A Little Holiday Magic
by Nancy Pirri
The tale of pretty Claire O'Reilly who is working as a maid in 1888 New York City. Her employer, Andrew Morgan-Stanton, a wealthy railroad baron, introduces the innocent Claire to the pain and pleasure of discipline and obedience and, in the end, they both find an unexpected love.
One Magical Night:
Marcus Calhoun arrives home after divorcing his unfaithful wife. He renews his friendship with spinster, Anne Prentice. Marcus soon discovers his friendship with Anne has changed to love. Anne can't believe Marcus loves her due to her imperfection, a limp, until Marcus manages to prove his feelings.
Maid of his Heart
Manhattan, New York
Snap! Blazing pain tore through her breasts and Claire O’Reilly’s eyes opened in stunned surprise. “Oh, heavens,” she gasped scrambling up.
Her hands flew up to protect herself from further blows and she groaned in horror at Mrs. Henderson, the head housekeeper, standing over her with a cane in her hand.
“What be ye about girl? Ye can’t be sleepin’. Christmas will soon be here. Sleepin’s not what Master Stanton’s paying ye fer, either. Ye’ll need to learn and the only way I know to teach ye is to beat ye, according to the master’s rules!” Mrs. Henderson narrowed her already small eyes and raised her arm as she moved closer, ready to strike a second time.
“Please, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I hate Christmas season. All it means is more heavy work than I do now for the same pitiful pay.” Claire raised her arms to protect herself.
Shaking in outrage, the woman snapped, “And if ye didn’t stay awake all hours of the night readin’ those silly books ye wouldn’t be too tired to do yer work. Plenty more of your type to fill yer shoes,” she said, her arm raised as she went after Claire.
Claire crouched, protecting her face from the blows raining down on her.
“What in the world is going on here?”
A man had asked the question, in a calm but menacing voice. Mrs. Henderson immediately dropped the cane on the floor. Claire looked toward the parlor entrance. There stood a tall, broad-shouldered, fair-haired man. With the brilliant sunlight streaming through the windows Claire noticed he dressed rather formally for morning. But the frock coat, white shirt and silver-grey waistcoat enhanced his masculinity and his handsomeness. His face held a mixture of exhaustion, inquisitiveness and anger as he stared at Mrs. Henderson.
Claire heard the gossip from the staff. This man, the master of the house, arrived home from a business journey yesterday, and spent his first evening with his mistress. Upon his return in the wee hours of the morning, he’d instructed the staff to leave him be for he’d sleep the day away. Now Claire believed she was in even more trouble for he’d wakened early, likely because he’d heard the ruckus Claire and his housekeeper had made.
Upon this first meeting, Claire decided that her employer was the most virile and handsome man she’d ever seen. With great effort she looked away and focused on the housekeeper hunched over, cane lying on the floor at her feet. Mrs. Henderson wrung her hands and perspiration dripped from her forehead.
“I asked you a direct question, Mrs. Henderson. What has the girl done to warrant your wrath?” The master entered the parlor, bent and picked up the cane. Proceeding to tap it against his thigh he glared at the housekeeper.
The woman straightened a bit and blustered, “She was sleepin’ that’s what! It isn’t allowed, Master Stanton.”
Claire cowered now as her employer’s piercing gaze settled on her. “Is that true? Were you sleeping instead of working?”
With a short nod Claire averted her eyes, not wanting to see his anger. Andrew Morgan-Stanton possessed the face of an angel, yet she wondered at his imminent reaction to her transgression. He had every right to be furious for she’d disobeyed one of the rules of the house.
Master Stanton directed his argument back to his housekeeper. They moved further away from Claire, who ignored their words and instead studied this man she’d heard so many roguish things about. What a horrid thing to happen; meeting her employer for the first time under such awful circumstances. She sat down quietly on the divan, the arguing pair didn’t notice. So taken by him, all thought of anything else left her mind.
Not for the first time did she wonder why an unmarried man would reside in such an enormous house—a house with an enormous name—Morgan-Stanton’s Settle, named after Andrew Morgan-Stanton himself, who’d ‘settled’ there five years ago upon making his fortune. She thought it a rather pompous name but there was no accounting for nouveau-rich folks’ eccentricities she’d learned since her arrival in America seven years ago, at the age of twelve.
Oh, how she longed to rest. She secretly worked late at O’Gara’s Pub in the evenings, sneaking off when the household was quiet. Last night she’d had very little sleep. She leaned back to wait for them to stop. Perhaps she’d been lucky with his intervention. Unable to help herself, she closed her eyes, awaiting her punishment. How much worse could it be?