About the book
The one woman he ever loved and the only one he couldn’t have...
After the death of her father, Amelia Cooper has to fend for herself, and starts working as a maid in various estates. Years later, she is asked to be the head maid of a Castle in Scotland. She agrees, without knowing how awfully they treat their servants…
Jon Nelson is content being the man-at-arms at his Uncle, the Laird of Montgomery, despite the lairdship being originally his. Until a very alluring Englishwoman comes and disrupts his whole world…
Raging in an inferno of passion, their attraction quickly turns into love. Jon is certain that this is the woman of his dreams, and sets on proposing to Amelia as soon as possible. Yet, family doesn’t always have your back. Why would his Uncle ban his marriage to Amelia, and what will Jon choose?
A New Beginning
“Nae much longer now, lass,” the coach driver called.
The steady rock of the coach would have threatened to lure Amelia to sleep if she hadn’t been so nervous to meet her employer and all the new people she would be working with. And it was the first time she would oversee a staff of maids, which she hoped wouldn’t be too hard to do.
Amelia had watched her faither run a lucrative business as a merchant, and how he managed to run the storefront, as she spent many of her days playing in behind his desk or reading in the large chair in the small room. He always used to tell her, Business is not about making money, but about making relationships with people. And that had guided her long after he had passed.
She stared out of the window of the coach, wondering passively what her life would be like nowadays if that one line of ink had been changed, or if her family hadn’t been so greedy. The truth was that Amelia shouldn’t have had to ever find work—her faither had worked himself to the bone to ensure that. Amelia would have a great dowry to attract a wealthy suitor and could have married into an earldom or had become a Marquess with the sum her faither set aside.
But his untimely death, and the fact that she had been just shy of eighteen at the time, had meant that the entire estate had gone to other members of the family. Amelia didn’t receive anything more than what she could get from selling personal possessions and what the store happened to bring in the day before.
So, after that, Amelia had set to work. Being unmarried and newly into adulthood, not to mention the fact that she was a woman, had limited her opportunities. But thankfully, her status and her faither’s extended reach had saved her some trouble. One of the men that frequented her faither’s store, and one of the wealthiest men Amelia knew, hired her to help his wife with housekeeping.
It was there that she had gotten a glimpse of what the people of the ton really got up to. And it wasn’t so much as Amelia was helping the lady of the house with the duties as much as she was doing it all herself.
And after a few months, she was getting more and more work from other families, which meant Amelia had to learn how to do things quickly and efficiently. But the pay was decent enough, despite the step down the social ladder she had taken. She was left with no other option, and it had allowed her to save to cover expenses should she want to travel and settle elsewhere.
It was what had made moving to Scotland possible.
“Aye, my dear, there it be,” the driver called.
Amelia poked her head out of the coach, the breeze rustling her hair. She turned her head to the direction they rode, looking in the distance for Montgomery Castle. She expected to have to squint her eyes, but it was rather the opposite. In fact, one would have to be blind not to see the castle.
Montgomery Castle was huge, sprawling over the hillside in a beautiful display of power and stone. It was magnificent as it was intimidating, and Amelia had to stifle a small spike of anxiety. She had never worked as a housekeeper in such a large place before.
How could one person possibly make sure everything is tidy?
Not to mention, at her pay rate, this seemed too much work for such meager earnings.
Maybe that was why the previous housekeeper had left…
Amelia sat back in the coach, nervousness taking residence in her stomach.
Have I been made a fool?
A desperate woman who takes whatever is handed to her and ends up getting the short end of it all. She knew there was staff, at least based on her correspondence with the Laird of Montgomery. But from her understanding, it was small. It would take at least twenty people to effectively clean the entire place.
There was no going back, however. She had effectively cut all ties with England and those she knew there. Besides, she didn’t have money to sustain herself without working. And she’d be damned if she went crawling back to being Amelia, darling. This was the fresh start she had been working hard for since her faither died. This is what she wanted, wasn’t it?
Amelia decided that no matter how big the castle, it was still better than being in England. And since when did she ever back away from a challenge? She smiled to herself as she threw her shoulders back with a self-assured pride. Amelia may never have gotten the independence that was carefully planned for her by her faither, but she had made a new path for herself. And she wasn’t going to turn back now.
The coach moved forward, and Amelia was thankful to have something to take her mind off her thoughts. The open scenery changed to being enclosed on all sides. There was nothing more than sparse grass and well-packed dirt immediately inside the wall of Montgomery Castle.
What a greeting, she thought with a little bitterness.
Perhaps it was because it was so gloomy that she felt as downtrodden as the dirt at seeing Montgomery Castle up close. The little town was cheerful and bright, but the castle was dark, depressing, and just downright dull. People seemed to move as if there was always a rush to be somewhere—anywhere—else. The pit in her stomach returned with a vengeance, and Amelia’s nerves returned.
The coach stopped, and Amelia resisted the temptation to poke her head out the window. First impressions were everything, she knew, and she didn’t want to appear any younger or less capable than she already felt. The door of the coach was opened, and she was accosted by a large, brooding man. In fact, he had been the one to open the door in the first place.
He was devilishly handsome, and was tall and very muscular. His skin had been kissed by the sun with an even tan. He had deep brown hair that lay in tight curls, the back pulled back at the nape of his neck. The man had the most stunning blue eyes she had ever seen—they were as bright as sapphires and as deep as the English Channel.
This must be the Laird of Montgomery, Amelia thought.
The Laird was young, not much older than herself. But he carried himself with a certain authority that Amelia didn’t dare test. He held out his hand for her to take as she stepped out of the coach, a little impressed by his social graces. Despite being a Laird, he was a Scot—and Amelia knew that Scotsmen were good at being one thing: trouble.
He was gowned in a kilt, the colors of which she assumed were of the Montgomery Clan. It was a deep green mostly, with contrasting earth brown and a golden yellow for accents. It brought out even more of his tanned skin, and it was clear he wore the colors with pride. He stood tall, with his shoulders back, clearly a man of power.
She couldnae seem to find her voice, the feel of his skin on hers was sending her shocks up her arm that made the hair stand up. He has the most beautiful blue eyes, she thought as she was enraptured by them. She almost tripped and fell into him as she got out of the coach, but thankfully managed to keep her feet under her.
“Aye, ye must be Amelia Cooper,” he greeted. “Jon Nelson.”
She nodded, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
His voice was smooth like honey and rough like brandy, the Scottish brogue sending shivers down her spine. There was a playful glint in his eyes, as if he knew how much hearing him talk had affected her. Amelia squared her shoulders and set her chin in defiance, hoping to appear confident and in charge as much as he appeared to be, and nodded in confirmation. He just smirked at her and dropped her hand as she turned to the castle proper.
It towered above her with a dreary force, like the power it held had been ill-gotten. But the Laird didn’t strike her as being overly cruel or someone out for power. Sure, he held himself pompously—but that was most men anyways. However, Amelia didn’t feel as if he had ever struck anyone down to achieve his own success.
She heard him step behind her, the proximity to which set her skin alight, despite the fact he wasn’t touching her. But he was close enough to have her body stiffening in anticipation, and she could practically feel his strong muscles against her back. Amelia, however, could feel his breath, warm on her neck as he spoke softly.
The inside of Montgomery Castle was no less grand than the outside. If Amelia had hoped the inside would be any smaller than it looked, those ideations were crushed under the imposing stone walls and high ceilings. There were many windows, which would let in the sunshine if there had been any to let in that afternoon.
“Follow me,” the Laird demanded.
Amelia followed, looking around her in awe. If the wealthiest of homes had managed to keep her busy, this castle would work her to death. There had to be more people around to help her, but based on the dust on the windowsills, she doubted there were many people at all. She had yet to even see another woman in the castle.
She trotted after the Laird, his large and long legs taking one gigantic step at a time, without any regard to her shorter stature. One step for him was a running jump for her to cross the same distance, and it wasn’t exactly ladylike to go running or jumping around like a toad after a Laird. So, she simply tried to keep up with a brisk walking pace.
There were once-beautiful tapestries that hung on the walls, breaking the stream of windows with a methodic rhythm as they lay between one window and the next. Amelia wondered what it would take to bring some of the shine and vibrancy of the colors back to the tapestries, or if perhaps there was a master weaver nearby that could be brought in to work on a small section at a time.
She followed Jon through the hallways, trying to memorize the twists and turns of the castle. But it was no use, she was hopelessly lost already. They reached a small staircase leading up, and she followed him as he scaled them two at a time with a lifelong, practiced ease. Amelia, of course, had to take the steps one-by-one, which caused the Laird to have to wait at the top. And when she joined him there, he looked rather annoyed at having to wait.
“Aye, ye are tall for a woman and cannae keep up?” he smirked.
“My apologies, my Laird, that the Heavens did not endow me with legs like birch trees like they have done with you,” she shot back wryly.
He seemed a little shocked at her words, and Amelia mentally scolded herself. He’s the Laird and your boss!, her brain screamed in reprimand. But she was too exhausted from the travel and the seemingly never-ending staircase, so it seemed that her irritability was at least a little warranted. His eyes lit with a playfulness at her reply, as if egging her on would now become a new infuriating pastime for him.
They continued down the hall, the light fading as they went down the way, doors lining both sides. The servants wing, she thought, somewhat disheartened at its resemblance to what she imagined the cells in the dungeon looked. Except these rooms had wooden doors, not iron bars. He stopped at one of the last doors, his hand resting on the handle.
“This will be yer room,” he introduced.
Jon opened the door, the hinges letting out a cry of protest that only came with infrequent use. The room was revealed to her, and she stepped in cautiously. It was a quaint space, with nothing more than a small private room and the accompanying bath. She didn’t expect much more, given her status, but it was clear that the bed dressings hadn’t been laundered in some time. Which, that would only take her an hour to remedy.
There was a plush-looking chair by the window, and Amelia figured that there would be a cloud of dust that would arise if she sat in it. But that wouldn’t be too terribly hard to clean either. And the window was perfect for small tasks such as shaking out pillows. There was at least a little hope that she could make herself comfortable here. Besides, if things were always as clean as she would like them, Amelia would be out of a job.
“Ye will start in the kitchen,” Jon said rather lazily from the doorway. “Yer things will be brought up here by the time dinner is over.”
Amelia nodded kindly to him, worried that if she opened her mouth, she might get fired on the first day. And anyways, she already had a plan in mind for going about cleaning her own space. She gave one last parting glance to her rooms, walking over to the door to follow him to begin the tour of Montgomery Castle.
And she was excited to start with the kitchens.
There was something about the kitchens that were the heart of any household. Amelia loved the kitchens, and she remembered childhood days when she would be with her grandmaither in that room. Gloomy days like this would call for soup, or sunny days would have lemon bars. There was always something to eat when her grandmaither was around.
Jon led her back down the long, barely lit hallway. The way down the stairs was way easier than the trek up had been. Soon, they were back into the main hallway with all the tapestries and windows. The sun shone weakly through the clouds, washing the hallway in a pale grey light.
Try as she might, Amelia could not have told left from right as Jon led her through the castle. They passed by various rooms, one which was a dining hall. Another had the door shut, but she heard a murmur of male voices from the other side. A study, perhaps, she thought. A grand room that could hold a celebration or a ball, if the Scottish had an equivalent to the season like the ton had.
However, there was no library. At least, not one on the way to the kitchens that she had seen. That had stung more than Amelia cared to admit, but she was sure there had to be one somewhere. The Laird was clearly educated, and to be educated, a pupil needed books. Perhaps later in the tour, she would get a peek at the library.
Jon paused in the door of the kitchens, and Amelia almost ran into him given that she wasn’t paying attention to where she was going as she took in this area of Montgomery Castle. It was a vast space in general, save for the servants’ quarters that she had seen, so she hoped the kitchen would lean more to being like the former rather than the latter.
“Aye, here is the kitchens,” Jon started blandly. “This is probably where ye will be spendin’ the most time.”
“I hope the food is not as bland as your tone,” Amelia mused before she could stop herself.
She blushed at her rebuttal, but Jon just smirked at her. It was like he enjoyed her witty remarks, despite their insulting nature. But he raised no hand to strike her, nor scolded her rashly. His eyes were glowing with a playful pull, and she had to duck away from his lingering stare. She peered around his hulking frame, looking into the kitchens. Amelia was relieved to see that the kitchens were anything but modest in size.
Jon led her into the room, where it was just the two of them. Amelia wasn’t sure if it was the kitchen or the fact they were alone, but there was a strange energy and tension between them that wasn’t exactly unpleasant. But there was something intimate about the kitchen—the connection between two people over a shared meal. And Amelia was feeling as if the entire world had shrunk to be just the kitchen.
Which, needless to say, was more than accommodating. The ceilings arched up high above her head, and there was a door that led presumably to a cellar of sorts for meats and wine. But the space itself was large too, with ample workspace for preparing food. This was truly the heart of Montgomery Castle. And if she wanted to mend her already fractured relationship with the Laird, food would be necessary.
“The other staff will show ye the ropes from here,” he shrugged.
Wait, that’s it?!, Amelia thought panicked. He had only showed her the kitchen and her room. There was more to this expansive castle that fell under her duty, she was sure of it. Besides, there was no one else in the kitchen besides the two of them. She turned to look at him as he went to walk out the door and rushed after him.
Amelia Cooper had a certain elegance about her—the cause of which, Jon could not define. Her cheekbones were perfectly highlighted every time her face caught the light. And her long fingers had curled delicately into his hand as he helped her out of the coach. Her skin had been soft, which had surprised him at first. Her hands had not known the toil of work.
But there was a musculature about them, how her hand seemed to grip him with but the slightest touch. It sent shivers down his back and heat to his rather prominent member, and it hadn’t seemed to go away even after he dropped her hand. Jon was attracted to her, sure, but no woman had gotten under his armor so quickly.
Her long blonde hair and brown eyes lent themselves to her look of innocence and youth, though she couldnae be much younger than Jon himself. She was tall for a woman, only a head or two shorter than him. And not to mention, slender with only a whisper of curves at her hips. But it seemed to suit her form and figure, a mixture of harsh lines and soft curves.
As she took in the space, he watched her with an intent curiosity. There was something in his chest that ached for her, but larger was the anxiety over her well-being in the castle. Jon sure didn’t mind that she was English—he just hoped the rest of the men, and the staff, didn’t mind either. She seemed friendly enough however, so there was the likelihood that she would simply blend in with the rest of the staff.
Despite her height, she still appeared to be dwarfed with the tall ceilings and open room. They served a lot of people in Montgomery Castle, and his uncle had made sure there was adequate cooking space for a Ceilidh. And of course, the main food for the staff and the Lairdship. His uncle was a powerful political figure and Laird in the Montgomery Clan, so there was always a reason for a feast or a grand meal of sorts. He turned to leave the kitchens, ready to go about his day and let her settle in.
“Well, wait a minute—” she called behind him.
There was a feminine cry of distress, and Jon spun around just in time to catch Amelia from falling into him and onto the floor. The laces of her gown dug into his palm, and he wrapped the other around her waist. He could feel the taught muscles of her body as she recovered, and he saw the swell of her breasts over her gown as Amelia was caught in a rather comprising position.
Jon looked down at her face, as if he was in a trance. Beautiful, he thought immediately. He couldnae help it—the word seemed to slip right past his mental defenses. She had taken his breath away, and he was mesmerized by the way she looked just then. The way her back was pressed against his hands, the swell of her breasts as she caught her breath. When she set her feet on the ground and her head turned up as he eyes locked onto his, it felt as if he had been doused in cold water.
She was off limits.
Amelia was the housekeeper, not someone he could take as a mistress for his whims. Besides, she didn’t look to be too thrilled at the moment, her face in a firm line. Good, that would make it easier, he thought. If he kept acting exactly like the arse she thought he was, the easier it would be to keep his distance.
“Aye, be careful where ye step,” he growled. “I dinnae take kindly to women throwin’ themselves at me.”
“I tripped,” she corrected, a fire in her eyes as she set her hard gaze on him. “And I doubt any woman would throw herself at the likes of you.”
Her eyes widened at the insult, almost shocked that she had said such a thing to his face. There was also the fact that she had done it now twice, and Jon had done nothing as a consequence. There was nothing to be done—he wasn’t one to lay an offending hand on a woman, and he rather liked her smart mouth that always seemed ready to argue. She sure was alluring with her body, enticing him to bite at the verbal bait she set out.
She’d make a fine wife one day, he thought.
That shook him out of his trance even more than her insult had. Jon shifted his thoughts back to the matter at hand. He couldnae like her—rather, he wouldn’t allow himself to be attracted to her. The boundaries between their two statuses and positions in the castle was one thing, the entire other matter was that Jon was not in need of a wife. A woman, sure. But not a wife.
“Ye better watch yer tongue,” he scolded. “Otherwise, I’ll be findin’ ye a different position.”
The sexual undertones of his words seemed to hit them both at the same time. Jon was rewarded with a scarlet blush on the Englishwoman’s cheeks, which just almost made him growl with need. He passingly wondered if she would look the same if he had just finished kissing her, if her eyes would still be as wild.
The blush deepened as she realized that he was still holding her up, and her lips parted innocently. She had full lips, and the bow of her top lip stretched as she opened her mouth. Her body was soft and firm at the same time under his hands, and he felt her slim curves as he helped her back to her feet. She was sure a thing of beauty in this ugly castle—and a little pang shot in his heart.
Rarely dae anythin’ beautiful stay very long in Montgomery Castle, he thought. Especially given how Uncle liked to run things, there was not much of a place for beauty. And he felt bad for the Englishwoman. Not only was she a wolf in a lion’s den due to the fact of her home country, but she was working as one of the worst positions in the castle.
Two weeks, he thought as he walked out of the kitchen. He gave her two weeks before she was fleeing Montgomery Castle as if it was on fire. And what Jon hated the most was that he was powerless to stop anything, including his uncle’s tirades and iron will. And as the Man-at-Arms for the Laird, he was always carrying out the latest decree and making sure people stayed in line.
As he gave a parting glance to the kitchen, he saw her face—innocent, but set in a tiny frown. He was hard in ways he didn’t think a look could do to a man, and Jon resolved to keep his distance from the new housekeeper in the meantime. Getting caught up with the staff would be a huge disaster. Beauty be damned, he thought.
He had a job to do.
The Last Straw
Amelia had been in Montgomery Castle for only two days, and she was beginning to understand why there was a such a need for a head housekeeper. Not to mention, there was only ten people that helped with the running of the castle. And four of them were in the kitchen only.
Gelila was an older woman who had a keen eye and was a master in the kitchen. So, Amelia was perfectly content to let the woman continue to do whatever she needed. The kitchen was the heart of the castle, but it wasn’t her job. It was a lot easier to simply clean after they were finished, and Amelia and Gelila seemed to understand that silent dynamic.
It didn’t take long for Amelia to start adding the largest and most consistent cleaning. And she wrote out the schedule for everyone to follow, and she listened to what the staff could do, and what they enjoyed in their work. And a happy house was a clean house, especially when people always did their part.
And that had made the difference for Amelia and the other maids. When she listened to them, they were more excited to do the work because they got to choose the chores they did. There was one maid, about Amelia’s age—Maggie was her name—that Amelia felt naturally drawn to. If she had ever had a little sister, Maggie would have been it.
“Miss Amelia, what do ye need me to do today?” she asked with a sing-song voice. “I was thinkin’ maybe weedin’ the garden. The sun is out, and we may nae get another chance before the frost.”
Amelia nodded, “Yes, that sounds fine.”
Maggie had blonde hair so pure it was almost white, and a tender face with soft green eyes. She had this bubbly personality that Amelia was just drawn to. She hadn’t had may close female friends in England, but it felt like Maggie might be something like that in Scotland. She bounced away and out the door, excited to spend time in the sunshine and outdoors.
The other staff set to work, and Amelia began tackling the rooms for the servants’ wings. It seemed only right to help clean their rooms given that they were busy with their own tasks. And she always kept the door open, in case anyone ever thought her untrustworthy. After cleaning the rooms, she moved to sweeping the hallway and making sure the windows were cleaned. Soon, she felt like she was able to properly rest that night in a wing that was properly attended to.
“Miss Amelia,” Maggie’s voice echoed as she finished the last room. Amelia turned to the door as the younger woman’s frame came into view. “Would ye like to join me for lunch? Gelila made little bannocks and some roasted meat.”
“Thank you, Maggie, that sounds delightful,” Amelia said with a smile. “Let me just finish this last sheet.”
After tucking the freshly laundered sheet under the mattress, Amelia walked out to join Maggie for lunch. They made small talk as they wandered back to the kitchens, and Maggie told her some of the history of the castle. Like herself, Maggie was rather new. But she had grown up in the village at the foot of the hill, and so she knew a lot about Montgomery Castle.
That meal was spent hearing stories and rumors about what lay inside the castle walls. Secret doors, a private wing, and the crypt. There was supposedly a wing that no one dare enter, as it was forbidden by the Laird. Even his closest confidants were under strict orders not to go in the wing. The problem was that none of the staff knew exactly which area of the castle it was.
Nothing but rumors, Amelia decided. It was her duty to make sure the castle was cleaned and well-tended to, even the places that were deemed to be secret.
Given that Amelia had never gotten the full tour of the castle, after the lunch that day she went exploring. She tried to tell herself that she was looking for the rooms to clean and places that hadn’t been touched. But in reality, she was looking for the library and a little secret place she could spend her spare time reading. And now that she knew the legends and rumors, she wanted to find one of the secret hallways.
The only problem about going exploring on her own was now that she was hopelessly lost. The only bonus was that she was discovering how big the castle was, along with how much cleaning needed done. She would keep this in mind for the next schedule for the month, especially since winter was approaching quickly and there would be a lot of time indoors.
She was walking down some hallway, unsure of where she was in relation to any of the known landmarks and rooms she knew of Montgomery Castle. And no matter which way she went or how much she retraced her steps, she couldnae seem to find her way back. She was on a third floor, that much she knew. But after that, it was nothing but stone that just looked the same and the same wooden doors every few feet.
Amelia kept walking, not looking where she was going. Soon she collided with a large mass of firm, muscle. Large hands cupped her waist, preventing her from falling to the ground. Her hands clutched at the fabric at his arms, feeling the corded strength there. She looked up to the telltale face of none other than the Laird of Montgomery himself.
“What are ye daein’ wanderin’ around up here?” Jon asked rather harshly.
His blue eyes were cold, as if she had been caught in a place she shouldn’t have ever found herself in. But how was that her fault, that she didn’t know what was off limits? He never gave me a proper tour, she thought bitterly. So, she refused to crumble under his stare or agree to any sort of consequence.
“I’m searching for the library, if you must know,” she responded, finding her voice as she met him with a glare. “You must have a library in this huge castle somewhere.”
“And why are ye seekin’ it out?” Jon asked her.
Must he have every little detail of her whereabouts? she wondered, rather annoyed. She tried not to roll her eyes. He took a step towards her, closing the distance between them with his long legs. They were merely inches apart now. Her breath caught in her throat as she looked into those deep blue pools of his eyes. He smirked at her reaction, as if he was enjoying their tense interaction.
“I am nae goin’ to ask again,” he warned, his voice low and like pebbles underfoot. “Why are ye lookin’ for the library?”
“Only barbarians and savages don’t have libraries,” she whispered softly. “You must have one here. And it is my duty to make sure everything is kept clean and orderly.”
“Aye, and what makes ye think we are nae either of those here?” he continued, stepping closer to her with a dangerous fire in his eyes. “Ye have implied as much yerself.”
“Because you know the standards of basic etiquette,” she replied with a tilt of her chin. “You are clearly educated and literate, despite how you talk. And you hold yourself as a well-read man.”
“And what dae ye intend to dae in the library?”
“Well, it probably needs to be cleaned,” Amelia answered. “If I can’t find it, I doubt any maid has. And I was wanting to do what anyone wants to do in a room filled with books. Read.”
There was a flicker of something in his eyes—surprise, admiration. But it was gone in a flash and was quickly replaced by anger. Whatever it was, Amelia had gone weak in the knees. It was as if it was carnal… desire. But that was impossible, and not to mention entirely out of the question.
But she still could recall how he had caught her days earlier in the kitchen. The way his strong hands had held her, the press of his fingers that she could feel even through her corset. The way his eyes had roved her body, paying particular attention to the swell of her breasts. And how much she hadn’t minded, being the object of a man’s desires even if only for a brief moment.
“Aye, women should nae be readin’,” he answered gruffly. “It is nae ladylike.”
And with that, the Laird of Montgomery spun on his heel and walked away from her. Great, she thought. I’ve managed to anger him and I still havenae found the library. Though she wasn’t sure she wanted to know. If that’s how the Laird viewed women, then how could he ever treat her with any respect?
It had been towards the end of fourth day when Amelia had really seen the truth of the working conditions in Montgomery Castle.
Amelia created a weekly cleaning schedule for the next month, calculating how much and who would do each task. However, the food set aside for the maids and the rest of the staff was meager compared to what the Laird and his associates were eating for every meal. Besides that, it seemed that there was always someone cleaning throughout the hours of the night.
Not to mention, the Laird was strict. He checked in on them constantly, popping his head into doors and hallways where he was neither needed nor invited, and it drove Amelia crazy. He was no better than the slave drivers, she concluded. Cruel, heartless, and without care for anyone but himself.
She was walking down the hallway that afternoon when she saw Maggie coming the opposite direction. There was nothing that seemed off about the girl from a distance, but as she neared, Amelia saw deep, dark circles under her eyes. She was carrying a bucket of water that was splashing about, and Maggie stumbled. She caught herself and stilled.
Amelia began to walk faster. Maggie hadn’t seemed to notice her. She watched in horror as Maggie began to walk again but didn’t make it much more than a step before collapsing. The water pail was sent flying, pouring out over the floor and drenching Maggie. Amelia ran to the girl as fast as she could, putting her arms under the other maid’s. Her eyes met Amelia’s, exhausted yet full of fear
“Aye, sorry Miss Amelia,” the younger maid said sheepishly. “I was up all night cleanin’ the windowsills.”
“Why didn’t you go to sleep?” Amelia cried indignantly.
“If there is a thin’ left undone at the end of the day, the Laird doubles the work for the next day,” she answered.
“I created the schedule for cleaning for the week,” Amelia said, shocked. “There is no way such a small staff could clean all the windowsills in a day! And then expect to double the work!”
“Aye, but that’s how the Laird runs his castle,” Maggie answered. “And if anyone says anythin’, they just get fired.”
Interesting, Amelia thought. She was more than angry—she was downright furious. And the prospect of losing her job was not as detrimental as it should have been. She was going to talk to the Laird as soon as she could. This was simply intolerable.
“Let’s get you some warm food, and then you need some rest,” Amelia comforted.
“Ye are nae angry?” Maggie asked softly.
“Why would I be?” Amelia shrugged. “It is the Laird’s fault for working you all to such a point. It is more his fault than anyone’s.”
After helping Maggie to her feet, the pair walked to the kitchen. Gelila, upon seeing the poor soaked maid, called for a warm soup to be made. Amelia sent another girl, less exhausted than Maggie but not much better, to go mop up the water.
“Aye, thank ye,” Maggie said, shivering as she was handed a bowl of soup. “I am vera sorry, Miss Amelia and Miss Gelila.”
“I will be talking to the Laird, rest assured about that,” Amelia said. At Maggie’s concerned expression, Amelia just smiled, “And trust me, I won’t be going anywhere.”
Maggie finished her soup and was dismissed for the day to rest and change into some dry clothes. Amelia talked with Gelila until the other maid returned from cleaning up the spilled water, and Amelia dismissed her to rest as well. There wouldn’t be any cleaning done until the conditions improved. She wasn’t sure if Scottish people went on strike, but the English—and the newly-formed Americans— did and it had proved to be effective.
So, she made her way through Montgomery Castle to the study. There was nothing that was going to stop her, not even the fear of losing her job. At this point, it was just becoming a habit to anger the Laird, so what was one more problem? Not to mention, it was downright cruel to work a staff to the bone, and if she was to continue to employment here then something was going to need to change.
And Amelia was proud to admit that she didn’t get lost on the way to the study. The doors were closed, and she paused for a moment. Would her faither agree with her perspective? He was a ruthless businessman, but he didn’t drive his staff as if they were slaves. My faither would never have stood for such treatment of his staff or of me, she assured herself. And taking a deep breath, she put a hand to the door.
Amelia burst into the study and saw Jon and an older man at the desk. Their eyes met her with shock, but she didn’t care. She was too angry to care about anything. If she lost her job, so be it. But she wouldn’t continue to work in such a place that the staff worked themselves to exhaustion. She stared right at Jon, uncaring what she had interrupted. With a tilt of her chin and a hard stare that would make her faither proud, she addressed the Laird.
“My Laird, I demand to speak with you this instant!”
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