Chapter Thirty-Three

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Matthew, Lily and Sebastian were the first to arrive with Sebastian making a dart to the sweet table and stuffing as many biscuits into his mouth as he possibly could. Since Sebastian was going, James had set up the spare room, so he had somewhere to sleep if he became too tired as the night wore on. I didn't think that would happen judging by the number of sweets he ate in just a few minutes. My biggest fear was that he would be sick all over the floor.

The few guests that James had invited started to arrive, including Winnie and her father who jumped up and down the moment she saw the ribbon in my hair. Her face lit up even more when she saw the strawberry tarts – her favourite – and ran over to eat as many as possible. Winnie and Sebastian were likely to spend all evening standing by the sweet table, but at least it kept them distracted. Aunt Molly would always arrive late, she always said it was her duty to arrive late and make an entrance, it used to annoy Mother to no end.

The soft sound of Christopher's piano playing moved over the low hum of conversation. Drinks were flowing and the treats made by me and Mrs Baker seemed to be going down well with the guests, especially the younger ones. A few people asked about the candle and we offered them an explanation. Of course, none of them really understood our reasoning for it and no explanation would help them to understand it. The candle would always be a personal addition for us, it didn't matter if no one else understood it.

"Who made the shortbread?" Tommy asked, shoving another one into his mouth.

"That was me," I said.

"Have I ever told you 'ow much I love you?"

"Shut up." I grinned at Tommy and shook my head, ignoring the way he moved his eyebrows and trying not to laugh. All he ever thought about was his stomach, James said he was like a bottomless pit sometimes.

I turned away from him and towards the crowd of people milling around the drawing-room, sipping wine or lemonade. The candles created a soft glow throughout the room and the small strips of light that came through the window added to that. A smile tugged on the corner of my lips as I looked at the site in front of me. Lady Thatcher's ball had been showy, dramatic, the party was a warm, comforting environment. The same feeling Mother used to create.

Someone nudged me in the side, and I turned towards Lucy and frowned. She moved her head towards the drawing-room door and a smile emerged on her face. I turned away from her and looked towards the door, spotting Robert, Doctor Ealing and the twins talking to James. Robert was dressed slightly differently to how he was at the ball.

He hadn't bothered to slick his hair back and had forgone the coattails, so he wore just his shirt and tie. Without the coattails, or his hair slicked back he looked just like Robert, not some fancy version that Mrs Ealing had tried to create. She had wanted him to keep an image, a pretence of wealth and formality that certainly didn't fit the Robert I knew. I lightly patted the pocket on my dress, feeling the box of cufflinks inside. All I needed was an opportunity to give it to him.

Robert smiled and waved slightly from the doorway. He said something to his father and twisted his way through the people to join us at the sweet table.

"Good evening," he said, nodding towards Lucy and the others.

"Strawberry tart?" Tommy said, gesturing to the table.

"Not right now."

"I'd get in there before he eats it all. Or Winnie and Sebastian. Between the three of them, it'll all be gone by nine," I said.

"I'll keep that in mind." He smiled slightly.

"When is your aunt supposed to be arriving, Rosie? I want to see if the rumours are true," Suzanna said.

The Apprentice Girl // Book 3 in the Rosie Grey seriesWhere stories live. Discover now