The Last Eligible Bachelor - Ashtyn Newbold

Chapter 1

The duty of a lady’s maid was, first and foremost, to offer a listening ear to her mistress. She was to be smart, informed, and sophisticated when it came to current fashions, as well as have a proficient knowledge of her mistress’s complexion and which colors best suited it. Her arsenal was to include creams, combs, a sewing kit, and a touch of rose salve.

But with a mistress like Miss Sophia Sedgwick, I was required to keep more than just her complexion in perfect condition. I was required to keep her secrets.

“My mother refused my trip to Hampden Park again.” Sophia slumped into the chair in front of me, letting out a long sigh. “She says I must go to Bibury instead. An invitation has come from some distant relative of mine, but I have no wish to meet her or endure her intentions for my visit.” Sophia met my eyes in the mirror. “This old woman claims she has a handsome young gentleman to match me with, should I like to have the opportunity. There are four other ladies coming to meet him.” She cast her gaze upward. “I don’t care to beg and compete for attention from a gentleman who is likely not even handsome or rich. At any rate, I have no wish to be married yet, so why should I be forced to go?”

Sophia had already spent much of the day arguing with her mother over her expected trip to Bibury. Mrs. Sedgwick had not been willing to concede, and Sophia was expected to leave in less than a week. If she did happen to marry this mysterious gentleman, I could only hope she would take me with her as her lady’s maid in her new household. She was quite fond of me when I listened silently to her prattle. Although, keeping Sophia unmarried would allow me to stay in the same household as my mother, who currently served as Mrs. Sedgwick’s maid.

I began running my comb through her blonde hair. I opened my mouth to speak, but she raised her hand to shush me. “Oh, I do not care what you think. You are only a maid. How pathetic and sad that you are the only female I have to converse with.” Her upper lip curled with disgust and she leaned closer to the mirror. She traced her cheek with her finger, sitting back with a scowl. Had she found something wrong? As I saw it, Sophia’s appearance was as perfect as a lady could ever wish for. Porcelain skin, blue eyes, long, curved lashes, a natural flush to her cheeks…not a blemish in sight.

“If I went to Hampden Park for the spring instead, I could be with my dearest friend, Anne,” Sophia continued. “I have been dreaming of seeing her grand home for years. Mama has never allowed me to go because she despises Anne’s mother. She married the man Mama intended to wed, and their friendship has been shattered ever since.”

If I were a gossip, I would have loads of secrets to spread below stairs. But I was raised a lady, and so would behave like one. There was also the unsettling fact that I could be released from my position in an instant if I was found gossiping. There had been a time Sophia had listened to me, but that was before I became her maid. All she cared now was that I conducted myself in a manner befitting my new station. So I continued combing in silence, a task which took several minutes, what with the length and thickness of her hair. My ears remained peeled, should she like to deposit any more secrets within them.

“But that does not mean I cannot be friends with Anne!” Sophia continued in a whine. “Perhaps in visiting Hampden Park, I might aid in reconciling our mothers. If I go to this matchmaking woman now, I will surely be pursued by the gentleman and have no choice but to accept his offer. I will have no opportunity for adventure again.” She gave an anguished sigh. “How will I bear it?” True to form, she didn’t really expect an answer. Her blue eyes caught on her reflection again. “I ought not to frown so much. I will have wrinkles like yours.”

I examined my reflection. What wrinkles I had were not caused by aging. I was just three days over two and twenty, after all. Regardless, their origin was not a mystery. I could think of the