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The Governess Game Tessa Dare 2022/8/3 13:55:14

“I have to go upstairs and pack my things. I’ve promised to report tomorrow morning.”

“Be careful of him, Alex,” Nicola said. “If he is truly a rake, as you say.”

“Believe me, there’s nothing to fear. He isn’t interested in me. He didn’t even remember meeting me. Apparently I was quite forgettable.”

“Stop.” Penny stole Alex’s hand. “I will hear none of that. You are not forgettable.”

Dear, sweet Penny, with her heart for lost and broken creatures. No doubt she recalled the name and personality of every last mouse in the cupboard. But most people weren’t Penny, and this wasn’t the first time Alexandra had raised her hopes, only to be disappointed.

“It doesn’t matter whether he recalled me or not. I’ll be looking after his wards. I will scarcely see him.”

“Oh, you will see him,” Penny said. “Especially if you go wandering about the house at night. Try the library first.”

“Lock yourself in your room,” Nicola countered. “I’ll make you a deadbolt.”

“Stop, the both of you. I’m accepting a well-paid situation for the summer. Until yesterday, I was setting clocks; tomorrow, I begin as a governess. It’s not romantic. It’s not dangerous. It’s work.”

“You don’t have to be sensible all the time,” Penny said.

Easy enough to say, for a lady with a house of her own and a thousand pounds a year. Penny and Nicola didn’t have to be sensible all the time, perhaps, but Alexandra did. She couldn’t afford to be swept away.

Fortunately, there was no longer any chance of that happening. Never mind that he’d ensorcelled every other woman in London. Alex knew better. Now that she’d seen his shameless nature, Chase Reynaud had lost all appeal. She would never be tempted by him again.

Most certainly not his bare chest.

Nor his voice, forearms, wit, charm, or large feet.

And not his warm, delicious-smelling coat, either.

Oh, Alex. You are doomed.

Alexandra reported for duty the following morning. This time, she knew to knock at the front door. And, to her profound relief, the housekeeper answered.

Mrs. Greeley looked her up and down. “I thought you were the girl who sets clocks.”

“I was,” Alexandra answered. “Apparently now I’m a governess.”

“Hmph. By the end of the day, you’ll be the girl who sets clocks again.” She waved Alex toward the stairs. “Come, then. I’ll show you to the nursery. I’ll have Jane prepare you a room, and Thomas will bring up your trunks in a bit.”

Alex suspected Jane and Thomas would be waiting to see if she lasted the morning before they went to the trouble.

When she entered the nursery today, she did not come upon another murder scene. Thank goodness. This time, she had the chance to take a proper look at the surroundings—and what she took in left her breathless.

The room was a fairyland. All done up in frothy white and buttery yellows and blushing pinks. Like the window of a confectionery. White wainscoting lined the bottom half of the room, and here and there painted ivy tendrils climbed the sky-blue walls. The room offered no shortage of playthings. Alex saw rocking horses, miniature tea sets, and marionettes. An upholstered window seat had been wedged under one of the eaves, and beneath it ranged a shelf overflowing with books.

Considering the freshness of the paint and the lavish quality of the furnishings, she deduced two things: First, the room had been done up expressly for these two girls. Second, no expense had been spared.

“That one there is Rosamund.” The housekeeper pointed to the elder of the two girls.

Rosamund sat reading a book in the window seat. She didn’t look up.

“And that’s Daisy,” Mrs. Greeley said.

Daisy acknowledged her at least, dropping in a slight curtsy. Her eyes, pale blue and wide as shillings, were downright unsettling. In her arms, she cradled a doll. A quite expensive one, with a head carved from wood, covered with gesso, and painted with rosy cheeks and red lips.

Alexandra crossed the room to Daisy’s side. “I’m most pleased to meet you, Daisy. This must be Millicent.”

Daisy took a step in retreat. “Don’t draw too near. She has consumption.”

“Consumption? I’m sorry to hear it. But I’ve no doubt you’ll nurse her to a swift recovery.”

The girl shook her head gravely. “She’ll be dead by tomorrow morning.”

“Oh, she will,” Rosamund said dryly, speaking from the window seat. “Best to have a few words prepared.”

“A few words prepared for what?”

Without moving her lips, Daisy made a few dry, hacking coughs. “Millicent needs quiet.”

“Yes, of course she does. Do you know what I hear is the best remedy for consumption? Fresh air and sunshine. A stroll to the park should set her up nicely.”

“No outings,” Mrs. Greeley declared. “They’re to focus on their lessons. Mr. Reynaud was very clear.”

“Oh. Well, then. Perhaps we can soothe Millicent another way.” She thought on it. “Perhaps tea with heaps of milk and sugar, and a dish of custard. What do you think, Daisy? Shall we give it a go?”