house, talking to the serving women and sipping a cup of tea. It was one of the advantages of being a lady’s maid. She could cross without a problem from the world above stairs into the one below.
“How ’bout a nice slice o’ pie, dear, to go with your tea?” The buxom cook, Emma Wyatt, waddled toward her, a warm smile on her face. “It’s just out of the oven. Picked the apples meself—right off the tree outside the back door.”
“It looks delicious, Emma, but I’m not really hungry.”
“Are ye sure? A girl needs to eat.”
The sound of footsteps rang on the stone floor behind her. Caro turned to see the shadowy figure of a man appear in the open doorway.
“You had better do as Emma says. You look like you could use a little meat on your bones.” His gaze ran over her. “Though they are very lovely bones, indeed.”
Caro blinked at the sudden commotion in the kitchen—one of the kitchen maids giggling, Mrs. Wyatt grinning like a schoolgirl.
“Leave her be, Robert.” Emma waved her spatula in his direction. “Ye’ll embarrass the poor lass.” The cook turned to Caro. “Pay him no mind, dear. Robert’s a terrible flirt. Why, the man could charm the sparrows right out of the trees.”
He just smiled. Setting the knee-high black leather boots he carried down beside the door, he walked over to the long wooden table and sat down on the bench across from her. The visitor, a man in his thirties with thick brown hair and a very nice smile, was handsome as sin, and a wicked glint appeared for a moment in his warm brown eyes. They assessed her from top to bottom, paused for a moment on her not particularly substantial breasts, then returned to her face.
“I’ll have a piece of that pie, Emma.” He winked at Caro. “If you’ve never tasted Emma’s pie, you don’t know what you’re missing. By the way, my name is Robert McKay. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss…?”
“Loon. Caroline Loon. I work for Miss Duval. She’s one of Mr. Wentz’s houseguests.”
“Ah, that explains it.”
“You’re from England. I haven’t heard those particular speech patterns for quite some time.”
He was referring to her polished manner of speaking. Regardless of her family’s lack of finances, Caro had received a solid education and spoke with the crisp, clipped tones of the British upper classes.
It occurred to her that Robert’s resonant speech held the same upper-class intonations. “But you’re English, as well.”
“I was. I’m American now, though not exactly by choice.”
Emma set a large piece of pie down in front of Robert McKay and the delicious aroma made Caro’s stomach growl.
“I knew it!” Robert grinned. “Emma—bring a slice of this marvelous pie for Miss Loon.”
Emma laughed and waddled over a few minutes later with a slightly smaller piece of pie, which she set down in front of Caro along with a fork for each of them.
Robert waited politely for her to begin, then attacked his food like a man who hadn’t eaten in a week, which, with his well-muscled frame, Caro highly doubted.
As he had promised, the pie was delicious, the apple-cinnamon aroma filling every square inch of the overly warm, low-ceilinged kitchen, yet with the handsome man seated across from her it was difficult to concentrate on her food.
“Do you work for Mr. Wentz?” she asked, interrupting his last bite of pie.
McKay shook his head and swallowed. “I’m here with Edmund Steigler. I’m his manservant. ” He said the word with such repugnance Caro’s blond eyebrows went up. “At least I will be for the next four years.”
“You don’t like your work?”
He laughed, but there was no humor in it. “I’m indentured to Steigler. He bought seven years of my life. I’ve only paid back three.”
“I see.” But she didn’t really see at all. Why would an educated man, as McKay appeared to be, sell himself into the service of another