DISCLAIMER: The characters in this story are mine. Any resemblance to any fictional characters is purely coincidental. This is an uber story and so the two lead characters may be familiar. Some locations contained within the story are real and some are fictional.
LOVE/SEX WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This story depicts loving consensual sexual relationships between women. Some very light BDSM references are contained in the piece. If you are under 18 years of age or if the themes of these relationships are illegal in your country then I suggest you skip this story.
SONG/MUSIC DISCLAIMER: The Songs mentioned in this piece are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to my Beta reader Lee. Your help has been invaluable. For my partner Lou. Your help, love and encouragement are my inspiration. ©Jenny Frame January 2011
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To jennyframe91[at]yahoo.com

The Dalton Family Saga:
Book One: The Road to Dencotte House

By Jenny Frame


Part 4

They pulled in front of the large house where there was an imposing stone staircase lead up to the large front door. At the bottom of the stairs, the entire upstairs staff lined up on either side in a v shape. Beth couldn't believe the welcome. Sometimes she did forget that Alex had a hereditary title and was part of the aristocracy. All the male servants were dressed in traditional black suits with tails, white shirts and white bow tie, and black waistcoats. The woman wore black and white maids' outfits apart from Mrs. McKluskey who wore an all black dress with lace collar. Foster stood beside her in black suit with tails, white shirt with upturned collar and an ornate, wide neck tie.

One of the footmen approached the car and opened the door for Alex. She then went round to help Beth out. As they both came forward Mrs. McKluskey and Foster approached. Mrs. Mckluskey was about Beth's height with dark graying hair tied up in a bun on the back of her head. She was perhaps in her late 50's. Mrs. McKluskey observed the young woman with the Master. She was petite and very pretty. She seemed to radiate an innocence and goodness even though she seemed somewhat skittish and overawed by her surroundings. Going by this Mrs. McKluskey concluded the young lady was respectable and not as she often feared for Alex a gold digger.

"Come home at last, Master? We have missed you!" she said, speaking in a broad Scottish accent.

Alex bent over and kissed the housekeeper. "Mrs. Annie McKluskey and Foster may I introduce Miss Elizabeth Bentley."

"Pleased to meet you Miss." they said.

"And you, please call me Beth."

"Welcome home M'lord." Foster said.

"It's good to be back. Foster, how goes things with you?" she said to the butler. "The house runs as smoothly as ever M'lord."

"Excellent stuff! Beth If you are lost or have any questions please go to Foster or Annie."

"Well, shall we get you settled?" They entered into a huge marble entrance hall. Straight ahead of them was a grand staircase, which peeled off to both the right and left. Some of servants from outside followed them in and some had taken their luggage in through the side entrance. Their coats were taken and Annie said, "I've put Miss Beth into the oriental room. Does that suit, M'lord?"

"Of course. Beth, Mrs. Mckluskey will take you up to your room and get you settled. Why don't you have a short rest. I'll send for you when I get back."

Alex kissed her hand and moved off. Annie noticed the girl looking a little forlorn at being left on her own.

"Come Miss Beth, let's get you settled." Annie led the way up the stairs. Beth followed behind and was taken down a corridor off to the left of the half landing on the stairs. The stairs continued up to a third floor above. The sheer scale of the place was enormous. She was taken down a never-ending corridor, past door after door. Even the corridors were beautiful, ornate plastered ceilings, cornice pieces, and deep oak wooden floors. The corridor was bright as there were many windows; she caught a glimpse of the gardens to the rear. They looked immaculate and well tended.

"This is your room for your visit. It's called the oriental room due to the many oriental prints and china vases."

The room was very large and bright; it had a large four-poster bed with a gold coloured throw, curtains to match, and a cosy looking fireplace. There was a seated picture window overlooking the front of the house and lake and a fine looking antique desk in the other.

"What a fine view this room has." Beth said.

"It has Miss Beth. The late Lady Dalton redecorated it herself. She had a taste for the Oriental. Has the Master told you of house on the grounds?"

"Oh yes, I'm looking forward to seeing it and perhaps taking a book down to read there."

"I'm sure you'll have some time. Now a few things. The head maid Laura is assigned to you during your stay. She will help you dress in the morning and for dinner, and give you any other assistance you may need. She is a nice girl of your own age so I'm sure you will get on well together."

Beth was a little taken aback, she was to have her own maid?

"Will Lotty be assigned her own maid as well?"

"Oh no, Mrs. Woodward will bring her own maid with her, Ms. Woodward will bring a valet for her needs."

"Does Alex have a valet?"

"Yes, Thomas is his name, nice boy." Annie realised the young woman was becoming overwhelmed and sought to comfort her.

"Miss Beth, I know a lot of this will be new to you and somewhat troubling when you don't know what's doing but please come to me, Laura, or Foster at anytime with any questions. Don't be embarrassed if it is even the smallest thing. Lord Dalton runs a well-oiled, structured house but we don't stand on ceremony. We want to make you feel as comfortable as possible."

"Thank you so much. I feel a bit more relaxed. I hope I get the chance to talk to you more. Alex talks with such fondness about you and Foster."

"We will Miss. I do believe we will be seeing a lot more of you at Dencotte in the future." She smiled and left the room leaving Beth feeling quite alone.

She sat at the picture window and looked over the lake. The view of the grounds was truly breathtaking. As she looked on a passage from her favourite book, Pride and Prejudice, came to mind.

'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.' Beth laughed to herself. "Jane Austen never said a truer word!"

There was a knock at the door.

"Yes?" Beth asked.

A maid came through the door. "I am Laura and I'll be your ladies maid while you're here." She looked a bright girl. She had blonde hair that was pulled up underneath her cap. Beth went forward and put her arm out to shake hands. Laura hesitated; guests did not normally behave this informally and friendly. She shook Beth's hand, instantly liking the young girl.

"I have to say Laura, I'm not used to all this so I'll be relying on your guidance. Please don't hesitate to butt in and tell me if I'm doing something wrong."

"I'll try my best. I suppose the first thing you need to know is that there will be a gong at half past six. This is to alert you to start dressing for dinner and as soon as you are ready everyone comes down to the drawing room for drinks. There will be a further gong at eight tonight to signal the guests to come through to the dining room for dinner, It's only four o'clock now so you have plenty of time."

"Oh thank you Laura, you and I will be great friends I am sure."

Laura smiled, "I am sure we will Miss. If you don't mind I will start unpacking you're things. Is there a particular dress you would like to wear tonight? I can make sure it's pressed and ready for you?"

"Emmm, there's a midnight blue dress I think would be best."

"As you wish Miss." Laura then went to sort out the suitcases.

"Knock, knock!" Beth turned round to see Alex leaning against the door.

"Alex! Are you finished with your business?"

"Yes. I see your settling in nicely. Hello Laura, nice to see you. How's your mother doing?"

Laura smiled, "Good afternoon My lord. She is coming on leaps and bounds since she has seen the doctor you sent her to. Thank you so much."

"My pleasure. Now Miss Bentley would you like to take a tour of the house? We won't really have time for the grounds today. I thought perhaps we'd do the grounds tomorrow after breakfast, shall we?" Alex smiled as she offered her arm to Beth.

"Of course, I can't wait to see everything!" Beth exclaimed as they set off down the corridor.

"Do you like your room, little bit?"

"It's lovely and it has the most wonderful view over the lake. I think I would love to sit there and read. Mrs. Mckluskey tells me your mother designed that room."

"Yes, She thought it appropriate to put you in there."

"I missed you." She pouted.

"And I you, but I do believe I won't be out of your sight for the rest of the weekend. I think we should forgo the third floor at the moment there is only more bedrooms and the servants' part of the house."

"Is your room on this floor?" She asked coyly.

"Yeeees, would you like to see?" She purred.

"Oh yes please!"

They had walked all the way back to the staircase and took the right hand turn instead of the left. Alex stopped at a door and opened it for Beth. She went in and observed the large room. It was double the size of the oriental room but much darker in decor, masculine even.

"This was my parents' room. Mrs. Mckluskey is always telling me it needs redecorated, but that side of things doesn't really bother me and I'm here so little."

As Beth looked around the room she had a thought. "Would you like to settle down here one day?"

Yes with you! Alex thought. "I would love to if I have someone to share it with, Even though I have painful memories of my parents, this is where my heart truly lives. I would love to have the life my father and mother had." She fiddled with her tie nervously.

Beth's heart swelled at the thought of sharing Alex's life here.

"Shall we start downstairs in the portrait gallery? You can see some of my disreputable ancestors."

"Yes Master!" she chuckled.

"Now, don't you be picking up habits from my staff! I've told them often enough not to but it's just what their used to, the way things have always been done. People don't like change."

"I like it." Beth teased as she brushed past her at the door.

'Oh little girl, you're getting to good at this!' Alex thought.

The portrait gallery turned out to be a very long wide room, ornately paneled and gilded walls and ceilings, with very large paintings along both walls of Alex's ancestors through the ages. Halfway down the room was a large fireplace and there were fine tapestry covered and gilded chairs. Some were with horses and some were family portraits.

"Who are some of the painters Alex?"

"That one's a Gainsbourgh and one of the oldest here." She pointed to a large picture of a family. Father, Mother and child in 17th century clothing.

"It's stunning."

"We also have a Joshua Reynolds, William Blake, a Van Dyke and in the drawing room there's a rather fine Rubens, 'Daniel in the lion's Den'."Beth stopped in front of a tall painting of a very attractive woman who was wearing more modern clothing.

"Who's this?"

Alex smiled. "That's Mama."

"She was Beautiful darling." The woman in the painting was perhaps in early forties, had long golden wavy hair.

Alex must have got her dark looks from her father, but her eyes are all her Mother's. Beth thought as they same piercing blue eyes jumped out of the picture in vivid colour.

"This one is my favourite. It's the three of us together."

Beth smiled warmly as she looked at the loving scene. The painter had caught them down at the lake, enjoying a family picnic. A young Alex, her dark hair longer than it is now, coming down to her shoulders, was fishing with her father while her Mother looked on in adoration.

"You looked very happy."

"We were little bit." Alex said with raw emotion in her voice. She cleared her throat, getting herself back in control and said.

"And I am again. Shall we move on to the library?"

They entered the large library and Beth immediately felt at home amongst the books. The room was sumptuously furnished with sofa's and tapestry covered armchairs, large tables and the floor covering was a rich, thick red and gold carpet, as were all of the living rooms. The room was illuminated by chandeliers hanging from a wood paneled ceiling.

Beth walked round the bookshelf's and glass cases kept some rarer pieces and some antiques.

"I envy your book collection. You have some wonderful first editions and rare books."

"I don't read as much as I should, but look I have a surprise for you."

Alex went up a ladder at one of the bookshelf and brought a rather fingered copy of a book down.

"Look." Alex handed her the book.

"The Ancient Peoples of Britain by Dr Edward Bentley, oh Alex, that's wonderful! You have a copy!" She started to cry.

Alex gathered her up in her arms. "Hey shh! shhhh! I didn't mean to upset you."

"I'll ... it's just that I've been so happy lately. I haven't been missing him as much as I should." She burrowed her way further into Alex's shoulder.

"Now, now. Listen, it's only natural for grief to lessen, especially when you are happy. You never forget those who leave us but you father would want you to be thinking of happier things."

Beth pulled herself together and wiped her tears away.

"Your right, he would be happy to see me doing something with my life. Where to next?"

"Emm, follow me."

"It's seems like a very well-run house Alex."

'It's nothing to do with me; it's all down to Mrs. McKluskey. Normally in a house like this the mistress of the house will run it in conjunction with the housekeeper, but since I have no wife or Lady of the house, Annie does more than her job should call for."

Alex hoped that one day Beth would be that Lady and bring family to her home.

"Does Lotty do that for Poni?"

"Yes, in large houses or estates, the Lady of the house takes care of all the dealings inside the house. The Master of the house takes care of the financial matters and the care of the land and farming of the land, with the help and advice of the Steward of the estate."

"And you and Poni are the Master's?" she asked coyly.

"Well, we were never going to be ladies of the house were we?" she laughed.

'There is more to being the wife of a landowner than I thought', Beth mused.

On their way downstairs, they met up with Jones, the steward of the estate, who was delighted to meet the young girl that had captured young Alex's heart. Beth was charmed by him and he promised to show her the most beautiful walks on the estate.

They went next to visit the music room. It was a very pleasant light room with piano in the corner, seating for guests, and a beautiful looking harp in another corner. It was the piano that piqued Beth's interest though and she made a beeline for the instrument.

Alex watched with interest as Beth began to tinkle a few keys.

"Do you play little bit?"

Beth looked and smiled. "I used to. We had a piano at home but it was sold when Father died. I've missed it. This is a marvelous instrument."

"I hope you will give us a tune this weekend sweetheart. This room hasn't heard any music since my Mother played it. I never learned. I remember coming through here after Christmas Dinner, the Woodward's and Dalton's together, belting out Christmas carols with great gusto."

Beth watched Alex recount happier times as she leaned against the door, hands in pockets.

'Oh My Lord, you have no idea how good looking you are. I can't wait to get my hands on you!' Beth thought wickedly.

"I would be happy to play for you darling."

Alex looked at Beth amusedly and winked. What is going on behind those pretty green eyes little bit.

"Shall we?"

They entered Lady Dalton's sitting room and study. It had a lovely desk, bookcase and a cosy sitting area beside the fireplace. The whole room was bright and airy and it looked onto the view of the lake at the front.

"This was my Mother's sanctuary. She dealt with all her correspondence here and met with Mrs. Mcklusey every morning, to give her instructions for the days housekeeping. Poni and I knew this was one place we couldn't just run wild through." "I can tell. It's a very peaceful room."

They ended the tour Alex's study. It had a very different feel than that of Lady Dalton's room. Where it had been light and airy this room had a very masculine feel. The room had dark oak everywhere, heavy leather chair and oak desk, bookcases full of ledgers and farming journals, and a drinks cabinet. It was quite a serious room Beth observed.

Alex sat behind her desk and lit a cigarette while Beth stood in front. She had always admired Alex's aura of power and found it very seductive. "My Father was a very loving man but if was ever called to his study, I was shaking in my boots, now it's my refuge."

Watching Alex sit in this powerful room behind that powerful desk with this whole house and estate at her command, was making her heart pound very fast. Alex spotted the strange look on her face and asked. "What are you thinking?"

"I feel like I have been called to the Master's study for punishment my lord," she smiled.

Alex felt herself grow hard instantly. She raised an eyebrow and eyed Beth hungrily.' She is so good at that! So innocent and pure but deep down there is a little vixen waiting to burst out.'"Come here little bit." she commanded.

Beth nearly melted on the spot. She came round the desk and stood at Alex's side. Alex pushed the chair back a little from the desk and said. "Sit here." she pointed to her lap.

Suddenly shy, Beth hesitated.

"I won't tell you a second time little bit." Her voice gaining a harder edge.

Beth lifted her leg and straddled her lap. Alex placed her hands on Beth's buttocks and squeezed. The young girl moaned and dropped her head onto Alex's chest.

"I want you to tell me why you felt like that. Why did it feel good to think of me calling you to the Master's study to be punished?"

Beth was flushed and kept her head down. Alex slowly lifted Beth's chin and turned her steely, commanding gaze right into the girl's soul.

"If you are to become ready for me to teach you and show you about physical love then you must learn to articulate your desires to me." Alex tenderly stroked her hands down Beth's back. "I must know what you like, what's inside your head." Her hands came back to squeeze Beth's buttocks again and began to nuzzle and kiss down her neck.

"Tell me little bit." The kisses and bites were causing her to moan again.

"I like this." She brought her hands down on top of Alex's that were kneading her buttocks harder. The blonde's hands returned to her beloved's neck.

"You like this?" She kneaded harder and then smacked one buttock hard.

Beth cried out "Ahh! Ohhh!" It stung but she felt such pleasure, the strike had brought an instant flood of wetness between her legs.

"Yeessss! I like that." She was writhing now in Alex's lap.

"Good girl, now tell me what it was that made you want to be punished by your Master?"

"I ... oh ... ah ... I love your power my lord. It radiates from you. Sometimes I watch you at the office in a meeting telling people just what to do and giving commands. I just want you to touch me when I see it and turn your power on me. When I saw you in this office, behind this big desk, all this land, and the staff at your command, I ... I ...wanted you to be my master as well."

Beth pulled herself back a bit and looked deeply in Alex's lust filled eyes.

"Is that wrong my lord?"

"No, no, never little bit. It is perfect because I like to be very much in control. I think when the time comes for us to share each other's passion; we will be very well suited. I have so much I want to teach you."

They kissed deeply and passionately, their kisses becoming more frantic when there was a knock at the study door.

"My lord! The Woodward's have arrived!"

Beth nearly jumped out of her skin and they leaned their foreheads together sighing.

"I will be there directly, Mrs. Mckluskey."

"Come on sweetheart, we better straighten ourselves up."

"GRRRR!" Beth said in frustration.

Alex laughed. "Come now sweetie, we were going too far anyway. Let's go greet our friends, before I lose any more brain cells! We can finish our tour later."

"I'm ready." Beth smiled. "Let's get to it Master!"

Alex playfully slapped her bottom as they left the room laughing.

Poni and Lotty stood as their friends entered the drawing room, Poni holding Kat in her arms. "Beth, my dear! We've missed you." Lotty said as she opened up her arms to hug Beth.

Alex was delighted to see the affection between the two women. Beth had slipped seamlessly into her life and she was so happy her friends clearly loved the young woman.

"Hello little Kitten. How are you?" Said Alex taking the little girl from Poni's arms. Poni gave Beth a big bear hug.

"You've finally got that old reprobate to bring you home. I'm sure you'll really enjoy the party."

'Home. Beth wondered at Poni's choice of words. Could this be her home? Could she possibly be mistress of all this?' The thought was overwhelming.

"I'm sure she will you old Poni, as long as those women keep their eyes to themselves." Alex said as she nuzzled into Beth sweet smelling hair. She had handed Kat to Beth for a cuddle.

"Oh put the poor her down My Lord! Your forever pawing the girl, you've had your turn. It's time for some girl talk now." Lotty said as she took Beth's hand and pulled her over to the sofa area for a private confab.

Foster came in and asked Alex. "Shall we serve tea M'lord?"

"Yes, if you would Foster, and some juice for Miss. Kat please."

"Certainly M'lord."

Alex smiled as looked over and saw the two women fussing over kitten and gossiping away already.

Poni took out her cigarettes and offered one to Alex. They both lit up and strolled over to the French windows. Alex opened them and they went onto a sitting area just outside. It was cold, bright, and crisp. Alex closed the doors after her, so the cold air wouldn't get into the drawing room. The smoke from the cigarettes billowed up into the air.

"You look happy my friend. How did it feel bringing your girl back home?"

"I am happy old man. When I was showing her round I felt like I was trying to convince her how well the place would suit her and hoping she wouldn't leave."

"I'm sure if you asked the girl, Alex, she would never leave. Do you not want to make her your wife? You don't still have fears about this relationship do you?"

"Nothing would give me more pleasure than to bring her home as my wife Poni but I have concerns. She is so much younger than us. Of course I now believe that she is comfortable in a relationship with a woman but there's a lot more to it. She's so innocent and inexperienced. Is she ready for married life? Could she cope with the responsibility that comes with being my wife and mistress of this house?"

"She can only learn Alex. Whether you ask her in the near future or two years from now, she will always be younger and less worldly wise than you. That's why she needs you, Alex. Beth strikes me as someone who has that aura of goodness and innocence that will be the same if she's 20 or 50. From all I've heard about her from you and Lotty, she's had no choice, but to be independent and look after herself for most of her life, and from what I've seen she's done that well but maybe it's time for someone to look after her. She has no one else in the world but you and myself and Lotty. I'm sure she knows how much you love her but she's never had security since her father died. She could do with commitment, to know she won't ever have to worry again."

Alex cocked an eyebrow. What are you her brother? Are you inquiring about my intentions," she smiled.

"I just feel she needs someone to speak for her. If her father had been alive he would be asking a lot stronger questions than that."

"I promise I have never doubted since I admitted my love that I wanted her to be my wife. It was just the concern over her age and experience. I didn't want to be seen as steamrolling a young girl to suit my needs. What you've said has made sense and I'll think on it old man."

Inside the drawing room Beth and Lotty sat drinking tea, while Kat sat playing with her toys at their feet. "So what do you think of Dencotte , my dear?"

"Lotty it is truly the most beautiful place I have ever seen. There's such a sense of peace here. I haven't had a tour of the grounds yet but from what I've seen it is wonderful. The whole area is picturesque. It's so sad that Alex has spent so little time here recently because of bad memories."

"I'm glad you like it so much. I have always known that, no matter how she behaved to the contrary, all Alex has ever wanted is to live here with a family. This is where her heart is. Do you like Mrs. McKluskey?"

"Oh yes! I was worried about meeting her, but she's been very welcoming."

"She's the salt of the earth. A tough lady but full of love for Alex and Dencotte. I don't know how our Lord would have survived without her or Foster. So are you settling into the way of things here?"

"I was a bit overawed when I first came in. I knew Alex was well off and had a large house but I had no idea it was like this! It's like a palace, I'm glad you're here now! I can relax knowing if I'm unsure about anything, you'll help me."

"I'll always be here for you. I'm so happy to have this friendship with you. We are in an unusual position with unusual partners. I don't think anyone else would understand. I hope to help you with this new world you're entering. I'm so glad it was you that Alex fell for. There are so many women at the Alley Cat who have tried to get her for her money. She is the fifth richest person in Britain you know?"

"Oh my goodness! I hope nobody thinks that I'm a gold digger! I've never sought for Alex to spoil me like she does."

Lotty took her hand and said. "Don't worry my dear, your goodness shines through, anyone can see that."

"Thank you, you're a good friend." Just at that a loud gong was heard throughout the house.

"Ah. Time to dress for dinner my young friend. Has Alex appointed a ladies maid to you?"

Yes, Laura. She seems nice."

"She is. A good girl and you will get on fine. Well, we better get going. That pair could be dressed in 5 minutes, but to make sure we knock their socks off, we need a little more time!" she laughed.

"Come on sweet pea, let's find nanny and get you some supper."

"Yum! Yum! Mamma." The little girl squealed and the two women laughed.

Beth arrived in her room to find her whole outfit laid on the bed. Laura was at the dressing table arranging the jewelry and hair accessories.

"Ermm, thank you Laura for setting out my clothes. I'm not too sure what ..."

Laura could see that Beth was floundering over what was expected of her. This girl was so unlike some of the upper call fools that frequented the Master's parties. She liked her very much and decided to rescue her.

"Miss, if you would like to get washed up in the bathroom, when you are finished I will dress you and fix your hair." Laura smiled reassuringly.

"Oh right, thank you Laura." She went to wash in the adjoining bathroom.

'This is like an alien world I've arrived in. No one has ever helped me on with my dress before! Well perhaps mother did. I wonder what father would think of all this.' Beth sat in front of the mirror at the dressing table with Laura putting the finishing touches to her hair.

"You really don't have to do this Laura. I feel a little uncomfortable with it. I'm just an academic's daughter. I'm nothing special; I'm not blue blood like Alex." Beth caught what seemed to be a look of hurt go across Laura's face.

"Miss, were not slaves. This is my job. We all take great pride in serving the family at Dencotte . Without them we have no livelihood, the village and surrounding area would have no farming industry to work in. I'm sorry if you think I'm speaking out of turn."

"I apologize. I never thought of it that way. I didn't mean to offend. Forgive me? I have a lot to learn about this way of life."

Laura smiled. "Of course Miss. I understand that all this is very different, but be assured everything will be fine. You'll get used to it."

"Thank you. Laura, what are Lord Dalton's parties like?"

"They are loud!" she laughed "But mostly good natured affairs. The people are all different. A complete cross section of society. The Master doesn't discriminate against anyone. She doesn't care what you were born into. Although I will tell you, us staff get the most trouble from the upper classes! They expect service at the snap of their fingers."

"Do they all stay here?" Beth inquired.

"Oh no! The Master never allows anyone except Ms. and Mrs. Woodward to stay in her house. Well that was before you that is. They get lodgings in the village."

Beth was amazed. She had assumed everybody stayed here. Alex appeared to be very protective of her home and only she had been allowed in.

"You all seem to be very comfortable with the way your Master lives her life, you know being a woman and not wanting to be a lady."

"You'll find all the staff here very protective over our Master. The Dalton family has always been very well loved in the village. They do such good work for the village and for the country. We have grown up with, and some of us have watched, her grow up. She is who she was meant to be. I know most would think it immoral but we know Lord Dalton could never have been anyone else. She's had a lot of pain in her life. We all hope she finds some happiness?" she smiled knowingly at Beth.

Beth descended the stairs and began to panic. 'Were we supposed to meet in the drawing room or the music room?' She felt like a fool. "There are too many rooms!" As she reached the bottom step Foster the butler came walking through the marble entrance hall. He looked up to her and saw the confusion on the girls face.

"You will find the Master and the Woodward's in the drawing room Miss." he said with a slight bow of his head.

"Oh thank you Foster." She walked over to the drawing room door. She felt nervous all of a sudden as she opened the door and entered. Both Alex and Poni stood. Alex went straight over to her and kissed her lightly on the lips.

"Hello little bit. I've missed you. You look amazing as always. Come let's get you some champagne."

She guided Beth over to sit on the couch with her. A man servant came into the room with the champagne and glasses. Alex had not let go of Beth's hand needing to retain contact with her girl. As they chatted Alex constantly was giving Beth attention by hand holding, little kisses, and touches. Alex couldn't get enough of the girl. After her talk with Poni this afternoon, she had come to some decisions regarding their future and she intended to make her so happy she would never want to leave her. This woman would be her wife and she would put her plan into action over the next couple of weeks. The final dinner gong rang and Alex and Poni escorted their partners into the dining room.

Later that night Alex walked Beth up to her room. When they reached the door Beth said. "Will you come in and talk some more?"

"Little bit, if I came into your bedroom at this time of night, talking would not be on the agenda. I know we've had a few close calls and we both want to wait till you were ready, but I am only human, sweetheart, and tonight I just can't get enough of touching you so I don't know if I could stop." She smiled and stroked Beth's cheek as Beth leaned into the touch and said with eyes closed. "I love you so much My Lord. I don't know how I lived before I met you."

"You've got me now and I will never let you go little bit. I'll see you at breakfast tomorrow and after I will show you around the grounds before the hordes of indecent woman arrive!" she joked.

Goodnight sweetheart." She gently caressed Beth's lips with her own.

"Goodnight Master." She said playfully. She gave a little wink and with that entered her room floating on a cloud of love.

Alex was left open mouthed and hot on the other side of the door. "Oh you're good little bit! My head is going to explode. I know it!" She pulled herself away laughing to herself, and made her way to her rooms.

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 6 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 join them.

"Laura, you're alright 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 no 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 alright 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 alright 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. She 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 mesmerized. 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."

"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 forwards 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 realized that Beth wasn't even listening to her and caught the lusty looks towards her body. She immediately felt a bolt go to her groin 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 breakfast room, watching over the servants going backwards and forwards with the breakfast things.

Beth sat and watched as Lotty, who stood at the breakfast sideboard, was preparing a plate with for Poni and herself and Kat. Poni sat beside Kat, who was in her high chair, at the dining table, 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 baby." 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 with light blue edging. 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 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.

"Owww!" 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 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 10 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 a 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, ok then." 'Wow 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 and 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.

Laura was putting the finishing touches to Beth's make up. The sounds of the band warming up in the ballroom drifted up the stairs, causing butterflies to jump around Beth's stomach.

"There miss. You're ready. You look perfect."

Beth had her hair pulled up into a chignon. She wore a midnight blue gown and the jewellery she had received on her birthday.

"I don't feel perfect Laura! I'm so nervous. These women will be so sophisticated and, don't think I can match up."

"Miss, may I speak freely?" Beth nodded.

"None of the women down there will be able to match up with you. The Master has never brought anyone home before you. A lot of women who will be there tonight have tried to catch her, but none have succeeded. You have by being yourself. You won. You will be the one on the Master's arm. Just remember that when you walk in the room."

Beth hugged Laura. "Thank you for that pep talk! It's just what I needed."

"Anytime miss," she smiled. There was a knock at the door and Alex's voice came through the door.

"Are you decent?"

Laura took Beth's hands. "It's time. Now go and knock them dead miss!"

Laura opened the door to admit Alex to the room.

"Sweetheart, you astonish me with your beauty every time I see you. You look ravishing!" Alex took her hand and kissed it. "You ready to face the hordes?"

"As I'll ever be!"

Alex led her down the stairs. The hall of the house was full of staff taking the coats of the arriving women. The double doors to the ballroom were open as Beth and Alex approached. Staff were moving around with trays of champagne and finger food. As they entered the ballroom Beth gripped Alex's arm tighter. Alex felt her tension and gave her a kiss on the forehead for reassurance. The room was full of couples talking and laughing down the sides of the room. There were couples dancing in the middle of the room while the band at the back on a slightly raised stage played.

All the couples were like Alex and herself. Ladies in evening gowns and cocktail dresses and their partners dressed in dinner jackets like Alex. It seemed strange to Beth that this sight was so normal and natural to her now, when before she came to London she had no idea women could even be together.

As they walked further into the room Beth could see all eyes turn on them, some amazed that Alex had a partner and some envious. A few faces she recognized from the Alley Cat. Lotty and Poni came towards them.

"Another good doo old friend," Poni said.

"I hope so. Kitten all tucked up?"

" Yes, although we had to promise a visit to the horses tomorrow. She hates to think she's missing out on fun." Replied Lotty.

"Poni and I could take her out for a trot with us. "

"Top notch idea Alex." Said Poni, always eager to spend time with her little girl.

"Shall we have a dance, little bit? And then I'll get you a drink."

Alex led her to the centre of the dance floor and pulled her close. Beth rested her head against Alex's shoulder. She could feel the eyes of some of the women boring into her back with venom. Alex was announcing she was off the market.

"You settling down now sweetie?"

"Yes darling, I'm sorry I was so nervous. I'm just not used to being the centre of attention."

Alex whispered in her ear. "You will always be the centre of my attention little bit. I love you." Alex's husky voice sent shivers down her spine and she appreciated the reassurance that Alex was giving her. Alex remained as attentive as ever. She was stuck like glue to her side all evening.

Although it was a cold crisp December night, the heat generated in the ballroom was great and so the French windows that led out to a balcony area were open. The four friends stood out on the balcony for a breath of fresh air. Alex and Poni enjoying a cigarette while keeping an arm round their partners to keep them warm.

"You're not too cold sweetheart?"

"I'm fine for now. I needed some fresh air. The heat and the champagne were getting a little too much for me."

"No wonder! Alex never let you off the dance floor!" Lotty said smiling.

It was true. Beth had hardly missed one dance. If she wasn't up with Alex then Poni was taking her from a spin.

"I loved it Lotty. I've never had the opportunity to dance so much in my life!"

A lot of appreciative glances came Beth's way during the evening, but they were soon snubbed by Alex's cold hard stare. Beth was oblivious to it all.

From across the room Sally Weston observed the happy foursome. ' It makes me sick! Look at them pawing each other like a pair of dogs in heat! You don't deserve to be happy my lord. I may not be able to convince you that we're meant to be together. But if I can't have you then I'll make sure your little innocent virgin will never want you!' Sally had not received her usual invitation to the house party after her recent confrontation with Alex. She had latched onto an older woman who went to the Alley Cat. She always got an invitation and since all the invites included a partner, Jack, as the older woman was known thought all her Christmas's had come at once when this leggy blond had turned her attentions to her.

Since they arrived at the party Sally had virtually ignored her, her use now almost complete. Alex hadn't spotted her and that was the way she wanted it, for now.

It was getting a bit too cold for Lotty on the balcony. "Beth my dear shall we go to the buffet and bring a couple of plates back for us and these reprobates?"

Beth smiled. "Sounds like a plan."

"Don't be long, little bit. I'll miss you."

"I won't My Lord" They parted with a kiss and Lotty and her young friend made their way towards the other side of the ballroom where an adjoining room was set out with food and drinks of all kinds.

"Poni, I forgot to tell you. I got some of those Cuban cigars we were looking to try. Shall we partake after we have a bite to eat?"

"Capital idea old man."

"Excuse me and I'll run and get them from my study. Won't be long."

Alex entered her office and used a key to open a desk drawer. She heard her office door open and knew without even looking it was not Beth. She turned to see Sally Weston standing there.

"What do you want? You shouldn't even be here!"

"Yes for some reason my invitation was lost in the post. How are you and you're little virgin getting on? Ready for something more yet?"

Alex came round to the front of her desk. "I'm quite content thank you."

Sally knew she had to keep Alex talking. "I could help you," she said getting closer. "You could fuck me and your little virgin would never know. I promise."

Beth and Lotty were coming back from the buffet when a woman Lotty knew from the Alley Cat, Jack, came up to them. "Hello, emm, Alex asked me to tell you she just popped to her study and if you would join her for a few minutes."

Sally Weston had promised a night she would never forget if she helped in her plan.

"Oh, ok. Lotty could you manage this plate too?"

"No problem, see you soon."

Beth made her way to Alex's office excited at the thought that maybe Alex wanted some private kisses.

"I will never want anything from you Sally! Why can't you get that through your head? It makes me sick that I ever even touched you!"

Sally heard the movement at the door and immediately thrust herself into Alex.

"Oh yes please fuck me My Lord! You know you always can do anything. You don't have to ask! You know I'll never tell Beth."

Sally threw her arms around Alex and clamped her lips to her. While this was happening Beth had opened the door and was standing there witnessing Alex's apparent infidelity. The young blonde looked in horror at Sally and Alex kissing and Sally's words were ringing in her ears. She turned and ran from the room, tears running down her face. It all happened so fast Alex had no idea what was happening. She saw Beth running from the room. She pushed Sally off her and shouted. "Beth, wait! Please!"

Sally laughed."You really thought you could have a normal happy relationship, Alex? The likes of you don't deserve it. You use women and throw them away. I won't allow you to suddenly decide you're going to be good, have a mature relationship and settle down!"

Alex felt utter fury as she realised the implications of Sally's actions. She turned and looked at her with cold venom. Sally had never felt fear like it when she saw the cold hatred in Alex's eyes. Alex came towards her, backing Sally up against the wall.

"Go on Alex. Hit me. Show Beth the real you!"

Alex's fist balled up, the rage coursing through her body. She brought it up and slammed her fist into wall beside Sally's head. "If you have ruined my one chance at happiness I will kill you! Get out of my house and never set foot here again!" She screamed. She went out to the hall where some guests had gathered. Lotty and Poni came to her.

"What has happened Alex? Is Beth alright?" Lotty asked.

"Could you please get everyone back into the ballroom and ensure the party carries on and Poni could you see that Miss. Weston leaves the house straight away?"

"Of course no problem Alex, go and see to Beth."

Alex raced up the stairs and found Beth's bedroom door locked. She knocked the door.

"Beth, let me in. Please I can explain. It wasn't what it looked like. Please."

Inside Beth was sprawled across the bed crying uncontrollably. When she heard Alex's voice she sat up and pulled a pillow to her chest. She felt like her heart had been broken in two. She had believed in Alex with all her heart. She thought her honourable and had put her complete trust in her. She also felt panicked. She poured everything into Alex, her job and the life she had built depended on her. Without Alex she was alone and had nothing.

'Maybe I shouldn't have held back so much about sex. If I hadn't been such a nervous virginal little girl then Alex wouldn't have gone looking elsewhere. But Alex had insisted we wait as well. I don't know how I'll live without her!'

The knocking got louder. "Little bit, please. At least let me explain. Just give me one chance!"

The door unlocked but wasn't opened. Alex took a few deep breaths and opened the door, her hands shaking. She found Beth sitting on the edge of the bed cuddling into her pillows, her eyes staring off into the distance.

Alex stepped forward. "Sweetheart, can I sit down?"

She received no response. Alex went to stroke the side of Beth's face. She pulled away sharply. "Don't touch me!" she said coldly.

"Ok! Ok! I promise I won't touch you. Just please listen." Alex paced back and forth in front of her. She pulled her bow tie off and loosened her collar. Alex had never felt such panic. In one moment she could lose everything. This was her one chance to try and appeal to Beth. She was starting to sweat under the pressure. She took off her dinner jacket and threw it on the chair.

"What you saw, what you think you saw was not what you think. I've been set up."

Beth showed no response. "I should tell you from the beginning. Sally Weston was one of the women I had been with. Well I told you how I was before, but I always made it clear there would never be anything more than that one time. When I saw her again at the Alley Cat she pursued me, saying we were meant to be together. I never gave her what she wanted. I never went with the same woman twice. She obviously harboured some sort of feelings towards me or more likely my money.

"Not long after you came to work for me, I found myself falling in love with you, but as you know I was frightened to feel it, to tell you. I thought I could never deserve someone as pure as you and I thought you too young. It was becoming harder and harder to come to work every day and you not be mine. Whenever we would touch it was almost painful I wanted you so much. I thought if maybe I did what I always used to then my brain would stop thinking of you so much. Perhaps because I hadn't been with a women in so long, that maybe if I had sex then my feelings wouldn't drive me so mad. I went to the Alley Cat with the intention of finding someone to relive that tension. Sally made a bee line for me and because she knew how I liked things I broke my cardinal rule and decided she would be the one."

Beth looked up. The pain and disappointment etched on her face. It broke Alex's heart to see. She dropped to her knees before Beth.

"But when push came to shove I couldn't do it. I kept thinking of you. I wanted no one but you. I knew there would be no one but you for the rest of my life. I left the Alley Cat immediately. Sally felt spurned and then when she saw me with you at your birthday she realized why. She tried again and when I refused she threatened to tell you all about me. I warned her off and made sure she didn't get an invitation to the party.

She has obviously come with one of the other guests. I went to the study to get cigars for Poni and myself. Special ones I had just got from Cuba. She came in behind me. She propositioned me, but the way she said it made me think she didn't really mean it. It was as if she was playing for time. When she heard a noise at the door, which must have been you, she smiled and launched herself at me, said those vile things you heard, and started kissing me. I didn't have time to react before you were through the door.

"I swear I never kissed her back. I would never ever betray your love. I know it looks bad but I am asking you to trust in me and us. Please little bit! I didn't do this! Don't leave me. I can't go back to living without you."

Tears were now rolling down Alex's cheeks. Beth was shocked, both at the story and at the sight of Alex crying. It just seemed so wrong. Beth wiped away a tear with her thumb. Alex leaned into her touch.

'Can I believe what she's telling me? My whole being is screaming out to believe. I love her.'

"Some woman called Jack came and told me you asked to see you in your study straight away." She whispered.

"I never sent that message." Alex grasped Beth's hand. "I swear on my word of honour I did not kiss her or carry on behind your back. The thought of losing you terrifies me."

Beth didn't speak. Her face remained like stone. Alex dropped her head into Beth's lap. She started to cry harder.

"I love you. I would never do anything to dishonour you. I knew one day my past would come back to ruin what we have. Sally was right. I don't deserve you or the happiness you brought me."

Alex felt a hand clap the back of her head.

"I believe you." Alex thought she heard. She raised her head and looked Beth in the eyes.

"What did you say?" she croaked.

"I believe you. Sally is wrong. You deserve love and more. I told you once I will never leave you and I would look after you for as long as you want me. My wishes remain the same. I will never leave you. I love you."

Beth was crushed by the strength of Alex's hug.

"Oh sweetheart! Thank you for believing in me! I love you. I love you so much!" Alex kissed all over Beth's face.

"It just hurt so much to see you that way! Alex, I love you. Please don't let that woman near us again." Beth gripped Alex tightly.

"No, little bit. You will never see her again don't worry. I'm so sorry you had to see that. I gave you my word, I will never ever let you down."

"Will you sleep by me tonight? I don't want you to leave me."

"Of course I will. Let me go and let Poni know we are well and I will be straight back. I love you."

Alex kissed Beth once more and left the room. She stood out in the hall and let out a long breath. She had come so close to losing everything. She would never allow that again.

Alex awoke the next morning plastered to Beth's back. When she came back to the bedroom last night there had been no more words. Beth had slipped off her dress and lay in her underwear. Alex slept in her vest and boxers and grasped Beth as closely as she could. A shiver passed through her as she looked down at Beth's face asleep. She realised how close she had come to losing everything as she stroked the young girls honey coloured hair.

"I will never stray from you or disappoint you little bit. You are my life." she said as she lightly kissed her head.

"I know."

"I thought you were sleeping?" Alex said, continuing to stroke her head.

"I was but I heard you." She turned onto her back. "I don't want you to be walking on eggshells round me. I believe in you. You're loyal to the bone. I would have realised that if I had more time to think last night. It was just the shock of seeing another woman on you like that. My whole world collapsed in a second, but I know you wouldn't do that to me."

"I'm sorry my past has done this to us sweetheart."

"You always talk about that part of your life as if you were this bad person. I don't think that so. You were a very sad and lonely person, looking for someone to care for you. I will do that. I promise I will always do that."

Alex felt the tears start again. It was the release of tension overwhelming her. She wiped them away frantically.

"I've never cried in front of anyone before in my life, before last night. Sorry you have to see me like this."

"You don't have to be the strong stoic one all the time. I'm honoured you would show me this side of you. Remember, when we are alone, this is the one place you can truly show yourself. I would never tell anyone. You are safe with me. I promise."

Alex buried her head into Beth's neck, seeking comfort like a child. She had never felt so vulnerable and safe at the same time.

"You like Greek Mythology?. Have you ever heard their story of soul mates?"

"No. Tell me."

"My father told me this story when I was a little girl. He believed my mother and he were soul mates. He told me to remember this when I fell in love and never settle for anything less. The Greeks believed that humans originally consisted of four arms, four legs, and a single head made of two faces, but Zeus feared their power and split them all in half, condemning them to spend their lives searching for the other half to complete them. I know I have found you."

"That was a beautiful story. I know we were meant to be together. You know sometimes I think your much older than 20. You seem wise beyond your years."

"Only about us and our love. The ways of the world on the other hand, well, I need you."

"You'll always be safe and I'll always take care of things for us."

'And soon I will ask you to be mine forever little bit.'

"Now my lord, you mentioned something yesterday about Poni and you going riding?"

Alex laughed, the serious mood now broken. "Of course, Poni will be delighted and we did promise kitten."

"Lotty and I will have a lovely time gossiping about you both! Now let's get ready for breakfast."

The rest of the weekend was spent in quiet companionship with their two friends and Kat. Poni and Lotty had been delighted that Alex was able to reassure Beth after the events with Sally Weston and no harm was done. Alex was even more touchy feely than normal, never letting Beth out of her sight. Finally it came time to return to London and reality.

Alex dropped Beth off at home. They were both anxious about leaving each other, but for Alex at least she had plans to put in action. Monday morning came and they were back to work. Beth had noticed that Alex seemed preoccupied, but she tried to push the thoughts away. Alex came out of her office to speak to Beth and seemed very fidgety. Something was definitely not right.

"What day did you want off to go Christmas shopping with Lotty?"

"We thought tomorrow, before it starts getting too busy. We also have to go shopping Alex, Remember? To get some things for the Woodward's. It's less than two weeks to go now."

"Ah, yes em." Alex ran her hand nervously through her hair. "Tomorrow is good for you to go. Could you clear the diary for me for tomorrow and Wednesday, Thursday afternoon, and then maybe we could go on Friday? How about that?"

Beth eyed her somewhat suspiciously. 'She is hiding something.'

"'That sounds fine. Your diary was pretty clear anyway. The soup kitchens and the foundation building had everything set up for Christmas last week. There will only be a few odds and ends to clear up."

"Ok fine, I just have some personal business to see to over the next couple of days." And with that she was back inside her office with door closed tight.

'What was that all about? Personal business, what can that mean? Stop it Beth! She doesn't have to tell you everything! Mind your own business!'

"I don't know how you can do it Lotty, but I need to know. I'll be with Poni at Garrads. Phone there and let us know. Please Lotty? I know you can do it. Yes, yes, I'll direct Poni to the most expensive jewellery for you while we're there. Oh thank you so much! You know I love you both! Oh and remember about my other Christmas gifts I need your help with, yes, money is no object. Just get whatever you would buy. Speak to you tomorrow. Goodbye." Alex rubbed her hands together. 'Everything is going perfectly!'

The next morning Lotty picked up Beth and they made their way to the shops.

"Good morning my dear, where shall we go first? Do you have some ideas for Alex?"

"I thought maybe a tie pin and some cuff links but I think we'll need to go somewhere a little bit different than Harrods's to suit my budget."

She and Alex had a discussion about Christmas presents. Beth worrying that she could never compete with Alex's gifts. Alex assured her that any gift from her, no matter how small, would mean the world to her as she'd never had a partner to buy her anything before. 'You know me Beth, I'm not a snob, I enjoy nothing better than a rummage around any shop! Some of best purchases have been in more down to earth shops.'

Lotty had been racking her brains trying to find out how she could get round this but could only come up with the one idea. She had to go with it.

"Emm, Poni talked about getting my engagement ring resized. She says this one looks too tight on me. What do you think?" She held her hand out for inspection. The young girl was always dazzled with Lotty's jewels. Poni certainly knew how to pick for her wife.

"It looks perfect to me."

"Hmmm, I'm not sure. You have smaller fingers than me. Why don't you try it and if it fits you then Poni is probably right and I've just gotten used to it being tight."

She pulled off the ring and handed it to Beth who put it on her engagement finger.

"It seems to be a tiny bit too big for me, maybe one size too big. It's so beautiful. You're very lucky."

Beth looked at it longingly. The older woman smiled. 'You are going to be one happy woman Elizabeth Bentley! Now I just have to find a way to phone Alex.'

Lotty's driver dropped them at a more reasonable priced jeweller's. Lotty spied a phone box.

"Beth my dear, could you excuse me a moment? I forgot to tell my housekeeper that Poni wouldn't be requiring dinner this evening. She and Alex are dining out this evening."

"That's fine, I'll just wait here." 'Funny, Alex never mentioned dining out this evening. I suppose I won't see her then.'

"I'll just be a minute."

Lotty lifted the handset in the phone box.

"Garrod's the jewelers please." she told the operator.

"One moment please." said the voice at the other end.

Alex and Poni were in the private room at the jewelers. Engagement rings of various types were laid out in front of them.

"I don't know Poni; I think Beth would prefer something simple."

They were comparing a simple square set diamond to a more elaborate ring with clusters of stones. A sales assistant entered the room. "Ms. Woodward, we have Mrs. Woodward on the phone for you."

"Excellent, I'll be right with you. Excuse me Alex, looks like Lotty's succeeded in her mission!"

"Go to it then."

Alex was left with a senior sales assistant. "Is there anything you haven't shown me? Remember price is no object."

"The only thing we haven't shown you is a diamond that has yet to be mounted. It could be mounted as simply as you wish. It is called the Rutherford diamond, named after the mine in South Africa. It is 40 carats and internally flawless. If it were to be put in a ring setting, it would need to be cut down to around 33 carats. I couldn't give you a price until we decided on the setting."

"Show me."

"Certainly Lord Dalton." The older man left the room high as a kite. If he could sell this gem, he would get the best commission of his life. Poni came back in and sat next to Alex.

"One size smaller than Lotty. They will have the exact size in their records. Where's our helper gone?"

"He told me about a special diamond that they have gotten in. The Rutherford diamond from a South African mine."

"The Rutherford diamond? I saw a piece about that in the Times a couple of weeks ago. It said that a famous London jeweler had bought it, but it didn't say what one for security reasons. It must be worth a pretty penny."

"They haven't told me yet. I'll know if it's the right one when I see it."

The salesmen came back in with a locked jewellery box and sat it on the table. He unlocked it and turned the box towards them. "This is the Rutherford diamond. It is unique and flawless."

Alex's face beamed, Poni just looked shocked.

"That is the most amazing jewel I have ever seen. That's it Poni .That's the one. It's perfect for Beth. How much if set in a plain square setting in 24 carat gold?"

The assistant did a few calculations on his pad and said. I estimate £400,000 Lord Dalton."

"I'll take it! Can you have it finished for Christmas?"

"Of course M'Lord, if I may be so bold, you're young lady must be very special."

"She is special and as unique as that diamond. Send me the account and I'll have my bank transfer the money."

"Of course, if you'll just give me a moment to return it to the safe then we will sort out the details."

After he left the room Alex turned and gave Poni the cheesiest smile.

"Wow, my friend, that's all I can say. You do realise I'm going to have to come up with something pretty amazing for Lotty's Christmas now you've bought that."

"I did promise her I would steer you towards the more expensive jewellery for helping me with the ring sizing."

"My bank account is not going to know what has hit it!" Moaned Poni.

"Don't you give me that! You love spoiling your wonderful wife."

"You know me too well old friend." They laughed together and counted themselves extremely lucky in their chosen partners.

Beth had a wonderful day shopping. It wasn't easy. What do you get someone who has everything? But she was pleased with what she had gotten and the gifts came from the heart. It was Friday and Beth was dragging Alex round some of the more expensive shops in London.

"Sweetheart, how can you enjoy this? Lotty and you go away for the whole day. What do you find to do?"

"It's the looking, the talking, the lunches, the afternoon tea, finding that one unusual thing you don't need but will make you happy. It's the whole experience!"

"Well I'm just glad you have a friend to go with and I only have to come on special occasions!"

Beth took Alex's hand and pulled her on. "I saw Lotty looking at a particular vase in this antique shop the last time we were out. Are you sure about the money?"

"Anything! I'll pay anything if we can just get this done and get some lunch!"

"Darling, it would be less trouble taking a 4 year old shopping, come on."

Alex pouted, but followed obediently.

The next week and a bit seemed to take an age to Alex. For the first time since she was a child, she couldn't wait for Christmas. Christmas was on a Saturday this year. They had shut up the office on Tuesday and that had given them the whole of Wednesday to get packed and ready. They wouldn't be opening the office again till after the New Year. Alex was to pick Beth up on Thursday morning so they would have the whole of Christmas Eve to enjoy setting up the tree and their presents.

Alex had called ahead to instruct Mrs. McKluskey to only get the tree up and ready for decorating. She and Beth would supervise the final dressing of the tree. From her conversations with Beth, this seemed to be very important to her. She had spent many a happy Christmas with her father doing just that and Alex intended to make this the best Christmas she had ever had. Alex came to pick up her at 9 o'clock. Agnes had left the day before to go and stay with her sister in Ambleton, so Beth had to lock up. They made good time and were soon pulling into the estate.

"No matter how many times I see it, I don't think I'll ever get used to how beautiful Dencotte looks!"

Alex beamed with pride.

"Come on, we've got decorating to do!"

The staff was waiting at the door as usual. Mrs. McKluskey ushered them through the door. Laura, the house maid, and Alex's valet Thomas immediately came forward to take care of their respective charges. Beth saw the huge undressed Christmas tree in the entrance hall. She had no idea how they would ever get an angel on top of it.

"Nice to have you back Miss." Laura said as she took Beth's things.

"It's lovely to be back. Will you be with me again for this visit?" Beth asked hopefully.

She liked Laura very much and didn't know how comfortable with someone new.

"Yes, the Master has assigned me to you permanently. As long as you have no objections."

Beth looked over to Alex and gave her a grateful smile.

"That is just fine by me. Thank you Laura."

"Thomas, can you have Foster brought to my study as soon as he is free."

"Right away M'lord."

Alex then turned to the housekeeper. "Mrs. Mckluskey, if I could have a word with you straight away."

"Of course M'lord."

Alex came over to Beth. "I have a couple of estate matters to deal with. Could you go with Laura and get settled and I'll come and get you?"

"Yes, see you soon then."

Alex leaned over and kissed her cheek.

Foster and Mrs. Mckluskey stood in front of Alex's desk in her study.

"Is everything prepared?"

Yes M'Lord, everything is as you requested," said Foster.

"And the special surprise?"

"All taken care of."

"I'm just nervous that's all, I want it to be perfect."

"It will, you have nothing to worry about." said Foster.

"Thank you both. I couldn't have managed all this without you."

"You know My Lord? You've come a long way. The change you have made in your life is remarkable. I knew you'd find happiness one day. Mrs. Mckluskey and I are so proud of you and I know your Mother and Father are looking down, at you, as proud as punch. "

Alex got up and gave them both a hug.

"Thank you, you don't know what that means to me. I just hope she says yes!"

"Oh I have no doubt about that. She's a good girl. You couldn't have picked better. It's about time this estate had a mistress again. I'm getting too old to be running after you so much!" Mrs. Mckluskey joked.

Alex could hear the laughing and joking from behind Beth's bedroom door. She was so glad the two young women got on so well. It would ease the transition for Beth into Alex's life.

"Knock! Knock! Can I come in sweetheart?"

"Yes darling."

Alex popped her head round the door and said. "Hello, you ready for some lunch?"

"You know I'm always ready for food!"

Alex laughed as she put her arm round Beth's shoulders and steered her out the door.

"I thought we'd have lunch and then start decorating the tree since Poni and Lotty aren't here till tomorrow. I asked Mrs. Mckluskey to serve us an intimate supper in front of the fire instead of in the dining room. Sound good?"

"Sounds perfect!"

The rest of the afternoon was spent in fun and good humour fixing the tree. At one point Alex looked over at Beth sharing a joke with Laura as they put baubles on the branches. She had never been happier. This young woman had brought warmth and family back to this home. She remembered her Father telling her a wife was the heart of a home and he was right. This young woman was the key to her future and she would never let her go.

Later that evening Beth sat on the rug in front of the fire, her back leaning against Alex. The room was dark and they were staring into the flames.

"Darling, this has been one of the happiest days of my life. There is such joy to be had in anything I do with you, but to share this special time at Christmas is magical."

"Your right, I can't remember when I've had so much fun. You've given me such love since I met you. You've changed my life. Thank you, little bit."

Beth cuddled in tighter to Alex and sighed in utter contentment.

Christmas Eve arrived and the Woodward's along with it. Alex whisked Poni off for a strategy meeting explaining to Beth they needed to talk about the Boxing Day hunt. Beth was more than happy to be left with Lotty and little Kat. They gossiped over all the presents they had bought. Lotty appeared very excited to Beth. She had no idea what the older woman knew what was coming and couldn't wait!

Kat didn't quite understand Christmas fully yet but she picked up on the excitement and knew she was getting some new toys and was as high as a kite.

Later that evening everyone was dressing for dinner. There seemed to be an energy and excitement about the house that Beth couldn't put her finger on. 'Must just be excitement for Christmas.'

Over in Alex's bedroom things were much more frantic. Thomas was helping Alex dress. As he was putting in her cufflinks Alex asked. "The forecast was definitely for snow?"

"Yes M'Lord. I'm sure it will come later in the evening."

Alex had been overjoyed that snow had been forecast for this Christmas Eve. It would be that final romantic touch that she needed. Unfortunately the snow had not started yet and this along with the other preparations was making Alex insanely nervous. She pulled at her collar nervously.

"This is too tight! How am I expected to enjoy my evening with this collar throttling me all night?" She combed her hair for the 50th time since she had gotten ready, thinking it was out of place but in reality she had enough Brylcreem in it that her hair might never move again. Thomas stopped trying to fix her bow tie as she was moving around too much.

"May I speak freely M'lord?"

"Of course, Thomas. We've known each other long enough."

"I think you need to take a few deep breaths, light a cigarette and I'll bring you a brandy. You'll feel a lot better. You have organised a wonderful evening for Miss. Beth and I don't think you have to worry about her answer. You only have to see the way she looks at you to know how she feels. I think I can speak for all the staff when I say she is a wonderful woman who will make you happy. We all like her very much M'lord and she will make a wonderful Mistress of this house."

Alex clapped Thomas on the back and said. "Thank you. That was exactly the pep talk I needed. I think you should order me that brandy all the same!" They laughed.

"Right away M'Lord."

Alex looked across the table at Beth. She looked radiant. She had chosen her black evening gown to wear. The young woman seemed to have a natural elegance whether she wore expensive clothes or cheap. Alex couldn't wait until Beth would be frequenting London designers for her wardrobe. She knew Beth and Lotty would have such fun filling up her wardrobe with the latest designer creations.

Beth looked up and caught her adoring look and smiled. Dinner had been wonderful. Earlier in the meal Alex had looked nervous and looking back and forth to the windows, then exclaimed. "It's snowing!"

Poni had chipped in. "A toast to the snow!" and the three friends laughed.

Beth was lost but let it go. Alex had relaxed a great deal after this for some reason. After dinner they all retired to the drawing room. That was unusual. Normally after dinner Lotty and herself would excuse themselves and go to the drawing room, leaving Alex and Poni to enjoy a brandy and cigars.

Before they sat down Alex said, "Would you like to get a breath of air on the patio sweetheart and look at the snow?"

"You are very excited by snow all of a sudden! It'll be very cold."

"Please, humour me for just a little while."

"Alright, you joining us, you two?"

"I think we'll just cosy up together here," they smirked.

Alex took her hand and steered her out of the fresh widows onto the patio. Beth gasped as walked out. The patio and surrounding walls had candles everywhere.

"This is beautiful darling. What's all this for?"

"Oh, just to make our first Christmas Eve special. Do you think it is?"

"It's so romantic! The candles and the snow! So pretty."

"There's more. Come here." Alex pulled her into her arms. Alex raised her arm and music began to play. From round the corner a violinist and woman singer appeared. Beth was gob smacked as they started to play the first song they danced to at the Alley Cat, Dearly Beloved.

"How ... wh ..."

Alex pressed a finger to Beth's lips. "No questions. Just dance with me."

Beth laid her head against Alex's chest as Alex danced them around the patio in the candlelight with the snow gently falling around them. The singer started.

Tell me it's true,

Tell me you agree,

I was meant for you,

You were meant for me.

Dearly beloved, how clearly I see,

Somewhere in heaven you were fashioned for me,

Angel eyes knew you,

Angel voices led me to you;

Nothing could save me,

Fate gave me a sign;

I know that I'll be yours come shower or shine;

So I say merely,

Dearly beloved be mine.

As the chorus started up again, Alex stopped dancing. She went into her pocket for the box she would need and dropped to one knee. She looked up at Beth and smiled. She opened the box. "Elizabeth Bentley. You have brought love and joy to my life. Please say you will be mine forever and consent to be my wife? Will you marry me?"

Beth's hand was clamped over her mouth. She was in shock. She had never experienced anything as perfect and romantic in her life. The stunned silence went on for what felt like hours to Alex then finally she heard Beth say.

"Yes! Oh yes Alex! I would love to be your wife!"

Alex released the breath she was holding, slipped the ring onto Beth's finger and stood up to scoop her into her arms and spin her round.

"Thank you so much sweetheart! You will never regret this. I will treasure you each day of our lives together!"

They kissed long and deep. Alex raised her arm again and suddenly fireworks were exploding over head in the night sky. It was an amazing sight.

"Alex, this is the most wonderful moment of my life. Thank you for making it so special. I love you."

"I love you little bit."

Just then Poni and Lotty joined them on the patio bearing glasses of champagne. Mrs. Mckluskey, Foster, Thomas, Laura, Charlie , Liz and Ella also joined them. Kisses and congratulations were shared between the friends. When Beth got a chance to properly look at her ring she was astonished. The diamond was big, but it was set in a simple manner. It was just how she would have picked herself. She kissed Alex.

"Darling this ring is out of this world! You have spoilt me too much again."

"Nonsense! Only the best for my future wife. You're only going to have one engagement ring this lifetime so it has to be the best!" Alex went on to tell her of the special nature of the diamond.

"The Rutherford diamond? Goodness me! I love you more than anything in the world. Thank you for this special evening. I'll remember it for the rest of my life."

"I propose a toast." Poni said. "To the future Lord and Lady Dalton!"

"Lord and Lady Dalton!" the staff and friends replied.

The celebrations continued into the night.

Later that night Alex escorted her new fiancé to her room. When they reached the door Beth said. "Can you come in for a few minutes? I have something I want to give you."

"Of course."

They stepped into the room. Beth went into the dressing table drawer and retrieved a small gift wrapped box.

"I was going to give you this with your other gifts tomorrow, but after tonight I think it's appropriate that you have it tonight. Open it."

Alex looked at her quizzically and started to open it up. She took Beth's father's watch out of the box and looked up.

"I can't accept this. This is all you have left of your father."

"My mother gave this to my father when they were married. They were soul mates and I only dreamt about finding that sort of love but I have with you. Read the inscription, I know you must have studied Latin at that fancy boarding school of yours."

"Ego dilecto meo et dialects meus." Alex read. "'I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine.' That is beautiful little bit, from the Song of Solomon isn't it?"

"Yes, that says what you are to me and you have completed my life. It's the most precious thing I can give you and I would love you to wear it and use it every day as a sign of my commitment."

"Then I would be honoured. I will treasure your gift. I can't wait to start my life with you, little bit and tomorrow we will start to plan for our future."

They kissed sweetly. A perfect end to a perfect night.

The End

I would be delighted to hear your comments about this story at jennyframe91@yahoo.com

Also please take a look at my website where you can listen to the soundtrack to 'The Road to Dencotte House' and find information on my future stories. www.jennys-storybook.com

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