Handsome, Maxwell had said. It was a start, at least.
Despite the rumours she'd carefully cultivated in the right circles, she'd never been anything more than a business associate to Maxwell, before or after Sara's death.
She'd allowed Maxwell a mourning period long enough to ensure her change of status in his life would never be considered tacky, and now it was time to start a full-scale assault to become the next Mrs Sheffield.
A successful career, plus the right husband; her ambition for as many years as she could remember.
She wouldn't be the first woman in her family to marry a millionaire for something less than love.
She dragged her focus away from Maxwell and glowered at the man who had uttered those two words.
"No," she snapped, snatching a drink from the silver tray he expertly balanced before her.
She took a long gulp of the rum and coke, relaxing a little when the familiar warmth spread through her bones.
"There's a roomful of guests, you idiot," she hissed. "You don't think we'll be missed?"
She wouldn't be the first woman in her family to have an affair with a butler, but she'd be damned if she would become the first one caught doing such a thing.
"Well, granted, I may be missed."
Before she could reply to his obvious sarcastic comment, a nasally laugh in the corner of the room caught her attention. The new nanny was making an absolute fool of herself, and by association Maxwell, with one of the actors invited tonight.
"I would have thought that would be reason enough for you to join me in the library. All that frustration you need to work out of your system."
She tensed as Maxwell appeared by the nanny's side and started an animated conversation with the woman, the actor soon forgotten by them both.
"They make a handsome couple," Niles remarked.
Handsome; that word again.
"Do you think I'm handsome?" she asked quietly.
"No," he said immediately.
Ignoring his insulting tone, she looked away from where the curvy brunette was now draping herself all over Maxwell, and up into her secret lover's face.
She could see he was telling the truth. He didn't think she was handsome. He thought she was beautiful. Beneath the sneers, she saw it. She'd seen it the first time they'd met, all those years ago.
She deliberately turned away, just like she'd done then. A butler? He had to be kidding.
Involuntarily she shivered at the suggestion silkily whispered near her ear. Instead of answering, however, she haughtily tossed her hair and stalked across the room, flirting with the first man she encountered. Maxwell might not yet be interested, but it didn't mean she couldn't catch the eye of someone important.
She could do much better than a mere butler.
She checked her watch. Ten minutes...