This time, there were several squeals, and Mr. Temps frowned. “Quiet, the lot of you. If the master finds out you are talking about him—-” He trailed off deliberately, knowing that whatever consequences the staff imagined would be far worse than whatever threat he spoke of.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Temps.” Nana looked properly frightened now, and so did the younger maids.
Mrs. Bouilloire sent Mr. Temps a quelling glance. Was it necessary to turn the master into a bogeyman merely to quiet them?
It was the butler’s turn to feel embarrassed. The housekeeper was right, and besides, it wasn’t like he didn’t feel as hopeful as the rest of them. “I should apologize too, Nana,” Mr. Temps said. “I’m just being cautious is all. To celebrate this early might be premature and even backfire on us. However hard, we must let things take its natural course, and more importantly, we must not forget the master’s rules.”
Do not speak of the past.
Do not interfere.
And above all costs, do not let her leave.
Everyone nodded, even Mrs. Bouilloire and Mr. Flamme. Arabella Blume might be a charming little thing, but at the end of the day, it was the master they had sworn to obey – and protect.
IT WAS WELL PAST NOON when Arabella woke up the next day, but this time she hadn’t even the luxury of forgetting. This time, everything was burned indelibly in her mind, and for several moments she could only stare up at the lace canopy of her bed, utterly overwhelmed.
Was there truly no hope for escape?
Was this to be her life from now on?
What was the right thing for her to do?
Arabella’s jaw clenched. Well, one thing was for sure. Nothing would happen at all if she stayed in bed all day. Forcing herself to get up, she opened the door to what she was hoping was an en-suite bathroom—-
But it was more than that.
Arabella shook her head in dazed disbelief. This – this was fit for royalty, too. It was more a lavish boudoir than a mere walk-in closet and bathroom combined. The walls and floors were of white marble, the fixtures were all gold, and there was even a luxurious alcove on one side built between two columns. On another side was a large marble bath. Water was already running in it, bubbles rising to the surface, and when she went to dip a finger into it, Arabella could only shake her head again.
It was wonderfully hot, perfect to soak tired muscles in.
Was everything in this place perfect – except for its ability to restrain her freedom?
It’s all part of his dastardly plan, Arabella warned herself, so don’t let yourself forget that.
A tall order, but she managed to abide by it. Denying herself as much pleasure as possible, she took a shower instead of a bath, and when she opened the closet and saw the neatly arranged rows of dresses and shoes – she ignored all of it and instead donned one of her own dresses.
It was old and faded, yes, but at least it was hers and not bought by Aurélien Sauvage –
Like the rest of her.
Leaving the boudoir, she held her breath as she reached for the knob of the main doors of her bedroom. If it was still locked –
But the knob turned easily under her fingers, and soon Arabella was out. On her way to the stairs, she bumped into a maid with a feather duster in her hands, and to Arabella’s surprise, the woman’s eyes widened at the sight of her.
Did everyone here know who she was?
The other woman approached her cautiously, saying, “Bonjour, Ms. Blume.”
Arabella forced a smile. “Bonjour, err—-”
“I am Nana, mademoiselle. I am one of the maids here.” The other woman had returned her smile, but the wariness in her gaze didn’t completely go away.
“What is it?” she asked finally.
“Are you going to cry or try running away?” Nana blurted out.
Oh. Her lips twisted. “I would if I thought it was any help, but my little talk with Mr. Temps last night sort of gave me the impression that this place is heavily guarded—-” Nana started nodding profusely. “So there you go.”
“You are wonderfully calm about this, mademoiselle.”
“Umm.” Nana was looking at her with stars in her eyes.
“You are no doubt a very strong and brave woman, oui?”
“Let’s just say I’m, err, practical?”
Nana nodded. “Practical is good.”
While this, Arabella thought, was getting weird.
She cleared her throat. “Anyway, I was wondering where I could get some food if that’s possible—-”
The maid’s face brightened. “But of course, mademoiselle. Let me take you downstairs.”
As Nana led the way, Arabella said casually, “I met your master last night.”
“So it is true?” In her haste to face the master’s lady, Nana nearly tripped over her own feet and had to quickly hold on to the balustrade to keep herself from falling.