus was completely on her. His face seemed to glow as she talked. When she touched him, his glow brightened.
I’m losing her.
Raven stiffened his back, even though he wanted to break down right then and there and cry. He approached the drink table and poured Mr. Farlington’s drink.
“Oh! And this is Arden, our butler. Arden. Turn around.”
He set the drink on the table and turned to face Charles Vansing. “Good afternoon, sir.”
Charles Vansing had frizzy black hair and gold colored eyes. He smiled and it looked so right on his face. “Good afternoon, Arden. It is a pleasure to finally meet you.”
“Is it, sir?”
“Yes. May Rose has said much about you.”
He cast a questioning look at her. “Has she?”
She sipped her drink and looked only at Charles.
“Indeed. She said that you are a most excellent butler.”
“And a very good friend.”
Look at me, May Rose. Turn to me. Look at me. “I have always strived to do my duty, sir.” He sighed softly. “And nothing more.”
She looked at him and it was like a physical blow.
He bowed. “I beg your pardon, but I must go. Mr. Farlington is awaiting his drink.”
She picked up the shot of brandy and handed it to him.
His gloved fingers made contact with her gloved fingers.
A rash desire to hug her and hold her and kiss her right in front of her fiancé surged through him.
I could bite her.
I could change her.
She would be mine forever.
He took the glass. “Thank you, Miss Farlington. Please excuse me.”
If I could live my life all over again, there is so much I would do differently.
Raven looked at the young woman asleep in his arms.
He smiled. Maybe I should start now.
He hugged her and held her close.