A Little Holiday Magic Anthology
Maid of His Heart
By Nancy Pirri
Claire O’Reilly is working as a maid in 1888 New York City. Her employer, Andrew Morgan Stanton, a wealthy lumber baron, introduces the innocent Claire to the pain and pleasure of discipline and obedience. In the end, they both find an unexpected love.
Available now at Melange Books
Maid of His Heart
Manhattan, New York
Andrew Morgan Stanton frowned. “I don’t abide abuse in my household, Mrs. Henderson, as you are well aware. Though a bit of physical correction helps in some cases.” He nodded at Claire. “Do you believe it will in hers?”
The woman nodded curtly and folded her arms across her matronly breasts. “This isn’t the first time I’ve caught her slumberin’. Besides,” she added, “What’s correct for one is correct for the next.”
He moved again, pausing directly in front of Claire.
“Well, stand up, girl!” Mrs. Henderson snapped. “Show some respect for your master.”
While she wanted to inform both of them that no man, only God above, was her master, she jumped to her feet and kept quiet. Twisting her hands in front her, she stared at his broad chest, specifically at the third black onyx button on his waistcoat. He was tall, but then, she was quite short so everyone was tall in comparison.
“Explain to me why you fell asleep, Miss…?”
She just stared at his shirtfront until the housekeeper shouted, “Reply to the master, you insolent girl!”
“O’Reilly, sir. Claire O’Reilly.”
“Claire,” he said softly, his low voice caressing her. “Pretty name and it suits you. Irish, are you?”
She nodded and looked up at him.
Claire caught the admiring glint in his eyes and faint smile. He’d managed, with his low voice to make her short, simple, common name sound beautiful.
“Why had you been sleeping instead of working?”
She couldn’t tell him about her other work, for fear of being let go. Relaxing a bit, guessing he wasn’t all that angry with her, she said, “As Mrs. Henderson said, I was up late reading the latest penny dreadful.”
“I see,” was all he said and he moved in a circle around her. She grew uneasy. Heat streaked through her body. She felt him at her back and shivers prickled down her spine, warning prickles that she was in possibly more trouble than she realized.
“Well, then,” he said, his words barely above a whisper in her ear, “I’m inclined to agree with Mrs. Henderson that you must be punished.”
With a gasp, Claire whirled to face him.
“Then I’ll continue where I left off, sir,” Mrs. Henderson stated firmly.
He lifted one hand and raked his fingers through his hair. Frowning, deep in thought, he finally spoke. “No. I’ll be the one to deal with her. “You may leave us, Mrs. Henderson.”
The woman protested, “But that wouldn’t be proper! Besides, you’ve always said it’s my position to discipline the household workers and that you didn’t care to be bothered.”
“I know exactly what I said and frankly can’t believe you have the temerity to remind me of it,” he said icily. “Suffice it to say I’m making an exception with this particular maid.”
The woman stuttered, “I’m…I’m sorry. Of course you may do as you wish with the girl. But, in all fairness, the staff needs to know she’s been punished.
“She will be,” he snapped. Eyeing Claire again, he added, “How many strokes?”
“For this infraction, thirty,” said the housekeeper.
“My God,” he gritted out, “With the cane?”
At her nod he said, “No, that’s far too many with that instrument. Leave us and I’ll deal with her.”
“I shall assemble the staff in the hallway,” she informed him.
He sighed. “If you must.”
The older woman left, closing the door behind her. Claire knew well of Mrs. Henderson’s temper and guessed it had taken all of her willpower not to slam the door behind her.
Claire chewed her lower lip and fidgeted as she stood before him, knowing with increasing dread that he would be the one to mete out her punishment. What an inauspicious first meeting between them. She wondered how long her little lie about why she was tired would hold up, though. One evening she would be caught leaving or returning to ‘the settle’ then she would lose her position.
Shuddering when he removed his coat, leaving him clad in his shirt, tie and waistcoat, Claire prepared herself for a beating. She stood stock-still, fear building inside her as he pulled silver studs from his cuffs and rolled back his sleeves.
His legs were long, thighs bulging with muscle. Gazing lower she saw the fabric of his black trousers stretched taut, her cheeks heating up at the thought of what lay beneath. Horrified to realize she’d been staring far too long, she glanced up to find his gaze settled on her. There was no denying his look of desire. For her? Heavens, that was impossible! She was a lowly little maid, not some beautiful heiress, why would he even think of her carnally?
She shoved aside the ridiculous idea that he might want to tumble her in his bed, which was a good thing; she feared she’d allow him the tumble for her virgin mind conjured up all sorts of delights upon seeing her employer for the first time.
From what Claire had learned from the others working at ‘the settle’, he was fair-minded and held his temper, though he kept his distance from all of them. Thus far, he didn’t appear to possess the arrogance and awful temperament of some of her past employers. She calmed somewhat, guessing he would be firm but not overly harsh. Because of her strict mother she’d been on the receiving end of harsh corporal punishment on several occasions. Mentally, she prepared herself to face the ordeal.
He nodded at the camelback brocaded divan. “Over the back, please.”