Missy entered the bathroom.
She was promptly shocked and awed. “It’s so close quartered and private and safe and no one’s going to sneak in here and there’s nowhere for someone to hide and…”
Missy saw the bathtub.
She could have sworn that heaven’s light shined on it while a heavenly orchestra played Handel’s Water Music.
She approached it carefully, fully expecting it to disappear, and crouched beside it.
“White porcelain and so smooth looking and not a tile anywhere in sight. Am I dreaming this?”
The door opened behind her.
Startled, she stood quickly and looked back.
Raven stumbled into the room. He sighed with relief. “You’re here.”
“Is it real?”
He leaned his head against the door frame. “Hmm?”
“The bathtub. Is it real?”
He opened his eyes and smiled.
“Am I dreaming this? Am I really here in this place with you and this gorgeous bathtub?”
Raven tried his best to stroll over to her.
He tripped over his own feet and fell to his hands and knees.
Missy rushed over to him. She knelt in front of him and laid her hand on his shoulder.
He looked up at her.
And the air between them grew perceptibly hot.
He sat up.
She lowered her hand and started to back away.
“Don’t.” He took her hands and examined them.
“Okay. I wasn’t expecting you to do something so tame as—”
Raven released her. He carefully cupped her face in between his hands. “Are you real? Am I truly seeing you and hearing your voice? Missy. Maybe I am the one who is dreaming.” His gaze moved down to her lips.
That was all the invitation she needed. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.
His hands slid down to her neck as he returned her kisses.
She pushed him in closer.
Held him tighter.
Kissed him like she was trying to devour him.
His kisses were every bit as hungry.
He stopped and pulled back. “This…I…I…This can’t…I can’t, Missy. It isn’t proper.”
“Does that matter?”
“It matters. It matters to me. I don’t…” His head drooped into a bow. “I can’t…I…”
“I can’t afford to lose my position, Miss Farlington.”
She scowled. “James. Quit worrying about your position. Quit worrying about my parents. Quit worrying about whether your gloves are clean enough. Look at me.”
He sighed and set his gloves on his dresser. “Miss Farlington. You don’t seem to understand. I was not born into wealth like you. I—”
“Don’t give me the ‘poor poor me’ backstory. I know your story, James.”
“Then, you should understand why this position is so important to me.”
“Why can’t I be that important to you?”
He turned away from her lest his features betray his thoughts. “I am your butler, Miss Farlington.”
She stomped over to him, grabbed his shoulders, and forced him to face her.
“All I am asking for is a kiss. I am asking for hope, for freedom, for you to be the villain for once.”
He shook his head.
“Grab me, bind me with ropes, toss me over one of my father’s horses, and carry me away now. Here in the dead of the night. Let us escape this place and discover our own happily ever after.”
“Miss Farlington, you speak too hastily, too rashly. You forget your place.”
“My place is with you.”
He smiled sadly. “Ah, if only it were. Please, Miss Farlington. Leave my room. Do not enter it again.”
Raven opened his eyes for a moment and focused on his surroundings.
He was on the bed in his room.
He was all alone.
Missy walked up to the bathtub and touched its smooth clean porcelain. “It is real.”